The key Figure is posted below:
|Figure 1. National Conditions and US Presidential Elections, 1952-2008|
So what does all of this mean for the 2012 election? Right now the national conditions index (explained in greater detail in the paper) stands at 63.3. This is the fifth lowest reading from the fifteen elections presented above, and the third lowest of the nine elections involving an incumbent. Based on this value for national conditions, the forecast for the 2012 election is 47.9% for President Obama and 52.1% for Governor Romney.
I'd like to be clear that the national conditions index for 2012 points a less-than-ideal situation for a sitting incumbent, but it does not suggest that conditions are so bad that the challenging party can coast to victory. Consider the years in the sample for which the national conditions index had a lower value than the current year: 1952, 1980, 1992, and 2008. These were all really tough years for the incumbent party, and it is easy to see why when considering the prevailing conditions in those years. I see 2012 as somewhat different. As I say in the paper, given the small sample of elections, and the size of the out-of sample prediction error, this points to a tight race but one where Governor Romney is the favorite.