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Union University Department of Political Science
Department of Political Science

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Evans Speaks to Rotary Club

Sep 13, 2012

 This morning, Dr. Evans spoke to the Good Morning Jackson Rotary Club.  This Rotary Club has been inviting Dr. Evans to speak about politics for several years. The focus of his talk today was the state of the campaign. Dr. Evans told the members that President Obama has a slight lead right now because the Democrats had a better convention but that the convention bounce will likely come down and the race will be tied again. Furthermore as polls move from Registered Voters to Likely Voters, the polls should tighten as Republicans are usually more likely to vote. 

While Obama is looking in good shape overall, he still has to worry about presidential approval being below 50%. In most elections, presidential vote is equal to presidential approval which indicates that President Obama remains in trouble. However, Mitt Romney has not taken advantage of this by expanding the electoral college playing field. Right now, the traditional GOP states of IN, NC, and MO should return to the Republican fold but Romney has not expanded beyond that to put any Democratic leaning states in play, with the possible exception of WI. This means that the electoral college map still favors Obama at this point.

Moving forward, Evans said four things can affect the race. First, debates are less about winning and more about the challenger crossing a threshold of credibility to be president which helps Romney. Plus, the public expects Obama to perform better which makes it easier for Romney to exceed expectations. Second, campaign ads may make a difference. Romney has saved a lot of his money to flood the airwaves as people begin to pay attention. The potential problem is that Democrats have spent over $100 million to define Romney as a heartless businessman and the ads may be too late to change people's minds.

Third, voter intensity is important because this is a base driven election. Whichever candidate gets his voters to the poll will win.  While Democratic activitists love Obama, not all supporters are as strongly committed to supporting him. Conversely, Republicans are not thrilled with Romney but their dislike of Obama may motivate them to vote. Fourth, outside events may influence the means by which voters evaluate the president. however, these events must be prolonged, important, and involve the president. Events that last a day or two are unlikely to reshape the election. 

Overall, this election should be a close race, much like 2000 and 2004.  In such a close race, campaigns matter and President Obama has run a better campaign. If he wins, he can credit his campaign. If Romney wins, it probably has less to do with his campaign and more to do with underlying factors relating to the economy.

He ended his discussion by talking about the congressional elections.  First, the consensus is that the Democrats will pick up seats in the House of Representatives but the Republicans will keep the majority.  Second, the Senate is a toss-up. Due to the Republican nature of these states in a presidential election year in a polarized environment, the Republicans should pick up seats in NE, ND, MT, and WI but lose ME. This would make the Senate 50-50.  Democrats are targeting the NV (Heller) and MA (Brown) seats.  Heller should survive due to the ethics problem wieghing down his opponent while Brown will have a tough road winning in heavily Democratic MA. That puts a lot of emphasis on VA which is a toss-up which will most likely go to the winner of the presidential vote there. Republicans have outside shots at CT, FL, and OH.  For MO, McCaskill should win unless Todd Akin quits (which is unlikely). However, the weight of an unpopular president that she is a strong supporter of may cost her her seat, unless Akin says some more stupid things.