Midterm Mandate: A More Popular Obama?

By Mark Esposito

Even the President joined the “Amen Chorus” from the Right. The Midterms were about change and disgust with the status quo. “I hear you,” the President said, but what exactly did he hear? Seems he heard an America that had it with inaction and “do-nothingness,”not the performance of the resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Despite dire predictions of popular unrest if Obama “went it alone” on immigration reform, the budget, protecting health care and political muscle flexing using the veto pen, the President now enjoys a 20-month high in approval ratings from those “disgruntled” citizens who voted in the Midterms. A CNN/ORC poll showed Tuesday that at 48% of those polled approve of the job Obama is doing. That’s the highest rating in CNN polling since May 2013. Still about 50% of Americans disapprove of the job performance but minds appear to be changing since the current figure represents a 7 point jump from a year ago. What happened?

Like all matters of cause and effect, it’s murky but the rising economic tide has a lot to do with it as deficits fall, unemployment dips and the Dow Jones soars to unprecedented heights and maybe those relics from the 50s return — gas price wars. There’s also the President showing guts where Congress has none on immigration reform and opening the door to better relations with Cuba. Both Republican bugaboos that the opposition said would wreck the President’s last two years in office. The numbers are in and it hasn’t.

The surge comes among three distinct advancing social groups: women, millennials and, what must gall Republicans, independent voters who carry most elections. Predictably, the President lost ground among men, Republicans and those age 35-49 but the ten point rise from just a month ago from the big three “comers” in American demographics easily offset the small drop from other more conservative segments of the population. So what to make of the numbers?

 There is no doubt that Obama still disappoints many Americans. About 56% in the poll say Obama has fallen short of expectations and 49% think his policies are taking the country down the wrong road (about equal to those who say the same thing about Congress) but the important factor is that many are willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt when it comes to dealing in good faith with the problems facing the nation. Even if that trust means going against the will of the people they elected to represent them.

 Americans deeply distrust the Republican stymied US Congress awarding them approval ratings in the single digits. Half of Americans say that their Congressperson doesn’t care what they think, while only 24% think that they do. “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just seven percent (7%) of likely U.S. Voters rate Congress’s performance as good or excellent. Sixty-seven percent (67%) rate their performance as poor.” This comes as 59% of the population predicts the new Republican Congress will be a disappointment.

 So the mandate is in from the crew of the Ship of State and it is decidedly undecipherable except to say that, perhaps, the much predicted mutiny against the captain seems a bit premature.

 Sources: CNN and throughout.

~Mark Esposito

About mespo727272

I 'm a plaintiff's personal injury attorney with 30 years of trial experience practicing with my law school classmate in Richmond, Virginia. You can read all about me here: www.schillingandesposito.com
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22 Responses to Midterm Mandate: A More Popular Obama?

  1. Inga says:

    I wish Obama would’ve started showing that backbone right away. It’s been frustrating as all get out seeing him try to work with the Republicans time after time. When he walked away from a Public Option, capitulated on the Bush tax cuts, when he didn’t do the EO on immigration before the midterms, arrrrg! Frustrating as all hell that he didn’t just say screw you, I’ve got a phone and pen much earlier. I fervently hope he can accomplish much more by EO, if legal, before the end of him term.

  2. buckaroo says:

    Our bi-partisan Congress just guaranteed hundreds of trillions (do the research) not billions of derivatives to the largest banks in the world. For example Goldman Sachs has assets of 18 billion but unfunded liabilities in derivatives of 40 trillion. Yes you read that correctly. And guess who just guaranteed them against loss? Why not do the same for insurance companies?
    Simply disgusting

  3. mespo727272 says:

    Thanks C-39. Like Jimmy Connors said, “This is what they want.” So they get it.

  4. swarthmoremom says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/29/opinion/paul-krugman-the-obama-recovery.html “What’s the important lesson from this late Obama bounce? Mainly, I’d suggest, that everything you’ve heard about President Obama’s economic policies is wrong.

    You know the spiel: that the U.S. economy is ailing because Obamacare is a job-killer and the president is a redistributionist, that Mr. Obama’s anti-business speeches (he hasn’t actually made any, but never mind) have hurt entrepreneurs’ feelings, inducing them to take their marbles and go home.

