Mon Jan 21, 2013, 02:11 PM
DonViejo (17,030 posts)
Obamaís best days are probably ahead
His second term could produce the broad, sustained popularity that eluded him in his first
BY STEVE KORNACKI
Itís not surprising that President Obama clocks in near the bottom of a list compiled by Gallup of average first-term approval ratings for presidents in the postwar era. Obamaís average score of 49.1 percent places him ahead only of Gerald Ford (47.2 percent) and Jimmy Carter (45.5 percent), while the highest numbers belong to Lyndon Johnson (74.2 percent) and John F. Kennedy (70.1 percent).
Itís actually a fairly misleading list. Johnsonís first term, for instance, is defined as the 14 months between Kennedyís assassination and the 1965 inaugural Ė a period defined by unprecedented national unity that benefited the new president enormously. Or thereís George H.W. Bush, who was drummed out of office with just 37 percent of the vote in 1992; but his average approval rating sits at over 60 percent, thanks to the astronomical numbers he racked up in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.
In terms of understanding the trajectory of Obamaís presidency, the list is useful in two ways. For one, itís a reminder of the consistently rocky political terrain he spent the last four years navigating. The story line is well-known but worth repeating once more: He inherited two wars and an economy in a free fall that hadnít been seen since the Depression and faced a Republican Party that changed the norms of opposition party behavior in its quest to derail his agenda, deny him bipartisan achievements, and depress his poll numbers. In this context, Obamaís average approval (and his ability to win reelection by nearly 5 million votes) is rather remarkable.
It also speaks to the opportunity that comes with the start of his second term: a chance to achieve and sustain a broader level of popularity and to make continuity a major theme of 2016 presidential race.
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