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A TALE OF TWO INCUMBENT PRESIDENTS FIGHT FOR REELECTION

July 29, 2020

George W. Bush’s first term started with an approval rating of 60% and after the terrorist attacks on 9-11, it reached as high as 92%. But from that time on, his approval rating slowly deteriorated until it reached a low in May of 2004 at 46%, just five months before his reelection against John Kerry.

Both Bush and his political consultants at the time, understood the importance of the approval rating. No incumbent president had won reelection with a rating less than 48% since Truman. Bush’s father was defeated in 1992 with a 34% rating and now he faced defeat himself.

As the table below shows, out of the past 10 presidential reelections, only three were defeated and all three had ratings less that 48%.

ColumnYearJune of reelection yearFinal measure before electionWon reelection
  % Approve% Approve 
Obama20124852Yes
G.W. Bush20044948Yes
Clinton19965554Yes
G.H.W. Bush19923734No
Reagan19845458Yes
Carter19803237No
Ford197645n/aNo
Nixon197259n/aYes
Johnson196474n/aYes
Eisenhower19567268Yes


But George W. Bush’s approval rating reached the magical number just prior to election day, and he defeated Democrat John Kerry by a whopping 2.4% and 286 electoral votes.

It’s now the end of July and the latest national polls put Trump down by an average 9% and a current job approval rating at 42% (Gallup has him at 38%) with only a little more than three months till election day. The chart below shows both Bush and Trump’s approval ratings during the same time period.

Bush rating blue line and Trump rating red line.

Only Obama was able to increase his rating by 4% between June and November. Even if Trump manages that increase, it still only gives him a rating of 46%.

So forget about the trial heat polls, just look for the last job approval rating before the election. If Trump hit’s 48%, call your bookie and put it all on Donald J. Trump. Be safe…

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