How Low Can He Go?

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • ANOTHER NEW LOW: Barack Obama's rating for strong leadership has dropped to a new low in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll released today, hammered by criticism of his work on international crises and a stalled domestic agenda alike, according to ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER. Americans by a 10-point margin, 52-42 percent, see his presidency more as a failure than a success. Just 38 percent now approve of Obama's handling of international affairs, down 8 percentage points since July to a career low; 56 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time. Fifty-two percent say he's been too cautious in dealing with Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria. At home, with Obama holding off his promised executive action on immigration reform, a new low of just 31 percent approve of his handling of immigration. Fifty-nine percent disapprove, up by a broad 18 points from spring 2013, when progress on the issue seemed imminent.
  • WHAT ABOUT ISIS: The public is ahead of Obama in support for a military response to that crisis, with 65 percent in favor of extending U.S. air strikes to Syria. With the president set to address the nation on the issue Wednesday, concern is at a peak. A vast 91 percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, see the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a serious threat to U.S. vital interests. After its execution of two American journalists, support for air strikes against ISIS in Iraq has swelled from 45 percent in June to 71 percent now. Support for arming their Kurdish opponents is up by 13 points, to 58 percent, in just the past month.
  • A UNITER OR A DIVIDER?: Americans by a 17-point margin say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, a rating worse than George W. Bush's early in his poorly rated second term - and one that's deteriorated among Obama's supporters as well as among his critics. Just 43 percent call Obama a strong leader, down 11 points in the past year to the fewest of his presidency. And his overall job approval rating, at 42 percent, is a point from its all-time low this spring. And while Americans by 55-38 percent say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, that expands to a 63-27 percent negative view of the Republicans in Congress on the same question. And just 21 percent approve of the way congressional Republicans are handling their jobs, a point from their low in polling dating back 20 years.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: The judgment is harsh, but it didn't happen in a flash. The new ABC News-Washington Post poll is a portrait of a public that's soured on President Obama's leadership - starting with the national-security crises now on his plate. There's 56 percent disapproval of his handling of foreign policy, and more than half of respondents say the president has been too cautious on ISIS. The good news for the president, if there is any here, is that the public gets the threat posed by Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria - nine in 10 see ISIS as a threat. Voters appear willing to support strikes in Syria to defeat ISIS - something the public wasn't behind when it came to chemical weapons in the same country. But as for the president who will be responsible for the response, it's hard not to see memories of recent golf games and "we don't have a strategy yet" in these perceptions. Another little surprise in this poll: Obama is now seen more as a divider than a uniter in numbers even George W. Bush never saw.

PRIMARY NIGHT PRIMER. After weeks of primaries and now just 56 days away from Election Day, it's the last primary day of the season. The final states to vote before November are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island, with a gubernatorial primary in New York, even though their congressional primaries were earlier in the season , ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE writes. One former Massachusetts senator is likely to defeat a former New Hampshire senator to be that state's GOP nominee, there is a Democratic gubernatorial brawl in Rhode Island, as there is in New Hampshire, but on the other side of the aisle. There's a gubernatorial primary in Massachusetts with a familiar name, an 81-year old running for Senate in Delaware, two openly gay Republicans on ballots in two states and much more. READ THE FULL PRIMER:

-WHAT'S HAPPENING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE? The race between former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has been playing out as a general election face-off for months since Brown moved to the state late last year, but Brown actually has to win his primary today first, WALSHE notes. He's up against former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith (yes, he's not the only former senator in the running!) and former New Hampshire state Sen. Jim Rubens. Brown's primary lead and endorsements from Granite State Sen. Kelly Ayotte and even Mitt Romney has made him the focus since he entered the race, but that hasn't deterred Smith, who has a 30-year political resume, with several non-traditional stops along the way. Smith served in both the House and Senate, and waged an unsuccessful presidential bid that included leaving the party for a short time. He moved to Florida soon after his 2002 Senate re-election loss and mounted two bids for the GOP Senate nomination from the Sunshine State in 2004 and 2010, both unsuccessfully. Now that he's back in New Hampshire, Smith is running as the "true conservative" in the race, but it's not only the fact that he left the GOP that has undermined his claim to that title: In 2004, just before Election Day, he endorsed John Kerry over George W. Bush. Either way, he said this is the likely end to his 30-year political resume. MORE ABOUT SMITH:


