I thought I'd bump this topic because Obama has had a very good three months. Back in September and November I thought the Republican candidate was favored to win between 60-80%. However, some things have changed and the tide is starting to break in favor of Obama. Right now I think Obama has a slightly better than 50% shot at getting re-elected. Here's why:
(NOTE: Just a reminder, this is a topic about handicapping the election and examining the electoral fundamentals and NOT about whether or not Obama should or should not be re-elected. If you want to flame on that topic please post HERE. Thank you.)
1) Unemployment Rate
November, December and January have all seen a drop in the unemployment rate from above 9%. No president has one re-election with unemployment over 7.8%, and that was Reagan who only won because the rate was dropping and people were feeling optimistic about his policies. Back in September/November I said that unemployment would have to drop down to about 8.2% for Americans to feel this way about Obama and his administration. I also said in December we'd have to wait until February to see if unemployment would continue to drop...or if it would prove to be seasonal in nature.
Well according to Reuters unemployment for February will continue this trend; down to 8.3%.
2) Approval Rating
Probably as an effect of better jobless numbers, Obama's average approval rating is now 48.6%. This is significant because no president with a 48% or higher approval rating has lost re-election.
3) Silly Republicans
I've heard ppl argue that the slog between Obama and Hillary in '08 didn't hurt Obama in the general election. I have to disagree. In a year where the economy tanked because the financial system was teetering on collapse while a Republican was in office...the Democrat should have been commanding a lead in the polls and then the ballot box. However, Obama trailed McCain until September 18 when Bear-Sterns collapse and McCain wigged out and suspended his campaign. Obama quipped that as president one had to multi-task so he was going to continue campaigning.
Then on election day he won an electoral college loopsided victory of 365 to 173 (spread of 192). His popular vote was 52.9% to 45.7% (spread of 7.2%) . Compare this to Reagan in 1980: EC was 489 to 49 (spread of 440) and popular vote of 50.7% to 41.0% (spread of 9.3%)...oh yeah Reagan had a Republican (John Anderson) who ran third party and drew 6.6% of the vote most of which probably came from would-be Reagan voters. 2008 should have seen the Democrat win with much, much better numbers more like Reagan's 1980 victory.
The difference? Reagan did not fight anyone for his nomination like Obama did.
The point? I believe tough nomination fights hurts the party who is taking on either a) an incumbent president or b) the nominee of the out-going president's party.
How this favors Obama? (Just to spell it out...) The continued fighting between Romney and the Republican base is going to hurt whoever get the nomination making beating Obama much more difficult.
But it's not all roses and penicorn farts for Obama...
1) Unemployment Rate
Wheras Reuters has polled economists about their predictions of February's unemployment rate, Gallup is predicting the BLS will put the February unemployment rate back up around 9.0%. The bad news for Obama: Gallup polls about 30,000 households in a method more akin to the BLS' methodology than Reuters. So we'll have to see what tomorrow brings. If the number goes back up...well Obama will start to look like toast again. Which brings me back to his approval rating...
2) The Bradley Effect
I think this could be one of the most racially divisive elections in American history (in contrast to 2008). I have seen and heard so many charges being against Obama=racism that this could suppress the number of poll respondants who truthfully answer on whether or not they are going to vote for the Republican. I put this number (if the Bradley Effect is in play) at 3-6% which means the real number to assure his re-election is not 48%, but more in the realm of 51-54%. We won't know this until election and we see how closely the poll numbers match the score at the ballot box.
3) Gas Prices
When Obama took office gas was at $3.11. Now it is at $3.76 according to CNN money. This is bad news for Obama since it means higher inflation and the increased fuel costs add a burden to family budgets both directly and indirectly. Now I know some may be getting ready to respond that the president doesn't have any control over the price at the pump. But these are most likely Obama supporters saying the same thing Bush supporters said in '04. But the reality is 1) the public still holds the prez responsible and 2) the president does have control over some things that directly impact the price of gas (interest rate decreases and policies that lead to a falling US dollar forces OPEC to up what they charge per barrell AND how many permits the administration approves to drill within the US effects our domestic supply).
What this means is if gas prices continue to go up...Obama will get the blame.
4) Israel and Iran
Things ain't lookin good over there. If Israel bombs Iran Obama is going to be in one helluva pickle. Appease his doveish base...or look impotent to independents who view Israel favorably and Iran negatively. Also, what about Egypt and the stability of the Arab Spring he has touted as his foreign policy successes? What about Syria and Lybia? In the end the Mid East could be the straw that breaks the back of Obama '12.