New numbers tell painful tale for GOP

Forget President Obama's approval rating -- it's the polls on Republicans that are the real story.

Published March 4, 2009 8:00PM (EST)

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has pegged President Obama's favorability rating at an all-time high of 68 percent. Reporting on the results, MSNBC quotes one of the Democratic pollsters involved in the research getting all hot and bothered about all the goodwill the presidents has in the bank. "What is amazing here is how much political capital Obama has spent in the first six weeks," Peter D. Hart told MSNBC. "And against that, he stands at the end of this six weeks with as much or more capital in the bank."

Yes, Americans love the man. But the article rightly points out that there's a lingering discrepancy between Obama's personal appeal and his real approval rating, which this poll puts at roughly 60 percent, down from a high of 68 percent during his first days in office.

Historically, this is actually pretty standard issue. According to Gallup, which has Obama's approval rating down slightly, to 62 percent, George W. Bush and his father both had a 63 percent approval rating at similar points in their terms. Around the same time, Bill Clinton was at 59 percent, Dwight Eisenhower at 65 percent and John F. Kennedy came in with a whopping 72.

The real story, then, is the sorry state of the GOP. The poll found that only 26 percent of people view the Republican Party favorably, and that by a 28-point margin, 48 percent of people believe the Democratic party is most capable of handling the recession.

While the poll did offer some vague consolation for Republicans -- the three top concerns respondents had about Obama's stimulus bill echoed key GOP qualms over pork, tax cuts and misdirected spending -- the numbers come as the percentage of people identifying themselves as Democrats continues to rise. As Hart told MSNBC, Republicans "have been tone deaf to the results of the 2008 election... They never heard the message. They continue to preach the old-time religion."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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