Friday, October 26, 2012

Obama is Not a Slight Favorite; He's the Big Favorite

     This is not the narrative you are hearing in many places in the MSM. For a while, we've been hearing about Romney's alleged momentum. In the last few days there has finally been enough push back that many have now finally moved on a little from it-though there are still those holding on.

     For those who want to insist on Romentum, a new Washington Post/ABC tracking poll seems to offer some hope. In the last few days the poll has gone from Obama leading 49-48 on Sunday to trailing 50-47 yesterday. There were also lots of claims in the report that Romney has moved ahead on who is favored on the economy by 9 points: 52-43.

     Interestingly, this 50-47 margin is now the same that Gallup is showing for Romney among likely voters; Rasmussen in it's latest showed the same margin. But other polls like Rand and Reuters show Obama leading and cumulatively, the national polls are basically a wash.

     Meanwhile, the state polls mostly are not showing good news for Romney. He has not lead an Ohio poll in 2 weeks. He has never show a lead in Wisconsin; he's even trailing in Virginia now according to Talking Points Memo's Poll Tracker. Indeed, according to PT, he's even trailing slightly in Florida-which even Nate Silver wrote a rash poll suggesting that Obama pull out.

     Speaking of pulling out, a week ago, the Romney team feigned that they were considering pulling out of North Carolina. Yet today, PPP shows a dead heat between Obama and Romney. NC is the swing state that was considered most safe for Romney. Yet even here his lead is small.

     A lot of the problem is context. You can look at polls all day, but if you look at the wrong ones. misread them, or cherry pick you get a totally false impression.

     If you cherry pick polls like this recent Wapo poll or Gallup when it showed Romney up by 7-since dropped to 4-you can fall for this illusion that Romney has momentum-in truth his momentum from Denver has been over for two weeks. Since then you've seen Obama's chance of electoral college victory rise from just over 60% according to Nate Silver's model, to over 73% last night. Before the Denver debate, Obama's chances reached a high of 85%, so he's gained back roughly half of what he lost after Denver at this point.

    Indeed, while some believe that Nate has a nefarious plan to boost Obama by falsely claiming he leads by a lot, if anything he's a lot more conservative on Obama's chances than other poll analysts are.

    Here's what Sam Wang has to say about the claim that Obama is slightly more likely to win:

    "This is false – he’s a lot more likely to win."

    "In a race today, President Obama would win with about 90% probability. The true probability is even higher, since the Meta-Analysis does not correct for individual pollster errors. We could – but the political blowback from unskewing polls is too large."

      He also, for the record, predicts that the Democrats will pick up significant seats in the House: we haven't heard much about the House races elsewhere. Most polls show the Democrats will hold onto the Senate, and may pick up a seat or two, even: which would be a major accomplishment as so many more Democratic seats were in play than for the GOP.

      The question is how many they pick up. His model says there is as much as a 33% chance that the Dems retake the House-so not the most likely but still possible outcome.

      On average the model is showing 208 seats for the Dems in the next House. It will certainly by a tighter body than it is now, whoever wins.

     UPDATE: Just in case you are still hyperventilating about the Wapo poll-though really you shouldn't-today's Wapo poll shows Romney's lead back down to 1, hopefully underscoring the folly of worrying so much over one cherrypicked poll on a particular day.


GDP Rose By 2% in 3rd Quarter; Goverment Spending Rises

      Today we saw more better than expected economic numbers.

       "The U.S. economy expanded at a slightly faster 2 percent annual rate from July through September, buoyed by an uptick in consumer spending and a burst of government spending."

       "The U.S. economy expanded at a slightly faster 2 percent annual rate from July through September, buoyed by an uptick in consumer spending and a burst of government spending."

        Of course, with the election only 10 days away, CNBC is editorializing on what this might mean politically:

        "The pickup in gross domestic product may help President Barack Obama's message that the economy is improving."

        "Still, growth remains too weak to rapidly boost hiring. And the 1.74 percent rate for 2012 trails last year's 1.8 percent growth, a point GOP nominee Mitt Romney will emphasize."
         I'm not sure why it's necessarily too weak to boost hiring. After all didn't we see unemployment drop markedly recently to 7.8%? Next Friday will be the famous BLS nonfarm payroll report. According to Gallup the unemployment rate is actually now 7.3%. Now I don't know if that's what the BLS report will say next week but Gallup had predicted the fall beneath 8% during September.
         As for 1.8 vs. 1.74, that is just quibbling. I mean the difference is not even within the margin for error. Indeed both the 1.8% and the weaker 2nd quarter 1.3% could be revised. So it could be that we've even grown faster than 1.8%. Then again, the 1.8% 2011 number was over a full year, whereas this is just the first 3 quarters-again not necessarily the final numbers either.
        As the story over the last 3 years of recovery has been that the 2nd quarter has been a drag, the final number for this year quite possibly be better as the 4th has been a strong period during the recovery. 
        Actually, what is notable about the report, is that for the first time in a long time, it's  government spending that picked up the slack:
        "Growth was held back by the first drop in exports in more than three years and flat business investment in equipment and software."
         "But the public sector helped pick up the slack."
         "Government consumption and expenditures soared 9.6 percent after decreasing 0.2 percent in the second quarter."
         "Defense spending surged 13 percent after also decreasing 0.2 percent during the previous period."
         "Personal income growth slowed considerably during the third quarter, increasing just 2.7 percent after growing 4 percent in the second quarter. The savings rate also slowed to 3.7 percent from 4 percent."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sam Wang as the Perfect Antidote for Romomentum

     It's funny because Nate Silver has gotten a reputation among conservatives as being biased towards Obama. For those of you who read Nate regularly that may be news for. Indeed, I would not call him very bullish for the President. Even now when there is plenty of data to make the case-based on his own model-that Romney's bounce has been over since October 12, the most he could say is that it seems to have stopped.

   I think it's safe to say that he's been very conservative this cycle as other poll analysts argue:

   "From this perspective, it’s a bit odd to see commentary out there suggesting that Romney should be favored, or that quantitative, poll-based analyses showing Obama ahead are somehow flawed, or biased, or not to be believed. It’s especially amusing to see the target of this criticism be the New York Times’ Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog has been, if anything, unusually generous to Romney’s chances all along. Right now, his model gives Romney as much as a 30% probability of winning, even if the election were held today. Nevertheless, The Daily Caller, Commentary Magazine, and especially the National Review Online have all run articles lately accusing Silver of being in the tank for the president. Of all the possible objections to Silver’s modeling approach, this certainly isn’t one that comes to my mind. I can only hope those guys don’t stumble across my little corner of the Internet."

    For some sense of centering, or reality, you might want to give Sam Wang's Princeton Consortium-or for that matter, of course, Votomatic. Here is a great post where Wang takes on the mightiest analyst around: you guess it, David Brooks. It seems Brooks has spent hours poring over polls trying to get to what they are saying. Wang, however, is less than overwhelmed by his conclusion:

    "It was fun to learn of David Brooks’s addiction to polling data. He spends countless hours on them, looking at aggregators, examining individual polls, and sniffing poll internals. From all of this, what has he learned?
  1. Today, President Obama would be a bit more likely to win.
  2. There seems to be a whiff of momentum toward Mitt Romney.
    (Emphasis mine.)

     "I am having a sad. All of that effort, and his two conclusions still have two major errors. Evidently he does not read the Princeton Election Consortium."

