- - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

President Obama’s approval rating in a closely watched poll has sunk to a new low that will likely further damage his party’s dimming prospects in this fall’s midterm elections.

As he returns from a weeklong, four-nation Asian tour, overshadowed by his mishandling of Russian aggression in Ukraine, he faces a Washington Post-ABC News survey showing his job-approval score has sunk to 41 percent.

More ominous for Democrats, who now fear they could lose control of the Senate this fall, a majority of voters say “they prefer a Congress in Republican hands to check the president’s agenda,” The Post reported Tuesday.

Mr. Obama’s job-approval polls have been stuck in the low 40s since last year, but the newspaper’s latest survey shows a sharp plunge in his scores between March and the end of April.

Last month, his approval level stood at just 46 percent, with 50 percent disapproving of the job he was doing. This week, his approval-disapproval score was 41 percent-52 percent respectively. That’s the lowest performance grade of his presidency in The Post’s surveys.

Other voter responses gave Mr. Obama embarrassingly low scores across the board on major issues that will most likely decide who controls Congress in the last two years of his administration.

Just 42 percent of Americans polled said they approve of his handling of the economy; only 37 percent said they approve of the way he’s handled the implementation of Obamacare; and a mere 34 percent approve of the way he’s responded to Russia’s continuing threats to forcefully seize additional parts of neighboring Ukraine.

These and other failing grades cast a pall of gloom over Democrats as Congress reopened for business this week after a lengthy recess. This gave Republicans reason to cheer that they were winning the midterm-election battle for the heart and soul of the American people.

“Obama’s low rating could be a significant drag on Democratic candidates this fall — past elections suggest that when approval ratings are as low as Obama’s, the president’s party is almost certain to suffer at the ballot box in November,” writes Dan Balz, The Post’s chief political analyst.

The president has openly complained that his party will be in trouble in November because turnout in much of his party’s base — especially among minorities and younger voters — is always lower in midterm elections.

But surveys show that voter intensity is stronger in the GOP as a result of its deep opposition to Obamacare and the president’s failures on the economy and jobs.

In a pivotal question in The Post-ABC poll that no doubt shocked Democrats on Capitol Hill, pollsters asked voters: “Regardless of how you might vote, is it more important to have Democrats in charge of Congress, to help support Obama’s policies, or to have Republicans in charge of Congress, to act as a check on Obama’s policies?”

Just 39 percent said it was more important to have the Democrats in charge, compared with 53 percent who said, “Republicans in charge.” Eight percent had no opinion.

Perhaps no other issue was as fraught with political peril for the Democrats than the persistently weak Obama economy.

On this question, the poll found extensive pessimism about the economy and jobs — “with more than seven in 10 describing the economy in negative terms.”

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