The New Republic:
President Obama’s team perhaps once hoped to reenact Ronald Reagan’s triumphant 1984 march to reelection. But it’s now clear that they’re condemned to repeat George W. Bush’s much less inspiring campaign in 2004.Gallup:
The playbook is clear: A barrage of negative advertising to define your opponent before he can define himself; a stream of issues and events to mobilize your base; and a meticulous ground game to squeeze every last vote out of the base come November. As for the small number of voters who haven’t made up their minds already, you don’t try to argue that they’ve never had it better, but rather that the other guy is unacceptable. In the end, you win a narrow victory by default. Sure, you haven’t really confronted the country’s deepest problems. But there’ll be plenty of time to deal with them next year.
The only justification for such a campaign is necessity, and the only vindication is victory.
(...) But it’s not too early to say that Obama’s vital signs look dicey. Over the past 33 months, his job approval has been lower than George W. Bush’s at a comparable time in his presidency for all but one week. Bush averaged above 50 percent in the quarter before his successful reelection campaign, while Obama has been stuck in the 46-48 percent range for months. And the famous “wrong track” measure now stands at 63 percent, versus 55 percent in the days preceding the vote in 2004. If these two numbers don’t improve for Obama, his presidency will be in jeopardy. And they probably won’t—unless the economy perks up noticeably.
There have been five incumbent elections since World War II that produced “easy” victories for the incumbent. All were clearly evident in the data ahead of time. These incumbents were Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Richard Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1984, and Bill Clinton in 1996. All five of these presidents had job approval ratings above 50% in the summer and fall before their elections and were winning handily in the trial heat ballots prior to their elections.
Obama’s job approval ratings and trial heat position at this point do not emulate these strong positions. He is not in an “easy” election position.
There were two incumbent presidents whose eventual losses were clearly evident by virtue of their job approval ratings at this point (the summer) of their election years -- Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. Both had job approval ratings in the 30% range. The trail heat ballot for these two presidents was not as clear, however. Carter from time to time through September of 1980 actually tied with or beat Ronald Reagan, who surged at the last minute and went on to win convincingly. Bush was leading Clinton and Ross Perot in early July 1992, but when Perot dropped out of the race (he came back in later), Clinton surged ahead and stayed ahead for the rest of the race.
Obama’s job approval ratings at this point do not emulate the weak positions of Carter and Bush, Sr.. He is not a clear “loser” at this point.
That leaves two races: Gerald Ford in 1976 and George W. Bush in 2004.
Ford, a congressman from Michigan, had been appointed vice president by Richard Nixon after Spiro Agnew had to resign in disgrace in 1973 because of corruption charges. Ford ascended to the presidency in August 1974 after Nixon resigned in disgrace because of Watergate. Becoming president as part of a scandal was certainly not an auspicious precursor to a successful re-election bid two years later. Plus, Ford pardoned Nixon in September 1974, a decision with which the American public soundly disagreed. This also didn’t help his case for re-election and is thought by some to have cost it for him. Still, in June 1976, Ford had a 45% approval rating and a 40% disapproval rating. That was it. Like 1948, Gallup quit asking approval for Ford after that point (until after the election).
In the trial heat ballot from July 11-16, 1976, Jimmy Carter was massively ahead of Ford, 62% to 29% among registered voters. Carter maintained a lead -- but by September the race got a lot closer. In fact, when the dust settled, Carter only won by two percentage points in the popular vote, 50% to 48%. These results underscore how much the trial heat ballot can change over time.
George W. Bush was not a highly popular president, in many ways similar to where Obama is today. Bush’s average job approval rating in July 2004 was 48%. Last week, the first week in July, Obama’s was 45%. Democratic nominee John Kerry was leading Bush among both registered voters and among likely voters in July of 2004. Bush moved ahead in the fall, but ended up winning by three points, 51% to 48%. So, like Ford, and like Obama today, Bush was in a mid-range historical position and ended up in a close race in the popular vote.
So, we can say that Obama’s job approval rating at this point puts him in the same broad range as Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, further suggesting that the outcome of the popular vote this fall may be quite close. Obama's trial heat positioning against Romney -- statistically tied at this point -- also suggests a close race, although as we have seen, the trial heat is not a solid predictor this far out.
A algo más de 3 meses y medio de la elección, la popularidad de Obama entre votantes registrados está en el 45%.