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Miami's political science experts look at the 2012 presidential race

11/05/2012

In the spirit of the 2012 presidential campaign, and Ohio's role as a pivotal "swing state," Miami University's political science experts, who have been interviewed by reporters near and far this campaign season, share their opinions.

Q: What factors will likely determine this year’s race?

Bryan Marshall, professor of political science
Phil Russo, professor of political science


A: We have always viewed it from a political scientist’s perspective of being able to identify key factors that condition election outcomes. The difficulty, however, is that we just don't know which of those conditional factors will be "true" or most relevant on Election Day. The most recent publication of PS: Political Science and Politics does offer forecasts by the discipline’s most prominent political scientists studying elections. There are a number of those models that forecast a Romney victory, but a slim majority of all the models predict Obama winning. That said, right now we are in a phase of the electoral campaign where Romney seems to have a slight advantage in the national polls, but Obama has maintained a slight advantage in many of the key swing states which will be critical for either candidate’s electoral college victory path. So, our sense is that we have a very close and exciting race on our hands, where a touch of momentum one way or the other in the closing days could be enough to tip the outcome. Remember also, that while there is a preoccupation with the “national” election polls, the reality, both in terms of the polls and the U.S. Constitution, is that it is a series of state-level elections, and in that sense, the anxiety of predicting when the national polls show one race, and the state-level polls show another. It's what Army Generals understand about "war," it’s a series of battles. So too, the presidential election is about "battleground" states.


Q: Without predicting a winner, what have both candidates’ campaigns illustrated?

Pat Haney, interim chair of political science

A: It's important to remember that there are a series of state elections that will add up in the electoral college to a winner. That's how this works; the national polls don't mean much (other than the fact that they are the horserace on which the press likes to fixate). I would say that a variety of places are tracking very closely what is going on in the state by state polling in "battleground" states, and by the looks of them, I'd say President Obama has some advantages; he has more pathways to get to the magic "270" number. I'd also say that the Romney campaign behavior in Ohio recently tells me they think they really have to win Ohio, the race is very close here and they feel they’re probably behind a bit (which is what most of the polling suggests). It's a fascinating election on so many levels!

A: What will determine this year’s election?

Ryan Barilleaux, Paul Rejai Professor of Political Science

A: The polls have been within the margin of error since the presidential debates. That suggests the election will come down to turnout, which favors Romney. But if undecided voters decide at the end that the president has done the best anyone could and that the challenger represents greater uncertainty, then Obama has the edge. I think it will be determined by turnout and which way independents go.

Q: Who will win this year’s election?

Christopher Kelley, professor of political science

A: I believe Obama will win. The path is easier for him than Romney. However, if Romney does win, it will mean that he accomplished two things. First, he managed to focus the public's attention on the economy, which is the #1 issue and something he has failed to adequately do thus far. And second, he has managed to make the public believe that he is presidential material- the so called "sealing the deal" metaphor.

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