I certainly didn’t know foreign policy would be front and center in the final months before the midterm elections when I wrote in late April that these issues “could have an indirect yet significant impact on the midterm elections.”
But now, it looks increasingly as if foreign policy — particularly problems in the Middle East and relations with Russia — will add to the president’s woes.
While international issues are a low priority to most Americans, the daily dose of bad news from the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine makes it difficult for the public to appreciate any good economic data and will likely depress the public mood. That’s important given that Election Day is just three months away (and voting starts even earlier in some states).
Obama’s problems certainly are not identical to those of President George W. Bush in 2006, when opposition to the Iraq War mobilized Democrats and independents against the White House, sinking the GOP and turning both chambers of Congress to the Democrats. And yet, it’s difficult to miss parallels between the two men and their situations.
Bush had some serious domestic challenges that also contributed to his weakness going into the 2006 midterms, including a dramatic slide in his job approval numbers following his politically deaf dealings with fallout from Hurricane Katrina.
But Obama has had his share of domestic challenges too. A majority of Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy and a plurality remain unhappy with the Affordable Care Act, even after the Administration has spent years trying to sell it. Now the president has a crisis at the border. And of course, there is the inevitable fatigue voters feel after six years of any presidency.