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?

Polls

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 Com­pe­ti­tion

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 Econ­omy

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.

Other Fac­tors

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.

The Trends

Here’s how things look overall.

Area Effect  Change from Last Month
Polls
The Com­pe­ti­tion
The Econ­omy
Other Fac­tors
The Elec­toral College

Con­clu­sion

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.