"Reagan had one advantage in that he had a clear ideology, so his supporters would vote for him because he represented their values," Pfiffner said. "Obama, on the other hand, despite accusations of being a socialist, etc., is a moderate who has made many compromises that have hurt him with his base."
Obama will ultimately be judged on whether the things he does to help the economy actually work, Kaufman said. He doesn't think they will and predicts that Obama will be a one-term President.
"You're dealt a set of cards that you have to play. But you have to play those cards in relation to the other hands at the table. It's how you play them that matters," said Kaufman, comparing presidential politics to poker.
There is no similarity between what Reagan did to help the ailing economy in the early 1980s versus what Obama did between 2008 and 2010. Reagan cut taxes. Obama spent nearly a trillion dollars to kick start the economy.
They couldn't be more different, but as Democrat Robert Shrum recently argued, both sought to act in their first terms on a grand scale.
"There is no factor that affects presidential popularity so strongly and so consistently as a bad economy, with the possible exception of an unpopular war," said Langer, who said Obama's ratings could easily turn around, but only if the economy improves.
"A bad economy essentially guarantees a president's unpopularity. A good economy does not guarantee a president's popularity, it just makes it possible," he said.