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An untenable status quo for the GOP

The latest Time/CNN/ORC poll, released yesterday, shows President Obama's approval rating climbing to a three-year high shortly before his second inauguration. It's consistent with a general trend since Election Day 2012 -- after Obama won, his standing improved.

Congressional Republicans can't say the same. Josh Marshall flagged this interesting image, showing poll results on the generic congressional ballot. The red line shows support for Republicans, the blue line for Democrats.

Note, while Democrats aren't exactly setting records for popular support, their generic-ballot number is about where it was over the summer. The post-election dip for the GOP, however, has pushed them to their lowest point since early 2009.

It's obviously far too soon to seriously consider how the 2014 midterms are likely to play out -- this Congress just started two weeks ago -- and polls like these will shift more than once over the next two years.

The larger point, though, is that congressional Republicans haven't done much to impress the American mainstream over the last couple of months. Indeed, they've done the exact opposite. With a forced debt-ceiling crisis and possible government shutdown on the horizon, GOP lawmakers may be poised to make matters even worse for themselves.

With gerrymandered districts, House Republican leaders may simply assume that their majority is unbreakable, and they'll hold on no matter how reckless, irresponsible, or unpopular they become. But I'd remind GOP leaders that it would only take a net Democratic gain of 16 seats next year to give Nancy Pelosi back her Speaker's gavel. Are there 16 House districts, currently represented by a Republican, where mainstream voters may be willing to make a change? Sure there are.

It's something for John Boehner and Eric Cantor to consider when they're weighing hostage strategies and opposition to popular legislation.