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The Most Important Number in Politics Today



Neither President Obama nor Sen. Arlen Specter look great in the latest Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania.

49

That's the percentage of Pennsylvania voters who approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing in a new Quinnipiac University poll, a precipitous drop from May when two-thirds of Keystone State voters held that view.

While more voters in Pennsylvania still approve of the job Obama is doing than disapprove (42 percent), the relatively rapid erosion of his numbers in a Rust Belt state that is central to the 2010 midterm elections as well as the 2012 presidential race is striking and indicative of the damage incurred by the president during the summer months.

In a February Quinnipiac poll, 63 percent approved of the job Obama was doing and that number dipped only slightly -- to 61 percent -- in March. By early May, 66 percent of Pennsylvania approved of what the president was doing in Washington.

Then the slide began. In late May, Obama's job approval number was 62 and by mid July it was at 56 percent. Between July and today, the number dropped another seven percentage points.

The decline in Obama's Pennsylvania numbers jibe with a similar decline in his national numbers but are more noteworthy due to the number of competitive races in the state next fall.

The marquee contest is in the Senate where party-switching Arlen Specter (D) faces a primary fight from Rep. Joe Sestak and a general election challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey. (The Q poll showed Specter's lead in the primary narrowing and the general election as a pure toss-up regardless of the identity of the Democratic nominee.)

But, there are a number of other important races in the state -- starting with the open governor's race. With redistricting coming up in 2011, Republicans will go all out to seize control of the Pennsylvania governor's mansion if they believe they have a real chance to win. There are also a slew of competitive House races in the state.

If Obama can't arrest the free-fall of his numbers in critical swing states like Pennsylvania -- and there has been some leveling-off nationally if not in the states just yet -- it could well pose a big problem for downballot races and cast a dangerous omen as he prepares for his re-election bid in 2012.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 1, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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Comments

10-
Letterman's Top Ten Letters/Symbols after everyone realizes that he was having sex with employees WHILE in a long term relationship with the mother of his child that only in March led to marriage-

(making fun of politicians who cheat Dave?)

1. H
2. Y
3. P
4. O
5. C
6. R
7. I
8. T
9. E
10.!

Posted by: thecannula | October 3, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

10-
Letterman's Top Ten Letters/Symbols after everyone realizes that he was having sex with employees WHILE in a long term relationship with the mother of his child that only in March led to marriage-

(making fun of politicians who cheat Dave?)

1. H
2. Y
3. P
4. O
5. C
6. R
7. I
8. T
9. E
10.!

Posted by: thecannula | October 3, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Barn's over there, champ.

Me, I think I've hit the bulls-eye in your case.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 2, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

Do you just stare at the monitor, hoping for a single friend?

Posted by: snowbama | October 1, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Actually zouk ol' strait-man we liberals argue with each other like crazy, but then we all have our own individual beliefs, formed within ourselves. It's you guys who all show up on the same day with all the exact same phrase and all acting in unison, like a school of tiny fish all changing direction at once in a flash of silver scales.

"We" (*guffaw*) get it .. you speak of us as lockstep, you speak of us as pasting from loony websites, next you'll be accusing us of mangling other posters' monikers too.

What fun. But hey, we're out here, and you're in there. Try not to bother the nurses, mK?

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 1, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Not a single intelligent post for an entire thread. You must be proud cc. The barking mad liberal mutual admiration society has sunk your blog.

Posted by: snowbama | October 1, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

@bwj: I do get it. They're trying to play on "nobody likes a loser" and if they can make the Democrats look like losers by screwing with perceptions people will once again shoot themselves in the feet and vote GOP.

And of course skewed perceptions are all they have, because the GOP has neither ideas nor candidates. So we get one puff-piece after another about the same round-robin of nonentities (Pawlenty, Romney) and dangerously stupid people (Huckabee, Palin).

The GOP doesn't even have good *slogans*

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 1, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree with MM. Toomey is just Santorum with a shorter name. Same extremist agenda. Santorum got crushed in his final bid for reelection to the Senate. Unless they use those tricked up West Virginia voting machines (er, allegedly), Specter or Sestak will win. End of story.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | October 1, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Agreed. Nothing has changed.

Phalin, not Pawlenty, is still the GOP front runner and according to the Marist poll, BHO beats her by 23 points. Is it a coincidence Drudge's headline today was pushing Pawlenty as someone who would "conquer" BHO -- an extension of Lynn Jenkins's "Great White Hope" theme. The average person has never even heard of Pawlenty; this is why this "poll" is so silly. I guess Hiatt is pushing this stuff but I don't get it.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | October 1, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

@bwj: I only know one (1) person under 70 with a land line at home and he's 60.

Calling landlines gives about the most skewed sampling I can imagine, the elderly and unemployed.

