The storyline begins with an embattled President narrowly defeating a Massachusetts politico, going on to claim a mandate from the American people for his policies and programs.

The first time that happened, then-President Bush spent the initial part of his second term trying to reform Social Security, even though voters’ top priority for the government to address was Job Creation and Economic Growth, followed by the War in Iraq and then Terrorism and Homeland Security (January 2005 NBC News/WSJ Poll).

Fast forward to today and President Obama has followed in his predecessor’s footsteps, devoting most of his second term agenda thus far to issues like gun control and immigration, largely ignoring the fact that the economy and jobs continues to be Americans’ top priority for their elected officials:

chart 1

And, Americans have taken notice.  The recent New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted in April shows the President’s approval rating specifically on “handling the economy” is strongly inverted (41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve-52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove), and his approval rating on that attribute has been underwater throughout the year.

Now, here we sit, approximately 200 days into Obama’s second term, and the President finds himself in a strangely similar position to where President Bush was at a similar point in his second term, and much different from where Presidents Reagan and Clinton found themselves at this point:

chart 2

Around this time period in Bush’s second term, his approval rating went into a tailspin, helping deliver both houses of Congress to the Democrats in the next mid-term election.  Will President Obama’s approval rating fall in a similar fashion, helping Republicans gain seats in the House and take the Senate in 2014?

It’s probably still too soon to tell.  After all, given the President’s sustained support among younger voters and non-white voters, he does have a higher “floor” than his predecessor.  But, it IS clear that Obama’s lack of focus on Americans’ top priority (jobs and the economy) doesn’t bode well for him and Democrats looking to win back the House and maintain control of the Senate in 2014.

Public Opinion Strategies