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A University of Colorado analysis of state-by-state factors leading to the Electoral College selection of every U.S. president since 1980 forecasts that the 2012 winner will be Mitt Romney. The key is the economy, say political science professors Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder and Michael Berry of CU Denver. Their prediction model stresses economic data from the 50 states and the District of Columbia, including both state and national unemployment figures as well as changes in real per capita income, among other factors. “Based on our forecasting model, it becomes clear that the president is in electoral trouble,” said Bickers, also director of the CU in DC Internship Program. According to their analysis, President Barack Obama will win 213 votes in the Electoral College, short of the 270 he needs. And though they chiefly focus on the Electoral College, the political scientists predict Romney will win 52.9 percent of the popular vote to Obama’s 47.1 percent, when considering only the two major political parties. “For the last eight presidential elections, this model has correctly predicted the winner,” said Berry. “The economy has seen some improvement since President Obama took office. What remains to be seen is whether voters will consider the economy in relative or absolute terms. If it’s the former, the president may receive credit for the economy’s trajectory and win a second term. In the latter case, Romney should pick up a number of states Obama won in 2008.” Their model correctly predicted all elections since 1980, including two years when independent candidates ran strongly, 1980 and 1992. It also correctly predicted the outcome in 2000, when Al Gore received the most popular vote but George W. Bush won the election. The study will be published this month in PS: Political Science & Politics, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Political Science Association. It will be among about a dozen election prediction models, but one of only two to focus on the Electoral College. While many forecast models are based on the popular vote, the Electoral College model developed by Bickers and Berry is the only one of its type to include more than one state-level measure of economic conditions. In addition to state and national unemployment rates, the authors looked at per capita income, which indicates the extent to which people have more or less disposable income. Research shows that these two factors affect the major parties differently: Voters hold Democrats more responsible for unemployment rates while Republicans are held more responsible for per capita income. Accordingly -- and depending largely on which party is in the White House at the time -- each factor can either help or hurt the major parties disproportionately.
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