Carter makes a valid point about some of the economic metrics and the outcome of the election. Carter pushed the threshold for unemployment at 8.4 percent as what would signal Obama’s demise. There is no indication that economic growth is going to produce the jobs needed to achieve the 7.9 percent that Carter says would herald an Obama reelection. Obama’s only chance of reaching that number is if workers continue to drop out of the workforce, therefore reducing the unemployment rate. Does that count?
Theoretically, Obama could achieve some better numbers if the economy got a lot worse. Gasoline prices would go down as demand weakens, and the unemployment rate could fall as people enter the ranks of those who have given up on finding work.
While we’re on numbers, take a look at the internals of a couple of recent polls for some revealing information. First, the AP-Gfk poll, concluded on May 7, flagged the problem of growing pessimism on the economy. Obviously, this is bad for Obama, and I believe the pessimism number from the poll is realized in the startling revelation from the CBS/New York Times poll concluded on May 13 that shows Obama polling at only 43 percent. An incumbent sitting that far from 50 percent during an election year is definitely a sign of trouble.
The good news for Obama is that this is not the time to panic. There are probably between ten and twelve percent of the voters who are undecided, and another five to eight percent who could change their minds. There is also the uncertain variable of turnout. Those final pieces of the puzzle won’t come into place until the fall and the three presidential debates. Neither side should panic until mid-September. So while the race may be narrowing to a relatively small number of states, the complete uncertainty of the outcome hasn’t changed.