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Aug. 3: A Good Week for Obama in Forecast

The past week of polling and economic data was relatively newsworthy by our forecast model’s standards, and most of the news was good for President Obama.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama was helped in the forecast by a report showing an increase in personal income — one of the economic variables that the forecast model uses, and a reasonably good predictor of voter preferences in past elections. On Wednesday, he polled strongly in a number of swing states. And on Friday, Mr. Obama got a respectable — although by no means wonderful — employment report, which estimated that 163,000 jobs were created in July.

The forecast model uses the jobs number directly in its forecast. It also incorporates the S&P 500 index, which was up sharply on Friday — partly on the jobs news and partly because investors were in a better mood about the situation in Europe. Mr. Obama’s probability of winning the Electoral College increased slightly on the economic news, to 71.1 percent from 70.2 percent.

Mr. Obama’s lead in the popular vote is quite narrow: the forecast projects him to win 50.7 percent of the vote, against 48.3 percent for Mitt Romney. (Interestingly, this is the exact margin by which George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004.) Mr. Obama has some chance of winning the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote — but the reverse outcome is less likely.

Meanwhile, the comparatively encouraging economic reports of the past week make it less likely that there is another shoe to drop on Mr. Obama in the form of a further economic downturn. The economy is bad enough as it is, but voters in past elections have judged incumbents by the amount of progress in the economy, rather than how productive it is in an absolute sense.

So far, Mr. Obama seems to have persuaded a slim plurality of voters that there are enough hopeful signs to warrant another term for him. Mr. Romney still has plenty of ammunition to make the counterargument, but the flow of economic data this week made it a little harder for him.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.