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Evans

Election is far From Over

Sean Evans, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science
Mar 10, 2012

Is the presidential election over? This is probably the most common question that people ask me these days. Based on a lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney, an economy starting to improve and rising poll numbers for President Obama, conservative pundits and Republicans fear that the president is destined for reelection.

But as ESPN College Gameday's Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast!" Obama is a vulnerable incumbent, and the Republican approval numbers are artificially low because of the primary. Barring the Republicans nominating Gingrich, Santorum or Paul, the November election will go down to the wire.

Let's begin with Obama's record. On the positive side, Osama bin Laden is dead, the auto and banking industries are recovering, we left Iraq and the Afghanistan war is winding down, and the economy shows signs of life. Now, let's look at the other side. Obama's signature achievement, health care reform, remains unpopular as Real Clear Politics shows 50 percent oppose it and only 40 percent approve.

Obama promised that the stimulus would prevent unemployment breaking 8 percent and would lift 2 million Americans out of poverty, but unemployment has exceeded 8 percent his entire presidency and 6 million more Americans live in poverty today.

Obama promised to cut the deficit in half but has run $1 trillion deficits each year and has no real plan to solve our long-term deficit problems. Obama promised 5 million new green jobs, but we ended up with Solyndra. Obama promised to help 7 million to 9 million families restructure their mortgage, but his plans have helped 2 million.

Obama promised to bring us together and has been the most partisan president in history. Is this really the record of an unbeatable president?

Now look at the Republicans. Romney is a weak candidate blessed by weaker challengers, but he is the likely nominee. While conservatives are uneasy with him now, that will change when the choice is between Romney and Obama.

While Romney's unfavorable ratings are almost 50 percent, so were Bill Clinton's in 1992. The good thing for Romney, like Clinton then, is that most people are passively paying attention to the campaign and do not have strong views on Romney. When the GOP unites behind him, media coverage will become more positive, and his numbers will improve. When most voters pay attention this fall, Obama and Romney will have more than enough money to communicate their positions.

If we examine the Electoral College, Romney will win states McCain won in 2008 and probably pick up Republican states Obama won in 2008. That means we are fighting over swing states. According to Real Clear Politics, Obama averages about 45 percent support in each toss-up state, and Romney is within the margin of error in each state. Obama has only 45 percent support when Romney is at his weakest. In short, Obama is not in an envious position.

We live in a 45-45 nation where 10 percent controls the outcome of the election. These independents like Obama personally but are unhappy with his performance. The campaign and intervening events could change the course of the election, but I anticipate a close race this November.

This column originally appeared in the March 9, 2012 edition of The Jackson Sun