Bush still losing the blame game

A new Associated Press-GfK poll offers fairly predictable results about public attitudes on the economy: Americans are deeply unhappy. Overwhelming majorities believe conditions are “poor” and the country is heading in the wrong direction.

And yet, while Republicans may be encouraged by the dour attitudes, the same poll shows the GOP struggling badly.

Americans’ views on the economy have dimmed this summer. But so far, the growing pessimism doesn’t seem to be taking a toll on President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects. […]

Despite the perception of a weakening recovery, there has been no significant change in the number of people who say he deserves re-election: 47 percent as opposed to 48 percent two months ago. That’s a statistical dead heat with those who favor a change in the White House.

And more Americans still blame former President George W. Bush rather than Obama for the economic distress. Some 31 percent put the bulk of the blame on Obama, while 51 percent point to his Republican predecessor.

The results that show Bush continuing to get the bulk of the blame is consistent with other recent polling from New York Times/CBS, McClatchy/Marist, and NBC/WSJ, all of which found the same thing: Americans are angry, frustrated, and pessimistic about the economy, but most of the public just doesn’t see Obama as the main culprit.

Indeed, even now, not only are Americans more inclined to blame Bush, the AP poll found that 44% put “a lot” or “most” of the blame on congressional Republicans, noticeably more than the 36% who point to congressional Democrats.

The point isn’t that Obama and Dems are riding high on a wave of popularity. That isn’t even close to being true. In fact, the president’s support has slipped badly in practically all of the key areas — the public may not blame Obama, but they nevertheless expect him to do more in cleaning up the Republicans’ mess (which he’d be better able to do if that same public hadn’t elected a GOP-led House).

But the key takeaway here is that Republicans aren’t benefiting from voters’ frustrations at all. They remain more unpopular and more likely to get blamed. Boehner, McConnell, & Co. do know the difference between a zero-sum game and a non-zero game, don’t they?