07/13/2009 12:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

It's the Economy...

My National Journal column this week focuses on the recent modest downturn in President Obama's job approval rating and its apparent underpinning: the poor economy and, in particular, an increase in bad economic news over the last 10 weeks. As a tease to get you to read the whole thing, here is the graphic prepared by the National Journal's Reuben Dalke.

The aquamarine line represents the percentage who say they are hearing "mostly bad news" about the economy (rather than mostly good news or a mix of good and bad) on the weekly News Index surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center (as summarized in a recent report).

The downward pressure that the bad economic news puts on Obama's job approval rating explains why the Obama administration is moving with considerable haste to enact the more political challenging pieces of its agenda, particularly health care reform and energy legislation. Consider Nate Silver's pessimistic assessment this morning:

Suppose that the recession ends in August. Perhaps six months from then -- in February or March -- the economy will actually have started to create jobs. But the employment picture will have gotten worse in the meantime; it will be creating jobs from a peak of, say, 9.9 percent if the administration is lucky, or say, 11.2 percent if it isn't. It will take some time to get the number back down to the 9.5 percent that it's at presently, much less to fall below the 7.6 percent number that would represent an overall gain of jobs during Obama's tenure.

If Silver is right about the trend in unemployment, then he is definitely right that "the next couple of months...are precious for the Democrats." If we choose to measure political capital by job approval ratings, then more bad economic news will likely bring Obama's approval ratings down.

Update:  The new survey from CBS News largely confirms the worsening economic perceptions measured by the Pew News Index surveys.  Details here.