A trip to the US has given me five reasons to pick who will win the US presidential election in November
Just back from the US and my political gut is ready to make a prediction for this year's presidential election. That may be foolish, as there will be plenty of opportunities for the candidates to flail and fail, what with the conventions in the next few weeks and the TV debates to follow.
Once again the signs are that it will be a tight race; but one candidate has the edge.
These are tough times for America. Even normally ebullient California has a monkey on its back, with massive state debt and 14% unemployment.
Obama hasn't been given the free pass National has here on economic issues – there's plenty of blame laid at his door for America's plight. Of course he has much more power to carve out change both domestically and globally because of the sheer scale of his power and his country's economy. There's no way he can get away with blaming everything on Greece.
But not only is the US economy being stubbornly sluggish and short of jobs, the country's having to come to terms ever so slowly with its new place in the world as a dominant voice, rather than the dominant voice.
If you take away the names and faces and look purely at the state of the nation, signs point to a Republican win. Voters often look right in troubled economic times. And the lack of jobs is a killer – with unemployment over 8% for over three years, they should have it in the bag. No post-war president has won with unemployment over 7.2%.
Add to that the fact that Obama has underwhelmed many Democrats and independents and that Romney is expected to comfortably out-spend Obama in the campaign and Romney's an obvious pick.
But I think Barack Obama will squeak a second term. He won't have anything like the love and belief he enjoyed in 2008; the hope of that campaign will be replaced with sufferance. But five things will get him across the line.
- There is disillusion and disappointment aplenty amongst the liberals; but then many on the right view Romney as a dubious candidate as well. Neither base is especially in love with its candidate, but the anti-Romney feeling amongst swing voters will be stronger than the feeling of disappointment in Obama. Be it his arrogance or clunkiness, wealth or faith, Romney doesn't appeal to many. Then there's his hypocrisy on so many issues, from healthcare to immigation. Republicans could have romped in this time, but they have a terribly weak candidate. He just can't etcho-sketch away enough.
- People I spoke to are bored with the race already. Really, so many people hate Washington, hate the same old ploys, hate the partisanship. That will help the incumbent and Obama specifically, who on the trail talks an inclusive game.
- Romney has lost the hispanic vote. Whereas Bush could claim support of as much as 44%, Romney is languishing in the 20s. To ram that home, Obama has promised significant immigration reform. They matter because there will be a couple of million more voting this time than in 2008. That gives Obama a major lift in Nevada, Colorado and Florida, all key states.
- And that's just one of the minorities the Republican primary campaign has alienated. The birth control fuss has angered many young women, for example. In contrast, Obama's gay marriage endorsement has given gays and younger voters a reason to bother.
- Perhaps most significantly, the economy is trending up. Slightly. But it should just be enough. If the employment and growth numbers were trending down, Obama would be in real trouble despite all the other factors. But there's an air of recovery that will give people enough confidence to try another term. What if Europe falls apart? You may well ask. But I think if the worst happens, voters are more likely to go for the incumbent in a time of crisis. And of course any improvement helps him. So he's ok, either way.
Of course it's early days and more factors will arise. But the big picture stuff should be enough for Obama to get four more years.