The Fix: Gallup poll -- Obama's approval rating levels off

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 10:56 AM

Six months ago, President Obama was being discussed as a one-term president as his party careened to a historic midterm election defeat.

Two months ago, President Obama had gotten his political groove back, scoring a series of wins -- a tax cut compromise, the passage of the new START nuclear treaty -- in the lame duck congressional session.

Today, President Obama finds himself right back to where he was in the aftermath of the 2010 election, according to a new weekly Gallup tracking poll that showed 46 percent of Americans approving of the job is doing. That is his lowest weekly average approval rating in Gallup numbers since mid-December.

The natural conclusion? Obama is losing momentum, waylaid by outside forces like the Egyptian uprising and the ongoing conflict and Libya -- twin events that have helped spike gas prices here at home.

But, just as the "Obama surging" headline was overblown as Obama crested 50 percent twice in Gallup's weekly approval numbers in January, so too is the idea that these latest numbers are indicative of any long-term downward trend for the President.

In fact, a look back at Obama's standing on the Gallup question over the past year suggests that the most recent results represent a leveling effect of sorts -- a return to the norm rather than some sort of larger-scale downtick.

From July 2010 through January 2011, Obama's approval ratings ranged between 43 percent and 48 percent in nearly every weekly Gallup tracker. Most weeks, it sat at either 46 percent or 47 percent -- exactly where it is in the latest weekly numbers.

The consistency of those numbers suggests that public opinion is largely settled when it comes to Obama and is likely to stay within that established range -- at least in the near term.

Of course, a strengthening economy (or a weakening one) could well force a re-examination by Americans of how they view the job the president is doing. But, that is a far longer-term reshaping of public opinion rather than a short-term boom or bust.

Be wary then of reading too much into the weekly job approval numbers. Views of Obama are remarkably consistent and it will take months -- if not years -- for them to change in a fundamental way.

Gibbs won't seek DNC chairmanship: Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tells CNN's Ed Henry that he won't seek to replace Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine if Kaine runs for Senate in Virginia.

"I had an opportunity to do that when my name got floated six months ago," Gibbs said. "I am not going to run the DNC."

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