Sabato foresees narrow win for Obama

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Print this page by Robert Powell

President Obama may not have won the hearts of some Richmond doctors, but he probably will get enough votes to be re-elected, according to University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato.

Sabato, director of the U.Va.’s Center for Politics, told crowd of about 300 people at a Richmond Academy of Medicine (RAM) dinner last night he expects a narrow victory for the president in the Nov. 6 election.

Before Sabato’s talk, association members attending the event were polled on their preferences in the election. Sixty-two percent of those participating in the survey, about 160 people, said they plan to vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with the remaining 38 percent favoring Obama.

The majority of poll participants also supported the Republican candidate for Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat, former Gov. George Allen, over Democratic former Gov. Tim Kaine, but the margin was closer, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Obama’s health reform law also got bad reviews from the doctors, with 68 percent saying they disapproved.

(RAM noted that the results of an unscientific poll of a small group of members are not necessarily representative of the views of its entire membership of 1,700 active and retired physicians.)

Sabato told the audience that Virginia and Ohio likely will be the swing states that “tell the tale” on the outcome of the election.

He said Obama has been a polarizing president that roughly 48 percent of the American electorate opposes. Romney’s job, the political analyst said, is to capture the extra 3 percent he needs to win. So far, however, he has failed, missing several opportunities to establish himself as “Mr. FixIt,”  Sabato said.

Romney actually has the current of political history running against him, the U.Va. professor explained. Only once since the early 20th century has a one-term president been defeated after his party has held the White House for only four years. That was Jimmy Carter. Normally, one-term presidents are voted out after public opinion has turned against a party that has been in power for several terms, Sabato said.

Despite Republican comparisons of Obama to Carter, Sabato noted, second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) in 1980 when Carter was running for re-election was -7.9 percent. During that same quarter this year under Obama GDP was 1.7 percent.

“The economy isn’t bad enough for Obama to be a one-term president,” Sabato said.

For the Republican Party to win the White House in these circumstances, the political analyst said,  it needed “a good candidate running a near-perfect campaign.”  Romney so far hasn’t measured up to those requirements, he said.

Instead of comparing this election to 1980, Sabato said, a better comparison would be 2004 when a “controversial, polarizing incumbent was running against a bland, unlikeable guy from Massachusetts.” In that case, President George W. Bush was re-elected, defeating Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

He said that the presidential election likely will determine the outcome of Virginia’s Senate race, with one exception. If Obama wins Virginia, Kaine will be elected. If Romney wins the state by a healthy margin, Allen will go to Washington. But if Romney wins Virginia by a narrow margin, Sabato said, Kaine may still be elected to the Senate.


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