When an incumbent president is on the ballot what counts most in polls is his approval number, not how much he may lead his less-known challenger. Presidents who are above 50 percent job approval on Election Day win reelection. Presidents who aren’t — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush — don’t. In 2004, George W. Bush was just at the 50 percent approval number and won with 51 percent of the vote.
So it’s meaningful that Gallup has released its approval ratings on President Obama for the first half of this year broken down by individual state. The pollsters conducted interviews with more than 90,000 adults, and found the country split during that time — Obama got a thumbs up from 46 percent of people and a thumbs down from 46 percent. He scored at or above 50 percent job approval in just 13 out of 50 states. Because this is a two-man race, Barack Obama should be worried both about that and how far below 50 percent he is nationwide.
Gallup reports that its state-by-state findings “can give a rough indication of how the Electoral College vote might look this fall. . . . Presidents’ approval ratings on the national level historically haven’t changed much in the final few months before the election.”
Obama’s approval numbers range from a high of 83 percent in government-centric Washington, D.C., to 63 percent in Hawaii to a dismal 26 percent in Utah and 28 percent in Wyoming. No surprises there. What is a surprise is that in several key states, Obama is clearly in trouble. He gets only 49 percent approval in Michigan and Wisconsin, and 47 percent in Maine and Oregon. Iowa, Florida, Virginia, and even Pennsylvania all have Obama sitting at just 46 percent approval. In his home state of Illinois, he has only 51 percent approval and in Minnesota he hovers at just 50 percent. No wonder Mitt Romney is giving serious consideration to making former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty his running-mate.
Right now, if Obama swept all the states where he is at or above 50 percent job approval he would win 185 Electoral College votes. He will have to do a lot better than that in November to win the necessary 270 electoral votes