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The Most Important Number in Politics Today


That's the percent of independent voters who approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing, according to Gallup polling conducted over the past month.

Obama's numbers among independents are down slightly from Gallup polling in January (62 percent approve) but consistent with where he stood in March (59 percent) and April (60 percent).

As long as Obama's job approval numbers stay in the 55 percent plus range among independents, the Administration is not likely to make any major course corrections.

Independents have been acting like -- and voting with -- Democrats for the past two elections and, without a major erosion among that critical voting bloc, Obama is on very solid ground as he looks toward 2012.

Increasing dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and the increases in government spending under Obama have the potential to turn independent voters against the current Administration, however, and, if that happens, it could be very problematic for Democrats in the coming midterm elections.

Keep an eye on how independents view the job Obama is doing as the 2010 election nears. It's a good indicator of the political prognosis for each party.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 8, 2009; 5:11 PM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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I read this morning that Americans burn 2.5 billion gallons of gas and lose 4.2 billion hours of their time every year in traffic jams.

We still use 1940s technology in our traffic control, with stoplights that compel drivers to wait on a mechanical timer with no contending traffic.

How about throwing some stimulus money at this?

Here in Seattle it appears that most traffic jams are the result of a few people who like to slow down on the freeway for no good reason. Getting that 5% off the roads would save a staggering amount of time

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 9, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Greed, as with weakness, is the natural condtion of Man. Europe is suffering a similar fate to the US due to greed. They--especially the UK--followed the greedy US model to the extent that they could, and fell down the same rabbit hole.

If Pres. Obama can be blamed for anything, it's his timidity in not intervening MORE. The parallel flaw to 'supersizing' every aspect of this society is the 'I want it yesterday' mentality. INSTANT gratification. The American public switched 'doctors' and now wants the change to be reflected INSTANTLY--more jobs, more growth, and don't forget the Market must be happy too. This is the empirical reality.

The political reality, as Chris (Cillizza) so perceptively pointed out, is something quite different. If the electorate--esp. Independents--are unhappy, even though one might well point out that the expectations were decidedly unrealistic to start with, the WH will need to address that dissatisfaction politically as well as substantively.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 9, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

>>Obama should go on national TV and ask for a 100 billion of aid to state, local and to hire teachers

Pumping money into education is not what you do to turn around the economy. Arguably right now is the best time to go back to school but ultimately improving education doesn't fix the fact people can't hire you.

Infrastructure makes more sense but honestly the way it was done I don't agree with. Most of the stimulus money here isn't going into things to stimulate anything but repaving roads and minor maintenance, which doesn't generate nearly as much revenue as full blown construction. Still waiting for more people to tell them to just give the money to them to spend, which would be just as ineffective as what's going on now. They'd either save or spend it on paying down debt which in the end doesn't get us any further either.

Posted by: mtcooley | July 9, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

aprogressiveindependant writes
"Republicans may not benefit much though, as most independents disapprove of their policies and do not want to return to the deregulation, pro-corporate, pro-rich agenda of the Bush-Cheney era"

On the one hand I tend to agree, but on the other, ongoing fiscal crisis may well drive a "throw the bums out" mentality where all incumbents are in danger. If that happens, the party in the majority is likely to suffer larger losses. For Dems to maintain or gain seats in that scenario they have to make a compelling case for the GOP as obstructionists. Given typical voters' attention spans, that will not be an easy case to make.

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 9, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Long before voters choose the next Congress, the most important number will be the unemployment rate. The candidates and the party that focus on job creation will be successful in 2010. By then it will no longer be Bush's economy that Obama and the Ds can blame. Clara Peller's "Where's the beef" will become "Where's the jobs."

Posted by: optimyst | July 9, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Chris you nailed it again. It is time for Obama to focus on the economy. It is likely the compromises made on the stimulus will come back to haunt Obama. The changes made that swapped out aid for state and local governments for an AMT fix is hurting us right now. Obama should go on national TV and ask for a 100 billion of aid to state, local and to hire teachers.

Posted by: bradcpa | July 9, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

You're a knowledgable and patient man, mark, but if he responds at all it's going to be some canned BS about how it's all Dodd's and Frank's fault. There's no getting through to these guys, they're like the Terminator, CPU set to readonly.

I'm saving it off for my own education, though, thanks.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 9, 2009 2:09 AM | Report abuse

Support among independents for Obama's policies will probably fall below 50% if at least two of these happen:

1) unemployment is still 9% or higher a year from now

2) a weak health care bill includes an individual mandate with inadequate subsidies and/or taxes on some who have employer provided health care benefits

3) cap and trade bill passes, which leads to significantly higher energy costs

Republicans may not benefit much though, as most independents disapprove of their policies and do not want to return to the deregulation, pro-corporate, pro-rich agenda of the Bush-Cheney era

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | July 9, 2009 2:08 AM | Report abuse

Island1, of course that is $50T, not $50B.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 9, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Island1, please follow closely:

In 1999 we adopted the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which broke down the Depression-era restrictions between investment banks and commercial banks. As part of a political compromise, the law gave the commission the authority to regulate the securities and brokerage operations of the investment banks, but NOT their holding companies.

