Obama and Romney Go Down to the Wire
By Nayyer Ali MD
The 2012 Presidential Election is finally wrapping up. Already millions of early voters have cast their ballots. Usually sitting Presidents are easily reelected in good times and tossed out without ceremony in bad times (Carter in 1980, the elder Bush in 1992). But this election has turned out to resemble 2004, with a sitting President holding on to a small lead against an aggressive challenger. The parties are reversed though, with a Democrat incumbent and the Republican playing challenger.
So why has Obama failed to put this race away? The fundamental problem for him is that his team misjudged the depth of the recession we slid into in 2008, and the stimulus they offered in response was hence too small. While it put a floor under the decline, and the economy stopped contracting by June of 2009 and unemployment stopped rising in early 2010, it failed to generate a robust recovery. Four years after his first election, Obama is being blamed for a lackluster recovery, and this has been Romney’s main attack line.
Actually, other than employment, Obama has done a good job. His handling of foreign affairs has been very good, he has kept America safe while winding down its wars, his social policies are broadly popular, and he passed universal healthcare, something that has eluded every Democratic President for the last 50 years. Even unemployment is finally turning around, with 5 million new jobs in the last 2 years in the private sector. It is the self-defeating austerity imposed by the Republicans in the House that has prevented the Federal government from supporting states and local governments keep teachers and police and firemen on the job. 800,000 public sector jobs are gone because of that, if they had not been fired the unemployment rate would be under 7% and Obama would be cruising to reelection.
Romney won the first debate and that transformed a contest that had looked like it was going well towards Obama in September after a great Democratic Convention and the “47%” video that came out showing Romney in a very bad light. Since then the Obama team has come back and won the other two debates but the damage was done. Romney was able to build a slight lead in the key swing states of Florida and North Carolina, and he has tied up in Virginia.
So who is going to win this election, and what are the key states? A few months ago I thought the key states would be Iowa and Virginia, if Obama won either of those he would likely win the election. But Iowa has become more favorable to Obama than Colorado, while Virginia has become more favorable to Romney than Ohio. Ohio has surprised many as the only major state in which Obama has been able to hold onto substantial support from White working class voters, a demographic that elsewhere has gone for Romney by large margins. What is holding him up is the auto industry, which Obama saved and Romney famously threw under the bus in an op-ed in late 2008. At this point Romney has to break Obama’s hold on Ohio to have a chance. If he can win Ohio he is still only at 266 Electoral votes, 4 short of being President. He then needs to win one of the four smaller swing states, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, or Colorado. The first three look likely to go for Obama, Romney’s best chance is probably Colorado. If Romney is elected President he will do it by winning Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. If Obama holds any of those, and he currently is ahead in the last two, tied in Virginia, and appears behind in the first two, he will be reelected. The national polls remain basically tied. The key will be the ground game, getting voters to the polls for your side. In that aspect, Obama appears to have an edge with a better and deeper organization. His ground game should give him those critical swing states, and he will be reelected.
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