Washington (CNN) - As President Barack Obama hit the road Thursday and Friday for a campaign-esque bus tour, the Republican National Committee fired off an email to reporters titled "Lame Speech, Lame Duck."
While it's the RNC's job, as the party committee of the party not controlling the White House, to criticize the president, it's true that Obama's poll numbers are nothing to brag about. But it's also a fact that the president's standing in public opinion still soars above that of Congress and the Republican Party.
President Barack Obama sits down with “New Day” Anchor Chris Cuomo to discuss his plans to lower college costs, as well as the major international and domestic stories affecting American security and life.
The best measure of a president, and his clout, is his approval rating in public opinion polls.
Americans are split on the job Obama's doing according to the latest daily tracking poll conducted by Gallup, with 46% of the public saying they approve of the president's performance and an equal amount giving him a thumbs down. The survey was conducted August 18-20.
The president stands at 47%-49% approval/disapproval in an American Research Group survey conducted August 17-20.
President Obama approval rating's been in the mid-40's to upper-40's in most national polling since March. His numbers were slightly higher (upper 40's to low 50's) at the very end of last year and at the beginning of this year, most likely due to his re-election victory and to his second inauguration.
"A president's approval rating often is determined by economic conditions, and most Americans still give the economy a negative rating," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
But compared to Congress, the president's approval appears lofty. Just 14% of the public gave federal lawmakers a thumbs up on the job they're doing, according to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month, with just over eight in ten saying they disapprove. The 14% approval is near all-time lows for Congress.
And the favorable rating for the Republican party stood between 35% and 40% in Gallup, Pew Research Center, and CNN/ORC International surveys conducted in late May and June. By comparison, the favorable rating for the Democratic Party ranged from 46% to 52% in those same three polls.
During his two-day bus tour through parts of New York and Pennsylvania, the president is expected to highlight proposals aimed at curbing the rising costs higher education. In a statement provided to CNN on Thursday morning, the White House outlined some details of the proposed changes, which include tying "financial aid to college value" based on a new ranking system to be carried out by the Department of Education.
Americans appear divided on the job Obama's doing when it comes to education. Forty-nine percent of those questioned in the Gallup poll from earlier in August said they approved of his performance on the issue of education, with 45% saying they disapprove. The numbers were little changed over the past year.
On the broader issue of the economy, that same survey indicated that only 35% approved of the president's performance, down seven points from June. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in late July put Obama's approval rating on the economy at 42%.
The Gallup poll also suggests a drop in approval among one of the president's biggest group of supporters, younger Americans. While 53% of those aged 18-29 still approve of the job Obama's doing in the White House, the approval among younger Americans is down seven points since May.
So how does Obama stack up with previous presidents in the late summer of the first year of their second terms?
"Most two-term presidents in the 20th century had good approval ratings in the August following their second inauguration. The exception was Richard Nixon, who was mired in Watergate and a poor economy. Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all had approval ratings in the 60s eight months into their second terms, as did Lyndon Johnson in August of 1965," adds Holland. "But George W. Bush's approval rating was only 45% in August of 2005 - and that was before Hurricane Katrina drove his ratings even lower by mid-September."