A new poll from FoxNews finds voters souring on President Obama’s tenure in office, as his presidency enters its final year. President Obama entered office in 2009 with some of the highest approval ratings recorded in modern politics. He prepares to leave office with every poll finding his approval rating underwater.
This isn’t simply the weariness of voters with a President entering his eighth and final year, but a growing sense that he has failed on every major issue and leaves office with America weaker than when he arrived.
In this latest Fox poll, 61 percent of voters say they are unhappy with the direction of the country. Only 38 percent say they are largely satisfied. This is consistent with most other recent polls. A CNN/ORC poll last week found that 75 percent of Americans were “dissatisfied” with the governing of the country, with 69 percent at least “somewhat angry” about the situation.
Only 23 percent of Americans describe the economy as “good” or “excellent” in the Fox poll. More than three-out-of-four Americans, 76 percent, describe the economy as “fair” or “poor.” Just 27 percent say America is strong and confident today.
There isn’t simply an ennui that has settled over the body politic. Rather, the voters believe that Obama has failed on very specific issues. On “improving health care,” 53 percent of voters say Obama has “mostly failed.” Stimulating the economy? Fifty-one percent say Obama has failed.
A strong majority, 58 percent, say Obama has failed in “making the country safer.” Sixty percent say he has failed to “improve America’s image around the world.” Two-thirds of voters, 65 percent, say Obama has failed to “handle ISIS.” A similar number, 62 percent, say he has failed to “handle illegal immigration.”
Perhaps most disappointing, given the promise that swept him into office, 59 percent say Obama has failed to “improve race relations.” The same number also believe he has failed to run a “transparent administration.”
Presidents are often eclipsed in their final year in office, as the political world turns its attention to the campaign for the next President. The “best and the brightest” in any Administration have long departed for a calmer, or in many cases more lucrative, life after government. Even in Congress, the political debates and discussions turn to policies and budgets that stretch beyond a President’s tenure.
Traditionally, Presidents devote their time to foreign policy, striving to solidify their legacy as a global statesman. In this case, however, President Obama is constricted by a series of world events that raise more questions about his culpability, rather than leadership. Obama’s unconventional pivot to the divisive issue of gun control last week is indicative of his weak hand in global affairs.
The final year of a Presidency is also when the voters fill in the outlines of a President’s legacy. He, effectively, has played his policy and political cards and the voters survey the table and count up the chips. For Obama, the ledger is adding up to a failed administration, at least in the eyes of today’s voters.
This simple realization is perhaps the greatest obstacle Hillary Clinton faces in trying to succeed President Obama. In a general election, Hillary Clinton will be forced to campaign openly against many of Obama’s policies or shortcomings. Voters will simply not choose “more of the same” in November.
How she navigates this challenge, with an ongoing FBI investigation over her handling of secret and classified information pending, may require more political nuance than has ever before been recognized.