The current slippage in the polls is turbulence or more likely a shot across the bow. Bush I and Carter had higher poll numbers at this stage than Obama and we know how they ended up. It is clearly not time to panic but seatbelts should be securely fastened.
The polls are more immediately significant because they are providing the Republicans with both the moxie and more importantly a message for taking on the President. If you're a Democrat would you rather have the Republicans talking about the deficit and the President's "experiment" with our healthcare system or would you rather that they drone on and on about Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment. Would you rather the media focus on Palin's next step or about the public's growing lack of confidence in the Administration's plans for the economy? Where's Rush Limbaugh?
Further, moderate Democrats are now more emboldened to take on the Democratic leadership as well as the administration. If you're a House Democrat in a conservative district you can't count on the President to save you when the polls show that independents are at best split on his policies and even conservative Democrats are starting to abandon him.
The slipping polls are a tax on the President and his administration. He may have to bargain more with the conservatives in his own party. He has to use the bully pulpit more and use up more of his personal capital. He is being forced in a very public way to take ownership of his policies.He may have to trim the ambition of his agenda.
I continue to believe that the President will ultimately be judged on the success or failure of his economic policies. Given that he has been in office for less than six months, he should be given a better chance to prove himself. But this a negative data point and a warning that should be given at least some attention.