As for this column, I really have to wonder. Chris' reporting during the campaign was top notch, insightful and balanced. What we get since is decidedly something else. Since CC didn't have part of his brain removed the bright guy must be imprisoned inside it, under orders from on hiatt to make things sound good for the GOP, in hopes of manipulating perceptions, which seems to be reflexive among the filth. Like screwing with online polls.

And you don't need to be Nate Silver to see how skewed the presentation is here. Like the one a few days ago, unchanged from a year before, beneath a headline trumpeting GOP gains.

And even if the demographic changes were the real deal, the GOP has nobody serious to run as a candidate. Pawlenty? Romney? Please.

Palin? Yes, please!!! Her "meteoritic rise" that ends like all meteorites.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 1, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

This is Drudge-lite cherry picking of anti-BHO polls in the extreme! (Didn't Drudge's last pre-election poll show Mac winning in a landslide?)

Daily Kos shows BHO at 54 about where he was last November. So in other words he has held onto his original support--a notable achievement. 54, not 49, is the real number. If you're going to play the poll game, cite all of them (except Rasmussen) or give us the average poll of polls.

Also given the diverse demographics of BHO's support, goofy calls to landline phones in the middle of the workday during the workweek won't tell you much of anything...except maybe the living habits of Phalinite losers. Wait for the real poll: election day 2012.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | October 1, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I suppose one of the prices that we have to pay in order to get the first-rate coverage of health care by Lori Montgomery and Ceci Connolly is that the Post has to agree to post this fatuous tripe.

Posted by: MikeKelly45 | October 1, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

"The Republican strategy could very well be to just do nothing so the Democrats will have nothing to hold against them in 2010,"

Doing nothing -- and obstructing anythng from getting accomplished is exactly what we will hold against them.

Posted by: drindl | October 1, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

As I recall, Obama took Pennsylvania by double digits. I don't see Toomey winning next year.

Some of the things Toomey stands firm on are attractive to the hard-nosed and hard-hearted Scotch-Irish and German stock in the Central and Northern parts of the state. My mother is a Riggs from Uniontown and my father is a Kinzer from near Altoona, and they would both find his message attractive. Unhappily, she is dead, and he now votes for Republicans in Illinois. And that is a reflection of Toomey's problem. The voter he appeals to no longer lives in Pennsylvania in sufficient numbers to elect him. The metropolitan areas of Pittsburg and Philadelphia will reject Toomey and his party in astounding numbers. His far-right stance will sink him just the way it sunk Santorum. 2008 was no phenomenom in Pennsylvania; it was an on-going trend.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | October 1, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"If Democrats ignore their own slipping numbers because they fail to see a gain in Republicans' numbers, they do so at their own peril."

Agreed. The approval rating is the big daddy of political statistics. It's the one that gives politicians wet dreams and nightmares. I have no idea whether Obama knew of that poll result that said that the more people hear about healthcare, the less they are in favor of it.

I promise you that Obama is aware of this poll result, though.

Posted by: DDAWD | October 1, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

GJJ, you are exactly right.

No one is ignoring the numbers.
People who say they are are clinching, waaay too hard.

Democrats are performing major surgery (ugh! a 3rd metaphor, this is my last post today, I promise) on America's political economy and it needs to go well. That is all there is to it.

Democrats fix stuff, Republicans are dust, they don't, we are all in big trouble.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 1, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I won't believe that these "Most Important Numbers" are really important, until one of them is important enough to be the "Most Important Number" two days in a row.

Posted by: sourpuss | October 1, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

President Obama's slipping in the polls may not have a significant Republican rise to go along with it, but a Republican rise in the polls is by no means necessary to Republicans picking up offices. Don't forget that now more than ever, a huge volume of voters are less likely to vote *for* one candidate than *against* his opponent. Even if, as some have suggested, the Republicans do head into the next election without anything of substance to offer, it may not make a difference if they can convince voters their No. 1 priority should be voting against the Democrats.

If Democrats ignore their own slipping numbers because they fail to see a gain in Republicans' numbers, they do so at their own peril. The Republican strategy could very well be to just do nothing so the Democrats will have nothing to hold against them in 2010, and it could be effective; voters pay way more attention to action than inaction.

Posted by: GJonahJameson | October 1, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

"It's stopped being funny. Day in day out this column presents some Bizarro alternate universe perspective where Republicans are gaining ground and on their way back to power."

Wrong, the bizzaro alternate universe is funny. Ok, maybe I am a little off, but I think making fun of Republicans and the people who support them is fun, so funny is always a fellow traveler.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 1, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

It's not like the Republicans are going to run a serious candidate in 2012. They're going to keep on trying to out-conservative each other and the eventual nominee will be someone certifiably lunatic, probably a social conservative without a prayer of getting any EVs outside the deep south.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 1, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

bradcpa - you have nailed the impotant point. Chris seems to imply that because support for Obama is dropping in SOME polls -- and by no means all -- that that automatically means support for R's.

