If President Obama wins re-election, why?
1. For a variety of reasons, incumbent presidents have an advantage – universal name identification, and policy and public relations resources of the White House. And, most importantly, voter inertia; i.e., changing horses in middle of stream, etc. aphorisms that especially appeal to more conservative voters.
2. The economy is bad, but comparisons with the economy in previous presidential re-elections show conditions place Obama in a better position than Carter and Bush I, but behind Reagan, Clinton and Bush II; that is bad, but maybe not bad enough. Plus, Obama says, and the public agrees, that much of the problem was inherited.
3. The core Democratic constituencies have grown a bit to make up for some loss of enthusiasm. And, African-Americans, Hispanics, young voters and single women have been appealed to with interest group and identity politics. Polls show they are providing expected margins, especially in swing states.
4. One year ago, the Obama team realized they were going to lose if they didn’t shift the conversation from what Obama has accomplished to what the Republicans can’t and won’t let get done. Hence, the yearlong offensive on taxes and income inequality; i.e., the embattled middle class, “trickle-down economics,” etc.
5. Part of that reframing was the anticipation Romney would be the nominee and business acumen his major strength. His major weakness is his corporate wealth. The Obama campaign has portrayed him as an out-of-touch rich guy.
6. Obama wins both favorability and empathy polls over Mitt Romney by 20 or more points. It helps blunt Obama’s competence deficiency, especially on the economy.
7. Obama’s campaign advanced presidential political techniques in the 2008 race. They tuned them up again to make up for an enthusiasm gap and parity in fundraising (last time they outspent John McCain substantially).