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Why Romney Wins 2012
Prediction for 2012 Presidential Election
The presidential election for 2012 is about to come to a close, so here's the most bipartisan thing I'll say in this article....I'm glad it is coming to a close and I think everyone can agree.
We can also probably agree that it is not fun being a presidential candidate in the US in 2012. It is a long and expensive grueling endeavor, and now it is almost over. So it's time for us to chime in on who's going to win. Yes prediction time. Here's mine. Romney with 300+ electoral votes and a 6 point win in the popular vote.
3 Reasons Behind the Prediction
There are 3 main reasons behind this prediction. Now some of this will be kind of boring strategy stuff and some of this will be just my opinion but it's what I think at this point 2 days before the election.
Reason # 1 - Incumbency and the Economy
There are many benefits of being an incumbent president. You get to create situations where you look presidential and fitting of the job. All those photo ops visiting the troops or having a press conference with world leaders. When you make a speech everyone is there to cover it. You get to talk directly to the people of the US.
There's also the drawbacks. For instance, if the economy is going bad, whether it is your fault or not, it's your fault. When gas prices are rising, whether it's your fault or not, it's your fault. When people are looking for work and can't find it, whether it's your fault or not, it's your fault.
It's pretty clear that the US economy is on life support being propped up by monetary policy that likely is merely forestalling an inevitable decline. The person who is the incumbent is tied to that bad economy and it is a huge strike against the president.
Reason # 2 - Strategy
OK, here's where we get to the possibly boring part. I find it fascinating but I can see where others would not. The president knew about Reason 1. He did not have a good record to run on so he could not say what a great job he did on the economy. What then does he have left except to disqualify the challenger? How do you disqualify the challenger? Well truth be told, candidate Obama was a master.
In his first run for office in Illinois, he won his state senate seat not by winning the election as much as he got all his challengers disqualified. Fast forward to 2004 when Obama was pitted against Jack Ryan, when somehow child custody records related to a divorce where both parents requested the custody records not be unsealed because of the harm it would cause the child. The court thought otherwise and Ryan ended up stepping down as a candidate. His replacement came in late and was very ineffective so Obama won a decisive victory.
So the task this time was to make Mitt Romney unfit or disqualified for office. The strategy seemed in part to suggest he was out of touch, too rich to relate to anyone in the middle class. A caricature was built through media ads and campaign rhetoric.
The problem came during the first debate. The person of Mitt Romney that the public saw in that debate, did not fit this caricature. In fact by most accounts candidate Romney won the debate and in a sense put himself on par with the President. What I mean by this is he held his ground and did well. That means people perceive him as capable of doing the job of president which requires someone who can stand ground and hold their own with US congress and heads of state from other countries.
This double whammy made candidate Romney a plausible president and the polls started swinging in favor of candidate Romney.
So the tactic of trying to disqualify a candidate backfired when the public got to see how much of a gross mischaracterization of him was being presented by President Obama's campaign.
Reason # 3 - The Folly of Polling
Perhaps this is a variant of the strategy problem but I look at it as separate. After the conventions, polls started coming out that showed President Obama with commanding leads not only in popular vote but also in the electoral college count. As late as October 3rd, Real Clear Politics had President Obama with an 88 point lead in the electoral college map and sitting at the 269 threshold of the 270 required to win the presidency. With 88 votes still up for grabs, the president was a shoe in to win, or so it seemed.
It was portrayed in the media as if it were almost inevitable that the President would get re-elected. My sense is that this is probably a combination of sloppy polling and a bit of campaign gamesmanship to disillusion some who might vote for the challenger. Whatever the reason, it turned out that these polls were highly dubious for a number of reasons.
Here are the biggest reasons
- Polls taken before debates combined with a challenger who had not really introduced to a US public that had not really been paying too much attention yet to the upcoming presidential race.
- Polls assumed turnout models from 2008 which was a historically advantageous for the President and the enthusiasm for that 2008 candidate had yet to be rekindled and was returning to the more normal even split amongst the parties.
- Polls are notoriously ineffective at measuring intensity. They give a snapshot in time but fail to predict who's most committed to vote. There are 2 recent examples of this,
- In 2008 levels of participation by minorities including Blacks, Hispanics and Asians were at record highs. Beyond that if you look at race breakdown of eligible voters and those who participated, minorities out performed their percentage of eligibility in each category. Poorly written but what it means is that although only 7.4% of the eligible voting population was Hispanic, 9.5% of the voting totals were made by Hispanics. None of this level of intensity of minorities was picked up in the polling prior to the 2008 election.
- In 2010, turnout by evangelicals was the highest it has ever been for a mid term election. Evangelicals are notoriously fickle about voting and difficult to account for in polls. Many stayed home in 2008 as there was not a great deal of intensity for the Republican candidate.
So because polls early on tend to be dubious at best, they only offer a glimpse into the electorate. As many as 10 to 15% of the people who are going to vote still don't know who they are going to vote for even a couple weeks out before an election. So taking a poll is almost meaningless.
This all added up to a bunch of numbers that didn't really mean very much. The two most important things for people to keep an eye on when there is an incumbent president is job approval and intensity of the voters, something that is difficult to measure. In this election, there seems to be a lackluster enthusiasm for the president and a great deal of enthusiasm for those who would replace him.
Tying it all Together
So to tie this all together. We have before us a president with out much good news to tell an electorate regarding the economy or the future of the economy. A challenger who showed himself to be a reasonable alternative (maybe not ideal but at least plausible) and a voting public that seems to be open to trying something new and shifting toward the challenger. This is a recipe for change when it comes to presidential politics.
With that in mind, and the idea that the late breaking vote always goes toward the challenger, I'm predicting 300+ count for Mitt Romney in the electoral college and a 53-47 popular vote margin for Mitt Romney as well...but we'll know for sure in a couple of days.
If you have a prediction or you see a flaw in my logic, fill it in below.