Now, here are some reasons not to take these numbers too seriously:
- First, Obama's approval rating is not independent of economic growth. If the economy begins to grow at a quicker clip, his approval rating will probably rise into the 50s. It will likely drop into the 30s or worse if we experience an actual recession.
- Second, even if economic growth stays right where it is today, Obama's approval rating is likely to change somewhat as a function of the campaign. Nearly all Democrats will come to approve of his performance, even if they may have reservations today. And nearly all Republicans will come to disapprove, although they're probably doing that already.
- Third, perceptions of the Republican nominee's ideological stances may well change by next year. It's very hard to make realistic projections of Cain's governing ideology since he's never governed before. Perry would be facing a more liberal electorate than he's ever faced, and Romney would be facing a more conservative one. Plus, given Romney's history, there should be substantially large error bars on either side of his line.
Update: Graph label fixed.