If you see President Obama in a campaign ad this year, you can be confident that it's an ad for a Republican. According to a new poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, Obama's approval ratings have hit a new low of 41 percent. Perhaps more alarming to Democratic candidates, a plurality of voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate that is a solid supporter of the Obama administration.
2014 was always going to be an uphill climb for Democrats, who have to defend more Senate seats than Republicans during an off-year election — which also usually proves advantageous to the GOP. The Obama poll numbers only make a bad situation worse. As Republican pollster Bill McInturff told NBC, "The president is being taken off the field as a Democratic positive." Obama can't drop into Arkansas and help Sen. Mark Pryor eke out a tough victory. In fact, he'd be better off staying away.
The poll indicates that Obama has a net negative approval rating, with 41 percent of Americans approving of his job performance and 54 disapproving. He's personally seen more positively; only 44 percent view him unfavorably. But that probably isn't much consolation. Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy (net -15 percent approval) and foreign policy (net -12 percent, an all-time low).
Despite Obama's unpopularity, people don't generally see this November's election as a referendum on his work. One-third of voters will vote to show their opposition to Obama, according to the poll, but that's lower than the number that wanted to send a similar message to Bush in 2006. (It's also probably pretty close to the percentage of Americans that are staunch Republican voters.) Forty-one percent of Americans don't intend to send any message to Obama in November.
Regardless, 42 percent of voters are less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Obama (compared to 43 percent endorsed by the Tea Party). But almost half of voters — 48 percent — would be less likely to vote for a candidate who was "a solid supporter of the Obama administration." (In 2006, 55 percent said that of Bush, the full poll results point out.)
As we noted earlier, people are pretty split on how to approach Obamacare. Forty-seven percent of voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate that supports repeal of the bill and 49 percent think it was a bad idea. But asked to choose between a Democrat who would fix the policy and a Republican who would push to repeal, the difference was subtle.
Likelihood of voting for candidates
So what do voters want to see from their members of Congress? More focus on their home districts (51 percent), working with the opposite party (86 percent more likely to support), will bring money back to the district (67 percent more likely to support), and will cut government spending (again, 67 percent). (That means, by the way, that at least a third of America wants more federal spending in their own communities and less government spending. No one ever said politics was easy.)
One last note. If Arkansas' Pryor wants someone to campaign with, there is a figure that voters overwhelmingly approve of: Pope Francis. But if the pontiff isn't willing to do meet-and-greets, the second-most popular person polled was Bill Clinton, who'd be more than happy to campaign in his home state (and already plans to). Maybe in 14 years, Obama will be welcome back on the trail, too.
Correction: I originally said that Mark Begich was the embattled senator from Arkansas. He's the embattled senator from Alaska.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.