I was considering the "Coffee Cup Poll" which has, as a sort of vox populi non-scientific, but so far totally accurate "poll" done as well, if not better than the major polls over the same period. For President Obama to have a 16 point lead at this point over Mitt Romney, or if you prefer, a 6 point lead in the highly respected Gallup poll, in this economy, then something beyond the accepted psephologist's reasoning must be at play.
President Clinton's stricture in his first campaign was "it's the economy stupid" but it may be that, at the end of the day a factor divorced from the economy, divorced from perceptions of leadership and even divorced from personal partisan opinion is at play in determining the winner of presidential elections.
If there ever was an election where the economy, and especially a plus 8% unemployment rate should be the determining factor then it is this one. And yet, if the scientific and non-scientific polls are to believed, at this point in time anyway, the president who himself advised "I will be in trouble if I don't bring down the unemployment rate" is on track for a near landslide re-election.
It appears that the "likeability factor' is the final determining factor in the voting booth if history is a guide.
This would explain why George W. Bush "the man you would like to have a beer with" who was derided for being a goofball in some quarters, defeated the, frankly unlovely Al Gore and the even more unlovely John Kerry. By all economic factors Gore, an eight year serving and respected vice-president, should have won in a landslide at a time of substantial economic prosperity, yet he couldn't even carry his home state of Tennessee. Kerry lost by over two million votes to a person he easily defeated in the debates.
The likeability factor appears, if it is the only parameter to judge elections by, in case after case. G.H.W. Bush although patrician appeared both competent and likeability when compared to the "tank commander" Dukakis whose likeability went out the window when he couldn't defend his wife in an hypothetical murder attempt on her. Bush's patrician bearing was the antithesis of likeability when up against Bill Clinton and as for Bob Dole-no contest.
Reagan/Mondale not even worth considering Reagan Carter,when Carter was at his weakest, again no contest. When Carter was the coming man, Mr. nice Guy and Ford was amiable, but bumbling. Nixon had common man appeal whereas McGovern was seen as an oddball-ditto LBJ/Goldwater. Eisenhower/Stevenson-no contest of course in the likeability stakes.
The mass appeal of Nixon and JFK was reflected in the minuscule popular vote difference between them. Truman of course overcame all the odds but perhaps it was the "Hiya Harry" factor against a man described as the little man on the wedding cake Dewey, which carried the day
Clealry likeability is not the only factor and there are instances, massive economic collapse and fear and of course war which trumps it e.g. Roosevelt or Obama in a time of economic fear with both have the likeability factor edge on their opponents. Again, given the current economic situation Romney should be way ahead but he isn't and Obama is certainly, it is fair to say, perceived as "the man you woudl have a beer with" compared to the patrician Romney.
That brings me to consideration of the 2016 election. If, as I believe, Hillary Clinton runs she would, barring an economic collapse, be expected to win given her undoubted abilities. However, in my view, and if the media filter allows even a modicum of fair and balanced reporting Sarah Palin's common touch humanity would, given the likeability factor as key, win the day if history is a guide.