It’s too early for Nate Silver’s usual granular state-by-state election calculus, so the New York Times political prediction guru is looking at the big picture. Obama faces three main challenges: voters think he’s not up to the task, they’re terrified of the economy, and they’re ready to vote for a credible Republican. We can measure each of those things—with approval rating, GDP, and various measures of a Republican’s ideological leanings.
Obama’s approval rating is below 49%, which historically makes him “a slight, but not overwhelming underdog.” It’s unclear who the GOP will nominate, but Mitt Romney is obviously the most moderate, electable choice. Economic forecasts are utterly unreliable, so Silver is ignoring them, instead considering various scenarios:
- Against Romney, with a stagnant economy: Obama’s odds of winning are just 17%
- Against Romney, with a growing economy: Obama’s odds jump to 60%
- Against Rick Perry, growing economy: Obama is an 83% favorite
- Against Perry, stagnant economy: Obama’s odds are 41%
If Romney and Perry (or another far-right conservative) were equally likely nominees, this would amount to a tossup, but since Romney seems more likely, consider Obama an underdog. “It is early, and almost no matter what, the election will be a losable one for Republicans,” Silver concludes. “But Obama’s position is tenuous enough that it might not be a winnable one for him."