On Friday night's Anderson Cooper 360, the CNN anchor tried hard to spin bad polling news for Obama. "In the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll, 48 percent, less than half, said they approve of President Obama's performance, while 50 percent disapprove. The question is, how significant is this shift? Some folks will say, 'Look, it's just one poll.'"
But any White House would shudder at the tumble. CNN's poll on November 13-15 was 55-42 approve, and just three weeks later, it's 48 to 50. On Friday, NBC's Chuck Todd observed on Twitter, "CNN's poll had consistently shown the president with a slightly higher approval rating than either the Gallup, Pew or NBC/WSJ surveys."
Cooper brought in analyst David Gergen to explore whether this kind of tumble has been a historic problem for presidents. They puzzled over the biggest collapse, among non-college educated whites, guessing that's about the economy, not war.
COOPER: So it's not so much about Afghanistan, which was obviously a big story this week, and liberal Democrat dissatisfaction with him sending in more troops. It's really about money, the bad situation a lot of folks are still in?
GERGEN: Absolutely, Anderson. This poll was taken in the two nights right after the Tuesday night speech. And actually, on Afghanistan, the president got about 60 percent saying they approved of his plan. And that -- but it didn't stop his overall slide.
What I think is also important there, Anderson, is CNN and its own release on this said. There were two other presidents who were below 50 percent in their first year. One was Bill Clinton, and the other was Ronald Reagan.
COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that.
COOPER: Sorry, because you -- you worked in White Houses for President Clinton, but you also worked for Republican presidents. When you're sitting in the White House, and you get these poll numbers, and you see this 7 percent drop in a month, what do you do? How big a deal is this?
GERGEN: Well, you certainly celebrate the small blip in the right direction for unemployment numbers today, from 10.2 to 10. You also work with the Democrats to try to -- on the Hill to try to push a jobs stimulus program. That's why he had a jobs summit.
You know, frankly, I think that the White House had that jobs summit Thursday and his trip to Allentown on jobs today to come right up against that unemployment number that was coming out today. They were really worried that it was going to go a lot higher. So they got good news with that.
But you also have to hold steady. And I know President Obama believes this, that President Reagan went through a rough couple of years in the beginning on his presidency with the economy. But then the economy came back.
And the bad news for President Reagan, as for Bill Clinton when they went down, was that their party lost a substantial number of seats in the next off-year elections just a year later. But both presidents came back to win pretty sturdy re-election victories. So if you're sitting in the White House, you just have to hope that history repeats itself. But you'd like to sort of nudge it along if you can.