In 10 weeks, the voters will go to the polls for the off-year general election -- an election that many pundits believe will be a referendum on the president's policies.
No president does well in their first-term off-year election. Even Kennedy and Reagan, arguably the two most popular presidents of the last 50 years, suffered reverses. Part of that was due to the fact that problems they'd inherited from previous presidents hadn't been fully fixed, and part because people didn't like some of the programs they'd pushed through Congress.
So any losses Obama suffers have to be considered as a matter of scale. And the scale of house and senate seats he's going to lose could be significant, far beyond what is "normal." The dream of Republicans, and they have a shot at it, is to regain control of the House of Representatives and get enough senate seats to restore their ability to filibuster bills.
But even Republicans are concerned about the elections, with a number of incumbents falling in their own party primaries, largely to more radical Tea Party candidates. So even a "victory" by Republicans may be a pyrrhic one. Party unity could be shattered. The result would be to only add to the stagnation in Congress.
In Idaho, two of the three incumbents for national office -- Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo -- seem destined for easy re-election, having brushed aside their primary challenges and facing disorganized and underfunded Democratic opponents this fall. Only incumbent Rep. Walt Minnick, a Democrat, may have anything to worry about, despite having cast a lot of "Republican" votes during his first term in office.
So Idaho won't be the test the election will be in much of the rest of the country to let us know where the voters stand on Obama's policies.
Let's take a quick look at where we think he stands.
He's ending the war in Iraq, but realistically, this was pretty much the timetable Gen. Petreaus had set during the Bush administration, so we don't give him too much credit for that. He's amped up the war in Afghanistan, but his timetable for withdrawal will make it hard to achieve all of our goals in that country. At best he gets a C- for his military foreign policy, and that may be generous.
He got his promised health-care reform through Congress, but it wasn't the bill most of us were looking for. It will help many individual Americans to get insurance, but it did nothing to control costs and its impacts, especially those on small business, have yet to be fully felt. Furthermore, we expect it will be heavily revised in the next Congress. Let's give him an incomplete on that one.
His response to the oil spill was only marginally better than Bush's response to Katrina, and exposed a bureaucracy that was not only incompetent, but possibly corrupt as well. Add that to the poor work of health inspectors in the food chain and he's really got egg on his face. Call it a D for oversight of the federal bureaucracy, and he gets a barely passing grade only because he's promised reforms that might actually work.
On the economy, he inherited a massive mess and the only hope was to throw money at it. Doing nothing would have been worse.
We avoided a depression but seem stuck in a recession, and frankly, the "fight anything Obama proposes" attitude of the Republicans hasn't helped fix this mess. There haven't been a lot of alternatives proposed, except to keep giving the rich tax cuts. That really won't help, because the first rule of the rich is never to invest your own money in your business (borrow it or sell stock and put enough cutouts in the way you don't personally get hurt if it tanks).
The famous stimulus money helped, but didn't really kick-start the economy like everyone hoped. The Wall Street reforms were largely a good package of laws, but they haven't done anything to get the banks to start loaning money to small businesses again, and that's the one thing that's really needed. Bailing out the banks left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth but the alternative was to see a series of massive bank failures all across the country, which would have been worse.
Still, in the end, it's all about jobs, and they're still not coming back like everyone hoped they would. And the long-term debt, which probably had to be incurred to save the short-term economy, is really, really scarey.
He gets a C- on this one for simply avoiding disaster, but at a cost that may create another one in the future. Once again, that grade may be generous.
As a leader, he probably gets a B. He can still inspire crowds, but the body of work he's produced so far doesn't inspire quite the adulation he generated during his campaign.
Overall, however, it's not an impressive report card -- average at best. The question now is what viable and better alternatives will actually be proposed by candidates getting elected this November? Are they going to run FOR something, or simply against HIM. We hope it's the former. We fear it's the latter.