Obama has a problem getting to 50 percent of the vote. His approval ratings have hovered in the forties all year (except for the bin Laden spike in May). He gets only 45% of the vote in a matchup with Romney and is under 50% against any Republican challenger except for Sarah Palin. Only 35% of the voters feel his economic policies are working and fewer than forty percent approve of them.
The man can’t get to 50.
And a president needs to get to fifty percent of the vote in order to get re-elected. At this stage of his budget battle with Gingrich, for example, Bill Clinton had a 53% approval – a full ten points higher than Obama’s.
I recently went back in history and measured the disposition of the undecided voters in every presidential election in which an incumbent was seeking re-election going back to 1964. Eighty percent of the undecided vote went to the challengers. Even though the challenger was often defeated massively, he still picked up almost all of the undecided vote. So, more than eighty percent of the undecided vote went to Goldwater not Johnson, McGovern not Nixon, Carter not Ford, Reagan not Carter, Mondale not Reagan, Perot or Clinton not Bush, Dole not Clinton, and Kerry not Bush.
If a president’s vote share is under 50 going into the election, he is likely to lose as the undecided vote goes against him. Obama’s problem in getting to fifty is likely to mean that he will be a one term president.