But the Democrats who are most disappointed with Obama are the ones on the left end of the party, who want him to fight harder for a public option.

And these are people who would never vote R. I know lots of them, just here in my town.

Posted by: drindl | October 1, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"Obamma?"

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 1, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Chris - Listening to CNBC I hear a lot of noise from the left wing of the Democratic Party disapproving of Obamma on healthcare. Do you think some of the fall out is due to the move on crowd saying our way or the highway. I guess my real question is how much real support have the Republican's picked up.

Posted by: bradcpa | October 1, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

As I said, I have not seen Cillizza this excited since they announced Clay Akins would be doing the lead in Spamalot. I know, I know... I don't get it because I did not grow up in Texas.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | October 1, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

As I said, I have not seen Cillizza this excited since they announced Clay Akins would be doing the lead in Spamalot. I know, I know... I don't get it because I did not grow up in Texas.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | October 1, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"Seems pretty significant to me."

Me too.

Posted by: nodebris | October 1, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Republicans get to make absurd pronouncements. It is a key part of the we're ignorant and proud of it! anti-elite platform. Spiro Agnew should be in Chris' political hall of fame, for sheer audacity Baiting intelligence, how odd. Oh, but we also have Pawlenty, re-running the Bush Cheney platform. Talk about an IQ test.

The Democrats have America up on the lift, its in the shop now and polling people on whether they are doing a good job is kind of like asking the car owner, the one over in the waiting room, whether s/he likes all the noises coming from under the car. Do the tools look right, or not? Is that greasy part from your car there on the floor the right thing to worry about?

Of course every sentient person is deeply concerned, worried about what Obama and his people are doing!! How could you not be? The stakes are well, everything. We are all in. [Sorry to mix the metaphor.]

But the blog must go on. We have to think something about crazy Republicans is "compelling".

You can't just say, "If Obama can't fix the disaster the Republican voters created by 2012, Americans are foolish enough, they'll vote Republican again, just to punish him."

Republican Rising! I tell ya, it could happen, any day now...



Posted by: shrink2 | October 1, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Then don't read "The Fix" anymore. Problem solved!

Posted by: JakeD | October 1, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

It's stopped being funny. Day in day out this column presents some Bizarro alternate universe perspective where Republicans are gaining ground and on their way back to power.

Meanwhile out in the real world Republicans are fixated on tangents and follies and making it clear as they can that their priorities are 100% oppositional. No ideas, no plans to fix the nation's problems, not even *acknowledging* those problems.

Give them seats in Congress and it'll be more screaming about gays and abortion and illegal immigrants.

But here at The Fix it's a rosy-colored balloon inflated with flatulant gas, floating away into a sky of Unreal Things.

Mitch Daniels!!! Tim Pawlenty!!! Mitt Romney!!! Palin!!!!! Palin!!!!! Palin!!!!!

Give it a rest, Chris.

And take out the trash.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 1, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how you all don't think this is an important number. A 15 point drop over six months? Seems pretty significant to me.

Posted by: DDAWD | October 1, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

For someone to say that a poll number from 2009 has ant predictive value for 2012 means he had the preconcived idea that this was a story. It would hardly have that much meaning two years from now.

As one who believes that the democrats will have problems in 2010, Chris I think the demands of this blog are crowding out your credibility.

Posted by: Gator-ron | October 1, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I wonder whn the media outrage will start over this comment?

"Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) took to the House floor last night to warn against a provision of the House health care bill, which would authorize non-profit entities to operate health clinics in schools -- which she said would lead to Planned Parenthood "sex clinics" giving abortions to 13-year old girls without the parents knowing about it."

I won't hold my breath.

Posted by: drindl | October 1, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"Cherry-picked" or not, this is at least ONE Obama number that isn't rising! LOL!!!

Posted by: JakeD | October 1, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh, for god's sake. this is pathetic.

Your pompoms are getting ragged from all the cheerling.

The most important number in this poll is this one:

when asked about Toomey fully 53% of voters of both parties said they hadn't heard enough about him to make a decision.

'Hvn't hrd enough 53'

Which means that sestak and specter need to get out there and hit him hard with ads targeting his radical rightiwng positions.

Posted by: drindl | October 1, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Here we go again. Dollars to Navy beans the poll actually contains mostly good news for Obama but this one number cherry-picked out to feed the desperate needs of marginalize Republicans who need to believe their vapid little club of complainers has a way back to power.

Nothing to see here.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 1, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Opps, drindl: so much for the "Obama's numbers are rising" meme. You need to get new talking points.

Posted by: JakeD | October 1, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

LOL!!! Keep it up, pResident Obama!

Posted by: JakeD | October 1, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Republican Rising!

Posted by: shrink2 | October 1, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

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