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Why Romney Will Win The Election

Tyler Talgo |
September 16, 2012 | 11:00 a.m. PDT


The electoral map is not President Obama's friend. (Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons)
The electoral map is not President Obama's friend. (Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons)
The upcoming election race between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama will yield historic significance regardless of who wins.

If Romney wins, he will be the first Mormon president in U.S. history, and if Obama wins, he will be the first president in modern history to be reelected with sub-50 percent approval ratings.

According to the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center, Richard Nixon was reelected in 1972 with a 59 percent pre-convention approval rating; Ronald Reagan was reelected in 1984 with a 57 percent pre-convention approval rating; Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996 with a 60 percent pre-convention approval rating; and George W. Bush was reelected in 2004 with a 52 percent pre-convention approval rating. At the start of the summer, Obama’s approval ratings hovered around 47 percent, and eventually diminished to 44 percent at the end of August.

In the beginning of this election season, Obama had two assets working in his favor: the incumbency advantage and the fundraising effort. With early predictions that the Obama campaign would top the $1 billion mark in fundraising for his reelection bid, many speculators assumed that Romney would clearly be outmatched. However, with less than two months away from the election, the Obama campaign, DNC and Obama-supported super-pac Priorities USA have raised just $587.7 million in total donations—signaling that Obama is running out of gas. His opponents, on the other hand, have been picking up momentum in recent months. Despite being outspent by $107.7 million, the Romney campaign, RNC and Romney-supported super-pac Restore our Future have raised $524.2 million and have almost $200 million in cash on hand—putting both camps at a dead heat on the fundraising front.

It was also understood at the beginning of the election season that this race would come down to the independent vote. CNN reports that among independents, Romney leads Obama 52 to 42 percent, and Talking Points Memo reports that Romney has a 46.3 to 43.5 percent lead among independents. The majority of independents in this election have chosen Romney as their candidate because they see him as the one who is better suited to fix the economy: according to Rasmussen, 50 percent trust Romney more on the economy, as compared to the 43 percent that trust Obama more on the same issue.

Given the post-convention polling bounces, some may give Obama the advantage at this stage of the race, although the bounces are subsiding. For example, new NBC/WSJ polls of three swing states have Obama leading Romney by 49 to 44 percent in Florida and Virginia, and by 50 to 43 percent in Ohio. However, when we take a closer look at the numbers, a different story is revealed. In the Florida and Virginia polls, Democrats were oversampled by 5 percent, and in Ohio they were oversampled by 10 percent. Not convinced? Here’s another fact: recent CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac polls oversampled Democrats by nine percent in Florida and by eight percent in Ohio. The Florida poll had Obama at 51 percent and Romney at 45 percent, and the Ohio poll had Obama at 50 percent and Romney at 44 percent; so, both leads were smaller than the oversampling gap. If you ask me, the advantage here clearly goes to Romney; and, believe me, these are not the only examples.

All of this is revealed in the context of a time in which Republicans are much more enthusiastic than Democrats. Last month the number of Americans who consider themselves Republicans was the highest ever recorded since 2002 at 37.6 percent, compared to only 33.3 percent who consider themselves Democrats.

So, assuming that all else is equal, what does it mean when a national poll says something like 47 percent for Obama and 44 percent for Romney, or vise versa? The nature of the missing 10 percent is one of the most important factors that come to play in all presidential reelection campaigns. Historically, the final results in an election are almost always worse than polling suggests for an incumbent president. If you took the undecided vote, according to Gallup, from every general election since 1964 that featured an incumbent president seeking reelection, 89 percent of it went to the president’s challenger. You can bet that the Obama camp understands that a 47-44 poll in its favor is not good news at all. This is why it’s virtually unheard-of for an incumbent president to win reelection when he's polling below 50 percent.

Economic indicators that differ per swing state can also play a large role in predicting the outcome of the election. Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry, two political scientists from the University of Colorado, developed a forecasting model that has successfully predicted every presidential election since 1980. Their model predicts Romney winning the Electoral College by a 320-218 margin and 52.9 percent of the popular vote. What can be drawn from their analysis is that the financial situation of voters will have the largest impact on their ballot.

On Obama’s inauguration day, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, the average gas price was $1.83 per gallon, the national debt was $10.6 trillion and there were 32 million food stamp recipients. Today, the unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, the average gas price is $3.87 per gallon, the national debt is $16 trillion and the number of food stamp recipients hit a record 46.7 million in June (the latest available report). Americans are not dumb enough to reelect a president who has created more food stamp recipients than jobs.

In summary, there are a number of conclusions that can be safely made about the outcome of this election. The fact of the matter is that if Romney is trailing Obama by a considerable amount in a state in which Obama has high polling averages, he does not have much room to compete. But, in states in which Obama is polling in the mid-forties without a significant lead, the undecided gap will most likely favor Romney. Obama will not win any of the swing states in which he has a RealClearPolitics polling average below 49 percent and within three points of Romney, or states in which he does not have more than a five point lead overall. This includes all the swing states except Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

At the end of the day, this election will be a referendum on the president’s record, and whether or not voters are better off today than they were four years ago. Barack Obama may promise hope and change again for round two, but on election day the undecided gap will only remember his promises to cut the deficit in half and maintain the unemployment rate, and his now-infamous statement, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Someone else made that happen.”

In the words of Michael Moore, “I think people should start to practice the words ‘President Romney.’”


Reach Contributor Tyler Talgo here.


Editor's Note: Read an opposing article explaining why President Obama will win the election here.



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