This article examines the influences on the 2012 presidential election that led to the closely decided re-election of Barack Obama. Partisan parity, ideological polarization, a hyper-competitive campaign, and approval ratings for the incumbent, plus pre-convention preference polls that were evenly split, were strong signs that the 2012 presidential election would be close. The economic record of the Obama presidency, however, favored the election of Republican challenger Mitt Romney. On the other hand, President Obama had the advantages of a first party-term incumbent, and this first party-term advantage was the major reason for President Obama’s reelection. As a first party-term president, fewer voters blamed President Obama for the nation’s economic problems than blamed his predecessor. Of the 12 first party-term incumbent presidents to seek reelection since 1900, 11 won and only one lost. The election of a new presidential party is tantamount to electing a president to an 8-year term.
About the author
James E. Campbell is a UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and author of three books on American elections, including The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote. He has also published more than 80 articles and book chapters on various aspects of American politics. Portions of this analysis also appear in “A First Party-Term Incumbent Survives: The Fundamentals in 2012,” in Larry J. Sabato, ed., Barack Obama and the New America: The 2012 Election and the Changing Face of Politics (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013).
©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston