I usually don’t pay a great deal of attention to polls on presidential candidates, at least not until the closing weeks of the campaign. However, I think that this finding from Gallup has the ring of truth:
PRINCETON, NJ — If asked to choose between them today, 49% of U.S. registered voters say they would vote for Barack Obama for president, while 45% would choose likely Republican opponent Mitt Romney. While Obama’s advantage is not statistically significant, it is the largest he has had over Romney in Gallup polling to date.
Assuming that this poll is taking the pulse of the electorate accurately, the election is still an interminable-feeling seven months way and a lot can happen between now and then. Let’s list some.
- The economy takes a nosedive whether dragged down by Europe’s deep recession, China’s economic slowdown, the business cycle, or any of a thousand other precipitating or contributing factors. Unemployment creeps back over 9%. Romney wins in a squeaker.
- The economy booms between now and election day and unemployment goes below 7%. Obama wins.
- Obama is caught up in some foreign policy debacle, giving the impression of a deer caught in the headlights and feeding the idea that he’s out of his depth while Romney looks and sounds presidential. Romney wins.
- War with Iran or some other foreign policy stressor produces a rally ’round effect. Obama wins.
- The Supreme Court upholds the PPACA even as public opinion turns farther against it. Romney wins.
- The Supreme Court strikes down the PPACA entirely. Obama successfully runs against an activitist Court. Obama wins.
I think that last item is far-fetched and some of the others are a stretch.
My best guess at this point? I think that things muddle along much as they have been without substantial recovery or major downturn, there’s no foreign policy crisis, and Obama wins re-election narrowly.