The Hill offers the 'dueling banjos' argument about Congress' low approval ratings, in which Republicans argue it's due to a lack of accomplishments, and the Democrats maintain that it's because of Republican stonewalling and the President's unpopular war:
Lawmakers attribute Congress’s low rankings in the polls to a variety of factors — Iraq, the other party, even President Bush. But they’re unanimous that it’s not their fault and that it won’t translate into pain at the polls.
“People in those polls don’t like Congress, but they like their member of Congress,” said Jim Matheson (D-Utah). “People don’t like the polarized atmosphere of Congress. I think my constituents know I’m the opposite of that kind of polarized politics.”
More liberal members point toward the war in Iraq and to Democrats’ inability to overcome Republican support for keeping troops there...
And it’s encouraging to Republicans, who say that the polls indicate the public is starting to realize that Democrats aren’t delivering on issues like lobbying reform, lower gas prices, immigration, gas prices and earmarks.
“They made 100 promises on the campaign trail. They’ve kept as many as they intended to keep — none,” said Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
This is a very nice academic argument, and as soon as we determine how many angels fit on the head of a pin, we should settle this. Both arguments will have about the same relevance on election day.
Every election year, Congressional leaders try to make the argument that the opposition party should be punished for the inability of Congress to tackle big issues. And every election year it is the party in power that gets the credit -- or blame.
If Congress is unpopular next year, it will be the Democrats who suffer -- and if it's popular, they will get the credit. It might not matter all that much, since the two presidential candidates will largely define the race, however.