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Why Obama Wants the Olympics

Politico’s Kenneth Vogel reports that the Obama administration is making a rather explicit lobbying effort for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will either be held in Tokyo, Madrid, Rio De Janeiro or Obama’s home city of Chicago. Since the four cities appear to be very close on the technical merits, this lobbying could make a significant amount of difference to Chicago’s chances.

On the three of the four previous occasions when the Summer Olympics were held in the United States, the incumbent President won re-election by a landslide margin. On the other hand, Herbert Hoover got crushed in his re-election bid in 1932 against Franklin D. Roosevelt, when the Olympics were held in Los Angeles.

Making the major assumption that Obama will win re-election in 2012, it’s easy to see how a domestic Olympic Games could create nightmares for the GOP in their efforts to win back the White House in 2016. The Olympics are intrinsically a feel-good, patriotic event. The symbolism of Obama, in an Olympic Stadium built just blocks away from his home (see map below), bringing the world to together and passing the literal and figurative torch to Hillary Clinton or whomever the Democratic nominee might be in 2016 would be extremely powerful, worth tens of millions of dollars in free advertising impressions at a critical phase in the campaign.


Note: The original version of this article contained a stupid mistake.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.