James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • 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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Posts Tagged ‘close election’

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.

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