Advancing a Free Society

Obama: On the Beach and Underwater

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Largely overlooked during last week’s news cycle was this small gem: Fannie Mae’s latest quarterly National Housing Survey, which contained the following bleak data:

  • 70% of Americans surveyed believing the nation’s economy is the wrong track, with just 23% offering a thumbs-up;
  • 26% of mortgage borrowers (31% for minority, 23% for non-minority) being underwater;
  • 57% of underwater borrowers indicating they know someone who’s defaulted on a mortgage, vs. 43% of the general population.

Here’s another way to look at the term “underwater” – how it applies to the declining fortunes of President Obama.

Per researchers at Gallup, Obama’s job approval rating dropped to 40% during the week of Aug. 8-14, the lowest weekly average of his administration (Obama’s three-day rolling average also hit a new low of 39% for Aug. 11-13, but recovered to 41% for Aug. 12-14).

The significance? Of the 10 incumbent presidents who’ve sought re-election in the post-World War II era, none has won a second term with a final pre-election job-approval rating below 48%.

(The two who lost – Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush – hovered around 30% come election time).

As the Gallup press release dryly notes, “Obama’s challenge is not only to move his rating back above 40%, but also to push it closer to or above 50%.

And that leads to the President’s second “underwater” problem: it’s a 50-state election, and most states just aren’t that wild about him these days.

For the first half of 2011 – before market fluctuations and the two-ring circus that was the debt-ceiling debate – Obama enjoyed a job-approval rating of 50% or above in just 16 states (the Obama-Biden ticket carried 29 states in the 2008 presidential contest).

About those states: the good news for Obama is they add up to 215 electoral votes, with 10 of the 16 states holding double-digit e.v.’s (that’s adding in the District of Columbia and its nation-best 83% approval – small wonder that D.C., a company town, loves the big-government administration). That leaves Obama 55 e.v.’s shy of the requisite 270 (more on that in a moment).

The bad news:

(a) The national average approval of Obama’s job performance over the same period was 47%;

(b) In 5 of those 16 “treading-or-above” states, Obama is at 50% even.

Adjust for the lower approval rating of recent weeks and the President’s actually deeper underwater among the 50 states than the 34 that Gallup calculated for January through June.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the ship of state stabilizes and the President’s approval rating starts to rise. The 2012 contest will be won or lost in the following states where the Obama approval rating hovers between 44%-49%.

That includes: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Start with the aforementioned 215 electoral votes and Obama can retain the presidency with the addition of just three more states – a trifecta is Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, for instance. Still, some of the dozen fence-sitting states are looking problematic: Arizona (opted for native son John McCain in 2008, and the administration’s recent immigration flip-flop doesn’t play well); Mississippi (last went for a Democrat in 1976); and North Carolina (despite a massive get-out-the-vote effort and a banking crisis that hit hard in the Charlotte region just weeks before the November 2008 election, Obama carried the Tar heel State by only 14,000 votes, or 0.3%).

Welcome to the divided America of 2011 polling and 2012 politicking: 16 states giving the President an even or favorable rating; 22 states apparently caring little for the man (43% approval or less); 12 states sitting in the middle, and thus holding the balance of power.

Perhaps it’s why white-water rafting and presidential fly-fishing along Idaho’s Snake River never entered the discussion regarding Obama family vacations, and why Massachusetts would seem like a good place for this President to find a group hug.

About that vacation: as he enjoys the view from his private beach in the Vineyard, one wonders if Mr. Obama thinks back to when he was seen as walking on water, not mired underwater.

Obama Approval Top-10:

  1. District of Columbia 83%
  2. Connecticut 60%
  3. Maryland 59%
  4. Delaware 59%
  5. New York 57%
  6. Massachusetts 57%
  7. Hawaii 56%
  8. Vermont 54%
  9. Illinois 54%
  10. New Jersey 54%

Top-Ten Disapproval:

  1. Idaho 27%
  2. Wyoming 32%
  3. Utah 32%
  4. Oklahoma 32%
  5. West Virginia 33%
  6. Arkansas 33%
  7. Montana 36%
  8. Kentucky 37%
  9. North Dakota 37%
  10. Alabama/Kansas 38%