Thursday, November 1, 2012

Election Prediction Update

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I have predicted that President Obama would win reelection in 2012, most emphatically here and here. Now that there are only 5 days until the election, the question is, have I changed my mind?

The low point for the Romney campaign was on September the 17th when his now famous 47% video surfaced. Since then however, the Romney campaign has done virtually everything right. Obama’s pre-debate strategy had been not to run on his record, but to demonize his opponent. Millions of dollars of ads ran depicting Romney as a vulture capitalist, hater of women, hater of minorities, and all around bad man. That strategy was vaporized by Romney’s performance in the first debate. Americans saw a man who seemed even-tempered, in command of the facts and thoroughly presidential. In contrast, Obama seemed totally annoyed at the fact that he had to spend his anniversary on a stage with an opponent that he refused even to look in the eye. By every measure, the night belonged to Romney, and he has been on an uninterrupted roll ever since. Even Obama’s better performances in the subsequent debates were not enough to put the genie of his inevitability back in the bottle.

Still, the race is terribly close, the margins in key swing states razor thin. The path to victory for Romney is still much more perilous. People forget how difficult it has been historically to defeat an incumbent President. It’s only happened 3 times in the past 50 years. In 1968 LBJ resigned rather than run for reelection, in 1980 Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter with help from a 3rd party candidate who pulled away 6% of the vote, and Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush winning only 43% of the vote because of Ross Perot’s candidacy which pulled a whopping 19% of the vote. So, incumbency is a powerful weapon in presidential politics.

While I have been surprised by the strong showing of Romney, and equally surprised at the rattled, chaotic campaign being run by the President, I still believe that Obama will eek out a slim electoral college victory with the very real possibility that Romney wins the popular vote. Much depends on turnout. No matters who wins, it will be extremely close and afterwards, be prepared for torrents of conspiracy theories from the losing side. The air will be thick with charges of voter suppression, intimidation, rampant racism, and fraud. My advice will be to turn off the television for a month, and turn your life back over to saner pursuits.

If Obama wins with 50.1% of the vote, it will be hailed as a triumph of democracy. If Romney wins with 50.1% of the vote it will prove beyond doubt that America is irredeemably racist.