By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff
President Obama is not only midway through his first term in office, but he is at the crossroads in his presidency. Several recent national surveys, including the most recent McClatchy-Marist Poll, have shown an improvement in his approval rating. Right now his job performance rating borders 50%, certainly an uptick from his post-shellacking numbers. He is on firmer footing because his Democratic base is more secure and independent voters are now divided. Independents only recently were giving the president a thumbs-down.
Clearly, President Obama is benefitting from the end-of-year legislative successes. The political dialogue is likely to be elevated in the coming weeks, something the president promised during his 2008 campaign. He has been unable to deliver this during his first two years in office, but perhaps he has been heard by a mournful nation in his healing address to the families of the victims on Wednesday night.
So, he begins the second half of this term with a sense of renewal. The good news for the president is that 61% of voters nationwide are optimistic about his job performance in the next two years. Hope is back on the minds of the nation. The bad news for the president is that 61% of voters nationwide are optimistic about his job performance in the next two years. Expectations are again very high for President Obama to deliver on his campaign promises about jobs, the fiscal mess, and international situation. Moreover, he needs to sustain the civility in our national dialogue that was born out of the tragedy last Saturday in Tucson.
There is a sense in the nation that we have changed direction. Americans are less negative about the country’s compass. This is a trend that can only serve to help an incumbent as he is poised to seek re-election.
Will the president’s political recovery last? The economy will dictate the answer. And, certainly the jobs picture remains problematic for the president. The next few months will be critical in defining how this president and his presidency are viewed.