In 2002, the European Union threatened to impose its own rules on the foreign subsidiaries of the American investment banks. But there was a loophole: if the American companies were subject to the same kind of oversight as their European counterparts, then they would not be subject to the European rules. The loophole would require the commission to figure out a way to supervise the holding companies of the investment banks.

In 2004, at the urging of the investment banks, the commission adopted a voluntary program. In exchange for the relaxation of capital requirements by the commission, the banks agreed to submit to supervision of their holding companies by the agency.

Capital requirements were relaxed from12-1 to 40-1!

Meanwhile, the first meeting of the SEC in 2001 instituted GLBA's critical deregulation for our analysis: the GLB Act explicitly EXEMPTED security-based swap agreements (a derivative financial product based on another security's value or performance) from regulation by the SEC Commission by amending the Securities Act of 1933.

Our current situation became possible when a few trillion in mortgages and credit card debt could be repackaged into $50B of Credit Default Swaps and actually sold! We legalized the unregulated sale of beanie babies and investors bought them. Turned out they were not backed by anything, in the case of AIG.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 9, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

With an invitation like that, who could resist?

Why bother, you're already completely convinced it was the Democrats' fault, right?

Or are you one of those "market distortion" zombies?

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 8, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

chrisfox. I'd like you to explain to everyone how exactly de-regulation caused the financial crisis. If you can string together two sentences that make sense, I'll be surprised.

Posted by: island1 | July 8, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

So if You ever wonder who the dunderheads who approve of peloony, who think the country is heading in the right direction, who think Biden is some sort of wise sage, who think surrender is foreign policy, who did not understand the know the10percent braindead.

Look no further than the fix for chrisuxcox and drivl, the criminally stupid.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | July 8, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

My prediction...

By 9 pm, tonite, President Obama's favorable ratings, among independents will pop up to 65%. But, by midnight, after most viewers have turned off the late show, it will drop to 60.5%. However, if, at 5:30 am, EST, tomorrow, the sun shines, Barry's favorables will jump to almost 70%! If it rains, no change..

And so it goes.....

Posted by: dickhealy | July 8, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

all this due to empty promises of the Libs, desperate to remake capitalism into socialism.


Problem with your scintillating analysis is that the depression preceded the ascendancy of the "libs" by a year.

It was deregulation of financial sectors that did it, unless you think Obama can reach back in time or something.

I suppose now you'll say that "the markets" foresaw his election and reacted accordingly.

Must be nice to believe in fairy dust, but don't expect anyone else to.

Market forces ... let the marketplace decide .. magic of the marketplace .l.. miracle of Chile ...

Stick to the third-grader wordplay, would you?

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 8, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

The economy is still headed down. the market is down 7% in the last month. unemployment is on the rise. Housing is a mixed bag.

all this due to empty promises of the Libs, desperate to remake capitalism into socialism. but the empty promises have run out. the totally fales 8% ceiling is long past, an indication that Libs are as gullible as they are stupid. Even that moron Biden sees it now. He pronounced the error this week. yet the dissonance continues. At the time it was the worst economy in a century. Now it was not understood properly. Like anything can ever be understood by a Lib. good one.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | July 8, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Has the economy bottomed out?


Posted by: usadblake | July 8, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Actually the most important number is simply the Unemployment number. It is important to politicians and it is important to voters.

Presently, it is above the promised 8%, standing at 9.5 and heading toward 11.

the facts reveal that Obimbo and his leftys have not a clue about economics.

There is zero chance of another "porkulus", the first being untimely, untargeted. No Repubs voted for it.

It belongs to Obimbo and is a total failure, accelerating the spiral down instead of turning us around.

so as this number climbs, the thin-skinned amatuer will drop in the polls and lose his majority.

Only when these clowns get voted out and socialism is sent packing will capitalism and prosperity return.

but we warned you of this last year.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | July 8, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

The only reason Obama's approval numbers have "dropped" is that Republicans are peeling away from their incredibly short-lived moment of solidarity with the rest o the nation.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | July 8, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Funny as hell how the wall-punching GOP supporters jump on every within-mrgin-of-error downward drift as "proof" that the "Obama Messiah" movement is over.

Same people who point that Palin's 72% support -- among Republicans, now at 21% of the electorate -- speaks to her imminence at assuming the presidency.

Lest we forget, none of these people see the GOP as coming up with a sellable platform, or a single new idea, much less Palin doing so ... instead they hopefully forecast some national calamity that will hurt Obama.

For the sake of the nation and the world, here's hoping the GOP stays in the wilderness for decades to come

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 8, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: shrink2 | July 8, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

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