Political Numerology for 2012

The web site ofesite.com defines numerology as “the study of numbers that helps determine and reflect a person’s characteristics, talents, motivations and path in life.”

With that in mind, here are some key numbers that could give some clues about Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s “path in life” for 2012. (Note: some of this column, especially the first number, is meant to be fun; please don’t take it as seriously as a good Gallup, Harris, or CNN poll or a computer projection of Electoral College results.)

11-6: Election Day is November 6, 2012. The last time a Democrat nominee was elected president on November 6 was in 1844, when “Dark Horse” Democrat James K. Polk upset Henry Clay by a few thousand votes. Other than that, the date of November 6 has witnessed one Democrat presidential debacle after another. On November 6, 1984, Walter Mondale lost 49 states to President Reagan. In 1956, Adlai Stevenson was pounded for the second straight time by Dwight Eisenhower in what was then a record-breaking (11.5 million) loss in the popular vote. In 1928, Herbert Hoover defeated Al Smith for the third consecutive GOP landslide of the 1920s and became the first Republican since the Civil War era to win multiple Southern states. In 1900, William Jennings Bryan lost the second of his three presidential campaigns. In 1872, Horace Greeley lost to President Grant in the biggest Democrat debacle of the 19th century. So, it’s been a long, long time since November brought good political news for Democrats. (Probably the last time November 6 was a good Election Day for Democrats was 1962, when Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, and Birch Bayh were sent to the U.S. Senate.)

15%: This is probably the most important number. That’s the percentage of Americans from age 16 to 65 who are unemployed or only working part-time. At the peak of the last economic cycle, this figure was less than 10%.  To be fair to President Obama, the recession started a full year before he was elected. But the fact that roughly one-sixth of American adults are not working full-time can hardly be good news for any incumbent.

Two: Exactly two presidents in the last century have been re-elected with higher unemployment rates than existed at the start of their terms, Richard Nixon in 1972 and George W. Bush in 2004. And in both cases, the trend was headed in the right direction as unemployment dropped in those election years. As of the summer of 2012, the unemployment rate is two points higher than in November of 2008 — and not dropping.

7,000,000: That’s the number of personal and business bankruptcy cases filed since the recession began in 2008. While this trend started in the last administration, it has accelerated in the last three years to all-time record levels.

903,000 is the total number of votes that would have to shift in the key states of (in order of size) Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Nevada, and the Omaha-based First Congressional District of Nebraska to turn President Obama’s healthy 365 electoral vote victory in 2008 into a 268 vote defeat in the Electoral College this year. There have been four previous Electoral College “misfires” where the candidate who won the most popular votes didn’t become president — in 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. This year, if less than 1% of the over 100 million American voters switched from Democrat to Republican in the swing states, history could repeat itself.

28 and 11 million: These were the increases in the total national vote cast in 2008 over 2000 and 2004, respectively. A record 133 million Americans voted in 2008 compared to 105 million in 2000 and 122 million in 2004 for a percentage turnout of roughly 63%, the highest since the early 1960s. Much of this increased turnout came from young voters and racial minorities, as black turnout equaled white turnout for the first time ever. Mr. Obama received a record-breaking 69.5 million votes in 2008. Barring a mistake-filled Romney campaign, it’s very hard to imagine him matching that figure in 2012. And a fall-off in black, Hispanic, and youth votes could be fatal in swing states like Florida and Ohio.

50,000: Speaking of Florida, there are 500,000 Jewish voters in the Sunshine State. If just 10% defected from the Democrats to protest the Obama administration’s Mideast policies, that would be a loss of 50,000 previously Democrat votes. Ask Al Gore how important a missing few votes in Florida can be!

Zero (o)That’s the number of American presidents who have been re-elected with a “job approval” rating of less than 50%. Presidents Herbert Hoover in 1932, Jerry Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and the first George Bush in 1992 were all below 50% in the Gallup poll and lost. Presidents Harry Truman in 1952 and Lyndon Johnson in 1968 were also below 50% and chose to retire.  Thus far, in 2012, President Obama’s rating in the Gallup poll has ranged from 43% to 51%.  So, he may need a rally.