Buzzkill

As House Republicans sit through presentations and discussions about their immediate and long-term fate in Williamsburg this weekend, the buzzkill background includes not only the 2012 election results and the strategic and tactical traps they seem to keep entering in negotiating with the White House on fiscal issues–but also current polling, which is not friendly.

The latest big poll from NBC/WSJ confirms the bad news. One of those mood-ring polls that mainly test how Americans are feeling about this and that, its approval rating numbers are an extended reality check for House GOPers. Interestingly enough, the president’s job approval ratio (52/44) is now very similar to his personal favorability ratio (52/37). This wasn’t the case during much of his first term, when the job approval numbers were often significantly lower. The “how do you feel about” numbers for the GOP are simply dreadful: the party as a whole is at 26/49; John Boehner is at 18/37; and the Tea Party Movement that has a mortgage on the GOP’s soul is at 23/47. The one major political figure with higher public standing than Obama right now is the woman most likely to be his successor as the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton (56/25, with a job approval rating of 69/25).

You never know, but it’s doubtful the GOP numbers are going to improve in the short term, as reflected in the reality that the retreating House Members are debating whether to sullenly accept the president’s position on the debt limit, or to threaten to destroy the U.S. economy unless wildly popular retirement and health care programs are cut. And the main help on the way (unless it’s in the “looming Dem divide” that Politico is ritualistically trumpeting today) is a midterm election in which Republican fortunes improve because fewer people vote.

But at least they’ll leave Williamsburg with the benefit of some sage political advice, and will mutter to themselves as they return to Washington: “Don’t talk about rape. Don’t talk about rape.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.