Thursday, October 27, 2011

Obama Gets a Lifeline on Reelection?

President Obama's toast in 2012, right?

I think he'll lose reelection, but my prediction is based on continued high unemployment and depressed presidential approval ratings. So it's interesting that Obama's getting some improvement on those measures today.

The New York Times has the report on the new third-quarter GDP numbers, "Economic Growth in U.S., Though Still Modest, Speeds Up." And Gallup has the latest approval numbers, which show some improvement in the president's standing, "Obama Job Approval Showing Modest Improvement, Now 43%."

On the economy, continued improvements in economic growth rates must translate into a decline in the unemployment rate. We're still at 9.1 percent nationally, and higher in key states like Florida, Michigan, and Ohio. (BLS data is here.) My hunch is that unemployment needs to come down to below 7 percent nationally by next summer, and perhaps to a similar degree in some of those key battleground states.

On public opinion, Charlie Cook's out with a new analysis, at National Journal, "Underwater":
With the 2012 presidential general election just a year away, it’s a good time to look at the national polling and talk about the state of play. Obviously, we have to make allowances for changing circumstances and unexpected events.

The best barometer of how a president is going to fare is his approval rating, which starts taking on predictive value about a year out. As each month goes by, the rating becomes a better indicator of the eventual results. Presidents with approval numbers above 48 to 50 percent in the Gallup Poll win reelection. Those with approval ratings below that level usually lose. If voters don’t approve of the job you are doing after four years in office, they usually don’t vote for you. Of course, a candidate can win the popular vote and still lose the Electoral College. It happened to Samuel Tilden in 1876, Grover Cleveland in 1888, and Al Gore in 2000. But the popular votes and the Electoral College numbers usually come down on the same side.

In his 11th and most recent quarter in office (July 20-Oct. 19), President Obama averaged a 41 percent approval rating among registered voters, according to Gallup. His average for the month of September was the same. For the week of Oct. 17-23, the president’s approval was 41 percent with a disapproval rating of 51 percent. It’s worth noting that in the Oct. 17-23 aggregation of Gallup tracking, Obama’s job-approval rating among independents was only 38 percent. This was a group he carried by 8 percentage points over John McCain in 2008, 52 percent to 44 percent. Among “pure” independents, those who don’t lean toward either party when pushed, the president’s approval rating was 32 percent.

Focusing on the big picture and that target of 48 to 50 percent among the total electorate, if Obama is to win in 2012, he needs to raise his approval rating at least 7 to 9 points. (Obama got some good news on Wednesday when the CBS/New York Times poll, conducted Oct. 19-24, pegged his approval rating at 46 percent—closer to his target.)
Keep reading.

Well, Obama's up 2 points in the latest Gallup survey, so things are heading in the right direction. And as I reported yesterday, the president, while unpopular, performs better in head-to-head matchups in recent polls. So, Obambi's looking a little more competitive. But it still early and there's lots still to shake out between now and November 2012. And I'll be keeping an eye on things.