A University of Colorado analysis that relies on economic data predicts Republican candidate Mitt Romney will win the presidency, picking up Colorado and all but three of 13 swing states.
The research paper raised eyebrows with one Colorado pollster, as well as a nationally known political statistician, who questioned the data.
The analysis, done by CU political scientists Ken Bickers and Michael Berry, uses unemployment data and changes in personal income in states to conclude that Romney has a 77 percent chance of victory, with the presumptive republican nominee winning Colorado with 51.8 percent of the vote.
"Putting these pieces together, clearly President (Barack) Obama is in electoral trouble," the analysis argues, saying hat while the Democrat has the incumbency advantage, the "fragile economy" hurts him.
"For a Democrat running for re-election, when unemployment starts going above 5.6 percent, they're in trouble," Bickers said, "but that's contingent on a given state's voting history."
The national unemployment rate is at 8.3 percent, which mirrors the rate in Colorado. Meanwhile, Colorado's per capita personal income has dropped by half a percentage point since the fourth quarter of 2008, when Obama was elected, Bickers said.
"We're a state where there is a fair amount of economic distress which has shown up in a lot of other ways: the mortgage foreclosure issue, the lack of homebuilding," Bickers said. "The big drivers of that is how much money do people have in their pockets to buy things and how secure do they feel in terms of their employment situation."
The analysis asserts Romney will win every one of 13 swing states except Nevada, New Mexico and Michigan.
The researchers also assert that their economic-based model, which they developed after the 2008 election, would have correctly predicted the outcome of every presidential race since 1980.
According to the analysis, which Bickers said the pair would update in September when new economic data arrives, Obama will only garner 218 electoral votes, well less than the 270 needed to win.
That prediction is well below the 286.3 electoral votes Obama is forecast to win by FiveThirtyEight.com, a political statistics blog for The New York Times run by Nate Silver.
The statistician, first known for his analyses of baseball statistics, gained national notice during the 2008 election when he began writing about politics.
Silver's analysis, which relies on multiple sets of polling data in states, gives Obama a 66 percent chance of winning the election, a number that has fallen over the summer but which still shows the election is Obama's to lose. Silver's blog also says Obama has a 51.8 percent chance of winning Colorado.
Asked about the CU analysis, Silver dismissed research based solely on economic factors.
"Models that look at both polls and economic data have generally done reasonably well," Silver said. "But models like this one that try to make predictions based on economic data alone have a poor track record."
He also said it was "odd" to argue unemployment rates would hurt Democratic incumbents more than Republicans.
"That doesn't correspond to most of the other literature on the topic, which suggests that voters are responsive to economic conditions regardless of which party is in charge," Silver said.
Bickers, though, argued that analysts like Silver rely too much on "horse race" polls.
"They're not terribly predictive until after the two nominating conventions," he said.
Republicans hold their national convention in Tampa, Fla., next week while the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Charlotte, N.C., the following week.
Bickers said people have "incomplete information" about the incumbent's challenger until after the conventions.
Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli also questioned relying on economic factors, saying that after the most recent recession, Americans "may have recalibrated at a higher new normal" for unemployment.
"I've become, frankly, surprised that Obama's not in more trouble," Ciruli said.