Political analyst Charlie Cook says “The economy may not be as big a liability for President Obama on Election Day as many Republicans had assumed.” It depends, says Cook, on what the unemployment rate looks like in the fall.
The latest Blue Chip Economic Indicators survey of 56 top economists forecasts an 8.7 percent unemployment rate for calendar year 2012 and an 8.5 rate for the fourth quarter, when Election Day occurs.
My rule of thumb has been that if unemployment is near 9 percent on Election Day, President Obama would very likely lose. If it’s near 8 percent, he would likely win. But if it’s around 8.5 percent, the race would be a toss-up. Worthy of note, the Blue Chip survey was conducted on January 4-5, before the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the December unemployment numbers that dropped to 8.5 percent from an upwardly revised 8.7 percent in November. This means that the jobless rate has inched downward four months in a row, from 9.1 percent in August to 8.5 percent in December…
The 10 most pessimistic economists in the Blue Chip Indicators survey think that unemployment will average about 9 percent this year. That would present Obama with a steep uphill climb. Conversely, the 10 most optimistic analysts predict an 8 percent unemployment rate for the year. If that comes to pass, Obama might as well break out the champagne.
So, according to Cook, we should watch the unemployment numbers closely. If the current downward trend continues and unemployment is drifting toward 8% from the current 8.5%, then Obama will get four more years regardless of who the Republicans nominate. If the unemployment rate stays pretty much the same (around 8.5%), then the election will be a close one. If the trend reverses and we are looking at something close to 9% when voters go to the polls or unemployment is trending toward 9%, then Obama is toast.
Read Cook here: