“Halloween is a day when we all get to fool people into thinking we’re someone else. Or as Mitt Romney calls it, campaigning.” –Bill Maher
“Halloween is a day when we all get to fool people into thinking we’re someone else. Or as Mitt Romney calls it, campaigning.” –Bill Maher
It is human nature to dislike bearers of bad news, but conservatives are extending this to a visceral hatred of those who even predict bad news. This has been compounded by the anti-fact/anti-logic/anti-science sentiments which now dominate the right wing. While there have been comments for months on conservative blogs showing denial of bad polling results, this has escalated over the past week, and become far more personal. Last week The Examiner laid down this battle-line:
While many conservatives look to former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris to understand the polls and political surveys on the elections, or even a site like UnSkewedPolls.com, those on the left look to New York Times blogger Nate Silver.
I have read Nate Silver’s blog as just one of many sources which evaluate the polls, but the authoritarian mindset of the right wing does tend to see things in terms of following one or the other leader. A look at how the left and right view this issue is consistent with how they differ on more substantiate matters than mere predictions.
First let’s look at UnSkewedPolls.com. They have been predicting a Romney victory well in excess of 300 electoral votes. Maybe this will happen, but it would require either that the polls are way off or that things change drastically before the election (which is possible, but not predictable). In other words, their predictions are based on the hope that their candidate will win as opposed to actually paying attention to the polling data.
Today Dick Morris is predicting a Romney landslide. Throughout the election his predictions have also been based upon what the right wingers want to hear, not based upon any facts. Perhaps he is trying to help Romney, or perhaps he is trying to increase readership among conservatives by saying what they want to read. Either way, he is also ignoring the actual polling data. I have also seen many posts from conservative blogs which distort the findings in polls, declaring a victory for Romney when the actual polling data shows the opposite or at most a tie.
Looking at actual polling data shows the popular vote as being too close to call while Obama continues to have a lead in the battleground states. Obama has leads in the latest polls in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. It is certainly possible that Romney could still take one or more of these states, but he would need to either win all three or win in other states where Obama is now leading to win the election. With that in mind, let’s compare what Nate Silver says about the race compared to the two right wing commentators above. Silver’s map of state by state probabilities is based upon the polls, but he does adjust them to take into consideration factors such as the state of the economy and the historical partisan tendencies of the state. Unlike the conservative commentators, Silver’s electoral predictions have been very close to the status at sites such as ElectoralVote.com which are purely poll driven. Silver predicts Obama victories in Ohio and Virginia while his last prediction continued to predict Romney would win in Florida. He predicts an approximate two percent victory in the popular vote, which is the same as I and many others have been predicting (at least prior to Superstorm Sandy).
What especially confuses conservatives is that Silver includes odds, now predicting a 77.4 percent chance of Obama winning (up 9.3 percent over the past week). That sounds like a reasonable prediction, except to those who do not understand the concept of probability. Last week Silver gave Romney well over a one in four chance of winning, and continues to give him over a one in five chance. Ezra Klein defended Silver (with his post written when Silver’s chances of an Obama victory were a little lower than at present):
So before we deal with anything Silver has specifically said, it’s worth taking in the surrounding landscape: Every major political betting market and every major forecasting tool is predicting an Obama victory right now, and for the same reason: Obama remains ahead in enough states that, unless the polls are systematically wrong, or they undergo a change unlike any we’ve yet seen in the race, Obama will win the election.
There’s no doubt about that. Real Clear Politics, which leans right, shows Romney up by 0.8 percent nationally, but shows Obama up in Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Romney is up in Florida and North Carolina, but note that his lead in Florida is smaller than Obama’s lead in Ohio. And RCP shows Colorado and Virginia tied. Pollster.com, meanwhile, shows Obama leading by a point in Colorado and Virginia and the race tied in Florida.
It’s important to be clear about this: If Silver’s model is hugely wrong — if all the models are hugely wrong, and the betting markets are hugely wrong — it’s because the polls are wrong. Silver’s model is, at this point, little more than a sophisticated form of poll aggregation.
But it’s just as important to be clear about this: If Mitt Romney wins on election day, it doesn’t mean Silver’s model was wrong. After all, the model has been fluctuating between giving Romney a 25 percent and 40 percent chance of winning the election. That’s a pretty good chance! If you told me I had a 35 percent chance of winning a million dollars tomorrow, I’d be excited. And if I won the money, I wouldn’t turn around and tell you your information was wrong. I’d still have no evidence I’d ever had anything more than a 35 percent chance.
