President Barack Obama waves to the crowd at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Capital University, Nov. 1, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo by John Minchillo/AP

After nearly eight years, Obama reaches unexpected popularity

Around this time two years ago, President Obama looked ahead to the 2016 election – and expected to keep a fairly low profile. The Democratic ticket, he predicted, is “probably not going to be looking to me to campaign too much.” Obama added that voters will be looking for “that new-car smell. They want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me.”

The president’s prediction now appears almost comically wrong. As we were reminded in Philadelphia last night, Obama is not only one of Hillary Clinton’s top surrogates, he also receives rock-star welcomes practically everywhere he goes. The president has also been hard at work in recent months trying to help down-ballot Democrats nationwide. Even some Republicans are including Obama in their ads – in a positive light.

The Washington Post had a good piece on this yesterday, putting Obama’s popularity in context.’s Charles Franklin was a little ahead of the curve Sunday morning when he pointed out that President Obama’s approval rating right now is among the highest Election-Day approval ratings in recent history.

Franklin tracked recent survey results by party to evaluate Obama’s approval, finding that, at 52.1 percent on average, he’s viewed more positively now than Ronald Reagan was at the end of his second term, but not as positively as was Bill Clinton at the end of his.
Yesterday, Gallup’s daily tracking poll put Obama’s approval rating at 56%. Among modern two-term presidents, that puts Obama ahead of Reagan’s standing at this point in 1988 and just behind Bill Clinton’s backing at this point in 2000.

In fact, Obama is actually more popular now than he was when he was re-elected four years ago.

We’ve heard occasional talk from Republicans about the scourge of “Obama’s third term” if Clinton wins tonight, but note that it hasn’t been a staple of GOP rhetoric in recent months. It’s a tough pitch to make when much of the country wouldn’t exactly mind such an outcome.

The latest Bloomberg Politics poll asked respondents whom they would vote for in a hypothetical match-up pitting Obama against Donald Trump. It wasn’t close: the president led by double digits, 53% to 41%.

I’d take results like these with a grain of salt – it’s difficult to know what public attitudes would look like if Obama faced a year and a half of constant partisan attacks – but the poll result further reinforces the fact that Obama is clearly enjoying some of the strongest support of his career.