Sabato predicts close presidential race, analyzes potential surprises that could swing race

04/18/2012 05:31 PM

This fall’s presidential race between Democratic President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will likely be another nail biter with the winner succeeding in shattering conventional wisdom, said political observer Larry Sabato.

Sabato, the oft-quoted expert and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told a crowd of 500 at the Filson Historical Society lecture Tuesday night in Louisville that both Obama and Romney face historical headwinds in their own way:

He said the race will likely come down to seven key swing states — Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire — with a combined 85 electoral votes out of the 270 a candidate needs to win.

Sabato said it’s still too early for his Crystal Ball to predict the winner and the electoral votes — as he correctly did within one electoral vote in 2008. But he said one thing he’s confident in is that the candidates’ financial war chests won’t determine the outcome of the race.

Key factors he’ll be tracking this summer and fall include economic indicators, which so fare have been mixed. Household income is down while productivity is up, for instance, as unemployment continues to drop but so do factory orders.

Then there’s the potential for a “September or October surprise,” such as dramatically rising or dropping gas prices or conflict with Iran. Sabato outlined the potential for scandal between the two candidates — as well as a key military move by Obama:

Sabato quoted poll numbers that showed 60 percent of Republicans favor an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as well as 70 percent of independents and 80 percent of Democrats.

One other action that could have an effect on the race is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. That decision he said could fuel whichever side loses — or it could be as clear as mud:


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