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Morning Jay: Does Obama Really Believe He's Still Popular?

6:00 AM, Sep 16, 2011 • By JAY COST
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I couldn’t help but take note of this video:

Audience Member: I love you, Barack!

President Obama: I love you back…If you love me, you gotta help me pass this bill!

So, I guess this would be yet another reason not to expect the American Jobs Act to pass through the Congress. After all, there just aren’t enough people that love President Obama anymore!

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating, given this absurd little clip: Barack Obama is not a popular president. He certainly is not as deeply unpopular as some of his predecessors have been at various points, but he has not been popular for a very long time.

Here’s the RCP average going back to the beginning of his term, with a green line slightly above 50 percent approval, which should be required to call any president “popular.”

He fell below the popularity line in December 2009, some 20 months ago, and has regularly been underneath it ever since. Just two, brief bounces have been the only exceptions – one when the military killed Bin Laden and the other when he signed the tax cut extension (which he tartly compared to a hostage situation).

Don't all presidents suffer declining popularity? Not all of them, but most of them do. Still, Obama so far has been one of the less popular presidents since World War II. The following chart tracks quarterly presidential job approval for all presidents who came into office upon election.

Clearly, Obama is in the bottom half of presidents ranked by early-term popularity. He’s tied with Ronald Reagan, and only Bill Clinton outstrips him in terms of unpopularity by quarter.

It’s also worth noting that Obama is different than Carter, Clinton, and Reagan in that he is more divisive than those three were up to this point in their terms. His job approval has typically been higher than those three, but so also has his disapproval rating, at least over the last two years. The problem for the president is that the half that thinks he is doing a bad job has consistently been larger than the half that thinks he’s doing a good job. And if you look back up at the RCP approval graph, the disapproval side has been getting bigger as of late.

I'm not making a point here about Obama's reelection prospects, as Reagan and Clinton both bounced back and won solid victories. Instead, I want to highlight his unpopularity to suggest that the White House has demonstrated a shocking level of political incompetence.

His numbers are nowhere near where they once were, and yet Obama still behaves as if it is still the winter of 2009 – as if the only people who are skeptical of him are the so-called radicals in the “Limbaugh wing” of the Republican party. This last week has been a great case in point. He’s basically done the same thing that he did in January 2009: produce a stimulus that largely favors Democratic client groups, accuse the opposition of acting in bad faith, and tour the country encouraging his followers to call, write, or (of course) tweet their support of the president to congressional Republicans, who are so eager to place politics above the national interest.

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