Professor Pundits: And the winner is…

With Santorum out and Gingrich close behind him, the Republican primary race is all but over. It may seem obvious now but, as our pundits point out, Romney was not always the clear choice. In this edition, Matt and Bert look back at the road to Romney’s nomination and discuss what the recent GDP report could mean for the general election.

Got a question for the pundits? Send it our way and we’ll do our best to answer online, or in our next video installment. Send questions to: pundits@middlebury.edu.

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  1. Not bad, BUT…

    …Matt’s snide tone about Ron Paul seems kinda lame/narrow-minded/and uninformative to me (that guy has lots of followers–not including me–is acutally quite smart/articualte, and clearly wants to and is influencing the political discussion); I have to wonder how less curmudgeonly youth might be influenced by such tonal anitcs in a Poli. Sci class.

    And, are we talking myopia, or, in-the-tank-bias-for-Obama, by focusing on mediocre but acceptable GDP growth as an election predictor, but totally overlooking the freakishly shrinking labor participation rate, not to meniton the still high unemployment/under-employment numbers?

  2. Mitt Romney has a fine record. He likes to fire people, he did great work
    at Baines, panders to the tea party and religious right, makes a U-turn on
    health care, and had a successful career as a bully in school.

  3. RLB: Thanks for the opportunity to clarify our comments. My estimate that the Obama campaign would be cautiously optimistic about the admittedly anemic GDP figures is based on election forecasting models such as the one developed by political scientist Alan Abramowitz (discussed on Larry Sabato’s blog here: http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/aia2011021001/). Abramowitz estimates the presidential popular vote based on past elections, and finds that GDP growth, presidential approval, and whether the president is an incumbent explains 91 percent of variation in vote percentages. In most cases, GDP turns out to be a better predictor of election results than unemployment, which is why we highlighted this particular number.

    So the context for our discussion of the 2.2 percent figure is not whether

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    it’s terrific for the economy (as you point out, many economists would say that it is not), but on what it means for this model. As Abramowitz puts it, “an annual growth rate of three percent in the second quarter … and a net approval rating of zero at midyear … would result in a forecast of 53 percent of the national popular vote for the President.” The 2.2 percent figure is below 3, but I’d say it’s good enough for the Obama team to believe that they’re within striking distance.

    As Matt and I suggested, however, the Romney team should also see the election as winnable. This will be a close race — almost certainly closer than the 2008 contest.

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  4. RLB – My skepticism regarding why Ron Paul was still in the race had nothing to do with his campaign message – as you note, his brand of libertarianism has strong appeal among a small but committed segment of voters – and everything to do with his declining ability to get that message heard. The plain fact that I tried to highlight is that once the media spotlight dims and the pundits declare the nomination contest over, Paul was essentially preaching to choir – he was not winning new converts or spreading the gospel of libertarianism. Note that shortly after my assessment, Paul evidently came to the same conclusion and announced he would no longer contest the remaining

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    primaries. In short, I wasn’t trying to be snide – I was trying to give you a realistic assessment of his ability to get his message out.

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  5. Thanks for the replies, Bert/Matt.

    Speaking of tone, Matt–and the influence such can have on an audience, particularly impressionable minds hoping for a good grade–maybe my assesment was influenced by another bon mot you chose: “the fat man is gonna sing”. Even-handed? Respectful of the Speaker (an office which took him being elected by a few hundred thousand NC constituents, then a cpl hundred politicians representing half of 250 million)?

  6. By the way, I neglected above to actually calculate the Abramowitz model’s prediction for Obama’s vote percent, given a GDP growth rate of 2.2 percent. Incorporating the current Gallup approval numbers (45 percent approve and 48 percent disapprove), it works out to 52.6 percent of the popular vote. The BEA will release its second estimate of first quarter growth on the 31st, and it may be revised downward. But it would take a GDP decline to tip the Abramowitz prediction into negative territory, holding approval constant.

  7. Well, Bert, if you figured out (or found an analysis) of how that popular vote would be distributed with relation to the electoral college–that great mechanism for reinforcing federalism and preventing “tyranny of the majority”–we would really find some value-added on this here blog. ;-)

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We hope to create a lively discussion on MiddMag.com and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. MiddMag.com may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

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