(Photo and story from https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/obama-standing-ovation-toronto)
Barack Obama was not the most popular president the country has seen. His overall average approval was 48%, hitting lows at 40% couple of times in his first and second terms. He came into office with a 67% approval and never quite hit that level again, coming closest in the final polling of his presidency when he reached 59% (these numbers are from the Gallup presidential approval center, other numbers may vary slightly). A notable difference between our current and former presidents is their willingness to go into mixed crowds.
This came to mind this morning as I read a report about Obama going to game 2 of the NBA finals, where he received a standing ovation. This isn’t particularly surprising. Presidents tend to have higher approval ratings after they leave office than they had while in office, and while Obama’s post-presidency approval is strong, it’s not the best out there.
But what got me thinking was the contrast between Obama’s public presence and Trump’s while in office. Trump seems to really enjoy his political rallies. I can’t blame him. Thousands of people come to see him and fawn all over him. They laugh at all his jokes, they cheer at every applause break, they are clearly in love with him. But what Trump tends to avoid are places where he might not be as universally praised. Take for example the ceremonial first pitch in Major League Baseball. Every president since Howard Taft has done this. Some did a good job, some made it a bit easier for themselves. George H.W. Bush became the first to throw a real pitch from the mound (Reagan was the first to throw from the mound, but he tossed the ball, rather than throwing an actual pitch). Obama threw out a couple: first at the All-Star game in the first year of his presidency, and another at the 2010 season opener in DC. Neither pitch was good, and his reception as he took the field was a mix of cheers and boos, but he did it.
Trump has not thrown out a pitch. At least not yet. I suspect his ego is too thin for something like that. A man who cheats at golf like he does wouldn’t risk looking like he can’t throw a pitch. Perhaps he’ll prove me wrong and he’ll get out there before the end of his presidency…perhaps.