Obama in 'Good Position' to be Reelected, Campaign Strategist Tells Audience at Rider University
Democratic pollster and campaign strategist Mark S. Mellman has helped lead the campaigns of 18 senators, eight governors and more than two dozen members of Congress.
Edtior's Note: The following is a news release issued by Rider University.
Last month, in a video posted on NOLA.com, New Orleans Times-Picayune politics editor Tim Morris posed the question, “Is Barack Obama Toast?” Over the next 10 minutes, Morris, along with Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry and the newspaper’s Washington bureau reporter, Bruce Alpert, weighed the variables and came to the conclusion that the president faces a somewhat uphill battle for reelection in November 2012.
But it’s not quite that simple, according to Mark S. Mellman, a top Democratic pollster and campaign strategist who has helped lead the campaigns of 18 senators, eight governors and more than two dozen members of Congress as the CEO of The Mellman Group. Mellman, who guided Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s successful reelection bid over Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle in 2010, was a guest of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University’s Lawrence Township campus on Thursday, Dec. 1.
“Actually, Barack Obama is in a good position to be reelected,” said Mellman, whose own forecast, derived from various econometrics, polling data and market estimates, projects Obama to capture 51.8 percent of the popular vote next year.
Mellman, who was twice named the “Top Insider” by the National Journal for providing the most accurate predictions of the 2006 and 2010 election cycles, maintains that fundamental, structured dynamics set the context in which elections take place. He believes that several of these seem to favor the incumbent president in this cycle.
“Among these positives is longevity,” said Mellman, who explained that voters have a fundamental desire to give a president two terms. “In the last 100 years, we’ve seen a presidential party removed after a single term just once, in 1980, with Jimmy Carter.” George H.W. Bush served only one term, he added, but it followed eight years in office by fellow Republican Ronald Reagan.
Shifting demography also favors Obama in 2012, according to Mellman. He revealed that percentages of the total vote from African-Americans and Latinos increased from 16 percent in 2002 to 22 percent in 2008, and are expected to rise another 1 to 4 percent nationally by next November.
“This rising demography by groups disproportionately loyal to Democrats helps President Obama,” Mellman said. “It’s gotten to where he can actually win with less than 40 percent of the ‘white’ vote.”
Mellman also said that partisanship and even the economy actually help him project a second term in the White House for Obama.
“The economy is a central, structural factor that determines the outcomes of presidential elections, but it’s less clear how to measure the abstract that is our economy,” he said. “Unemployment, for instance, has no (historical) relation to presidential outcomes.”
One economic factor that does play a key role, according to Mellman, is the idea of per capita real disposable income. “It’s something people feel when they buy groceries or fill up at the gas pump,” he explained.
Mellman continued to explain that in only one presidential election since 1932 has real disposable income declined – again, in 1980 – a slip of 1 percent that preceded Carter’s loss to Reagan. In this respect, he said, Obama should be wary, as this index decreased by 1.5 percent in the third quarter of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“The silver lining for the president is that the last month saw an increase. When it’s down, it’s easier to generate growth,” Mellman said. “Our forecast has it rising about 1 percent over the next year – about the same as when Truman beat Dewey (in 1948).”
Another advantage Obama can claim going into the 2012 election is the negative feelings voters have about the Republicans he may face, Mellman said.
“Mitt Romney’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating is at 36 to 42 right now, and ideally, you want it to be about 2 to 1,” Mellman explained. “And he’s the most popular one!”
Looking ahead to a possible Obama-Romney campaign, Mellman said that Romney, the likeliest Republican nominee, will undoubtedly employ a tactic used by many challengers before him. “When things are bad, telling voters that things are bad is easy,” he explained. However, Mellman added, Obama should also be able to capitalize on several strategic missteps by Romney.
“(In order to earn the support of conservatives,) Romney has to go around every day and denounce his biggest accomplishment,” said Mellman in reference to the health care insurance reform law Romney championed as governor of Massachusetts in 2006, which bears many similarities to the more recent, national “Obamacare” plan.
“For that and for a number of other issues, the president will be able to characterize Romney as a flip-flopper,” Mellman added.
The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University is dedicated to public service and scholarly analysis of government, public policy, campaigns and elections in New Jersey. Generous support for The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics comes from the Hennessy Fund. Upcoming guest-speaker events include Sheila Oliver, speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, on Feb. 27, 2012; former Gov. James J. Florio on March 22; top Republican strategist Karl Rove on April 2; and Sen. Frank Lautenberg on April 11.