Diary

What Will It Take to Beat Obama?

A commenter on a recent post writes in making his case for Mitt Romney:

Listen, the only way Obama is vulnerable in 2012 is if the economy is still sputtering along without any clear signs that the worst is over. And if that’s the case, only a candidate with real economic gravitas will be in a potisiont(sic) to beat him. When I think economic acumen, Palin and Huckabee don’t exactly spring to mind.

This is a common thought among many Romney folks. It represents a misunderstanding of how Presidential politics works.

One point that was raised in the same thread was that FDR was re-elected in 1936 despite the ongoing Great Depression, that perhaps had even deepened. So, can just a bad economy be counted on to defeat Obama and why did FDR win re-election in 1936?

I’ve referenced the 13 keys before and they explain the re-election of FDR.

 

The 13 keys are 13 indicators that indicate the condition of the country and the incumbent party. If 8 of these indicators are True, the incumbent candidate is re-elected. If not, they are defeated. The theory has predicted the popular vote in every elections since 1984 and tracked 100 years prior in terms of accurately predicting the result of the popular vote.

In 1936, the following keys were true for FDR:

1. After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.

2. There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.

3. The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.

4. There is no significant third-party or independent campaign.

5. The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.

7. The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.

8. There is no sustained social unrest during the term.

9. The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.

10. The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.

12. The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.

13. The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

The following two keys were against FDR:

6. Real per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.

11. The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.

America didn’t come back  to full glory in 1936, but the bleeding had stopped at the time of the 1936 elections. Terms like recession and depression are not defined by people out of work. They’re defined by growth in the economy. You can have double digit unemployment, but if the economy is growing, there is no recession.  Of course, FDR’s spending policies came back to haunt the nation in 1937 and it’d take World War II to pull us out of it.

Other than double digit unemployment, everything was going okay and the Republicans nominated Alf Landon who had all the charisma of wet spaghetti. FDR had build a charismatic persona through his fireside chats.  It’ll be hard to find an Administration with that much going right for it.

So, looking forward to 2012, what will it take for Republicans to beat Obama? Using the 13 keys prediction model, let’s take a look needs to happen the in next 3 and a half years for the GOP to retake the White House in 2012.  

We’ll assume Obama is the Democratic Candidate in 2012. Already, Obama will have a minimum of 2 keys in true and therfore in his favor:

  • 3. The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
  • 12. The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.

On the other hand, it’s safe to assume one key will be against Obama:

  • 6. Real per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.

Even if the economy comes out of its current funk, there’s no way, we’re going to have growth in this term that’s at the same level as what we experienced during the mostly prosperous Bush years.

That leaves us 10 keys to look at. Obama will need six of ten to be true in order to be re-elected.  Some things will have to go wrong for the Obama Administration and/or the country for him to not be re-elected.

1: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.

For Republicans to win the White House in 2012, Republicans must pick up House seats in 2010. Democrats held 233 seats in the U.S. House after the last mid-term election. Republicans must pick up a minimum of 26 House Seats to bring Democrats under that number and to turn Key 1 to false and towards the Republicans. It should be note that in 1982, just by virtue of a sour economy and Republican wins in Democratic districts in prior cycles, Democrats picked up 27 seat, so this is doable.

2: There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination.

By a serious contest, the author of the keys, Alan Lichtman, means a nomination process that goes all the way to the convention. Right now it’s hard to imagine that happening, but it’s not completely impossible.  

4. There is no significant third-party or independent campaign

A serious third party campaign is defined as one that draws 5% of the vote or more. We haven’t seen that happen since 1996. By 2012, America will be due and there are a large number of issues under which a third party could come.

5. The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.

I think it’s very well possible thanks to the massive amounts of money being spent, coupled with the expectation that Obama will let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2011, that the end of the current recession will be followed shortly by another one caused by hyperinflation and lack of economic capital. Whether this will hit in time for the 2012 elections remains to be seen.

 

 

 

9. The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.

This one is tough to even speculate on. However, given that the administration has Hillary Clinton, as well as an over-abundance of Chicago party hacks and Clinton Adminstration folks, this may be a far more likely key to turn than any other.

10. The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.

11. The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.

No way to even speculate on these two keys. This brings me to the one main key (other than Congress) that Republicans control:

13. The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

Charisma, that’s the one factor the GOP has control of that historically has helped decide Presidential election. Being a policy wonk in economics with a lot of money doesn’t make you more likely to win a Presidential Campaign. Ask John Connally, a former Secretary of the Treasury who spent more money than any other candidate and lost. Connally won 1 delegate for his $11 million spent, not as bad as Rudy, but worse than Romney.

On our charisma score card, let’s face it: Huckabee has it, Palin has it. Romney doesn’t have it.

What does this mean? Simply put, if 5 keys are already against Obama, Huckabee or Palin could win. Romney couldn’t. He’d need 6 keys to be against Obama because his charisma isn’t going to win anything.

Bottom line: Republicans can, at most, secure three keys through the national situation or their own efforts (Key 1, Key 6, and Key 13). Beyond that, though, whether anyone can beat Obama in 2012 is ultimately in the hands of God.  

7. The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.

It’s hard to imagine that there won’t be some major change passed in the next two years that will give President Obama this key.

 

8. There is no sustained social unrest during the term.

FDR was fortunate to preside over a nation with a mostly intact Judeo-Christian heritage that didn’t turn to rioting and looting in a time of economic hardship. We’ll see how our nation responds, particularly a younger generation that has never experienced a serious economic slowdown handles this.

In addition, Obama’s campaign of lofty expectations could lead to mass disapointment, which could lead disillusionment. The continuing presence of U.S. troops overseas could lead to more vociferous anti-war protests. Real disenchantment is out there in America on both sides of the aisle. If Obama becomes viewed as politics as usual, it could get very ugly.