Nate Silver: Obama 'probably a slight underdog'

nytmag-cover-11611.jpgThe headline on the Sunday Magazine cover story by Nate Silver, the New York Times' in-house cruncher of pre-election numbers and handicapper of political races, asks whether President Obama is already toast, second-term wise. Follow the link for the discussion and the caveats, or keep reading here for the nut grafs.

Obama has gone from a modest favorite to win re-election to, probably, a slight underdog. Let’s not oversell this. A couple of months of solid jobs reports, or the selection of a poor Republican opponent, would suffice to make him the favorite again.

Nevertheless, this is an unusual circumstance. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes all looked like the favorite to win a year in advance of their re-election battles, either having strong approval ratings or good-enough ones accompanied by robust economic numbers. When we look at the last eight elected presidents, only Carter faced a situation worse than Obama’s: approval ratings in the low 30s rather than low 40s, the likelihood rather than the mere possibility of a recession, a primary challenge rather than a clear path to renomination and a crisis in Iran rather than a string of foreign-policy victories.

The other seven had stronger fundamentals heading into the election year. This includes the elder Bush, who lost despite an extremely high approval rating and a disarrayed Democratic field (Mario Cuomo and others skipped the race at a time when Bush appeared unbeatable). It also includes Reagan and Clinton, who had grave problems early in their terms but who saw their numbers tick upward at the very moment in their presidencies that Obama’s have continued to slide. None of this is news to the White House. Following the debt-ceiling debate, Obama’s strategists started comparing their boss with the original comeback kid, Harry Truman — an implicit concession that the president will most likely fight 2012 from behind.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Ralph Lawler of the Clippers and the age of Aquarius
Riding the Expo Line to USC 'just magical'
Last bastion of free parking? Loyola Marymount to charge students
Matt Kemp, Dodgers and Kings start big weekend the right way
LA Times writers revisit their '92 riots observations
Recent Politics stories on LA Observed:
Balboa Island has to decide if it believes in global warming
Kumar vs Smith: the political power in a name
LAPD, Trutanich add more muscle around USC
Hollywood Reporter gets political
Morning Buzz: Wednesday 4.25.12

New at LA Observed
Follow us on Twitter

On the Media Page
Go to Media
On the Politics Page
Go to Politics

LA Biz Observed
Arts and culture

Sign up for daily email from LA Observed

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

LA Observed on Twitter and Facebook