Tonight’s State of the Union sets the tone for an uphill fight

The Republican presidential candidates went at each other again last night and on Thursday they will be back for another panel discussion ahead of the Florida primary next Tuesday.

Scarcely a night without Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul … so it will be nice, and very interesting, to hear President Barack Obama tonight in his third State of the Union — an important, perhaps decisive, speech that will set the tone for the November elections.

How is Obama doing so far? Not so well, according to Gallup. His job approval for his third year in office is only 44 per cent, which is lower than that of all presidents since Dwight Eisenhower, with the exception of Jimmy Carter’s 37 percent – and Carter failed to get re-elected 1980.

However, Obama’s 44 percent in 2011 equals Ronald Reagan’s in 1983, and Reagan managed to get re-elected the following year, a fact that can give Obama some encouragement.

The support for Obama has steadily declined during his three years as president, from 57 percent his first year to 47 percent his second and now 44 percent. But Gallup also notes that support for him grew during the last quarter of 2011 and that the coming quarter will be critical for Obama.

All presidents re-elected since Eisenhower had over 50 percent in job approval in their respective election year’s first quarter. The three presidents, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush, who failed to be re-elected, all had job approval rates below 50 percent.

This raises the stakes for tonight’s State of the Union.

Gallup’s numbers are fascinating, but if you want to read something beyond the numbers about Obama’s three years as president, I suggest the conservative Obama sympathizer Andrew Sullivan’s recent article in Newsweek, “Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics.” It is brilliant. Enjoy!

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