Professor Alan Abramowitz forecasts the 2012 election and the importance of the performance of the economy in the second quarter. Dr. Abramowitz, one of the nation's top experts on election modeling, takes into account the hyper-polarized nature of contemporary politics. From The Center for Politics:
"In less than four months, millions of Americans will go to the polls to choose their next president along with all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 33 U.S. senators and thousands of state and local elected officials. The 2012 election will take place at a time of deep political division in the United States. Democrats and Republicans differ sharply over Barack Obama’s performance in office as well as over a wide range of issues ranging from government spending and health care to immigration and gay marriage. These divisions are shaping the strategies of the candidates and the outlook for November. Because overwhelming majorities of Democrats and Republicans can be expected to support their own party’s nominee, the outcome will depend on which party does a better job of mobilizing its supporters and appealing to a small group of swing voters in a handful of battleground states.In other words: a squeaker. More here.
"... President Obama’s net approval rating in the final Gallup Poll in June was +2 percentage points (48% approval vs. 46% disapproval). And Obama’s advantage as a first-term incumbent in the current era of polarization is 2.5 percentage points. The only predictor that remains to be determined is the change in real GDP during the second quarter of 2012 -- the first estimate of that number will be released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on July 27.
"Table 1 displays conditional forecasts of President Obama’s share of the national popular vote depending on the growth rate of real GDP in the second quarter. The results show that not only is the election likely to be very close, but the winner of the popular vote may very well depend on the performance of the economy in the second quarter.
"A growth rate of zero or less predicts a narrow popular vote win for Republican challenger Mitt Romney, while a growth rate of 1% or greater predicts a popular vote win for President Obama."