I’m not sure that President Obama’s job approval rating is getting enough attention. It isn’t just that President Obama has a lousy job approval rating, it is how much worse his job approval rating is now compared to the Republican wave year of 2010.
In 2010 Republicans gained six Senate seats. On August 1, 2010 President Obama’s Real Clear Politics average job approval rating was 45%. Obama’s disapproval rating was 49.7%.
As of August 1, 2014 President Obama’s RCP approval rating is 41.4% and his disapproval rating is 55.3%. The headwinds for Democratic Senate candidates seem stronger this year and the Republicans also seem to have a stronger crop of Senate candidates.
One counterargument might be that voters don’t like congressional Republicans, the North Carolina state legislature, the Supreme Court ruling on Hobby Lobby, etc. Maybe, but Republican governance wasn’t exactly popular in 2010 either and that didn’t stop the GOP from making major gains. Democrats can spend the Fall trying to make the election about the machinations of the House Republican Caucus, but I don’t think that the persuadable voters Democrats need are going to find that very persuasive – and they might find talk about the House Republicans some combination of boring, whiny, and incomprehensible.
I wonder if the improving labor market will lift President Obama’s job approval rating between now and the election. We are certainly getting better news that we have seen in quite a few years. But maybe voters have already priced the improving economy into their evaluation of Obama, and that while the improving labor market is preventing Obama’s job approval from slipping to the 30s, it won’t do much to improve Obama’s numbers in the short-term.