Obama's Plunging Approval Threatens Fall Agenda

Syria, other crises have sapped Obama's political capital.


Just 44 percent of Americans approve of President Barack Obama's performance, while 51 percent disapprove.

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Benghazi. The Internal Revenue Service's targeting of tea party groups. The stagnant economy. Syria.

A raft of issues have contributed to President Barack Obama's falling approval numbers, which have now dipped well below 50 percent in the year since he won re-election. According to an average by RealClearPolitics.com, just 44 percent of the public approves of his performance, while 51 percent disapprove.

[POLL: Americans Unhappy With Obama]

But for a president free from facing the voters again, his main concern is whether or not he can rebound to a position that helps Democrats going into the 2014 midterm elections and allows him to effectively push for his policy goals throughout the remainder of his presidency.

"His wavering approval rating is not good news for having leverage for dealing with Congress," says Kay Lehman Schlozman, a political science professor at Boston College. "On the other hand, it's not the kind of disaster zone approval rating that, for example, George W. Bush had at the end of his second term."

The Syria issue has been hoarding the most public attention of late, something particularly troublesome for Obama.

"As a student of public opinion, I've been impressed to the extent to which there's been less support for this kind of foreign policy move than many, many in the past," says Schlozman. "And that means the American people are paying some attention. It's just not as clear that American interests are at stake."

Recent polling shows just about one-third of Americans favor Obama's proposal of limited military strikes in response to reported chemical weapons use by Syrian President Bashar Assad, which killed more than 1,400 Syrians, including 400 children.

Whit Ayers, a Republican pollster, says the administration's seeming lack of decisiveness and leadership with regard to Syria has deeply damaged Obama's reputation with the public.

[READ: Obama Could into Syria Unilaterally, Senator Says]

"It's downright embarrassing and anytime the administration acts in a way that embarrasses the country in front of the world, it's not helpful for the president's job approval," he said.

But there's still time for Obama to turn things around, Ayers said.

"Performance and events can turn things around, but it's got to be performance and events unlike those we have seen in recent months," he said.

This fall, Obama and Congress are scheduled for showdowns on federal spending, the debt ceiling, Senate approval of a new Federal Reserve chairman, among other weighty issues like immigration reform. His chances for notching wins depends on how quickly he can right the ship, the experts said.

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