TED CRUZ ON ISIS: 'WE OUGHT TO…TAKE THEM OUT'. With foreign policy suddenly on the front burner of domestic politics, Sen. Ted Cruz said it "increases my interest" in changing the direction of the country and running for the White House. Cruz stopped short of saying he will definitely seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but is elevating his criticism of President Obama and his strategy for the threat posed by Islamic extremists. "So far, the president has not demonstrated that he's taking ISIS seriously," Cruz said. "They have declared hostile intentions on the United States; they have murdered American citizens; they are in the process of consolidating power over a nation state where they would have billions of dollars of oil revenue where they could use to project terror here," Cruz said. "What we ought to have is a direct, concerted, overwhelming campaign to take them out."


OBAMA'S ISIS STRATEGY: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR. President Obama in recent weeks has offered mixed messages about the threat from Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and his plan to confront it. Now, he plans to set the record straight and provide greater clarity about his strategy in a speech to the nation tomorrow, ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes. Details are tightly held, but Obama says the overarching goal is to "systematically degrade" ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, and ultimately "defeat them," an objective that officials tell ABC News will take "years." The newly-defined policy shifts from a primarily defensive posture in Iraq - protecting American installations and personnel and avoiding humanitarian catastrophe - to a more offensive one, coming almost three years since the end of the Iraq war. Here's what we know so far about how the policy has evolved:

7 BIG ITEMS CONGRESS WON'T GET TO THIS FALL. With Election Day looming, the House and Senate have returned to Washington with a full agenda. There are only 12 days of legislative work on the calendar, and with most of Congress on the ballot in November, lawmakers in both parties hope to tread lightly and avoid confrontation that could distract from re-election campaigns. Here's what definitely won't come up before Election Day, courtesy of ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL, NOAH WEILAND, KIRSTEN APPLETON and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA CONSOLES CHILD WHO FAINTED. Standing at attention for long spells can sometimes take it out of you. But it's nice to have a sympathetic bystander when it does. As part of her Reach Higher education initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on his Partners in Progress Back to School Bus Tour Event yesterday. While speaking to students at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, one girl in the audience fainted, ABC's KIRSTEN APPLETON notes. The first lady called for paramedics and said, "If anyone is starting to feel tired standing up, bend your knees! And eat your breakfast, and lunch!" She made sure the rest of the audience was feeling okay, and regained their attention by providing them with "insights that a lot of rich kids all over the country [know], and I want you to know it, too."

10 OBAMA ACHIEVEMENTS THAT SHOULD BE ON EVERYONE'S BUCKET LIST. After joining the NATO Summit in Wales last week, President Obama flew halfway across England to visit the enigmatic Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. "Knocked this off my bucket list," the president said before departing. Considering the privileges of his office, that's hardly the only extraordinary thing the president has been able to do since he was sworn in five years ago. From playing golf with Tiger Woods to getting serenaded by Beyoncé, here's a look at 10 things that should be on everyone's bucket list.


GEORGE W. BUSH GIVES BILL CLINTON ADVICE ON BEING A GRANDFATHER. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton may not agree on much, but the two have developed a post-presidential friendship. Onstage together at the Newseum yesterday, they bonded over something they'll soon have in common: being grandfathers. About 20 minutes into the event promoting the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, President Clinton's phone rang, notes ABC's CHRIS GOOD. "Only two people have this number and they're both related to me," Clinton quipped. "I hope I'm not being told I'm about to become a premature grandfather!" "That'd make national news," Bush responded, as the audience laughed. Clinton's only daughter, Chelsea Clinton, recently announced she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are expecting their first baby this fall. Bush's grandchild, Mila Bush-Hager, was born in April 2013.


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