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The Most Important Poll Number of 2012

The most important poll number of the presidential election was not the trial heats between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the day-to-day match-ups that political junkies followed obsessively during the long, brutal months of the campaign. The most important number was Obama's job rating. It was the magic figure that predicted the final outcome. According to latest returns, Obama captured 50.3% of the popular vote. His job approval rating going into Election Day, according to the Clarus Average, was 50%. Obama's approval rating held steady at 50% between Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, not varying one point. Polls taken during the entire month of October--with its campaign ups and downs, attention-getting debates and a massive natural disaster--showed the president's job approval rating at about 50%, never dipping below 49%. Even when Clarus poll averages reported Romney a couple of points ahead of the incumbent in mid-October, with the GOP challenger working his way out of a slump and gathering new momentum, Obama's job rating stood stubbornly at 50%. In the end, no matter what either campaign did, this race was a referendum on Obama's job performance. Ironically, that's what Republicans always wanted and Democrats always feared. Now we know.

Written by Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan polling company. Ron teaches at George Washington University and is a resident of Georgetown.