A trip to the US has given me five reasons to pick who will win the US presidential election in November

Just back from the US and my political gut is ready to make a prediction for this year's presidential election. That may be foolish, as there will be plenty of opportunities for the candidates to flail and fail, what with the conventions in the next few weeks and the TV debates to follow.

Once again the signs are that it will be a tight race; but one candidate has the edge.

These are tough times for America. Even normally ebullient California has a monkey on its back, with massive state debt and 14% unemployment.

Obama hasn't been given the free pass National has here on economic issues – there's plenty of blame laid at his door for America's plight. Of course he has much more power to carve out change both domestically and globally because of the sheer scale of his power and his country's economy. There's no way he can get away with blaming everything on Greece.

But not only is the US economy being stubbornly sluggish and short of jobs, the country's having to come to terms ever so slowly with its new place in the world as a dominant voice, rather than the dominant voice.

If you take away the names and faces and look purely at the state of the nation, signs point to a Republican win. Voters often look right in troubled economic times. And the lack of jobs is a killer – with unemployment over 8% for over three years, they should have it in the bag. No post-war president has won with unemployment over 7.2%.

Add to that the fact that Obama has underwhelmed many Democrats and independents and that Romney is expected to comfortably out-spend Obama in the campaign and Romney's an obvious pick.

But I think Barack Obama will squeak a second term. He won't have anything like the love and belief he enjoyed in 2008; the hope of that campaign will be replaced with sufferance. But five things will get him across the line.

  1. There is disillusion and disappointment aplenty amongst the liberals; but then many on the right view Romney as a dubious candidate as well. Neither base is especially in love with its candidate, but the anti-Romney feeling amongst swing voters will be stronger than the feeling of disappointment in Obama. Be it his arrogance or clunkiness, wealth or faith, Romney doesn't appeal to many. Then there's his hypocrisy on so many issues, from healthcare to immigation. Republicans could have romped in this time, but they have a terribly weak candidate. He just can't etcho-sketch away enough.
  2. People I spoke to are bored with the race already. Really, so many people hate Washington, hate the same old ploys, hate the partisanship. That will help the incumbent and Obama specifically, who on the trail talks an inclusive game.
  3. Romney has lost the hispanic vote. Whereas Bush could claim support of as much as 44%, Romney is languishing in the 20s. To ram that home, Obama has promised significant immigration reform. They matter because there will be a couple of million more voting this time than in 2008. That gives Obama a major lift in Nevada, Colorado and Florida, all key states.
  4. And that's just one of the minorities the Republican primary campaign has alienated. The birth control fuss has angered many young women, for example. In contrast, Obama's gay marriage endorsement has given gays and younger voters a reason to bother.
  5. Perhaps most significantly, the economy is trending up. Slightly. But it should just be enough. If the employment and growth numbers were trending down, Obama would be in real trouble despite all the other factors. But there's an air of recovery that will give people enough confidence to try another term. What if Europe falls apart? You may well ask. But I think if the worst happens, voters are more likely to go for the incumbent in a time of crisis. And of course any improvement helps him. So he's ok, either way.

Of course it's early days and more factors will arise. But the big picture stuff should be enough for Obama to get four more years.

Comments (6)

by BeShakey on August 07, 2012

It might be true that the base doesn't love Obama as much as they did.  But every president to lose reelection in the 20th century (Taft, Hoover, Ford, Carter and Bush Sr) angered their base enough to either have a primary challenge or a third party candidate taking votes off them (or both). Obama hasn't even had serious rumblings of either of these.

Its also worth mentioning that while lots of Americans think the country is heading in the right direction if you ask them about the candidates Obama leads 60 to 31 in terms of likeability (59 to 28 among independents), and 51 to 41 in cares about people like you (53 to 37 among independents). No challenger has ever won an election with likeability ratings as poor as Mitt Romneys this close to an election.

Finally, nationwide polls are next to useless in figuring out who will win (look at the 1960 election of how a narrow lead in the popular vote can be translated into a comortable win in the electoral college).

by Tim Watkin on August 08, 2012
Tim Watkin

You're quite right about the national polls Shakey (I won't point out that you quoted them, but I didnt - heh). As is typical these days it's down to Penn, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia and the like. You make good historical points - I passed over that quickly, talking about the power of incumbency, but we're in total agreement. Democrats I know are disappointed, but they don't hve anyone else to vote for, so...

