With the successful elimination of terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden, President Obama’s prospects for an election victory in 2012 seem much brighter. In the wake of bin Laden’s death, Obama’s approval ratings have surged 9 percentage points since April from 47% to 56% according to a recent Pew Research Center and Washington Post poll.
That said, does President Obama have a “lock” on reelection in 2012?
The short answer is, no.
There are still 18 months between now and election day. A lot can happen in that period. Furthermore, the economy is still struggling with 9.0% unemployment. According to the same Pew Research Center poll, 55% of Americans still disapprove of the President’s handling of the economy.
Furthermore, as The Economist‘s Lexington column notes, neither Winston Churchill nor President George Herbert Walker Bush, remained in office after their stunning victories against Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein, respectively. It is also important to add that George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War victory did little to offset the political liability of a sluggish economy.
President Obama’s prospects will likely turn on the state of the American economy and employment. If economic activity surges in the next 18 months and unemployment declines to less than 6%, I think the President will survive. If economic growth remains anemic and unemployment stays persistently above 7%, the President will likely lose the next election.
Only time will tell.