President Obama's approval ratings inched down again today; his average approval in major polls is now 50.9 percent (vs. 44.7 percent who disapprove), continuing his gradual slide from the astronomical 84 percent approval CNN reported two days before his inauguration. There's a predictable factor going on here: the latest poll was released today by Rasmussen, which, it's been shown, tracks Obama's approval consistently lower than other polls. Today, it put him at 49 percent approve/ 50 percent disapprove--slightly better, in fact, than its previous numbers.

We sort of have to accept this symptom of averaging Rasmussen in, as Gallup's higher-than-average numbers offset the slight and periodic Rasmussen Dip. Gallup's last poll, released over the weekend, had Obama at 54 percent approval; they'll come out with another poll in a few days, and his average will probably go back up by a percentage point or so.

(Note: people still dig Obama's personality: his favorability is at 57.1 percent.)

If you believe that enacting an agenda as president involves selling off political capital, and if we spot Obama the circa-one-point gain that a new Gallup poll will probably give him, that leaves him with 1.7 percentage points to go before he becomes an unpopular president, if pushing forward with health care is really contributing to the slide.

It's not 1.7 percentage points of capital left in the tank: Obama has said he'd be willing to get bounced from the White House after one term if it meant getting big reforms passed in health care and energy. But, is it realistic that a president with a sub-50-percent approval rating can push those reforms through? And are we close enough to passing health care that 1.7 points will do the trick?

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