"Obama approval ratings turn around," exulted the msnbc.com landing page headline for Traci G. Lee's January 9 story, "Positive start to 2014 for Obama: poll."
Lee set about spinning the results of the latest Quinnipiac Poll, which shows President Obama sitting atop a 41 percent approval rating, up from a low of 38 percent in December, but still a net negative approval rating. Lee used the slight uptick in approval as a springboard to forecast that the president's economically liberal spending agenda could change his and his party's fortunes (emphasis mine):
Obama is likely to use his upcoming State of the Union address this month to set a positive tone for this crucial midterm election year. As Congress returns to Washington, the Obama administration has the opportunity at the start of the year to push key agenda items that would curry favor among his Democratic base–namely, raising the federal minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance benefits for millions, two issues that voters are in favor of, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
The Senate on Tuesday advanced a short-term extension of federal unemployment benefits, passing the ball to the House where Speaker John Boehner has already expressed hesitation.
“One month ago, I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the president has offered no such plan,” Boehner said.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are continuing their attack on the Affordable Care Act, and hoping to tie Democratic candidates this year to the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov.
“These Democrats repeated the lie that people could keep their health care plans under ObamaCare,” Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus said in a statement regarding the RNC’s new attack ads. “Cancelled plans and increased premiums prove they cannot be trusted to keep their promises.”
The Quinnipiac poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Republicans continue to disapprove of the president’s approach to health care, with 93% polled expressing disapproval.
Yes, and the same poll showed a whopping 2/3rds of independents opposing the president on the health care issue. What's more, there's plenty to worry Democrats in the same poll, but Lee ignored those numbers.
The top three issues of concern for poll respondents were the economy, the deficit, and health care, all of which President Obama is heavily underwater in approval ratings from independent voters. Republicans and Democrats will largely rally around the party, of course, but independents will be key, and right now it looks like they'll skew to the GOP.
Another troubling item for President Obama is the response to the question, "Do you think that in general the Obama administration has been competent in running the government, or don't you think so?" Some 17 percent of Democrats answered yes --it should be troubling to the Obama team that it's in the double digits -- as did a whopping 59 percent of independents.
Of course, President Obama is not on the ballot but his Democratic supporters in Congress are, and the poll numbers there are also not good for the president and his allies. As Quinnipiac noted in a news release:
The 2014 congressional races are tied as 38 percent of American voters say they would back a Republican candidate, while 37 percent would back a Democrat.
Voters want Republicans to take the U.S. Senate 46 - 42 percent, with independent voters going for the GOP 45 - 40 percent. Looking at the House of Representatives, 46 percent want Republicans to keep control and 44 percent want Democratic control.
Those aren't wildly encouraging numbers for Republicans, but they are nonetheless encouraging, especially when you consider the poll shows roughly 4 out of 10 voters saying their congressman's vote against hiking the minimum wage or extending unemployment benefits would not influence their decision this November.
Conservatives might take courage from numbers like these that standing their ground on these issues is not a losing issue.
One last thing: the sample size of this poll was 28 percent Democratic, 26 percent Republican, and 37 percent independent, a Democrat +2 advantage. This is the midterm cycle in the second term of an unpopular Democratic president, so it would be surprising to see this be a strong Democratic turnout year.
Of course November is a long ways off, and there's a lot that could change. But it seems to me the Lean Forward network is only interested in spinning heavily to "reset" the narrative from President Obama's dreadful fourth quarter of 2013.