Clinton, whose own health care overhaul push in his first term was unsuccessful, fell below 50 percent approval four months into his presidency because of controversies such as Travelgate and issues like the debate over gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
Responding to the poll numbers, a senior White House official told ABC News, "If we only did what was popular in polls, the banks would have failed, there would be no domestic automakers, and we'd pull all our troops out of Afghanistan tomorrow. But none of those decisions would be in the economic or national security interests of the country."
Adding to Obama's problems are an increasingly unpopular and costly war in Afghanistan and his own struggles with health care reform.
"Health care has been a vexing issue for all modern presidents," Updegrove said. "For those few bold enough to address it, it's been an albatross."
"Health care reform is an easy issue to exploit because of its inherent complexity. The political opposition can use that ambiguity and complexity to their own political ends, and I think that's what you're seeing with President Obama."
Low job approval ratings could impact the president's ability to get anything done this fall. Even Democrats are practically begging the president the improve his game on health care reform.
"I think the president's got to decide in a sense, and he has, and to step up and really frame this again for us," Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. Dodd is the acting chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, which drafted a Senate health care reform bill.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., agrees the president needs to do a better job on leading health care reform.
"I think that frankly, the president and the White House have not done a stellar job on messaging this," Weiner told ABC News. "We really do need presidential leadership here and we need it to be pretty tough."
Axelrod told ABC News the president would be more specific about what should be in the bill, beyond re-articulating principles.
"I think that people will have a very clear sense of his vision for how to bring stability and security to folks who have insurance and to help those who don't get the insurance they need."
The long-term implications are of President Obama's precipitous slide remain to be seen. Seven months into his term, President George H.W. Bush was at a high of 73 percent, but he was not reelected.
His son, President George W. Bush was at 61 percent at this point in his presidency, but is now known for the most unpopular second term on record.
Updegrove said Obama still has a chance to turn his ratings around.
"The American people like President Obama. They don't necessarily like his policies right now, but he does have the trust of the American people, and he does have the good will," Updegrove said.
With a tough health care fight still pending, difficult days likely ahead in Afghanistan, not to mention a looming flu pandemic, it doesn't look like Obama's job is going to get any easier in the coming months.