       More than evidently, I suspect it's all but a surety he doesn't. Wang corrects number 1. Obama is not "a bit more likely to win"; he's actually much more likely to. See what I mean about Nate: he's actually something of an outlier among the poll geeks:

       "This is false – he’s a lot more likely to win."

       "In a race today, President Obama would win with about 90% probability. The true probability is even higher, since the Meta-Analysis does not correct for individual pollster errors. We could – but the political blowback from unskewing polls is too large."

        Next he calls out Romomentum:

        "Ro-mentum ended around October 11th, the date of the VP Biden-Ryan debate and reversed around October 16th, Debate #2. Now the median EV expectation is at a plateau around Obama 293 EV, Romney 245 EV. Viewed through the all-important Electoral College, Obama has a Popular Vote Meta-Margin lead of 1.5%. This measure is precise to within <0.5%, far better than any single poll. If anything, the race is starting to look a bit static."

         "In President Obama’s favor, he (a) won debate #3, and (b) has had a Meta-Margin lead of +3.3+/- 1.3% this year. Movement is more likely toward this mean than away from it. The red strike zone in our history graph reflects this, and gives a re-elect probability of 89%."

          Finally, Wang finishes with this advice: Don't be like David Brooks. I'd say that if you follow that rule when you do any kind of political analysis you can't go wrong. This advice is a general principle to always keep in mind.

          "Don’t be like David Brooks. Finally, a word on examining individual polls. In the comments section, I am seeing breathless statements like how the TIME poll shows Obama +5% in Ohio, and won’t that move the Meta-Margin, and so on. Hey…relax. In case you haven’t noticed, the Meta-Margin’s not moving that much. Try to avoid caressing those individual polls too much!"

           So next time you are reading some banal post about Romentum or even tired of Nate Silver's ultra careful predictions you might want to give him a try.





Ouch! Colin Powell Endorses Obama

     It has to hurt. McCain tried to criticize Powell for it-even after McCain gave Romney problems as well by demanding an apology from Mourdock. It's not just the endorsement-though it hurts. But when you listen to everything Powell says in making his case, your only reaction is ouch!

     "Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed President Barack Obama for a second term Thursday."

    "You know, I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I'll be voting for he and Vice President Joe Biden next month," he said on CBS' "This Morning."

     "Asked whether it was an endorsement, he said, "Yes."

      Powell praised the president's handling of the economy and ending of the Iraq War.

    "I think we ought to keep on the track we are on," he said.

     "Powell said he had the "utmost respect" for Mitt Romney, but criticized his tax plan.
He said Romney's foreign policy was a "moving target." "One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan, but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal. Same thing in Iraq. On every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Gov. Romney agreed with the president with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign."

     These are two soundbites the Obama team must love. Keep on the track we are on and Romney's foreign policy is a "moving target."

      To the extent that Powell kind of represents the Center and moderation, this may help with some swing voters.

       McCain is now lashing out at Powell-though he hasn't been a model team player for Romney either during the Mourdock mess. He demanded an apology yesterday, however, now he says that what Mourdock said yesterday was already a true apology.

       "John McCain bitterly denounced former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday for supporting President Obama for a second straight election."

      “General Powell, you disappoint us and you have harmed your legacy even further by defending what is clearly the most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime,” McCain told Brian Kilmeade on his radio program.

         I kind of doubt Powell has harmed any legacy. And Romney certainly has the most feckless campaign positions on foreign policy anyway: as Powell says, just where does he stand:

         “I’m not quite sure which Gov. Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy,” Powell said, citing his shifting positions on Afghanistan, Iraq, and other key policy debates. He added that “my concern … is that sometimes I don’t sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have.”

The Detroit News: This is what an Endorsment of Romney Sounds Like?

     Don't get me wrong, the Detroit News' endorsement of Romney was a given. Yet, as endorsements go it doesn't sound as sexy for Romney as you might think. Indeed, while it was a given, they claim it wasn't:

     "The Detroit News, a self-described conservative paper that endorsed Sen. John McCain in 2008, endorsed Mitt Romney Thursday, arguing that his 5-point economic plan could jump start the economy and saying President Obama has fallen short."

     "But the paper did pay tribute to Obama's rescue of the auto industry and said the endorsement of Romney comes "[d]espite his wrong-headedness on the auto bailout."
Don't assume that it was a no-brainer for a conservative newspaper to endorse a conservative presidential candidate. We recognize and are grateful for the extraordinary contribution President Obama made to Michigan in leading the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler…
We have said in past editorials that while Romney rightly advocated for structured bankruptcies in his infamous "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" New York Times op-ed, he was wrong in suggesting the automakers could have found operating capital in the private markets. In that article, Romney suggested government-backed loans to keep the companies afloat post bankruptcy. But what GM and Chrysler needed were bridge loans to get them through the process, and the private credit markets were unwilling to provide them...
Had Obama done as well with the rest of the economy, it would be hard to deny him a second term.

     In a way does anything show how long Romney's odds are in places like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin? In the end which candidate do you think would want to talk more about this endorsement? Who would want to rush it out for everyone to read?

     I mean Obama could have read this word for word at the debates. That it's from a Right wing newspaper only gives it more efficacy.

Another Blow to Mitt-mentum: Obama Leads By 5 in Virginia

    It seems all the talk about Romney's "momentum" is finally getting checked by at least large parts of the media. There are some who dearly hate to see it go like Chris Cillizza over at the Fix can only bring himself to wonder is it possible that it's all just hype.

    Jonathan Bernstein, however, today calls it what it is: a myth.

    "Republicans have been pushing hard this week to convince people that Mitt Romney is wrapping up the presidential election. Since he’s not actually, well, leading, Romney partisans have relied on the idea that Romney has momentum: Even if he isn’t actually ahead yet, he is certain to take a commanding lead any minute now."

     "But that “momentum” appears to have been entirely an invention of Republic spinners. It’s certainly true that Romney made impressive gains on Barack Obama in roughly the first week of October, probably in most part as a consequence of the first debate. But after that, the contest has been almost completely flat. For example, the Pollster trend line shows the race a dead heat on October 8 — and that since then, any movement has been only by small fractions of a percentage point. Nate Silver’s “nowcast” bottomed out for the president on October 12, and since then he’s recovered quite a bit. There’s simply nothing in the last twelve days to indicate movement towards Romney."

      A large part of the mythology is the idea that Romney is about to surge across all the swing states. Basically, the idea is that he's locked up the South and will now take Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and maybe even Pennsylvania. It's a total urban legend. The odds are actually looking worse for Romney in Ohio and there's been no meaningful gains in Wisconsin lately.

     And he hasn't even locked up Virginia. Far from it. In fact a PPP poll has Obama leading it now by 5 points-PPP has not been Democratic leaning until now, anyway. The TPM Poll Tracker now has Obama up by over 2 points in Virginia-similar to his Ohio margin-and Florida is basically tied:

      "President Barack Obama's lead in Virginia has extended to 5 points, according to the latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling released on Thursday.

      "Obama leads Mitt Romney among likely Commonwealth voters 51 percent to 46 percent — a jump from PPP's survey of Virginia a week ago, which showed the president nursing a 2-point lead. More than half of Virginia voters, 51 percent, have a favorable opinion of Obama compared. Conversely, the same percentage has an unfavorable view of Romney."