    This story line never made much sense. The truth is that the private sector has done surprisingly well under Mr. Obama, adding 6.7 million jobs since he took office, compared with just 3.1 million at this point under President George W. Bush. Corporate profits have soared, as have stock prices. What held us back was unprecedented public-sector austerity: At this point in the Bush years, government employment was up by 1.2 million, but under Mr. Obama it’s down by 600,000. Sure enough, now that this de facto austerity is easing, the economy is perking up.

    And what this bounce tells you is that the alleged faults of Obamanomics had nothing to do with the pain we were feeling. We weren’t hurting because we were sick; we were hurting because we kept hitting ourselves with that baseball bat, and we’re feeling a lot better now that we’ve stopped.

    Will this improvement in our condition continue? Britain’s government has declared its intention to pick up the baseball bat again — to engage in further austerity, which does not bode well. But here the picture looks brighter. Households are in much better financial shape than they were a few years ago; there’s probably still a lot of pent-up demand, especially for housing. And falling oil prices will be good for most of the country, although some regions — especially Texas — may take a hit.

    So I’m fairly optimistic about 2015, and probably beyond, as long as we avoid any more self-inflicted damage. Let’s just leave that baseball bat lying on the ground, O.K.?”

  5. bron98 says:

    How much of his rise in popularity is due to gas prices at less than $2.50/gallon?

    Obama is a lucky man, the next 2 years are going to be good and people will be singing his praises due to an oil economy he has tried to stop.

  6. swarthmoremom says:

    bron, As far as I know Obama did nothing to stop the drilling in the Bakken and Eagle Ford. Environmentalists think Obama is a captive of the fracking industry.

  7. eniobob says:

    Knew this was coming,as long as it’s good news right Grover ?

    “The prominent anti-tax crusader hasn’t turned into a bullhorn for President Barack Obama’s economic policies; he still thinks they’re a drag on jobs and wages. But he’s also grown critical of his fellow Republicans for making poor strategic and messaging decisions on several key issues. Rather than tying the economic recovery to spending cuts ushered in by the sequester and to the continuation of 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts, he said, some in the party have insisted their own leaders fumbled those items. ”


  8. Slartibartfast says:

    From the situation on the ground (i.e. not considering future events or actions), I’d say the table is set for President Obama (or his popularity, anyway) to do as well or better in the 4th quarter of his presidency as President Clinton (for some of the same reasons, too). In my mind, this was totally expected and predictable.

    I would note that one reason for this is having gotten rid of all of the Democrats stupid enough to run away from President Obama (and any Democratic accomplishments) in this election cycle. That was almost as smart as an NFL team trying to win a game by tackling their own quarterback on every play.

  9. po says:

    I did not vote for Obama the second time, and sure was one of those many liberals who thought he was giving the house away in his attempt to be fair. I supported Cornel West in his relentless attacks against the President.
    What gave me pause however was that both sides thought he was too one-sided in favor of the opposition, which means that he was riding some some sort of middle line.
    I understood his motivation, which is that as a black man, he had to be extra cordial to the other side, and secondly, that he is naturally a middle of the fence type and has the ability to see both sides of the coin at once. It was also obvious that he thought that his legacy would be based on both the rule of law (his adherence to constitutional principles) and the practical accomplishments (in terms of economy and in terms of wars, the ones we win or the ones we do not lose).
    It is because of that state of mind and his keeping both in mind simultaneously, that I think his presidency will be lauded in the future. When the dust settles and the fumes dissipate, history will be much more appreciative of his tenure than his contemporaries, here in the US, are. And this , based on so far alone.
    I do think that the next 2 years are crucial in cementing the legacy above Bill Clinton’s, or blow it enough that Obama may always remain second to Bill, and I think it will depend solely on how much stones Obama shows in his dealing with the Republicans.
    It is legacy time baby, the game is on the line…as a point guard, it is drive to the basket, get a layup or a foul…that chip on the shoulder is showing…the clock is ticking…and he sure is driving into the lane Lebron-like.

  10. Mike Spindell says:

    Nice piece Mark. Let’s. hope the President follows through and the Republicans start howling about his vetoes. I’m no yet convinced he will follow through, but if he does then he Candace his legacy and the nation as well.

  11. Slartibartfast says:


    In the words of Paul Krugman, this is what a successful presidency looks like.

    I’m really pissed off at pretty much the entire Democratic party right now. They should have made the midterms about something and rallied around their president, but instead decided not to hang together and ended up hanging separately. We need to start planning for 2020 right now because they aren’t capable of it and redistricting is too important to screw up (again).

