If Democrats were still harboring hopes of a dramatic change in economic fortunes before the November elections, it certainly was not evident in the testimony yesterday of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that he expects economic growth to be “moderate” in coming months, then he snuck in the zinger, saying it is clear “that the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.”
“The economic expansion that began in the middle of last year is proceeding at a moderate pace,” Bernanke began, observing again that the housing sector remains weak, still weighed down by vacant and foreclosed homes.
“I expect continued moderate growth, a gradual decline in the unemployment rate, and subdued inflation over the next several years,” Bernanke added, though he made clear that federal economic policymakers don’t expect big changes in the unemployment rate anytime soon.
“The unemployment rate is expected to decline to between 7 and 7-1/2 percent by the end of 2012.”
That’s over two years away. The rate is currently at 9-1/2 percent.
As Bernanke delivered that less than enthusiastic review about the economy, a new poll came out that raised questions about the President’s approval numbers, and where they might be headed in the run to November.
The poll from Quinnipiac University found that President Obama’s approval rating had dipped to 44%, the lowest of his time in office for this particular survey.
For me, the important numbers right now in these polls are not really the two parties and how they view Mr. Obama, but how the Independents are feeling.
Two years ago at this time, Independents were moving toward Barack Obama in a big way.
Two years later, they have moved away from Democrats.
This poll had Independents disapproving of the way the President has handled the economy by a 61-34 margin.
Overall, the approval rating for the President among Independents has dropped to 38%. A year ago it was at 52%.
Whether that translates into extra victories for Republicans in November is the still-unanswered question.