2012 Presidential Election Prediction Update

17Mar12

Almost three months ago, before the first Republican primaries, I predicted that the candidates in November 2012 would be Obama and Romney (in which case Romney would win) or else Hillary and Romney (in which case Hillary would win).  This post updates that prediction.

I saw a victorious Hillary as the most likely outcome, at a 16% probability.  Not very high odds, and not surprisingly:  the idea that an incumbent would step aside is iffy.  It has happened, but not often.

The basis for this speculation was primarily economic.  There were signs that 2012 might be a politically revolutionary year, on both the right and the left, because of economic pressures.  Obama seemed out of touch with revolutionary passions.  He still does, and the economy remains anemic, and will surely do so well past the election.

But there have been some developments in Obama’s favor.  Romney has cast himself as a suit and a weasel, at a time when neither is very welcome.  The endless Republican candidate debates have made all of the candidates seem less significant and less appealing.  A Republican party that could carry so many implausible contenders for so long can hardly be attractive to independents.

Such circumstances are not insuperable for Romney.  But he will really need a sharp rise in revolutionary sentiment if he is to be able to challenge Obama for the center while simultaneously carrying his party’s baggage and confusion.  At present, he looks likely to be hobbled by it.

There are also developments where Hillary is concerned.  Some have voiced the inevitable support for her vice-presidential if not presidential candidacy in 2012 or at least 2016.  I think the latter is out.  She is aging, and I don’t think the American public is generally very kindly disposed toward aging females.  It was hard enough for Ronald Reagan to break that barrier, and she’s no Reagan.  She has also remarked that she is tired and wants to leave politics.  That’s not the speech of someone who is trying to convey an electable sense of youthful vitality.

It would be wise of Obama to replace Biden with Hillary as his VP.  The way things look now, they would make a strong showing.  In other words, if I were starting over, I would not repeat my prediction, from three months ago, about a President Hillary.  That’s not to say I’m ready to retract it.  The year is young, and Obama certainly has vulnerabilities.

I would still say Hillary is apt to be on the ticket, that this is probably her last shot at it, and that a ticket with Hillary is likely to win.  The question is whether Obama will be on the ticket as well.  There is still some chance that this president who does not enjoy politicking will decide to call it a day.  After all, he could be veep in 2012, use that position to enjoy life for a while, and reserve the option of returning to the presidential fray in 2016, if he so chose.  Alternately, unlike the president, the vice president could plausibly resign, late in his term, to return to a law professor gig at a higher level, as a Supreme Court justice.  He may not ever get that option if he sticks around for another term as president and then yields to a two-term Republican.

For any such scenario to unfold, it presently appears that circumstances — especially Romney and the economy — will have to make Obama miserable.  They do not yet seem to be doing that.  I think the outcome could be predictable within a few weeks after the summer heat arrives.  At present, it seems my prediction of three months ago underestimated Obama’s seemingly irrational commitment to a line of work for which his gifts are not ideally suited.  In other words, I could have told you that the man would want to remain president; I just could not have told you exactly why.

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