4 Things That Will Decide the 2012 Election

We’re still 480 days away from the presidential election of 2012, and people are trying frantically to either paint President Obama as a goner, or say that it’s inevitable that he’ll be re-elected.  C’mon people, it’s still 480 DAYS AWAY!  That’s a lifetime in political dog years.


Having said that, let me offer some unsolicited commentary about what I think will be the deciding factors in next year’s election.  I think there are four things that the election will depend on.  Two of these things are things that President Obama controls; one is something the Republicans control; and the last (and probably most important), no one controls.

The Economy
First, and probably most important, is the economy.  Republicans love to cast the economy at Obama’s feet, and say (borrowing from President Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign), “It’s the economy, stupid!  You’ve driven it into a ditch.”  Okay, that last part was borrowing from President Obama himself (if you watch the video in the link, watch the entire video, but pay attention starting at about 2:50).  With 9.2% unemployment, and no clear way out of the economic doldrums, this is what may really hurt Obama.  When he was elected in 2008, the unemployment rate was 6.6%.  At the midterm elections in 2010, the unemployment rate had jumped to 9.7%.  It came down after the midterm elections, but now seems to be stagnating.

In the economic sense, it all comes down to the ten-word question that President Reagan asked in 1980–“Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  This question, if the Republican nominee asks it, may spell doom for Obama if the economy doesn’t turn around.

The Republican Nominee
This is something over which President Obama has little or no control.  It has been said that the Republican presidential field is weak, but the media said the same thing about the 1992 Democratic field.  Bob Schieffer of CBS News reported in February 1992, “John White, the former chairman of the Democratic Party, finally said aloud today what more and more Democrats have been whispering about lately, that while George Bush does look vulnerable, the current crop of Democratic candidates may be too weak to take advantage of it.”

If the Republicans nominate a strong candidate in 2012–someone who is reliably conservative, and has executive experience (in my opinion)–then this could be trouble for President Obama.

The president and his administration has showed arrogance several times in the last few months.  One of his top advisors, David Plouffe, had a slight gaffe last week when he said,

“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Plouffe said. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’”

Many people took this to mean that Americans don’t pay attention to the unemployment rate, or that the American people can be made to pay attention to whatever the Administration wants them to.  What he said is true; but what he didn’t say was that the “prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers” affects what happens in people’s lives.

The second, more recent, gaffe came from the president himself, when asked a question at a recent press conference by CBS News’ Chip Reid:

Reid: The latest CBS News poll showed that only 24% of Americans said you should raise the debt limit to avoid an economic catastrophe. There are still 69% who oppose raising the debt limit. So isn’t the problem that you and others have failed to convince the American people that we have a crisis here, and how are you going to change that?

Obama: Well, let me distinguish between professional politicians and the public at large. The public is not paying close attention to the ins and outs of how a Treasury option goes. They shouldn’t. They’re worrying about their family; they’re worrying about their jobs; they’re worrying about their neighborhood. They’ve got a lot of other things on their plate. We’re paid to worry about it.

This, I think, reveals a certain level of arrogance on President Obama’s part.  He says that he knows better than most American’s what’s best for the country.  He thinks that people aren’t engaged enough to know whether borrowing huge amounts of debt is a good thing.

His Personality
Lastly, I think President Obama’s personality will be a factor in the election.  If the World’s Greatest Orator pulls out the charm during the 2012 election seasons, then he might have a fighting chance.  If, on the other hand, he pulls out more of the same that he’s been using for the last 3 years, then all he’ll do is put people to sleep.  People are tired of the “hope and change” routine.  Even people who loved him in 2008 are getting bored.  I’ve read articles in the last month that have said that young people are getting bored of Obama (and a refutation by an Administration official who said that liking Obama is “still cool”); that Hispanics are getting turned off to Obama (approval rating down to 52% from 73%); that African American’s are cooling to Obama; that women are cooling to Obama; that liberals are cooling to Obama.

If everyone cools to Obama because of his policies, and he can’t turn on the charm, then he’ll have an extremely hard time getting out the vote.

These four things–the economy, the Republican nominee, arrogance, and personality–are the things that I think will be deciding factors in the election.  Having said that, I still think that Obama has a good chance of being retained for another four years.  Ousting a sitting president is a very hard thing to do, and it will be quite an exciting 15 months.

Questions: Would you add anything to this list?  What are the factors that you think will decide the 2012 presidential election?  You can leave your comments by clicking here.

  • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

    I completely agree with your opening statements…the election is 480 days away, there are very few things that are happening now that we can say for sure will play a major role in the 2012 election because then can always get turned around, but I can guarantee one thing….

