Barack Obama did it in 2012. So did George W. Bush in 2004.

Both presidents improved their approval ratings during the course of their reelection campaigns  In fact, the boost in approval that Bush and Obama received provided the cushion they needed to win a close reelection battle.

Can Donald Trump do the same? Can he improve his approval rating between now and Election Day and defeat Joe Biden?

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An examination of Obama and Bush’s poll numbers indicates the answer could well be yes. If the last two presidents who ran for reelection were able to improve their standing with voters during the campaign, then Trump can too.

Yet, the conditions that allowed Trump’s two predecessors to improve their standing with voters may not hold this year. As a result, the president may not be able to improve his standing enough to win this November.

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The Real Clear Politics average shows that Obama spent most of 2012 with nearly equal shares of voters who approved of the job that he was doing as president and those who disapproved. But starting on Sept. 8, Obama’s approval rating outpaced his disapproval rating. And it stayed that way, with Obama over 49 percent approval for nearly every day of the rest of the campaign.

In 2004, approval ratings for George W. Bush declined throughout the first half of the year and then plateaued in the summer. But on Aug. 14, Bush’s approval rating moved ahead of his disapproval rating, where it stayed for the rest of the campaign. Like Obama, Bush’s approval rating stayed above 49 percent for nearly every day of the rest of the campaign, and Bush had a higher peak (52.9 percent in early September).

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