      "The poll also shows a pronounced gender gap in Virginia. Obama leads by 16 points among women voters in the state, while Romney holds a 5-point edge among men. Thursday's poll was conducted on behalf of Health Care for America Now, a group founded to promote the Affordable Care Act."

     "The president's lead in Virginia is now a little more than 2 points, according to the PollTracker average, which places the battleground in the "leans Obama" column on the TPM Electoral Scoreboard."

      There's no sign in this poll that Romney has closed any gender gap ether-totally the opposite.


Maureen Dowd: My Mitt Fantasy

     Ouch! Fine. You win Maureen. Who can compete with that, right? I mean she wins the best title for a month if not the campaign. This is how far Romney's snake oil sale of Moderate Mitt has fallen. Yet she didn't mean it this way. It's only after the Mourdock debacle that this seems so appropriate. Si I'm infusing her title with a meaning she didn't  have when she wrote it.

     We've heard a lot of talk that Romney has closed the gender gap or that maybe the person with the gender gap problem is the President.

      There was an NBC poll out on Sunday that seemed to confirm this to the extent that it showed Romney with a 14 point lead among men and Obama only leading women by 8. Still, this was a legacy of the Denver debate and even during this period not all polls demonstrated this. Yesterday's poll by IBD/TIPP actually showed the President with his largest margin with women yet.

      We're only beginning to see the impact of Monday's debate. However you want to look at it, the Romney bounce ended October 11, and since then the President has been coming back. The Romney momentum theory always put a curiously disproportionate impact on just that one debate. It's as if the way Romney was hammered for the previous 5 months was immaterial as was the fact that Obama-and Biden-actually came back from Denver to win the last 3 debates.

     Now there's the Mourdock Moment. You have to remember that it was Akin more than anything that precipitated the fall of Republicans in the Senate. That was what started the demise of Scott Brown's campaign: most polls now show him trailing by 5 or 6 points. It was here where Elizabeth Warren began to achieve success by tying him into the larger Republican party. It was brilliant: whatever you think of Brown personally, a vote for him is a vote for Mitch McConnell for Majority Leader-the same McConnell who said the number one priority was not jobs, or in any way fixing the economy or helping the country but simply defeating President Obama so he can have a promotion.

    How does Romney distance himself from this? His gambit so far has not been so "stellar." When you're Mitt Romney you know your answer to any question about what you plan to do is "both."

     It's like that Saturday Night Live skit back in April: I'm Mitt Romney and I'm running on everything!

     Ted Kennedy put it best back in 1994: I am prochoice, my opponent is multiple choice. Give him a few weeks and he may vote for me: after all these are things I believe in.

     Mitt is telling us that, no, he didn't like what Mourdock said. But, hey, we can all disagree, and I still endorse him and he can still use my endorsement in the ads. Meanwhile, John McCain has rescinded his endorsement of Mourdock unless he apologizes. This piece by Dowd, though is just brutal. My Mitt fantasy?!!

     Ok. The funny part is that her title is unintentional She didn't write it about the Mourdock mess, she wrote it after Monday's debate. It was worry that maybe Mitt will get away with his phoniness. Actually, this is kind of old news now. Since then we've seen an explosion of the myth of an ongoing Romney surge.

     But there is a sense in which Romney has largely attempted to rape the electorates intellectual integrity. That he has sought to prey on ignorance where ever he can find it.




Mourdock Mayhem: Not the Headlines Romney Wants to See

     With just 10 days left till November 6, today's morning's headlines were not what Romney wants to see. It's all about Mourdock: his comments, Romney's endorsement ad that he has not called on him to take down, and of course McCain's demand that Mourdock apologize or lose his endorsement.

      Ever since that Denver debate, the Romney team has largely been in control of the media narrative-thanks largely to the complicity of the media that didn't worry about fact checking in the first debate just whether the President had a downward glance.

      Then the media kept talking about a Romney bounce that had actually peaked on October 11. Indeed, since then we've seen the President's likelihood of winning according to the Five Thirty Eight Forecast rise from a post-Denver low of 60% back to 71% yesterday after some better polls. Indeed, even Joe Scarborough has an unwelcome headline for Romney today over at Politico: the President is stubbornly holding on to his electoral lead.

      If you look at the front pages of Google News this morning all you see are headlines about things like "God's Will", "Rape", "Pregnancy", "Mourdock" and, yes, "Mitt Romney", and that this has jolted both a Senate race and the Presidential one.

      Romney had done everything he could in the last month to convince female swing voters that he is no Far Right werewolf. It has been joked a number of times during this campaign that God-or Nature if you prefer-is not a Republican. Or maybe God really is a woman; or maybe Mother Nature is the true God...

     It does seem, however, that timing has been terrible for Romney. I don't know for sure if God's a Republican: maybe He's voted for them in past elections but this time around, He's not feeling them.

     Even after his big debate win in Denver, two days later the economic data belied his gloom and doom about an economy that is in freefall and has no hope as long as the President is in office. Now when he's trying to sell us his Moderate Mitt snake oil, the GOP coughs up another Todd Akin moment.

     So now McCain is doing what Obama and other Democrats are calling on Romney to do: take away his endorsement without an apology. Indeed, the Dems are going further: Romney should drop Mourdock. That would put Romney in a very uncomfortable position. If he does turn on Mourdock this would further erode GOP hopes of taking the Senate-which already seem pretty feeble at this point. The original Akin moment is a big part of that.

    McCain's backing away from Mourdock here is the last thing Romney needs right now:

    "If Mitt Romney was hoping the Richard Mourdock story he’s deeply entwined in would go away fast, he apparently didn’t get the memo to one of his top surrogates."

     "Just as Democrats and the Obama campaign began amping up their effort to highlight Romney’s ties to Mourdock after the Indiana Senate candidate uttered his claim that pregnancies caused by rape are “something that God intended to happen” — and Romney and the Republicans worked to put the moment behind them — John McCain sat down with CNN to throw a wrench in the Republican effort."

     "Last week, McCain was in Indiana campaigning for Mourdock, who won the Republican nomination by beating the man McCain backed, veteran Sen. Richard Lugar.
Asked if he’s still backing Mourdock following his rape comments Wednesday, McCain instead backed far away from him."

     “It depends on what he does. I think it depends on what he does,” McCain said. McCain said that “if he apologizes and says he misspoke and he was wrong and he asks the people to forgive him,” the Arizona Senator would get behind him again."

       Just when he was trying to sell the snake oil, this: incontrovertible proof that Romney is in fact a werewolf on women's issues. God is not a Republican at least this year.

       P.S. In other news, the Republican, Colin Powell, has again endorsed the President.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gallup Polls Coming a Litte Back in Line With Reality

     It has been remarked on a lot how Gallup is been such a major outlier over the last week. Whereas,, most polls showed a tight race either way, Gallup showed Romney up by as much as 7 points among likely voters and taking a 1 point lead among registered voters.

     Why this is has been debated. Of course, Fox's answer has been that the Gallup polls are the only accurate ones out there-Rasmussen is now the "most accurate" one out there as it's shown Romney leading by 4 points for the second straight day.

      One major question is just what methodology they are using in their likely voter polls. There seems little doubt that they've been interviewing a lot more Republicans lately-the designation "likely voter" is very fluid and changes from time to time based on enthusiasm.

      Actually I do remember that Gallup was the last major tracking poll to detect Romney's Denver bounce which suggests that because of their longer term method-which is a virtue-it may be slower to detect new moves.

