The simplest explanation is also the right one

THE SIMPLEST EXPLANATION IS ALSO THE RIGHT ONE…. It seems clear what the media considers the question of the week. The NYT‘s Sheryl Gay Stolberg notes a political dynamic today that seems pretty familiar.

If passage of the financial regulatory overhaul on Thursday proves anything about President Obama, it is this: He knows how to push big bills through a balky Congress.

But Mr. Obama’s legislative success poses a paradox: while he may be winning on Capitol Hill, he is losing with voters at a time of economic distress, and soon may be forced to scale back his ambitions.

Though the Stolberg piece was far more sensible, it considers the same question Politico asked yesterday. Obama keeps racking up breakthrough victories, the observation goes, and these successes are supposed to buoy a president’s political standing, but polls nevertheless suggest Obama is on shaky ground.

It’s not necessarily an unfair question, but it’s probably a mistake to treat it as some kind of mystery. Kevin Drum noted yesterday that the simplest explanation happens to be the right one.

If you want to, you can come up with a thousand reasons why Obama is failing. But if the economy were doing well and Obama were riding high in opinion polls, [Politico‘s John Harris and Jim VandeHei] would come up with a thousand reasons why Obama is succeeding. Unfortunately, admitting that the economy is the overriding explanation for everything makes for a very short, very boring column, and no one wants to write it. It’s still true, though.

Yep. The economy stinks, which puts a lot of Americans in a sour mood. Much of the public probably thought economic conditions would be a whole lot better by now, and voters are very likely feeling pretty impatient about the pace of progress. It’s what happens when the unemployment rate hovers around 10% for a year, and “it could have been worse” fails to resonate.

So, Obama’s standing, while still reasonably high under the circumstances, has faltered, and Republicans stand to do well in November. It’s not rocket science.

Of course, as the economy improves and the unemployment rate drops, I’ll look forward to the media coverage pondering how President Obama finally figured out how to start connecting with the public again.