|Obama's approval rating is higher than Reagan and Clinton at the same time in their presidencies|
The chart above may be a touch hard to read, but it is important. It is a compilation of approval ratings for US Presidents from July-October of their second year in office - right before the midterms. As you can see, some presidents were soaring pretty high at this point (Eisenhower, Kennedy, both Bushes), but look closely at both Presidents Reagan and Clinton. Both had lower approval approval ratings at this mark than President Obama has now. Here's why this is significant.
The media driven narrative this year is that Obama is at an unprecedented low in approval, that he is a drag on Democrats running for office this year, and that he may not be electable in 2012. Yet, Ronald Reagan was at a lower point in 1982. His approval was lower than that of his predecessor at the same time, and unemployment was at an unbelievable 10.8% (much higher than the current level). Reagan was considered a failed president after the midterms due to losses by Republicans in the House and Senate (the Senate changed party control that year). Reagan, through the power of his personality and the loyalty of the Republican Party, was able to recover by 1984 and win re-election by one of the largest margins in history. There are a myriad of similarities between 1982 and 2010.
Most media pundits compare the current year to the 1994 midterms when President Clinton, with a 41% approval rating and 5.8% unemployment, was held responsible for the Democrats' loss of control of both the House and Senate. He, too, rebounded and won re-election in 1996 by a wider margin than he did in 1992. After his partisan impeachment in 1998, Clinton's approval remained in the sixties through the end of his term.
Is Obama finished? Of course not. He does suffer from some disadvantages that Reagan did not. The left's opposition to Reagan was not nearly as personal, nasty, dishonest, and vitriolic as the right's scorched earth treatment of Obama (see birthers, Glenn Beck, teabaggers, etc). Add that to the utter disorganization and disloyalty of the Democratic members of Congress who appear to care about little more than their own re-election. They refuse to tout the legislative achievements of the party, and allow the opposition to define the terms of all debate on the issues. Having said that, there is still plenty of time to turn it around. Plenty of time.
I imagine that many of the conservative, "blue dog" Democrats are the ones who will lose re-election this year. They are the ones who most openly criticize Speaker Pelosi and Pres. Obama, voted against health care reform and Wall St reform, and voted against the stimulus. They will lose because they did nothing. Literally. They sat back, like the Republicans, and hoped for failure. Is it any wonder that Democrats in their districts are not enthused?! What is the difference between a "no" vote from a blue dog and a "no" vote from a Republican? Nothing. Many conservative Dems rode the Obama wave in 2008 to victory, only to abandon him as soon as they got to Washington. I say, "good riddance."
Without many of the blue dogs weighing them down, the Democrats will be able to focus more on their agenda, and less on one-sided compromises with the Republicans. If the GOP does take control of Congress, the Dems must utilize every opportunity to point out all of the shady legislative tricks that the party employs, and their hypocrisy when they utilize tactics they criticized when done by Democrats.
Throughout President Obama's political career he has been a closer. He is a far better fourth quarter player than first or second. We all witnessed this in both the fight over the Democratic nomination and in the general election of 2008. So, enough of the hand-wringing, people! Historically, nearly every president loses seats in the midterms. Approval ratings are only a snapshot of a moment in time. They are not fixed or set in stone. I think President Obama has learned that there is no bi-partisanship left in Washington, and will (finally) employ a more combative posture with the obstructionist GOP.
It ain't over til it's over, friends. Vote on November 2, even if you are not "enthused." We cannot go back to the policies of the Republican Tea Party that brought the country to its worst economic point since the Great Depression. They have absolutely no new ideas, and are banking on unenthusiastic Democrats and the seeming amnesia of independent voters. Whatever happens in November 2010 will have little bearing on November 2012. Remember that. George H.W. Bush had a 69% approval rating at the midterm point, and he lost.