Nate Silver is one of the sources I look at after his predictions were extremely accurate in 2008, but I also don’t follow any one source, suspecting that another source could edge him out in other elections. It will be interesting to see if his model is any more accurate than other means of predicting electing results when the results are in next week. Util then I will continue to look at a variety of sources, and leave it to the more authoritarian-minded conservatives to want to follow a single leader. Looking a other of sources of predicting the election finds that Silver’s predictions are far more in line than those of the conservative wishful thinkers. For example, Intrade predicts an Obama victory at 66.1 percent.
Predicting an Obama victory also isn’t out of line with what most Americans predict. Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans think Obama will win while only 34 percent predict Romney will win. It is only the far right, which places ideology over facts in all matters, which would predict a Romney landslide based upon the information now available.
Another source that Romney is losing is speculative, but I think does say a lot about the state of the race. Mitt Romney is now running like a candidate who believes he is going to lose and must throw a Hail Mary. He has been running highly dishonest and desperate ads about the auto bail-out despite the fact-checking of newspapers who see this as Romney going too far with his lying. Seeing both Chrysler and GM debunk Romney’s false claim is reminiscent of Candy Crowley debunking Romney on Libya during the second presidential debate. He is also resorting to repeating his discredited welfare attack. He is making desperate attempts to compete in states such as Pennsylvania where he has no serious chance, most likely due to realizing his chances of winning by taking Ohio are slipping away.
While many conservatives who cite Dick Morris sound convinced that Romney will win, the attitude on liberal blogs remains more in tune with reality. Besides better understanding the math, liberal bloggers are more likely to realize that polls are a snapshot of where we are now and not absolutely predictive of the election results. With the race this close, things can still change. When pundits spoke of Hurricane Sandy freezing the race, I had fears that this might blunt Obama’s momentum in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, where he has recently been improving in the polls after falling behind after the Denver debate. Looking presidential, and getting the praise of Republican keynote speaker Chris Christie, might make up for any lost days of campaigning. Superstorm Sandy does provide a strong contrast between Democratic and Republican views as they relate to the real world, from views on the importance of the federal government in disaster relief to views on accepting the scientific consensus on global warming.
The most important consideration regarding Hurricane Sandy is the safety of those in its path and recovering from damage. There is the danger that discussing the political implications might seem distasteful, however very recently the Republicans began to play politics with the death of Americans in Libya with total disregard for waiting for the facts to come in. There is no reason not to look at the political implications of a tragedy where the facts are clearly on our side. Policies have consequences and Sandy shows the consequences of the Republican beliefs being wrong in two areas–disaster management and climate change.
Mitt Romney would return us to the disaster management policies of George Bush just like he would return us the economic policies of George Bush. Over the last couple of days numerous sites have linked to multiple statements from Mitt Romney talking of cutting FEMA. He has argued this should be handled by the states, but he also vetoed money for flood prevention while governor. Cutting funding for FEMA is also the position of the Republican Party:
Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.
Now Romney either avoids answering questions about FEMA or claims he will not cut it. Campaigning for cuts to big government programs in the abstract is popular. It is a different matter to identify individual programs. Romney claims he will cut federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP by 2016 but refuses to say what he will cut. It would be folly to vote for someone who refuses to answer this question.
Mitt Romney made fun of Barack Obama, saying he “promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet” at the Republican convention. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now. Bill Clinton mocked Romney for a similar attack on Obama at the first debate (where sadly Obama failed to defend himself):
I was actually listening closely to what the candidates said in these debates. In the first debate, the triumph of the moderate Mitt Romney. You remember what he did? He ridiculed the president. Ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways. He said, ‘Oh, you’re going to turn back the seas.’ In my part of America, we would like it if someone could’ve done that yesterday. All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You’ve got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You’ve got to lift them up. Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this.’ In the real world, Barack Obama’s policies work better.
Many Republicans deny science, claiming that global warming is a hoax despite all the evidence that the earth has warmed due to activities of mankind. Scientists, along with the insurance industry which must rely on facts, acknowledge that severe weather events are related to climate change. From Scientific American:
Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”
Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”
A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: “The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923.”
Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”
Now, as promised: If you still don’t believe scientists, then believe insurance giant Munich Re. In her October 29 post at the The New Yorker, writer Elizabeth Kolbert notes:
Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.” According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” … While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”
If Democrats can capitalized politically on Hurricane Sandy’s demonstration that Republicans are wrong in cutting government disaster funding and wrong about climate change they could do very well next week.
On the other hand, if they have not been able to benefit politically from running against a candidate who would destroy Social Security and Medicare, and if they still have not yet been able to sell all the benefits of Obamacare to the public, there is no reason to be confident that the Democrats will win this argument despite having the facts on their side. The Republican tsunami of misinformation,which covers up facts and presents a direct danger to liberty and democracy, is even more harmful to this nation than any single natural disaster.
