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  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Pre-Memorial Day 2012 presidential election projection: Obama wins handily

Posted by James McPherson on May 23, 2012

“The 2012 presidential election is going to be close. Very close. Incredibly close. Like Al-Gore-vs-George-W.-Bush close.”

That’s how Chris Cillizza, a Washington Post political pundit whose work I respect, started a post for his highly respected blog, The Fix, yesterday. He is far from alone in his proclamation that the election will be tight; similar statements in recent weeks have come from the likes of the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times,  U.S. News and countless talking heads on cable news programs. On the other hand Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi says most journalists think Obama has it won, but have good reason to say otherwise:

It’s our job in the media to try to drum up interest in this. We have to sell advertising, we have to get viewers and get ratings. We can’t just come out and say that this thing is over six months before it happens. So, there is a strong incentive among all pundits, including me, to come out and say, ‘this could happen, that could happen.’ Romney has a legitimate chance. It’s just a subconscious pull that works on all of us in the media that drives us to make those kinds of comments, I think.

You can use the links above to read the various arguments for yourself, and I responded to Cizzilla in the comments section of his blog yesterday, but today I decided it was worth expanding here why I think Cillizza and those other “close elections” folks are wrong. The 2012 presidental election won’t be close, and unless something significant happens to change the tide Obama will win.

I know this is too early in the process to make such pronouncements. After all, despite what Fox News and MSNBC would have you believe, most people won’t pay any serious attention to the campaigns until at least the conventions this summer, or later. (Some never will pay much attention, but will show up to vote regardless, a whole other issue.) A lot can happen between now and November. We might go to war in Iraq, or see things turn dramatically worse in Afghanistan. Worldwide economic collapse or some form of disaster may make U.S. elections irrelevant. The U.S. might be embarrassed in the Olympics, which Fox News will blame on Obama. Stephen Colbert might agree to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate. Joe Biden might kiss Jeremiah Wright on the mouth while standing on an American flag and holding a Qur’an. Congress might do something constructive. Space aliens might attack–or simply give their support to Romney. Less likely, Romney might figure out a way to talk to regular people. So, in fact, no one KNOWS what will happen in the election.

I have alluded previously to the fact that I thought Obama would win handily in 2012, whether he deserves to or not. I pointed out that the GOP Congressional victories of 2010 would likely help, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, my reasons have included bad graphic design by the Romney folks and horse racing’s Triple Crown. Now I’ll offer some more serious reasons that nervous folks shouldn’t waste beautiful summer days agonizing over presidential politics. (If you still want to get worked up about politics, get involved locally or at the state level, where you might actually make a difference.)

Lots of people can provide arguments for why Obama might lose, and some on talk radio and on blogs act as if an Obama defeat is a certainty. But today I’ll take the opportunity to point out that it’s not just me who thinks those people are misguided–EVERYONE who has meaningful data seems to think Obama will win. Yahoo! predicted back in February that Obama would win in a landslide. Those who say Romney will be our next president seem to be basing their “predictions” on wishful thinking, such as that expressed by usually wrong Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and washed-up political hack Dick Morris. Let’s look at some electoral maps.

If you count states that are certain to go for either candidate, along with those that “likely” will, 270towin.com has Obama gaining 217 votes, Romney, 190, with just 130 undecided. The undecided votes represent just eight states, which explains why both candidates have been (and will be) spending so much of their time in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. That 217-190 count sounds close, and it is–but that seems to be the best possible picture for Romney at this point, other than the interactive map offered by the Washington Post (with analysis by Cillizza). That map gives Obama 196 “solid” and 41 “leaning” electoral votes, compared to 170 and 21 for the challenger, with 110 undecided.

Other maps give Obama an even bigger margin. For example, Real Clear Politics has Obama leading 227-170, with 141 (11 states) as toss-ups. In that case the president needs just 43 more electoral votes, with numerous different ways to get there. Romney needs 100, virtually guaranteeing that he needs to win both Ohio and Florida–and still needs a lot of help elsewhere. Electoral-vote.com has Obama winning easily, with 253 votes already declared “strongly Democratic,” 32 as “weak Democratic,” and 73 as “barely Democratic.” The Intrade Prediction Market (likely to be wildly inaccurate at this point because of limited participation) has it 250-146 for Obama, with 142 outstanding. And “Blogging Caesar“–who seems to be a conservative and who claims to have an outstanding prediction record–at electionprojection.com has Obama by a landslide, 303-235.

Again, it’s early and much could change. But if anyone has real numbers or meaningful data that seem to predict a Romney win, I haven’t come across them. And Obama seems to have more options to reach 270 electoral votes than Romney does. If you have evidence to the contrary, I hope you’ll share it. Closer elections are more interesting, which is why the media have an interest in acting as if this one will be tight. And because close elections make it easier to raise money, neither party will tell you before election day that this one seems to be wrapped up.

Still, as even a Fox News contributor pointed out a couple of weeks ago, “The bottom line is that President Obama’s path to electoral victory seems clear.” So there you have it–feel free to ignore the summer “close election” hype. Rather than sending your hard-earned 10 bucks to a presidential candidate, use that money to take your kids out for ice cream.

Memorial Day update: Here’s another “poll of polls” that indicates it will be tough for Obama to lose: polltrack.com.

21 Responses to “Pre-Memorial Day 2012 presidential election projection: Obama wins handily”

  1. Not to mention that some of the early poli sci prediction models, which have pretty high succes rates, are pointing in Obama’s favor.

