An election model that has accurately predicted the winner of the popular vote in the last five presidential campaigns shows that the 2012 margin may be as close as 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court was forced to weigh in on the outcome of the contest.
An analysis using the forecasting model developed by Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political science professor, predicts that President Barack Obama will win with 50.8 percent of the popular vote.
Abramowitz warns that the outcome of the race will still be heavily influenced by the state of the economy in the final months of the campaign. His prediction assumes a 2 percent growth rate for the second quarter of this year. A negative or zero growth rate over that period alters the forecast to indicate a narrow popular vote win for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, according to the model.
“In the current era of partisan polarization, the advantage enjoyed by a first-term incumbent is less than half of what it was earlier,” writes Abramowitz, in a post on a University of Virginia “Crystal Ball” blog. “Specifically, it means that President Obama is likely to have a much tougher fight to win a second term.”
Abramowitz’s model only accounts for the popular vote and doesn’t predict the electoral vote count, which actually determines the winner of the race.
Typically, there is a correlation between the two counts. The 2000 election is the only one since 1888 where the winner of the popular vote didn’t also win the electoral vote, according to Abramowitz.
“Given the expected closeness of the popular vote in 2012, another Electoral College misfire has to be considered a possibility,” he writes. “There is only one prediction that seems very safe right now -- it’s going to be a long election night.”