There were major events this week on Fringe (MAJOR SPOILERS). It was revealed that one important aspect of Etta’s position in the resistance is her ability to not only block the Observers from reading her thoughts but the ability to teach others. This answered questions as to whether Etta had a unique ability inherited from her mother (although this could be why she was the first to succeed at this). One of the people she taught was Broyles, who we learned is working with the resistance. It is a good thing that Etta has passed her skills on to at least one other person as she did not survive the episode. At least she managed to wipe out several Observers with anti-matter.
Georgina Haig, who played Etta, was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’re not sure where to start. But I guess walk us through how much you knew before you got the script and then your reaction after you read it.
HAIG: It’s funny — going into it, I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. When I got the call that I’d be doing the fifth season, I was excited, but I didn’t know the trajectory of the character or even how many episodes I was doing. It’s so secretive even for us! [Laughs] Then I got a call from Joel [Wyman] and he took me through the four episodes and what was going to happen and I was blown away. I was really moved and also I was — I thought it was really brave to take such an emotional leap for all the characters at that point in the story. I just thought it was a really brave thing to do with the story.
Especially because I think there’s a sector of fans who really grew to love Etta in such a short time. What was that reception like for you?
I think I’m lucky because I entered as part of the family straight away. And because Fringe is like a family — literally and metaphorically — the fans sort of embrace you if the world of Fringe has embraced you, if you know what I mean. There was definitely an immediate response as soon as it was worked out that I was the daughter, they were invested. And I don’t think they needed all that much time to invest in me because the relationships were so intense from the get-go.
Last week you had a great scene with Olivia in a car. I think that definitely threw me off the scent of this twist in the story because it seemed like they were really into progressing the mother-daughter relationship. What’s your take on that?
I know! We felt like that the whole time; they were setting it up to knock it down. As an actor I felt the same thing. I was so invested and loving being there knowing I was going to die. Being there in Vancouver and being part of this show was so reflective of what my character had to go through — you left all these great people behind. But I’m just amazed. So much has to happen on Fringe in terms of the plot and the saving the world stuff and the other characters, they’re able to make so much of these moments. That moment in the car happened so quickly and carried so much weight in amongst all the action. But that’s what the show does really well — balancing out the action with these incredible poignant moments.
You had quite a few of those moments in this episode, too, with the bullet necklace. With that exchange, do you think, as a whole, Olivia and Etta had reached a point of resolution in terms of their relationship? I’m curious to get your perspective on where their relationship ended
I think it’s really sad because, of course, a million things weren’t resolved. They got to that point where it had moved from uncomfortable to slightly more comfortable in this dynamic of being reunited. But I think she could see the strain between her parents and there was still so much she couldn’t say and was still learning so much about herself. And her own world — her perspective of right and wrong [versus] Olivia’s. In episode two we explored that quite a lot. There was so much left unsaid. But in four, I think what is resolved is the love and strength between them. But if it was my choice I wouldn’t have died and played out the family drama. [Laughs] There was a lot to explore, but there’s [also] a lot for the writers to explore with me dying and the characters dealing with that. What happens next will, I’m sure, be very interesting — not that I have any idea what that is.
Which was my last question. What do you know?
I know a little bit, but even the little bit I know is kind of vague. They don’t give too much away because they probably know we will be asked. [Laughs] But it’s going to be awesome.
Well, there are a lot of returns on Fringe. Any chance of you being a part of it in some way? Any hopes of a return?
It’s so funny because I was all emotional, and everybody was just like, ‘Ugh, whatever, Georgina, you’ll just be back. It’s Fringe. Everybody dies about four times.” And I was like, “Yeah, but I’ve been obliterated into millions of pieces!” [Laughs] It wasn’t just a death, it was a mega-death. It was a death with a full stop. So I don’t know. Anything is possible.
Anything is possible, especially on Fringe. We have already seen two parallel worlds and alternative time lines. Presumably the series will end with the defeat of the Observers. Will this be limited to the world of fifteen years from now, or will victory mean changing the timeline so that Earth was never conquered by the Observers? Somehow a plot by the Observers to go back in time to conquer their ancestors and change the world to make inhabitable to their human ancestors does seem a lot like the classic science fiction plot of going back in time and killing your grandfather. If the timeline is changed, perhaps we will return to that day in the park without any Observers arriving to take Etta, and perhaps see a future where Olivia, Peter, and Etta are a happy family.
The question of whether Etta returns was also asked in an interview from Huffington Post:
Is Etta really, truly dead, though — no time travel, no sneaky switcheroos?
