If one looks at the recent national statistics, former Governor Mitt Romney should win the 2012 presidential election. His national numbers are trending upwards at the right time while President Obama’s numbers have stalled. A firm majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track; a position that has held up for quite some time. The national unemployment rate, while decreasing over the last 18 months, is still at the same level it was when the president took office.
Ohio even looks more promising. Since 2008, both parties have lost a significant number of their registered voter base while the number of registered independents has soared. While independents will decide the election, it should be noted that registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats in Ohio (894,000 to 827,000). In 2010, Republicans won the governorship and established sizable majorities in both houses of the state government. As far as turnout expectations go, which is a key pillar in any election strategy, there is little doubt that Republicans have the edge in enthusiasm and will at least equal (if not surpass) Democrats in turn out.
All this said, Romney will lose Ohio, and the election, in a nail-biter. There are several key reasons for this.
First, while Governor Romney’s national surge has translated into virtual ties or even modest leads in North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, this has not happened in Ohio. According to the latest polls of likely voters, particularly of samples over a 1,000, Obama has been able to stave off the Romney surge in Ohio, and establish a consistent voting floor of 48%-49%.
Second, unlike the key swing states of North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia and Florida, which all went for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 and saw an increase in the GOP margin of victory in 2004, Ohio’s margin of victory shrank from +3.5 in 2000 to +2.1 in 2004; the only Republican pick up state in which Bush’s numbers did not improve over his 2000 victory.
Third, Ohio’s unemployment rate is better than the national average and has been decreasing faster than almost any other state in the Union. Romney’s strongest selling points, that the economy is poor and that he is the right candidate to turn the economy around, are being muffled by these economic realities. This will only help the president.
Fourth and finally, Ohio will break for Obama because of one man, former President Bill Clinton. In addition to being the most popular political figure in the country by a wide margin, Clinton is currently campaigning for Obama in Ohio; employing the same “bubba-turn-policy wonk” shtick that boosted the Obama campaign’s ratings following his prime time address at the Democratic National Convention this past September. Clinton carried Ohio both times when he ran for office in 1992 and 1996 and his wife carried the state handily in her 2008 primary battle against then-candidate Barack Obama.
For the record, I do believe this election will be tight. However, it will be highly unlikely for Governor Romney to win without Ohio. No Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio and Governor Romney, I predict, will lose Ohio this Tuesday.