       Anyway, I see today that the likely voter poll has finally tightened a little with Romney's lead falling to 50-47. This is good news as I hate going to Talking Points Memo these days after one only to read more bad news about Gallup.

       Obama has now taken a 1 point among registered voters-48 to 47. So this could bode well also, as since Denver the President has suffered from a Republican surge in voter enthusiasm in the polls. Today's numbers show the spread between likely and registered voters dropping to 4 points-still higher than we want to see, but better than the 6 points we were seeing a few days ago. We'll see if other polls start to show this tightening

       It's also of no small note that today Gallup also showed a major surge for the President's job approval number. He gained 3 points in approval and shaved two points off on disapproval so that's a net gain of 5 points today. He now shows a 53% approval rating with only 42% disapproving a fairly healthy number going into the election and actually much higher than he was until the DNC in Charlotte.

Moderate Mitt Backs 'Rape Pregnancies as God's Will' Mourdock

     Romney has tried to distance himself from Mourdock, but still is going to allow him to use his endorsement in an ad. And there are still women who think he's not so bad because they watched the Denver debate?

      That really is the crux of the problem. It's all well and good to say "Gee, I disagree that rape pregnancies are God's will and should not be tampered with" but what does it matter when you continue to support their candidacy and will be working with them if you win the White House?

      "Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a harsh statement calling on the Republican Party to stop "coddling" the "dangerous views" of Tea Party-backed candidates. She added that Romney is right to distance himself from Mourdock but echoed calls from Democrats to have his ad endorsing Mourdock's Senate bid removed from the air:
While Mitt Romney is rightly distancing himself from Richard Mourdock today, his ad endorsing Mourdock's extreme candidacy continues to air in Indiana. If Mitt Romney is serious about repudiating these heinous views on rape, he will take down this ad immediately. National Republicans cannot paper over Richard Mourdock's heinous views on rape. Enough is enough. The Republican Party needs to stop the coddling and take a stand against the horribly offensive and dangerous views of the Tea Party and their extreme candidates.
      "The Romney campaign did not respond when asked if Romney's endorsement for Mourdock still stands, and if the campaign has any plans to have Romney's ad for Mourdock taken off the air."

      This is what tends to get lost when the the lastest Republican says a little too much about what they really think of women and their reproductive rights. Then everyone just says "Gee. I don't agree though. Let's change the subject back shall we?"

      "The trouble is that Mourdock and Akin have a hand in the relevant laws for a woman's right to choose and access to decent health care. Romney's running mate has worked with people like Mourdock, Akin, and Blunt before. If Romney says he shouldn't be judged by this will he work with Mourdock on abortion legislation that Mourdock and Akin-along with Blunt-in the House might send him? That is the real issue not just disavowing a few words.

      This comes at the worst time as Romney is hoping that female swing voters come down with a sudden acute case of Romnesia right about now and forget his plans to defund Planned Parenthood, Paul Ryan's support for the Blunt Amendment-which Romney also voiced support for-his claim that the day Roe v. Wade passed was a "dark day" and his vow to nominate only strongly prolife judges. Or for that matter, his plan to end ObamaCare and replace it with nothing taking away healthcare coverage from millions of women and their families.

      Yet this will have repercussions for all GOPers; according to Christie Todd Whitman, none more than Romney:

      "Mourdock's comments damage all Republicans and especially Romney as the fight for the woman's vote intensifies. This could be a defining moment for Romney and he should immediately denounce both Mourdock and the comment."

       He has tried to at least distance himself if not exactly denounce it. But what we really need to hear is what will he do if he receives the Blunt Amendment, the Akin Amendment, or the Mourdock Amendment, especially as Ryan is on the record as agreeing with such amendments and Romney himself has endorsed a number of things like the Blunt Amendment. It's not enough for Romney to play at being Moderate Mitt. He needs to explain what daylight there is, if any, between these other Republican anti-abortion firebrands.

Irrational Republican Exuberance?

     Finally some in the media seem to get it! This whole idea that wining one debate means election is just bizarre:

     "News orgs have been too credulous in reporting on Mitt Romney’s supposedly continuing “surge.” The Romney campaign has carefully orchestrated the appearance of “momentum,” and even though tracking polls suggest the race has stabilized, the “momentum” storyline persists.
But little by little, a new storyline is taking hold: Whatever is happening on the national level, the fact remains that Romney faces a more daunting climb in the electoral math than Obama does — meaning the President is currently leading."

      "Charlie Cook, a nonpartisan analyst who helps shape conventional Beltway wisdom, pointed out yesterday that the math is harder for Romney. And today, Mike Allen’s Playbook led with the same idea:
As an antidote to the (perhaps) irrational Republican exuberance that seems to have seized D.C., we pause for the following public-service announcement. To be President, you have to win states, not debates.And Mitt Romney has a problem. Despite a great debate and what The Wall Street Journal’s Neil King Jr. on Sunday called a polling “surge,” Romney has not put away a single one of the must-have states.President Obama remains the favorite because he only needs to win a couple of the toss-ups. Mitt needs to win most of them.A cold shower for the GOP: Most polling shows Romney trailing in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa — by MORE than Obama trails in North Carolina....
Barack Obama had the math. And math, not momentum, gets you the big house, the bulletproof car, the cool plane.
     "To make this as clear as possible, I am not predicting an Obama victory, and have not done so in the past. This race is a dead heat, and I’ve said for a long time now that Romney can still win, even back when Obama held a comfortable lead."

    "That said, the polling averages tell a very clear story right now: Obama is slightly ahead in the electoral college. All of the four major national averages — Real Clear Politics,, TPM, and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight — show Obama with small leads in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Iowa (which is tighter). That would put Obama well past 270. He has more room for error right now than Romney does."

       Just win a single debate and you win the election is the Romney narrative. Indeed, there is this peddled idea that the likely outcome will be either an Obama squeaker or Romney near landslide. As this point about the states makes, this is quite unrealistic. In fact the opposite is true. Romney has to win enough swing states, whereas the President needs only a few.

       This is all right out of the Karl Rove playbook. While the Romney post-Denver momentum has been over for 11 days, the thinking is that you can make it a self-fulfilling prophecy by oft repeating it, assuming the media aids and abets you-many have done.

      Still as a general proposition of both politics and life: perception is not at least by itself, reality.

       "The case that Romney is on track to victory rests heavily on the argument that he retains momentum and that undecided voters are breaking his way. It’s unclear what the evidence is for this — if anything, the race in those states has now become remarkably stable, despite that earlier tightening — but let’s accept it for the sake of argument. Even if Romney does retain some momentum, my metric for judging the race remains simple: That momentum will only become genuinely significant if Romney starts showing a tie or leads in the consensus of the polling averages of the key states where Obama now leads."

      "I would also add one thing to what Allen said above about North Carolina: Virginia also bears watching. The polling averages show a tighter race in Virginia than in Ohio. Yet there’s virtually no discussion of the fact that Romney has not taken Virginia off the board. Why?"

        "Yes, Florida is a state where Romney clearly does have momentum. But as Scott Conroy notes, even Romney’s supporters say Romney still has to fight to win it. And this:
Florida is a must-win state for him. If he were to fall short, he would have to sweep the remaining eight battlegrounds in order to win the presidency -- a scenario that not even his rosiest spinmeister would deem credible. For Obama, on the other hand, Florida is a prime opportunity to seal the deal rather than a necessity for political survival.


