President Obama's job approval has steadily edged up in recent months and now significantly outpaces that of Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — the two most recent incumbents to be denied a second term — although the president remains below the crucial 50 percent threshold.

The president averaged a 46.8 percent approval rating in Gallup's tracking poll over the 14th quarter of his presidency — the third straight quarter that the president's approval numbers have increased, and his highest in a year.

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"The recent and continuing improvement in his approval rating, though, is a positive sign for his reelection prospects, but it remains below the 50 percent level that virtually assures a president of a second term in office," said Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones in a release. "Obama appears in much better shape now than the two recently elected presidents who were denied a second term — Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — both of whom averaged below 40 percent approval their 14th quarters in office."

Jimmy Carter averaged a 35.8 percent approval rating in the 14th quarter of his presidency, while George H.W. Bush averaged a 39.2 percent approval rating. Obama's numbers most similarly reflect those of George W. Bush at a similar time in his presidency.

It could be tough for Obama to dramatically change perceptions before Election Day, with no president adding more than 2 points or losing more than 4 in job approval over the months immediately preceding the election.

But the president will need to keep his numbers at least steady to have a good shot at reelection.

"If Obama's standing among the public, as measured by his job approval rating, improves in the coming months, he will be in a stronger position for reelection. But if his approval rating declines, a second Obama term would be very much in doubt," said Jones.