According to Frank Newport, the editor in chief of Gallup and the newsletter Polling Matters, President Barack Obama is directly on the fault line between "probable re-election" and "probable one-term president."
During the week of June 26, Obama's ratings fell to their all-time low, 43 percent — dangerous territory for an incumbent.
Seven of 10 modern-day presidents were successful in their re-election bids: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Truman managed to win despite his 40 percent job approval rating.
In 2004, Bush beat John Kerry even though his rating was a precariously low 48 percent. Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton, all with ratings comfortably above 50 percent, sailed to re-election.
Two of the other three recent presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, had dismal ratings of 37 and 34 percent, respectively. The third, Gerald Ford, attained the presidency by ascension rather than election and served only two years. Each rejected president was done in by the public's perception of how he handled the economy.
Between today and November 2012, the most likely direction for Obama's public image is down. Should he fall into the 30 percent range, his November chances become drastically reduced.
To understand how uncertain Obama's grip on the nation's economy is, consider that for some Americans, the jobs recession may extend into a second decade or longer. According to a IHS Global Insight report commissioned by the United States Conference of Mayors and released the week of June 20, nearly 50 metropolitan regions, or one out of seven, will not return to "full employment" until after 2012.
Those cities include Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio; Detroit; Reno, Nev.; and Atlantic City. The most severely impacted cities like Detroit and Reno, which lost 323,400 and 36,000 jobs respectively, may not regain their pre-recession level of employment until 2021. In total, the cities analyzed in the mayors' report lost a total of 7.3 million jobs from a peak of 118.3 million since the 2008 recession began; large metropolitan regions account for 86 percent of all lost jobs.
Most of those, especially in the automobile manufacturing sector, will never return. Complicating their limited job prospects, auto workers may be past their prime age for employment and may not have transferable skills.
Commenting on the report, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who also serves as president of the Conference of Mayors, said: "It is striking, it's sobering and it's a call to action." Villaraigosa suggested that the federal government invest in infrastructure as well as workforce training for the Los Angeles region's unemployed. During the economic downturn, Los Angeles lost 537,100 jobs that are not projected to return until at least 2018.
A jobless American is not likely to support Obama. For certain, there are election variables other than the economy. Some of Obama's negatives are offset by his hardcore Democratic supporters. Much also depends on who Republicans nominate.
If history is our guide, Obama needs to climb back to and sustain at least a 48-50 percent approval rating in the months leading up to November 2012. Otherwise, he'll be out of a job.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.