Reëlection Watch: April 2012
At least once every month between now and the general election, we examine the reëlection landscape for President Barack Obama. Each time, we take a look at the various factors that typically influence election outcomes, and compare them to the previous month.
So, how are things going for the President this month?
Last month, I noted that price spikes at the gas pump pushed Obama’s approval ratings down, and his disapproval ratings up. This month, as prices stabilized, the Real Clear Politics average shows Obama’s approval/disapproval rating back in positive territory, with a +1.8 point spread. This is a nearly three-point rise from last month. Unsurprisingly, Rasmussen is the only pollster to show Obama in negative territory in nearly a month.
The Right Track/Wrong Track polls have seen a similar, albeit less pronounced trend. This month the spread shrank by 0.6 points to −26.3. As with last month, this poll understates the change of the President and Congress; Congress’s spread improved by 0.8 points to −68.4.The generic Congressional ballot got redder this month, moving another 0.9 points to R+1.4. This points to the second month in a row of bad news for Congressional Democratic incumbents, though an improvement for the Presidential incumbent.
As of Sunday, Intrade had Obama at a 60.7 percent chance of reëlection, down 0.2 points from last month. After Obama’s position improved for six straight months, it has settled just above 60 percent for the past month. And after last month’s narrowing of Obama’s lead over Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in individual head-to-head polls, the differential has returned to near its February state, with an Obama lead just outside the margins.
There is no longer any point in seriously considering any other candidate. Barring something catastrophic, the November ballot will be Obama vs. Romney.
Things looked worse for the President last month, but are back to a positive trend this month. Green arrow this time.
The path to Romination is clear at this point, contrary to the claims of former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). And, since Romney has long been the candidate who polls best against Obama (at least in national polls), this bodes well overall for the Republicans. If Romney were the Republican nominee today, and the general election were to happen today, polls indicate a narrow Obama victory, at least in the national popular vote.
Last month, Obama earned a gray ball. This month, it’s back to green arrow land.
The past month looks decent, though with a new area of concern replacing the fading old area of concern.
Employment has slowed down some. The Labor Department jobs report for March indicated a rise in private-sector employment of 121,000, which is roughly enough to keep up with population growth. This drop in increased employment may be a result of the rising fuel prices of the past couple of months. The U3 unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent, attributed mostly to Caucasian women leaving the work market. It’s difficult to determine the impact to Obama’s reëlection prospects caused by people leaving the job market. We are at the point where we should be seeing larger-than-historical numbers of people leaving the job market, regardless of the state of the economy, simply because the baby boomers are now reaching retirement age.
On the other hand, West Texas Intermediate crude is trading at about $103, down almost four percent from last month, while Brent crude (representing the European market) has hovered at about $123. This drop in oil prices reduces the likelihood of economic drag over the next few months, which makes recessionary pressure similarly less likely. Gasoline price drops tend to lag behind oil price drops, so it’s not surprising that gasoline prices rose 17 cents over the past month. It should fall by this time next month, which will reduce the downward pressure on Obama’s approval ratings.
Most indicators are still looking good, so it’s a green arrow this month. But the employment numbers are something to watch for next month.
One might have expected the Trayvon Martin killing, and Obama’s response to it, to have an impact on his reëlection. But this seems to have blown over pretty quickly. Those who were already predisposed to vote against Obama didn’t like how he handled it, and those who were already predisposed to vote for him, did. Those on the fence didn’t seem to be moved.
The same can be said for the Supreme Court’s review of the PPACA. Things may be different when the justices return with their decision, but for now there’s no evidence of its impact.
All in all, in terms of his reëlection prospects, the “Other Factors” column has been quiet over the past month.
The Electoral College
And now for this month’s rundown of the Electoral College.
Here’s what’s changed since last month’s battleground, from most likely to go Romney’s way to most likely to go Obama’s way:
- Missouri hasn’t had much polling, but the one recent Rasmussen poll gives Romney a nine-point lead. Even discounting for Rasmussen’s house effect, that places Missouri in the Romney Lean category.
- North Carolina remains solidly in tossup territory.
- Pennsylvania got a touch redder this month. Polls over the past month still show a consistent Obama lean, but now within the margin of error. The Keystone State goes from blue to purple.
- Florida, like Pennsylvania, sits just inside the margin of error, though on the Obama side of even money. That Rasmussen saw an Obama win is significant, though, which is why Florida sits below Pennsylvania in this list.
- Nevada shifted to a solid Obama lean, outside the margin of error…at least according to the pollsters (including Rasmussen). I have a touch of skepticism about Nevada, though, because I suspect the Mormon vote is being underrepresented by the polls. Regardless, in terms of where it should appear on the list, the Silver State falls between Florida and Ohio. It’s only a question of which of the two states is its closest neighbor. Because of my skepticism, I’m leaving Nevada purple…but it’s easy to make a good case for light blue.
- Ohio is pretty solid for Obama, hanging outside the margin of error. Rasmussen gives Obama an eight point edge, two points greater than that given by Quinnipiac. Because Rasmussen’s start date is nearly a week later, and the two have the same end date, that suggests continued momentum toward the incumbent.
- Virginia’s polling has improved for Obama this past month, for the second month in a row. Even Rasmussen gives Virginia to Obama by nine points. And, like Ohio, the Rasmussen dates are later than the Quinnipiac dates, and Rasmussen’s Obama lead is greater, though by only a point this time. Still, these numbers suggest Virginia’s increasing blue tinge.
Based on this month’s polling, Obama needs only 12 electoral votes out of the 89 in the tossup group. This means that, worst case, Obama would need three of the seven states in the category…and that assumes the three include New Hampshire and either Iowa or Nevada. Romney, on the other hand, would have to win every one of the heavy hitters (Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina), while also taking a majority of the remaining tossup states.
All in all, this keeps things in the Obama column, though not as strongly as last month. For this reason, I’m giving a gray ball, but I could just as easily call it a weak green arrow.
Here’s how things look overall.
|Area||Effect||Change from Last Month|
|The Electoral College|
With the Electoral College getting a little more competitive, and a weaker-than-expected jobs report, things aren’t necessarily rosy for Obama. Long-term indicators are mixed, leaving too many opportunities for things to shift in the next six months. Because of the mixed indicators, I’m leaving the overall with a gray ball. We’ll have to see how things pan out.
- Gallup: Strong job approval numbers for President Obama, Mitt Romney stuck at 41 percent in primary (dailykos.com)
- How President Obama Can Secure The Black Vote for Reëlection (burghardtinc.com)
- Reëlection Watch: March 2012 (logarchism.com)
- Obama up to 50 percent approval — Gallup (seattlepi.com)
- THE HILL: Weak March jobs report could spell trouble for Obama’s reëlection bid. The Labor Depar… (pjmedia.com)
- Slower job gains stir doubts about recovery, Obama reëlection bid — latimes.com (mikeisasking.wordpress.com)