In any election, overconfidence is deemed to be counterproductive and unseemly. However, where confidence ends and overconfidence begins is subjective. And surely unjustified angst and hand-wringing is not constructive either. Inhabitants of the politosphere, including bloggers, commentators, and campaign consultants, spend untold hours poring over election returns and voting trends in hopes of uncovering the magic formula that will propel their favored candidate or party into office in the next election. So what should the mindset of conservatives be as the 2012 election draws near?
I believe we can safely count our unhatched chickens. The chances of President Obama's reelection are so remote as to be virtually non-existent. Others may analyze electoral votes ad nauseam, but I believe it's much simpler than that. The number of votes cast in the 2008 presidential election was about 125,000,000. John McCain received 58,000,000 and Barrack Obama received 67,000,000. This is a difference of 9,000,000. Since a vote switched from one candidate to the other narrows the gap by two, only 4,500,000 voters could have made the difference. While that sounds like a lot, in reality it only amounts to about 7% of the total votes cast for Obama. And I ask you: Is there anything in the past three years that could lead anyone to credibly argue that less than 7% of Obama voters (1 in 14) have changed their minds? Of course I understand the mechanics of the electoral college. And certainly turnout (or lack thereof) will have an impact as well, but in 2012 there will be a dramatic decrease in pro-Obama sentiment from 2008, and anti-Obama sentiment will be running high. Many who turned out to vote for Obama in the historic 2008 election will have cooled considerably. And many others who could not bring themselves to pull the Republican lever for the terminally moderate John McCain will have seen the error of their ways. Empirical as well as anecdotal evidence abounds.
When President Obama was inaugurated, his approval rating was 69%. It is now 42% (as of 1/4/12.) Jimmy Carter was at 53% approval at this point in his presidency and went on to lose in an historic landslide. Obama is already 11 points down from Carter. Obama's signature legislation, Obamacare, is remarkably unpopular. As of today, 47% of those polled want it repealed, and that includes 21% of Democrats and almost half of Independents. And jobs? The president himself could only muster a weak "I think it's possible" when asked if unemployment will go below 8% by election day 2012. The president's original stimulus was supposed to cap unemployment at 8%; and of course even the current rate is deceptively understated.
On top of this, the president's first years in office have spawned two grassroots movements. The first, the Tea Party, led to an historic realignment of Congress, a devastating loss for the President's party. The second, Occupy Wall Street, not exactly pro-Obama either, has the potential to make the 2012 Democratic convention look like 1968.
I could go on, but by any measure, the president's prospects would have to dramatically improve to even be considered bleak. When the voters want to rid themselves of an unpopular president, they are not subtle. Carter won in 1976 with 50% of the votes, and lost in 1980 with 41%. Bush won in 1988 with 53% and lost in 1992 with 37% (although admittedly Perot helped exaggerate that gap.)
Does all this mean Republicans can just coast into November? By no means! We should define ourselves now while the attention brought on by the primaries is focused on us. Let the voters know what they can expect from a Republican president, House, and Senate come 2013. No pandering, but rather principles. Confidence in victory should give us the boldness to claim a mandate when that victory comes, a mandate that will be necessary to reverse the direction that Barack Obama has taken this country in his effort to "fundamentally transform America." Conservatives and Republicans must take heart and let our candidates battle it out here in the primary season with the confidence that whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be, he or she will win in November. Hands down. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Wait... did someone say "third party?" In that case, all bets are off...