The big political news today is also the big economic news, with second quarter GDP coming in at a mediocre 1.5% growth and first quarter GDP revised a bit upward to a still-unexciting 2.0% growth.
I’m going to leave policy implications aside here and go straight to the effects on presidential election voting. And on this score, there’s actually a lot less here than you might think. Everyone’s expectations have been, for several months at least, that we’ll have slow but positive growth going into the election, and that those conditions would generally tend to suggest a very close election with the first-term incumbent as perhaps a very mild favorite. Today’s news doesn’t change this.
As Matt Dickenson reports this morning, that’s what at least one prediction model by a political scientist tells us: Alan Abramowitz’s newly revised model now predicts Barack Obama will get about 50.5% of the two-party vote. We’ll see what Nate Silver’s model looks like when he plugs in the new numbers, but I suspect that it won’t be much changed, either, from his previous estimates (which also give a small edge to Obama).
And two important things to remember about the GDP number. One is that, as we see with the first quarter and earlier data, these numbers are very rough estimates that can be significantly revised down the road. The other is that we’re talking here about the past, not the present; this is about the economy in April, May, and June, and we have and will soon have additional information about what’s happening now.
Overall, then, nothing changes here. The economy hasn’t assured Barack Obama of an easy re-election by booming unexpectedly; it also hasn’t handed the election to Mitt Romney by collapsing into a double-dip recession. It’s slow but positive growth, and it’s increasingly unlikely that we’ll see anything else before election day. And that leaves the election close to a toss-up, with the president probably a bit more likely to win than to lose, but with a lot of uncertainty still ahead.