Obama thinks he would win a third term: Is he right?

Not for the first time, President Obama has said he believes the American people would reelect him to a third, theoretical term. 

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Barack Obama waves to guests as he takes the stage during a Democratic fundraiser at the Warfield Theater on Oct. 10, 2015 in San Francisco.

President Obama believes the American people would reelect him to a third term if they could, he said in an interview released Sunday.

"Do you think if you ran again, could run again, and did run again, you would be elected?" asked CBS’s Steve Kroft during 60 Minutes.

"Yes," Mr. Obama said. "I do."

This is not the first time Obama has expressed confidence in his ability to secure a third presidential term. In July, the president told the African Union, "I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win."

Realistically, the question makes little difference – the 22nd Amendment limits US presidents to two terms.

But Obama’s projections raise the question of how Americans think he is handling his presidency, a wild roller coaster ride that has seen the pains of a rebounding economy, mounting racial tensions, and the emergence of a new terrorist enemy, the self-titled Islamic State.

This summer alone offers a good example of Obama’s ups and downs. As of late July, 49 percent of Americans said they approved of the president’s management of the country, versus the 47 percent who said the opposite, according to a CNN/ORC poll.

Despite expressing pessimism about the state of the economy, most respondents said they were better off then than before his reelection.

It was the second month in a row the president’s approval numbers came in net-positive territory, CNN reported.

But a month later, Obama’s ratings began sliding again. Another CNN/ORC poll found that the percentage of Americans who approved of his presidency had dropped to 47 percent, in large part due to his approach to foreign policy issues, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

Almost 2 in 3 Americans said they didn’t agree with the way Obama handled the Islamic State or Iran.

As of Monday, a Real Clear Politics roundup of national polling data showed Obama once again struggling, with 49 percent saying they don’t approve of his presidency and 45 percent saying they do. 

Why, then, has Obama remained so optimistic? 

His statement in July came as the GOP’s favorability ratings took a downturn, according to the Pew Research Center. Sixty percent of Republicans said they had an unfavorable view of their party, while the Democrats continued to have evenly mixed ratings.

Back then, his approval ratings still put him "in good stead ... for a sitting president," said David Mercer, former deputy financial director of the Democratic National Committee, to Fox News. "That’s a lot better than what Bush had when he was leaving office for the second time, at about 36 percent."

And despite lackluster polling numbers, the president's second term has included some impressive wins, wrote the Monitor’s Linda Feldmann in September.

Obama is also defying some of the paralyzing pitfalls of a second term – at least so far. As recently as a year ago, he was shunned by members of his own party going into the midterm elections. He was considered a radioactive presence on the campaign trail, and pundits were calling him one of the weakest presidents in the postwar era.

Now, suddenly, he’s cutting nuclear deals, ending decades of animosity with Caribbean communists, forging far-reaching trade pacts, and soothing the nation on the crucible of race.

Whether or not you support his policies, she noted, "no one can accuse him of succumbing to lame-duck status." 

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