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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Likability Gap, Continued

Much of the GOP convention focused on closing the “likability gap” between Governor Romney and President Obama. The party probably made some progress in that regard, but commentators have put way too much emphasis on the topic. If likability were all that counted in presidential elections, we’d be getting ready for the second Huckabee administration right now.

True, President Obama is doing better than one might predict just from the state of the economy -- but mostly for reasons other than likability. He is the incumbent, after all, so he has the benefit of media attention and the “don’t change horses in midstream” mentality. Just as important, there is a good deal of partisan polarization in the electorate. Many voters on each side of the partisan divide would not think of casting a ballot for a presidential candidate on the other. In the past quarter-century, no candidate has won a greater share of the popular vote than the 53.4% that George H.W. Bush received in 1988.

If you’re looking for numbers that could tip the 2012 election one way or the other, keep an eye on September7:  that’s when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the unemployment figure for August.