The Magazine

The Obama Magic Fades

But his approval ratings probably won’t sink much more.

Aug 12, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 45 • By JAY COST
Widget tooltip
Audio version Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

There are two implications to draw from all this. First, the rough news cycles of recent months seem to have drawn President Obama’s job approval back to its “natural” range. His average approval since he was first inaugurated according to Real Clear Politics is 49 percent, a number that includes the significant bounces he received from his first inaugural, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and his reelection. Take those positive bumps out, and his approval has been fairly close to 47-48 percent for much of his time in office. The fact is he is a highly divisive president: Democrats strongly support him; Republicans strongly oppose him; and swing voters are split. It should not come as a huge surprise that, absent the pro-Obama hoopla of the winter months, the number should drift back downwards.

Second, it is to be expected that his job approval will rebound over time, at least a little. Bad news comes, and then it goes, often replaced by good news. Even if such a bounce never comes his way again, he still should rebound some, for a good portion of his decline over recent months has come among Democratic-leaning groups like young people and minorities. At the very least, when the 2014 midterms are near, expect the Democratic campaign to bring many of these wavering supporters back into the fold.

In the meantime it will be very difficult for Obama to move an agenda through Congress. Dividing the country into two, roughly equal parts might be a fine way to win reelection, but it hardly makes for much of a mandate. The Beltway intelli-gentsia love to complain about gridlock, but the Framers of our Constitution counted on it: When the country is divided as deeply and evenly as it is today, our system of divided powers, federalism, and checks-and-balances is not going to produce much of substance. And so it will probably be for the rest of Obama’s presidency, absent some major change to shift his standing with people who have disapproved of him, more or less, for most of his tenure.

Jay Cost is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

Recent Blog Posts