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The 'most successful' Dem president since FDR ends on a high note

U.S. President Barack Obama walks the Colonnade toward the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on election day, Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama walks the Colonnade toward the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on election day, Nov. 8, 2016. 
Donald Trump is entering the White House with the weakest public support of any new president since the dawn of modern polling. The Republican may prefer to see a giant media conspiracy against him -- Trump yesterday dismissed survey results as "rigged" -- but if so, the scheme incorporates a plethora of national news organizations and polling outfits, each of which show the president-elect with surprisingly awful backing.There's a school of thought that suggests this isn't entirely Trump's fault. Maybe the public is just in a sour mood. Perhaps Americans, after a long and ugly campaign, are inclined to hold every political figure in low regard, and Trump is simply caught up in a wave of broad public revulsion.Of course, if that were true, President Obama wouldn't be leaving office with rising popularity.

While Trump is entering office with the worst numbers in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll, outgoing President Barack Obama is exiting with some of his highest numbers. Fifty-six percent of Americans approve of Obama's job, which is his highest rating since the first few months of his presidency.Moreover, 53 percent of Americans believe the country is better off than it was eight years ago, while 42 percent think it's worse off. A similar 54 percent say Obama mostly brought the right kind of change.And a combined 55 percent believe Obama - compared with the past several U.S. presidents - will either go down as one of the very best or be better than most.

Democratic pollster Fred Yang put it this way: "If Donald Trump enters office on a down note, the current occupant is enjoying a second honeymoon of sorts."A new Washington Post/ABC News poll, meanwhile, puts Obama's final approval rating at 60% -- one of only four presidents since World War II to leave the White House with so much public support.Similarly, a new CNN poll also shows Obama with a 60% approval rating. The same survey found 65% of Americans consider Obama's presidency as a success.The 2016 election may not have turned out the way the president wanted, but there's no doubt that Obama is exiting the stage on a very high note.And this extends well beyond public opinion: the New York Times' David Leonhardt had a compelling piece yesterday describing Obama as the "most successful" Democratic president since FDR.

In truth, Obama succeeded by taking a rigorous, evidence-based approach to government. He began trying to broker bipartisan deals and, when that failed, governed as a tough Democrat.... Obama leaves office as the most successful Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt. His effect on the "trajectory of America," to use his benchmark, was certainly smaller than Roosevelt's, but is in the same league as Reagan's.

Given that presidents' standing often grows after leaving office, don't be surprised if Obama's stature continues to reach new heights after he departs the White House -- especially once Americans have an opportunity to compare him to his successor.