Oh, man, I know. I was having a great time in Vancouver, you know? I would stay! I had my last day and I was really upset, obviously … just like, “Oh God. That was final. I could learn to ski if I stayed!” Everyone’s like, “Oh, Georgina, it’s ‘Fringe,’ you never know what could happen.” They were so nonplussed. They’re just like, “Whatever, it’s Fringe.” Whereas I was like, “No. I’ve been obliterated into a million pieces. I haven’t just died, I was like self-combobulated or whatever it was. It’s done.” And then they’re like, “But it’s ‘Fringe.’” So who knows? I feel like these guys can get around any corner but I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Unfortunately Huffington Post ran this interview right after the show ended with the headline: ‘Fringe’ Season 5: Georgina Haig On Etta’s Shocking Death And Where The Team Goes From Here. Do they understand that many of us record Friday night shows and watch later in the weekend? There was a spoiler warning beneath this headline, but by this time it was too late. Spoilers of this nature should never be included in headlines with many people recording shows to watch at a later time. Normally I go through my RSS reader and save stories about genre shows I have not seen yet. Anyone using a RSS reader, or looking at headlines directly on the site, would have been tipped off about Etta’s death.
After finishing his work on Fringe, show runner Joel Wyman will be working on a new show with J. J Abrams, a futuristic cop series which deals humanity versus technology.
Doctor Who was mentioned once again on Big Bang Theory (video above). Previous references to Doctor Who on Big Bang Theory have been collected here.
Another Spoiler: Later in the episode Leonard and Penny had sex in the TARDIS at Stewart’s Halloween Party. While Doctor Who is technically a children’s show and presumably will not show sex on the TARDIS, Topless Robot found this porn parody trailer, Doctor Screw:
I think I prefer the clean but more amusing Inspector Spacetime parody from Community.
The BBC will once again include Doctor Who in their annual Children in Need special:
Doctor Who, featuring Matt Smith, will also bring viewers an extra special ‘prequel’ to its Christmas special, with a bespoke storyline made for Children in Need, and an exclusive preview trailer of the Christmas special including the first glimpse of the Doctor with his new companion. There will also be an exclusive preview of the Call The Midwife Christmas special.
“Mitt Romney is so rich he hired extra housekeepers just to launder his money.” –David Letterman
If the current polling results stay stable through the election there is a real possibility that Romney could win the popular vote while Obama wins the electoral college (and therefore reelection). Romney has gained in the popular vote since the first debate but much of his gains are leading to the likelihood that he will win the red states by even greater margins. He has come closer in the battleground states but Obama still leads in most of them.
The electoral map (based upon polling) doesn’t look that much different now than it did before the first debate. The primary difference is that Florida, which has shifted between Romney and Obama, has moved back to Romney. Obama trailed Romney in North Carolina and it appeared he might take the lead. Instead of moving ahead as it appeared he might do, he is now tied there. Virginia now looks too close to call with Obama still having a strong chance to win the state. Obama has maintained leads in key swing states such as Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin. Romney is closer in these states, and leads in some polls, but at the moment Obama retains the edge even if the electoral vote will be closer than it appeared to be after the conventions. Of course this lead is far from secure, making it essential that those who support individual liberty, a market economy which provides opportunity for all to succeed financially, science, preservation of Medicare and Social Security, and reality-based public policy get out to vote to reelect Barack Obama. Current polls show a majority of registered voters support Obama, while Romney leads among likely voters.
There are strong arguments to eliminate the electoral college and have the winner of the popular vote win the presidency. Besides being inherently more democratic, it would mean that each party would have reason to try to appeal to voters in every state to increase their share of the popular vote. Perhaps Obama would be doing better in the popular vote nationally if he had reason to run up the margin of victory more in the blue states and pick up some votes in the red states where he now has no reason to campaign. A Democratic Congressman has proposed an amendment which would make it unlikely that a candidate would win the election without winning the popular vote. Steve Israel would award 29 electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote. This would be comparable to having another Florida or New York, and be worth one electoral vote more than North Carolina and Virgina combined.
This proposal would have given Gore the presidency in 2000, making up for the Republicans stealing Florida, if everything else was equal. It possible that Obama could win more than 29 electoral votes than Romney and lose the popular vote if his leads hold in the battleground states. It is more likely that if Romney wins the popular vote he will also pick up some of the battleground states where it is now close.
Having an arbitrary number of electoral votes be awarded, regardless of the margin of victory in the popular vote, is a very convoluted way around the problems presented by the electoral college. Why twenty-nine? The electoral college has its problems, but at least there is a sensible way of choosing the number of electors based upon the number awarded to each state, which is roughly proportional to each state’s population. There are conservatives who support the electoral college based upon the concept of each state being a separate entity in the United States. If the goal is to eliminate the electoral college and go to direct election of the president based upon the popular vote, propose an amendment to do exactly that as opposed to such a strange way around the current system and have a debate as how we want elections to be structured. (At the same time we might consider whether we want to continue the manner in which the Senate gives greater representation to those living in small states as opposed to large states.)
