Gallup reports that President Obama’s weekly job approval rating has tied his lowest rating ever: “President Barack Obama averaged a 43% job approval rating for the week of July 18-24, tied for the lowest weekly average of his administration.”
They note that this rating puts him solidly below the ratings of Bill Clinton at the time of his government shutdown confrontation with Newt Gingrich, and his stagnation makes it look as if July will result in his lowest average rating for a single month yet. But there’s another precedent they don’t mention that should be far more troublesome to the president and his campaign staff.
Since FDR, ten incumbent presidents have run for re-election. Three were not re-elected – Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush.
Looking at poll tracking data for all ten, and you find that most engaged in a significant trend-line in the leadup to the election – downward or upward – almost entirely tied to economic performance. H.W. Bush came off the popular post-Gulf War highs into a spiral as the economy stagnated. Reagan steadily elevated his rating from a mediocre 47% in the fall of 1983 to a robust 62% by election time, mostly by virtue of an economy soaring out of recession.
The question is, has any modern incumbent president running for re-election had a lower approval rating at the same point, roughly 16 months before the election, as Obama’s 43%?
The answer is: just one.