George Washington University political science professor John Sides, writing in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, confronted a mountain of conventional wisdom in a post over the weekend. He noted that political reporters note that the Republican Party’s history of nominating poor candidates combined with the increasingly Democratic voting patterns of rising minority demographics suggest the GOP faces an uphill battle in their effort to retake the White House in 2016.
Sides acknowledged that these are real concerns for the GOP, but Democrats have reason to worry as well. Citing a successful political model that he and his colleagues developed for the Post, Sides noted that Democrats face their own challenges. Sides wrote that, if the economy and President Barack Obama’s popularity fail to improve significantly in the next three years, his model forecasts that Republicans have a 64 percent chance of winning back the White House.
Sides’ model, which measures the change in gross domestic product in the first two quarters of an election year, the sitting president’s job approval rating, and that president’s incumbent status, has a strong track record. He noted that this model was accurate to within one percentage point in 2012 and, while it is “too early to do a formal forecast for 2016,” the model predicts storm clouds on the horizon for Democrats.
If economic and political conditions in 2016 were the same as they are today, what would happen? So assume that Obama’s approval rating is about 41 percent. Assume that GDP has grown 1.6 percent in the first two quarters of 2016. And, of course, no incumbent will be running.
“Based on those assumptions, the model predicts that the Republican Party has a 64 percent chance of winning the presidency,” Sides declared.
Sides is careful to note that circumstances leading to this forecast could, and likely will, change between today and Election Day. There is no indication at this point, however, that Obama’s job approval rating or the GDP will greatly improve in the next 24 months, and the two term incumbent president’s party has a conspicuous tendency to lose the White House when that president vacates the Oval Office.
Much could change, but Sides’ informal forecast indicates that Democrats cannot rely on minority voters and Republican incompetence alone if they want to retain control of the White House in January, 2017.
[Photo via AP]
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