Since 1948 only one incumbent president has won reelection with joblessness over 7 percent. There is another unemployment statistic, however, that could play in President Obama's favor.
With the nation's jobless rate edging downward and news Friday that the economy grew at a 2.8 percent pace in the fourth quarter, it's possible that the state of the economy may now be transforming from a political millstone into less of a losing issue for President Obama.
But Obama is still struggling with low approval ratings, and forecasters generally envision a tight race for the White House, with still-high unemployment offsetting Mr. Obama's status as the incumbent.
It certainly doesn't look like he'll coast to an easy win.
Consider that in the time period since 1948 (for which monthly unemployment data are available) only one incumbent president has won reelection with joblessness over 7 percent. That was Ronald Reagan in 1984. Today the unemployment rate is higher than it was then, and many economists expect it to remain above 8 percent through much or all of 2012.
But here's another data point to consider: No incumbent seeking reelection has lost with unemployment falling for two years prior to the vote.
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