At a certain level, it may seem surprising that President Obama’s standing is as strong as it is. After all, the economic recovery is weak and fragile; partisan divisions are intense; and much of the public is feeling discouraged and pessimistic.
So why is the president’s support holding steady while he remains a (slight) favorite for re-election? Some of this is the result of progress – the nation is far better off than it was when Obama took office – and some of it has to do with lingering memories of the president’s predecessor.
Campaigning in Iowa last week, Mitt Romney said of Obama, “He’s trying to find someone to blame. He tries to blame President George W. Bush; that happened so long ago, people have forgotten that.” They really haven’t.
The number of Americans who continue to hold Bush responsible for economic conditions is not only steady, it’s broad – 49% of self-identified Republicans blame Bush, as do 67% of independents, and 90% of Democrats.
This comes a week after a CNN poll found that George W. Bush is “the only living president with an under 50 percent approval rating.”
Now, this won’t necessarily translate into votes for Obama in 2012. Americans may blame Bush, but they may still hold the current president responsible for not doing more to clean up Bush’s mess. Bush given that so much of the public still smells the stench of Bush’s failures, the fact that (a) Romney has surrounded himself with Bush staffers, (b) Romney wants a VP like Dick Cheney; and (c) the Republican National Committee believes a Romney presidency would be the same as Bush’s presidency, “just updated,” makes poll results like these quite relevant.