Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Obama Will Lose

There is general fretting going on in Republican ranks that Obama is looking like a sure bet for re-election. Well, don't lose sleep over it, he's not. Unless the Republican nominee runs the worst campaign ever (always possible), Obama is toast.

The prediction markets currently say Obama's odds for re-election are 60%. As much as I am a fan of these markets, they've got it wrong. I'd say more like 30%.

There are many reasons why. Let's go through them:

  • Do you personally know a single person who didn't vote for Obama last time but plans to this time? No? Me, neither. And I've asked a lot of people. This sets a hard ceiling for his vote count, from which he can only lose support. Last time, he won by 5 ½ percent.
  • Of the people you know who voted for Obama, how many did so out of a sense of moral fashion, a desire to seem sophisticated and "with it?" A lot? Me too. And most of the ones I know feel like they were had. They feel that Obama ran a "post partisan" and middle-of-the-road campaign. He did, and he isn't. These voters won't get fooled again. If they are only 3% of the voting population, Obama loses. And 3% seems low to me. America is a center-right country, and Obama has not tacked to the middle, Bubba-style.
  • People always forget turnout in these discussions. 2008 was a perfect storm - the good kind - for Democrat turnout. Not only was there massive Bush fatigue after eight years, but world markets fell out of bed right before the election. Plus Obama was a charismatic candidate with almost no voting record to criticize. He spurred record turnout from Dems while McCain inspired almost none in the Republican ranks.
  • Of the 5 1/2 percent winning margin, fully three percent was from increased black turnout. Even though blacks are only 11% of the population, they turned out in such numbers they added almost 4% to Obama's margin. Blacks will still vote 95% for Obama, but with excitement levels down, and with history already having been made, look for black turnout to ebb. It probably costs Obama 2 points.
  • With Latinos, the picture is even worse. Last time, Obama won Latinos by 36 points. To put this in perspective, Kerry only won Latinos by ten. Right now, Obama's favorability rating with Latinos is a mere 44%. Let's be generous, though, and say he actually wins Latinos by 55-45, that's still a 26 point drop in the margin. But it's worse than that, because turnout will be lower. If you assume a 10% drop in turnout, combined with a 26% drop in the vote margin, that translates into roughly a 1.5 point drop overall for Obama’s margin. This, combined with the decline in black turnout, is enough to reverse 2008’s result.
  • The youth vote is another issue. Once again, Obama enjoyed a huge turnout and overwhelming support from this demographic. And while he still enjoys a slightly positive skew in their support, it is way, way off from 2008, when he won this demographic by 33 points. If we assume the youth turnout reverts to 2004 levels, and we assume a ten point drop in the margin, it costs Obama another 3.75% That’s enough of a margin to swing the election right there.
  • Conservatives, the biggest single voting philosophical block, will turn out in droves. Last time, the combination of a dreary moderate, McCain, and Bush fatigue suppressed conservative turnout. Not even another moderate like Romney will have that effect this time. Anti-Obama sentiment is just too high. The Tea Party will hold its collective nose and vote.
  • The economy, I don't need to point out, stinks. Gas prices are at record highs, etc. 
  • Obama's net approval rating (Rasmussen) has not been positive since June 29th, 2009. That's pushing 3 years. Presidents simply don't get re-elected with numbers like that.
    So, barring a remarkable turnaround in the economy, which, given Obama's own job-killing policies seems unlikely, it's difficult to see how he comes anywhere close to winning. (Of course, we've only addressed the popular vote here. We'll get to the electoral college in due course. I will roll out my electoral college model, which has been extremely accurate, this spring.)

    In the meantime, won't you take my little poll?


    1. You keep forgetting that he is going to be running against a Republican. You are definitely setting yourself up for disappointment. Not even the Republicans like their candidates.

    2. The Dem base will vote for Obama. The Republican base may hold their nose because Romney doesn't excite them, but they will vote for anyone but Obama. The independents--the swing voters--are going to look at Obama and say, "He had his chance, he did nothing, he spent four years trying to blame others for his his inactivity. It will be close, but Obama will lose (more than the Republican will win). After this election, a third party will start to evolve that will draw from the left, right, and center. It will be an anti-big government, anti-big business, anti-big labor party. It will reject crony capitalism and base itself on the Constitution and true free-market capitalism. Whether it will succeed or not is still a question, but the Occupy people and the Tea Partiers and and the Ron Paul devotees and many others are all looking for change that can't come from the two major parties.

    3. I feel U6 unemploynent is not being taken seriously. The economy is not adding jobs the work force is decreasing. Chronic long term unemployment and under employmnet is is very high 15.1 percent down from 15.6. So take the average of 8.3 U1 and 15.1 U6 and it feels like double digits. That is is really hard sell going to unemployed and underemployed and say hey give me another 208 weeks its getting better.

    4. People like to pretend the Bradley Effect (racism sapping the black man's vote amongst whites due to quiet racism) didn't happen. But it *did*. That's why Obama only won by 5 percentage points, instead of looking like LBJ vs Goldwater or Reagan vs Mondale. It will be even stronger this time. It will be close, but Romney will probably win.

      The problem is, Romney won't be any *better*. Just as Obama was no better than Bush.

    5. @aonoymous, I would argue the opposite. While there were no doubt people who didn't vote for Obama for reasons of ace, there were many more who voted for him because it made them feel enlightened and sophisticated - a shorthand way to appear like a "good" person. I know many, many people like this, and Obama will lose many of these votes this time, because in their minds they have "checked the box." Many of these people live in all-important suburban areas near cities like Philly.

      Conversely, the people who voted against him on racial grounds will presumably not change their vote this time.

      This dynamic will work out very poorly for Obama.