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Obama readies jobs speech amid dismal ratings

President Obama. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

As President Obama gears up to deliver a major jobs speech before Congress on Thursday, a handful of new polls give the president some of his most dismal approval ratings to date - adding renewed pressure for the White House to drive home a message on jobs and the economy that resonates with the American people.

According to two new surveys by ABC News/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal, Mr. Obama's approval ratings are at a record low in his presidency, at just 43 percent and 44 percent respectively. And a POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday night found that just 45 percent of voters approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president.

Moreover, the president has scored particularly low marks across the board when it comes to his leadership on economic issues: 62 percent of those surveyed in the ABC/Washington Post poll said they disapproved of how Mr. Obama was handling the economy; 59 percent of those surveyed in the Politico/GWU battleground poll said the same, and according to the NBC/WSJ poll, approval of his economic stewardship is at a low of 37 percent.

The surveys come on the heels of last week's bleak jobs report, which indicated that no new jobs were added in August and that the unemployment rate remained steady at 9.1 percent.

Meanwhile, Congress returned to Washington this week after its annual August recess - and a recent skirmish between the White House and the House speaker's office over the timing of Mr. Obama's speech seems to suggest that partisan hostility will continue unabated in the coming congressional session.

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All three polls suggest that voters believe strongly America is headed down the wrong road.

According to the POLITICO/GWU poll, 72 percent of voters said the country was either strongly or somewhat on the wrong track - as compared to just 19 percent who felt the country was headed either strongly or somewhat in the right direction. Nineteen percent of those surveyed by NBC/WSJ said they believed America was headed in the right direction, and 20 percent of Americans polled by ABC/Washington Post said the same thing.

And while Mr. Obama generally outranks his congressional Republican counterparts in favorability - who according to the ABC/Washington Post poll have just 28 percent approval among respondents - his lead over GOP presidential candidates has become almost negligible.

The NBC/WSJ poll puts the president just one point ahead of former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, at 46 percent to 45 percent (notably, his lead over Romney has dropped five points since June), and five points in front of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom he led 47 percent to 42 percent. Plus, for the first time in NBC/WSJ's polling of the president, voters responded more positively to a theoretical Republican candidate than to Mr. Obama: 44 percent of respondents said they would likely vote for a generic GOP candidate for president in 2012, as opposed to just 40 percent who said they would likely vote for Mr. Obama.

"Obama is no longer the favorite to win re-election," Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the NBC/WSJ poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, proclaimed.

Nevertheless, both the NBC/WSJ polls and the Politico/GWU poll suggest that no matter the public's view of Mr. Obama's job performance, the vast majority still like him "as a person." According to Politico/GWU findings, 74 percent of respondents approved of him strongly or very strongly as a person, as opposed to just 18 percent who said the opposite. The NBC/WSJ poll finds that a combined 70 percent of voters still find him likeable.

Either way, the surveys show that Mr. Obama has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to regain the support that helped him win the presidency in 2008. According to the ABC/Washington Post poll, the president earns only 47 percent support among voters between the ages of 18 and 29 - a demographic that proved crucial for the president in 2008.

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