- - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The political odds for the 2014 midterm elections have turned upside down. President Obama’s polls are plummeting, and the Republicans’ approval numbers are rising again.

Suddenly, all those stories we’ve been reading over the course of 2013 about the demise of the GOP are looking shaky. Now Mr. Obama and the Democrats are the ones in political trouble as they approach next year’s elections.

The latest public opinion polls show the president and his party getting much higher disapproval scores on issues that will be at the focus of next year’s House and Senate elections: Obamacare, the economy and trust.

Despite the national news media’s attempts to persuade Americans that the economy is getting stronger, The Washington Post’s poll Tuesday found that the public’s perceptions are gloomy. Almost eight in 10 say the economy “remains in recession.”

Indeed, more Americans now say they trust Republicans to do a better job of running the economy than Mr. Obama has done.

He’s lost substantial political support on his promise to protect and strengthen the middle class. A big 26-point advantage on this pledge a year ago has shrunk to just six points.

The blaring headline over the Post’s front-page poll story no doubt stunned the White House: “Obama’s approval ratings plummet.” The secondary headline previewed what his declining numbers mean for his party: “Poll results worrisome for Democrats looking to midterm elections.”

Here’s how the newspaper, which endorsed Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012, explained what its new survey found:

“President Obama is ending his fifth year in office matching the worst public approval ratings of his presidency, with record numbers of Americans saying they disapprove of his job performance and his once-hefty advantage over Republicans in Congress eroded in many areas.”

When asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling … his job as president,” a higher 55 percent of Americans disapproved, compared with a 43 percent approval. A year ago, these numbers were nearly reversed.

Fifty-five percent also now disapprove of the way he’s dealt with the economy, compared with 42 percent who still, inexplicably, approve of his policies.

Especially significant, Americans now say they trust the Republicans more than Mr. Obama — 45 percent to 41 percent — to do a better job on improving the economy.

In December 2012, 54 percent trusted the president more, while only 32 percent trusted the GOP.

Meantime, Mr. Obama’s health care law is more unpopular than ever. Sixty-four percent say it is not “working as it should.” Also, 55 percent say its implementation problems are not isolated incidents, but a “sign of broader problems” to come.

Republicans are demanding at least a one-year delay in Obamacare’s implementation, a move the White House and Democrats dismiss out of hand. However, 60 percent of Americans agree that its problems “are serious enough that the government should delay the requirement that all individuals have health insurance.”

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