Every two-bit wannabe pundit in the land has been making blowharded predictions about this year's presidential election. And this two-bit wannabe pundit is no exception! Here are the things to watch for you political junkies:
1) Forget all the overanalysis of whether Obama or Romney can win key "swing" states (by this we mean Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, and in some circles, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, Arizona, and Pennsylvania). How those states will go will be closely tied to the national numbers for each candidate. If Romney gets say 53% of the vote, it is hard seeing him not take most of the "swingers", and vice versa. The swing states usually tend to "swing" together, as they have since the '90s.
2) Watch the job numbers in the next few months. It is less important how the job numbers stack up in comparison with 2008 than it is how the "trend" appears. If job growth appears steady--consistently 200K jobs added per month or more, for the spring and summer months at least--Obama will get re-elected. If job growth is closer to 100K per month, it gets very dicey for him and Romney has an opportunity. If we actually saw net job losses for any month between now and November--which is unlikely--Obama is toast.
3) The VP pick by Romney can only help him if it reinforces a strength; it will not add a new strength. In other words, if Romney picks someone with business experience, or who appeals to moderate suburbanites--his own strengths during the primaries--it can help him. Picking a Latino or woman or hard core Tea Party conservative will not have any real effect in giving him support among these groups. It also doesn't really matter what state the veep pick is from--gone are the days where LBJ as VP would bring Texas with him for Kennedy. And a catastrophic pick--think Sarah Palin--will actually give him a net loss in votes. Based on this, expect Romney to go with a safe, establishment pick.
4) Foreign affairs won't really matter as much as the economy in this election--unless we go to war this year, which doesn't seem likely. Voters are more concerned about flat incomes, and whether the deficit will be handled with higher taxes or spending cuts that will affect them.
5) Where the conventions will be held--in Charlotte for the Democrats and Tampa for the GOP--will not make any difference in the voting for their respective states. Which is why convention location should only be based on where it's most fun for the delegates!
6) Pay little attention to the debates in terms of how they will affect the election. There will only be a few of them, the candidates will be well-coached, and no matter who gets better zingers, each side's supporters will be convinced their side won. Unless there's a major Rick Perry level gaffe, these should be uneventful. Remember anything big from the 2008 presidential debates? Neither do I!
7) Watch for some big advantages Obama has--besides the fact that Romney has had to contort himself to fit a GOP electorate that just isn't convinced he's conservative enough. Obama has raised a great deal of money, and while at a certain point you can only put so many commercials on TV, the extra money is also being spent on a sophisticated ground game, targetting and focusing on key voters for a get-out-the-vote effort that will surpass Karl Rove's old operation for Bush. Romney's team will have to surpass this, and likely they don't have the resources for it yet and much was spent on the primary.