My rule for presidential elections is: If the economy is well, voters will support the empowered party. If the economy is not well, voters will support the opposing party. Historical Context 1956 Economy: Well Eisenhower is re-elected. 1960 Economy: Had a little downturn near end of decade. Kennedy is elected over Nixon. 1964 Economy: Well Johnson is re-elected 1968 - Okay, Vietnam was a huge exception 1972 Economy: Well Nixon re-elected 1976 Economy: Concerns of inflation Ford loses to Carter. 1980 Economy: Stagflation Reagan defeats Carter 1984 Economy: Recovery Reagan re-elected by landslide 1988 Economy: Still well Bush succeeds Reagan. 1992 Economy: Unemployment increases. Bush, once considered unbeatable, loses to Clinton because of economic concerns. 1996 Economy: Well Clinton is re-elected 2000 Economy: Well Gore won the popular vote here. 2004 Economy: Recovered from post-9/11 recession Bush gets re-elected 2008 Economy: Downturn Obama defeats McCain. As the economy got worse, McCain's support fell. 2012 ? Essayist Paul Graham has a theory that charisma wins elections, but can any president in a bad economy be charismatic? Obama's approval rating fell since he could not find an instant cure to the recession. Reagan's approval dropped in 1983 when the economy went into a recession. In 2012, the economy has gotten better, though only slightly, but has not recovered. Barack Obama has a huge warchest and a Republican Party which is extremely unpopular, so he could end up being an exception to my rule.