Lesson for Obama: History Not Kind to Presidents with High Unemployment Rates

Only FDR has been reelected with unemployment over 8%. 2012 Projection: 8.2%

ByABC News
January 31, 2011, 6:02 PM

Feb. 1, 2011 -- President Obama may have gotten some bad news last week about his re-election prospects when the Congressional Budget Office predicted that the nation's unemployment rate will be 8.2 percent come Election Day 2012.

The only president ever to win re-election with a jobless rate that high was FDR during the Great Depression. In 1932 the jobless rate was 23.6 percent, in 1936 it was 16.9 percent, and in 1940 14.6 percent.

In fact, those years are the only ones in history when the nation's unemployment rate has been that high during an election.

More recent history does not bode well for Obama.

In 1992, incumbent George Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton with the unemployment rate at 7.4 percent. In 1980, incumbent Jimmy Carter was sent packing by voters who opted for Ronald Reagan at a time when the jobless rate was 7.5 percent. And in 1976 incumbent Gerald Ford was ousted by Carter with the jobless rate at 7.8 percent.

Another worrisome sign for the administration is that if the unemployment rate is 8.2 percent in November 2012, that would be an increase from what it was when he took office -- 7.7 percent.

While the White House has consistently said that their economic policies succeeded in preventing a repeat of the Great Depression, the "it could have been worse" argument might not resonate with voters.

Asked by ABC News' Sunlen Miller if the president was concerned about this, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president is focused on the jobs situation today, not 22 months from now.