The results of the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll point to the often-noted inverted Obama approval scores and softened attributes.  That’s nothing new.

But, what about this?

In terms of job approval, President Obama bests “Republicans in Congress” by a 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} margin, yet Republicans in Congress are tied with the President on doing a better job “coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years” and actually lead the President on “handling the economy.”  Further, President Obama’s October eleven-point advantage over Republicans in Congress on spending has now given way to an eight-point GOP advantage.

What the heck?  How can the vastly unpopular Republicans in Congress be ahead of or tied with President Obama on these measures?

Always in the back of voters’ minds about President Obama has been questions about his ability to be a “strong leader” and questions about his competence.  The failure to press for an aggressive second term agenda combined with the poor handling and rollout of the President’s health care plan have reinforced those doubts and provided fertile ground for them to grow.

Can he turn it around?  In modern polling history, there’s simply no precedent for that to happen – no President in their second term has ever recovered from sustained low approval scores like Obama has today.

President Reagan’s job approval score was inverted in his second term just once (Gallup data) – in March of 1987, at 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove, and following that month enjoyed positive job approval scores for the rest of his term.  President George W. Bush had similar job approval scores as President Obama, and once W’s job approval hit the 44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} mark in September of 2006 (Gallup data), it never rose above that figure for the rest of his Presidency.

chart 1

While it’s certainly possible that President Obama will break with historical precedent and drag his approval scores above the water line, the latest polling showing unpopular GOP’ers in Congress tied with the President on key issues may very well indicate that Americans have already closed the book on the Obama Presidency.

Public Opinion Strategies