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Obama’s Approval Ratings Rise, Campaign to Reform as Advocacy Group

President Obama; photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

President Obama arrives for a news conference at the White House last week. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

The Morning Line

President Obama will begin the final weekend of his first term with support among Americans at its highest levels since he took office in 2009, but voters have high expectations for what he can deliver in a second.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that Mr. Obama “faces a far more skeptical and frustrated public today than he did four years ago,” and that while 33 percent say he will be a successful commander in chief over the long haul, 26 percent say he will be unsuccessful. Most surveyed do not see a future of bipartisan cooperation in Washington.

Mr. Obama has a 52 percent job approval rating in the poll, conducted of 1,502 adults Jan. 9 through last Sunday.

Pew found Mr. Obama with personal favorability ratings of 59 percent and higher percentages of people viewing him as a “strong leader, able to get things done and as someone who stands up for his beliefs.”

Pew found that while Mr. Obama’s personal image remains strong, his job approval “is not high compared with other two-term presidents since World War II.”

Among presidents dating back to Harry S. Truman, only George W. Bush began his second term with a rating about as low as Obama’s (50% approval in January 2005). To a degree, this reflects the partisan polarization in opinions about both Obama and Bush; Obama’s current rating among Republicans (14% approve) is about the same as Bush’s among Democrats eight years ago (17%).

The poll ahead of the inauguration dropped as word came that the Obama campaign apparatus will live on in a new form.

The Los Angeles Times’ Matea Gold reports that some details will become public Friday, before the official relaunch on Sunday. “Run by former Obama campaign officials, the advocacy group will seek to leverage the campaign’s sophisticated organizing tools and rich voter database to support the president’s policy objectives, including raising the debt ceiling, gun control and immigration reform,” Gold writes.

Former campaign manager Jim Messina will be the national chair, Politico reports. Here’s more:

As a 501(c)4 group, the new Obama organization will be separate and different from Priorities USA, the Obama-backing super PAC that could accept unlimited financial contributions in support of his re-election campaign. Despite high-profile backing from top Obama aides and allies including former President Bill Clinton, Priorities foundered compared to groups backing GOP rival Mitt Romney.

Priorities officials did not respond to request for comments about the group’s future.

But unlike a super PAC, the new nonprofit will be able to accept anonymous contributions. The nonprofit could voluntarily choose to release the names of donors — but such disclosure is not mandated by the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Election Commission. There are no contribution caps on what donors are allowed to give to 501(c)4 groups.

Organizing for America had a similar intent and had mixed reviews over the duration of Mr. Obama’s first term. Of course, it was more of a campaign shop in waiting.

House Republicans are gathering at a posh resort in Virginia to chart their own way forward. During the few days of self-reflection, the GOP discussed doing more outreach to minorities.

The Pew poll found that politically, Mr. Obama has an advantage over Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. The GOP has fallen to 33 percent favorability, the lowest point in the last two decades of Pew surveys.

The NewsHour will have robust coverage of this weekend’s events and Monday’s inaugural ceremony, both on air and online. Tune in Friday night for our first report on the preparations and analysis from Mark Shields and David Brooks.


  • Budget chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters covering the GOP retreat that House Republicans “are discussing a short-term debt ceiling increase to buy time for broader deficit reduction negotiations with Democrats.”

  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., hires Jamie Fly from conservative think tank Foreign Policy Initiative to advise him on foreign and national security issues.

  • This Washington Post blog post looks at how Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., will fill the personnel rolls when he steps in to lead the State Department.

  • Politico talks with Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett about the role of women in the administration.

  • Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur details the history of the Senate filibuster.

  • Veterans of former President John F. Kennedy’s administration had a reunion, and the Boston Globe was there.

  • Roll Call’s Eliza Newlin Carney details what Mr. Obama may do with leftover money from inauguration fundraising.

  • The celebrities are coming to Washington.

  • Craigslist and eBay have agreed to work with congressional inauguration planners to stop the sale of tickets for the event. Tickets that were meant to be free to the public have been posted on these websites for thousands of dollars, according to the joint congressional committee overseeing the ceremony. Its chair, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had pushed for the crackdown.

  • Here’s a Marketwatch outline on how you too can spend $500,000 on inaugural festivities.

  • Heading to the Mall on Inauguration Day? Here’s the most helpful guide we’ve found on how to get there and what to expect, via the District of Columbia website.

  • Four years in the White House can change a man. The Washington Post takes a look at how presidents age while in office.

  • NBC’s Carrie Dann writes that voters should get ready for non-stop politicking until 2016, and possibly until the end of time.

  • Mr. Obama frequently quotes former President Ronald Reagan.

  • Schumer made an apple pie on video. We’re not even kidding. Thanks, Heard on the Hill!

  • First lady Michelle Obama now has bangs! Here’s the picture.

  • On Feb. 18, C-Span will showcase first ladies.

  • What do Mr. Obama and former President Millard Fillmore have in common? Friday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA explores presidential veto power.


  • Christina gets all Guy Fieri in a video tour of Washington, D.C., for inaugural visitors.

  • NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs collected video responses from high schoolers on the gun debate and how to prevent future gun violence.

  • Economics correspondent Paul Solman asks you to weigh in on the standard of living if you live outside the United States.

  • Correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke with two mental health practitioners on Mr. Obama’s proposals to address mental illness as it relates to gun violence.

  • Once again, we share this excellent NewsHour video on words that presidents have coined in major speeches.

  • Make sure to check the NewsHour’s daily ticktock and guide to the inauguration.


Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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