Some people are surprised that Barack Obama was a odds on favorite to be reelected, even before Mitt Romney's recent run of gaffes. Some were surprised that Obama got reelected.
After all the economy has not gotten any better, the Federal deficit has a been added to at a rate of trillion dollars a year, and other than the Affordable Health Care Act, there has not been much in the way of hope and change.
It may be surprising but it is predictable. Allan Lichtman developed a method for determining who will win the presidency in his book, The Keys to the White House.
The book has been updated for 2012.
According to the Wikipedia summary-
"The Keys are based on the theory that that presidential election results turn primarily on the performance of the party controlling the White House and that campaigning by challenging or incumbent-party candidates will have no impact on results. According to this theory, a pragmatic American electorate chooses a president based on the performance of the party holding the White House as measured by the consequential events and episodes of a term - economic boom and bust, foreign policy successes and failures, social unrest, scandal, and policy innovation."
So basically whatever candidates do has little effect. The result will be the same.
The Keys are statements that favor the re election of the incumbent party. When five or fewer statements are false, the incumbent party wins. When six or more are false, the challenging party wins. I scored here whether or not they were True or False..
- Party Mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections. FALSE
- Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination. TRUE
- Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president. TRUE
- Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign. TRUE
- Short term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign. FALSE
- Long term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. FALSE
- Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy. TRUE
- Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term. TRUE
- Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal. TRUE
- Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. TRUE
- Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. TOSSUP but let's say FALSE
- Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. TOSSUP, but let say TRUE
- Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. TRUE... Mitt Romney is not a national hero...
The model explains why George W. Bush got reelected in 2004, and why George H.W.Bush did not get reelected in 1992. Indeed the formula has predicted the popular vote for every election since 1860.
Here's a link to article in the New York Times that has more discussion of the Keys.