Last week I started the first of two summer classes. This class is Argumentation and Critical Thinking. Our first real homework is to produce a 6-7 page written argument on an assigned topic. I was assigned the yes position on "Will Barack Obama Be Re-Elected President of the United States?"
At first I thought this would be an easy question to answer, but for the last several days I've been struggling to find quantifiable data to support this position. I think I'm being too narrow and staying unnecessarily far away from campaign topics. Instead, I've been researching past election history to compare to President Obama, to see if I can spot and trends.
Here's a bit of what I've pulled together:
- Of our 44 Presidents, 16 were Democratic, 18 were Republicans. Of the 13 Republican Presidents that sought re-election, 9 of them won (69%). Of the 8 Democratic Presidents who sought re-election, 6 of them won (75%).
- Starting with WWII, there has been an even split between Democratic and Republican Presidents, 6 of each. Except for Kennedy, who was assassinated, the 11 remaining Presidents have all sought re-election. Of the 6 Republican Presidents, 4 won re-election, 2 lost (66%). Of the 5 remaining Democratic Presidents, 3 won re-election, 1 lost, and 1 is still in the process of being re-elected. (75%)
- While the odds of winning re-election don't appear to strongly favor either party, the general odds do show a greater than 65% success rate for incumbents in Presidential elections.
Election Results Differences:
- Obama defeated McCain by more than a 7% difference in the popular vote.
- Compared to Presidents who have sought re-election in the last 150 years, Obama's first election win ranks eighth highest when compared to eleven Presidents who have gone on to win again. Obama's first win ranks third rightest again those Presidents who went on to lose their second elections.
- Obama won by a greater percentage than Clinton did in his first election, which was 5.5%.
- Of the eleven post-WWII elected Presidents, Obama has the 5th highest win percentage over his first election opponent. Compared to just the Presidents who went on to win re-election, Obama is 4th.
- The point of comparing to previous recent Presidents is to demonstrate that Obama's first term win percentage places him comfortably within the range of previous re-elected Presidents.
- American media frequently reports on the President’s job approval ratings as an indictor of how the American public feels about the current President. Obama’s opponents have pointed to these ratings as evidence that Obama will lose re-election (I need to find a good citable example of this.)
- According to Gallup, Obama's average approval rating is 49%
- Compared to the average first term approval ratings for recent past Presidents who have won re-election, Obama is rated the lowest, but only by .6%. The next lowest was Clinton, who's first term approval rating average was 49.6%, and he went on to win re-election.
- On the flip side, Ford's average approval rating was 60.9%, and he lost his election for a second term, as did Carter who had a 45.5% average approval.
- The point of using Gallup's approval ratings data is to demonstrate that approval ratings may not be an accurate indicator of re-electibility, regardless of how much conservatives and mass media like to point at polls as indicators.
I've clearly spent WAY to much time trying to compare Obama to previous presidents. While previous presidents aren't enough by themselves to indicate the results of Obama's second election, I think they provide a good argument that American voters tend to favor incumbents, regardless of approval ratings.
From this point I need to research data on my next two points:
- Let's turn this around: Why will Mitt Romney lose the 2012 Presidential election?
- - Divided party? Can the Republican voters pull together to support Romney?
- Why will voters in 2012 vote for Obama over Romney?
- - Party affiliation? Can Obama count on the votes he received during the first election?
Any other suggested arguments I should pursue?