Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Obama Rides High at Five Months, but Clouds Gather

The political verdict on President Barack Obama’s first five months in office has to be “so far, so good,” but it also must include trepidation about clouds on the horizon.

For sure, he’s popular. He’s laid out a breathtakingly bold agenda that he has good prospects of fulfilling. And his opposition is in dire political straits.

But too much shouldn’t be made of high approval ratings after five months. Obama’s Gallup rating on June 20, at 59 percent, is exactly the average of the last eight newly elected presidents.

And that average is dragged down by Bill Clinton’s dismal showing, 39 percent, in 1993 — the result of a self-created kerfuffle over gays in the military and of disarray in the White House.

Obama clearly continues to enjoy his honeymoon with voters, but history suggests that voters generally take a long time to become disenchanted with new presidents, when they do.

Dwight Eisenhower had a 69 percent approval rating at this early stage in 1953 and fell below 60 only in his second term during the 1958 recession.

John F. Kennedy had a 61 percent approval rating after five months in 1961 and stayed in the 60s or 70s until just before his assassination.

Richard Nixon was at 63 percent at this point in 1969 and remained in the 50s and 60s until a dip in 1971. He didn’t crater into the 30s until 1973.

Jimmy Carter was at 63 percent after five months, stayed in the 60s until September 1977 and didn’t go into the 40s until February 1978. He left office with a 31 percent approval rating.

Ronald Reagan scored 59 percent in June 1981 and remained in the high 50s and low 60s until unemployment began to spike in November 1981 in the then-worst recession since the Great Depression. He went as low as 35 percent in January 1983, but was handily re-elected.

Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, had a 69 percent approval rating in June 1989 and stayed in the high 50s, 60s, 70s — even 80s — into 1990, even before the first Gulf War in 1991, when it shot up to 91 percent. Then he lost the presidency in 1992.

Clinton had the shortest honeymoon of any recent president, falling from the 50s into the 40s by May 1993. He climbed out of his early hole, remaining in the low 50s and high 40s until his health care plan fell apart in September 1994. But he got re-elected, too.

And, despite the divisive circumstances of his election, George W. Bush had a 55 percent approval in June 2001 and stayed in the 50s and 60s until his popularity soared after Sept. 11, 2001.

Regardless of history, Obama enjoys even higher ratings in some other polls than in Gallup’s — his Washington Post-ABC rating is 65 percent — and he’s the beneficiary of 2-to-1 favorable stories in the mainstream media, according to the Pew Research Center.

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