There have been five incumbents who have faced re-election since 1980: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Barack Obama is the sixth.
Our direct polling data on the current campaign points to a very competitive race, with a slight advantage for Obama.
However, as the campaign moves toward the end of the summer, the Obama team faces a stark reality: compared to previous incumbents, the structural and opinion environment that Obama faces is perilous. Across 7 of 8 measures we track here, the current measure for President Obama ranks below the three successful incumbents. In some cases, he ranks dead last.
The economic structural factors are the clearest drag on his re-election. Out of six incumbents, he ranks:
- 5th on GDP growth
- 6th on growth in personal disposable income
- 6th on unemployment
- 4th on monthly job creation.