The electoral college this year might even lead to a stranger result than having the loser of the popular vote fail to win the presidency (as this has happened before). It is unlikely but possible that there could be a tie in the electoral college. The House would then pick the president, with the vote based upon the numbers of state delegations controlled as opposed to a vote by each member of the newly elected House. The Senate would pick the Vice-President. The newly elected House could elect Romney president while the Senate, assuming Democrats retain control, could reelect Joe Biden as Vice President. An even more bizarre result would be if the House was deadlocked because of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in some state delegations and unable to elect a President. In that case, Joe Biden, if reelected Vice President, would become President. An election thrown to the House might very well lead to more support for moving to popular election of the president.
After the inspirational campaign of 2008, the Obama reelection campaign was a let down. Considering the dire consequence of a Romney victory to the nation, Obama supporters generally tolerated the campaign based upon attacking Romney as long as it was working, but it was not the type of campaign most of us really wanted to see. Few people were going to second guess the campaign as long as Obama had a secure lead, but it seemed like Obama should be doing more to respond to the Republican attacks and doing more to say why voters should vote for him as opposed to against Romney. Now that we are in the final two weeks with Obama clinging on to a slim lead in the battleground states, the campaign has begun to do these things:
Over the weekend, after seeing yet another ad blaming Obama for the economic conditions created by the Republicans, I suggested on Facebook that the Obama campaign should run an ad with “Bill Clinton placing the blame on Bush for crashing the economy, the GOP House for obstructing recovery, and crediting Obama for keeping us out of a full fledged depression.”
“The stuff some folks are saying about President Obama sound kind of familiar. The same people said my ideas destroyed jobs—they called me every name in the book.”
“Well we created 22 million new jobs and turned deficits into surpluses.”
“President Obama’s got it right. We should invest in the middle class, education and innovation. And pay down our debt with spending restraint and asking the wealthy to pay a little more. Sound familiar?”
They did this slightly different, tying Clinton’s ad into another ad released this week, spelling out Obama’s plan for the economy, but they did see the value in having Clinton do such an ad. Of course there is no reason why Clinton couldn’t do additional ads now that he has backed Obama’s policies.
The ad above reiterates what Obama has already been saying, but putting it together in one place helps counter Romney’s claim that Obama does not have a plan for his second term. The new ad was accompanied by a booklet on Obama’s Blueprint for America’s Future.
In the final two weeks, the ground game is receiving more attention. Molly Boll described how this gives Obama an advantage. The Field-Office Gap is far more important than the Bayonet-Gap of the third debate.
While Obama’s office in Sterling is one of more than 800 across the country — concentrated, of course, in the swing states — Romney commands less than half that number, about 300 locations. In the swing states, the gap is stark. Here’s the numerical comparison in what are generally considered the top three swing states — Ohio, Florida and Virginia:
But the difference isn’t just quantitative, it’s qualitative. I visited Obama and Romney field offices in three swing states — Ohio, Colorado and Virginia — dropping in unannounced at random times to see what I could see. There were some consistent, and telling, differences.
Obama’s office suite in Sterling was in an office park next to a dentist’s office. The front window was plastered with Obama-Biden signs, the door was propped open, and the stink bugs that plague Virginia in the fall crawled over stacks of literature — fliers for Senate candidate Tim Kaine, Obama bumper stickers — piled on a table near the front reception desk. In rooms in front and back, volunteers made calls on cell phones, while in the interior, field staffers hunched over computers. One wall was covered with a sheet of paper where people had scrawled responses to the prompt, “I Support the President Because…”, while another wall held a precinct-by-precinct list of neighborhood team leaders’ email addresses.
Only about a mile down the road was the Republican office, a cavernous, unfinished space on the back side of a strip mall next to a Sleepy’s mattress outlet. On one side of the room, under a Gadsden flag (“Don’t tread on me”) and a poster of Sarah Palin on a horse, two long tables of land-line telephones were arrayed. Most of the signs, literature, and buttons on display were for the local Republican congressman, Frank Wolf. A volunteer in a Wolf for Congress T-shirt was directing traffic, sort of — no one really seemed to be in charge and there were no paid staff present, though there were several elderly volunteers wandering in and out. The man in the T-shirt allowed me to survey the room but not walk around, and was unable to refer me to anyone from the Romney campaign or coordinated party effort.
