Andy Friedman, political consultant with the Washington Update, says in his commentary released Thursday that the country is split almost equally among Republican, Democratic and independent voters according to the Rasmussen Report, noting that “it is not difficult to predict how the bulk of the first two categories will vote.”
The election, Friedman says, is likely to turn on the independent vote, with his “longstanding analysis” being that President Barack Obama “has the better chance of capturing the majority of the Independent vote” for at least three reasons:
- “Independents are more concerned with economic than social issues. The Republicans have shown a greater tendency to get bogged down in debates over social issues, a discussion that is unlikely to resonate with independents.”
- “The conventional wisdom is that President Obama cannot win re-election with an unemployment rate over 8%. But Obama is deflecting that blame to Congress by noting that the economy took a U-turn only in 2011, when the Republicans gained control of the House and blocked his programs. Although Republicans will find this assertion unpersuasive, it can resonate with independents, who give Congress exceedingly low approval ratings.”
- “Independents generally do not object to higher taxes on wealthy Americans. The Republicans’ insistence on maintaining the current tax system for all Americans—no matter how much money they make—might strike independents as unduly intransigent, particularly in light of the large federal deficit.”
Friedman also cites a USA Today poll conducted last week, which found that 3 in 10 independents said they were now less likely to vote for Romney in the wake of his comment that “there are 47% of Americans [who don’t pay income tax,] who are with Obama, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.”
The poll, Friedman says, “illustrates the uphill struggle Romney faces with independents.” The Washington-based political analyst also updated past analysis of the impact government policy will have on the economy. Friedman warned that the high level of uncertainty on major tax questions expected to be handled or further deferred by a lame-duck Congress will likely increase market volatility rather than decrease it, as elections normally do.
The continuing uncertainty stems from Congress having adjourned last week without addressing the “fiscal cliff”—the looming expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and simultaneous inception of “sequestration” cuts in the new year. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the combination of ensuing tax hikes and spending cuts will send the economy into recession for at least the first half of 2013.
Because the next session of Congress will be the current Congress, despite the outcome of November elections, it is highly uncertain what will or even can be done about the large dose of austerity currently set to automatically take effect.
Friedman says that if lawmakers act to shield the economy from the effects of $2.1 trillion in spending cuts, credit rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have already warned they would downgrade U.S. debt. Yet the fact that half of the planned spending cuts are politically sensitive reductions in defense expenditures make it highly uncertain Congress will go through with the plan.