An astute political observer by the name of Machiavelli once said that “Anyone wishing to see what is to be must consider what has been”. Given that recent polls have shown the race for President to be essentially tied, a look at the “tale of the tape” from a current and historical perspective is in order.
No president since World War II has won re-election with an unemployment rate above 7.2%. The current rate is 8.3%, and has been above 8% for forty-two straight months. The economy is growing at an annual rate of just 1.5%, and the only president in recent years to run for re-election with a worse growth rate was Jimmy Carter.
The Consumer Confidence level is currently about 60%, which is historically (and electorally) awful, since it was 65% when Carter got clobbered by Reagan in 1980.
According to the Rasmussen Poll, a majority of Americans (54%) think that the economy and their own finances (52%) are getting worse. Only 40% believe that things will be any better five years from now, and that number is down to 35% among business owners who recently found out that Obama thinks that they didn’t build their own businesses.
The last two times that the economy dominated the election like it does today was in 1992 and 1980, which weren’t good years for incumbents.
Currently Obama’s approval rating (around 46%) is lower than the election summer ratings of the last three presidents who managed to win re-election, (Reagan’s was 52%, Clinton’s was 58% and George W.’s was 48%). Only 28% of Americans say that they are “satisfied” with the way things are going, which is double-digits worse than is was for presidents who were reelected.
According to polling averages compiled by RealClearPolitics.com, over 60% of Americans are unsatisfied with the country’s direction and think that we are “on the wrong track”. Only 32% think that the country is “on the right track”, making one wonder whether they work for the government, or perhaps the Obama campaign. Gallup points out that at least 35% generally need to think the country is on the “right track” for an incumbent president to win.
In Gallup’s daily tracking poll of registered voters, Obama hasn’t hit 50% since May. In the Rasmussen poll of “likely voters”, it was February. He’s currently at 47% in the former and 43% in the later.
Every incumbent president save one that has ever been re-elected has done so with more votes than he received when he was first elected. The sole exception was Woodrow Wilson, whose first campaign involved a third party headed by former President Theodore Roosevelt.
Does anyone seriously believe that Obama will get more votes this November than he received in 2008 at the height of “Hope and Change” fever? For that to happen Obama will need tremendous voter enthusiasm, which polls show just isn’t there.
According to Gallup, since the summer of 2008 Democrats have gone down from 61% to 39% in terms of saying that they are “more enthusiastic than usual” about voting. Republicans by contrast have risen from 35% in 2008 to 51% today. As a comparison, when the GOP took back the House of Representatives in 2010, 63% of Republicans reported being enthusiastic, versus 44% for Democrats.
Lower enthusiasm likely means lower voter turnout in November, which is usually bad for Democrats, and definitely bad for Obama given the large number of new voters that turned out for him in 2008. And Republicans tend to vote in higher percentages than Democrats.
The recent Chick-fil-A protest might offer up an example of just how excited conservatives may be. If they are motivated enough to wait in line for up to ninety minutes for a chicken sandwich just to make a point about marriage and free-speech, how much more likely are they to head to the polls this November, or even work to make sure that other conservatives do too?
Fundraising and Message:
Team Romney and the RNC have outraised Obama and the Democrats for the past three months – by seventeen million dollars in May, thirty-seven million in June and twenty-five million in July. Worse for Obama, no matter how much money he spends trying to change the conversation or divert voters’ attention, it’s just not working.
Obama’s campaign spent over thirty-eight million dollars in June and July attacking Romney with negative ads about his former association with the Bain Capital investment firm and it barely moved the needle in the polls. Voters seem to be more interested in the economy right now. Go figure.
Re-election campaigns are generally a referendum on the president’s job performance and, as former South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings once said, “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule”. Obama’s strategy is to try and make voters forget what they learned the first time.