Despite polls suggesting a closer race, President Obama stands a better chance of beating Republican Mitt Romney than the polls indicate. He’s more popular, more of the states with high numbers of electoral votes are leaning his way, some purported “swing states” are most likely already in his camp and the economy overall is doing better.
There’s just one thing that could dampen the forecast: the unemployment rate.
On NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Wednesday, senior Washington Editor Ron Elving said that while national polls show Obama and Romney locked in a tight race, the story in the Electoral College was different because the states Obama is likely to win have more votes in the Electoral College than the states Romney expects to win.
So Obama “starts from a higher base of states…than Romney does,” Elving said.
“And that means he needs far less from the tossup states to get to 270, which is the magic number that represents the majority in the Electoral College. He only has to really hold his base that he has now or is leaning to him now, and then get about 30 percent of the electoral votes from the tossup states. And that means if he had, say, Florida and Ohio or Florida and Pennsylvania, that should do it for him, whereas, Romney is not anywhere near being that close.”
And even the suggestion that Ohio and Pennsylvania can be considered major swing states is debatable.
“There are a number of states that are identified as swing states that probably aren’t,” David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black think tank in Washington, D.C., said in an interview.
He said that Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Michigan have been labeled swing states, but that is based largely on results from the 2010 elections, in which the Republicans took over the House of Representatives and gained seats in the Senate.
“But there were 29 million voters from 2008 who didn’t vote in 2010,” Bositis said, many of them Obama supporters—many of them black.
Additionally, while national polling shows a tight race, state by state is a different picture. In Pennsylvania, for example, polling shows Obama up by nine points over Romney.
“New Mexico is considered a swing state, but if you look at the average outcome of polling results, Obama is up by 19 points and we already know Mitt Romney is unpopular with Latinos and Obama is popular…and may do even better this time.”
Obama is more popular overall. His likability rating is much higher than Romney’s and while Republican Party leaders are more likely to hold their noses and vote for Romney despite questions about his conservative bona fides, regular voters may not be so persuaded.
“In the right wing there is only about 30 percent who really hate Obama and I don’t believe they’re going to be any more motivated to vote than people who are going to vote for Obama because Mitt Romney isn’t their preferred candidate,” Bositis said.
So that sounds good for an Obama, but more than Romney, the unemployment rate could still hurt the president.
Stock prices are still pretty low, making it a good time to get into the market, gross domestic product is growing and nearly every other economic indicator is heading in the right direction, but the number of new jobs created must continue to run in the 150,000-175,000 in the months running up to the November election if Obama is to be assured of victory.
If the numbers continue to trend upward, or at least not decline, Bositis said, Obama is going to win.
“However, if it’s less than that,” Bositis said, “the circumstances definitely will be tougher.”