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Academics predict economy will drive a Romney victory

August 22, 2012|By James Rainey
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's chances for the White House look bright, according to two Colorado political scientists.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's chances for the… (John Moore / Getty Images )

Campaign 2012 may have spent weeks stuck on discussions of Mitt Romney’s taxes, Joe Biden’s rant on putting “y’all in chains” and “legitimate rape” and abortion, but a pair of Colorado political scientists believe the struggling economy will still be the dominant issue and will pave the way for a Romney victory.

Using a state-by-state analysis of unemployment and per-capita income, academics Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry of the University of Colorado project that Romney will win 52.9% of the popular vote and 320 electoral votes. The political scientists discuss their findings here.

Their forecast suggests that President Obama will lose in almost all of the swing states, including North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

The Obama camp might note that the president leads, if narrowly, in most of those states.  Pennsylvania is considered solidly enough in the Democrat’s column that both sides have stopped television advertising there.

But Bickers said much of the polling thus far means relatively little, with much of the electorate still not focused on the race. The academics said their model focuses on the preeminent issue of the economy. Applied retrospectively, the model predicts the correct winner in every presidential contest going back to 1980, they said.

The model missed by an average of 20 electoral votes when applied to those prior elections, Bickers said. He said the formula employed in the analysis is unusual because it measures the states, rather than trying to predict a popular vote for the entire nation.

The Boulder, Colo.-based Bickers acknowledged polls that have shown Obama consistently leading, both nationally and in many of the states considered key to an electoral college victory. But he said that historically such early leads have not necessarily been meaningful.

While there has been considerable “background noise” on other matters, Bickers said, “the big driver in an election is the same driver — the economic performance of the incumbent party.”

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