CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of the nation's most noted election forecasters said Tuesday night that President Obama has the best chances of winning reelection if Republican challenger Mitt Romney can't persuade the few remaining undecided voters.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, spoke to a crowd of more than 100 people during the University of Charleston's Lecture Series inside Geary Auditorium.
Sabato "accurately predicted 98 percent of [the] Senate, House and governors' race winners in 2006, 2008 and 2010," according to a UC flier.
Obama has a lot of things working for him in November's election, Sabato said, including 290 electoral votes favoring his re-election. Romney, who is favored to have 206 electoral votes, would need to swing several electorates favored to Obama, plus 26 toss-up electorates, Sabato said.
Obama's biggest weakness is that he's a "polarizing candidate," he said. He's like former President Bill Clinton in that only about half of Democrats are sure about him, he said. Romney should capitalize on the polarization and brand himself as a "Mr. Fix-It" of the economy, Sabato said.
No Republican candidate has won the election without taking Ohio, he said, and Obama is currently leading in that state.
Sabato said the political climate has evolved since he gave the W.E. "Ned" Chilton Leadership Lecture in Charleston in 1996. The emergence of social media has made newsgathering instant, he said.
Several things would have to occur in the months before the election to derail Obama's victory, he said. He called them "October surprises."
"I've been asked, 'Well, what will it be?'" he said. "That's why they call them surprises."