How things change. In my last article on the Presidential Election, from the United States, I suggested that the election hadn’t really engaged the voting public, with the coverage at the time focusing on the missteps within Mitt Romney’s campaign and the support the President was receiving in public polling.
But with the Republican’s exceptional performance in the first Presidential Debate and the President’s seeming disinterest the election was thrown back into tossup status. As per Nate Silver’s superb blog on the New York Times, FiveThirtyEight, the President went from having a 87.1% chance of winning on the day after the debate (October 4th) down to a 61.1% favourite October 12th.
This period of strong polling from Romney (which has since reverted into slight, but solid advantages for the President in key swing states (such as Nevada, Iowa and Ohio)) brought about much hand-wringing from Democratic activists and bloggers and much discussion about what to expect from a potential Romney Presidency.
Jonathan Chait’s recent article on what to expect from both potential Presidents in the next few months is a very insightful analysis, especially into how both plan to drastically alter the size and scope of the federal budget.
For Obama, it will be a game of chicken with the Congressional Republicans as the President holds the powerful bargaining chip to veto any renewal of the Bush Tax Cuts on the upper income bracket.
For Romney, despite his protestations as a moderate, bipartisan-oriented candidate, the plans in his running mate’s, Paul Ryan, budget proposal call for significant scaling back of programs, especially the pillars of the welfare state, Medicare and Medicaid.
Since then however, we’ve seen both Joe Biden and Obama register strong performances, and unemployment nationwide tick down to 7.8%. Additionally, with one debate remaining, on foreign policy, it looms as a good chance for the President to further recoup his losses from the first debate.
So it’s clear that there is still plenty at stake in this election, but where will it be decided and what will be influencing the voters in these states? Let’s take a look at the most tightly contested states, as per current predictions of Silver’s widely-respected forecast. Remember to win, a candidate needs to receive 270 electoral votes.
North Carolina – 15 EVs – 84.3% chance of a Romney win
Despite the Democratic National Convention being held in Charlotte, it’s likely this, Obama’s most marginal state, will revert back to its recent tradition of voting Republican. Despite being the home of high-tech emerging industries, it has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the nation at 9.6%
Florida – 29 EVs – 66.5% chance of a Romney win
In a state still suffering badly from a very weak housing market, combined with 8.7% unemployment, Romney has shown recent and consistent strength in opinion polling. However, there are still opportunities here for the President if he can turn out large numbers amongst Latinos who support him roughly 70-30 to Romney.
Virginia – 13 EVs – 52.1% chance of a Romney win
A once rock-solid Republican state has now become one of the nation’s most pivotal swing-states. The economy has shown resilience through the sluggish recovery (unemployment is at 5.9%), there are significant fears over what will result from the cuts looming as the Fiscal Cliff approaches, especially in the defence sector.
Colorado – 9 EVs – 53.6% chance of an Obama win
With unemployment at 8.0% and a demographic makeup increasingly in line with the country as a whole, both campaigns are focusing intently on this state as it has one of the highest proportions of suburban women, the key voting bloc in this election.
New Hampshire – 4 EVs – 62.8% chance of an Obama win
Despite Romney’s long-lasting presence in the state (having governed a neighbouring state and holidaying on the lakes here), the surge in Democratic support over recent elections seems to have held up, probably aided by the solid economic situation with unemployment only at 5.7%.
Iowa – 6 EVs – 66% chance of an Obama win
In a state heavily reliant on agriculture and new energy (primarily wind), the President has campaigned heavily here in a state that launched his campaign in 2007. With unemployment only at 5.2% this year and confusion over Romney’s credibility on supporting the wind industry, it has emerged as an important cog in Obama’s path to 270.
Ohio – 18 EVs – 70.3% chance of an Obama win
The nation’s ultimate bellwether, the last time it voted in opposition to the eventual winner was in 1960. Obama’s campaign against Romney’s business record as CEO of Bain Capital in this manufacturing state has paid off significantly with it showing solid support for the President for months now. With a steadily improving economy (unemployment at 7.0%), and the auto bailout well received here, Romney has an uphill task here.
Nevada – 6 EVs – 73.2% chance of an Obama win
One of the other long-lasting bellwethers of the US, this state has shown solid support for Obama, primarily due to his support amongst Latinos, easily the biggest minority voting bloc in the state. This lies in contrast with the shocking state of the state’s economy, housing is still very weak here and unemployment is highest in the nation at 11.8%.
Wisconsin – 10 EVs – 79.5% chance of an Obama win
Despite Obama winning big here in 2008, Wisconsin has been the site of some of the nation’s most bitter battles recently, namely over workplace relations reform as spearheaded by the Republican governor. It will be very difficult for Obama to win if he’s losing states like Wisconsin.
Put together, I still see Obama as the slight favourite to win re-election, but it will certainly not be to the extent of his historic 2008 victory. What this means in terms of governing with a mandate from 2013 onwards is the topic of much speculation. Undoubtedly though, one significant element of the next Presidential term will be significant attempts to address the issues with budget deficits and entitlement reform.
But I suspect for Obama and his team, right now they are solely focused on winning what has become one of the most pivotal and closely contested elections in recent years for the United States.
IMAGES SOURCE – FiveThirtyEight, http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/.