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Sunday, October 23, 2016

By David Lauter, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s job approval ratings have improved, if only slightly, from a low point during the winter, a trend that potentially could help embattled Democrats in key Senate races this fall.

The size of the change varies from poll to poll, but they tell the same overall story: Obama’s ratings took a slide in the fall as the public saw his website flounder. More recently, with the website fixed and the news about the president’s health care law focusing on millions of people enrolling, his approval numbers have recovered.

That improvement could matter because how voters feel about the president has an effect on how they vote on members of the president’s party. This fall, control of the Senate will be up for grabs, and during the winter, Obama’s slide in the polls was one factor in an improvement of Republican chances.

George W. Bush provides the example Obama hopes to avoid. Bush’s approval began to plummet after Hurricane Katrina in late summer 2005. It continued to drop through the spring of his sixth year in office as the public absorbed steady bad news about the war in Iraq, reaching the low 30 percent range in Gallup’s surveys.

That slide helped create a political climate in which Democrats scored a major victory in the midterm election.

For a while in November and December, Obama’s approval copied Bush’s trajectory. But more recently, the president has done better. His approval rating hit a low point of about 40 percent in December, stabilized and then began to rise a bit. Over the entire first quarter of this year, his approval has averaged just more than 42 percent in Gallup’s polling and last week hit 45 percent, the firm reported. Unlike Bush, he has not experienced a sharp decline in support within his party.

Still, Obama’s current ratings are low, in comparison with his record and with that of most of his predecessors. At its current level, he may not be weighing down Democratic candidates, but the public’s view of him would have to improve more before he would represent a net positive.

Democrats have an additional problem in the Senate because, by luck of the draw, the highly contested races this year almost all take place in conservative states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, where Obama’s popularity is lower than it is nationwide.

AFP Photo/ Robin van Lonkhuijsen

  • Paul Bass

    Despite millions spent in mudslinging, the truth is, most Americans WANT better healthcare!

  • elw

    I have said it before and will say it again, that to look at the Presidents approval numbers and deciding on that number alone as to how it will affect the mid-term elections is silly. It looks even more silly when the latest polls to ask “how well the Republicans are doing their job” show the Republicans in Congress double digits behind the President. The two latest polls asking that questions show their rating at 26% (McClasky-Morest, April 10th 2014) and 18% (Quinnipiac, March 31, 2014), So our President at 45% is head and shoulders above his opponents, once more he has held that lead even when his approval ratings has slipped to their lowest of his Presidency. He is hardly the loser no matter how you spin it and the 70% disapproval rating the Republicans in Congress have is surely going to affect their changes of winning just as much as the Presidents approval ratings affect Democratic candidates. The bottom line is if the Democrats do a good job of getting out the vote, the Republican stand little chance of taking back the Senate or gaining enough seats to make a big difference in the House.

  • Alice Boxstrom

    Hussein Obama is delusional, deceitful, and dishonest. He simply cannot be trusted.