Why Obama Might Be Trump’s Biggest Challenge

From FiveThirtyEight:

In this week’s politics chat, we talk about President Obama and his role in the 2016 election. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

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micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): This chat comes to you live from the lobby of the Aloft Philadelphia Airport hotel. Today’s topic: President Obama, who speaks to all the assembled delegates and media at the Democratic National Convention tonight. Two main questions for your consideration today: 1. Obama’s approval rating has been rising — why? 2. What effect will Obama have on the race? (And what effect do incumbent presidents have on open races generally?)

Let’s start with Obama’s increasing popularity. This chart from RealClearPolitics shows Obama’s approval (black) and disapproval (red) ratings:

What are the prevailing theories as to why Obama’s approval rating is up? (Also, side note: Harry is traveling while we do this chat so will only be participating sporadically.)

harry (Harry Enten, senior political writer): The main theory: Voters dislike Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, so Obama looks better by comparison.

clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): Yeah, the specter of both Trump and Clinton — people are realizing how good they have it. Harry and I are on same page.

natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): How confident are we about that theory? I mean, it’s intuitively compelling. But maybe Obama’s approval rating is ticking up for other reasons? The economy isn’t bad? He seems to pivot reasonably well off a GOP Congress? People are feeling sentimental since his term is about to end?

I will acknowledge that the shifts line up reasonably well with when it became clear that Trump and Clinton would become their respective party’s nominees.

micah: Do presidents’ …

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