Republicans have a slight advantage in next year's presidential election — an edge that will likely depend on President Barack Obama continuing to have sluggish approval ratings, according to University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
Around the time of last year's midterm elections, it made sense to say Republicans had an advantage going into 2016.
It wasn't because the GOP's strong performance in House, Senate and gubernatorial races "has any predictive value – ask President Romney about how well 2010's midterms predicted the future – but because President Barack Obama's approval rating was mired in the low 40s," Sabato writes in Politico
Should Obama's approval rating be low, Sabato adds, "he'll be a drag on any Democratic nominee, who will effectively be running for his third term."
Although Obama is not at the 50 percent mark in most polls, his numbers have risen recently as the U.S. economic outlook is said to have improved. According to a University of Michigan survey
, consumer confidence last month reached its highest level in a decade.
The upward trend for the Democrats could change if the economic picture worsens or if the Middle East security situation continues to deteriorate. And more revelations about political scandals like Fast and Furious or IRS harassment of Obama's political opponents would likely worsen the outlook for Democrats.
"We just don't know what Obama's approval rating will be when 2016 rolls around, but his standing matters a great deal even though he isn't on the ballot," Sabato writes.
The Democrat Party's chances of holding the White House could also improve if Republicans weaken themselves as a result of intraparty battles between conservatives and moderate "establishment" figures, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, over hot-button issues such as immigration.
On the other hand, a variety of historical factors and current trends favor the Republicans in 2016, Sabato writes.
For one thing, it is relatively rare for one party to win three consecutive presidential elections, as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did in the 1980s. More often than not, those seeking a third consecutive win for their party fall short, as in the case of John McCain in 2008, Al Gore in 2000, Gerald Ford in 1976, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and Richard Nixon in 1960.
If in every state there were a modest shift of three percentage points from 2012 to 2016, Sabato writes, the Republican presidential candidate would win 305 electoral votes — 35 more than the 270 needed to win the White House.
In the end, Sabato gives a slight edge to the GOP — with the caveat that that could change if Obama's popularity continues to improve and voters decide it might be better to stay the course and keep Democrats in the White House.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.