The Media Falling For Romney's Narrative

     I hate to say it and it's not everywhere but I see way too many articles like this one by Politico.

     "Mika, Willie and I have spent the last few weeks answering the same question from viewers, family members and friends. "Who's going to win the election??"

      "After the first debate, that question was asked in the form of a plea from Democrats. Before that, Republicans grimly asked for their prognosis resigned to the fact that the answer would not be satisfying."

     "I spent most of the year telling those who asked that the dynamics of the race suggested a narrow Obama win. But that all changed after the president's Denver debacle. After that meltdown, I am the first to admit I have no idea how this all will turn out."

      "But I do know this: Mitt Romney will win the presidency if he wins Ohio. That's because the Republican candidate is nailing down the Southern swing states that he has to win. With Florida, North Carolina and Virginia moving his way, the battle now moves to the Midwest."

      "If Romney's momentum is strong enough to erase the 10 point deficit he once faced in Ohio, expect him to carry other swing states like Nevada and Colorado."

      "That scenario would have been far more plausible had Mr. Romney turned in a stronger performance at last night's debate in Florida. As things stand today, Ohio is still a heavy lift for the GOP candidate and that means President Obama should still be considered a slight favorite to win re-election."

      "But my gut tells me there are two likely scenarios: (1) President Obama will squeak out a narrow electoral college victory or (2) Mitt Romney will carry Ohio and be swept into office by a comfortable margin."

     "After practicing politics for 20 years, I suppose I would rather be in Mitt Romney's shoes than Barack Obama's. Incumbents who are under 50% two weeks out usually go down to defeat.
But who knows? Maybe Barack Obama will bend history once again."

      To be sure this piece is by the conservative Joe Scarborough. But it's the top of the front page at Politico right now and there are many articles like it. It seems that to the extent that the media buys this, they're falling for the Romney team's talking points. They've been trying to claim there's an ongoing "Romney surge"-in fact it ended about 10 days ago and that Romney is actually the favorite at this point.

      Scarborough's scenario of Romney sweeping the swing states is still not so plausible. And he hasn't even locked up Virginia totally. Indeed Florida is certainly no more in the tank for Romney than Ohio is for Obama and yet we keep hearing this narrative that Florida is a done deal for Romney-Nate Silver did this himself recently-whereas Ohio is very much in play.

      What the narrative seems to be saying is that nothing has mattered in this campaign except Denver. Romney's Denver win negates everything from the first 5 months of the general election and also the fact that Obama-and Biden-won the last 3 debates by all accounts.

       Why should Denver have such a disproportionate effect? According to Scarborough-and many others have bought this-Obama had egregiously caricatured Romney successfully, but with one "sterling" debate performance, Romney demonstrably disproved all of that. While Obama came back in the remaining debates it still doesn't disqualify Romney again-though arguably his 3rd debate came close.

       The answer to that is that supposedly the 3rd debate is usually less important and that foreign policy isn't important this year. Maybe, but still, isn't the lack of gravitas on the top and bottom of the ticket worrisome? Romney's strange history where Reagan didn't care about foreign policy during the first 100 days-all he cared about was a recovery-kind of underscores this. Foreign policy is not something you can turn on and off when you feel like it. Foreign policy is a fluid thing which is always being made. Just because the economy is struggling doesn't mean that all foreign actors wait until your economy is running at full employment again.

       So the narrative is that Romney showed he's an acceptable alternative to Obama. Initially, of course, the Romney team had thought that it was enough to run a referendum campaign. However, they've accepted the idea of a choice election. Yet they think that all they needed was to show Romney was an acceptable alternative and that he did it in Denver. Now that it's been done-the ideology goes-it can't be undone.

        This narrative is overly simplistic and it' not clear it's right. It presumes that people actively want to get rid of Obama but just need someone who's "acceptable" to replace him and the threshold is not too high.

        Actually, this race seems more like 2004 than anything. This had been remarked on a lot until the Denver debate. Now it's been forgotten. Yet, it's very similar. Like Bush in 2004, Obama defined Romney early. Like Kerry, Romney failed to get a convention bounce, indeed, he even lost a point-the two are the only ones to do that since 1964. Obama then like Bush got a bounce and led throughout September. Bush at one point led by 10 points. Then in the first debate Kerry hammered Bush so badly that it tied the race and made many wonder if Bush was even qualified for the office that he had served for 4 years.

        However, he managed to stabilize things in the last two debates-and Cheney's strong showing against Edwards-and the rest is history. This narrative still seems the most likely now. Romney actually peaked October 11. He's since lost about 10 points in Nate Silver's NowCast.

I Digress About My Pet Peeve: Doctors Who Don't Tip

       First of all, do any doctors tip? I have my doubts. Let me just admit that this post is something of a digression. Believe me, all I care about is the President becoming a two term President. But because of the huge popularity of my last post about Erin Burnett, I had to go out and write another one.

       Conan OBrien interviews his crush, Erin Burnett

       This has gotten me in a mode of writing other stuff. So here I'm kind of engaging in some navel-gazing. Sometimes you have to do it. As much as I obviously love politics and economics, I am, first and foremost, a philosopher. So when reading this small piece about my trip home last night, bare in mind what Nietzsche said: the biggest problems are in the street. 

        Last night on the way home from work I was at the Hempstead Bus Terminal and some young kid probably no older than his early 20s asks me is I could spare $.75 cents. I reached into my pockets and found exactly $.46 cents. I gave it to him and he thanked me very kindly. Which is good. He was very polite in both asking and expressing gratitude. Very important. I'll give you anything if you just ask for it in the right way and express genuine gratitude after. If you don't, believe me I will be hating on you and cursing myself for giving it to you

         He walked away and went up to some other guy-probably to ask him for the rest? Right a way I find myself really hoping that he gets it. After he was finished talking to the guy he went inside then came out again. I found myself feeling frustrated that I wasn't able to give him the whole $.75 and am hoping that the other guy-or someone-gave it to him.

         I see he's started smoking a cigarette. I feel reassured. Maybe that's what he wanted the money for. I guess he got what he was looking for. It's funny, I doubt most people assuming they did give him the last $.46 cents in their pocket would actually feel invested that he gets the rest.

         That's me though. I want to be able to satisfy your needs, wants and desires. I'm very unhappy if you ask me for something that I'm unable to give to you. My guess is that the typical person might be someone who gives him the change but might even feel a little resentful after at how easy a touch they are.

          Unlike me, who takes pride in that. The only reason I hadn't had enough change to give to him was I had already spent all my loose change on this young female at work. She will literallly ask me to buy her chips and a soda-last night it was ice cream as well-and I find it impossible to resist. I think it's because she's kind of cool: the upfrontness I find kind of charming. She'll see a guy pass her and right away ask-demand that he buy her choclate or give her something.

          So I couldn't give him everything he asked for as I had already given everything she had asked for. After seeing the kid light up his cigarette I get into a conversation with some other guy. We were talking and we got to talking about how some cab driver told me that he drove someone all the way from Hicksville to Manhatten and they stiffed him giving him like $2 or something.

          This is a major pet peeve of mine: people who don't tip. I mentioed how when I used to deliver pizza, the worst tippers were these doctors at a hospital I used to deliver to. The nurses were terrible as well.
           He mad an interesting point that people who do these caretaking jobs all day feel like they do nothign but take care of others and are tired and stressed.

