Gallup: For the second consecutive quarter, Obama's job approval ... rises?

I’m trolling you a tiny bit with that headline. But only a bit.


You can tell at a glance what’s happening here. Last fall, the rollout disaster drove his approval rating into a ditch. Since then, verrrry slowly, he’s been climbing out. His overall rating is still poor, though, just 2.2 points higher than his all-time low during the first debt-ceiling standoff in August 2011. So yeah, I’m being troll-y in framing his “rising” approval as good news from Dems insofar as he’s still close to being as unpopular as he’s ever been.

If I were a Democrat, though, I really would take some comfort in those numbers. Realistically, unless the BLS uncorks several rosy jobs reports in a row, O’s unlikely to ever make it back to 50/50. That’s just life as a lame duck in a polarized age, when Congress isn’t much interested in working with you anymore. Typically, approval-wise, there’s no place to go in your second term but down, so holding steady — which is what O’s been doing — is a minor accomplishment:


On April 1, according to the RCP job approval average, he was at 43.1 approval and 53.1 disapproval. Today he’s at 42.3/52.2, basically a wash. In Gallup, his job approval on April 3 was 43/53, almost exactly the same as the RCP figure. Today it’s 44/50. He’s actually improved over the last three and a half months. I wouldn’t call that a minor accomplishment; given the unending crapshow that the late spring and early summer have been, from the VA scandal to the IRS’s missing hard drives to the Bergdahl prisoner giveaway to Iraq melting down to Putin’s proxies in Ukraine running wild to the border crisis, it’s a major one. And it’s not like he gets high marks across the board. His job approval on foreign policy, specifically, is a smoking crater. The resilience of his overall numbers strike me as proof positive that there’s basically nothing he can do at this point to alienate the left-leaning 45 percent of the country that’s with him. Which, of course, is why O never worries about being impeached for his executive power grabs. You’ll never convince the GOP to place a high-stakes bet on that when Obama’s absolute floor, after very nearly wrecking the country’s new health insurance system in its first month, is 41 percent.

What does that mean for the GOP this fall? Nate Cohn sees the wave receding:

The race for the Senate, at least right now, is stable. There aren’t many polls asking whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, but the Democrats appear to maintain a slight edge among registered voters. Democratic incumbents in red Republican states, who would be all but doomed in a Republican wave, appear doggedly competitive in places where Mitt Romney won by as much as 24 points in 2012…

[A]s July turns to August, the G.O.P. is now on the clock. If there is to be a wave this November, the signs of a shift toward the G.O.P. ought to start to show up, somewhere, soon. Every day that goes by without a shift toward the G.O.P. increases the odds that there will not be a wave at all…

The G.O.P. is less popular today than it was in 2010, when G.O.P. favorability ratings increased and Democratic ratings faltered in advance of the midterms. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings might also be deceptive: They’re mainly low because of minimal support from Republican leaners, not because Mr. Obama has lost an unusual amount of ground among his own supporters.

Republicans might very well still win the Senate, says Cohn; there are so many vulnerable Democrats out there in red states, even a mediocre GOP performance on election night might get them to 51-52 seats. The narrower the margin is, though, the more likely it is that Democrats will reclaim the Senate in 2016 when a bunch of Republicans from purple states are up. If you want to ensure a durable Republican Senate majority, where durable means “at least two election cycles,” you need a wave, and the wave depends in no small part on how much the public disapproves of Obama. If he’s still at 44 percent after taking a flurry of blows over the last three months, what’s going to push him down to “wave” levels of 39-40 percent?

Exit question: Check out the second graph here. Could the GOP back into a wave simply because so many disaffected Democrats stay home? The fact that Dems have flogged the Hobby Lobby “war on women” crapola so much recently is proof that they’re worried, a lot, about their base showing up.