    Independent voters, as always, will decide this election. If Republicans do not put forth a candidate that can pull independents from Obama, a group he dominated in 2008, the Republicans have ZERO chance of winning in 2012.  You can list pro’s/con’s, campaign funds, polls, etc… but if the Republicans put forth a candidate like Michelle Bachman, Rich Perry, or Sarah Palin you might as well call the election.  They simply will not be able to pull enough independent voters from Obama in a general election. 

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      I agree with you; the Republican candidate will be a big deciding factor.
      However, probably not as much as you think. Consider the elections of 1932
      and 1980. Both were elections where the opposing party could pretty much
      have nominated anyone, and they would have been elected, due to the
      embarrasing nature of the incumbent. So, President Obama has as much to do
      with the outcome of the election as the Republican candidate. If President
      Obama can’t do something right in the next 15 months, or have some extremely
      good luck, then he’ll be ousted, with little regard to who the Republican
      candidate is.

      Question, though: You list Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin as
      unacceptable Republican candidate. What would be your largest problems with
      these candidates? I understand Sarah Palin; she has a big image problem. I
      kinda understand Michele Bachmann. But what’s your beef with Rick Perry,
      other than he sounds like George W. Bush when he talks?

      • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

        So basically being a cookie cutter mold of G.W. Bush isn’t enough to exclude him, lol?  Plainly put he is both a social conservative and economic conservative, with an “uneven” record as Governor of Texas. Again the independents are going to swing this election and I do not see a strong social and fiscal conservative pulling enough voters from Obama.  Listen I have not doubt he does well in the South as a Republican and he may do well in the primary but when it comes time to get those “middle of the road” moderates a strong conservative is going to have a hard time going against, despite right wing media projections, a moderate democrat incumbent president who has shown willingness to compromise on a variety of issues in order to govern.  Republicans need someone who can pull independents, outside of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman; I do not see appeal outside of party lines.  Republican candidates need to stop worrying about the far right Tea Party faction and start looking ahead to the general election because what the say in the primary to win over the base will destroy their chances of winning a general election.   

        • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

          I almost laughed out loud when you characterized the Tea Party as
          “far-right.” The Tea Party faction of the Republican party, while it may be
          demogogued by the left in that way, isn’t “far-right.” As far as I can
          tell, the Tea Party doesn’t care about social issues, only about fiscal
          issues, which is exactly what most people would consider the moderate wing
          of the Republican party.

          So, when you say that the Repulican party should shun the Tea Party, are you
          saying that they should focus solely on social issues? How is that going to
          win over independents?

          I disagree with your assessment that the Republican Party must win over
          independents by being “more moderate.” Three of the last four elected
          Republican presidents were considered conservative (at least in rhetoric).
          The only other president, George H.W Bush, was arguably only elected because
          of his proximity to Ronald Reagan, and then he only lasted 4 years.

          Also, it has been said that independents are those who can’t make up their
          minds what they believe, and are susceptible to campaign marketing. If
          that’s the case, it’s not so much what the candidate believes that’s
          important, but how they package it that will decide for whom the
          independents vote.

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            I know you agree with the tea party on a lot of fiscal
            issues but I think you may be too deep in the forest to see the trees on this
            one.  We are talking about Tea party
            members and leaders that think the EPA and other government agencies can just
            be done away with, they do not support compromise which in a divided government
            is required to legislate and lastly for some reason they feel a need to support
            a ban on Shariah law?? While you may agree with them fiscally they have other
            views about the future of our country which are “far right” as any
            objective measure would show. 


            There is a strong push in our country on social issues and
            most of the republicans in this current field have already come out with
            pledges or platforms which truly limit their ability to reach moderate
            voters.  The conservative presidents you
            sited were not elected in a time when civil unions were gaining support and becoming
            more and more common among state laws and DADT is standing on its last legs.  This field of “conservatives” will have a lot
            to answer in a general election in regards to their positions on social issues.


            Lastly as a registered independent voter myself, I find it
            odd that not making up your mind about a candidate until the campaigns actually
            occur is somehow a sign of mental weakness. 
            Perhaps the voter who votes Republican or Democrat down the line no
            matter what should reevaluate how and why they vote?

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            How do you become a registered independent? Is there some kind of club?
            What are the requirements?

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            No you simply do not declare a party when you register to vote…hence the term “registered independent”.  You are a registered voter who is independent from party affiliation. 

          • Bob Ewoldt

            I guess I’m a registered independent, too, then, because I didn’t select “Republican” or “Democrat” when I registered.

  • Pious_Ted


    Agreed.  Rick Perry seems like the logical candidate.  If Rick Perry enters the contest and beats Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, I think the Republicans have a chance.