Sunday, November 7, 2010

Preview to 2012

Yes, folks, the 2012 Presidential race can officially start now. Sure, we still have some mid-terms to settle. About 10 House races are not fully decided yet and Lisa Murkowski's write-in battle with Joe Miller will probably stretch for several weeks, although I suspect that she will ultimately prevail.

So, let's start by grounding ourselves in where President Obama stands. It's been almost 2 months since I updated the President's approval charts. Interestingly, not a lot has changed. President Obama has been circulating in small negative numbers in his approve minus disapprove numbers. His monthly numbers show his approval at its low in September and -3.5% and recovering slightly since then.

You notice the same kind of modest uptick in the daily numbers over the past two months. The President is still more unpopular than popular, but you can sort of see the classic Democrat/Republican divide solidifying around Obama.

You might ask the logical question..if the President is only 1 to 3 points below the even line, how did the GOP win by margins of 6 or 7 points nationally in House races during the mid-terms? The answer seems to lie in voter turnout. Mid-terms naturally have lower turnout than Presidential races and Obama and the Democrats numbers suffer, since the voters who did not turn out are primarily 18-29 year olds, who, by some exit polling estimates, represented a mere 11% of voters in the 2010 mid-terms, about half of their representation in 2008.

It would stand to reason that in 2012, many of those voters will show back up and make the numbers closer.

So, if we use the President's approval as a proxy to the 2012 vote, we can start to examine where the battlegrounds will lie and what would be required for a Democratic or Republican victory. Using Presidential approval numbers is only a rough proxy, but it's actually more accurate than you think as re-election campaigns tend to be a lot more a vote on the President than on his opponent.

We also have to factor in likely changes from the 2010 census. These numbers won't be finalized until the end of the year, but we can pretty reasonably project, given a seat or two where the pick-ups and losses of House seats and therefore electoral votes, will lie.

Adjusting 2008 results for last month's approval numbers and adjusting for likely changes in electoral vote counts based on the 2010 census yields us the following results:

We can see that all the battlegrounds, as of today, will be states that President Obama won in 2008. We also see that contrary to popular belief, the real "make or break" battlegrounds are NOT in Florida and Ohio. Sure, winning Florida and Ohio is NECESSARY for any Republican hoping to assume the office of President. But it is not, in and of itself, sufficient. The 270 "breaking point" is Colorado, based on the 2008 margins.

Basically, President Obama can give up Ohio and Florida as well as other, smaller states he won in 2008 such as North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia and as long as he holds Colorado and everything more liberal than it, he will hold with 272 electoral votes.

Likewise, the GOP does not need to focus on Pennsylvania, because if they can win Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia, they can win without it. I was strongly critical of John McCain's late push in Pennsylvania in 2008, a state he was sure to lose, rather than focusing on the myriad of small states that were in play.

Of course, state demographics will shift from 2008 to 2012, so the election probably won't play out exactly like this, but it's a good starting point.

Next up: a rundown of potential 2012 GOP candidates

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