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SACRAMENTO BEE | September 2, 2014

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have fallen to a record low in California, with nearly as many voters now disapproving of the job Obama is doing as approving.

Only 45 percent of California voters hold a favorable view of Obama’s job performance, according to a new Field Poll released today, down 5 percentage points from June and dropping below 50 percent for the first time since late 2011. Disapproval climbed to 43 percent.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, said the trend is ominous for Obama, because the latest declines come from his base.

Support among California Democrats dropped 8 percentage points to 68 percent over the last three months. Approval was down 11 points in Los Angeles County and 7 points in the Bay Area, usually liberal strongholds.

“These are constituencies that have been strong followers,” DiCamillo said. But there’s “frustration in the president not getting his way in affecting policy in Washington.”

Obama’s approval ratings have dropped steadily across the country since his second term began, though they have remained stronger in California than in most states. As high as 62 percent following his 2013 inauguration, support for Obama in California has hovered over 50 percent for the past year.

While it is typical for presidential approval ratings to suffer from “the accumulation of problems that a leader faces over time,” DiCamillo said, Obama has not experienced “any kind of rallying event that could rebound public support behind this president.”

And without major progress on issues important to liberals, such as immigration reform, even Obama’s Democratic base is starting to wilt. “There’s very little, besides the health reform law, that he can actually hang his hat on,” DiCamillo added.

That has been a source of frustration for James Gay, 53, a liberal Democrat from Folsom who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“I liked the man from the beginning, but then as it went on, he kind of changed face,” Gay said. “It’s like he tried to please too many people in too many places and didn’t stick to his vision.”

Gay’s view of Obama’s job performance has turned unfavorable in recent months, particularly following revelations of enormous patient backlogs at veterans hospitals across the country. Gay’s father, uncle and brother are all veterans.

Gay said Obama hasn’t taken strong leadership on problems that have arisen during his presidency, such as the surge of young Latin Americans crossing the border illegally this year.

“You need to be more of a commander in chief. You need to be seen. You need to be heard,” Gay said. “He seems like he’s always on vacation.”

That could hurt California Democrats in the November election.

“The opinions of likely voters in November are even more negative” than in the state as a whole, DiCamillo said, and dissatisfaction with Obama might affect Democrats in down-ticket races.

The national Republican Party is targeting several vulnerable congressional seats in the state as it seeks to increase its majority in the House of Representatives, including that of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. The California Democratic Party is trying to rebuild its two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature after three of its senators were suspended in March.

Gay is still planning to vote, but his general unhappiness with Obama, partisan bickering in Congress and corruption in Sacramento has him reconsidering whom he will support, and whether he will even continue to vote in the future.

“It might be my last time that I do,” he said. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth as a voter.”