Don’t be too optimistic, too complacent, says Nate Silver. Silver is probably the most reliable and certainly the most interesting numbers cruncher around.
How about these predictions?
The Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone, in a careful analysis, suggests that Mr. Obama won’t be easy to defeat. Karl Rove, meanwhile, recently made comments to Fox News about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s electoral future, which seemed to imply that he expected Mr. Obama would still be president in 2016.
A lousy midterm outcome doth not a loser make of a sitting president. But Obama’s numbers haven’t improved since November either.
… Mr. Obama continues to enjoy a very large advantage — about 14 points, on average — over Sarah Palin. However likely Ms. Palin is to win the Republican nomination — and I can’t help but think that, if her numbers remain this poor, it will eventually become less likely — this essentially represents pure upside for Mr. Obama: what poker players would term a freeroll.
One needs to be careful not to unintentionally damn Mr. Obama and the Democrats with faint praise; yes, they got a lot done, but all of the measures they passed were quite popular.
Yes, they were. Let’s not forget when we hear that Americans hate the health care bill. Just remember where that hate comes from — Republicans and Fox News. Polls show that while Americans hate “the health care bill,” they very much like its components. And more of those popular components will be kicking in before 2012. Which do you think they’ll remember in the voting booth? Particularly when Fox seems to be doing everything it can to discredit itself?
Coming up are some real fights between the White House and Republicans in Congress. Nate Silver thinks “hate health care” will put the White House on the defensive, along with his budget.
Mr. Obama will be fighting from a defensive posture on health care, which remains unpopular with the public. How the public feels about the budget, where it has little faith in either party, is less clear.
Ultimately, however, Mr. Obama is more popular than the Republican Congress — an advantage that Bill Clinton did not have after 1994, nor Ronald Reagan after 1982. With the equally unpopular Democratic Congress largely being marginalized, that may work to his advantage. And — although I hesitate to endorse such a wishy-washy concept — the Democrats’ successes during the lame-duck session may provide him with some “momentum” headed into these battles, which will begin very early in the new Congress.
The political futures market Intrade puts Mr. Obama’s re-election chances at about 58 percent, which seems about as reasonable an assessment as any. Until we get a better sense for how the dynamics between Mr. Obama and the Republicans will play out — or in which direction the economy is headed — I would be skeptical of analyses that seem to express a significant amount of confidence on either side of that figure.
Silver’s numbers are gloomier than the predictions of many others and, of course, there will be ups and downs. Much will depend on the actions and behaviors of McConnell and Boehner and how they handle the divisions within their party. Even more will depend on the economy.
The vast majority of economists expect it to continue to grow through 2012; the forecasts, in fact, have become slightly more optimistic over the past several weeks. The bad news for Mr. Obama is that the forecasts are more optimistic about G.D.P. growth than they are about unemployment: economists also expect the employment picture to improve, but at a sluggish pace, with the unemployment rate most likely being in the low 8 percentage point range at the time voters go to the polls in 2012.
Many economists see that low 8 as a triumph. A lot depends on whether voters see that number as a miracle, given the depths of the abyss we were staring at in the final months of 2008.
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