- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If the fate of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid rests in President Obama’s approval ratings, then her path to the White House looks to be paved with gold.

The Gallup daily poll of Mr. Obama’s job approval ticked up to the the highest point its been since January 2013 — at 53 percent — this week, four points higher than Ronald Reagan’s at this period of time in 1988.

History has proven, if the sitting president remains popular, it makes it that much harder for the opposing party’s candidate to win an open-seat election. Whereas, if Mr. Obama’s approval ratings were to dip below 50 percent, presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump would have an easier time defeating Mrs. Clinton.

According to an analysis by the University of Virginia Center of Politics, since World War II, all three presidential candidates seeking to succeed presidents of the same party with approval ratings below 50 percent were defeated, and the two seeking to succeed presidents with approval ratings below 40 percent were decisively defeated.

So if Mr. Obama’s popularity were to bottom out, Mrs. Clinton would have that much more difficulty defeating Mr. Trump, no matter his personality or baggage. The bad news is Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have never dipped below 40 percent, but they have hovered around that mark as recently as November 2014.

In contrast, according to the U.Va. study, two of the three candidates seeking to succeed presidents of the same party with approval ratings above 50 percent won the popular vote, although one of those candidates, Al Gore in 2000, ended up losing the electoral vote.

“While the outcome of the 2016 presidential election will depend on the popularity of the Democratic and Republican candidates and the quality of their campaigns, evidence from recent open seat elections indicates that the public’s evaluation of Obama’s performance will also have a substantial influence on the results,” according to the study. “From that standpoint, the president’s rising approval rating in recent polls is good news for Hillary Clinton or whomever the Democratic Party eventually chooses as its nominee.”

What’s unknown is the percentage of those polled who are happy with Mr. Obama’s performance that will actually show up and vote in November, and if Mr. Obama can maintain his high marks.

Mrs. Clinton’s sure hoping he can.

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