In fact, no president in the last 60 years has watched his approval ratings bounce back during their second term. Either they didn’t make it to another stint in office (Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush), never dipped in the first place (Eisenhower and Clinton) or were removed from office at the nadir of their popularity (Nixon). Lyndon Johnson recovered somewhat, but only after announcing he would not seek another term. Ronald Reagan dropped from the low 60s to the high 40s amid the Iran-Contra scandal, and his popularity never recovered entirely until his last months in office. But it also never fell to lows experienced by Truman or Bush.
“In a second term, once a president’s numbers decline, they never come back up,” Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster, told reporters last week during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “There’s a good reason for that: they don’t have a reelection campaign going on. They don’t have the air cover on air. They’re not putting back together a campaign in contrast to the opposition.”
Goeas suggested Obama has reached a similar point-of-no-return in his presidency. A spate of surveys suggest the pollster might be right: The Pew Research Center last week found only 41 percent of adults approving of his job performance, while 53 percent disapproved. The 12-point split was the largest of his presidency, the survey found. Obama’s approval rating was also at 41 percent in Gallup’s polling last week, including a three-day rolling sample that showed it bottoming out at 39 percent.