Why Is It So Hard to Get the Fundamentals Right?

by John Sides on August 24, 2012 · 2 comments

in Campaigns and elections

Me, yesterday:

…without any dramatic trend the resulting balance of economic indicators is favorable for Obama, though not strongly so.  This is, in part, why the forecasting model that Lynn Vavreck, Seth Hill, and I helped develop for Wonkblog, suggested Obama would win.  Lynn and I reach the same conclusion with a elaborated forecasting exercise in “The Hand You’re Dealt.”  This is, in part, why forecasts that build in economic indicators—as at 538 and Votamatic—suggest the same.  And yet people still think Obama should be losing because of the economy.  That is simply not the case.

Charlie Cook, today:

Whether one looks at polling measurements of whether voters think the country is headed in the right direction, at consumer confidence, or at key economic measurements such as growth in gross domestic product, deviations in the unemployment rate, or the change in real personal disposable income, it is puzzling, to say the least, why polls show President Obama and Mitt Romney running neck and neck. Incumbents generally don’t get reelected with numbers like we are seeing today.

And then he’s off into riffs on Romney’s various problems.  He’s not a “natural candidate.” He didn’t air enough positive ads to make voters “comfortable” with him.  He should have taken Rubio’s position on immigration to win Latinos.  He shouldn’t be having a discussion of Medicare.

Maybe those things are true.  Or maybe the economy just doesn’t predict that Obama should be losing.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: many an  unduly complicated interpretation of an election began with a misreading of the fundamentals.  Fortunately, I don’t need to say much more.  Just read Jon Bernstein, Jamelle Bouie, Matt Dickinson, and especially Sean Trende.

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