WASHINGTON -- The debt ceiling debate has provided yet another opportunity for Democratic base voters to lament the political choices of the president they helped elect. A Washington Post-ABC poll released this week found that the number of liberal Democrats who strongly supported President Obama's record on jobs had fallen an astonishing 22 percentage points over the course of a year, from 53 percent to 31 percent. The prioritization of spending cuts over job creation -- not rhetorically, but in terms of governance -- was likely the primary contributor.
But as in similar moments in the past, such as the loss of the public option in the health care debate, the failure to end Bush-era tax cuts on high-earning Americans, and last spring's government shutdown showdown, voters' disappointments in policy choices are not translating to serious problems for Obama's reelection campaign.
President Obama currently enjoys a higher popularity among Democratic voters than every Democratic president dating back to Harry Truman had at similar junctures in their presidencies.
According to Gallup's presidential job approval data, Obama had a 78 percent approval rating among Democrats from July 18 to July 24, 2011. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, had a 77 percent approval rating among Democrats from July 20 to July 23, 1995. Before him, Jimmy Carter had a 37 percent approval rating among Democrats from July 13 to July 16, 1979. Before him, Lyndon Johnson had a 63 percent approval rating among Democrats from July 13 to July 18, 1967. Before him, John F. Kennedy had a 77 percent approval rating among Democrats from July 18 to July 23, 1963. And before him, Harry Truman had a 76 percent approval rating percent among Democrats from July 4 to July 9, 1947.
Obama's approval ratings compared to former presidents at the same time: July 18-24 (Democrats only)
The numbers don't tell the full story. Only two of those presidents, Truman and Clinton, would go on to win reelection. In Carter's case, moreover, that 37 percent approval rating among Democrats represented a near-nadir -- it would be back up to 67 percent by the turn of 1980.
But for the Obama re-election campaign, the side-by-side comparison is an advantageous one. For starters, there is time for the president to improve on his 78 percent. More importantly, his popularity among Democrats has remained consistent even after he threw the party's sacred cows -- Social Security and Medicare -- into the deficit hysteria mix.
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