by Mark Silva

President Barack Obama, who won the White House with an Electoral College landslide and enjoyed soaring public approval for the job he was doing in the weeks following his inauguration, has fallen to 50-percent job-approval in the newest daily tracking of the Gallup Poll released just now. The new low for Obama in the Gallup Poll, which measured the president's public job-approval at a peak of 69 percent after his inauguration in January, tracks other national polls which recently have gauged his approval ratings at 51 percent. It also coincides with apparent growing public concern about a protracted debate over health care in Washington, Gallup and other pollsters have found. Should the slide continue, Obama will by no means be the first president to slide below 50-percent job approval in the Gallup Poll, which has been tracking public approval of presidents since Harry Truman. But Obama has reached his own personal new low more quickly than most of his predecessors did, according to Gallup. The percentage of people voicing disapproval for the job the president is performing also stands at a near-high of 43 percent. Slipping below 50 percent before November of the first year in office would represents "the third-fastest drop'' since World War II, Gallup reports. Republican Gerald Ford slipped below 50 percent in his third month as president, Democrat Bill Clinton during his fourth month. It took Republican President Dwight Eisenhower five years to fall below 50 percent in the public's eye, Gallup notes. It took both Republican George Bush's roughly three years. It took Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon more than two years. "Ford's quick descent to below-majority approval was hastened by his unpopular decision to pardon Nixon in September 1974,'' Gallup's Jeffrey Jones reports. "Clinton also suffered from a series of missteps in attempting to change policy (gays in the military), fill positions within his administration (failed nominees Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, and Lani Guinier), and controversy over a haircut he received aboard Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport,'' the pollster notes. It's also not necessarily an irreversible trend, Gallup points out: Clinton and Republican President Ronald Reagan, who dropped below majority approval "faster than most other presidents,'' easily won reelection to a second term. The latest findings of the Gallup tracking poll come from surveys of about 1,500 adults conducted Aug. 25-27 with a possible margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. mdsilva@tribune.com