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July 14, 2014

LYONS: Why President Obama makes the GOP panic

If you pay too much attention to opinion polls, as most people do, doubtless you’ve heard that a plurality of voters has judged Barack Obama the worst president since World War II. Thirty-three percent, to be precise, which as it conflates almost exactly with the number of hard-core Republicans, merely tells you something you already knew: GOP partisans dislike Obama with irrational zeal.

In short, the Quinnipiac University survey reveals more about them than about Obama. But hold that thought.

A presidential poll whose results might be worth heeding would measure the opinions only of people who could actually name the 12 U.S. presidents since 1945. I’m guessing that’d be maybe 10 percent of the electorate, tops.

Anyway, to put the bad news about Obama in perspective, back in 2006 when George W. Bush was in his sixth year in office — typically the nadir of a two-term president’s popularity — the same Quinnipiac poll found that 34 percent of Americans judged him the worst since 1945.

Even the sainted Ronald Reagan’s job approval numbers took a sharp drop during his sixth year due to the Iran-Contra scandal — selling missiles to Iran to finance right-wing terrorists in Nicaragua.

This year, however, a reported 35 percent in the Quinnipiac survey judged Reagan the best president since World War II. Apparently all is forgiven, forgotten, or — equally likely — never known.

Bill Clinton came in second at 18 percent; JFK third with 15 percent. Democrats, see, split their “best president” choices pretty evenly among Clinton, JFK and Obama. Meanwhile, 66 percent Republicans chose Reagan, a sharp rebuke to ex-presidents named Bush.

Indeed, some 28 percent in the 2014 survey still think that Dubya established a new low in presidential ineptitude. More significant, exactly 1 percent called Bush the best. One percent!

Even Nixon, who resigned the presidency ahead of impeachment, got 1 percent. Gerald Ford, who pardoned him, got 1 percent.

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