As one of us wrote earlier this week, frantic projections of President Barack Obama’s vulnerability don't quite give enough weight to some key poll numbers. While the president is still upside-down with swing voters, whites, and independents, his approval ratings remain strong among his core Democratic constituencies: young voters, blacks, liberal Democrats, and women.
This afternoon, the president is huddling with another leader who earned the ire of the liberal wing of the Democratic party and found himself the target of primary-challenge speculation: Bill Clinton.
So, we dusted off the record books and took a look at how some of the same core groups viewed Clinton in the months after the mid-90s midterm shellacking of the Democratic Party.
According to a NBC/WSJ poll taken in December 1994, Clinton enjoyed slightly better approval ratings overall than Obama does now, with 48 percent approving and 44 disapproving. (Obama is currently 47-47, according to the most recent NBC/WSJ survey.)
Obama’s rating with liberals, at least as of the latest pre-tax-cut-kerfuffle poll in November -- is even higher than Clinton’s; the former president won a thumbs up from 70 percent of liberals, while Obama gets a positive rating from 79 percent.
Obama’s approval among black voters is slightly higher than Clinton’s was as well. Ninety percent of blacks approve of how the nation’s first African American commander-in-chief is doing his job, while 81 percent approved of the man tongue-in-cheekily referred to as “the first black president" in '94.
Clinton clocked in with a net positive of 10 points among young voters; Obama is at +7. The two leaders also shared similar levels of enthusiasm among self-described Democrats.
While the data shows that both Clinton and Obama retained strong support from the Democratic base after their party ended up on the wrong side of a wave election, Clinton’s relative resilience with independents and whites makes Obama’s deficit with those groups seem striking.
Even after the 1994 Republican Revolution, Clinton kept a slight advantage among independent voters, with 44 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving. But last month, Obama was 10 points upside-down with indies, 41-51.
Among whites, Clinton’s approval was slightly underwater in 1994, 44 percent to 47 percent.
That number for Obama now? Minus 17 points.