A lot to masticate on in the Pew poll, but a consistent theme seems to be voters deciding that the president is too weak in his negotiations with Republicans. Exhibit A:
There also has been a substantial erosion of Obama’s leadership image. Since May, the percentage saying Obama is able to get things done has fallen from 55% to 44%, while the percentage viewing Obama as a strong leader has declined from 58% to 49%. Fewer Democrats and independents now view Obama as a strong leader than did so in May (down 10 points, eight points, respectively).
A 37% plurality now contends that Obama should challenge the Republicans in Congress more often; 25% say Obama should go along with GOP leaders more frequently, while about the same percentage (26%) say he is handling the situation about right. In April, fewer (27%) said Obama should challenge GOP congressional leaders more often.
The Magic President meme, seen everywhere from Tom Friedman columns to New York Times columns not written by Tom Friedman, has real heft among ordinary people. What would "challenging Republicans in Congress" have meant in the debt limit fight? In the CR fight? In both cases, the president had to get a package that could pass a Republican House. In both cases, the Democrats' political operation worked to make Republicans look crazy, and that partially worked -- Republican approval numbers are sinking faster than anyone else's -- but could Obama have done more to justify his own spending, his own priorities? When most fellow Democrats didn't agree with them? No: Muddling through and muddying Republicans is the best he could do for the first half of the year.