[Ed. – Spoiler alert: None of the reasons is that he stinks as President or that he’s an arrogant SOB.]
Why can’t he gain more traction with the electorate? There are six factors:
1. Second-term blues: Part of the problem has nothing to do with Obama but rather the ongoing challenge that second-term presidents face. The fact is that winning re-election does not often produce great feelings among voters.
After the initial bounce from the re-election victory, most second-term presidents find themselves in trouble with the electorate and Congress. As is usually the case, the opposition party has a stronger foothold in Congress by this time. By the middle of a second term, the public grows tired of a president, and his record provides more fodder for American voters to be unhappy about. Over the course of a presidency, our nation’s leader inevitably makes big compromises, as Obama has done with the National Security Agency and deportation, that anger the base of his party.
2. Polarized electorate: The challenge that Obama faces is also a product of our deeply polarized electorate. With more voters having settled in the Republican or Democratic camp, winning long-term support from a majority of the country is harder to achieve.
Elections have been extremely close in recent decades, with one candidate winning based on a small handful of swing states. There are no more 1936 or 1964 or 1984 elections, where the winning candidate wins by a massive landslide. Instead, presidents are re-elected by narrower margins with huge swaths of the electorate entrenched in their opposition to the incumbent. That opposition only grows fiercer as the second term unfolds and the excitement of the election fades.