November 2, 2004


The uphill fight is impossible to predict now (Mark Mellman, 11/02/04, The Hill)

Democrats have spoken often and powerfully about the nation’s economic problems. But by historical standards, they are not that bad. The “misery index” is 7.8 today but was 20.5 when Jimmy Carter was defeated. Economic models of elections show Bush winning 52-58 percent of the vote.

One could simply suggest that the models are off, but there is more to it than that.

These models essentially confirm that the level of economic pain we are now feeling is not commensurate with voting an incumbent president out of office.

Unemployment and inflation are lower than they have been when incumbents have been defeated. Growth is higher than it has been when presidents have been tossed out of office.

The war in Iraq is obviously hurting Bush, but some of these models also incorporate casualty figures as a proxy for war. These models tend to suggest that Bush should win by a large margin. Nearly 50,000 killed in Vietnam did not prevent Nixon’s reelection.

Bush’s approval ratings are also indicative of the difficulties Kerry faces. It is certainly true that the average incumbent who has been reelected has had a much higher job approval rating — 62 percent. Bush’s approval rating is now about 49 percent. Yet the last time an incumbent was beaten — Bush’s father — just 33 percent approved of his performance. When Carter was defeated, he had an approval rating of only 37 percent. On average, incumbents who have been defeated have only had a 38 percent job rating. Bush is 10 points higher than that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 2, 2004 11:02 AM
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