Looking Ahead to the 2012 Presidential Election

Having resolved the debt ceiling fight and going into the August congressional recess, Washington – and gradually the rest of the country, at least the early primary/caucus states – are starting to get into election mode. I believe the outcome of the 2012 presidential elections will depend on several factors, including:

1)      The identity of the Republican nominee and the quality of campaign he/she runs: Politicians on both sides of the aisle and pundits in the media share the opinion that a mainstream Republican nominee could pose a serious challenge for President Obama, but a Republican who only appeals to the base but not to independents probably stands little chance of beating the incumbent president.

2)      The unemployment rate: The conventional wisdom is that any President who presides over an unemployment rate higher than 8% on election day is in trouble. The unemployment rate is currently at 9.1% and is not expected to go down anywhere near the 8% mark by October/November 2012.

3)      How the candidates perform in the swing states: The 2012 presidential election will be won and lost in a handful of swing states like Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan. As we all know, it is not the national popular vote that counts, but the electoral college.

4)      Independents’ opinions of the two parties and their nominees: Independent voters swung to Barack Obama in 2008 and back to the Republicans in 2010. Currently, President Obama’s approval with independents is very low (34% according to a recent Gallup poll), and this could prove decisive in 2012.

5)      Demographics: How America looks, literally, is changing rapidly. Approximately 12 million Latino voters are expected to turnout in 2012, which would represent a 25% increase from 2008. Most minority communities, on balance, tend to vote Democratic.

6)      Fundraising: In the quarter that ended on June 30, 2011, President Obama raised about $86 million, which was more than all the Republican candidates combined. Mitt Romney was the highest Republican grosser with $18 million. But these lopsided numbers will undoubtedly draw closer once the Republicans have a nominee. Also, outside political groups from both parties will likely level the playing field when total campaign expenditures are counted.

We don’t know who will win in 2012, but we do know that we are all beneficiaries of the ancient Chinese blessing, “May you live in interesting times.”


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