Is a “C” grade good enough for Obama to win?

While glancing through the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national poll, a question caught our eye. It asked: "What grade would you give President Obama on fixing the economy after being in office for three and a half years?"

The breakdown of grades went like this: "A" 12 percent, "B" 26 percent, "C" 14 percent, "D" 12 percent, "F" 24 percent and "incomplete" 11 percent.

Add up the "good" grades (A and B) and you get 38 percent; add up the "bad" ones (D and F) and you get 36 percent. So those who think the president deserves good grades and those who think he has earned bad marks essentially cancel one another out.

And that leaves the 14 percent of people who graded Obama with a "C" to almost certainly decide the election. The question, of course, is whether a "C", which technically means average, is good enough to win Obama the votes of those who give him that grade or whether the "C" voters view what the incumbent has done as insufficient to cast a ballot for him.

Figuring out what each of the 14 percent of "C" graders meant by their grade is, of course, impossible. But it does speak to the fact that the election will almost certainly decided by people who are genuinely conflicted about President Obama and the economy.

On the one hand, they are not better off than they were four years ago and they have little confidence that the economy or the country is headed in the right direction. On the other, they have doubts about how much former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney understands them and their problems and how much blame Obama truly deserves for the current state of the economy.

They are cross-pressured and of divided mind. Do they vote for a guy who hasn't done what they thought he would or a guy who they aren't sure what he would do?

It's worth noting in this grading conversation that Obama himself has retreated behind the comfort of an "incomplete" grade when asked about his performance about the economy ever since he gave himself a "good, solid B-plus" during a 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

While grading a President on an issue as complex as the economy may seem overly simplistic -- the Fix can already hear the Internet scolds well, scolding us about that very point -- the reality of our everyday existence is we are always grading and ranking things and then making decisions based on those grades and ranks.

The question is whether a "C" on the economy is good enough to convince people to vote for Obama or whether they are fed up with average and are willing to consider the alternative in hopes of scoring better over the next four years.

 

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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Aaron Blake · September 13, 2012

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