According to conventional media wisdom, President Obama is likely to cruise to reelection next November. And when you’re just looking at the disaster of a GOP field, it’s easy to believe that. Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Santorum seems to have what it takes to win the White House.
The thing is, Americans don’t like Obama either. His average Gallup approval rating for February was 45 percent, and a full 50 percent of Americans believe his presidency has been a failure:
Obama’s job approval in February exceeds the lows seen last summer, when his monthly approval rating dipped to 41 percent from August through October. That followed a slide from 50 percent in May after the successful U.S. military mission in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. However, despite the recent improvement in his score, it has yet to recover to the level seen at the start of 2011, when 49 percent approved and 43 percent disapproved.
Apart from the rally in approval after the bin Laden mission, the last time Obama’s monthly approval rating averaged 50 percent or better was two years ago, in February 2010.
To put this in an historical context, every president who has won a second term (since Gallup began polling) has had an average approval rating above 50 percent by the February before the election. According to Gallup, “no elected president from Dwight Eisenhower through George W. Bush saw his approval rating drop below 50 percent for this long leading up to his re-election year.”
There’s a dramatic disconnect between this reality and the confidence we’re seeing from Democrats, who believe they already have next November wrapped up. With independents saying Obama’s presidency has been a failure, 53 percent to 42 percent, the president has a long way to go toward convincing Americans he deserves a second term. But if his own party thinks his reelection is already a given, Obama’s may have a hard time raising money, turning out volunteers and getting supporters out to the polls.
Republicans have spent the last year vetting and attacking each other, while Obama has been able to stay out of the fray. Despite that, his approval rating has shown little improvement. Once the general election begins and the GOP candidate gets to fully focus on attacking Obama’s record, things can only get worse for him.