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No Christmas Present: Obama still battered by negative polls, media coverage

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Dec. 3, 2013: President Obama pauses as he speaks about the new health care law in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP)

We don’t need another poll to tell us how unpopular President Obama is.

But here’s one anyway.

What’s most striking about the Washington Post/ABC survey is how far the president has fallen in the past year, by all sorts of measures. His 43 percent approval rating isn’t as low as in some recent polls, but some other questions are more telling.

There is a vicious cycle here, from the White House point of view: Obama gets ripped in media coverage, then his decline is certified in media polls, which in turn brings him more negative coverage. In this stock-taking holiday season, we have the constant recap of how little the president has accomplished this year. And the bipartisan budget deal that passed the Senate yesterday with a surprising 67 votes doesn’t count as much of a victory, since its scope is so modest that neither side is terribly excited about it.

But hey, no second government shutdown!

Leave aside the fact that Obama has gotten nowhere on his top priorities, immigration reform and gun control (which he gave another rhetorical push on the one-year anniversary of the Newtown tragedy). Look at the shift in the Post/ABC poll on who can better deal with the economy.

One year ago, it was Obama 54 percent, congressional Republicans 36 percent. Now the GOP has edged ahead of the president, 45 to 41 percent. That is a sea change. Obama still has a 6-point lead on who would better protect the middle class—down from 26 points a year ago.

“He has lost ground on these measures among women, liberals and younger Americans — key members of his winning electoral coalition,” the WP says.

No wonder Post blogger Chris Cillizza declares that Obama has had the Worst Year in Washington.

(Who was second, RGIII?)

ObamaCare, naturally, is casting a dark shadow: “Disapproval of Obama’s handling of the health-care law’s implementation stands at 62 percent, while disapproval of his handling of the economy is at 55 percent.”

If there’s a glimmer of good news for the administration, it’s that opposition to ObamaCare is down to the pre-rollout level of 49 percent — down from almost 60 percent a month ago. So improvements to the website may be changing public perception.

All presidents hit rough patches, especially those who make it to a second term. But after this lost year, with Republicans controlling the House, it’s hard to see how the president buys himself some better headlines.

Yes, he’s done a mini-staff shakeup, bringing in the likes of John Podesta, and signaled that he’ll do more through executive orders.

The administration’s only real hope is that the economy finally starts a strong rebound. That, more than any piece of legislation, could lift the president’s fortunes after a terrible 2013.

In that vein, National Journal’s Ron Fournier says that 44 has stumbled in much the way that 43 did. Drawing on Peter Baker’s book about the Bush presidency, Fournier says:

“Bush and Obama made the same mistake. Both men convinced themselves that they were reelected because of their agendas, rather than because of negative campaign strategies that essentially disqualified their rivals — Democrat John Kerry and Republican Mitt Romney. In fact, many of the issues claimed as presidential mandates in 2005 and 2013 actually received relatively little attention from the candidates and from the media in 2004 and 2012.” 

The bottom line, in his view: “Obama needs to shatter the cycle of dysfunction (his and history's) or risk leaving office like Bush, unpopular and relatively unaccomplished.”

Who Isn't Running in 2016?

Okay, this is getting out of hand. The Los Angeles Times floats the name of a potential presidential candidate who would be 78 in the next election:

"The famously Delphic governor often leaves people guessing about his motivation and intentions, which leaves plenty of leeway ahead of 2016. Absent a clear-cut statement of disinterest from Brown — who sought the White House in 1976, 1980 and 1992 — some see familiar signs of a presidential-candidate-in-waiting."

That would truly be a Moonbeam move. 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz. 

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