    An excerpt:

    In Defense of Obama

    When it comes to Barack Obama, I’ve always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right. Furthermore, it seemed clear to me that, far from being the transformational figure his supporters imagined, he was rather conventional-minded: Even before taking office, he showed signs of paying far too much attention to what some of us would later take to calling Very Serious People, people who regarded cutting budget deficits and a willingness to slash Social Security as the very essence of political virtue.

    And I wasn’t wrong. Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically. Furthermore, he came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain; we were saved from significant cuts to Social Security and a rise in the Medicare age only by Republican greed, the GOP’s unwillingness to make even token concessions.

    But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn’t deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy. …

    Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don’t care about the fact that Obama hasn’t lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn’t quite say, a big deal.

  12. mespo727272 says:

    I like polling Mike since it provides at least a blurry snapshot of the mood of the electorate. I also hope Obama comes out swinging and not for partisan reasons but more for Machiavellian ones:
    The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don’t just go away, they are only postponed to someone else’s advantage. Therefore, they made war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in order not to have to fight them in Italy… They never went by that saying which you constantly hear from the wiseacres of our day, that time heals all things. They trusted rather their own character and prudence — knowing perfectly well that time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad.
    ~The Prince (1513)

  13. mespo727272 says:

    Wow, a political conversation among smart people free from dolts, disrupters and dumba$$es. How refreshing and déjà vu.

  14. blouise says:

    Hispanics are particularly pleased with Obama’s immigration plan and they will be a huge block of votes come 2016 for democrats who have that block within their constituency and link themselves to Obama. His approval numbers went way up in that block.

  15. po says:

    Slartibartfast says:
    December 30, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    In the words of Paul Krugman, this is what a successful presidency looks like.

    I’m really pissed off at pretty much the entire Democratic party right now. They should have made the midterms about something and rallied around their president, but instead decided not to hang together and ended up hanging separately.
    Yeah, Slarti, I read that Krugman piece and wanted to hate it, but he made a good case. The great thing about it is that we usually read about Obama piecemeal, but he gathered the parts and made a sum of it, which is the only way to get the big picture…
    True about the democratic party…I am not sure what to make of them….they are just (okay, not just as…less) crazy as the Republicans but they sure do have great amount of dysfunction too. Obama spent his first term reacting to what the Republicans say and might say, especially about the economy and security…the democratic party is even more entrenched into the reacting process…no ideal, no proposal, just the opposite of what the other side stands for. Between coming against Obama on the environment and on Obamacare..I am puzzled!
    I am really hoping for a third party surge

  16. po says:

    Good point, Blouise…it just shows that the presidency is really about what have you done for me lately…Obama deported Hispanics en masse, but he is also taking steps to stop the deportation and perhaps legalize some, and that would earn the democrats more points than the deportations cost them.
    Shows really how much of a problem the Republicans have.

  17. Slartibartfast says:


    I think the important question is how to form a grassroots third party in a way that it could grow organically and exert power and influence to some extent before it actually became capable of winning offices (and continuing to do so until it had a big enough share to be on the same level as the Republicans and Democrats in the House or the Senate on its own).


    I think there are probably some good analogies between President Obama’s relationship with the hispanics and his relationship with the LBGT community.

  18. pete says:


    If the people who live in uncontested states (about 42-44 out of the 50) would realize their votes for president don’t count, then a third (and possibly a fourth) party could have a chance to form.

  19. rafflaw says:

    I agree with the earlier comments that the Dems made a huge mistake in running away from Obama in the midterms. If we do not present a progressive agenda in 2016, the results may not be much different.

  20. Slartibartfast says:


    The dynamics will be very different (and much more favorable to Democrats) in 2016—so barring unforeseen circumstances (unknown unknowns), there will be different results. The Republicans will probably have a hard time holding onto the Senate (repeating their 2010 results) and the Democrats will make significant gains in the House. This kind of ongoing dynamic is the status quo that must be broken, in my opinion.


    A grass roots third party needs to start with the school boards, not the presidency.

  21. pete says:

    It would be good for name or brand recognition. The problem would be not becoming a party of one personality.
    If nothing else it might serve to pull the Democratic party back from being Republican lite. In the end I believe the U S will always have just a two party system.

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