Two numbers that have come out since last Friday are depressing the chances for action on federal education policy. Everyone now knows that employment ticked upward to 9.2 percent, but few have noticed that Obama’s Real Clear Politics (RCP) job approval rating, positive for most of 2011, turned negative early Sunday morning: 46.8 now disapprove of the job the president is doing, while 46.3 give him their approval. That’s a negative 0.5 percent. It’s a tiny, statistically insignificant difference, but from a presidential perspective it’s trending in a bad direction.
The RCP approval rating sums up all the polls out there, averaging out the idiosyncrasies and biases of each. It seldom changes by more than a point or two in any given day, and often it does not shift at all. With more than a year until election day, it’s the best forecasting number available, much better than the misleading mock races against hypothetical opponents that get so much press attention. History shows that presidents cannot win re-election if their popularity rating falls well below the 50 percent mark.