           I find that interesting because that's something I never do: when someone treats me bad in a customer service situation-whether I'm the customer or server-I never give them any kind of pass. I assume they stiff me or are rude because they are shoddy people with some sort of perverse desire to be shoddy people.

           So he was empathizing with them in a way that I never do. I replied to him:

           "So they spend the whole day feeling like they have to take care of other people and now they're going to take it out on you. You're the luckly person who they can make pay for it: they will screw you over to feel better."

             He answered, "Yeah, that's fucked up huh?"

             So if he looked at it in a different way-seeing their side-I got him to see that nevertheless, their way of looking at it is pretty fucked up, nevertheless.

              Really, how can these people with good, professional, high-paying jobs expect any sympathy? In particular the male doctors-though more and more female doctors are doing very well now; and the nurses do pretty well for themselves too.

             But if you're a male doctor-these were the guys stiffing me-you have it pretty damned good. You do work that is highly valued and praised by society. You had an expensive education where many doctors then stiff on paying back their loans-and getting away with it, unlike the rest of us who are buried by our student loans.

              You spend the day doing some of the most important work in the world. And of course you spend your life being worshipped by every woman you meet. The nurses, the female patients-there are male patients who also think you're pretty keen-the female doctors, your wife(and daughters, who probably want to replace your wife due to their Electra Complex), your mistress, the mistress your cheating on your mistress with, your girlfriend, the girlfriend your cheating on your girlfriend with, the girlfriend your cheating on the girlfriend you're cheating on your girlfriend with...

               And I come in to deliver your pizza and should feel bad that you are having a "I'm no Superman" complex: it ain't me babe, no, no, no, it ain't me babe; it ain't me you're looking for babe.

                So you're tired of feeling like your here to take care of everyone else's needs and I get to be the lucky one who's needs you get to stiff?

                The reason I focused so much on the women in this pompous nitwit's life is that's what it's all about right? Women, that is. Like Jim Morrison said: "women seem wicked when you're unwanted, faces look ugly, when you're alone."

                 Nothing is worse than being around women who are all in awe and love for some other guy.

                If you don't like me, I hate you.

                I will never forgive you for not loving me the way I love you.

               For not seeing anything when you see me. For not seeing what I see when I look at you.
               For having nothing for me but cold, flat words, and a bored expression.

               Why do you always ask questions like you're trying to see into the center of my soul? Why can't you learn that if I haven't told you what you want to know, it's none of your business?

               Why can't you just take me for who I am? Why do you act like your curiosity is my problem?

              On the way home on the bus, I saw that the kid I gave the $.46 cents to, is on the bus. Ok, I tell myself. It's a good thing: he got a cigarette and he got his ride and I had a decent amount to do with it.

              Again, please forgive my digression! Hope you enjoyed it.


Conan O'Brien Gets to Interview His Crush, Erin Burnett

      Ok, I've been wanting to write about Erin Burnett for a while: just needed some excuse. Don't get me wrong: at this point all I really care about is the election. I haven't even really properly mourned the Yankees' debacle as all I care about is making our President a two term President.

      I still can't believe that there are many Americans-much less women-who see Romney as a viable choice at this point-though I think the media has over hyped it. At this moment the Romney high point was October 11-when Obama was barely over 60% in Nate Silver's Nowcast. Now he's back at about 70% and we still haven't yet seen what his bounce from Monday might be.

      Still, I have wanted a reason to write about her. Less because I had much compelling reason to but that my two previous posts about her have both blown up. Particularly one I wrote back in early September.

       So this post-that I've wanted to write for some time-is about giving the readers more of what they want. For whatever reason, in the last few weeks I've seen a huge surge in people reading the above link. It always interests me when I suddenly get lots of traffic to an older post of mine-often ones that I've totally forgotten.

       That post was only my second about Erin. Here was my first

       As the title shows the piece about her "fact checking flop" was not complimentary. I had thought she had done a pretty clumsy job in her post-convention analysis of the DNC. She also had some pretty dubious monetary analysis sounding like something of a gold bug. So I criticized her for doing Republican talking points. She insists that she's not biased but in that case she had some very poor analysis.

        The second link, though, was actually last year and in that post I kind of defended her in a rather counter-intuitive way. It was after her ultra-snarky "Seriously?" piece about Occupy Wall Street. I gave her a pass-I argued-because: she's a woman, and I kind of found her smugness charming:

        "I gotta say that I'm inclined to give Erin a pass on her recent impolitic comments."


         Why do I give her a pass where I haven't for people like Rush Limbaugh, Herman Cain, or Jim Broun? Is this inconsistent on my part? Maybe. What is different about Erin? For one thing, quite honestly, she's a woman. Maybe-again candidly-she brings out my chivalrous instincts a bit. In addition, her piece entitled the snarky "seriously?" was kind of an interesting segment. It wasn't a simple slur like in the case of those gentleman listed above or others of their ilk.

           For my feeling about them lest there is any doubt please see


           Why should her being a woman make any difference? Well as Zizek-who spoke at Liberty Square on Monday-tells us Woman is a symptom of Man.

           "Or as Nietzsche says, "All of humanity is innocent of its existence but woman is doubly innocent. Who can have oil and kindness enough for them?"

           "Gay Science, pg. 126, aphorism 68 Walter Kaufman version.

           "Interesting that I am going to Nietzsche-often viewed as a hater of womankind-for a defense of a woman ."

            It turns out that Conan is a big fan of Erin's; indeed has a crush on her. In September he had vowed to "build a shrine to her."

            I would love to visit a shrine to her. Despite her fact-checking flop-after all, she does work for CNN which makes it kind of a job requirement that you now and again produce very shoddy analysis to prove that you're not a partisan liberal-I too am a big fan of hers and am happy that her Out Front has lasted as long as it did and wish her continued success.

            She can call me a dirty hippie any time she wants to. Here now, is some of last night's interview with Conan. Here she insists she is not partisan and that she is always being accused of being partisan from one side or the other.

             On Tuesday, CNN host Erin Burnett visited Conan, where she and Conan O’Brien (who, as you might remember, harbors a big ol’ crush on Burnett) got to talking about the election.
Burnett recalled a recent plane trip she took where she and a woman both watched one of the presidential debates. When the woman, who had been watching the debate without sound, turned to Burnett and asked whom she thought had won, the journalist demurred, citing her role at CNN. The woman then nodded knowingly before accusing Burnett of being “in the can for Obama.”
You can’t ever win, Erin. Rule #1 of covering anything even tangentially related to politics.
Later, she shared Mitt Romney‘s sole vice: eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs when he’s stressed. O’Brien found this highly relatable, while we all know that Burnett is quite amused by Romney’s “full tummy.”


              Ok, I get it that claims of partisanship are often specious. Still, that last line about the "relatable" Romney is kind of making me wonder if she isn't a partisan Republican after all. She did work for CNBC didn't she? There is nothing relatable about Mitt Romney: unless you're a schizophrenic.

               But I digress. Great show, Erin! All the success in the world.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rommey Team's Overconfidence a Bluff?

     The last few days they've been arguing that they think they can without too much trouble clear 300 electoral college votes due to the continued momentum they claim to still be getting from Denver. Indeed, some have argued that his rather subdued performance last night-most agree it was his weakest by far of the three-was due to strong internal polling that tells the Romney team they're winning. However, Jonathan Chait has a different interpretation on this confidence: it's a bluff:

     "In recent days, the vibe emanating from Mitt Romney’s campaign has grown downright giddy. Despite a lack of any evident positive momentum over the last week — indeed, in the face of a slight decline from its post-Denver high — the Romney camp is suddenly bursting with talk that it will not only win but win handily. (“We’re going to win,” said one of the former Massachusetts governor’s closest advisers. “Seriously, 305 electoral votes.”)

