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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Abramowitz: Obama Can Win in ’12, Close Vote Likely

TDS Advisory Board Member Alan Abramowitz posits an optimistic 2012 scenario for President Obama in his current post at Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Abramowitz, author of The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy, cooks up a regression analysis forecasting model using polling, electoral and economic data, and explains:

…The dependent variable in this analysis is the incumbent party’s share of the major party vote. The independent variables are the incumbent president’s net approval rating (approval-disapproval) in the Gallup Poll at midyear, the annual growth rate of real GDP in the second quarter of the election year, and a dummy variable distinguishing between first term incumbents and all other types of incumbent party candidates.
This simple forecasting model does an excellent job of predicting the outcomes of presidential elections, explaining just over 90 percent of the variance in the incumbent party’s share of the popular vote. The model has correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1988 more than two months before Election Day. In 2008, the model correctly predicted a comfortable victory for Barack Obama over John McCain at a time when McCain had taken the lead over Obama in a number of national polls following the Republican National Convention.

And Abramowitz adds,

…Regardless of who wins the Republican nomination, even modest economic growth and a mediocre approval rating in 2012 would probably be enough to give Barack Obama a second term in the White House. For example, an annual growth rate of three percent in the second quarter (slightly below the most recent estimate for the fourth quarter of 2010) and a net approval rating of zero at midyear (slightly worse than Obama’s average rating over the past month) would result in a forecast of 53 percent of the national popular vote for the President which would almost certainly produce a decisive victory in the Electoral College.

Abramowitz cautions that, while the model has accurately predicted the winner of the last five presidential elections, the margin of victory has been smaller in four of the elections than the model predicted, possibly because of increasing polarization. He concludes, “If Barack Obama does win a second term in the White House, it will most likely be by a fairly narrow margin unless economic growth and the President’s approval rating both show dramatic improvement in the next 18 months.”

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