Ok, so it is incredibly early to be saying for sure how the Presidential election will break down nine months from now. Anyone who knows anything about politics can tell you a who lot of things can change during that time period. The 2008 election is proof enough of that. Currently, we hear a lot of moaning and whining about how the GOP field sucks and how this will lead to an Obama reelection. I don't think that's accurate; the GOP field is definitely not great, but they have the distinct advantage of not being Obama. Mitt and Newt will duke it out for a few more weeks, but come March I think the primary will largely be decided (with Mitt winning), at which point it becomes a referendum on the President.
This is what an admittedly not great GOP candidate is up against. I took these Gallup numbers and plugged them into the electoral college map provided by 270towin.com, with the following conditions:
- The Republicans win every state they won in 2008. If these states stuck by the GOP during the landslide Obama win, there's no reason to believe they will switch now. Polling indicates this is the case. After the Census changes, the score is Dems 359, GOP 179.
- States with a 50% or more disapproval of Obama go Republican. Disapproval of a President is very hard to overcome; people are more excited to throw the bum out than supporters are about going out to vote for him. Even with an equal participation rate, Obama still loses. Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Ohio, and New Hampshire all go into the red column. Obama 306, Romney (?) 232.
- Now we take all of the states that have higher disapproval than approval of Obama, but which are not at 50% yet. Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Iowa all flip to neutral. GOP 232, Obama 216.
- I don't feel like playing with the Nebraska and Maine splits, so they will stay as they were in 2008.
Of those six states, I somewhat randomly predict the following:
- Oregon will stay Blue, despite the lower approval rating. They haven't voted for the GOP since the year of my birth; it's not impossible this will change, but I wouldn't describe it as probable. GOP 232, Obama 223.
- Iowa is almost exactly tied according to Gallup. Romney did pretty well there in the primary, and if push comes to shove I don't see the more hardline conservatives sitting it out in favor of Obama. I'm leaving this as a tossup for now.
- My neighbor just to the south, Pennsylvania. They swung pretty hard for the GOP in 2010 and the race was pretty close in 2008. This could end up repeating the 2000 Florida mess.
- Virginia has swung pretty solidly against the President, electing a GOP governor against the President's direct campaigning in 2009. Nearly a 5% difference in approval/disapproval not favoring Obama. Goes GOP. Reds 245, Blues 223.
- The Tar Heels are pretty close to VA; while the African American community will still swing hard for Obama, they always go for the Democrats. Obama has lost the independents in that state and has a 43% approval rating and a 48% disapproval. GOP 260, Obama 223.
- Florida. A must win for Obama if my other predictions are accurate. Obama has a 43% approval rating, just short of 48% disapproval, and Romney just stomped Gingrich in Florida. This one goes GOP. President Romney 289, Former President Obama 223. 26 are tossups which Obama would have to win, along with flipping either Florida or Virginia and North Carolina.
Again, a long way to go. But the GOP should not be despondent about this situation. Neither Mitt nor Newt is a great bastion of liberty, but either are strongly preferable to the current occupier of 1600 PA Ave. I've heard a lot of worrying that the weakness of the Republican field could cost them the election, but if I had to bet, my money would be on Romney winning. The President is not popular. The nation elected a complete unknown in 2008 due to the unpopularity of the previous occupant; there's no reason to believe under qualified candidates can't be elected again under similar circumstances.