The state of American politics is sliding away from President Trump.
He heads into tonight's State of the Union address in historically precarious condition. Just four in 10 Americans approve his handling of the job; nearly six in 10 disapprove and, more than that, tell the Washington Post/ABC News Poll they won't even consider supporting his re-election.
The White House can take comfort in the identity of the one recent predecessor with lower approval before his third-year State of the Union. That was Ronald Reagan, who a year later had recovered so robustly that he won 49 states in his landslide re-election victory.
But profound differences in their circumstances make it exceedingly improbable Trump can engineer a comparable turnaround – despite surface similarities to an earlier Republican president who faced a Democratic House while holding a Senate GOP majority.
Most Americans liked Reagan personally even when they disliked his presidential decisions. When his job approval slipped below 40 percent during the 1982 recession, the Gallup Poll showed, 60 percent still held a favorable personal view.
By contrast, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Trump's personal favorability has never reached even 50 percent. Neither has Trump's job approval, despite a robust job market and solid economic growth.
The economic trajectory of Trump's early presidency also diverges sharply from Reagan's. The 1982 recession brought Reagan's popularity down, and helped Democrats gain 26 House seats.
Then the 1983 recovery lifted it back up. When the Gipper addressed Congress in his third year, the economy was beginning its "Morning in America" run of six consecutive quarters of 5 percent-plus growth and six more of 3 percent-plus after that.
Today, the economy has already begun slowing as Trump moves toward his re-election year. In 2018, Democrats gained 40 seats and control of the chamber despite second-quarter growth of 4.2 percent and 3.4 percent third quarter growth.