November presidential election will defy the odds — no matter who wins

By Maria Saporta

No matter who wins, the 2012 presidential election will be historic.

That’s what national pollster Peter Hart told the Rotary Club of Atlanta at its luncheon meeting on Monday.

Ordinarily, given the sluggish economy and the fact that a majority of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction, an incumbent president would be in trouble. At least that has been true in just about every incumbent presidential election for decades.

So if Barack Obama wins in November, he would be “defying” the political odds.

“We are in a situation where the country would not favor the incumbent,” Hart said based on past election results. “The incumbent isn’t deserving to win this year.”

But, on the other hand, Americans have more favorable feelings for President Barack Obama than they do of presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Going back to 1952, the nation has never elected an opponent as president who is less liked than the incumbent president.

That means that if Romney were to win in November, he also would be defying the odds. Voters tend to elect the candidate who has the most likability, which would give the edge to Obama.

Either way, this election will end up writing a new chapter in modern American politics.

Hart, who would not predict the outcome, said a victory on either side would be by a razor-thin margin.

He also told the Atlanta Rotarians that how they voted wouldn’t really matter. Georgia will be go Republican just like California will go Democrat. In fact, 35 states in the nation won’t matter because it is already decided which way they’re going to go.

That leaves 12 to 15 states that will elect the next president, and that’s where all the action will be between now and November.

And the amount of money that is being spent during this campaign has “engulfed anything that we have ever known or seen,” and all of that money will be spent in those 12 to 15 swing states.

“Never have so many spent so much to effect so few,” Hart said.

During the question and answer period, Hart was asked if Romney’s vice presidential choice could make the difference.

Perhaps, Hart said, even though vice presidential nominees rarely have put a candidate over the top.

But this year could be an exception.

“The selection of (U.S. Senator) Rob Portman of Ohio could become the key to whole thing,” Hart said.

Hart, who also does polling for major U.S. companies including Coca-Cola, said much can change between now and November — the economy, the debates and the amount of money being spent on the campaigns in just a dozen states.

“Hold on to your hats,” Hart said. “This is going to be a great election.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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