Obama Approval Ratings Out of Underwater Territory

As you probably recall, an important ingredient in all the political science models for presidential elections is the incumbent president’s approval ratings–certainly in a reelection contest, but even when the incumbent is leaving office. As at this point four years ago, chronically poor job approval ratings for Barack Obama, reflected in a big midterm GOP victory, led a lot of Republicans to assume he could not be reelected. The same thing is arguably underlying Republican self-confidence–and even the willingness to consider all of their presidential candidates “electable”–right now, when the 2014 midterm victories by the GOP are often treated as prophetic.

Given what happened in 2012, when by election day the president’s approval ratings were positive again, it’s probably worth noting some evidence that they are rebounding again, right on schedule for a positive impact on the race to succeed him.

Here’s the news from the latest ABC/WaPo post according to Peyton Craighill:

A bare 51 percent majority of the public approves of President Obama’s job performance in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, while 45 percent disapproves. Although tepidly positive, those are Obama’s best numbers since May 2013 in Post-ABC surveys….

Obama’s rebound is more striking compared with one year ago. Last October, just before Democrats’ major losses in the 2014 midterm elections, his approval ratings ranged between 40 percent and 43 percent — the lowest of his presidency. “Strong” disapproval of Obama outpaced strong approval by a roughly 2-to-1 margin.

Today, not only is his approval rating up 11 points from its lowest point, but strong opinions of him are more closely divided; 35 percent strongly disapprove, while 28 percent strongly approve.

If this trend continues, the widespread assumption that the 2016 presidential election is the GOP’s to lose if they can just nominate Marco or Jebbie or Kasich may prove no more durable than the big advantage Mitt Romney had in 2012.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.