Slate, please define "pretty steady"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

The media coverage of this week's big Obama polls continues to be rather annoying, as the press has decided to focus exclusively on the idea that Obama's policies are slightly less popular that Obama the person. This presidential phenomenon has been true in presidential politics for, oh I don't know, ever. But the Beltway press corps has unanimously decided it's a very big deal and that political danger awaits Obama. (Can't you feel the drama. Dick Morris can.)

And in order to pump up the drama of Obama losing his touch with Americans, the press has to pretend his current job approval ratings are just okay, and to certainly not emphasize that he's actually an historically popular figure for first-term president.

Cue John Dickerson at Slate who dutifully typed up a piece about how Obama's policies are not as popular as Obama the man. (Where did Dickerson ever uncover that novel angle?):

[Obama] remains personally popular, and his approval rating is pretty steady and better than it was for the last two presidents at this stage in their tenure.

That was Dickerson's stab at context, as he emphasized the larger and more pressing point that trouble may be looming for Obama. The context was that Obama's approval rating remained "pretty steady" and that he had a higher rating than his two predecessors, as he linked to Gallup numbers to buttress his claim.

The truth? Obama, at this stage, remains one of the most popular first-term presidents in the last 30 years. Obama remains more popular than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush was. Only Reagan polled better at this point in his presidency, and that was right after he survived an assassination attempt, which prompted a wave of public sympathy.

But please ignore all that historical context, the press corps is sure that deep trouble awaits Obama.

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