Obama Victory Confirms Wisdom Of Longstanding Political Axioms

When was the last time the Republican national ticket won without a Bush or a Nixon on the ticket? Noodle on that for awhile, and be prepared to be shocked.

On the subject of political patterns, President Barack Obama’s re-election this week matches up well with three tried and true axioms:

– No sitting president who did not have a serious primary challenge has failed to be re-elected.

– No sitting president whose job approval was above 50% has failed to be re-elected.

– National political conventions, even uncontested ones, are important to electoral outcomes.

In President Obama’s case, he spent most of his first term below 50 percent in job approval, but a curious thing happened after his party’s Charlotte convention. His job approval jumped, from 47 to 49 (all poll citings are from the Real Clear Politics average) and stayed there until several days before the election, including after the first debate. He occasionally flirted with 48, and because you knew he had the potential to revert to norm it kept the race interesting.

But 49 percent job approval was probably a re-elect number, and then in the days before November 6 he finally pierced 50. It was a remarkable comeback for a president who had been at 43 job approval only 12 months earlier.

The conventions were the turning point of the campaign. Politicians should study them both, but especially Charlotte. Something went really right in Charlotte. When the convention was over Obama’s job approval jumped sharply, as did those voters that thought the direction of the country was improving. Both those indicators improved from “dead in the water” to re-elect numbers. Charlotte also halted Governor Romney’s steady rise in August, and knocked him back to a two-three point deficit against the president. In national and state level (electoral college) polling, Romney was just about even with Obama on the eve of Charlotte.

President Obama’s final job approval/disapproval was nearly identical to President’s Bush’s in 2004, and the two pulled the same national popular vote on election day (while Obama did much better in the electoral college). Both added new members for their respective parties in the House and Senate, though President Bush had majorities in both Houses. It will be interesting to see if President Obama interprets a 50 percent win as a mandate for his policies, as President George W. Bush did with his 50 percent win in 2004.


(The answer to the question at the top of this blog is 1928, Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis.)