How Likely is President Obama’s Reelection?

At the New York Times this week, Nate Silver lays out some criteria for an educated guess:

I estimate that Mr. Carter’s approval rating was 31 percent, and George H.W. Bush’s was 39 percent, at the time of their respective defeats in 1980 and 1992. If Barack Obama’s numbers are in that range in November, 2012, it will be almost impossible for him to be re-elected regardless of the identity of the Republican nominee (although one Republican, Sarah Palin, has such poor favorability ratings that it might make for an interesting test case were they not to improve). Mostly, however, the question is what happens when Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are roughly in the range of 40 percent to perhaps 52 percent; within this range, the quality of the Republican candidate might plausibly make some difference as to whether he wins or loses.


[T]his year’s Republican field is on the low end of popularity as compared to most recent ones — and early primary polls are meaningful enough that this is worth considering, along with other factors. The way that I would recommend thinking about Mr. Obama’s re-election chances, at this early stage, is to start with the baseline re-election rate for incumbent presidents (which is about 70 percent), and then make a list of other factors that might lead one to believe that this figure overestimates or underestimates them. Under the list of favorable factors for Mr. Obama, I would include a bullet-point for “Public has tepid view of Republican candidates; Republican nominee might be weaker than average.”

Based on Nate Silver’s criteria: advantage Obama. My bet on President Obama’s reelection: 75%.

Given that the Republican field of presidential hopefuls is a freakshow of nihilists, Herderians, charlatans, fundamentalists, authoritarians, narcissists, and anti-science ignoramuses, I wish it were higher. Much higher.

And at Gallup, I notice that President Obama’s approval rating hovers around 46%. Not great, but not bad either.

Yes, we still can.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to How Likely is President Obama’s Reelection?

  1. andrewclunn says:

    Man, I wish you were more concerned with what you’d hope Obama would do with his second term (or you know, the remaining half of his first term) than low brow partisan politics.

    • santitafarella says:


      Part of the reason I posted Nate Silver’s observations is that I thought they were a nice example of critical thinking in action: in this case, laying out criteria for evaluating a future event. I like the way that he looked at a past trend (70% of presidents get reelected) and then asked what might make 2012 different (and how it might be weighted against the historical average).

      I agree that I got a dig in at the end.


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