The Fundamentals Mattered in 2012

In the first e-chapter of The Gamble, “The Hand You’re Dealt,” Lynn Vavreck and  I argued that an incumbent running amidst even modest economic growth was the favorite.  Certain economic indicators were certainly not favorable to the president, but composites of multiple indicators suggested that Obama was favored—though this was difficult for some commentators to realize.  Indeed, when we helped Wonkblog develop a simple forecasting model, its optimistic prediction for Obama, as Ezra Klein notes, seemed unwarranted.  Now, not so much.  Ultimately, the story of the 2012 election parallels the story of the 2008 election in this respect.

That the candidate favored by the fundamentals won the election does not mean that the campaign itself was irrelevant.  Lynn and I hope to show how the campaign mattered in our book.  But it does mean that we should be cautious claiming that Obama’s campaign was “flawless,” as I heard on MSNBC tonight.  Again, the same thing was said in 2008, except then the Obama campaign was apparently only “near flawless.”

You can’t infer the quality of a campaign from the outcome. A victory does not mean that the winner’s campaign was perfect, nor that the loser’s campaign was an unmitigated disaster. In 2012, Obama’s victory may have derived partly from smart campaigning, but it also derived from the simple fact that, after a disastrous recession and financial crisis, even a slow and sometimes halting economic recovery can be enough.

3 Responses to The Fundamentals Mattered in 2012

  1. LFC November 7, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    I’m not surprised that someone on MSNBC said Obama’s campaign was “flawless.” The coverage I sampled online last night (admittedly a very small sample) ranged from bad to awful. The PBS NewsHour seemed incapable of properly showing the margins in close states, flashing them on the screen for a few seconds and then yanking them down, Bob Shieffer on CBS appeared to be in a state approaching catatonia, and the WashPost’s front-page map didn’t match its inside map (if I can use those terms for the electronic edition). Even this a.m., the banner headline on WaPo’s election map shows Obama winning only 249 electoral votes, not 270. It says Obama, 249, and then a check mark next to his name indicating he won. Of course you cannot win with 249 electoral votes. What is wrong with WaPo?

    Someone told me this a.m. that CNN had done a decent job but it didn’t occur to me to see if I could get CNN online (probably could have). (I don’t have a working TV.)

  2. LFC November 7, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    WaPo has now fixed the map.

  3. grandpa john November 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    LFC I agree with you, the coverage across the board with all coverage was horrible.
    The general consensus of all the talking heads was that what they had to say was much more important than the actual vote count in each state except for flashing the results for states that had been called 2 hours before, but God forbid giving us any idea of what was happening in current uncalled states.