How good are Obama’s re-election chances?

US President Barack Obama has officially kicked off his re-election campaign. So it’s a good time to ask: how good are his chances – at the moment, at least – to win a second term?

The short answer is: Pretty decent. (The even shorter answer, according to the speculators over at Intrade, is: 59.4%.) For starters, Mr. Obama is polling well against two of his most likely opponents: A poll last month found Mr. Obama would beat Mitt Romney by nine points and Tim Pawlenty by 19 points in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup if the election were today.

The margin was narrower against a generic Republican candidate (something that, of course, doesn’t exist) – but even there Mr. Obama held the edge, 45 percent to 40 percent. Mr. Obama’s approval rating two years into his term (49 percent) was higher than two of the last two three presidents to win a second term – Presidents Reagan and Clinton. (President George W. Bush had a 59 percent approval rating at the midpoint in his first term.)

And as Time’s Michael Scherer notes, even those who disagree with Mr. Obama tend to like him – a crucial factor in winning the independents who broke from the Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. The fact that 84 percent of Americans (according to an Associated Press poll last month) call Mr. Obama a likeable person speaks to his advantage among the casual voters who may not go to the polls in a midterm year but will cast ballots in 2012. CBS

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