Statistics guru Nate Silver says that while Hillary Clinton will doubtlessly be the Democratic nominee, at present he gives her a 50/50 shot at becoming president. In a piece published yesterday on his FiveThirtyEight site, Silver lays out his case:
Start with the fact that there’s no incumbent president running. There actually haven’t been a lot of cases that precisely meet the circumstances voters will face next year: Barack Obama, assuming he serves out the rest of his term, will become just the fifth president limited by the 22nd Amendment from seeking an additional term in office. This is slightly different from the case where an incumbent voluntarily declines to run again. Still, the evidence we have from presidential elections and from other contexts like gubernatorial elections is that these cases default to being toss-ups.
Clinton’s chances will be affected by Obama’s popularity as he exits office. The relationship between the popularity of the previous president and the performance of the new nominee from his party isn’t perfect — Al Gore (narrowly) lost in 2000 despite Bill Clinton’s popularity, for example — but it certainly matters some, especially given that Clinton served in Obama’s cabinet. However, Obama currently has an approval rating of about 45 percent, and a favorability rating of 48 percent — about average, in other words. If those numbers decline into the low 40s or climb into the 50s, they could matter more, producing either a “hangover effect” or “halo effect” for Clinton. But don’t bet on this: Obama’s approval ratings have been extraordinarily stubborn for most of his presidency, rarely deviating much from the mid-40s.
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