With Rick Perry set to make his official entrance to the presidential race this Saturday, it is already apparent that he is a frontrunner to win the Republican nomination for the presidency (see his foreign policy views here). I provide several reasons why he is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. It has been shown that presidential elections can be predicted rather accurately using forecasting models, with an average of nine models predicting John McCain’s vote share within one percent in 2008. Using such a forecasting model, I predict that Rick Perry will be elected the next President of the United States.
Why Perry Wins the Republican Nomination
Rick Perry stands poised to win the Republican nomination for the presidency for multiple reasons. First and foremost, he is the only candidate who holds credibility with both the Tea Party and the more mainstream parts of the Republican Party. His main rivals for the nomination, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, lack the cohesive support spanning the entire party. His record of private sector job creation in his ten years as governor provides empirical evidence of significant achievement, as Texas gained over 730,000 private sector jobs in comparison with just over 90,000 for the second highest state. Secondly, his successful experience in previous Republican nomination fights for Texas governor, most recently against Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010, have given Perry valuable experience that other Republican contenders do not possess. Texas in turn provides the perfect campaign launching pad in a primary race that tilts significantly southward, possessing a huge number of possible donors, delegates, and voters. The combination of Perry’s record, campaign experience, and fundraising potential should prove impossible to overcome for the other Republican contenders.
Methodology for Forecasting Presidential Elections
Several reasons exist for this ability to forecast presidential elections accurately long before the actual event. James Campbell’s theory of the predictable campaign lays the theoretical groundwork, stating that most campaign effects are systematic and thus quite predictable far in advance of a campaign. The primary factor enabling the forecasting of elections has been the increased polarization of the American electorate along party lines since 1968. The so-called Southern realignment, which occurred because of President Johnson’s regionally unpopular social welfare program, lost Southern Democrats to the Republican Party, creating significantly greater ideological uniformity within both parties. More ideological parties thus led to increased polarization, with decreasing centrism. Ideological uniformity has created enough voting consistency as to make forecasting elections possible. For example, 94% of 2004 voters had stable vote intentions throughout the campaign.
Creating an accurate model to forecast elections requires surprisingly few variables. As the only nationally elected official, the president is perceived as personally responsible for the state of the economy, with 80% of the nation blaming President Bush for the United States’ economic problems as of July 2009. As the state of the economy can be forecast with relative certainty, it plays a primary role in most presidential forecasting models, along with presidential popularity and the inherent advantages to incumbency. While it is difficult to guess the state of the economy and jobs growth over a year into the future, the current political climate coupled with the latest data available suggest that economic growth and job creation will remain low in the near future. An average of President Obama’s recent job approval ratings accurately reflects his current popularity. Because presidential popularity is somewhat correlated with the state of the economy, it would take a rapid reversal of the nation’s current economic doldrums to raise Obama’s approval ratings significantly.
To estimate President Obama’s chances for reelection, I will use the job models forecast created by political scientists Michael Lewis-Beck and Charles Tien, which estimates presidential party vote share as a function of presidential popularity, economic growth, jobs creation, and incumbency advantage. As this model was quite successful in predicting John McCain’s vote share in 2008, I will not compensate for the possibility of the Bradley effect, which would predict a negative hit on President Obama’s vote total because of race, in my 2012 estimate. Using the current data of 43.7% approval rating, 2.5% GNP growth over the previous two quarters, and negative job growth of .14% for President Obama’s time in office, President Obama’s expected vote share for 2012 is 48.92%, making Rick Perry the 45th President of the United States (assuming no viable third party candidate).
As presidential popularity and jobs growth to some degree depend on the state of the economy, attempting to predict general economic trends over the next year gives the best chance at accurately forecasting the 2012 election. Given the continuing economic doldrums, maintaining an average growth rate of approximately 2.5 percent for the following year remains optimistic (last quarter’s GDP growth was only 1.9%), and a large net job growth seems unlikely without legislation. Extrapolating from unsettling recent economic trends and a deadlocked political environment, one can surmise the economy will continue to stagnate as long as the current main players remain the same. The predicted 48.92% vote share for President Obama thus can be seen as likely to remain an accurate reflection of his reelection chances, and might be slightly high if low economic growth and by proxy low presidential popularity continues. All signs thus point to Rick Perry being elected the next President of the United States in 2012.
 Campbell, James. The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote, 6.
 The jobs model equation is as follows: Vote Share = 31.38 + 0.26*(Presidential Popularity) + 1.58*(%change in GNP) + .58*(jobs growth in %) + 2.31 (Incumbency Advantage)
 The jobs model equation with August 2011 inputs: 31.38 +0.26*(43.7)+1.58*(2.5)+0.58*(-0.14142)+2.31 = 48.92% Obama Vote Share