To begin with, despite all the speculation in the media whether Barack Obama will win a second term, it’s just too early to tell now.
As of this week, Obama’s approval rating is above 50%, but that fluctuates from week to week, event to event. In a 2003 USA today story by Richard Benedetto, “History of Approval Ratings on Bush’s side for reelection,” Frank Newport, editor of the Gallup Poll, reportedly said that the approval rating in March or April of election year is a more reliable predictor.
He points out that every incumbent president since Roosevelt who was at 50% approval or higher in April of his election year went on to win…The last two presidents who lost their bids for re-election, Carter and the elder Bush, were both at 39% approval in April of the election year.
Even though, as Benedetto reported, a good approval rating at the end of a president’s third year in office is a fairly good predictor, it’s not without exception.
With the exception of Jimmy Carter, every president since Franklin Roosevelt who ended his third year in office with job approval above 50% won the re-election he sought. Presidential job-approval polling began with Roosevelt.
Richard Nixon, who was at 50% at the end of his third year, also won. Carter was at 54% when the year ended.
We mustn’t forget that the opposition must be taken into account, too. What the Republicans do in the next two years, and how the voters react will play a large part.
However, the most important aspect of the opposition to Obama’s reelection will be who runs against him. As of right now, the likely Republican nomination contenders appear weak. Sarah Palin will find it difficult for voters to take her seriously after all the gaffes she had made. Mitt Romney does not have the personal appeal to beat Obama. Newt Gingrich has too much baggage. Mike Huckabee doesn’t have the drive or the base to win. Ron Paul, who really is a libertarian, has the best ideas, but Americans either consider him too extreme or too risky. There are several other potential candidates for the Republican nomination who are not well known among voters, including Paul Ryan who appears solid and is being hyped up in the media, and Bobby Jindal, who has great ideas.
But Obama has an ace in the hole that previous candidates and presidents haven’t possessed: A solid block of black voters (supported by a majority of Hispanic voters) who will vote for Obama regardless of his approval rating, unless they just don’t vote at all.
Even if one of the Republican candidates emerges as a strong nominee (and that’s quite doubtful), it will be very difficult to beat Obama unless he loses the support of a great majority of independent voters.
To end with, despite all the speculation in the media whether Barack Obama will win a second term, it’s just too early to tell now.