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Analyzing The Most Illogical Election EVER. Part 1

As a Conservative that generally votes Republican, I was (to put it mildly) shocked by the election results on November 6th, as so many others across America were. Although for several days following the election, I felt inside that Obama's victory made no sense, at that time I simply had no interest what so ever in exploring or analyzing the reasons and just put it out of my mind. Now that the dust has settled and I'm over the initial shock and disappointment, I've been giving increasingly more time thinking about why Obama won, how Romney lost, and most importantly, analyzing why it is that the results of this election (as opposed to others) came as such a surprise to me.

There have been 9 presidential elections since 1980 and looking back at the results, every one makes logical sense to me, except of course this years results. Prior to the 2012 election, When I consider the candidates in each of those races, their records, platform, experience, campaign performances, etc... and I take into account the condition of the country at the time, and what issues were most important to voters during those election cycles, the person I feel should have won each of those elections, did win them.

Every single one of those 8 previous elections possessed certain key factors that determined in a clear and logical way, the reason why a certain candidate lost the election, why a certain candidate won the election, or in some cases, both. Some were based on voting either for or against the incumbent president/party based on the economy. Some were supported or rejected based on how they're seen handling key political issues other than the economy. Some were based on wanting someone new, exciting and/or inspiring as president, and some were based on a lack of qualifications, confidence or trust in a certain candidate. What ever the case happened to be in each of those elections, the results at least made a level of sense from a voters stand point, and logically supported the primary reason why the public votes for, or against a candidate in the first place.

The results of 2012 election don't seem to logically fit in with past results, and at least on the surface, didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. The question was, why? Could it be I was missing or overlooking something important about either Barack Obama's record. or Mitt Romney's qualifications, that I hadn't taken into account?

I decided that I would start with Mitt Romney. Sure he's not as charismatic as President Obama, but he was still very pleasant and likable. Considering he's the challenger facing an incumbent president, I wondered if this was similar to John Kerry losing to Bush in 2004, where the public didn't have confidence in his ability on the key political issue of that campaign (middle east wars and military)? Another possibility is, that after the public saw the debates and compared them, they decided Romney was clearly the weaker candidate, like in 2000 where Gore lost 12 points in the polls to Bush following the debates? Could it be that Romney was just a weak candidate or bad choice to begin with like Dole was in 96', or maybe he said or did something devastating to his campaign that killed his chances like Dukakis did back in 88'? Lets take a look...

The number one campaign issue in this years election by a huge margin, was the overall economy, including unemployment/jobs and the national debt. From mid October thru election day, I looked at 17 opinion polls (source: pollingreport.com & rasmussen) related to the economy, from 6 different polling companies. Of the polls that asked the public which candidate they trusted more, or thought would do a better job, on the overall economy, Romney averaged 4.5 points higher than Obama. On the issue of jobs and unemployment, Romney was 6 points higher, and on the issue of handling the debt, he was a whopping 10.2% higher than the president. Even though I averaged the polls, every one of the 17 individual polls on the economy, showed Romney scoring higher than Obama. (On the other, low priority issues of this campaign, the results were pretty much split depending on the issue, and the polling company)

So it's not that the public doesn't see Romney as qualified to deal with the problem, in fact it's quite the opposite. It also can't be that Romney is seen as weak when comparing the two, because he gained approval in the polls after the debates. It also can't be that Romney was seen as a weak candidate to begin with, because the more they got to know him, the higher his approval went. I also feel that Romney didn't do or say anything that rose to level of killing his chances to get elected. Sure, there were things said that got negative press, but they were all said prior to the debates, and prior to his approval numbers shooting up.

I concluded therefore, that Romney didn't blow the election or hand the win to the president. He was seen as likable, experienced, and a qualified candidate who represented a formidable challenge to the president's reelection bid, and the polls right up to the day of the election reflected that.


President Obama being the incumbent, has implemented policy, signed legislation into law, and been the steward of our economy for the last 4 years. As with all incumbents running for a second term, their record is their resume. Although there are other factors involved, the incumbents record has always been the single most important and influential factor that the public uses to determine if a president gets a second term in office or not.

Looking back at the previous 8 elections prior to this year, there was an incumbent running in 5 of those elections, 3 of which ended up winning as Obama did a few weeks ago, while the other 2 were defeated. First, I decided to compare Obama to the 3 that won their reelection bids. They were Bush in 2004, Clinton in 1996 and Reagan in 1984.

Both Bush and Reagan have something in common with obama, in that upon taking office, they also inherited bad economies (Bush's not as severe as the other 2). Clinton on the other hand, entered office during an economic upswing. Looking back at Reagan, In the 2 years prior to the 84' election, the unemployment rate was lowered from 10.8% to 7.4%, real unemployment declined more than 3% to 8.8%, 6.7 million net jobs were created, and the GDP averaged 5.7% growth over the previous 4 quarters. The economic results of his policies were successful, and the economy was looking good. Reagan was liked by the public at large and acted presidential. When you take into account that Mondale, his opponent, wasn't a very strong candidate and was the VP under the previous failed administration the Reagan had defeated, it made his reelection nearly inevitable.

In 2004, Bush had a good and growing economy, after having a rough time of it his first few years. The share of political negatives for Bush was note worthy, and had a growing list of political critics. Since the economy had been recovering for more than a year, the main issue with voters in that election was by far the war in Iraq and the war on terror in general. Bush was reasonably liked, but was seen at times based on his words and public presentation, as less than presidential by some. Bush being a war president gave him an advantage, but he was still seen as very defeatable. The main reason Bush won reelection wasn't because he was a particularly strong overall candidate, but more because his opponent was perceived as being significantly weak on national defense and military matters, based on his words and actions in the past. Simply put, John Kerry was the wrong candidate at the wrong time. So in the end, I believe the Bush victory had slightly more to do with his opponent losing, than it did with him winning.

Then there's the 1996 election. I saw the Clinton victory as a combination of the 84' win by Reagan (good economy), and the 2004 win by Bush (poor opposition). In spite of the failures early on in his first term, Bill Clinton acted presidential, was liked by the public, and had a solid economic resume going into the election. There wasn't any one particular issue that stood out as most important in that election and no issue's priority got more than 15% in the polls. The economy was chugging right along back then and not skipping a beat, and Clinton's opponent wasn't a very strong choice. In fact, Dole wouldn't have posed much of a challenge even if the economy wasn't in the best of shape. Clinton won because of the solid economy, a lack luster opponent, and in my view, would have been tough to defeat even with a formidable opponent.

What the incumbent victories of Reagan, Clinton and Bush had in common, was that the economy was strong and headed in the right direction for all 3 of them.

Continued in Part 2

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