President Obama is in better re-election shape now than President Reagan was at the equivalent point in his first term, according to a new poll from National Journal and the Pew Research Center. In August of 1982, only 36 percent of voters wanted Reagan to run again, according to Gallup polling. The new NJ/Pew poll, however, shows that 47 percent of of the public would like to see Obama run for re-election in 2012.
The beacon of hope here for the White House, of course, is that despite taking a beating in the 1982 midterms, Reagan won 49 states and 59 percent of the popular vote in 1984, successfully installing him in his second term. And Reagan, like Obama, launched his presidency during a tough economy. In 1982, the country's unemployment rate was nearly identical to what it is today.
Obama/Reagan comparisons have been captivating downtrodden Democrats recently, providing hope that the president will be able to recover from a rocky two years and what figures to be a brutal midterm Election Day and find his footing as a historic, popular president.
But as Marc Ambinder pointed out last week, Reagan's turnaround hinged on something that, to a certain extent, was out of his control: an economic recovery. Reagan gets a lot of credit for pushing a compelling message on his administration's economic efforts, but he received an all-important boost from an unemployment rate that had dropped from 9.7 to 7.4 percent by November of 1984 and a general sense of returning optimism. An Obama victory in 2012 may require a similar economic upswing.