The Odds Against Obama | Why History and Logic Make the President a Likely Loser; a book review

Diminishing Support, the Incumbent Myth, Minimal Third-Party Challenge, and a Poor Track Record

Copyright © ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission; Author’s Google profile; Posted October 21, 2012

President Barack Hussein Obama


The Odds Against Obama, by Michael Medved (© 2012) is a timely read, coming just as the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney heats up and enters the final stretch.

As the name implies, this book presents its central arguments from a historical and logical approach rather than right-wing emotions and rhetoric. In fact, Medved never claims to predict the outcome of the race.

Along the way, he points out some interesting historical facts and even dispels some political myths.

Myth: Incumbent Presidents Almost Always Win

That’s one we’ve all heard over and over; but in fact it is categorically false. Out of America’s 51 general elections where a sitting president was eligible to run, in 63% of the cases, the challenger took home the prize!

Of course, in many cases, the key word is eligible; many presidents chose not to run for one reason or another. Still, there have been 34 cases where the attempt was made, and only 19 were successful—15 failed.

Most of the successes, like Bill Clinton, had a lot to brag about and show for his work. Clinton boasted of a good economy, a good employment rate, and a balanced budget. Contrast that with the Obama administration.

Although the US Government Printing Office website indicates proposed budgets have been proposed for each year that Obama has been in office, Congress has rejected rather than passed them, even during those critical years when he controlled the House of Representatives.

The Second-Term Curse

This is related to the fact above that returning incumbents had successful first terms. Second terms are always full of more frustrations and fewer gains than the first. Always. Part of this is the “lame duck” phenomenon.

Part of it is that it is human nature to proceed with what works or change what hasn’t worked. In this case, the author points out that 75% of the public believes we are going down the wrong path.

Obama has yet to issue a new plan to get the economy back on course; rather he suggests that he wants to continue the same failed policies but success will just “take longer”. Presumably, this is still Bush’s fault

Presidential Support is Critical

Medved points out that in every case where the incumbent was successful, he always had more support during the second race than the first. This is logical given the example of Bill Clinton above.

In Obama’s case the youth vote that buoyed the campaign is much diminished. Many of those young voters have gone on to graduate from college and have found themselves unable to find a job. Since the unemployment figures among older workers have not improved, despite the massive stimulus package, these add up to two segments of voters who have largely abandoned the “Hope and Change” mantra.

Other prominent figures (with influence potential and deep pockets) have abandoned ship. Medved mentions Artur Davis, congressman from Atlanta and member of the Congressional Black Caucus who delivered The President’s seconding nomination speech in 2008. He now supports Romney.

The editor of the U.S. News & World Report and publisher of The New York Daily News, Mort Zuckerman, provided very generous financial support for the President in 2008 but is now backing Romney.

Other groups that were big supporters in 2008 are getting softer on support. Catholics are presently suing the administration for trying to force contraception on them. Hispanics are indicating betrayal because of broken promises of immigration reform.

No Strong Third Party to Draw Votes away from Romney

Third party contenders can significantly throw a wrench in the works on election day. For example, in 1992, Ross Perot took home 18.9% of the popular vote. In 1948, Strom Thurmon actually pocketed 39 electoral college votes. These are just two examples.

In 2012, Obama can’t realistically count on this kind of bleed-off help from a third party. The Libertarian Party is in the game but isn’t expected to make a significant impact. Even Ron Paul devotees want to get back to work.

Historical Trends and Curiosities

  • Incumbents Never Win on the Foibles of Their Challengers. Again Clinton provides an example. Despite the many discredits that the defending George H. W. Bush camp lobbed at the challenging Clinton (I didn’t inhale, serial infidelity, dubious land deals, etc.), the voters simply didn’t care; they were concerned with Bush’s record.

    Today in 2012, the Obama team, with little record of success to run on, is making the same mistake in trying to discredit Romney.

  • Want to Run for President? Be from Massachusetts. The last sixty years have seen more presidential nominees from tiny Massachusetts than any other state.

    No, it doesn’t indicate that you will win, but might it not indicate that the public takes political figures from there more seriously than say, Hawaii?

  • Why Fathers Matter. Medved points out that for the past quarter-century, presidents have either had absent fathers, or powerful, influential fathers. In 2012, America has one of each running.

    Will this odd fact give Romney another advantage? It might, if one bets on statistics. Three of the last five presidents have had fathers of the second stripe.

Demographic Shifts

The country has been witnessing an impressive population shift over the last four years from blue states (where jobs are lacking) to red states (where jobs exist). What are the effects? Primarily, more electoral votes for red states.

As an example, consider that both New York and Ohio have lost two electoral votes each, while Texas has picked up four. This means that even if the president carries all the blue states he did last time, he will still win fewer critical electoral college votes.

The Middle-Class Problem

There is a strong possibility that Romney can capture the middle-class vote by presenting the facts. The President continues to make a show of saying the rich don’t pay their fair share and the burden falls on the middle class.

The reality is that the President does not identify with the middle class himself from a standpoint of values, while Romney certainly does. Rather, Barack and Michelle live large like the rich and empathize with the poor by promoting food stamps and doing little to nothing to further job creation, not even meeting with congressional members tasked with job creation.

In 2008, he won most strongly with those earning less than $30,000 and more than $200,000. McCain prevailed with the middle ground, the middle-class.

Romney can follow McCain and do even better—if he appeals to the core values of hard-working suburbanites. He should focus on letting Obama polish his “hipster” image while showing that his solution is to allow the job-producers to do what they do best, create jobs for those working to move up.

So how bad are the odds against Obama? At the very least they are worse than they were in 2008. At the very best it will be a very tight race with a questionable outcome. This book is recommended for information leading up to the election and for political history which goes on being engaging. Get your copy of The Odds Against Obama: Why History and Logic Make the President a Likely Loser

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  • Michael Medved. (2012). The Odds Against Obama : Why History and Logic Make the President a Likely Loser. SRN Books, Irving, Texas
  • US Government Printing Office

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