The Campaign Spot

2012: Making 1992 Look Like Economic Happy Days

President Obama’s poll numbers in the current head-to-head matchups remain respectable, while his job approval steadily sinks and the right track/wrong direction numbers get abysmal. Is Obama still looking reasonably competitive, or will there be some point where month after month and year after year of economic hard times makes reelection impossible?

Brett Arends of MarketWatch spoke to “former Republican spin doctor Mark McKinnon, the communications mastermind who helped Bush roll John Kerry in 2004.” McKinnon thinks Obama’s outlook is dark, and almost unsalvagable:

McKinnon argues political anger and disaffection run much deeper than most people in Washington realize. The strength of the Occupy Wall Street protests don’t surprise him at all.

He’s gone back and looked at what opinion polls and surveys revealed about the public mood during previous elections. His finding: It has not been anywhere near this bad. Compared to 2011, even 1992 — a year of high unemployment that saw the emergence of Ross Perot’s anti-establishment candidacy — looks benign.

McKinnon has looked back over previous election years. Presidents have typically been re-elected when consumer confidence numbers have been high, and have lost when they’ve been low.

Today? The figures are so low that Obama has to improve the number “by about 20 (percentage) points” just to get it to the average levels for a presidential defeat, he says.

Goldman Sachs recently projected that unemployment will be around 9.5 percent in late 2012; that would be 2.1 percentage points higher than on Election Day 1992 and 2 percentage points higher than on Election Day 1980. How many Americans would yearn for “four more years” of that?