He’s On Fire!

It’s been an interesting week of poll numbers for President Obama. The week kicked off with him seeing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency at 59%, but we finish the week with President Obama attaining a 67% approval rating, with some of that coming from Republicans.

On the surface, this may seem rather insignificant considering that the man doesn’t have to run for reelection for at a minimum three more years, but there are near term impacts for an approval rating this high.

Polling data is one of the basic currencies of political capital, like dollar bills; the more you have, the more buying power you possess. In this case, buying power doesn’t allow you to purchase fancy new cars and houses, but instead gives you the kind of public support that you need to push through difficult legislation and executive orders.

Right now, Republicans have decided to dig in as an obstructionist entity which in certain scenarios trip up a president with an ambitious agenda. But obstructionism is not necessarily rooted solely in political principal.

Political principal also has a price tag which comes in the form of reelection probabilities. The short of it is that for now Republicans are pushing right and playing obstructionist because they see this as being their path out of the wilderness, one of my favorite topics in the current political mish mash of things to study and observe. However; if the President’s popularity continues to remain sky high, especially as mid terms start to get underway, you will start to see Republicans, especially those Republicans in vulnerable districts and states, begin to peel away like chips off of weathered paint.

As for the Ds in the halls of congress, a popular Democratic president can solidify what is often a very contentious caucus.

That is all in the mid term. In the very near term, as in over the course of the next couple of months, these high approval ratings will give President Obama the kind of political capital he needs to continue to move at the already considerable pace he has been, pushing a considerably progressive budget, moving in on withdrawing troops from Iraq, pushing for significant health care reform, etc.

It’s all in the numbers. For the moment, President Obama is the kind of rising tide that raises all ships, and in politics that’s a very important status to have. As we look down the road a year and a half to two years, it will be interesting to see how President Obama maintains this level of political capital.

There are, in my mind, two distinct tracks he can take. The first, and obviously preferable path is for his agenda to produce net positive results, most importantly significant returns on the economy. Barring that, he has another avenue available to him in order to maintain his high approval rating, and therefore the kind of political muscle he has been able to hold onto thus far.

If he can sell the American electorate on the idea that his plans will not immediately produce the desired effect (which is more or less true), that his stimulus efforts, his budget, and his foreign policies will take time and ongoing effort in order to work, then he will shed some of the more fickle support, but he could feasibly remain a political powerhouse through the 2010 midterm elections.

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