Mittmentum: Yes, He Can
Why Romney’s chances at the presidential seat are much better than we thought.
by Ian Cheney
On the left sidebar of my old blog, Presidential Politics for America, I kept track of what I called “The Line.” I conjured odds for every candidate’s chances of winning their party’s nomination and the general election. I always had Mitt Romney at far better than even odds to win the GOP nod, but I never had him at better than 8:5 to win the general election until he put away the Republican field in early April. In other words, I’ve long felt that not only is President Obama the odds on favorite for the 2012 Election, but he is a strong favorite. Regarding Romney, I told my Republican friends, “You know, I just don’t think this candidate has it in him.” Regarding Obama, I told my Democrat friends, “Relax, he’s got this.”
Now I’m not so sure. This week my brain clicked into, “Holy crap, can Romney win this thing?” mode. The answer: yes, he can. Here are six recent developments that explain why:
1. Romney is coming on hard in the swing states. Read my column from last week. Not counting eight identified swing states, President Obama holds a 227 to 204 lead over Romney. Of those swing states, Romney has clear momentum in five of the biggest six. Only Nevada and New Hampshire look strong for the President. We can throw Pennsylvania in there for Obama, too, if you think Romney’s momentum in the state will peter out before he digs further into Obama’s consistent lead. That still leaves Romney with solid momentum in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa, a combination that would push Romney to 281 electoral votes and the presidency.
2. Romney’s favorability is gaining on the President. One of the President’s greatest advantages has been this perception that he’s just a better, more likable guy than Mitt Romney, who always had remarkably high unfavorability numbers, even among his own party. While this alone is a relatively minor barometer when compared to how they would handle the economy, pundits treat it as a constant undertow in Romney’s quest to close the gap in overall polling. Obama’s lead in favorability was always strong and, we thought, absolute.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, however, Romney is gaining. We knew that once the Republican Party consolidated around one candidate, his numbers would naturally rise. But this quickly and this much? According to the survey, Republican women, who only had 59 percent favorability toward him last month, have been charmed to the tune of 80 percent now. Accordingly, his overall favorability has finally climbed even with his unfavorability numbers. The two are locked in a 44-44 tie. Meanwhile, the President clings to a 49-48 split. That margin is down, and, considering the numbers’ high amalgam and the President’s divisiveness, there’s little room for growth. Meanwhile, Romney, if he keeps his momentum, could certainly climb some more.
3. Fundraising! Perhaps the President’s biggest advantage against John McCain four years ago was fundraising. Candidate Obama had the most successful fundraising of any candidate in any election ever. To this point in the 2012 campaign, moreover, he consistently outraised Romney, who, of course, battled in a grueling primary that divided GOP contributions.
No longer. With the Republican Party finally united behind a candidate, the money came flooding in to its nominee. Romney outraised Obama with nearly $77 million to the President’s $60 million. Furthermore, it’s expected that billionaire-funded Super PACs will be another GOP advantage for this election. It adds up to what will probably be the first time Obama competes in an election having less money than his opponent does.
Democrats, of course, have their talking points on such a defeat, the most prominent one being that their party gets more but smaller donations from middle class voters while Romney gets much more maximum-contributions. Make no mistake, though. This one stung.
4. Governor Walker survives rather convincingly in Wisconsin. Despite all that Walker did to organized labor in Wisconsin, the liberal ire of America could not defeat him or superior Republican fundraising in his recall election. Was it a harbinger of things to come? If curtailing collective bargaining rights spreads to other parts of the country in an effort to control state budgets, the Democratic Party loses an enormous amount of funding and foot soldiers for elections. Democrats without labor would be like Republicans without evangelicals—weak, disorganized, and barely recognizable.
5. The Affordable Care Act decision. We soon expect a decision on the colloquially named “Obamacare.” (When they release that decision, I expect the subsequent Sam Ennis-Anthony Resnick conversation to be must-read.) Could the overturn of the famous “individual mandate” be the latest in this run of bad news for President Obama? It’s impossible to say. A disastrous performance from the White House solicitor general didn’t helps its case. If the ACA goes down, it would be, as Anthony Resnick explained on Wednesday, “a political disaster for the president.”
6. The economic recovery has slowed down, and might not even be a recovery anymore. I’ve saved the best (or worst, depending on your horse) for last. Regarding May’s economic numbers, an AP article flatly points out that they’re “pretty awful” for President Obama. Unemployment rose a tenth of a percent to 8.2. Whereas in the first three months of 2012 the US economy added an average of 226,000 jobs per month, April yielded only 77,000 new jobs while May merely 69,000. Meanwhile, with a 2 percent loss in May, Wall Street’s experienced its worst month in two years. (The President is surely relieved that the opening week of June was much, much better.)
Presidents have a nearly impossible time getting re-elected with struggling economies. He’d rather not have to spin his way out of these numbers. While an improving economy would sew up the election, a failing one would sew it up for the other guy. It’s these in-between numbers where it gets murky.
Keep in mind that all six of these developments are only from the last two weeks! It’s been a bad fortnight for the Obama Campaign. Moving forward, let’s keep an eye on where we go from here:
1. Watch the polls of the eight battlegrounds.
2. Watch to see if Romney’s favorability has crested or continues to climb.
3. Perhaps the number I’m most looking forward to: June’s fundraising numbers. Can the GOP keep it up after the initial transferring of fundraising from the field to Romney?
4. Will labor get its bearings or will their marginalization expand beyond Wisconsin?
5. How will the Supreme Court come down on Obamacare?
6. Will the economy rally or continue to flounder?
Ultimately, if I still created odds on the election, it’ll be as close as ever. Basically a pick ‘em, I’d adjust Obama to a narrow 9:10 favorite based mostly on his incumbency, while Romney is at 10:9, but with a bullet. The momentum sits squarely in the Republican’s corner.