Okay, so I've had several friends ask me what I think Obama's chances are in 2012. Personally, I don't like making predictions this far out. There are so many unknowns:
Who will the challenger be?
What will the economy be like?
What will be happening on the world stage?
So this thread is not to be my of an election that's a little less than 15 months away. However, it is about the electoral that will shape the game field come next summer. I've been reading alot so forgive me if I'm light on links at first (besides...they eat-up lots of text!), I may provide links as I go.
I know I get wordy and some don't like reading all of my posts so I'll start with my conclusion:
As of today, President Obama looks like he's going to loose re-election...and quite probably really badly. Like 1980 Reagan Bloodbath bad.
Here's why I think so:
Whoever told Obama to go ahead and announce now should be fired for sheer incompetence. One of the major advantages any incumbent, and the president in particular, has is the ability to look official or presidential. He can stand above the partisan bickering and project the image of working for the good of the country.
Once you announce...this advantage quickly erodes. That's why you wait until the last possible moment because chances are no one is going to run against you. Obama has squandered this by not only doing it early...but helluva-I'm-an-amatuer-at-presidential-p olitics early. Now when he gets involved in (or even stays out of) policy battles...pundents, reporters and assholes like me question what angle he's coming at this politically.
It's especially bad when you immediately leave Washington following a major battle to campaign fundraise.
Most presidents only deal with this during the final couple of months or weeks. Obama will have to deal with it for over a year.
Obama lost this one...badly.
Yes the narrative that the Tea Party held the country hostage has created a PR problem for the Republicans. But major debates cause PR problems for both sides.
But Obama lost this one very, very badly. So bad that I've read in the Liberal side of the blogosphere that some in his base want a primary challenger. This is never a good sign. Thus the narratives that have gained the most traction:
1) Obama and Reid made a huge mistake during the lame duck session not to vote this in. From the Left's perspective they had one last shot to push through major parts of their agenda that would not be possible after the Republicans took over the House in 2011.
1a) To further expand on point 1; they played electoral politics with the debt ceiling and the country's credit rating...and lost. Now their motivations look self-absorbed and they'll put partisan politics first.
2) Obama tried to play the part of uncompromising leader. At one point he held a good hand in the negotiations...but then decided to opt out and instead gamble everything his base wanted. He then folded and is unable to provide his base with any policy points to show for it.
In the end, the confidence that Obama's base has in him is very critically shaken. If he isn't capable of pulling something absolutely amazing out of his hat this will translate in an unenthusiastic base and low turn-out for him.
I have read a few commentaries from his base pointing out that his campaign staff is obsessed with independant voters. Furthermore, they claim that this is a stupid strategy because most "independants" are Independants In Name Only (IINOs). Political Scientists have known for awhile that most "independants" lean so heavily towards one or another party that they tend to vote as if they identify with that political party.
In the end, only about 7% of independants are truly independant.
So some liberals are saying that Obama should focus on his base and turning out Democrats whether they claim to be Dems or not.
This is stupid.
Political Scientists have also been noticing a trend that the number of people who claim to lean toward Republican/Conservative candidates and issues now equal if not slightly edge out those who lean or claim to be Democrats/Liberals. Thus, while turning out your side is very important...if you don't get a majority of that 7% of the electorate you lose.
I've been watching his approval ratings. His Gallup weekly approval average dipped to 40% a week or two ago. He needs 48% to guarantee a win. Right now the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of all major polls has him at 43.5% for to 51.2% against. This means that he is down to his base. Furthermore, it means his base has eroded and we could see Democrat leaning IINOs vote Republican.
It could also be (because several polls control for people who are not registered to vote or unlikely to), his base is not planning on supporting him or the other guy...they'll just stay home. Meanwhile, the Right's base is energized and they could win the base turn-out battle.
Love it, hate it or just plain don't care...
Presidential politics is about winning the Electoral College...not just the popular vote. Therefore what states you carry is very important.
With the census of 2010 has come a reapportionment of EC delegates. There has been a net shift of 12 votes to states that Obama did not carry in '08...the one's he's very likely not to carry in '12. So out of the gate he's already down.
The Republican Challenger only has to flip three good sized states to win. So I predict that the following states will be major battlegrounds:
Missouri (we went for McCain last time...but it was very close; thus the Challenger will have to ensure he keeps us red)
In several of these states recent polling has shown weak to abysmial support for Obama with his "deserve to re-elect" scores tanking with independants. If Obama can't reverse this trend between now and then...he's toast.
With the exception of Reagan '84, no president since FDR has won re-election with unemployment over 7.8%. The only reason Reagan won was because unemployment had started to improve significantly over the last year before November.
Therefore, I predict that if unemployment does not drop below 8.8% between now and then Obama will lose. His only shot is to get it to the 7.8-8.2% range.
*as a note state unemployment rates could effect him even though they may be better than the average. For example Ohio has a 8.8% rate, Wisconsin has a 7.8%, Pennsylvannia has a 7.6% (US: 9.1%). BUT they have Republican governors and therefore voters in these states may see the Republicans as better stewards of the economy.
Inflation will also be a big thing. The cost of energy and food is quickly growing. Now Obama has his hands on two major levers that effect this phenomenon: the Treasury and the Fed. So while a significant part of inflation is private sector activity...the president does play a major role in this.
Cost of oil...again the president has a big hand in this.
1) Monetary policy set by the Treas & the Fed can make the cost of oil from OPEC countries go up or down.
2) He controls the permits that allow for drilling inside the US and it's waters. So far he has shown to be very tight-fisted with these permits...even go so far as to shut-down domestic drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Appraisal: if gas is above $3.33/gal he is in serious trouble. If gas is $4.00 or over...he is toast.