Barack Obama: The Paper Tiger

Republicans are making a big mistake. They are afraid to stand up against Barack Obama, apparently because they believe he can sway millions of Americans to do his bidding.  GOP legislators apparently think their relatively poor standing in public opinion polls puts them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis Obama and the Democrats. They need to think again.

A glance at some pertinent statistics makes one wonder why anyone would quake in her/his boots when dealing with this person. A recent Rasmussen daily presidential approval/disapproval tracking poll (02/22/13) has Obama at 52% approval vs. 47% disapproval. (His approval rating since the 2012 election has been as low as 51%.)  More important, when it comes to "strongly" approve/disapprove, Obama is in the hole, 31% to 36%. 

Obama's generally modest standing with the public is confirmed by recent Quinnipiac University polls. Quinnipiac University released a poll on December 6, 2012 showing 53% of the public approved of how Obama was handling his job as president, compared to 40% who disapproved, and 8% who said they didn't know how he was doing.  A new poll, published on February 8, 2013, found that 46% of the public approved of Obama's job, compared to 45% who disapproved, and 9% who said they didn't know. In just two months, Obama "stock" with the public fell by seven percentage points.

These are hardly fear-inspiring figures, assuming---as most students of American politics do---that a president can parlay high rates of public approval into influence with Congress.  Leverage with Congress gets stronger when a chief executive's public opinion rating goes up, something Obama cannot show.

Most of the news media, which have been in the tank for Obama from the get-go, tout poll figures allegedly showing majority approval of his agenda. They do not, however, publicize the fact that only 38% of the public approve of the direction in which the U.S. is headed (Rasmussen Reports, 2/20/13). 

We also keep hearing that Obama was re-elected on November 6, 2012. (That alone may be why many GOP congressional leaders seem so disinclined to buck him.) Yes, Obama kept his office in 2012, but his percentage of the popular vote was down from 2008. Obama is the first president to win re-election, but with a smaller percentage of the popular vote in his second campaign than in his first.

Let's pursue the popular vote statistics a bit further. Obama got 51.1% of the popular vote in 2012. Turnout was 57.5% of the voting-age population (VAP), lower than in 2004 (60.4%) or 2008 (62.3%). What that translates into is that Obama was kept in office by only 29.4% of the VAP (.511 X .575 = 29.38). In 2008, he won 52.9% of the popular vote in an election that saw 62.3% of the VAP go to the 

It is doubtful that a chief executive put into office by such a small proportion of the VAP, whose current public opinion approval rating only slightly exceeds his disapproval, could sway legions of ordinary citizens to adopt his extreme left-wing policies. Obama's clout with the public becomes even more tenuous when we look at where he stands with those who either "strongly approve" or "strongly disapprove" of how he is doing his job.

In the 1980s, leftists used to question the legitimacy of Ronald Reagan, who was twice elected president by a majority of the VAP, but in relatively low turnout elections. Leftists made the same claim about Bush #41 and Bush #43.

(To my knowledge, conservatives did not make the same claim about Bill Clinton, who was elected with only 43.0% of the popular vote in 1992, and 49.2% in 1996. They should have.)

Bottom line:  The United States has a president put into office by less than 30% of the VAP in 2012, and just a third in 2008! In addition, pollster Scott Rasmussen has found his standing among the public is modest. Why should this person instill fear in his enemies?  (Remember, to a Chicago pol, political opponents are enemies.)

Since Obama's profligate spending threatens to pauperize our future and his hostility to our military threatens our status as a super power, Republicans have to thwart his agenda.  Given his electoral record and his current standing with the American public, it can be done. It must be done.