WASHINGTON - It's as certain as death and taxes. Presidents have periods of popularity and then periods of not so much.

Barack Obama, his honeymoon with the U.S. public seemingly on the wane, is going through the summer doldrums.

His effort to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system is drawing mixed reviews, so too his handling of the U.S. economy. His overall job approval has declined to 53 percent.

What's a president to do?

For now, patience is required. Analysts say an uptick in the U.S. economy would help him enormously. So would a legislative victory on healthcare. Both will take time.

They need to give people some sense of success, said Andrew Kohut, head of the Pew Research Center. If the economy begins to improve, that will help enormously.

Kohut's Pew poll was among a raft of surveys in recent days that showed some displeasure with Obama. The overall picture?

Nothing to push the panic button about but they obviously have to be concerned when the numbers make the consistent downward spiral that you see in these polls, Kohut said.

Obama's team, battle-hardened from the twists and turns of last year's presidential campaign, is taking the news in stride, reflecting the boss's no-drama style.

The president isn't fixated on the ups and downs of polling, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, one of the president's closest confidants. If we were, we would've quit two years ago this summer from ever running for president.

Obama told Time magazine that part of the reason Americans are expressing skepticism with the healthcare effort is that the news media have gotten bored with the details and slipped into a very conventional debate about government-run health care versus the free market.

And I will say that this has been the most difficult test for me so far in public life, trying to describe in clear, simple terms how important it is that we reform this system, Obama said.


Presidential scholar Stephen Hess, a professor at George Washington University, said it appears that Obama will eventually get a healthcare deal since his fellow Democrats control the U.S. Congress but compromises will make it less than what he wants.

It's simply how much it costs and what it includes, Hess said. These are both negotiable points. So it'll happen and at that point we'll assess and he'll probably get credit for it.

It won't be what he started out with. It can't, it's not our system. So a little patience is needed.
Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf said a healthcare deal is critical to Democrats in next year's mid-term elections. The party in power typically loses congressional seats in U.S. mid-term elections, and Obama wants either to reverse that trend or to limit the losses.

I don't think they panic at all, he said of the Obama White House. One of the great positives of the campaign is they were incredibly disciplined. They had a plan and they followed the plan and they didn't get distracted.

The economy has caused trouble for many presidents.

By the end of his first year in office in 1981, Ronald Reagan saw his approval ratings drop below 50 percent as unemployment increased. George W. Bush left office in January under the cloud of a financial crisis that almost buckled the economy.

The economy has a lot to do with how people see presidents right now, said Thomas Alan Schwartz, a presidential historian at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. If Obama gets some better news on the economy by the end of the year, I think that would help him.

Aware that Americans are hurting, Obama appeared in public on Friday to welcome the news that gross domestic product shrank by only 1 percent in the second quarter, and said it was evidence that his $787 billion economic stimulus plan is working.

Doug Schoen, who worked in the Clinton White House, said Obama needs an economic revival in order to restore job growth and fulfill the promise of change that his campaign embodied.

You can't govern on hope when people are hurting in a recession, he said. There's got to be an accomplishment. If we're not getting any jobs and we're losing jobs, he has to have something to point to. Right now he doesn't have anything to point to.

(Editing by Will Dunham)