These basic characteristics were repeated in all the offices I visited: The Obama offices were devoted almost entirely to the president’s reelection; the Republican offices were devoted almost entirely to local candidates, with little presence for Romney. In Greenwood Village, Colorado, I walked in past a handwritten sign reading “WE ARE OUT OF ROMNEY YARD SIGNS,” then had a nice chat with a staffer for Rep. Mike Coffman. In Canton, Ohio, the small GOP storefront was dominated by “Win With Jim!” signs for Rep. Jim Renacci. Obama’s nearest offices in both places were all Obama. In Canton, a clutch of yard signs for Sen. Sherrod Brown leaned against a wall, but table after table was filled with Obama lit — Veterans for Obama, Women for Obama, Latinos for Obama, and so on. The Obama campaign uses cell phones exclusively, while the Republicans use Internet-based land line phones programmed to make voter calls. Every Obama office has an “I Support the President Because…” wall, covered with earnest paeans to Obamacare and the like.
Even many Republicans realize they are at a disadvantage:
Some Republicans admit that the ground game is a weakness for the party. In Colorado, one top GOP consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns told me he mentally added 2 to 4 points to Obama’s polls in the state based on superior organization.
David Gergen also sees the ground game as an advantage for Obama:
Coming into a 14-day scramble, Obama can now rely upon an additional weapon in his arsenal: a strong ground game. Because it drove away any potential challengers in the Democratic primaries, his Chicago team not only got the jump on the GOP in advertising this past summer, but also constructed what appears to be a superior field organization.
In the pivotal state of Ohio, for example, the Obama campaign has three times as many offices, often captained by experienced young people. By contrast, a major Republican figure in the state, throwing up his hands, told me that the Romney field team looked like a high school civics class. The Romney team heartily disagrees, of course; we’ll just have to wait and see.
Contacting the voters directly might be one reason for Obama’s big lead among early voters:
The latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll finds President Obama had a lead of 53% to 42% among the 17% of the surveyed registered voters who said they had already cast their vote.
In the crucial swing state of Ohio, a new Time poll finds Obama holds a two-to-one lead over Romney among those who have voted early, 60% to 30%.
Ads and the ground game should dominate the final two weeks. Interviews are less likely to play a part. It looks like Romney might not give further interviews (but BuzzFeed did reveal how Romney looks so tan). Even Obama was initially reluctant to release the content of his interview with the Des Moines Register, but did ultimately release the transcript. Obama started with the same message in the ad and booklet mentioned above:
Obviously, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last four years. A lot of it was responding to the most severe economic emergency we’ve had since the Great Depression. And whether it was saving the auto industry, stabilizing the financial system, making sure that we got into a growth mode again and started putting people back to work, we have made real progress.
But people are obviously still hurting in a lot of parts of the country. And that’s why last night I tried to reiterate a very specific plan that we’ve put forward to make sure that the economy is growing, we’re bringing down our deficit, and we’re creating jobs.
So, number one, I’m very interested in continuing to build on the work that we did not just in the auto industry but some of the other industrial sectors, bringing manufacturing back to our shores; changing our tax code to reward companies that are investing here. There is a real sense that companies are starting to make decisions about insourcing, and some modest incentives I think can make a real difference in terms of us seeing continued manufacturing growth, which obviously has huge ramifications throughout the economy, including in the service sector of the economy.
Number two, education, which has obviously been a priority for us over the last four years — I want to build on what we’ve done with Race to the Top, but really focus on STEM education — math, science, technology, computer science. And part of that is helping states to hire teachers with the highest standards and training in these subjects so we can start making sure that our kids are catching up to some of the other industrialized world.
Two million more slots in community colleges that allows our workers to retrain, but also young people who may not want to go to a four-year college, making sure that the training they’re receiving is actually for jobs that are out there right now. And we want to continue to work — building on the progress we’ve done over the last four years — to keep tuition low for those who do attend either a two-year or a four-year college.
Number three, controlling our own energy. This obviously is of interest to Iowa. Our support of biofuels, our support of wind energy has created thousands of jobs in Iowa. But even more importantly, this is going to be the race to the future. The country that controls new sources of energy, not just the traditional sources, is going to have a huge competitive advantage 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.
So in addition to doubling our fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks, what we want to do is make sure that we’re producing new technologies here — long-lasting batteries, making sure that we are developing the wind and solar and other energy sources that may provide us a breakthrough. In the meantime, we’re still producing oil and natural gas at a record pace, but we’ve got to start preparing for the future. And as I said, it creates jobs right now in Iowa.
Number four, I want to reduce our deficit. It’s got to be done in a balanced way. I’ve already cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending. I’m willing to do more. I’m willing to cut more, and I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans when it comes to making some adjustments that bring down the cost of our health care programs, which obviously are the biggest drivers of our deficit.
But nobody who looks at the numbers thinks it’s realistic for us to actually reduce our deficit in a serious way without also having some revenue. And we’ve identified tax rates going up to the Clinton rates for income above $250,000; making some adjustments in terms of the corporate tax side that could actually bring down the corporate tax overall, but broaden the base and close some loopholes. That would be good for our economy, and it would be good for reducing our deficit.