  2. James McPherson said

    Good point, John–thanks for making it.

  3. Reuel said

    Yes I will use the money for Ice Cream. Giving money to either party is a waste unless you bundle. I hope your wrong for one reason, This man has added to the divide of this country and Bob Schafer’s comment over the weekend were telling. What happen to the hope and change? Now all we have are negative ads from both sides. Not his exact words, but it was quite eye opening when I read this in the news this week. I can also see 16.3 trillion other reasons and that is not all President Bush’s fault either for his removal. If he is in the house for four more, may he have to deal with both the house and the Senate full of Republicans.

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  5. Reuel said

    If the stock market is below 10,000 on election day, you can pretty much predict a much closer, photo finish for many of the current people occupying positions in Washington. President Obama will be tossed out with the rest of them. Independents like myself are in the drivers seat this November. Heck, I would allow President Clinton a Third term at this point. I did vote for him in 1996. Why the two parties don’t see from our history that both sides can work together and get a little of what each want. Middle of the road is always the best path in my opinion.

  6. James McPherson said

    Clinton’s approval rating was high enough that he might have won re-election if he could have run. Gore’s biggest mistake may have been not using Clinton enough–if he had, he’d have likely won his home state and the whole Florida debacle wouldn’t have mattered. I do think things could happen to make it close, though I don’t think most people know or care enough about the Dow for it to matter except for the other effects (unemployment, esp.). And independents are usually in the driver’s seat–I just don’t see much that should appeal to them about Mitt. Perhaps I’m just missing something, and you could fill me in.

  7. Reuel said

    Well as for filling you in, in 2008 President Obama had zero experience in leading anything and he got elected. As I look back to 2008 it was nothing about what he did in his life or what experience he had. It was just all about the mistakes made by President Bush. He gave no real answers to correct the problem, but to tax more. Mitt has really not been real clear himself either. The masses vote with emotions instead of doing any real comparing each product. They fall for slick slogans, Hope and Change. As for the stock market, more 401k retirements are there and they see it every time they check it, at least I do, quarterly. I do not see anything moving “Forward” here in the Midwest. The only moving going on here is to other regions for lower pay and higher cost of living areas. Yes jobs have been created, but they are lower pay or a government related job. I do not see much that appeals to me with either of our choices this year and that is the problem. Government has to learn it can not be all things for everybody and most “Programs” are underestimated, mismanaged, and interpreted differently by both sides. We are promised that waste/ fraud will be found when we pass every new program to pay for it. Health care law was promised to find 500 billion waste/fraud in medicare to help pay for it. They found 500 million and quit looking. Both sides do it. Then when you look at both programs, they still count it twice and the new CBO estimates for Heath care have tripled. With 129,000 less millionaires in 2011, there are not enough “Rich People” paying 100 % of their income to pay for all of this. But it works because there are more that hate those “Rich People” and they believe all the woes in the world are caused by them “Rich People”. When in fact it is our government that is the irresponsible player in the game. No President Bush was not the only one responsible in Washington, but that was what they wanted us to believe in 2008. The same is true today President Obama is not responsible alone, but he to will be rewarded of be a one termer. I choose the later of the two, because I do believe in Karma.

  8. James McPherson said

    “I do not see much that appeals to me with either of our choices this year and that is the problem.”

    Agreed–which is why voters will stick with the devil they know, I think (I could be wrong, of course–it wouldn’t be the first time). Some of us will cast protest votes for independents, especially if we’re not in battleground states. (Barring a landslide, we know all of Washington’s electoral votes will go to Obama and all of Idaho’s will go to Mitt).

    I agree with you that the American voter is shallow, falling for slick slogans. But I don’t see any of those slogans coming out of Mitt. For all his flaws, Obama generated an excitement among a considerable part of the population that somehow I just can’t see Romney generating. And you know I’m not Obama’s biggest fan–but practically speaking, how could he have accomplished ANYTHING with this Republican House and the Senate filibuster? That’s why it won’t matter much if Mitt does win and if Republicans win both houses of Congress–they can’t get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and Dems aren’t going to forget that the GOP wouldn’t even let them pass what formerly had been Republican ideas.

    And if you really believe in Karma, what is it about a spoiled etch-a-sketch multimillionaire that makes him “deserve” to be there?

  9. Reuel said

    I know one thing. A lot of Union dues got wasted the last year and a half in Wisconsin. I know the right put more money in to it, but if I was a Union member I would be recalling the union bosses. That was money flushed down the toilet. So let see what did recall cost Wisconsin tax payers, 7 million to restore a damaged State house, 13 to 16 Million dollars for recall election, unknown millions of union dues wasted and ended with a big slacking. President Obama sent a tweeter support and flew over Wisconsin twice to go to fund raisers just days before the vote. I would say he is not a team player. That is the biggest problem I have with him, he is for himself only and Democrats in the Midwest are starting to see the light. I still think Hillary was asked (VP Slot) and Bill told her to say NO, because Bill and the Clinton Machine see the writing on the wall. Bill is so smooth he goes to a fund raiser one day with Obama and the next he goes back to making headlines that are not part of the approved “Talking Points”. You Know I don’t think he would win a Democratic primary these days, just like Kennedy or Reagan would stand a chance these days in the party they belong too. That just shows us how far apart these political parties have divide this country. Enjoy the political season, I am.

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