Every presidential election is a response to the current president, even when the current president isn’t seeking re-election. If people don't like the guy in the White House, it’s almost impossible for a member of his party to be elected to succeed him. Even when voters are happy with their incumbent president, it’s not always a guarantee of success for the party’s nominee. Voters are often looking for a change in style as much as substance (see: Bush v. Gore, 2000). This is why we should spend as much time checking in on President Obama’s job approval ratings as we do the polling data of the potential presidential candidates. For Hillary Clinton to win, she needs Obama to succeed. Picking fights with the president – a la Elizabeth Warren – does her no good if it makes him look weak. The magic number for Obama – and ultimately Hillary’s chances – is somewhere around 47 percent. If Obama’s job approval rating is above that, a Democrat has a decent to a good chance of winning in 2016. Below that number,

More from the Cook Political Report

Four Possible Leaders; Four Unenviable Tasks
National Politics
Photo of Charlie Cook
First Person
Cook Politcal Logo
Where History Rhymed and Where It Didn’t
National Politics