Friday, November 4, 2011

Obama’s Chances

Is there anyway President Obama can get reelected?
by Charlie Leck

Nate Silver writes for the NY Times and runs the blog FiveThirtyEight. It’s a very good blog and Silver is a keen political observer. Yesterday he posted Is Obama Toast? It handicaps the 2012 Election. If you’re wondering about Obama’s chances, Silver takes your through all the ins and outs. [Click here to read the entire blog!]

I’ll provide a few snippets below…

Obama has gone from a modest favorite to win re-election to, probably, a slight underdog. Let’s not oversell this. A couple of months of solid jobs reports, or the selection of a poor Republican opponent, would suffice to make him the favorite again….”

“…When we look at the last eight elected presidents, only Carter faced a situation worse than Obama’s: approval ratings in the low 30s rather than low 40s, the likelihood rather than the mere possibility of a recession, a primary challenge rather than a clear path to renomination and a crisis in Iran rather than a string of foreign-policy victories….

“…A president’s approval rating at the beginning of his third year in office has historically had very little correlation to his eventual fate. In January 1983, Reagan had an approval rating of just 37 percent, but he won in a landslide. George H. W. Bush had a 79 percent approval rating in January 1991 and was soundly defeated. But voters start to think differently about a president over the course of his third year; they view him more on the basis of his performance and less on the hopes they had for him. These perceptions are sharpened by the beginning of the opposition party’s primary campaign, which, of course, accentuates the negatives.

“A president’s approval rating toward the end of his third year, therefore, has been a decent (although imperfect) predictor of his chances of victory. Reagan saw his approval rating shoot up to 51 percent in November 1983 amid the V-shaped recovery from the recession of the previous year — the first sign that he was headed for a big win. Obama’s approval rating may have rebounded by a point or two from its lows after the debt-ceiling debacle — but not by much more than that. In late October, it ranged between 40 and 46 percent in different polls and averaged about 43 percent….”

The direction of the economy over a president’s fourth year is also a huge factor in his chances of re-election….”

“…There is, however, another problem: economic forecasts are not very good. In fact, they are completely terrible….”

“…The other major unknown is the identity of the Republican nominee….”

“…In this case, though, the relative standing of the Republican opponents against Obama aligns neatly with their perceived ideology. Obama does worse against more moderate candidates like Romney — and better against staunch conservatives like Perry and Cain….”

Silver seems to come down on the old political stratagem made so famous by Bobby Kennedy as an advisor to his President Brother: “The center wins!”

A candidate like Mint Romney will fare better against President Obama and is more likely to beat the incumbent than a candidate like Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul who are least likely to beat the President. He sees Huntsman as too far to the left side of the spectrum (too similar to the President).

Though he says it is too early to predict and too many things can happen between now and then, Silver seems to feel Romney could unseat Obama unless the economy makes a surprising recovery. There will be plenty of conversation about the “Mormon Factor” but I don’t personally think it will come into play.

Certainly all is not lost. My biggest worry is the huge amount of money that the Republicans will generate as a result of the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission. I can remember President Obama bringing the subject up in his 2009 State of the Union Speech before Congress. He looked down at the attending Justices and shook his head and said a few times: “With all due respect! With all due respect!” It was nearly unprecedented for a President to lecture the Justices and it led many to predict that Justices will stop going to the annual speeches.

Will Obama’s grass-roots supporters contribute like they did in 2007 and 2008? That was an amazing story that saw millions of small supporters scraping together their ten and twenty dollar contributions to create the biggest treasure-chest a candidate has ever had. Without a replay of that kind of giving Obama cannot win. He cannot!

Read the Silver piece if you have the time! It is not brief. Frankly, it's long and complex, but extremely sound and good.


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