Last month the right got all the headlines going their way. They got to talk about 'the President's plummeting approval ratings, and 'outrage expressed at town halls,' and similar kinds of things to suggest that there was some kind of a national groundswell building for a defeat of health care legislation, which would in turn doom the Obama Presidency. As further evidence they cited the fact that Republican challengers were leading by about fifteen points in Governor's races in both New Jersey and Virginia.
And I agree, it was a bruising August for the President and Democrats' agenda to reform health care.
This month, the news is a bit different.
Let's start with the President's approval rating. Using the RCP average (more accurate because it is a 'poll of polls' while any one poll can be an outlier and be wrong): As of this morning it stands at Obama approval 53.4%, disapproval 41.1%. This is virtually the same as it stood a month ago. In other words, any news about 'plummeting approval ratings' is just plain old news. It declined very slightly between a month ago and Obama's speech to Congress and that slight decline has since been reversed. So if anything about his approval rating is news it is that it is holding remarkably steady, and further that the President has never fallen below 50% support in the RCP average. In addition to that the 53% support he has now is exactly the same support he had on election day. So those who support him by and large still support him, and the reverse also true of those who oppose him (well, not perfectly so, the President's disapproval rate is still five points less than John McCain got on election day so if anything it suggests that the President still rates slightly higher than he did on election day.
What about the 'tea party rallies?' Well, there are some people who have been stirred up like a nest of hornets to attend these events. The town hall I went to held by Congresswoman Kirkpatrick in Holbrook on September 3 included people who have been to more than one townhall with multiple congresspersons (and readily admitted to it.) Well, the memo did say, 'inflate your numbers.' And yes, a crowd estimated at 60,000 to 70,000 made it to Washington on a Saturday to protest. This number was exaggerated by a factor of thirty by some righty blogs (though Michelle Malkin, the most prominent, later published a 'clarification'.) If you really want to see what a crowd of 2,000,000 looked like in Washington look at aerial photos of this year's inauguration. Heck, Obama drew crowds during the campaign (like in Portland Oregon or St. Louis) that were bigger than last week's tea party protest, and keep in mind that he was inaugurated last January. It was a Tuesday (therefore a workday) and really cold and still a real two million showed up. Yes there are some righties who are so outraged they drive to every townhall they can get to so they can go back in and express their outrage again but keep in mind it is mostly the same people, not a 'groundswell of support.'
And Virginia and New Jersey? Well, the Republican candidates are still ahead but both races have now tightened into the single digits. In other words, if there is any momentum in either race right now then it is with Mr. Corzine and Mr. Deeds, not their opponents who have both seen 15 point polling leads cut in half over the past two or three weeks.
That hasn't stopped Republicans like spinmeister Frank Luntz from trying to keep last month's story going with yesterday's article helpfully analying the 'rage,' as if it was sweeping the country right now or Fred Barnes from claiming that Republicans are taking over Virginia again or even in one of the local papers from seeing this story written last week by Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute in which he still uses the term, 'plummeting approval ratings for the President.'
Maybe they are in a time warp. Last month's news is like an aphrodisiac for the GOP and their supporters and it's understandable they'd want to put that news cycle in front of readers and TV viewers again, but well, that's so..... last month.
I've heard of recycling newspapers but I will object when they try to recycle last month's news itself.