I am not in the habit of defending President Obama, though I have done so on occasion. I am not prepared to do so again. This post from the blog Jamie Wearing Fools has attracted some attention on the web:
President Obama's slow ride down Gallup's daily presidential job approval index has finally passed below Jimmy Carter, earning Obama the worst job approval rating of any president at this stage of his term in modern political history.
JWF (this is the first post on that site that I have read) apparently reading Gallup's Presidential Job Approval Center, which allows you to compare the job approval of every President from Truman to Obama. This interactive page is a very valuable resource. Here is the Carter/Obama comparison chart.
The chart tracks job approval by days in office. What JWF is talking about is the intersection of Obama's line with Carter's line. At day 1032 Obama is at 43% and Carter at 38%. At day 1034, Carter is at 51% and Obama still at 43%. So Obama is now running worse than Carter!
Or not. As JWF acknowledges, Carter was surging at the time due to the Iranian hostage crisis. Carter's approval rating would rise precipitously for 68 days, presumably a rally round the flag response to the crisis. Then it declined just as precipitously back into the thirties, where it remained until Ronald Reagan flattened him in the 1980 election. It was only Carter's crisis surge that puts his approval above Obama's now.
Over the last two hundred days, President Obama's approval rating has been consistently better than Carter's. Obama is running an approval rating in the low forties. That surely reflects a lack of public confidence. If it goes on, reelection looks like a real challenge. Still, low forties is much better than low thirties, where Carter was stuck for most of the last two years of his presidency.
If it were my job to cheer the President up, I would point out two facts. Given the state of the economy and the unpopularity of his key legislative achievement, he ought to be in the low thirties. So an approval rating in the forties suggests surprising strength. Second, he isn't going to have to run against Ronald Reagan. Whatever one might say about Mitt or Newt, neither of them is a Gipper.
If it were my job to bum the President out (it sort of is, by proxy of some of his supporters), I would point out that the problems facing the United States make Carter's problems look like a walk in the park. The President is likely to be dealing with a world economic crisis next year as Europe dissolves. We may be about to watch Egypt turn into another Iran. All this may, and I repeat may, be enough to force the President to stop campaigning and return to doing his job. Perhaps a rally effect will save his presidency, but it will come at the moment when the electorate has to decide whether he is up to the job. It is hard to imagine what there is in his record to inspire confidence.