Yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll put Barack Obama at his recent nadir on approval ratings. The White House gets better news from today’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, but as its pollster says, there is a difference between better and good. Obama’s approval rebounded slightly to 44% and his personal favorability has gone back to slightly positive, but the midterms still look bad for Democrats nonetheless:

But in spite of slight improvements from March, the poll still represent difficult terrain for Obama and the Democratic Party with six months to go until November’s midterm elections.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart, says the results highlight the difference between “better” and “good” for Democrats.

“These are very, very difficult numbers,” McInturff explains.

Hart borrows a baseball analogy to make a similar point: “It’s like the difference between from being five runs down, to one or two.”

Some highlights from the poll:

  • Obama’s job approval rating now stands at 44 percent, a three-point increase from last month, though that movement falls within the poll’s margin of error.
  • For the first time since early October – before the federal health care website’s disastrous launch became a months-long national story – the president’s personal favorable/unfavorable is right-side up, at 44 percent positive and 41 percent negative.
  • And 36 percent see the health care law as a good idea, versus 46 percent who view it as a bad idea – an uptick from 35 percent and 49 percent respectively back in March.

NBC might put a nice spin on this poll, but it’s not good news, and it’s really not that much better news either. First, the improvements aren’t really all that significant. Even on job approval, Obama’s still 44/50, which is underwater outside of the MOE. Neither of the numbers has moved outside the MOE since early October, when Obama was at 47/48. His approval numbers since have ranged from 41-44, and disapproval from 50-54. This change is statistical noise, especially given the very clear triggering event in the ObamaCare launch.

The same is true of his personal favorability. It’s 44/41 now, but it was 41/44 in March, 42/44 in January, 42/46 in December, and 41/45 in late October. At the start of ObamaCare, it was 47/41. Again, today’s result is basically statistical noise.

By the way, this poll was taken between April 23-27, well after Obama declared that “the debate is over” on ObamaCare and took his victory lap over the supposed eight million enrollments. That didn’t get even so much as a blip in this poll series. That should be an indication that Obama’s not moving the needle any longer. In fact, the NBC/WSJ poll asked whether respondents feel more or less confident in ObamaCare based on what they’ve heard over “the last few weeks,” and the results are … less than encouraging for Democrats. Eleven percent feel more confident, while 28% feel less confident, and 58% haven’t changed their opinion at all.

We will hear plenty today about a rebound in polling for Obama, but this is actually bad news for the White House, and especially for incumbent Democrats foolish enough to take Obama’s advice and run on ObamaCare.

Update: One last point about the sample — only 34% of respondents voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, while 43% voted for Obama. That’s low for both, but Obama only won that election by half that gap — and I think the turnout model won’t be as friendly as 2012 was to Democrats this November, either.