Elections help Obama. A bit.

 
Barack Obama on 30 June 2011 in Philadelphia Republicans would dearly like to wipe that smile off Barack Obama's face

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There will be smiles in the White House. Not high fives or broad grins. Thin, wan smiles perhaps. But the overnight election results were a slither of slightly good news for the president.

NBC put it well: "A bit of a lift" for Obama.

The best result for Democrats was in Ohio, where a law restricting collective bargaining by unions was overturned - a defeat for economic conservatism.

In Mississippi, a proposal to declare that an embryo is a person in law from the moment of fertilization did not win - a defeat for social conservatism (though of course not all social conservatives are Republican).

There's reason for Republican cheer, too.

They won more seats in the Virginia statehouse. In Ohio, voters did support a proposal against Obama's changes to healthcare.

So it is a mixed picture. That in itself is better news for Obama than the resounding Republican victories of a year ago.

But the reason it is modest good news for Obama is not just because everybody likes a few wins. It is about how and why you win.

Recent analysis proposed a very simple formula. It said the election hung on two factors: the state of the economy and the appeal of the Republican candidate.

To put it crudely, Mitt Romney + worse-than-expected economy = Obama defeated.

Herman Cain + better-than-expected economy = Obama re-elected.

This is over-mechanistic but broadly correct. It is about what will influence people whose votes are up for grabs.

Most people know whether they are Republican or Democrat, and little things like the state of the economy or the candidate will not change their minds.

As ever, it is swing voters who make the difference. And at the moment they are a sizeable group in America.

Look at these graphics. You don't have to study them in detail.

Just look at how much difference it would make if the yellow wedges of undecideds are added to one side or the other.

But the other critical factor in elections is turnout. It is all very well telling an opinion pollster that Ms Right would make a better president than Mr Left.

To make a difference, you have to get to the polling station and put a cross on the ballot paper. Or at least get a postal vote.

The great fear of the Obama campaign must be that the enthusiasm of the tea party will help the Republicans, while their own disappointed, demoralised and the disappointed supporters will simply stay at home.

These elections suggest otherwise. There was a high turnout in Mississippi and Ohio and it suggest Democrats are bothered and are voting.

There may be a simpler explanation. At least in Washington it was a glorious bright and sunny autumn day, hotter than most British summers.

Good weather makes people more likely to vote, I've even heard it said that good weather encourages optimism and so helps an incumbent. Obama will welcome any ray of sunshine at the moment.

 
Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1.

    What's a "slither" of good news? "Sliver" perhaps?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 2.

    Eddy, I was wondering that myself!

    As for this election, I'm not ready to make guesses yet... I don't think Obama will be as easy to unseat as many Republicans believe, though he's not "safe" either...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 3.

    How about a bit of good news for the american people - a wave of resignations perhaps.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 4.

    Republicans over reached. State of Maine voted to repeal the ban on same day registration for voting by a huge margine. Now Republicans want to try for phot ID. Everyone now knows that its just an attempt to to suppress voting. Still thinking that Obama is toast. Just not making the good fight. Relying on Republicans to chose one of the cast of nut jobs .

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 5.

    Anything can happen - its politics and the election is a year away.

    Here's another what if....connecting MM's previous article on Iran. If a problem arise in this area, Obama might handle it very well which could put him in the WH for a second term.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 6.

    I feel you have the news about Ohio and Mississippi backward: who cares who is in the White House as long as conservatism is discredited and defeated. It's workers and women who matter, not politicians, and this is good news for them.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 7.

    6.vagueofgodalming :
    I feel you have the news about Ohio and Mississippi backward: who cares who is in the White House as long as conservatism is discredited and defeated. It's workers and women who matter, not politicians, and this is good news for them."
    **
    Hardly good news for unborn women in MS.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 8.

    @7. "Hardly good news for unborn women in MS."

    When does a foetus become a person? When are they eligible to vote, pay taxes etc?

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 9.

    8.ScotlandtheDave writes "When does a foetus become a person? When are they eligible to vote, pay taxes etc?"

    That would be the end for democrats - the average democrat doesn't pay any taxes

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 10.

    "The best result for Democrats was in Ohio, where a law restricting collective bargaining by unions was overturned"

    The Chinese will be happy too. More jobs for China. The Ohio empty heads risk their jobs to keep their union masters happy.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 11.

    No 10 You are holding the starting pistol for the race to the bottom but I suspect that you do not have to join the runners. Why is there so much debt - ordinary folk have to borrow just to live in the American dream's backyard.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    @9. That would be the end for democrats - the average democrat doesn't pay any taxes"

    A bit of a patronising and ridiculous statement to make.

    My point if you didn't realise relates to when people become people in the eyes of the constitution, along with all the responsibilities that come along with it. Has a significant bearing on the MS bill that was proposed.

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 14.

    The Mississippi abortion bill would have impacted medical research and made no exception for when the health of the mother was endangered, that overreach was what defeated it; even people who didn't support abortion were reluctant to kill a woman to save an unborn baby.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 15.

    Unions got a win in Washington state too: an iniative to mandate a state sponsored training program for health care workers run by a union passed--in spite of the fact that it didn't say where the money would come from or that it actually has very little effect on the level of training required. Perhaps embracing labor unions is a way of protesting unemployment and Wall Street greed?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    8.ScotlandtheDave
    When does a foetus become a person? When are they eligible to vote, pay taxes etc?"
    **
    Human rights are not dependent upon age,race,gender,or citizenship.Mississippi was virtually the last US state to give full civil rights to their black citizens. They were still "persons" even under segregation & without full voting rights.Ditto for women before the 19th Amendment.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 17.

    12.ScotlandtheDave writes " when people become people in the eyes of the constitution, along with all the responsibilities that come along with it."

    I could be wrong, but I doubt the constitution adresses that. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-212) recognizes a child in utero as a human, at any stage of development.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    So if the economy gets better he stays and if it gets worse he goes.
    I am not sure that presidents can really create jobs.
    I guess those are the breaks when you are the boss.

    Romney is supposed to have a billion dollar war chest just waiting for him when wins. that is going to be very tough to beat. though maybe not if Cain ends up his running mate

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 19.

    BO will turn the economy around. Why, just today he demanded cuts in government spending...


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15665789

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    Read: though maybe not if Cain ends up his running mate

    After hearing the women speak out
    I would not vote for Cain

    Don't know anyone who likes him now

    They are making jokes like that hes the new Tiger Woods

    Sexual harassment is worse than mistresses

    Romney would be a fool for choosing Cain or Perry as his running mate

 

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