A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).


Saturday, October 20, 2012

State of the Race – October 20 (Why a Close Election May Mean an Obama Loss)

Last week we saw that the first debate yielded Governor Romney a large boost as he was able to cut dramatic-ally into President Obama's lead in the Electoral College vote. Since then, we have had another presidential debate, although much of the state polling that was done may not yet reflect any effects that the second debate will have. Since last week's report, there have been 87 polls done in 31 states; including 48 polls in the 11 battleground states I have identified (CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NC, 0H, PA, VA & WI). With only 2 1/2 weeks to Election Day, here's where we stand:



If you want to see how I arrived at these categories, I would encourage you to review the first “State of the Race” post I did on August 11 which can be found here. The photo above gives a visual breakdown of which side each states fall on. For a list of which states fall in which categories, I provide the following chart:


Here are the changes from last week: Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington moved from “Safe” Obama to “Likely” Obama; Pennsylvania from “Likely” Obama to “Lean” Obama; Ohio from “Tossup” to “Lean” Obama; New Hampshire from “Lean” Obama to “Tossup”; and Georgia and South Dakota from “Safe” Romney to “Likely” Romney. Ironically, all of the movement this week except for Ohio was towards the middle which suggests that this race continues to tighten. However, Ohio moving from “Tossup” to “Lean” Obama does put the president back above the magic number of 270.

All in all, these results seem to indicate that President Obama has stopped Governor Romney's momentum and the close race I expected is getting ready to go down to the wire. Last week, I wrote about the inherent advantage that the president has with the electoral map, but this week I want to point out why a close election may point to a loss for the incumbent president. The reason why the map actually could cause the Obama campaign some concern is the fact that he is trying to do what has only been done one other time: win reelection with fewer electoral votes than he received in his first election.

In 2008, President Obama received 365 electoral votes. In doing so, he won some states that had been considered safely Republican over the last several presidential elections, including Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. He also was able to pick up one electoral vote from Nebraska due to the apportionment system that they use. Except for North Carolina in 1976, none of these states had voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory in 1964. Since the 2008 election, it has become apparent that Virginia and to a lesser degree, North Carolina have become swing states that the Democrats can compete in, but Indiana has gone back to being the red state it was prior to Obama's victory in 2008. Additionally, President Obama has been unable to put any states he lost in 2008 into play. Previously, the states that had been identified where he had lost, but might have been able to put in play were states like Arizona and Missouri. While this was discussed in theory, it appears the Obama campaign never tried seriously to go after these states and they remain safely in Romney's column.

That brings me to the history of President Obama is trying to make. There was only one occasion in US history where an incumbent president running for reelection for a second term ended up winning his reelection bid but received fewer electoral votes in his reelection than he did in his initial election and that instance deserves a large asterix. The occasion was 1916 when Woodrow Wilson was reelected with 277 electoral votes after receiving 435 electoral votes in his initial election in 1912. (It should be noted that FDR received fewer electoral votes in his third and fourth reelection, but that was obviously a unique circumstance and FDR did receive more electoral votes in his second election than in his first.) Wilson's reelection also has a major caveat to it as well. The circumstances that Wilson was facing for his reelection were very different than what he had faced in his first election in 1912. That's because in 1912 former president Teddy Roosevelt decided to run as a third-party candidate against the incumbent Republican president, William Howard Taft. This resulted in the Republican vote being widely split between Roosevelt and Taft and allowing Wilson to cruise to an easy Electoral College victory despite the fact that combined Roosevelt and Taft received more popular votes than Wilson did.

An argument could be made that President Obama's victory in 2008 should come with an asterix as well. This is due to the fact that the Obama/McCain race was an anomaly because Obama had foregone public financing while McCain accepted it. It was well documented in 2008 that Obama made his choice because he knew he would be able to out raise Senator McCain and therefore had a significant advantage in his campaign war chest and he used that advantage to advertise and campaign in many more states. As a result, McCain was unable to keep up and Obama was able to put states in play that he might not have been able to had the campaigns been evenly funded.

Whatever the reason for the size of Obama's victory in 2008, it's clear as we are this close to the election that he will be unable to repeat that number of electoral votes in 2012. As a result, President Obama is trying to do what has only happened once in our history – win a reelection with fewer electoral votes than he had previously. While this may seem like a rare occurrence that makes reelection for the president difficult, I'm reminded that just 12 years ago we all thought that we would never see an election again where one candidate won the popular vote but the other won the vote in the Electoral College. As such, just because it is a rare occurrence historically, doesn't mean it can't happen again.

Finally, I wanted to share my thoughts regarding the second presidential debate which occurred this week. Last week, I wrote “The pseudo-town hall format that will be used will not allow for the same kind of aggressive style that was used so effectively by Governor Romney in the first debate, so it will be interesting to watch and see how both candidates adjust as I think both will want to be aggressive, but they won't want to come off as attacking the citizens that are chosen to ask the questions.” Boy was I wrong! In many ways, both were overly aggressive and I agree with many commentators I heard afterwards who suggested that this style probably actually hurt both of them with undecided voters and it may point to a reason why the race continues to tighten. Clearly, the president was trying to overcompensate for his lackluster performance in the first debate and was very aggressive in going after Governor Romney, and when met with this aggression, Romney showed that he was not going to back down. As a result, I viewed it as a draw with possibly a slight edge going towards President Obama. I know there were many who thought the president won the debate, and while I don't necessarily disagree, I viewed it as a draw because I don't think either candidate did a good job of trying to appeal to any undecided voters.

This Monday night is the third and final debate and the focus is to be on foreign-policy. For those of you who know my thoughts on presidential elections, foreign-policy in my opinion is always the most important. While some people will look at the economy when deciding who to vote for and others may look to a variety of social issues, I simply remind you that foreign-policy is the one area where the Constitution gives primary authority to the executive branch. A president has limited say on economic issues and social issues, as he is bound to Congress and its whims. However, with foreign-policy the president is both the chief diplomat for our country and its Commander-in-Chief. As such, it is the area he can have the greatest influence on. So if for some reason you are still undecided, I would strongly urge you to watch this debate. Since the debate does occur at the beginning of the week, I'm hopeful that the state polls will be up-to-date next week and will include any effect that the third and final debate has.


  1. Love your comments, Karl! Thanks for having a firm grasp on what is going on! Keep it coming!

  2. Ok, so you think foreign policy should be the most important area, but do you think it will sway many voters either way? My prediction is that unless one of the canidates really throws up on themselves tonight, it won't make much of a difference in the polls. What do you think - will tonight's debate change the polls at all? -Stephen

    1. Unfortunately, most Americans don't seem to recognize the importance of foreign policy in presidential elections. Unless there's a MAJOR issue (i.e. war), it is always a secondary issue to domestic policy. As for last night, I think the President won the night, but whether that affects the polls, we shall see. I'll write more about it in this week's post.