Last January, we wrote about a column by the Los Angeles Times’ Doyle McManus (picture) that offered his progressive readers reassurance that House Republicans could over-interpret their 2010 election victory and overplay their hand. In the January article, McManus suggested Republicans might reach for too much during the anticipated debt ceiling increase fight:
Boehner[‘s] biggest test will come in March [sic], when the federal government is expected to bump up against the debt ceiling . . . Boehner[‘s] goal will be to use the debt ceiling to force Obama to cut spending without precipitating a federal government shutdown (a gambit that backfired on Gingrich in 1995) or, worse, a default that would be disastrous for financial markets.At the time, I commented,
Republicans know (as McManus says they do) that the debt ceiling will have to rise. They also want to use the battle to extract spending concessions from Democrats. Is McManus predicting Republicans won’t force even a single concession? We’ll see soon enough.Did McManus remember his January implied prediction that the threat of a government shutdown would turn back House Republican efforts to force spending cuts? I think he may have, because earlier this month, he wrote,
Obama has an opportunity to improve his standing among independent voters — many of whom deserted the Democrats in the 2010 midterm election — by working with Republicans toward bipartisan deficit-reduction measures. . . The 2012 presidential election could be won or lost in the next three weeks.So 6 months later, McManus has shifted gears, first implicitly conceding House Republicans had forced budget cuts on Obama, but second, seeing the turn as benefiting Obama, because it allows him to demonstrate flexibility to independents. That means when one is forced to back off a previous hard position, one can always claim the forced flexibility is a virtue. Nice.
Unfortunately for both McManus and Obama, events thus far are not working out for the president. Poll ratings go up and down, but closely watched as they are, polls have a tremendous impact on the tone commentators bring to public discourse. And right now, Obama’s Gallup poll ratings are his lowest ever at 40% approval, 50% disapproval.
Furthermore, Obama’s low numbers came before we learned the nation’s GDP grew only 0.4% in the first quarter of 2011, and 1.3% in the second quarter, with revised figures showing current GDP below even where it was in 2008 (see chart). This is terrible economic news.
Solve the debt crisis, and Obama’s approval numbers will rise again. But given today’s grim economic realities, perhaps Obama can only hope that the McManus July prophesy that “The 2012 presidential election could be won or lost in the next three weeks” turns out to be wrong, and that the latest bad economic news doesn't doom the Obama presidency right here, now, in these "three weeks."