After Barack Obama managed to win a few battles (and lose a few as well) in the lame-duck session of Congress, pundits began talking about an Obama comeback after the midterm disaster.  Gallup’s latest weekly poll on presidential job approval throws some cold water on that notion, at least for the time being.  After a slight mid-December bounce to 49%, Obama has slid back to 47%, about what his approval ratings have averaged over the last two months:

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating for Dec. 26-28 is 47%, down slightly from his post-midterm-election peak of 49% recorded last week, and close to his average level of approval since November. Currently, 46% of Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance. …

The president’s approval rating briefly rose to 49% last week, in Gallup Daily tracking from Dec. 20-22, as Congress wrapped up work on these bills. Obama held a news conference on Wednesday in which he touted the historic nature of the 111th Congress’ achievements, as well as his ability to work with Republicans to overcome gridlock, calling it a “season of progress.”

However, in Gallup polling since Christmas, Obama’s approval rating slid back slightly to 47%, nearly matching his average 46% approval rating since the start of November.

Thus, he is closing out his second year in office with a slightly lower approval rating than at the end of his first year. In 2009, his approval ratings between Christmas and New Year’s ranged from 51% to 53%.

Gallup insists that the “stability” in Obama’s approval ratings are a positive, but then wonders why the popularity of Obama’s lame-duck initiatives didn’t lift his approval ratings.  One reason might be the unpopularity of the lame-duck session itself.  The approval ratings for Congress dropped to an all-time low at the end of the lame-duck session.  While some of the initiatives pushed in the last month might have had plurality support, none but the budget and the tax hikes needed to be addressed by this rump session of the 111th, and in fact Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ended up addressing only one of those.

Is a 47% rating and “stability” from the level that helped Republicans take control of the House and take a chunk out of Reid’s Senate majority a positive?  It may not be so low as to preclude winning a second term.  Gallup points out that both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had lower approval ratings at the end of the second year, and one-termers Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush had higher approval ratings.   Both Clinton and Reagan were in serious trouble at that point in their presidencies.  Clinton, though, won re-election with the help of a significant independent candidate (Ross Perot a second time in 1996) as well as a triangulation strategy that worked, and Reagan rode a massive economic boom to victory in 1984.  Obama has reportedly forbidden the “T” word at the White House, and his insistence on expanding the regulatory burdens on the private sector — especially in the energy sector — makes the generation of an economic boom highly unlikely in the next two years.

Stability at the level of a midterm tidal wave doesn’t seem to be terribly positive, but perhaps that’s the best outcome Obama could get out of his second-year debacle.