     "This is a bluff. Romney is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy."

       Indeed, this is right out of Karl Rove's playbook of creating a self-fulfilling policy. Last week the Romney team made big hue and cry about moving out of North Carolina-to create the perception that their internal polls tell them it's over. The only fly in the ointment is that they didn't move any one out-except one staffer:

        "Over the last week, Romney’s campaign has orchestrated a series of high-profile gambits in order to feed its momentum narrative. Last week, for instance, Romney’s campaign blared out the news that it was pulling resources out of North Carolina. The battleground was shifting! Romney on the offensive! On closer inspection, it turned out that Romney was shifting exactly one staffer. It is true that Romney leads in North Carolina, and it is probably his most favorable battleground state. But the decision to have a staffer move out of state, with a marching band and sound trucks in tow to spread the news far and wide, signals a deliberate strategy to create a narrative."

        "Also last week, Paul Ryan held a rally in Pittsburgh. Romney moving in to Pennsylvania! On the offensive! Skeptical reporters noted that Ryan’s rally would bleed into the media coverage in southeast Ohio and that Romney was not devoting any real money to Pennsylvania. Romney’s campaign keeps leaking that it is planning to spend money there. (Today’s leak: “Republicans are genuinely intrigued by the prospect of a strike in Pennsylvania and, POLITICO has learned, are considering going up on TV there outside the expensive Philadelphia market.” Note the noncommittal terms: intrigued and considering.) The story also floats Romney’s belief that, since Pennsylvania has no early voting, it can postpone its planned, any-day-now move into Pennsylvania until the end. This allows Romney to keep the Pennsylvania bluff going until, what, a couple of days before the election?"

        "Karl Rove employed exactly this strategy in 2000. As we now know, the race was excruciatingly close, and Al Gore won the national vote by half a percentage point. But at the time, Bush projected a jaunty air of confidence. Rove publicly predicted Bush would win 320 electoral votes. Bush even spent the final days stumping in California, supposedly because he was so sure of victory he wanted an icing-on-the-cake win in a deep blue state. Campaign reporters generally fell for Bush’s spin, portraying him as riding the winds of momentum and likewise presenting Al Gore as desperate."

     To be sure, the President is in better shape today than was Al Gore in 2000:

      "The current landscape is slightly different. The race is also very close, but Obama enjoys a clear electoral college lead. He is ahead by at least a couple points in enough states to make him president. Adding to his base of uncontested states, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin would give Obama 271 electoral votes. According to the current polling averages compiled at, Obama leads Nevada by 3.5 percent, Ohio by 2.9 percent, and Wisconsin by 4 percent. Should any of those fail, Virginia and Colorado are nearly dead even. (Obama leads by 0.7 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively.) If you don’t want to rely on Nate Silver — and you should rely on him! — the polling averages at realclearpolitics, the conservative-leaning site, don’t differ much, either."

      "If you look closely at the boasts emanating from Romney’s allies, you can detect a lot of hedging and weasel-words. Rob Portman calls Ohio a “dead heat,” which is a way of calling a race close without saying it’s tied. A Romney source tells Mike Allen that Wisconsin leans their way owing to Governor Scott Walker’s “turnout operation.” That is campaign speak for “we’re not winning, but we hope to make it up through turnout.”

      "Obama’s lead is narrow — narrow enough that the polling might well be wrong and Romney could win. But he is leading, his lead is not declining, and the widespread perception that Romney is pulling ahead is Romney’s campaign suckering the press corps with a confidence game."

      The Obama team is also hip to what's going on which is why they went out today to make the point that they are not rolling back their swing state operations anywhere, including North Carolina.



Romney Debate Performance Out of Focus?

      A most debatable question about last night's debate is just what Romney was doing last night. It is that, as some suggest, his team's internal polling has then convinced that it's his race to lose and all he had to to last night was to not say anything really crazy Right wing and he'd be ok?

     Or was it that his team knew that he's rather clumsy on foreign policy terrain anyway so better play it safe and as Al Sharpton suggested post-debate, just hug the President-and his positions-and minimize the damage he sustained?

      In theory the two explanations need to contradict each other. Both could have been motivating factors of various proportion. Maybe they don't think he's a shoo-in but that he has a good chance and it was too risky to go balls to the wall.

      They have certainly sounded very confident if not overly so-and they may be-lately. On Monday they were making noises about the idea that they think Romney may be on his way for not a tight victory but a stronger victory with over 300 electoral votes. They think that from his momentum from Denver he will be carried to winning most swing states. If this is what they really think it's not necessarily such a bad thing if you're on the Obama team as it would mean they are overconfident at Team Romney now.

      Another explanation for Romney's "subdued" performance is that it may be that he was trying to appeal to female swing voters and assure them he's no George W. Bush itching for gunboat diplomacy and new wars.

      "Jim Geraghty of the National Review gave the edge to Romney, but still said, "I think Romney’s answers were tailor-made to wow a focus group, and I don’t mean that entirely complimentary." Bing West, a former Reagan administration official, wrote:
Only gradually did it become clear that the Romney strategy was not to fight, but to woo. The difference between the genders in the choice of candidates has been striking, and Romney’s performance would lead no reasonable undecided voter, female or male, to worry he was too bellicose.

      "But that doesn't mean Romney actually did well with the much-mocked public opinion surveying method."

       "Among a National Journal group of "Walmart moms," "President Obama scored a decisive win with the swing voters," the magazine reported. Romney's answers seemed "hypocritical" and canned.
Among voters pooled by Frank Luntz -- who also asked them how Mitt Romney had done on economic issues, during the foreign policy debate -- the vast majority likewise went with Obama as the winner."

     So maybe in this case the focus groups led the candidate astray. In many ways it seems very similar to the President's strategy in Denver which of course was a total disaster. At the least it's very hard to see how last night helped Romney. If it has no impact maybe we should ask why we had the debate at all. I still suspect that if Romney had done well we would be hearing that it did matter.

He May Be an Etch a Sketch But Romney is (Far) Right

     The level of pandering on the part of Romney is just astonishing. No one has ever been as good at shifting his own opinions to the point that he flatly contradicts what he said before, months ago, weeks ago, days, ago, even seconds ago.

     In the Denver debate that everyone gave to Romney is a landslide, he managed to in one sentence both take credit for passing ObamaCare in Massachusetts while criticizing the President for passing it nationally-even though Romney had urged him to do just that in 2009-and promising to end it on his "first day in office"-which is already going to be the busiest day in human history; he has to not only do that but declare China a currency manipulator, shut down Planned Parenthood and have the Democrats over the White House for a bipartisan beer summit.

    Last night the number of past positions he managed to contradict was breathtaking. The obvious one was his acceptance of a timetable in Afghanistan after attacking the President on that for a year.

    "During last night's foreign policy debate in the U.S. presidential election campaign, the Mitt Romney of the Republican primaries disappeared."

    "Romney's April criticism of Obama's decision to commit the United States military to helping oust Muammar Qaddafi in Libya disappeared. Missing was a promise on his website to reduce foreign aid by $100 million. Romney's past criticism of what he called Obama's rushed exit from Afghanistan vanished as well."

