However, one huge difference between 2004 and 2012 is that President Bush had trends moving in his direction. The big issue that year was the war on terror. In the summer of 2004, just 44 percent thought the United States and its allies were winning that war. In the five weeks running up to the election, however, confidence that our side was winning ranged from 49 percent to 52 percent.
As confidence in Bush's handling of the war improved, so did his job approval rating. That enabled him to post a narrow victory over Sen. John Kerry.
For this president to earn a similar victory over a wealthy Massachusetts challenger in 2012, he will need to improve his own job approval rating between now and Election Day. For that to happen, perceptions of the economy will have to reverse their current downward trend.