President Obama isn’t the Democratic George W. Bush. But, he still has a competence problem.


President Barack Obama MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's poll numbers are not in a good place. And, given his second term struggles, there is an increasing tendency to compare him to the lows that George W. Bush "attained" during his own  secondterm.

But, second term Obama isn't second term Bush, according to new data from Pew.

Obama's second term job approval stands at 44 percent in Pew data, a full eight points better than where Bush found himself at a similar time in his presidency.

Image courtesy of Pew
Image courtesy of Pew

And, it's not just the topline approval numbers. Obama outpaces Bush on key character traits like "cares about people like me" (54 percent said that of Obama as compared to 41 percent for Bush) and trustworthiness (a 10 point Obama edge).

So, no, Obama isn't the Democratic Bush.

There are places, however, where the poll numbers of Obama and Bush do look similar. Forty four percent said that Obama was "able to get things done" while 42 percent said the same about Bush back in 2006. Forty seven percent say that Obama is a "strong leader" while 43 percent said the same of Bush.

I've written before -- and will likely write again -- that Obama is struggling, in much the same way Bush did, with a competence problem. Increasingly, Americans have doubts about his ability to effectively do the job to which he was elected -- a politically dangerous position for someone who was elected, in no small part, on his competence.

The Pew numbers cited above show that on empathy questions Obama is in far stronger shape than Bush was at this point in his presidency.  But, when it comes to questions of competence, the two are in a similar spot -- a fact that has to worry Obama and his inner circle.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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