The new GDP numbers have growth slowing from 3 percent in 2011 Q4 to 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012. What does it mean for Barack Obama? Short answer: It’s not great! Longer answer: GDP is a good predictive tool for election-handicapping, but not as good as, say, unemployment. Here’s a look back at the data during the last half-century of years when an incumbent president wanted to be re-elected.
2004 Q1: 2.7 percent. George W. Bush is re-elected, narrowly, against a guy who went wind-surfing of his own volition.
1996 Q1: 2.8 percent. Bill Clinton is easily re-elected over Bob Dole.
1992 Q1: 4.5 percent. George H.W. Bush loses to Bill Clinton.
1984 Q1: 8 percent. Ronald Reagan stamps Walter Mondale into lutefisk paste.
1980 Q1: 1.3 percent. Jimmy Carter loses.
1976 Q1: 7.6 percent! But Gerald Ford, unable to overcome post-Watergate angst, loses.
1972 Q1: 7.3 percent. Nixon beats McGovern, by a lot.
1964 Q1: 9.3 percent. Landslide for LBJ.
1956 Q1: -1.8 percent – a recession! But Eisenhower beats Stevenson anyway.
So, no president has ever lost with growth above… 7.6 percent in Q1. And it was once possible to win with a quarter of recession at the start of the year. Thanks, data. Thanks for nothing.