And finally, using some of the war savings to put people back to work on infrastructure — roads, bridges. We’ve fallen behind in that area. And we can — this deferred maintenance, we can put people to work, back, right now, and at the same time make sure that our economy is more competitive over the long term.
So that’s sort of a summary of the things I want to accomplish to create jobs and economic growth. Obviously, there are other items on the agenda. We need to get immigration reform done, and I’m fully committed to doing that. I think there’s still more work on the energy efficiency side that we can do — helping to retrofit our buildings, schools, hospitals, so that they’re energy efficient — because if we achieved efficiencies at the level of, let’s say, Japan, we could actually cut our power bill by about 20-25 percent, and that would have the added benefit of taking a whole bunch of carbon out of the atmosphere.
So there are some things that we can do, but obviously the key focus is making sure that the economy is growing. That will facilitate all the other work that we do.
“Obama is still ahead in the swing states and among women. He is of course losing among men and in any states were you can buy the Confederate flag in a mall.” -Bill Maher
The third debate was a clear win for Barack Obama but it is too soon to determine if undecided voters saw enough to realize that Mitt Romney isn’t even ready to take a 9 a.m. call on foreign policy matters. Mitt Romney will definitely keep the fact checkers busy tonight. He tried to shake the Etch-A-Sketch tonight, changing his former views to agree with Obama on as many foreign policy issues as possible. Romney even avoided confronting Obama on Libya after learning the hard way in the second debate that the facts support Obama and not the wild claims of the right wing noise machine.
Obama was ready with both zingers and an overall condemnation of Romney’s policies:
But Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.
You say that you’re not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq. But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. And the — the challenge we have — I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy — but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong. You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite that fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it. You said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan. Then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing in sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies.
Obama soon went further in his attack on Romney’s flip-flopping:
Governor here’s one thing I’ve learned as commander in chief. You’ve got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean. You just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq. That is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East.
Romney was shaking the Etch-A-Sketch when he denied his previous support for keeping troops in Iraq (video above).
He was also trying to rewrite history when he denied saying that he considered Russia our number one geopolitical foe as he said in the video above.
Obama even tried to tie Romney to Bush and Cheney:
Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He’s praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who’s — who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century.
The debate wandered onto domestic policy, giving Obama the opportunity to once again show that the math does not work for Romney’s economic policies:
Look, Governor Romney’s called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions. Now, the math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it. He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking for.
Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined; China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it. The next 10. And what I did was work with our joint chiefs of staff to think about, what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe?
And that’s the budget that we’ve put forward. But, what you can’t do is spend $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for, $5 trillion on tax cuts. You say that you’re going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions, without naming what those loopholes and deductions are. And then somehow you’re also going to deal with the deficit that we’ve already got. The math simply doesn’t work.
Romney tried to attack Obama, and pander to ship builders in Virginia, by campaigning on an imaginary Naval Ship Gap. Obama mocked him with a Bayonet Gap:
But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works.
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting slips. It’s what are our capabilities.
Romney was not only wrong on the principle, he was wrong on the facts. He got Three Pinocchios for his claim that the Navy is as small as in 1916.
Obama repeatedly responded to Romney’s lies, including the lie that Obama started his presidency with an apology tour:
Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.
Obama accused Romney of being “you’ve been all over the map” on many issues, such as going after Osama bin Laden:
When it comes to going after Osama bin Laden, you said, well, any president would make that call. But when you were a candidate in 2008, as I was, and I said if I got bin Laden in our sights I would take that shot, you said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man.
And you said we should ask Pakistan for permission. And if we had asked Pakistan permission, we would not have gotten him. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.
Romney tried to rewrite history on the auto bailout. I think that Mitt Romney bringing up the auto industry is like Bill Clinton discussing extra-marital sex or George Bush bringing up drunk driving. Obama didn’t let him get away with changing his position here:
The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide, government assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn’t true.
Obama tried to preserve his lead in the first debate and, as a consequence of not being aggressive enough, the momentum has been going in Romney’s direction. Democratic victories in the Vice Presidential and second Presidential debate slowed that momentum, leaving Obama with a slight lead going into this debate. The question now is whether Obama’s victory in this debate will stop the movement towards Romney and preserve Obama’s slim lead, and hopefully develop some momentum for Obama.
The final debate is about to begin. It is questionable as to how much effect this debate will have. Obviously if Obama should sleep through this one like in the first he will be in serious trouble, but that is unlikely to happen. We already saw that it was a fiasco when Romney went overseas. He further embarrassed himself by repeating the right wing talking points on Libya, which happen, as is generally the case with right wing talking points, to be false.