    "Given his lurch to the center on domestic policy, that comes as no surprise. But it does not make Romney's record - or his willingness to change positions - a nonissue. If Romney wins this election, it will be arguably the latest and greatest shift to the center in presidential campaign history."

     "Last night the new Romney praised Obama's toppling of Qaddafi, said he supported the president's policy in Afghanistan and agreed that the administration's economic sanctions on Iran were "crippling."

      As the author, David Rodhe argues, at the end of the debate we know less about Romney's positions than the beginning. Yet, if Romney does win-and the pundits never tire of assuring us he can; Rasmussen was out with a poll which showed Romney up by 4 points, though Rasmussen is least reliable late in an election-he showed something similar for McCain in 2008-what would it say about our political process and our electorate? Nothing too good.

      For the way to know what Romney's foreign policy is you have to talk to his advisers not him and Paul Ryan-who collectively have the least amount of gravitas on a Presidential ticket in memory.

      Who advises Romney on foreign policy? John Bolton and his Neocon friends. Romney hasn't move to the Right in principle but is simply playing politics. If he were to win-I still don't think so, and Nate Silver's "Nowcast" gives him under a 30% chance at that right now-it will be on the most Right wing ticket in over 100 years with a Congress that is the most Right wing that is much further to the Right than Romney even.

      It's the old song: Meet the new boss same as the old boss. Meet the new GOP President same as the old GOP President. Some as it's ever done.

      Are we going to get fooled again?

The Romney Team's Theory of the Race Going Forward

     It was a strong debate performance out of the President and the weakest of the three from Romney. However, there is an argument making the rounds among the pundits that this won't do much to move the polls.

     If you believe them only the first debate can move the polls. Romney's first debate win is presumably a game changer while the fact that he mostly ran a weak campaign prior to that and after winning the first debate has lost the last three-including the VP debate-doesn't matter.

     Evidently if you run for President you can mail your whole campaign in as long as you do very well in the first debate-the other 2 and the Veep debate don't matter at all. This is the belief of the Romney team and much of the media seems to find it highly plausible.

     Greg Sargent has spoken a lot about the Romney team's theory of the race: they came in presuming this was more or less a pure referendum on the President's handling of the economy. The Romney message was simple: If you like where we are today with the economy then you should vote for the President again. If you don't then you should give me a chance I am Mr. Fix It on the economy due to my time at Bain Capital.

     Sargent argued that this approach was a mistake that swing voters weren't looking at it in such a cut and dried way. It's also, as an aside, interesting to me that the President is given all blame for the economy, totally ignoring the fact that Congress after all writes the legislation so if you're not happy why does the GOP House get no blame including Romney's running mate?

     In any case, the Romney team finally drifted to Sargent's point that no election is pure referendum; you have to offer a plausible alternative as a choice. This is why the Denver debate, according to the Romney team, was so huge. They claim that on that night Romney broke through the Obama team's narrative about him being a clueless rich guy who cares only about other rich people.

    The ideology here then is that even if the President came back strong in the last 2 debates, he can't disqualify Romney again. So the Governor remains in the minds of swing voters as a viable alternative based on that one debate. No doubt you can argue that last night Romney actually didn't look too qualified on foreign policy. But they would just come back with that this election won't be won or lost on foreign policy.

    This is curious. It seems the President loses big by losing 1 debate but gains nothing by winning the last 3. So Romney's strategy last night then may have been that he feels he has the lead and was just running out the clock-very much like the President's strategy in Denver which of course backfired.

     So if Romney had demonstrably won last night we'd still be hearing that it doesn't matter as foreign policy won't decide the debate? I doubt that.

     In fact while we are hearing that the President got no bounce last week, in fact Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eight Forecast seems to say differently. The Friday before the Hofstra debate, Obama's probability to win had dropped to just above 60%. As of today-prior to factoring in last night's debate it's back up to 70%.

     We'll see what happens of course but there is no doubt that Obama won last night resoundingly as all the instant polls showed. Obama actually had a larger margin of victory on the CBS undecided poll than Romney did in Denver. The other polls were somewhat closer though Obama led by at least 8 on all of them. The PPP poll of swing voters showed Obama winning 53-42 and swing voters plan to vote for Obama by a 51-45 margin so maybe it is effecting at least how they see their vote right now.

     You can't tell me that the fact that the President won the last 3 debates is irrelevant. If it's true then we should only have on debate per year as the first one is the only one that counts. Again the way to judge is to ask where we'd be if the last 3 debates went as bad as the first one for Obama.

     How will this effect the polls? We don't know yet but we see that the President had already risen from the lowpoint 10 days ago. If Obama is a 70% favorite coming into last night it's pretty hard to argue that anything happened to help Romney cut the gap.

     If you're a Democrat you have to be happy. If nothing else the President did as well as you could have wanted him to last night and really over the last 3 debates. So as he fought hard and put his best foot forward that's all we can expect of him.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Obama Rips into Romney in Final Debate

     If you look at the headlines, they say it all. "Chief in Command" reads the Huffington Post. On the front page of the Washington Post we read that "Obama Keeps Romney on His Heels in Last Debate."

     Politico's front page says that "Obama Tears into Romney in the Last Debate" and Yahoo declares that "Obama Rattles Romney in Final Debate."

     The early polls all show the President with a strong debate win. The CBS poll of undecided voters actually shows the President with a 53-23 lead, which is actually worse than Romney's margin over the President after the first debate: 46-22. The other polls were tighter but the President still had a clear lead. CNN had it at 48-40; PPP had it 53-42 for Obama with the swing voters planning to vote for the President 51-45.

     This last is a very good sign as it suggests that this debate is a big factor in voting for the President.

     This afternoon, Nate Silver had written a post with this question for the title: "Referendum or Choice, Which Candidate Will Show the Fighting Spirit?"

     On that question at least there is no question. It was the President hands down. Romney seemed to come in with a very defensive strategy. Everyone expected Romney to come in with some slash and burn attacks on Libya. However, they never happened. To be sure if they had the President would have had plenty of ammo.

    Some have argued that Romney looked as subdued tonight as the President did in Denver and as we saw above this is what the CBS poll seems to indicate. It's as if Romney now considered himself the favorite and just wanted to go mistake free and not say anything dumb-no small order given his history in trying to discuss foreign policy.

    The one line he did use he probably would like back. He had been using it a lot-that the navy had fewer ships than 1916. The President had a great answer, probably the most remembered line of the night pointing out that we had more bayonets in 1916 as well and that this isn't a game of battleship were the most ships win.

    There are those who want to argue that this debate won't matter-all that matters is the economy. Yet they wouldn't be saying that had Romney won tonight. What they seem to believe is that Romney who has run mostly a very forgettable campaign is going to win the Presidency because who won that first debate in Denver.

     I'm skeptical. Nate Silver shows the President's chances in the Five Thirty Eight Forecast at just under 70% now. That was prior to the debate. It's hard to argue that these already rather lopsided odds are going to  get tighter based on this performance by Romney.

     Those who think that Denver by its lonesome is enough to win the Presidency for Romney-like his whole team that has been speculating lately on wining a landslide-are saying that all that matters in an election is teh first debate. If you win that you can have a bad campaign-not to mention bad policies or those that are wildly unpopular anyway-win the first debate and then lose the Vice Presidential debatre as well and then the 2nd and 3rd debates but win anyway on the strenghty of one debate. It's an interesting theory.