Posted by Curt on 14 June, 2011 at 12:15 am. 10 comments already!

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I have argued before if the economy doesn’t improve significantly before the 2012 election, Barack Obama will be the easiest incumbent to defeat since Jimmy Carter. But even if that happens, it probably won’t look like it until the last days of the campaign. I say that in part based on the Carter-Reagan experience.

The 1980 election was held on November 2. But as late as October 23, Carter held a small lead over Reagan (39 percent v. 38 percent, with 9 percent voicing support for John Anderson, who ran as an independent.). And that gap was essentially static since Labor Day. But on election day, Carter pollster Patrick Caddell informed the president his latest polls revealed a massive shift toward Reagan in the previous 48 hours. It was all coming apart for Carter, Caddell concluded. And by the time the election was over, Reagan had carried 44 of the 50 states and won 489 electoral votes v. 49 for Carter.

“It was truly a landslide and virtually none of us in the media, the political industry or the polling fraternity had foreseen its dimensions,” according to “The Pursuit of the Presidency 1980,” written by several Washington Post reporters. “But the elements for the upheaval had long been present.”

I’m not prepared to predict a Carter-like defeat for President Obama, since it depends on several unknown factors, from who the GOP nominee will be to the state of the economy and the country. But I am prepared to say right now the elements for a 2012 upheaval are in place, much as they were prior to the Reagan landslide and as they were prior to the 2010 epic repudiation of Obama and Democrats. And unless the economy swings around soon and in a fairly substantial way, Mr. Obama will be terrifically vulnerable.

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