If you are a Republican looking for another reason to be worried about the 2016 election, look no further than President Obama’s vastly improved job approval numbers. His job approval has been slowly creeping up in recent polls, and a political truth is that the higher the approval rating of the president, the better it is for the incumbent party.
Why is Obama’s approval rating suddenly rising out of a slump? Well, I believe there are two main reasons. The first is that, in comparison with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Obama looks pretty good. Trump blathers, and Clinton can’t get past tired platitudes. And as the two candidates take up more and more of the news cycle, voters start to think less about the president and what he might have done or failed to do.
The second reason is that Obama has prematurely — perhaps by design — moved into an early retirement. He hasn’t tried to do much to move the dial in Washington this year, and he’s pretty much disappeared from the world stage, unless you count his continued insistence on pushing a climate change agenda and doing some ceremonial farewell meetings and meaningless summits. Obama seems to have gone into former president mode already. (Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.)
It makes perfect sense that Obama would want to take advantage of the good will, nostalgia and automatic respect that comes from being a former president. Americans generally admire their former presidents.
Obama has authored an essay, titled “The Way Ahead,” for the current edition of the Economist, which contains a laundry list of items he believes his successor will need to address once he or she takes the oath of office in January. Predictably, he prescribes a liberal approach. Of course, Obama also gives himself credit for a range of accomplishments, closing his piece by stating that, “For all the work that remains, a new foundation is laid.” In other words, Barack Obama has checked out.
No surprise, but his Economist piece makes it plain that Obama is anticipating Clinton will win in November. And, again, regardless of what the two presidential candidates do, Obama’s approval ratings are not inconsequential in the left’s push to get Clinton elected. In two of the most recent polls, from CNN-ORC and Gallup, the president’s approval rating is 55 percent and 51 percent, respectively – bringing his RealClearPolitics average approval rating to 50.8 percent. That number, more than anything else, should frighten Republicans. It could be the extra edge Clinton needs to win.