Bad Math: Why Obama Is Unlikely to Win Reelection

It’s late June, the economy remains stuck in low gear, and the only thing edging upward is Barack Obama’s job disapproval rating (49%; just 43% approve). With each passing day, a Mitt Romney presidency appears more likely.

Forget Obama’s foreign affairs triumphs, Bill Clinton got it right: it’s the economy, stupid. There are 19 weeks left before Election Day (November 6) and Obama would have to break with conventional economic wisdom to eek out victory.  Pundits generally say that an incumbent is in trouble if the economy hasn’t rebounded by March of an election year; 2012 figures were dismal. Unemployment stood at 8.2% that month, and it remains mired there, despite Obama’s ludicrous gaffe that the private sector “is doing fine.” Even worse, it’s .6% higher than when he took office.

The odds are increasingly long that Obama can beat Romney, which places the president in the uncomfortable position of hoping that Romney beats himself. That’s not out of the question; Romney is an arrogant, unprincipled flip-flopper whom people tend to like less the more they get to know him. He’s also the sort of greedy and rapacious investor who caused the current financial mess. That said, Obama was elected to clean up Romneyesque-like messes and has failed utterly to do so. As the man in charge, he (rightly or wrongly) gets pinned with the blame for bad news. Liberals are simply delusional if they think the American Heartland is going to overlook the tepid economy and applaud symbolic triumphs such as the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Shepard-Bryd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, or the repeal of DADT. His key domestic achievement, health care reform, stands a good chance of being shot down in a few weeks. Unless something truly unforeseen happens, a Romney meltdown is Obama’s most hopeful road to reelection.

If we go beyond the surface, the electoral math is in Romney’s favor. Latest polls reveal that Obama has a solid 198 electoral votes to Romney’s 133. That’s not as good as it sounds. It takes 270 to win and the remaining 72 will be as elusive for Obama as economic recovery. A mash of the six top polls breaks down the 207 electorals that remain in play. Of these, 42 are considered “likely” Democratic states. That still leaves Obama 30 votes shy. The same polls note 39 “barely Democratic” states. If Obama holds on to those, he wins, but only a fool would guarantee an Obama victory in the latter states: Colorado (9), Oregon (7), Wisconsin (10), and Virginia (13). Obama clings to a 1% lead in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker is back in the driver’s seat, and less than 1% in Colorado. Count me among those who’d call his 4% lead in Virginia “soft.” In fact, I’m not terribly convinced that his 8% lead in Michigan or Pennsylvania is solid either. I just returned from a visit to Pennsylvania and I’ve got to think that Obama must be very popular in the greater Philadelphia area, as I didn’t hear a single positive word about him from anyone living west of Lancaster County. I should also point out that Romney’s father was a popular governor in Michigan and that the Wolverine State has a higher unemployment rate (8.5%) than the US average.

Romney, by contrast, has strong leads in states offering 58 electorals, and is leading in those accounting for another 39. That puts him at 224. The only state showing a tie is–gulp!–Florida, with 29 votes. For sake of argument, let’s say those go to Romney by hook or crook. Suddenly, he’s just 17 votes away from the White House. Boil it down and it means that Obama must run an error-free campaign; one slip in a state in which he’s currently leading, including those he leads by 4% or less, and Romney wins.

The math looks bad–very bad–for Barack Obama. I’ll grant that a lot can happen in 19 weeks, but right now I’d say that those on the East Coast can make the following plans for November 6: if Obama loses any one of the following– Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Wisconsin–you can go to bed early as it’s all over except the weeping and gnashing of liberal teeth.

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