Obama Inches Up to 50 Percent Approval

After months of low approval ratings, President Obama’s popularity has begun to trend upwards toward 50 percent. According to the latest survey from ABC News and The Washington Post, Obama has advanced to a 49 percent approval rating. What’s more, he maintains a substanial advantage over Republicans in Congress on who the public trusts to protect the middle-class, 50 to 35 percent. This is almost certainly a product of the recent fights over payroll tax cuts and the unemployment insurance extension, where the president is on the side of most Americans, compared to congressional Republicans, who are pushing forward on a deeply unpopular position.

Latinos Flock to Swing States

One of President Obama’s big advantages in 2012 is the extent to which his demographic coalition is growing at a faster rate than the Republican one. Yes, like almost all Democratic presidential candidates since the 1960s, Barack Obama will lose the white vote by considerable margins, but a larger Latino vote—plus similar margins for turnout and vote share—could offset that. At the moment, according to the latest poll from Univision, two-thirds of Latinos approve of Obama’s job performance. More importantly, the Latino population has grown fastest in the swing states that will prove crucial to the president’s reelection effort.

How President Obama's Economic Message Could Backfire in 2012

If there was anything notable about President Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas last week, it was the extent to which he attacked economic inequality in the United States, and its deletrious effects on income mobility:

[O]ver the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk.  A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50–50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult.  By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%.  And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class. 

Important Election News from Across the Pond

Over the last week, there has been a torrent of stories illustrating the extent to which the Obama re-election team is observing the Republican presidential contest and developing their strategy for the general election season. And while I’m sure that the Obama team has devoted a fair amount of attention to events in the GOP, I’m also sure that they’ve devoted even more time to events across the Atlantic, where—as Carmel Crimmins and Gavin Jones note for Reuters—austerity has pushed Europe to the edge of another recession:

Pardon Me

Instead of forgiving cronies and crooks, the president should use his executive authority to pass the DREAM Act.

One of the little joys of teaching a presidency class in the fall is that my session on presidential pardons falls around Thanksgiving so I can lead off with video of the leader of the free world pardoning a turkey.  However, one of the interesting things about the pardoning power is that, with the exception of impeachment charges, “the President’s authority to grant pardons [for federal offenses] is essentially unfettered” as this CRS report explains.  Presidents can pardon individuals or classes of people, with or without conditions.

Slow and Low (That Is the Tempo)

2012 might find President Obama with a bad combination of low approval ratings and slow economic growth.

President Obama might not be a “teflon president” like Ronald Reagan, but it’s fair to say that his approval ratings have been resiliant in the face of political adversity. Despite the poor economy, the public’s disgust with Washington, and his own missteps, Obama has maintained job approval ratings in the low-to-mid 40s, with only a few dips under 43 percent support. Even still, when compared to historical figures, Obama is at the low end of approval for presidents in their third year. Here is Gallup with more:

Ignoring the Obama Presidency

Among liberals, and most political observers, it’s widely acknowledged that President Obama took a major political hit when he pushed for health-care reform against Republican intransigence and public opposition. The cost of winning comprehensive health-care reform—a longtime liberal dream—was a resurgent and powerful Republican Party. If political courage is defined by the willingness to suffer politically for the sake of good public policy, then Affordable Care Act stands as a testament to the president’s political courage.

Forecasting Elections with Real-Time Economic Data

This post is jointly written with Anton Strezhnev, a very bright Georgetown undergraduate.

One of the challenges in forecasting elections is that economic data are often inaccurate when first released. Some of the adjustments are substantial.  Just to illustrate this point, the image below (source) shows the change from original issue to current estimate in a composite index of economic performance: the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI).

Republicans or Obama, Voters Can't Decide

One of the striking things about the current political moment is the extent to which anti-incumbent sentiment hasn’t abated since last year. The poor economy has left Americans in a continuous state of anger toward their elected officials, regardless of political affiliation. In particular, according to the latest poll from United Technologies and National Journal, voters are down on both the congressional GOP and President Obama.

Which Side Are You On?

This last tidbit from the latest The New York Times and CBS News poll should count as a sign that Democrats are winning the messaging war over taxes and the middle-class:

Aid Comes a-Knockin'

President Obama takes his case for helping out homeowners to Nevada.

AP Photo/Don Ryan

Tomorrow, President Obama arrives in Nevada to push another piece of his jobs plan: new federal rules allowing homeowners to refinance at lower interest rates. Unlike the rest of Obama's jobs plan, this provision doesn't require congressional approval. The program is estimated to save households $2,000 per year, freeing up money that Americans can spend. Given Republicans' refusal to pass the other pieces of the president's jobs plan thus far, aid to homeowners seems like a potential bright spot for the president. But, as a report from the Washington Post details this morning, the administration's efforts to help struggling homeowners since 2009 have failed; of the $50 billion the administration initially pledged to help homeowners, only $2.5 billion has been spent. 

Businesspeople Don't Always Make Good Politicians

The Huffington Post has early access to the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, which – among many other things – reveals the Apple CEO’s distaste for President Obama and his policies:

When he [Jobs] finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative. ‘You’re headed for a one-term presidency,’ he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. […]

The Peasants Will Surely Reject Your Class Warfare

You can expect lots and lots of this in months to come. Here's National Journal's Josh Kraushaar, telling Obama not to get all populist. The only evidence he offers is that Obama's approval is really low right now, in contrast to when he was running for president and had the support of lots of independents. I assume I don't have to bother refuting that. But here's my favorite part:

Will Obama Have Trouble With Latinos in 2012?

Yesterday, at a meeting with journalists and bloggers at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke about the organization’s efforts as it prepared for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Looking for Someone to Blame? Try the GOP

While liberals cheered President Obama’s speech on deficit reduction, New York Times columnist David Brooks was disappointed. “This wasn’t a speech to get something done,” Brooks writes, "This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible."