Congress seems to be moving inexorably toward approval of the Iran nuclear deal—or at least towards sustaining a presidential veto of any bill blocking the deal. According to the Washington Post‘s whip count, 31 Senators will vote to uphold the agreement, leaving the President only needing three more, out of 12 still undecided, to vote yes for it to be safe. Barring something truly unexpected—e.g. several declared “yes” Senators suddenly switching their votes to “no”—President Obama will have enough Democratic Senators on his side to push the deal through. A sitting administration simply has too many levers of patronage and power to pull to be unable to retain 34 votes from its own party on a matter on which it’s staked its reputation.
But even as the deal looks safer and safer in DC, a new poll indicates that the public is moving against it, as CNN reports:
As Congress inches closer to a vote to approve or disapprove of the deal, 56% of Americans now say they think Congress should reject the deal with Iran — up from 52% less than a month ago — according to the latest CNN/ORC poll released Thursday.
And 6-in-10 Americans also disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the U.S. relationship with Iran, according to the poll.
If this poll is representative, the President may be winning inside the Beltway but losing beyond it. We’ve seen this before with this Administration; something similar happened with Obamacare. The President’s main domestic “achievement” was a Pyrrhic victory. He got it passed, but then his party was wiped in the midterms, and the Democrats still hasn’t recovered from the political “success” of the ACA. And just as the passage of Obamacare meant that Democrats “owned” the health care system, with every website glitch and every premium increase and every new limit on doctor choice now blamed on the party that passed the ACA, so too the Democrats will now own the Middle East and Iran.
Nor is Obamacare the only precedent here. In 1977, former president Jimmy Carter won a “victory” in getting the Panama Canal treaty ratified. The treaty promised to turn control over the canal to the Panamanians, but Carter’s policy victory became a political setback. Reagan fundraised off it, and he used it (along with the Iranian hostage crisis) to paint Carter, as well as the Democrats as a whole, as unfit to lead on foreign policy. The next election marked not merely a GOP victory, but a generational shift in the public’s perception of each party. It’s too soon to tell, of course, how exactly the Iran deal will play out long term. But this poll should give any Democrats thinking about the future of their party a pause.