Howard Fineman: Republican Congress's Unfavorability Hurting Obama's Poll Numbers

Can you imagine liberal media members in 2007 or 2008 blaming George W. Bush's sagging poll numbers on the public's dismal view of the Democrat Congress?

On Friday, the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman actually told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell "the fact the Republicans and Congress are so poorly regarded, that the whole system is so poorly regarded, drags everybody down, including the president" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, HOST: The latest "New York Times"/CBS News poll shows the number of people who think the U.S. is on the wrong track is at 70 percent, the highest it has been since the final days of George W. Bush’s presidency. President Obama now gets low marks across the board -- 57 percent disapprove of how he’s handling the economy, 59 percent disapprove of how he’s handling the deficit, 45 percent disapprove of how he’s handling the situation in Libya. His overall job approval is at 46 percent compared to 45 percent of those who disapprove.

The president thinks he knows what’s moving his numbers, the price at the pump. Last night at a fundraiser, the president said, "I’m confident because I travel around the country and my poll numbers go up and down, depending on the latest crisis. And right now, gas prices are weighing heavily on people. But when I talk to ordinary folks, they are not paying attention and we understand the world is complicated."

If you don’t understand the world is complicated and if you exaggerate wildly and if you’re crazy, this is the way you talk about gas prices.


TRUMP: Look at what’s going on with the gasoline prices. They’re going to go to $5, $6, $7. And we don’t have anybody in Washington that calls OPEC and says, fellas, it’s time. It’s over. You’re not going to do it anymore.


O’DONNELL: If you don’t understand the world is complicated, you don’t know that you can create worldwide economic chaos by not raising the debt ceiling when necessary.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I say no to the debt ceiling. No to raising our debt ceiling.


BACHMANN: Now, some people will tell you, but, Michele, you don’t want the government to shut down. The government won’t shut down.

This is what will happen. Revenue will continue to come in to the United States Treasury. And we will, first, pay off our debts, our obligations and interest on the debt. That’s the first thing we’ll do so we don’t violate our credit ratings.


O’DONNELL: If you don’t understand the world is complicated, then 142 characters is more than enough to articulate all of your thinking about the United States’ role in Libya. @SarahPalinUSA tweeted, "Get in, hit hard, get out. Need to send the world a message: we’ll only intervene in anyone’s business if we are dead serious."

If you do understand the world is complicated, there is no one left in the Republican Party who speaks for you.

Joining me now is Howard Fineman, senior political editor for "The Huffington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Richard Wolffe, MSNBC political analyst and author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."

Thank you both for joining me tonight.



O’DONNELL: Richard, did these poll numbers hit the White House by surprise? Did they -- did they understand there was a trend building with these kinds of negative numbers?

WOLFFE: No, they have known this is building for awhile. Gas prices haven’t just suddenly spike. But they also know that in spite of all vulnerability they have on the economy, there’s only one set of numbers that are actually worse than this, and that’s what voters say they think about Republicans and specifically about the Republican plans on things like budget or on cutting taxes for the super wealthy.

So, you know, people talk about hope and change here -- you know, yes, they are hoping gas prices come down and people feel better about the economy. But they also know the risk of change is what’s going to drive people in this dynamic we’re going to see over the next year or so.

O’DONNELL: Howard, the president does have some high disapproval numbers in there for a president running for re-election. But the Congress has a disapproval number of 75 percent.

How do you think voters are balancing that out -- their disapproval of the Congress and the disapproval of the job done by the White House? Where does that leave them when it comes time to vote for president?

FINEMAN: Well, it leaves them in a quandary. And it leaves them very upset that the Washington hasn’t changed. It is true that the gas price numbers are hurting the president right now. It’s true that there’s a lot of uneasiness still about the economy. As a matter of fact, it’s growing again.

But I think it’s also true that people are a little disappointed in the president because he hasn’t been able to change the way Washington works at all. Indeed, Congress is even more poorly regarded. Everybody wanted a bigger deal than was done the last budget go around.

And so, in an odd way, the fact the Republicans and Congress are so poorly regarded, that the whole system is so poorly regarded drags everybody down, including the president.

Harken back to 2008 when stocks were collapsing as was the entire financial services industry along with President Bush's poll numbers.

Can you imagine a liberal media member like Howard Fineman, Lawrence O'Donnell, or Richard Wolffe giving any of the blame to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), or the Democrat Party?

Neither can I.

You know what else was collapsing back then? Congress's poll numbers. They were even lower than they are today.

Sadly, the only thing shocking about this analysis was that nobody figured out a way to blame Obama's sagging poll numbers on Bush.

Give it time.


MSNBC Huffington Post Richard Wolffe Lawrence O'Donnell John Boehner
Noel Sheppard's picture