Who wins? Three Obama advantages and one critical factor benefitting Romney

As the presidential election contest finally comes to its end, President Obama holds three key advantages.

One is that his job approval, while not very high, is high enough to be re-elected.

When compared to the last president to seek re-election, George W. Bush, Obama’s job approval is a tad higher (49.9 vs 49.5%) and the split between approval and disapproval just a tad narrower (2.6 vs 2.7).

As the RealClearPolitics data from both elections show, Obama is in as good a shape as George W. Bush on this same date, prior to elections for their second terms — at least as concerns this metric.

It’s also worth noting that this is a national number and job approval varies by state.

Second, Obama is holding leads in key swing states, including Ohio.

Depending on the polls used by different sources, electoral maps vary to some extent. But here’s the “no toss-ups map” from RealClearPolitics, based on the polls they include.

Here we see Obama with 20 electoral votes over the 270 required. While some of those assigned to Obama are very close, there are also several RCP assigns to Romney which are quite close as well.

If states don’t pan out as expected, look for the exit polls to provide clues. While the national exit poll won’t be done this year (drat!), they will be conducted in most states, including the most competitive ones.

Third, the Obama campaign has developed a very sophisticated approach to targeting voters and getting them out to vote, including early voting.

While the Republican and Democratic bases are highly activated, there are a number of voters who are less sure or less motivated. Some people don’t vote in every election and are termed “sporadic voters.” They are hardest to reach — and the Obama campaign has developed sophisticated modeling to design interventions to will get them to vote.

How this will play out is a bit up in the air, but there is good evidence that these activities are quite effective in increasing turnout.

One wild card is that, in areas really hit by Hurricane Sandy, some people who would ordinarily vote won’t vote. However, since hard-hit New York and New Jersey may have the most voters affected by the storm, these states are expected to go Democratic. Still, those voters’ absence would affect the overall popular vote.

One Romney advantage

With all this, Romney retains one critical advantage. For Obama to win certain states, he will need strong turnout from young voters.  However, young voters sometimes do not vote as much as expected.

Romney’s voters are from age groups with more stable housing situations who vote more habitually.  (By the way, those voters are less affected by voter id laws.) This could have a significant impact on the election’s outcome.

And a personal note: I will out of the country all of election week, as the U.S. State Department invited me to participate in various election-related programs in Montenegro. Maine and Montenegro have a “sister” relationship, dating back to 2007. I look forward to the trip and to telling you all about it sometime.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.