A few thoughts on the campaign with just over three months to go
Apologies in advance for mindless horse race chatter.
- It’s becoming increasingly difficult to see Romney winning the election. There is just too much ground to make up in the Electoral College. A CBS/New York Times poll gave President Obama six-point leads in Ohio and Florida and an eleven-point lead in Pennsylvania. Romney simply can’t win without carrying Ohio and Florida, and he is behind in several other critical states as well. Nate Silver’s model now says that Obama has a 71% chance of getting re-elected.
In fairness, election day is still 93 days away. Obama’s lead isn’t huge and in theory a lot could happen between now and then. But so far, nothing game-changing has materialized. The Real Clear Politics average of all general election polls today as well as three, six, and nine months ago:
August 4, 2012 - Obama 47.4%, Romney 44.4% / (Obama +3.0%)
May 4, 2012 - Obama 47.0%, Romney 44.3% / (Obama +2.7%)
February 4, 2012 - Obama 47.7%, Romney 45.1% / (Obama +2.6%)
November 4, 2011 - Obama 45.7%, Romney 44.1% / (Obama +1.6%)
Nothing has really changed in nine months. If anything, the race has shifted slightly in Obama’s direction. So if Romney is ultimately elected, it will be because the final quarter went very differently than the previous three did. Not out of the question, but not especially likely either.
That being said…
- It’s unclear that anything other than Barack Obama’s personal favorability and voter disgust with the Republican Party is driving the Democrats in the coming election. The presidency isn’t everything and Republicans have demonstrated these past two years that one house of Congress is all they need to prevent Obama and the Democrats from enacting their policies. The Democrats have virtually no chance of winning the 25 seats they need to retake the majority in the House of Representatives. They lack the unifying message that they had during the successful 2006 and 2008 election cycles. Mediocre and frankly poor candidates have ruined potential pickup opportunities. And with Republicans able to use redistricting to their advantage, it was already going to be an uphill climb. So even if Obama is re-elected, he will probably lack a legislative agenda for at least two more years, which is highly unfortunate.
- The July jobs report from a policy perspective: Better than expected, but not even close to where we need to be to get to the full employment ideal that in the past we at least aimed for. We desperately more stimulative fiscal and monetary policy from Washington, and mortgage relief is an additional avenue that policy makers should be pursuing.
- The July jobs report from a political perspective: Both the domestic and the global economy are unlikely to look all that different in November than they do today. Bad employment reports in April, May, and June had little impact on the President’s poll numbers, and I don’t see the latest numbers, or subsequent reports in September, October, and November, having much effect. To put it bluntly, the economic crisis already severely harmed Obama’s approval rating, stopped his legislative agenda before it really got started, and cost his party control of Congress. But at least in my view, barring unforeseen events, it will not cost him his own job.