President Obama’s approval rating remains high despite all the bad news. Good for him. It’s not a bad thing for conservatives and Republicans that Obama is getting a pass – it focuses the discussion on government overreach, rather than trying to hang these scandals on one person. It makes for a better policy discussion in the long term.
- Department of Justice vs. the First Amendment. (Last week: 3) Eric Holder is not so lucky as his boss: 42% of Americans think he ought to pack up and leave. After word surfaced that the DOJ zeroed in on Fox News’s James Rosen, Holder flirted with perjury charges. His ham-fisted attempt at reconciling with the fourth estate and demonstrating transparency was an off the record meeting, because nothing says “I love free speech” better than “Shh!” Sidebar: It would have been hilarious if some press outlet had gone and then reported on the events verbatim. Most of the media opted for the high road (stop laughing) and opted not to go.
- Entitlements. (NEW!) Call this a dark horse. Social Security isn’t doing well, and neither is Medicare. California health insurance premiums are rising due to Obamacare. This represents a huge messaging opportunity for the GOP.
- Benghazi. (Last week: 2) The drumbeat of bad news is starting to take its toll on Hilary Clinton. She’s not a particularly scary or formidable figure in 2014 or 2016, but if you’re scoring at home that’s the second current or former member of Obama’s cabinet that the American people have soured on.
- The IRS vs. the Tea Party, et al. (Last week: 1) There are so many pieces of bad news that inevitably, one of the big scandals fades to the background in any given week. This one would have dropped off, but for another “dark horse” wrinkle – that the agency may have targeted adoptive families and small businesses unfairly. This development would move the IRS’s actions from the realm of patently unfair to heavy-handed and just plain mean.
- Campaign developments. (NEW!) left-wing SuperPACs must have been salivating to use Michele Bachmann as the poster child for the Republican candidate class of 2014; when she bowed out of her race her Democrat challenger did as well. Ed Markey in Massachusetts is sinking into a dead heat with Gabriel Gomez. In New Mexico, Susana Martinez well-positioned against potential challengers. Bad campaign news tends to snowball, and that portends a big chilling effect on the Presidential agenda.