Forget those head-to-head matchup polls between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Instead, look at the incumbent’s approval rating. No president has won reelection with an approval rating below 50% (In 2004, George W. Bush had a 48% approval rating among registered voters but was over 50% with likely voters.) And right now, according to the RealClearPolitics average, Obama stands at 46.9%.
So how can Obama boost that rating to 50%? A better economy would sure help. As Dan Clifton of Strategas Research puts it:
Our premise has been that the President’s approval rating will determine whether he is effectively making the sale to voters for a second term. And the variable most important to the President’s approval rating over the past year has been the unemployment rate. Based on the current trajectory, the President needs a 7.6 pct unemployment rate to reach that 50 pct benchmark. The trajectory of the economy is what matters and we reviewed just about every economic indicator possible and found only a couple of metrics that have correctly predicted presidential reelections. These indicators are listed below with the economic improvements needed for the President to reach a 50 pct approval rating. We will update these with each new data release.
The above chart shows what those indicators are and where they stand right now. And right now all five show Obama below where he needs to be to hit 50%. Job growth and income growth needs to be faster, consumer confidence higher.
And time is running out for a last-minute boom. In fact, the new Wall Street Journal survey of economists finds that forecasters see the third-quarter of 2012 as only slightly stronger than the past two.