While the election is unlikely to be decided on foreign policy, Romney could do serious harm to his chances if he fails to show he is competent to become Commander in Chief. There is also the possibility that a nation which has been at war far too long will reject a candidate who appears too likely to stumble into further wars.
I think it is safe to predict that Obama will mentioned somewhere along the way that he gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden.
There was not a new episode of Fringe this week, but we do have the video above and some information on upcoming episodes:
Friday, October 26 at 9pm: “The Bullet that Saved the World”
When the Fringe team tracks a lead into a hostile and heavily guarded location, Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) resurfaces – but can he be trusted?
Friday, November 2 at 9pm: “An Origin Story”In the aftermath of devastating events, the Fringe team reels and someone makes a pivotal and shocking move.
Friday, November 9 at 9pm: “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There”
A Fringe team member takes on a new role, and Walter (John Noble) follows leads to a key piece in their battle against the Observers.
Friday, November 16 at 9pm: “Five-Twenty-Ten”
As the fight for the future intensifies, a member of the Fringe team orchestrates a Fringe event of his own.
Amy Acker didn’t return on this week’s episode of Person of Interest but above is a video of her talking about the season. On the show, Finch is still feeling the effects of being kidnapped by Root, while Carter ran into Snow. At the conclusion of the episode we found that Snow is being controlled by Reese’s old partner Kara Stanton, who has strapped a bomb vest onto Snow. I’m now sure if Kara is simply going after those who had tried to have her killed (along with Reese), if she is also involved in going after the machine as Root is, or if she has some other agenda. Unfortunately, as the mythology segments are often interspersed into episodes about the person of interest of the week, it is getting hard to keep track of all the conspiracies going on.
Above is the teaser for a longer preview to be released on Tuesday for Iron Man 3. Here’s the description of the movie:
Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
It appears that Benedict Cumberbatch liked what he saw in Lara Pulver’s nude scenes when she played Irene Adler in A Scandal In Bohemia (an episode of Sherlock last season). The two are now rumored to be dating:
Love mystery of Holmes and his naked co-star: TV seduction ‘turns to real romance’ for star couple
As a whip-wielding dominatrix, she played the only woman capable of seducing the emotionally detached Sherlock Holmes.
Now life is imitating fiction for actress Lara Pulver, who has struck up an ‘affectionate’ relationship with Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the troubled detective in BBC1’s latest adaptation.
The pair, both 36, radiated an on-screen chemistry in the sexually charged episode A Scandal In Bohemia, in which Pulver appeared naked as Irene Adler.
And last Thursday they were openly flirtatious when they attended the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards together.
Cumberbatch brought his former co-star along as his ‘plus one’ as he collected the Best Actor award.
Last season Mad Men ended with Don at a bar, being asked if he was alone. At least it doesn’t appear that things are over yet between Don and Megan. Jon Hamm and Jessica Pare have been sited filming a scene together in Hawaii which is thought to be for the sixth season premiere.
Downton Abbey fans are still shocked by the events of last week (no spoilers for American viewers who are waiting until the show season begins in January). It now looks like the show will be extended for a fourth season, and then followed with a movie.
HIT drama Downton Abbey could be heading to cinema screens after cast members revealed plans to turn it into a Hollywood movie.
The worldwide phenomenon was originally supposed to finish after the third series, currently showing on ITV1.
But cast members now believe a fourth series will be commissioned, before the Crawley family’s story concludes with a feature film.
A show source said: “Hollywood bosses are especially keen to make a film adaption due to the show’s success in America.
“A fourth series is now 99% certain but the worry is leading cast members will soon leave and follow film careers to capitalise on their new-found fame.
“One option is to conclude the drama with a feature film after series four, which would be a huge box office hit.
“It would end the show on a high and then free up the cast to pursue Hollywood careers.”
The Hour returns for a second season in November. Above is Romola Garai.
“What happened with The Hour,” she tells me, “was basically that I picked up the script and the first line I read was, ‘Bel is sitting at her desk.’ And I was like, well, this is fucking amazing. This part is mine. Because how often are you ever introduced to a young female character and she’s sitting behind an actual desk? The main thing I’m interested in is that I don’t want the women I play to be defined by their romantic involvement with the male lead. I want them to have a job. So the fact that Bel having a job is the first thing we know about her was a huge deal for me.”
Garai says she recognises a lot of Bel’s character in herself. “We are similar in being ambitious, young women who love our jobs and are truly passionate about them. And who are interested in the world around them, and in politics. But we are different in that Bel is a real diplomat with people, which I’m not at all. I say what I think, and then get into trouble.” She tries to look sheepish about this, but it’s not particularly convincing. “Actually, I think it’s OK to fight for what you care about. The best piece of advice I was given about work was by someone who told me that it’s OK to have conflict. I think sometimes women need to be reminded of that.”