I don’t think I’d say that Mr. Obama would be likely to benefit politically — but I do think it’s anybody’s guess, and the empirical models that Mr. Sides references tell us very little.
Silver is referring to various models that forecast presidential election outcomes, mostly relying on the state of the economy . But I am not referencing these models. Go back to the link from within my original post. I am referencing a 2001 article (gated) by Helmut Norporth and Michael Lewis-Beck. It isn’t a forecasting exercise. It relies on 40 years of survey data and finds that the relationship between voters’ assessments of the economy and their support for the incumbent president is not weakened by divided government.
Now, the obvious rejoinder is: this isn’t a simple case of divided government. It’s a rather unusual fight over the debt ceiling. So one can argue that political science research doesn’t apply, anything can happen, we don’t know, etc.
Fine. I still like to have at least a little evidence on my side. And, at this moment, the evidence suggests that economic downturns redound more to the president and his party than to the opposition. Perhaps this time will be different. But “perhaps” is an awfully slender reed for a president who is already facing a difficult reelection race.