Compare his start with George W. Bush's.
The Pew Research Center reported last week that President Barack Obama "has the most polarized early job approval of any president" since surveys began tracking this 40 years ago. The gap between Mr. Obama's approval rating among Democrats (88%) and Republicans (27%) is 61 points. This "approval gap" is 10 points bigger than George W. Bush's at this point in his presidency, despite Mr. Bush winning a bitterly contested election.
Part of Mr. Obama's polarized standing can be attributed to a long-term trend. University of Missouri political scientist John Petrocik points out that since 1980, each successive first term president has had more polarized support than his predecessor with the exception of 1989, when George H.W. Bush enjoyed a modest improvement over Ronald Reagan's 1981 standing.
But rather than end or ameliorate that trend, Mr. Obama's actions and rhetoric have accelerated it. His campaign promised post-partisanship, but since taking office Mr. Obama has frozen Republicans out of the deliberative process, and his response to their suggestions has been a brusque dismissal that "I won."
Compare this with Mr. Bush's actions in the aftermath of his election. Among his first appointments were Democratic judicial nominees who had been blocked by Republicans under President Bill Clinton. The Bush White House joined with Democratic and Republican leaders to draft education reform legislation. And Mr. Bush worked with Republican Chuck Grassley to cut a deal with Democrat Max Baucus to win bipartisan passage of a big tax cut in a Senate split 50-50 after the 2000 election.
Mr. Obama has hastened the decline of Republican support with petty attacks on his critics and predecessor. For a person who promised hope and civility in politics, Mr. Obama has shown a borderline obsessiveness in blaming Mr. Bush. Starting with his inaugural address and continuing through this week's overseas trip, the new president's jabs at Mr. Bush have been unceasing, unfair and unhelpful. They have also diminished Mr. Obama by showing him to be another conventional politician. Rather than ending "the blame game," he is personifying it.
The question that will worry the Obama West Wing is whether the views of independents come to look more like Democrats or Republicans. Recent opinion surveys show that support for his policies among independents is slipping.
On both Mr. Obama's performance and policies, independents are starting to look more like Republicans. For example, the most recent Fox News poll (taken March 31 to April 1) found that Mr. Obama's job approval among independents has fallen to 52%, down nine points from the start of March and down 12 points from late January. Over the same period, the number of independents who disapprove of Mr. Obama's performance has doubled to 32% from 16%.
The same poll also found that 76% of independents worry that government will spend too much to help the economy; only 12% worry it will spend too little. Independents oppose Mr. Obama's proposed budget by a 55%-37% margin.
If independents continue looking more like Republicans, especially on deficits, spending and the economy, Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats could be in for a rough ride.
It was the concern of independents and "soft partisans" about national debt and spending that gave rise to Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential election. More significantly, independents angry about deficits and spending were the key swing bloc in the 1994 congressional races, where Republicans picked up eight Senate seats and 54 House seats, winning their first House majority since 1955.
Declining support for the Obama agenda among independents may further unnerve congressional Democrats, especially in the House. Sixty-nine Democratic congressmen represent districts carried by Mr. Bush or John McCain in two of the last three presidential contests. Forty-eight of these districts were carried by Mr. McCain last election. If independent support continues slipping, many of these Democrats will be fingering worry beads as the mid-term election approaches.
Perhaps that's why 20 House Democrats voted no or abstained on the president's budget resolution, joining all 198 Republicans in not supporting Mr. Obama's budget framework. Nineteen represent GOP-leaning districts -- and at least 16 are vulnerable to Republican challengers, including 14 freshmen or sophomore congressmen.
We don't yet know the price Democrats will pay for Mr. Obama's fiscal radicalism. But we do know that no presidential hopeful in our lifetime has made bipartisanship more central to his candidacy and few presidents have devoted as many eloquent words to its importance. Yet no president in the past 40 years has done more to polarize America so much, so quickly. Mr. Obama has not come close to living up to his own standards. It took him less than 11 weeks to achieve the very opposite of what he promised. That, in its own regrettable way, is quite an achievement.
Karl Rove Says Barack Obama Has Become a Divisive Figure - WSJ.com