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Is there really a second-term curse?

November 25, 2013, at 1:41 PM
 
Obama's not the only president to hit second-term stumbling blocks.

Obama's not the only president to hit second-term stumbling blocks. Photo: (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Just 11 months into President Obama's second term and he seems to have fallen into the same trap as many of his predecessors.

Each of the last four two-term presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon — had extremely tough second terms. Each had different circumstances which led to difficult times, but the outcomes were very similar: Falling approval rates and increased ineffectiveness in office.

Former Mitt Romney chief strategist Stuart Stevens is a believer in the second-term curse, noting, "Again and again, we see presidents overreaching on a key mission of their presidency, resulting in the opposite of their desired effect. Sadly, it seems to happen to almost every president."

BuzzFeed even featured a listicle of seven presidents "who prove second terms can be a real big bummer."

But while many recent presidents seems to have suffered from the curse, Nate Silver argues that "the idea of the second-term curse is sloppy as an analytical concept. There is certainly a historical tendency for presidents who earn a second term to become less popular — but some of this reflects reversion to the mean. And some recent presidents have overcome the supposed curse and actually become more popular on average during their second terms."

Political Wire spoke to historian Michael Beschloss about the phenomenon:

Is there really anything to the concept of a second-term curse? Or is it just a case of selective memory?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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