Obama beat McCain in 2008 with much larger margins than we have seen in recent elections. Obama got 53% of the popular votes to McCain’s 46%, 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 193. 9 states swung from red to blue.
Not to diminish the substantial margin, Obama had a list of advantages that will be hard to repeat:
Bush was a very unpopular president engaged in an increasingly unpopular war. McCain ran an incompetent campaign, highlighted (by many) by his selection of Sara Palin who just did not seem to have the right stuff. But the coup de grace of the election was an ill timed once in a century financial collapse on the eve of the election. It caught most voters by surprise and without the ability to analyze it carefully, many attributed it to the years of GOP rule. Markets were collapsing, unemployment was rising, and millionaires were getting billions in bailouts. It is no wonder that “hope and change” registered better than experience.
Even with these seemingly insurmountable advantages Obama outspent Mc Cain by more than double ($760,370,195 to $346,666,422), spending $10.94 per vote vs $5.78 for McCain.
With all of this in his favor the 7% margin seems a bit more modest. If 3.5% of the voters change their mind, or if a few percent lose their enthusiasm, this victory will be very hard to repeat.
With 3-1/2 years in office Obama has the liability of a record. Unemployment is stuck on high, the health care bill is very unpopular and may soon be struck unconstitutional. Debt is high, economic growth is anemic, and uncertainty prevails in Europe and the Middle East.
As bad as the economy is, it could have been a lot worse if the administration had succeeded in passing the card check bill and cap and trade. Their very attempt at these radical bills made businesses reluctant to invest and hire. Obama may have run as a moderate but in many voters’ eyes he has proven to be anything but.
The money gap that so favored him before will not exist again. Now that the GOP circular firing squad we call a primary is over, Romney is proving to be a more able campaigner than the president’s previous opponent. This could change depending on his running mate.
Union support suffers from declining membership and their ability to finance politics has been curtailed. The Jewish vote will be less supportive, but probably not enough to turn blue states red. But Catholics have been galvanized by federal intrusion into their institutions by the health care rulings. Hispanics, blacks and women will probably tilt similar to the last campaign.
The Democratic Party has become a coalition of special interests that represent the majority less and less. Every tilt towards one group alienates another group. At best the president may hold his support from some groups, but he is losing support in others, and I fail to see any group where he is improving.
The remaining question is whether these changes will cause over 3.5% of the voters to move their support. Will his record cause a few percent of his supporters to ‘change’ again. Keep in mind that so many of the those youth that supported him have graduated and face the most difficult job market in decades. It is also critical which states change the most, since it is the electoral votes that count.
Intrade still predicts Obama with a 53.9% chance of winning, but this is less reliable 6 months before the election than 6 weeks before the election. A lot can change in a few months.
Most pundits predict a close race. The economy is often the deciding factor in such a race. I think most voters will have a much harder time supporting the President in a weak economy.
Reagan beat Jimmy Carter with a much greater percentage margin than Obama beat McCain: Carter only carried four states. Yet in the May 20, 1980 New York Times a Gallup poll showed Carter AHEAD of Reagan 49% to 41%.
We are a long way from November.