Bob Krumm, a well known Democratic Party consultant has weighed in today with an analysis that looks like a post mortem on the election.
If you’re in the Obama campaign–or a numerologist sympathetic to it–you probably console yourself with comparisons to polling results from 2008. Today Barack Obama is running about three points behind where he was at this point in the race two years ago, while Mitt Romney is about four points ahead of John McCain. Since Barack Obama won by 7.3% in 2008, the seven-point swing this year still puts the race within reach.
However this is not 2008. That year was an anomaly in my lifetime: the first election since 1952 when there was neither an incumbent president nor a sitting vice president on the ballot. The 2008 election was a choice; this year is a referendum.
We have watched the trend lines and many of us were highly suspicious of the polls last summer.
The 2012 election returns to the historical norm where you have an incumbent and a challenger. The primary metric is the incumbent’s level of support. He is only safe when he is well above 50%. When his support dips below 50% he is in danger. If it stays below 48% he is in extreme danger. Barack Obama sits at 47% and hasn’t been higher than 48% since the first debate.
The spread is not entirely meaningless, so long as one keeps in mind that it is a “horseshoes” type of metric in referendum elections. All the challenger has to do is to keep it close. Let’s look at a post-Labor Day comparison of 2012’s RCP averages versus 2004, the last time we had a similar election. It is true that Romney trailed Obama all throughout September, but he was well ahead of where challenger John Kerry was four years before. Meanwhile, Barack Obama stayed about a half-point behind George W. Bush’s 2004 numbers. In total, Barack Obama was running about 2.5 points behind Bush’s advantage. Bush ended up winning by 2.4%. The pre-debate conventional wisdom was that Obama’s 3-4 point lead put him in a comfortable position. Based on the 2004 precedent, that confidence was entirely misplaced.
As Instapundit says, “read the whole thing.”
The conclusion: The fundamentals of this race have never been in Barack Obama’s favor. For two years he has underperformed George W. Bush. For more than two years he has trailed in enthusiasm by margins of no better than 3:2. For two years he has had trouble breaking above 50% approval–and those are in polls of registered voters or even all adults. That’s not a good place for an incumbent Democrat to be. 2012 was predestined to be a referendum election, unlike the one Obama won in 2008. If that wasn’t clear enough, especially after a disastrous 2010 mid-term result, Democrats have only themselves (and their media partners) to blame for their delusion.
The Raven is now perched beside Obama’s chamber door.