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  Politics and Elections
Thursday, October 20, 2011
More thoughts on job approval and re-election chances
Last week, I took a look at President Obama's quest for a second term with an eye on the Electoral College.  A large portion of the analysis dealt with the affect that job approval for a sitting president has on his re-election chances.  Using history as a guide, Obama's job approval will be perhaps the most predictive indicator of his re-electability.

Coincidentally, this week, I had a conversation with a very intelligent, liberal friend of mine about this very fact.  In our discussion, he asserted that job approval will only be an overriding factor if the GOP can nominate an electable candidate to challenge the President.  He believes even a dismal economy can be overcome if Obama faces a weak enough opponent.  I countered - and rightly so, I believe - that if Obama's job approval is in the low 40's come the weekend before Election Day, it won't matter who is listed below him on the ballot.

I firmly believe this - and the track record backs me up.  Every president with an approval rating of 49% or above since 1940 has won, while the three with approval less than that have lost. Moreover, if a president's approval dipped into the 30's, his defeat was sizeable.

I am very willing to stand on this prediction:  If Obama's approval is under 45% this time next year, he will lose - and lose big - no matter whom he faces.  But here's the caviat (and I didn't mention this in my discussion with my friend).  Obama's job approval will be somewhat tied to the GOP nominee.  If Republicans nominate someone who connects with voters, Obama's shortcomings will be accentuated, and his approval will sustain downward pressure.  On the other hand, a weak candidate will have the opposite effect.  If voters are presented with an unacceptable GOP challenger, they will begin to see such things as a bad economy as more palatable, and Obama's approval will rise as a result.

In the end, the corellation between job approval and re-election will be unbroken after Election 2012.  But where that job approval ends up will be a combination of many factors, not the least of which will be who gets to be the last speaker at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next August.

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