The Corner

Obama vs. Romney: The Sky Isn’t Falling

If you spent more than fifteen minutes watching the smart people on the Sunday morning talk shows you’d be justified in concluding that Romney fatally flubbed his response to the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision, Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital are doing grievous damage to Romney in key battleground states, and the election campaign has tilted decidedly in Obama’s favor — some or all of which may be true.

It’s also true that it’s July.

Conservative pundits nervously point to the fact that Gallup’s daily tracking has Obama leading Romney 47–45. But the campaign promises to give supporters of both candidates cause for concern between now and November — perhaps more so for Obama supporters. Indeed, on several historically important measures, the numbers don’t look particularly good for a president at this point in the election cycle.

Consider, for example, June’s terrible unemployment numbers. Although there may be no fixed correlation between the unemployment rate and an incumbent’s prospects for reelection, the fact remains that since the Great Depression no president has been reelected where the unemployment rate in June of the election year was greater than 7.2 percent. In fact, with one exception, Obama’s unemployment rate is sharply higher than that of recent incumbents who’ve won reelection:#more#

Barack Obama: 8.2 

George W. Bush: 5.6 

Bill Clinton: 5.2

George H. W. Bush: 7.8 

Ronald Reagan: 7.2 

Jimmy Carter: 7.6 

Gerald Ford: 7.6 

Yes, Reagan had a less-than-stellar 7.2 unemployment rate, but he benefited from the fact that at that point in his presidency GDP growth was 7.6 percent. The GDP growth numbers for Obama are not remotely as impressive at the same point in the election cycle compared to past incumbents:

Barack Obama: 1.9 

George W. Bush: 3.8 

Bill Clinton: 4.2 

George H. W. Bush: 3.1 

Ronald Reagan: 7.6 

Jimmy Carter: -1.5 

Gerald Ford: 5.6

Nor does the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index look particularly encouraging for the president. In fact, among recent incumbents running for reelection, only Jimmy Carter fares worse:

Barack Obama: 62

George W. Bush: 98

Bill Clinton: 103.5

George H. W. Bush: 71.9

Ronald Reagan: 104.8

Jimmy Carter: 50.1

Gerald Ford: 94.5      

Obama’s advantage in recent polls may be encouraging to his supporters. But keep in mind that Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan for most of 1980. In fact, at the end of October, 1980, Carter’s Gallup lead was 47–39. Reagan beat Carter a couple of weeks later by 9.7 points.

Moreover, several advantages Obama enjoyed in 2008 have either diminished or disappeared. Romney raised $106 million in June, indicating that Obama won’t have the overwhelming money advantage he enjoyed in 2008.

Further, Obama can no longer campaign as the Light Worker who can lower the oceans and heal the planet. He now has a track record. And it stinks: 41 months of unemployment above 8 percent, massive serial deficits, $5 trillion in added debt, 47 million on food stamps, record dependency on government programs, a stagnant economy, an unwieldy and unpopular health-care plan, diminished influence abroad, Iran on the brink of nuclear weapons. He’s not going to get the record-setting turnout from blacks and young people again, and his popularity among working-class whites continues to decline.  

The polls will continue to fluctuate and perplex. Obama will likely get the usual bounce from his party’s convention — some pundits will no doubt proclaim it an insurmountable lead. When he does so, there will be anguish and terror among conservatives. That will persist until November. At least.      


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