Now that Mitt Romney has wrapped up the Republican nomination, we can now ask the million-dollar question: Just who is going to win the presidency in November?
President Obama has several built-in advantages. Since the 1964 election, the incumbent has won eight presidential elections. (In four elections there was not an incumbent running.) While incumbency hardly assures victory, it certainly helps: the incumbent is a familiar face, has incredible fundraising advantages and is able to run on a proven record.
Obama also has an advantage because he is an immensely likeable man. What other president, in the midst of 8 percent unemployment, could maintain a nearly 50 percent approval rating as Obama has?
However, the president also suffers from several disadvantages. His singular foreign policy accomplishment — the killing of Osama bin Laden — happened so long ago that it is not likely to have a huge effect on the election results.
In addition, the Supreme Court could rule Obama’s singular domestic accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, unconstitutional during the summer.
With the economy still in a rut, it could be difficult for Obama to run on his record.
However, Romney has plenty of disadvantages as well.
Romney just isn’t as likeable as the president: whereas, according to the Real Clear Politics average, 50 percent of Americans view Obama favorably, only 35 percent view Romney favorably.
The former Massachusetts governor also just emerged from a grueling race for the Republican nomination. If Romney can’t solidify the GOP’s conservative base, he will have some problems.
However, that is not likely to happen. Tea Partiers, however much they dislike the “Massachusetts Moderate,” dislike Obama that much more. They will have no problem holding their nose while they pull the lever for Romney.
Obama, also, need not worry about shoring up his left-wing base. As with conservatives, they have nowhere to go but to stick with the president.
That leaves independents. As per the latest Gallup poll, 45 percent of self-proclaimed independents sided with Romney and 39 percent went with Obama. Expect the president to attempt to appeal to this bloc of voters during the campaign.
But, of course, presidents aren’t elected by popular vote but by the electoral college. And here is where Obama’s greatest strength lies.
Obama smashed the GOP in 2008 by an electoral vote of 365 to 173. Obama won the traditional swing states of Florida and Ohio as well as traditionally Republican-leaning states like Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.
For Romney to win, he must make massive gains over the 2008 numbers.
Luckily for Romney, he has a chance. Some of the states up for grabs include the aforementioned Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina as well as Iowa, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
Should the Tea Party wave continue into 2012, Romney could reach the magic 270 electoral votes needed for victory. Indeed, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb warned that Virginia could be in play for Republicans because of the brouhaha over the health care bill.
If jobs number don’t improve and Romney keeps hammering the president over it, the GOP will have a good chance at winning.
If Obama can paint himself as the moderate, responsible adult, he will likely waltz to a second term.
Were I a betting man, my money would be on the president.
Tony Petersen is the opinion editor of The Collegian. Follow him on Twitter @tonypetersen4.