But it could be a lot worse. Mr. Obama could be President Reagan in August 1982, when voters were even less enthusiastic about the prospect of having the commander in chief running for reelection in two years. Nearly half of today’s voters – 47 percent – say they would like to see Obama run for reelection in 2012 versus 36 percent who said in August 1982 that Mr. Reagan should run again, according to the latest Pew Research Center/National Journal Congressional Connection poll.
Reagan went on to win reelection by a whopping 18 points.
President Clinton also had a rough first midterm election in 1994, and he faced reelect numbers similar to Obama’s at the time – 44 percent. Mr. Clinton, too, won reelection easily in 1996.
For Obama, the polling on “should he run for reelection” is about the same as job approval, which is at 46 percent in the latest Pew survey. For Reagan, the job-approval numbers were better than the reelect numbers, but eventually they were the same. According to Gallup, 42 percent approved of Reagan’s job performance in August 1982. By February 1983, Reagan’s job approval had sunk to 35 percent – the same percentage of voters who thought he should run for reelection, compared with 57 percent who thought he should not.
The common denominator with all three presidents is a lousy economy during the first two years in office. And indeed, if American voters don’t see much improvement in the 9.6 percent unemployment rate by 2012, Obama can probably kiss reelection goodbye – assuming he runs.
Americans have a mixed view about the prospect of Republicans taking control of Congress, according to the Pew survey. Some 32 percent of registered voters say America would be better off if Republicans take over, identical to the percentage who believe it would be better for Democrats to keep Congress. Thirty percent say it makes no difference. When the survey pool consists of likely voters, the number who favor a GOP takeover rises to 38 percent.
A Pew poll from last week found that 50 percent of voters plan to go Republican for their member of Congress versus 40 percent voting Democratic.
Voters also have mixed views of the Republican agenda, Pew found in its new poll. Only two items scored over 50 percent approval: allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in US waters (55 percent) and changing Social Security to allow private accounts (51 percent). Repealing health-care reform got 49 percent approval.