Our old friend Robert George offers this thought: “After Barack Obama, politician most ecstatic that oil spill has been capped? Marco Rubio. Charlie Crist? Not so much.”
On Obama, clearly it’s better for him that the oil stop leaking than that it continue leaking, as it is for everyone else. But I think the damage has been done, and in fact the likelihood of additional political damage to the president from the slow spill response was pretty minimal. The second month of this mess was when the public began concluding Obama wasn’t moving with much urgency or improving the situation; in the third month, disapproval of how Obama handles this issue increased by only four points. That’s about 1 percentage point for every eight days. For Obama’s approval rating, I suspect the issue of the spill is now baked in the cake.
If the cap holds, it’s not likely that voters will see Obama’s response as any quicker or more effective; most will continue to wonder why the federal government creaked and groaned and took so long to respond to Louisiana’s plans and requests and why skimmers sat in port for Coast Guard inspections. Obama ripped his predecessor’s response to Katrina and repeatedly promised a more effective, more efficient, more confident and active federal government. In the spill response, many Americans saw the same old, same old. Of course, the fact that the president seems to be on the golf course more frequently than Tiger doesn’t help.
The spill helped Crist look active, but it’s not exactly a shot of adrenaline to his Senate campaign; he’s still in the mid-30s in most polls. I’d contend his mild surge since departing the GOP has more to do with Rubio’s absence from the television airwaves during the summer months than the spill itself. Beyond that, Crist had generally praised the Obama administration’s response to the spill; after a while, as more oil washed ashore in Florida, that was likely to start working against him.