Second term blues: Obama not the first to feel the pain
June 25th, 2013
02:29 PM ET
10 months ago

Second term blues: Obama not the first to feel the pain

Washington (CNN) - A second term president, battling back against a number of controversies, and facing opposition in Congress to his proposals.

Sound familiar?

President Barack Obama's White House has spent much of the past six weeks reacting to controversies over a massive U.S. government surveillance program, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of tea party and other conservative groups who applied for tax exempt status, the administration's handling and reaction to last September's attack in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead, and the Justice Department's secret collection of journalists' phone records as part of a government investigation into classified leaks.

Obama's drive for increased gun control legislation was defeated in Congress, and his current push for immigration reform faces an uncertain future on Capitol Hill.

The president's numbers have edged down in public opinion polling from earlier this year, when his approval rating ranged from the upper 40's to low 50's in most national surveys. Obama currently stands at 46% approval and 48% disapproval, according to a CNN Poll of Polls which averages the six non-partisan, live operator, national polls conducted over the past two and a half weeks.

"The economy is improving and most Americans are more optimistic, but President Obama is not benefiting as much as you might expect, Why? It's pretty clear the stagnation and controversies of Washington are taking a toll. Plus, there's not a lot for him to celebrate on the world stage," says CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

So how does he compare to his most recent two-term predecessors, five months into their second terms in the White House?

George W. Bush's approval rating stood at 45% in June of 2005 in CNN/USA Today/Gallup polling, down from 52% at the beginning of that year.

A top priority for Bush in the first months of his second term in office was his push for Social Security reform. But Bush's proposal didn't fare so well in public opinion polling and it ran into opposition from congressional Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress. The measure never made it to full votes in either chamber.

The president had better luck with his calls for Congress to produce an energy plan. Four months after urging lawmakers to take action, Bush signed a bill into law.

On the world stage, the ongoing insurgency in Iraq (May 2005 was the country's deadliest month in the conflict since the start of the war in 2003) was starting to take a political toll on the president.

Bush didn't fare any better in the second half of 2005, as he and his administration were blasted by critics over what was considered the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina.

"It was the competence question that was the undoing of the second George W. Bush term. Rising opposition to the Iraq war and then a series of additional stumbles – Social Security and immigration, and of course Katrina," adds King. "Many Obama critics are now raising that 'competence question' when they talk about the IRS controversy or even Edward Snowden's ability to walk out the door with so many highly classified government secrets. Nearly six months into the critical first year of the second term, not much has happened, and getting things done only gets harder as you come closer to the midterm election and then the race to attach the 'lame duck' label."

The previous two two-termers in the White House were faring better nearly half way into the first year of their second term. According to CNN/USA Today/Gallup polling, Bill Clinton stood at 55% in June of 1997, a slight edging down of three points from the beginning of that year. And Ronald Reagan stood at 58% in June 1985, down from 62% at the start of that year, according to Gallup polling.

The president in recent history who started out the highest in the polls and suffered the biggest plunge was Richard Nixon, who nosedived from 67% approval at the start of his second term in 1973 to 44% by that June, according to Gallup polling.

"Nixon started off the year with a typical inaugural honeymoon bolstered by an agreement that ended the Vietnam War. By mid-summer, congressional Watergate hearings had begun to consume his presidency," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The economy was also not in great shape - something that hurts incumbents of both parties, regardless of any other issues they have to address."


Filed under: Polls • President Obama
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    The financial collapse was the major failure of Bush's second term. However, the Hurricane Katrina response was just as bad. Oh how conservatives forget.

    Heckuva job Browny!

    June 25, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. saywhat

    His first term also saw him embattled with those who couldn't swallow his being elected to the 'White' House. Who went as low to attack his origin, his faith and even his right to citizenship & being an American.. The opposition in Congress was a firm "No' of the Republicans which later turned to obstacles to his every move.
    This president had the odds stacked against him like no other.

    June 25, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  3. Data Driven

    Benghazi: a dispute about talking points later shown to be rewritten by right-wing hacks at ABC and elsewhere. Pfft.

    AP/Rosen/PRISM: all legal, thanks to Congress.

    IRS: conservative AND liberal groups targeted. An embarrassment for Issa.

    This article would have credibility if Steinhauser reported the facts. Obama's numbers are down because of bad journalism. Speaking of which, where ARE all the breathless articles about liberal groups being "targeted" after yesterday's confirmation of the fact? Hmmmmm? See? No credibility.

    June 25, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. RIchard Long

    Benghazi?!?! They resolved that already. It was a group of protestors that were upset about the movie on YouTube. The filmmaker has been captured and is rotting in jail.

    IRS... It was the work if two rogue agents. Since they targeted a couple liberal groups, IRS targeting is okay and should be an accepted practice.

    With his 'Laser-Like' focus on the economy and employment, the national debit is at $17 Trillion and employment at a stagnant 7.5%.

    Millions of dollars spent on Obama's trips to Mexico(?), Costa Rica (??), and Africa (???) to accomplish what? Not to mention self serving fundraiser that only benefit himself and his elites (nice to see he is spending our tax dollars (Air Force One Secret Service) to pay of HIS campaign debt

    June 25, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. freedom

    He is a full-blown catastrophe! Many of us knew this before he was elected for his first term. How shallow can a country's thinking be to vote someone in solely based on the color of their skin, or their gender (Hilary). There are many more superlative Americans of all colors, and who are female, who would serve this country with it's best interest in mind – not only their agendas. That's all Obama and Hilary are – Agenda with a capital A!

    June 25, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. Wake up People!

