Poll contains good news and bad news for Democrats [With Comment on Hillary By John]

According to a new Fox News poll, President Obama’s approval rating has slipped to 38 percent. In January and February, his approval rating was 42 percent in Fox’s polling. He has never before been below 40 percent in this survey. 54 percent disapprove of the president’s performance.

A 59-percent majority thinks the Obama administration has mostly failed at creating jobs, up from 52 percent in October 2012. 56 percent believe it has failed on growing the economy, also up from 52 percent. 36 percent say the administration has improved health care, while 57 percent think it has failed to do so.

Remember when the conventional fallback position on Obama was that at least he is successful in foreign policy? The current Fox News poll finds just 33 percent approving of the job the president is doing on international issues. That’s down 6 points since the end of last year.

So what’s the good news for Democrats, other than the fact that Obama isn’t running again? It is this: Hillary Clinton is trouncing various GOP rivals in Fox’s polling. She holds double digit leads over Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush in a hypothetical 2016 presidential race. And 50 percent say Clinton would make a good president. Rand Paul and Joe Biden are tied for second place with 28 percent.

There’s an obvious disconnect between how America views Obama and how it views Clinton. In terms of policy, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two. Obamacare might just as easily have been Hillarycare. Not only is it similar to what Clinton pushed in 1993, but Clinton, not Obama, advocated the individual mandate during the 2008 campaign.

As for foreign policy, Clinton managed it during most of Obama’s presidency to date. And her fingerprints are all over Obama’s disastrous Russia policy — literally. She was the one who pushed the prop “reset” button during the single most absurd moment in the recent history of international relations.

But maybe Clinton is perceived as a better leader than Obama. Maybe. But don’t tell that to Gregory Hicks or others on the ground in Libya in September 2011. It was Clinton who denied repeated requests to beef up security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi.

This record suggests, I hope, that Clinton is more vulnerable than the polling at this stage indicates, provided that Republicans nominate a credible candidate who can articulate the ways in which Clinton and Obama are joined at the hip. Indeed, the fact that 50 percent now say Clinton would make a good president isn’t too daunting. Given her decades-long high visibility and prominent role in the Obama administration, that’s almost like an approval number (so too with Biden’s 28 percent number, which I find sweet) and not a fabulous one.

Not so, at least not in a meaningful sense, for much lower-profile Republicans to whom the public has yet to be introduced in the context of a presidential campaign.

JOHN adds: My habitual optimism has taken a beating in recent years, but here, nevertheless, is an optimistic take: I think Hillary is vastly overrated as a candidate. Granted, she won two Senate elections in New York. But those were more like coronations in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, and she won her first Senate race–amazingly enough–when she was still First Lady. Beyond those races, her appeal as a candidate is untested, except in the 2008 primaries and caucuses, where her performance was underwhelming. Many who consider her nomination (and perhaps election) to be virtually automatic in 2016 have forgotten how Hillary was seen as inevitable in 2008.

Will she be a stronger candidate in 2016 than she was in 2008? I doubt it. 1) She will be eight years older, verging on elderly, with rumors of health problems. 2) Her husband’s administration will be a fading memory for voters, and not a memory at all for voters much under 30. 3) Her 2008 campaign was all about being the first woman president. That was trumped by Barack Obama, the first black president. After eight years of Obama’s failures, I doubt that voters will be in a mood for another symbolic presidency.

Of course, Hillary has universal name recognition, and the press has puffed her from her earliest days in the public eye. (It really is cheating to go from the soft-focus, no-criticism-allowed world of being First Lady to running for office.) So it is no surprise that 50% say she would be a good president. But as Paul says, that number may well be a ceiling on her support, rather than a floor.