Nate Silver, who won accolades for his electoral predictions during the 2012 presidential election, has analyzed and predicted where Barack Obama will place in future presidential rankings. Longtime readers may remember my discussion of these rankings here and here, and my students in the American Presidency courses that I’ve taught hopefully recall that our initial discussion starts with presidential rankings.
Silver contends “winning a second term is something of a prerequisite for presidential greatness, at least as historians have evaluated the question. . . . [T]he eight presidents who are currently regarded most favorably by historians” all served two or more terms. He concludes that “there is a positive relationship between a president’s performance in the Electoral College when seeking a second term, and how the historians have ranked him” and suggests that Obama will land on the borderline between being regarded as either a good or average president.
Personally, barring something unforeseen, I think Obama will probably be safely ensconced in the good category for at least the first decade after his second term ends. Silver rightly notes that John Kennedy has been evaluated more for his potential than his actual accomplishments. For good or ill, I suspect Obama will be treated in a similar fashion–evaluated favorably for his call for hope and change during the 2008 campaign and path-breaking election as the first African-American president more than his actual successes or failures, whatever they turn out to be.
Now, if we wanted real fun, we could ask Silver to rank Joe Biden . . .