    No he's not. However, he is the first POTUS to EVER:

    1. Have his citizenship questioned. Re: birthers.
    2. Have his education questioned. People alluding that he only got into Harvard and Columbia thanks to Affirmative Action.
    3. A private meeting held on the night of his first Inauguration, to ensure that he becomes a one term POTUS.
    4. His wife viciously, verbally attacked daily along with their minor children.
    5. And the first to be completely and totally disrespected by members of Congress.
    I remember hearing almost daily when Bush took us to war, to criticize the POTUS during wartime was tantamount to treason. But that's not the case for this POTUS. It seems like the GOP has a contest going....who can show him the most disrespect. You see how they threw Christy under the bus and ran over him simply for showing the POTUS the respect he deserves.

    Since 2008, the GOP has bent over backwards to show this POTUS nothing but contempt, disdain and utter disrespect.

    June 25, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. Guest

    Still blaming the honorable President Bush??? The depth and breadth of liberal ignorance is almost incomprehensible, but then I recall the payoffs and racial preference and understand your greed.

    June 25, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  8. Stuffit

    No he is not the first to feel it. It is just that his 2nd term is just like the first, inept, incompetent and corrupt and the nation is really feeling five years of this push for the democrat liberal ideals rather than concentrating on what means something to people who actually pay taxes, aren't on welfare and are not dope addicts. That makes him the worst president in history.

    June 25, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. Jean

    Alas the liberals will never see this guy for what he is – a guy in way over his head, incompetent at best, and so far left it's now bordering on funny. As someone else here said – there were many Americans who saw him for what he was in 2007-2008 and it is unfortunate that his base refused/refuses to vote for what is in the best interest of the country as opposed to their ideology. I am not saying they should have voted republican but they sure as hell should have voted for Hilary. I'm not a fan but at least we would be better off today instead of the world-wide joke. Snowden is just a perfect example of what so many in the world think of the US right now; Obama has made this once great and respected country a joke. We have no credibility, our allies probably wish we would grow a set, or disappear if we don't, and our enemies are emboldened. Taliban another great example, we beg them to negotiate and they spit at us with a bombing of the presidential palace and the CIA building. The next 3 1/2 years cannot go fast enough.

    June 25, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    Horrible congress–what can Obama do??

    June 25, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Wake up People!

    And we can't forget the media, who no longer prints news, now it's all about their spin. Fox and Fox lite come to mind.

    Like Sniffit said, nothing but a bunch of nontroversies.

    June 25, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  12. Dutch/Bad Newz aka Take Back The House

    The honorable President Bush? Ha! The president who lied us into war at the cost of my brothers and sisters lives. Honorable? The president who authorized torture in this country's great name. Honorable and George W. Bush don't belong in the same sentence.

    June 25, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  13. Joan

    Actually it is the media who is constantly saying that the President is being distracted by the so called "scandals" and that he has "second term blues". He doesn't look too upset to me. He is one of few Presidents who can walk and chew gum at the same time. Some kind of immigration bill will pass because it is suicide for the Republicans future if it doesn't. The gun laws have definitely not gone away. The Giffords, Newtown families, mayors and many others will keep that burning until something gets done. All of Issa and Co. scandals have fizzled despite a media frenzy to make a big deal out of them. The President is doing just fine, thank you.

    June 25, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  14. Steveo

    Wake up People!

    No he's not. However, he is the first POTUS to EVER:

    1. Have his citizenship questioned. Re: birthers.
    2. Have his education questioned. People alluding that he only got into Harvard and Columbia thanks to Affirmative Action.
    3. A private meeting held on the night of his first Inauguration, to ensure that he becomes a one term POTUS.
    4. His wife viciously, verbally attacked daily along with their minor children.
    5. And the first to be completely and totally disrespected by members of Congress.
    ----------------------–
    A bit dramatic and you do have a few valid points BUT

    The Bush girls have been attacked as well
    Bush was disrespected by the left! (Reid, Pelosi, Rangle, Waters) take your pick

    Dirty and nasty politics is not limited to left or right! BOTH play that game. BUT we are only offended by it when MY side gets attacked!

    Obama: "The right can go but they have to sit in the back" Nah, no disrespect there! Like I said it is only offensive when my side is attacked!

    Politics has been nasty for a long while now and we cheer it, just as long as it is not my side getting attacked!

    June 25, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. Steveo

    @Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    The financial collapse was the major failure of Bush's second term. However, the Hurricane Katrina response was just as bad. Oh how conservatives forget.
    -----------------
    The housing bubble started under Clinton! The banks lower their loaning standard under Clinton. Remember the Dodd and Frank show? Yep! Under Clinton!

    June 25, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  16. Wake up People!

    When the Bush girls were attacked, they were attacked for their actions. Drinking, drugging, etc.

    Sasha and Malia are innocent CHILDREN!!! Huge difference.

    June 25, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  17. Steveo

    Wake up People!

    When the Bush girls were attacked, they were attacked for their actions. Drinking, drugging, etc.

    Sasha and Malia are innocent CHILDREN!!! Huge difference.
    -------
    True but you only answered ONE of my points!
    Besides you REALLY know how he got into the University? I don't! I thought the records were sealed!

    June 25, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  18. Silence DoGood

    @Wake up people

    Actually a quick search of the internet using 5 or 6 brain cells reveals that Obama was not the first to be any of those things you listed.

    You are making things tough on smart liberals trying to pose well thought out arguments. If you just make stuff up, you are like Rush.

    June 25, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. joe

    Obama is not a president –HE IS A WANA BE DICTATOR!!!!

    June 25, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |