The Obama campaign raised a fortune with email solicitations, and now that the election is over they are willing to reveal secrets such as that a casual tone and an unattractive format was most effective:
One fascination in a presidential race mostly bereft of intrigue was the strange, incessant, and weirdly overfamiliar e-mails that emanated from the Obama campaign. Anyone who shared an address with the campaign soon started receiving messages from Barack Obama with subject lines such as “Join me for dinner?” “It’s officially over,” “It doesn’t have to be this way,” or just “Wow.” Jon Stewart mocked them on the Daily Show. The women’s website the Hairpin likened them to notes from a stalker.
But they worked. Most of the $690 million Obama raised online came from fundraising e-mails. During the campaign, Obama’s staff wouldn’t answer questions about them or the alchemy that made them so successful. Now, with the election over, they’re opening the black box.
The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers.
It quickly became clear that a casual tone was usually most effective. “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people,” Fallsgraff says. “ ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” Another blockbuster in June simply read, “I will be outspent.” According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million.
Writers, analysts, and managers routinely bet on which lines would perform best and worst. “We were so bad at predicting what would win that it only reinforced the need to constantly keep testing,” says Showalter. “Every time something really ugly won, it would shock me: giant-size fonts for links, plain-text links vs. pretty ‘Donate’ buttons. Eventually we got to thinking, ‘How could we make things even less attractive?’ That’s how we arrived at the ugly yellow highlighting on the sections we wanted to draw people’s eye to.”
Another unexpected hit: profanity. Dropping in mild curse words such as “Hell yeah, I like Obamacare” got big clicks. But these triumphs were fleeting. There was no such thing as the perfect e-mail; every breakthrough had a shelf life. “Eventually the novelty wore off, and we had to go back and retest,” says Showalter.
Fortunately for Obama and all political campaigns that will follow, the tests did yield one major counterintuitive insight: Most people have a nearly limitless capacity for e-mail and won’t unsubscribe no matter how many they’re sent. “At the end, we had 18 or 20 writers going at this stuff for as many hours a day as they could stay awake,” says Fallsgraff. “The data didn’t show any negative consequences to sending more.”
BuzzFeed points out that Obama is not using his e-mail list to try to put pressure on Congress to support his economic policies before we go over the fiscal cliff. Republicans and Democrats have theories as to why this is not being used:
Republicans involved in “fiscal cliff” talks, meanwhile, simply downplay the list’s power. The group that gathered to support Obama, they argue, didn’t sign up for four years of inside battles.
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past four years, it’s that his list is very effective when it comes to voter turnout, but a complete dud when it comes to firing up the masses on policy debates,” said one senior Republican official.
Progressives on Obama’s left flank make a different argument: Obama’s agenda is simply further to the center than many of his most devoted supporters want or imagine, and his moderate goals are hard to organize around. Obama demoralized liberals and labor unions (the most organized element of the Democratic base) by preemptively dropping his demand for a public option for health care in the 2009 negotiations on that subject.
“They’re going to have the same problem they did in ’09 when they started leaving ‘public option’ out of their health care e-mails. What they’re pushing is at odds with what their base wants,” said Jane Hamsher, the founder of the combative liberal blog Firedoglake, whose present view is that Democrats are “dying to knife their base.”
“Obama wants a ‘grand bargain’ with ‘entitlement reform,’” she said. “The base does not want to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.”
Part of the problem is that there was complete agreement among Obama supporters in backing Obama’s reelection but that his supporters hold a variety of viewpoints on specific issues. Some are to the left of Obama as mentioned above, while the Democratic coalition also contains a fair number of more conservative individuals who are to the right of Obama. Opposition to the entire Republican agenda was also a far greater motivating factor than any specific issue.
If we were still heading into an election, Mitt Romney would now have lost two news cycles over his comment to donors that Obama won because of gifts. It is a common strategy of the right wing to exaggerate the percentage of government spending on aide for others while building a false narrative that Democrats are a bunch of poor people looking for government handouts. As was the case with the attack on the Benghazi consulate, Mitt Romney appears to actually believe the right wing talking points.
Romney made it clear that he really does believe the 47 percent line which contributed to his defeat. Encouraging fear and hatred of minorities is a standard Republican tactic, but Romney’s theory that Obama won due to gifts to minorities fails to explain Obama’s victories in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. On the other hand, the close correlation between the old slave states and the red states is no coincidence. (Virginia has become an exception due to the Washington, D.C. suburbs in the northern part of the state).
Steven Taylor debunked the belief that the affluent vote Republican and the poor vote Democratic.
Here’s the empirical problem: if our parties were truly cleaved along class lines, then we would see voting patterns based almost exclusively, if not exclusively, along wealth lines. While we see some divisions along these lines, we do not have class-based voting (i.e., the Dems are not the party solely of the poor nor are the Reps the party exclusively of the rich). There are a lot of lower income whites (in particular) who vote Republican and there are a substantial number of middle and upper class persons who vote Democratic.
For example, Gallup polled registered voters in September based on income and found the following:
While we see some clear class-based divisions, they are hardly as pronounced as Romney, et al., is making it out to be. Not only are there clearly substantial number of poor persons voting Romney, there is a sizeable percentage of the wealthy voting Obama.
Quite frankly, if the Democrats were, in fact, exclusively the party of the poor, we would see different policy proposals from them.
John Avlon uses this misconception to show that we are fortunate that Mitt Romney wasn’t elected president:
Romney’s comments about his opponent’s “old playbook,” as he called it, again revived a dystopian scenario conservatives have been warning about since the New Deal, where Democrats “buy” a permanent majority and undermine democracy at the cost of the productive class. Using this old myth to explain his defeat illustrates again Romney’s disconnect from modern America. He views growing groups—young voters and particularly young women, and Hispanics—as outside special interests, and not as an essential part of the fabric of America.
And it shows the mind of a man who believes that everything is for sale—including, or especially, votes. This is consistent with what I always felt was the most accurate criticism of Romney: that he approached politics as a salesman, offering every group a different pitch. From that perspective, it’s easy to see how he could complain about government as a competing salesman, cobbling together constituencies with “gifts”—which sound perilously close to “bribes” in this context.
A final point: President Obama backing the DREAM Act or contraception coverage is not a nakedly political gesture, it is a matter of policy difference. Addressing the needs and desires of people is not a bribe or a government gift to be exchanged for a vote. It is part of the purpose of representative government as conservative forefather Edmund Burke himself once envisioned: “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.”
Romney’s distance from this perspective about government shows how far the conservative conversation has drifted from original principles. His impulse to rationalize defeat as victory for liberal special-interest bribery shows again that it is probably best for the country that he was not elected president this November.
Considering how wrong Romney was, it only made sense for a Republican politician to criticize Romney to look more in touch with reality than the typical Republican. Bobby Jindal had this to say:
“I don’t think that represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party,” he said. “That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election: If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream. Period. No exceptions.”
I think Romney does represent where much of the Republican Party is, but Jindal is smart to repudiate this view.
Those in the RNC who put winning ahead of echoing the views of Rush Limbaugh also found reasons other than those presented by Romney for why he lost. This includes changing demographics and finding that those who blamed George Bush for the state of the economy out numbered those blaming Obama 53 percent to-38 percent. The report did not look at factors such as opposition to increased government intrusion in the private lives of individuals under Republican policies. I imagine that opening discussion of this would not help them pursue their false narrative of being the party of small government.
Many conservatives totally fail to understand why they did so poorly in last week’s election. Andrew Marcus at Townhall asks a rather ridiculous question: WWBC–What Would Breitbard Do?
The simple answer is that Andrew Breitbart would probably do what he always did before he died. He would spread lies about the opposition. He would do things such as editing video to make it appear that his opponents said things totally different from what they said.
Another answer is that he would remain on the losing side. We saw this year that, despite a spending amount of spending to spread right wing misinformation, Republican ads and false arguments did not fool the voters. People like Breitbart primarily fool other conservatives into believing their false descriptions of Democratic policies and beliefs, putting them at a disadvantage when campaigning in the real world as opposed to the conservative echo chamber.
But I’ve said too much. Let conservative bloggers adopt WWBD as their new mantra. This will just make it more difficult for conservatives to communicate with people living in the real world
Republicans spent four years obstructing economic recovery to promote their main goal of making Barack Obama a one-term president. Mitt Romney sold his soul to the radical right. Millions were donated by conservatives hoping to elect a candidate who would give them a slightly lower marginal tax rate, possibly costing some more than paying the taxes would. Not only was Obama reelected, Tuesday was a victory for liberalism over the authoritarian right with voters objecting to Republican policies of increased government intrusion in the private lives of individuals.
In 2004 Republicans might have defeated John Kerry by boosting turnout among social conservatives by placing votes on gay marriage on the ballot in several states. Since then the nation’s attitude has changed, but until yesterday legalization of same-sex marriage only came from the legislatures or courts. Yesterday voters turned out to pass measures supporting same-sex marriage in Maryland and Maine.
Some Republicans believed that a proposal to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota would bring out more evangelical voters than expected by the pollsters, tipping the state and ultimately the nation to Mitt Romney. Republican pundits and blogs have had multiple theories to promote their predictions that Romney would win and the polls were wrong. Instead facts prevailed with the polls, and those predicting based upon the polls such as Nate Silver, turning out to be right. If this was simply a matter of partisans being overly optimistic about their chances this might be understandable. The problem is that the conservative media promotes an alternate reality which ignores facts on a daily basis, ignoring the facts which should be considered when deciding policies on matters such as the economy, health care, and the environment.
One argument from Republicans was that the polls were wrong because they over-sampled Democrats. (Some Democrats made the same mistake in denying Obama’s temporary fall in the polls following the Denver debate). I was confident of an Obama victory as soon as the exit polls showed that the electorate closely resembled what was shown in the polls. Party identification is fluid, with voters supporting Obama being more likely to identify themselves as Democrats. This also must be considered when hearing reports that the polls showed a lead for Romney among independents. Large numbers of the independents who voted for Obama in 2008 now call themselves Democrats. The Republican name as become so toxic that many former Republicans now call themselves independents, making it likely that a substantial number of such independents would vote Republican. In the past centrists and independents had much more overlap than now. While independents now lean Republican, centrists voted Democratic in substantial numbers.
Republican strategy did not work because they did not realize how out of tune they were with the voters, or did not care. Once again, the Tea Party helped the Democrats pick up Senate seats and maintain control. Speaking out against abortion rights and contraception was a losing strategy. With Florida’s final results not yet in but appearing to go to Obama, supporting policies which would seriously damage both Medicare and Social Security also does not look like a winning strategy. Romney’s strategy of enormous ad spending, non-stop lying on the campaign trail, and voter suppression also turned out to be failing political strategies.
The extremism of the Republican Party makes it difficult to see how the Republicans can have much success in the future unless they change. William F. Buckley, Jr. was right when he fought to keep the equivalent of the Tea Party in his day out of the conservative movement. Barry Goldwater was right when he called himself a liberal in his later years in protest over the influence of the religious right on the GOP. If Republicans could not win this year, when it wasn’t difficult to place the blame for the Bush economic crash on the incumbent, how will they do in future years after the economy continues to recover? Republicans can no longer count on their Southern strategy for guaranteed electoral votes. Virginia and most-likely Florida went to Obama, and Obama looked like he might also win in North Carolina before the first debate. In future years the Republicans will have a tougher time holding on to North Carolina, Arizona, and possibly Georgia.
The Democrats retain control of the Senate, and appear likely to continue this despite the manner in which the Senate is tilted towards the smaller, often conservative states. They might hold onto the House for the next several years due to the advantages Republicans received from redistricting after the 2010 elections. We might need to wait until 2020 to reverse this.
The presidency is now far harder for Republicans to win. Changing demographics will make it even harder in the future for Republicans to win based upon their main base of voter support–poorly educated, low-information, white Christian males. Republicans need more support from minorities, but that also means abandoning their strategy of obtaining votes by promoting fear and hatred of minorities among their base.
If Romney had won, Republican economic ideas might have mistakenly received credit for the continued economic recovery which is likely to occur over the next four years. This was the last shot for Republicans to block Obamacare, which may soon become a permanent part of the country as Medicare and Social Security have become. Barack Obama, not Mitt Romney, may have a chance to appoint the next few justices to the Supreme Court, preventing the court from overturning Row v. Wade and possibly reversing Citizens United. Conservatives wanted this election badly as many realized this could have been their last chance prevent the United States from being part of the 21st century. They lost, and it is difficult to see where they go from here.
The final polls remain extremely close but there is plenty of reason for optimism among Obama supporters. The Romney campaign is also trying to look optimistic, citing internal polls which vary several points from the nonpartisan ones.
The final national polls show a slim lead for Obama, especially if you follow the usual rule of thumb that Rasmussen will favor Republicans by two points:
I was especially interested to see the Gallup poll after it went on hiatus after Sandy hit. Gallup has found support for Obama to be trailing behind the other polls, and still does by a small margin. Gallup has shown Obama to be trailing as by as much as five points in October. The final poll shows Obama trailing by only one point among likely voters, essentially a tie, suggesting the momentum is on Obama’s side. Obama leads 49% to 46% among all registered voters–showing both the importance of turning out to vote and the potential which Obama has to outperform the polls should his turnout be better than expected.
The final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Obama leading 47% to 46% but also provides reason to believe that Obama has a better shot than Romney of picking up the voters who are still up for grabs:
The survey found that 9% of the likely voters are up for grabs (meaning they’re undecided or just leaning to a candidate), and these folks have more positive feelings toward Obama than Romney. Obama’s job approval with them is 48% approve, 41% disapprove. What’s more, Obama’s fav/unfav with them is 46%/29%, vs. Romney’s upside down 22%-49%. Bottom line: Our pollsters see more of an opportunity for Obama among these voters and more of an uphill climb for Romney.
These findings do show momentum towards Obama, which is also seen in many of the battleground states. Most polls agree that Obama leads in Ohio, which makes it very difficult for Romney to win unless he can significantly out-perform the polls. Most of the disagreement in predictions comes down to Florida and Virginia, which were leaning towards Obama before the first debate, leaned towards Romney after, and are now too close to call. Larry Sabato predicts Obama will win with 290 electoral votes with Romney winning in Florida and Virginia. Nate Silver’s model has increased Obama’s chances of winning to 92.2%,predicting Obama will win in Florida and Virginia, returning to where the race was before the Denver debate. Sam Wang is preparing his final predictions, with his site showing Obama with the advantage. The conservative-leaning Real Clear Politics average of polls gives Obama a lead of 0.7%. Their electoral map with toss up state allocated to the candidate who is leading gives Obama 303 electoral votes winning in Virginia but losing Florida. Intrade currently has Obama’s chances of being reelected at 67.4% None of these findings mean anything after the real numbers are in, but Obama certainly is in a better position going into election day. The question is whether this lead is enough to overcome Republican attempts at voter suppression.
The Alabama-LSU game is getting more hype today, but the Oh0 State-Illinois game was far more important for the future of this nation. That is because a correlation has been found between winning football games and how voters feel about voting for the incumbent:
What exactly is it that makes voters reward a challenger or punish an incumbent? Do they care about the unemployment rate, GDP, or inflation, or is it how those variables are moving? Are voters motivated by position papers or a candidate’s personal history? Is the electorate responding to slick TV ads or how the candidates performed in the debates?
It may be something else altogether. Recent research has revealed that voter irrationality may be more arbitrary than we think. And in a razor-thin election just enough irrationality can make all the difference. Just how irrational are voters? It is statistically possible that the outcome of a handful of college football games in the right battleground states could determine the race for the White House.
Economists Andrew Healy, Neil Malhotra, and Cecilia Mo make this argument in a fascinating article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. They examined whether the outcomes of college football games on the eve of elections for presidents, senators, and governors affected the choices voters made. They found that a win by the local team, in the week before an election, raises the vote going to the incumbent by around 1.5 percentage points. When it comes to the 20 highest attendance teams—big athletic programs like the University of Michigan, Oklahoma, and Southern Cal—a victory on the eve of an election pushes the vote for the incumbent up by 3 percentage points. That’s a lot of votes, certainly more than the margin of victory in a tight race. And these results aren’t based on just a handful of games or political seasons; the data were taken from 62 big-time college teams from 1964 to 2008.
The good news, we suppose, is that sports really can cheer us up and make the world seem like a brighter place. The sports fan is left happier and more satisfied all around, not just on the gridiron. When you are feeling upbeat and happy, you feel more satisfied with the status quo in general. And feeling satisfied with the status quo makes you more likely to vote for the incumbent politician, even if that’s totally irrational.
The study’s authors control for economic, demographic, and political factors, so the results are much more sophisticated than just a raw correlation. They also did a deeper analysis that took into account people’s expectations. It turns out that surprise wins are especially potent, raising local support for incumbent politicians by around 2.5 percentage points.
Alabama and Louisiana will go to Romney regardless of the score of a football game, but Obama has such a narrow lead in Ohio that we’ll take any benefits from Ohio State beating Illinois. Michigan is probably safe for Obama, but it doesn’t hurt that Michigan won today (despite Denard Robinson still being out after the injury suffered during the Nebraska game). Florida came back to beat Missouri, possibly delivering another swing state. Virginia beat North Carolina State, helping in the southeast swing state where Obama’s chances were already better. Miami beat Virginia Tech on Thursday, providing mixed results. Colorado was no match for Stanford so Obama better clinch reelection without waiting for the results from the western states just to be safe.
Rasmussen typically has a two point Republican bias. Still, just showing a tie has Dick Morris backing off on his predictions which I discussed earlier this week.
Romney could still win, but would have to out-perform the polls by over two percent to have a chance. The Denver Post has nine electoral college predictions–showing different combinations of states which lead to an Obama victory.
Supporters of each party are looking for ways in which their party could out-perform the polls (with Obama merely needing to match the polls at this point). Both parties have argued that early voting is helping them. The problem for the Republicans is that much of their early voting is occurring in southern states which will go Republican regardless of when people vote. The real question is not who is getting the most early votes, but whether Democrats will increase their total turnout with early voting. Polls of all registered voters typically show the Democrats doing five points better than polls of likely voters. If the Democrats can narrow this gap they can boost the numbers above.
Back in 2004 liberal blogs were counting on the Incumbent Rule to give Kerry the victory. The basic idea is that if the incumbent is running at under 50 percent, the majority of undecided voters will break for the challenger (already knowing the incumbent), giving a challenger who is close behind the victory. That didn’t work for Kerry, and it doesn’t look like this will work for Romney.
Other factors might also alter the results compared to the polls. The Libertarian Party, along with the Constitution Party in Virginia, might take a small number of votes away from Romney. I don’t see the Green Party as being a threat to Obama this year as Nader was to Al Gore in 2000. The Constitution Party’s candidate, Virgil Goode, is from Virginia and has the potential of taking enough votes from Romney to give Obama the state in a close race, while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson might be a spoiler in some western battle ground states.
There is speculation that the polls might be under-counting Latino votes, possibly enabling Obama to do several points better in some states, as Harry Reid did when running for reelection two years ago.
Under counting cell phone users might also play a part. Polls using robocalls are legally not allowed to call cell phone, underestimating younger voters who are more likely to vote Democratic (assuming they do show up to vote). Polls not using cell phones do try to adjust their numbers but at least one Democratic pollster believes that Obama is actually doing much better than the polls show.
These factors favor Obama, and there is one more trend which helps Obama. He had the far better week, denying Romney the chance to regain the momentum he held after the first debate. Besides just dominating the news, he benefits from comments from Chris Christie, the endorsement from Michael Bloomberg, and the report of an increase in jobs created. There is very little time left for something to happen to change the trajectory of the race.
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:
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):
Silver’s model is currently estimating that Obama will win 295 electoral votes. That’s eight fewer than predicted by Sam Wang’s state polling meta-analysis and 37 fewer than Drew Linzer’s Votamatic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As with the earlier debates, I will be commenting throughout the debate on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve noted before that Arizona is a state where Obama has a shot of taking away a state which is not generally onsidered a swing state. Or course, since that post was written the national race has changed significantly due to the manner in which debates are won based upon style as opposed to substance. However, despite the tightening in the polls nationally, Arizona still does appear to be in play. The latest Rocky Mountain Poll shows Obama to be in the lead, although still within the margin of error:
After trailing Mitt Romney by as much as eight points in the days immediately following the Presidential debate, the President is now in a statistical tie with Romney in Arizona both as regards the overall electorate and among those mostly likely to cast ballots. While Obama leads Romney by two points in the race for President, the gap is within the study’s margin of error and basically means they are in a dead heat.
In the U.S.Senate race,Democrat Richard Carmona has a four point lead over Republican Jeff Flake,which again indicates a dead even race, since the vote gap is within the margin of error of the survey.Thus it must be concluded that Arizona is definitely a battle ground state for both the Presidential and the U.S. Senate races and there can be little doubt but that the outcome will be largely dependent on which political party does the best job in turning out its voters and whether the Democrats can hang onto the Latino vote
Getting supporters out to vote is a key factor nation-wide as polls show Obama to do significantly worse in studies of likely voters as opposed to all registered voters. The tightening of the race in Arizona does show how significant the Latino vote is–a factor which might tip the balance in other close states.
Update: Josh Marshall questions whether this is an outlier. I don’t disagree, but I have seen other polls showing Obama to be close in Arizona and have read speculation that polling is underestimating Latino support. I don’t take this poll as reason to predict an Obama victory in Arizona at this point, but I do wonder whether Obama should put more of an effort into Arizona under the assumption that he does have a chance to win there. Besides, considering the number of states which Romney has to pick up to have a shot of winning should Obama maintain his lead in Ohio, forcing Romney to fight for another state just makes it a little bit more difficult for him. Winning Arizona would also increase the chances that Obama could win the election even if he were to lose Ohio and Florida.
There is increasing pessimism about Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the presidential election, even among Republicans. Some are in denial, as many right wing bloggers and pundits believe that the polls are rigged by the mainstream media to predict a Romney defeat. There’s no good explanation as to why Fox and Rasmussen are going along. Others are in the anger stage, blasting Romney for not going far enough to the right or attacking Obama strongly enough. No, Romney has delivered the far right wing message and has repeated all the right wing talking points about Obama, along with making up some of his own. Romney’s repetition of right wing arguments don’t work because because of the absurdity of the message, even if Romney is a flawed messenger. Other Republicans have reached the acceptance stage, including many in Ohio:
Either many top Ohio Republicans are in the grips of the worst panic attack since an Orson Welles 1938 radio drama convinced thousands that the earth was under attack by Martians. Or more likely, judging from the comments of these GOP insiders, Romney’s hopes of carrying Ohio are fast dwindling to something like the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.
Presidential candidates have rebounded from downbeat polls before, especially when we are still five weeks from Election Day. So Romney’s problem is not just the recent Ohio surveys that show him losing to Barack Obama by as many as 10 percentage points. Instead, what is striking is the funereal interpretation that downcast Ohio Republicans derive from these numbers. Maybe Romney isn’t down by 10 points, they argue, but the GOP presidential nominee seems destined to lose by a solid 5 points – and in closely divided Ohio that represents a loss of nearly landslide proportions. (That would mean that Obama would slightly improve his 2008 victory margin against John McCain.)
Many of the well-known Ohio Republicans I interviewed offered their blunt assessments only after they were guaranteed complete anonymity. That is often the Faustian bargain of political journalism in 2012: robotic talking points on the record or something resembling honesty with no names attached. The reason, though, that I am emphasizing the don’t-quote-me part of the equation is that I was stunned by the vehemence of the thumbs-down-on-Mitt verdict. All but conceding the state to Obama, these Republicans were offering what may be the biggest rejection of Ohio since Philip Roth wrote “Goodbye Columbus.”
The Romney problem in Ohio is not so much campaign strategy as the candidate’s inability to transcend who he is. “The Obama people have convinced Ohio voters of two things,” says Curt Steiner, a well-connected Republican public relations strategist. “That Mitt Romney doesn’t believe anything. And what he does believe is all anti-middle class.”
While there is time left, Romney does not appear to have the ability to turn things around:
The potential pitfall for Romney in Ohio, though, is the person behind the political veneer. As a Ohio Republican insider, who resisted my pleas to put this colorful metaphor on the record, told me, “Romney is a guy who is used to talking to the board of directors instead of the shareholders or the employees.”
When a presidential nominee is perceived by his own party as not being able to talk even to Americans wealthy enough to own stock, there are deep political problems from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
There is still time for things to change but I don’t believe it is possible for Romney to do anything to change his fate. If Obama were to lose it will be because of external events which harm the incumbent allowing Romney to win by default, but I cannot see anything Romney could do to win without major external assistance. The quotation on the 47 percent is hurting Romney by showing that the narrative spread about him really is true. As much as that quote hurts, I’m not so sure that the choice of Paul Ryan wasn’t more disastrous, tying Mitt Romney to the Republican plans to destroy Medicare and Social Security.
If Romney was only facing a six point deficit nationally there might be a chance of recovery. His problem is in the electoral college, with swing states beyond Ohio leaning strongly towards Obama. At this point Obama appears to being very close to repeating his 2008 margin of victory in the electoral college. Obama leads in at least some polls in every state he won in 2008 other than Indiana, which regrets its 2008 decision to join the 21st century. Some states such as Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and especially North Carolina are close but Obama could still squeeze out 271 electoral votes even if he were to lose all of these states, provided he maintains his lead in Ohio and other states where he now has a comfortable lead. There is also a chance that Obama could pick up some states he lost in 2008 should he decide to make an effort there. Some polls show Obama close in Arizona and Missouri. While he will probably lose both again in 2012, I wonder if Obama should spend some time and money there to force Romney to fight to preserve those states, along with the long list of swing states mentioned above where Obama is leading.
The bleak Republican outlook in the race for the White House caries over to the Republican prospects in other races. There is no longer much talk of the Republicans being able to win control of the Senate, and a Democratic take over in the House no longer looks unimaginable.
Obama is running a brutal anti-Romney ad (video above) which consists entirely of Romney’s words on the 47 percent and representative pictures of people who might not pay income taxes. The ad works because it reinforces the negative views of Romney previously spread by the Obama campaign, showing that the attacks are true based upon Romney’s own words. Greg Sargent commented:
Obama and Democrats had spent the better part of a year painting Romney as a corporate predator who is completely disconnected from the economic experiences of ordinary Americans and thinks cutting taxes for the rich and letting unfettered free market capitalism run rampant will magically solve all our problems. The idea behind that attack line wasn’t just to paint Romney as a heartless plutocrat; it was designed to make it easier for voters to believe that his policies really would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
Judging by recent polling — a stunning 38 percent of Ohio voters think Romney cares about the needs and problems of people like them — that version of Romney may be taking hold among voters. Now Dems have him on video essentially acting out the worst caricature of himself by speaking with undisguised disdain about nearly half the country — the less privileged half. As Jonathan Chait put it recently, Romney played the part of the “sneering plutocrat” who “put himself forward as the hopeful president of the top half of America against the bottom.” This, exactly at the moment when Romney is fighting perceptions that his policies are skewed in favor of the rich, and undecided voters are making their final choice about which candidate can truly be trusted to guard their interests.
The damage of the remarks is twofold. Obviously, it deeply reinforces the worst stereotypes voters have of Romney. Indeed, the fact that he is currently running ads trying to make the case that he does care about all of America testifies to the grim position in which Romney finds himself. If you’re trying to clear the threshold of “does this candidate hate me” six weeks before the election, you’re probably not on the verge of closing the sale.
Worse still, the comments destroy Romney’s fundamental credibility. Here America sees what he says behind closed doors. Nothing he can say in public can possibly overcome the damage of these comments, because voters will quite correctly assume that he is telling them what they want to hear. George W. Bush’s campaign figured out how to do this to both Al Gore and John Kerry — by painting them as liars, Bush destroyed them as a message delivery platform. Romney has, essentially, done it to himself.
The size of the political damage Romney has incurred is beside the point. He was trailing narrowly, but in a polarized electorate with a tiny number of undecided voters. Not only has he turned some of those undecided voters against him, but he’s blown up his bridge to reach them.
Romney has lost the support of many undecided voters with this comment. He also risks losing the support of many Republican voters. His assumption that the roughly 47 percent who supported Obama when he said this are the same people as the approximately 47 percent who don’t pay federal income taxes is false (as is most of what he says about taxation and the economy). Those who don’t pay income taxes are split between both parties and include many in the Republican base. Perhaps Romney’s lack of understanding of the Republican base, as well as lack of understanding of those who support his opponent, explains why he is struggling in his campaign.
Polls have often demonstrated that a clear majority supports Democratic positions when no party labels are attached. Many people vote Republican because the right wing noise machine has so thoroughly distorted what both Democrats and Republicans actually believe in. Hearing a candid comment as to true Republican beliefs has given a strong boost to the Democrats.
It was another strong day for the Democrats, leading up to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. While Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and ultimately Barack Obama dominated their evenings, there were many other strong speakers throughout the convention. The Democrats’ “second string” did a better job than the major speakers at the Republican convention. There was a wide variety of speakers, but they all showed a fundamental difference between the parties. The Democrats offer a big tent while the Republicans tell you to buy your own umbrella.
The two speakers who I have met in the past each did an excellent job. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, spoke on Obama saving the auto industry:
The entire auto industry, and the lives of over one million hard-working Americans, teetered on the edge of collapse. And with it, the whole manufacturing sector.
We looked everywhere for help. Almost nobody had the guts to help us – not the banks, not the private investors, and not Bain Capital. Then, in 2009, the cavalry arrived: our new President, Barack Obama! He organized a rescue, made the tough calls, and saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saw the same crisis and you know what he said: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
Sure, Mitt Romney loves our lakes and trees. He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build, and sell those cars? Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator – the workers get the shaft. Mitt Romney says his business experience qualifies him to be President. Sure, he’s made lots of money. Good for him. But how did he make that fortune, and at whose expense? Too often, he made it at the expense of middle-class Americans.Year after year, it was profit before people.
With the auto rescue, he saved more than one million middle-class jobs all across America.
John Kerry had a strong speech on foreign policy, turning around the classic Ronald Reagan line: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.” Full video of Kerry’s speech is above.
Joe Biden returned to the line he has used many times: Osama bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive. Biden was brilliant to tie in Romney’s position on the auto industry to the Bain way:
When I look back now on the President’s decision, I also think of another son of an automobile man–Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit. His father ran American Motors. Yet he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt. It’s not that he’s a bad guy. I’m sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did. I just don’t think he understood—I just don’t think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant-to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets. Write-offs.
Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it’s not the way to lead your country from its highest office.
When things hung in the balance, the President understood it was about a lot more than the automobile industry. It was about restoring America’s pride. He knew what it would mean to leave 1 million people without hope or work if we didn’t act. He knew the message it would have sent to the rest of the world if the United States of America gave up on the industry that helped put America on the map. Conviction. Resolve.
He was similarly hard on Romney’s mistaken view on bin Laden as he described Obama’s strength:
We sat for days in the Situation Room. He listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. And he asked the tough questions. But when Admiral McRaven looked him in the eye and said– “Sir, we can get this done,” I knew at that moment Barack had made his decision. His response was decisive. He said do it. And justice was done.
But Governor Romney didn’t see things that way. When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, he said, and I quote, “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.”
He was wrong. If you understood that America’s heart had to be healed, you would have done exactly what the President did. And you too would have moved heaven and earth–to hunt down bin Laden, and bring him to justice.
Biden summed up the different visions offered by the two parties: “A future where we promote the private sector, not the privileged sector.” So much for more bogus Republican framing. As he demolished Romney’s poor decisions, perhaps BIden should extend his line to “Osama bin Laden is Dead, General Motors Is Alive, and Mitt is a Twitt.”
Finally the man smart enough to marry Michelle Obama (as Clinton called him yesterday) came on. It was a terrible moment for Mitt Romney. There was no empty chair. Barack Obama showed how successful he can be by campaigning on his record, demolishing a common Republican bromide. First he summarized the differences between the parties and had the best line of the evening:
Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:
“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.”
“Deficit too high? Try another.”
“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it – middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.
Obama countered the Republican false framing that Democrats are the party of big government. Instead he explained that Democrats are the party which understands that there is a role for government:
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
In contrast, Obama pointed out that Republicans are the party of big government intruding in the private lives of individuals, warning about “Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.” He promised to prevent Medicare from turning into a voucher program, to protect seniors, and to protect the middle class:
I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.
And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.
This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”
Republicans avoided talk about Afghanistan and supporting veterans. Obama joined other speakers in warning of the dangers of making someone as inexperienced and uninformed as Mitt Romney become Commander-in-Chief:
So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.
After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.
This election is far more about the economy than foreign policy, but will Americans elect a president who is so clearly over his head on issues of national security?
It will be interesting to see what effect this convention has on the polls. I’m not sure that there are many voters left who haven’t made up their minds to provide the types of convention bounces we have seen in the past. Romney received little to no bounce after his convention. The Democrats put on a far better convention and we will soon have an answer as to whether any convention can provide a big bounce. Gallup has shown Obama with a one point lead through the entire Republican convention and into today. As they use a seven day average it will take a few more days to see whether their is a bounce. Reuters is receiving a lot of attention in the conservative blogs for saying there has been no bounce for Obama, but this was after only one night, before the speeches by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.