The election is not over. Not by a long shot.
President Barack Obama’s approval rating in today’s Gallup three-day tracking average is 44 percent — up from his all-time low of 38 percent but still 20 points lower than President Clinton’s rating several months before the 1996 election.
Meanwhile, the president’s approval rating has not passed the 50 percent mark in almost a year and his Gallup Daily Tracking Poll average for the month of February was 45 percent, with 47 percent disapproving.
|President Obama and Mitt Romney
And while Obama holds a single-digit lead over Mitt Romney (50 to 44 percent in the latest NBC News/WSJ poll) in a hypothetical general-election contest, the outcome isn't certain, and 2012 is almost certain to be a highly competitive election.
To be sure, President Obama's ratings among working-class whites have improved significantly since the Republican primaries and caucuses began.
But his current lead over Romney will undoubtedly evaporate should the economy begin to show signs of heading toward a stalled recovery or a double-dip recession before November.
Moreover, while the president appears to be in a strong position in the Midwest, the states of North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana are all very problematic for Democrats vis-à-vis electoral votes.
Florida will almost certainly go down to the wire.
The president’s ratings on the economy are still weak and there are a number of potential crises that could hurt the president’s standing in the coming months — particularly in key battleground states.
Our economic recovery is fragile at best — notwithstanding some improvement in recent months — and some Wall Street economists have already suggested that the jobless rate’s sharp winter drop was partly an illusion caused by miscalculation by the government of seasonal shifts in the labor market.
Meanwhile, there is widespread unease among voters over rising gas prices, turmoil in the eurozone, and escalating tensions between Iran and Israel.
Put simply, the 2012 presidential election is not a done deal by any means.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including the forthcoming "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond" (Rowman and Littlefield).
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