Obama vs. Romney: An Early Election 2012 Analysis

Now that the 2010 congressional mid-term elections are over, investors are naturally turning their head to the next big contest on the political horizon:  Who will win the White House in 2012?  While it’s obviously too early to make a serious prediction, a confluence of political and economic factors show why the President could face a tough challenge from former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Why Expect a Romney Nomination?

Because Republicans have a tradition of nominating a candidate who fought well and hard but ultimately fell short during a previous bid and threw in the towel in time to credibly support the party’s nominee.

Ronald Reagan, John McCain and the first President Bush all followed this pattern.  (Of course in Bush’s case this path also included intervening service as Reagan’s Vice President.)  Romney rigorously sustained his 2008 campaign through the “Super Tuesday” primaries, ultimately winning 11 states and 280 delegates, and spending $45 million of his own money, but preserved party cohesion when he withdrew from the race on February 7, 2008 and turned his support to Sen. John McCain. 1

While Sarah Palin certainly enjoys a substantial following, her fractious performance as McCain’s 2008 running mate can be expected to limit her support from key Republican power centers.  Having departed the governorship of Alaska after only two and a half years in office and with a year and a half remaining in her only term, it’s hard to imagine her on-the-job credentials standing up to Romney’s four year stint as Massachusetts’ governor.  And while former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee – another prospective 2012 candidate – technically earned more delegates in the 2008 primaries than Romney, Romney withdrew a month earlier, before important contests in Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. 2

Obama vs. Romney:  Key State Battlegrounds

In judging Obama’s prospective reelection bid, there’s a tendency to over-focus on the national unemployment figures, now registering at 9.8% 3  If this was the real story, it’s quite possible that the vast increase in personal stock market wealth since Obama took the helm from George W. Bush, if continued, could outweigh the unemployment picture in the President’s favor.

But the national unemployment figure obscures the true political portrait.  In the U.S. electoral system, key state battles are where the presidency is won.

Major battleground states include Florida, with an unemployment rate of 12% that is much gloomier than the national number, and Ohio, which is right on the average at 9.8%. 4 Successful presidential candidates have won Florida in 11 of the last 12 presidential elections,5, and Ohio in all of the last 12.6  While Michigan has leaned Democratic in recent times it has alternated over longer periods,7 and with 12.4% unemployment,8 Michigan is primed to hear a Republican voice.

How will Romney stack up in these battlegrounds?  His father, George Romney, was Governor of Michigan, and Romney himself has already won election as governor in Massachusetts – a state so liberal that it’s not typically in play. 9

Romney also compares favorably to Obama in credentials outside of government service.  Many from intellectual quarters may take solace in Obama’s elite academic standing as a Harvard trained lawyer.  Romney has that and a Harvard MBA too.  And one of Obama’s Achilles’ heels as president is criticism for not integrating corporate chiefs into his team.  Romney earned a fortune with management consultant Bain & Company, rising to the CEO’s chair after successfully establishing private equity firm Bain Capital. 10

Conclusion:  To Those who Doubt Romney a Wake-Up Call

My intention in writing is not to endorse – neither individual is currently a declared candidate – but to assess the possibility of an outcome.  In doing that, my observation is this:  Barack Obama’s perceived weaknesses can be exploited to play into Mitt Romney’s apparent strengths.  How this will look in November 2012, or whether either individual will even be on the ticket, are questions too early to answer.  But to anyone who doubts that a Romney presidency could happen in 2012, these facts should be a wake up call.

  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mitt_Romney&oldid=402639100. []
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Party_(United_States)_presidential_primaries,_2008. []
  3. See http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?data_tool=latest_numbers&series_id=LNS14000000. []
  4. See http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/laus_12172010.htm. []
  5. See http://www.270towin.com/states/Florida; http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=United_States_presidential_election,_1968&oldid=400420497; http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=United_States_presidential_election,_1964&oldid=402656563. []
  6. See “Ohio’s Presidential Election History,” The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com/open/presidentialelections/; http://www.270towin.com/states/ohio. []
  7. See http://www.270towin.com/states/Michigan. []
  8. See http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/laus_12172010.htm. []
  9. Massachusetts has voted for the Democratic candidate in the last six presidential elections.  The last Republican presidential candidate to win Massachusetts was Ronald Reagan, who won in both 1980 and 1984. See http://www.270towin.com/states/Massachusetts. []
  10. See http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mitt_Romney&oldid=402639100. []

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