By Rahul Mehta:
The 6th of November is the D-Day. The three presidential debates are done and everyone is eagerly waiting for the Election Day. This has already been declared the most expensive United States Presidential election ever — the total expenditure is expected to reach $2.5 billion by November 6th.
Barack Obama, the incumbent, has had a rough first term. Reeling under the aftermath of two expensive wars and a painful economic recession, he has seen his support diminish consistently ever since he began his term. Employment figures have remained more or less stagnant, the electorate is polarized over the controversial Obamacare act, there have been accusations against the President and the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011 has been nothing short of humiliating, with the S&P downgrading the US Treasury Bonds’ rating for the first time in the history of the country.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has emerged as a strong contender for arguably the most coveted position on this planet. Maintaining a low key in the last year, he has played his cards well, successfully distancing himself from potential controversies such as his stewardship of the Massachusetts health-care reform program being interpreted as an endorsement for the controversial Obamacare act. Faced with an economy that refuses to come out of recession, the risk-averse among the Americans seem to have decided that enough is enough and appear to find favour with Romney’s parent-like disciplined and restrained approach over Obama’s seemingly cool and slightly immature style.
If one looks at the past elections, though, results often surprise voters and political analysts alike and we find the media clamouring for logical explanations as to why so-and-so candidate won, after he wins. Those in the business of analysing and predicting seem to forget that out of the entire populace, a very small proportion actually develop a deep understanding of the issues on which elections are fought and end up with well-formed opinions. The majority of the voters are ill-informed in comparison, mostly reading something here and there and making a decision in the end that is more likely to be in favour of the candidate they like more. This theory has been argued very well by Paul Graham in his essay, ‘It’s Charisma, Stupid’ and even brought forward in the bestseller ‘Freakonomics’, by Levitt and Dubner. It is hardly surprising, then, that there is a Kindle going around on the internet with the title ‘Charisma: Why Obama Will Beat Romney’.
To be very sure, both candidates have been described as charismatic in many articles and interviews. Obama has even denied allegations of being charismatic by commenting that he considers himself less charismatic than Boo the dog! Romney has been described in many articles as being “easy on the eyes”. However, few people would deny that when everything is put together, Obama is likely to find more favour as a person with a vast majority of people. Consider that 55% of the cash donations to Obama’s campaign came from individuals donating less than $200, whereas only about 22% of the cash donations to Romney’s campaign came from sub-$200 donations. In essence, Obama is more likely to be liked by a diverse group of people, whereas Romney seems to be liked only by the rich, which is not surprising considering his career in private equity and his vast personal wealth.
Most opinion polls indicate that Obama is leading, but these must be treated with caution as people often dishonestly profess support for black candidates in order to avoid appearing racist. Even so, my money is on Obama, because I think people are going to like him more. What do you think?