And the BBQ likeability test still matters, even though many of those moved by likeability wouldn't be seen dead at a BBQ with either of the candidates. And that favours Obama, who can at least naturally like sports and women in tight leather. Romney can't really do banter and blokiness.



by Andre Terzaghi on August 08, 2012
Andre Terzaghi

I'm really curious about whether the gay marriage issue is a net gain or loss for Obama. Sure it helps energise some of the young/liberal/gay constituency that otherwise might be disappointed enough to not bother voting. But there's also a surprisingly large God-fearing snake-handling speaking-in-tongues population that wouldn't vote at all rather than vote for a Mormon, until something like gay marriage comes along and raises the intolerance towards gays and liberals higher than their religious hangups. And yes, some of that population are in swing states.

by Conorjoe on August 09, 2012

heh - purported ten years of paying No Taxes and now raising capital for Bain from death squad funders from El Salvador. Better and better. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/mitt-romney-death-squads-bain_n_1710133.html

Best thing I read this morning was a comment - " Whats in the bag Mr Romney'? "Hardware stuff"....'Whats in the bag Mr Romney"?...."Death Squad stuff..." the creature is an etch a sketch automaton.

Read one commentator who said his declaration that he won't be watching his wifes horse compete at the olympucks - or even knew which day it was competing - shows what a reflexive liar he is. 



by BeShakey on August 09, 2012

One of Obama's big advantage in the gay marriage issue is with fundraisers. There are a lot of pro-gay rights donors in California who will be being pumped for money as we speak.

His position is soft enough that (he hasn't said he'll actually do anything, and his position has been that its a state issue anyway) unless Romney pushes it I doubt it'll lose him a lot of votes. And Romney will be unlikely to push it too hard because hes already unpopular with women, who tend to be more liberal on this issue, and was relatively liberal on the issue himself when he was a governor, which opens up the whole flipflopping issue again.

by Andre Terzaghi on August 09, 2012
Andre Terzaghi

I agree the gay marriage issue will probably gain some votes for Obama, and lose very few. For the Obama supporters and Romney-Obama undecideds it's a definite positive for Obama. It's way over on the other side that I'm wondering what the effect will be.

I don't expect either Obama or Romney to make much (if anything) of the gay marriage issue in their direct campaigns. It'll be the Romney supporter super-PACs that will use it to attack Obama and not mention Romney at all.

One thing that's abundantly clear is very few people are actually enthusiastic about Romney, and there's probably quite a few that would normally reliably vote Republican, but are genuinely seriously put off by Romney. Specifically, Santorum supporters and their like.

I lived in Philadelphia from 1990 to 1995, when Santorum's statewide popularity was rising and peaking. For this primary campaign, either his media handlers did an awesome job on moderating his public utterances, or the media I follow didn't have a strong enough stomach to cover them all. In any case, this year we didn't see anywhere near the full breadth of his more ... ahhh ..."interesting" views. Including extreme religious intolerance and a horror of any kind of "alternative lifestyle". I suspect a lot of his primaries support had a strong flavour of "a Mormon? Anybody else!", and finding Santorum's multiple intolerances the most attractive alternative. So while they would never vote for Obama, they are very unlikely to vote FOR Romney, either.

Strong "mainstream American Christian" views go hand-in-hand with a strong desire to tell others what they can and can't do in the bedroom and an unusually strong reliance on belief and prejudice over evidence. It took a bit of getting to know a few rural Pennsylvanians for me to fully appreciate this. I think it would be easy to get them even more rarked up against Obama to the point of forgetting how much they also dislike Romney, while neglecting any hint of Romney's actual record in this area. And no Obama supporter is going to want to respond to an attack ad by saying "wait a minute, the record shows Romney's actually pretty moderate here". Except on the healthcare issue.

So I wonder whether the gay marriage issue might turn a lot of potential no-votes into actual "anti-Obama" votes for Romney.

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