Last week’s episode of Fringe was entitled The Bullet Which Saved The World. This week we found out what is meant by the episode title An Origin Story and have a better idea as to what last week’s title meant. Peter is going to extreme lengths to ensure that the Observers are defeated and that Etta receives credit for the revolution after her death last week. I had questioned the previous explanation given of the Observers having evolved from humans as the time scan was not great enough. Use of a device to provide the powers does seem more plausible, although simply sticking it in one’s neck seems too simple–not that Fringe has ever been very plausible. Now that Peter is receiving Observer powers, will he also begin looking like them? Why do they all look and dress like that, and why aren’t their any females? Fox has also announced that the series finale will be a two hour episode on January 18.
Jorge Garcia of Lost (and Alcatraz) will be playing the Giant on Once Upon A Time. Garcia was interviewed about his role:
So, you’re playing a murderous giant?
They called me murderous? Wow. Okay.
Hey, that’s what the press release said.
Well, I did a looping session for the giant, and it was basically all growls.
But we’ll be seeing you, not just hearing you, right?
It’s me.They CGI most of the set, so I had to work in a studio completely done in green screen and act against little pieces of tape and dowels, but it’s me, you definitely see my face. I don’t look entirely like myself, though; I’m in costume.
Since you’re working against a green screen, I guess that’s to make you look giant-sized?
Yeah. The perspective is different, because they want me to look like I’m six times the size of everyone else.
The creators of “Lost” created the Hurley character just for you. It seems like something similar happened here.
["Once Upon A Time" creators] Eddie [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz], they were always the keepers of the Hurley stories [on "Lost."]. They wrote most of the scripts about Hurley, so for a while we’ve been talking about working together again, and how they wanted to bring me in for “Once.” I wasn’t available last year because I was working on another show, but they pitched the giant story this year and they gave me a little bit of background about his origin, which will be something to do in a later story.
Matt Smith says that the upcoming episode of Doctor Whowritten by Neil Gaiman will be a separate story from Gaiman’s previous episode, The Doctor’s Wife, but predicts it will be a fan favorite. Smith is also more open to the idea of a Doctor Who/Sherlock cross over than Steven Moffat is. He discussed cross overs with Walking Dead and Breaking Bad in yet another interview
Years ago, after the first trilogy, the plan for Star Wars to make two additional trilogies, one taking place before and one after the original trilogy. The third was to take place when the original cast was older. After the disappointing prequel trilogy, the word was that the series was done and the third trilogy would never be made. As I’m sure everyone has heard this week, George Lucas has the rights to Disney, which will be making further Star Wars movies. This might even include two more trilogies. The upcoming movies are to be centered around Luke Skywalker and others from the original cast, and will be original stories as opposed to being based on Star Wars novels. George Lucas, who will still play a role in the upcoming movies, has already spoken to Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher about returning to their roles.
Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother will return as S.H.I.E.L.D agent Maria Hill in Captain America 2.
Joss Whedon explains how Mitt Romney’s policies are conducive to bringing on the Zombie apocalypse in the video above. Romney is “not afraid to face a ravening, grasping horde of subhumans, because that’s how he sees poor people already.”
And yet another endorsement for Mitt Romney above.
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.
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.
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.
Dillon is a classic American town filled with hard-working, middle-class Americans, who just want to lead productive, healthy lives. And the women we represented on the show — the women we are in real life — are like the millions of women across the nation. Women who want to make our own health care decisions. Women who want to earn equal pay for the work we do. Women who want affordable health care.
In fact, it is President Obama who has shown his values to be more closely aligned with those represented by the phrase. The first measure he signed into law after becoming president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — so a female high school counselor or physical education teacher can fight for equal pay for equal work. This law makes it possible for women such as the character that I (Britton) played of Tami Taylor — to fight for the same wages as men no matter what they do or where they live, from Dillon to Philadelphia, where Tami was able to pursue her dream job as a college admissions counselor.
And President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act has been transformative for women. For the first time in our lives, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition — our insurers can’t charge us more for having breast cancer or being the victim of domestic violence. This law fully covers the cost of our preventive care, our annual check-ups, our birth control. And on Friday Night Lights, quarterback Matt Saracen’s grandma would have then been able to get the affordable health care she needed.
Romney actually wants to throw the entire law — and every benefit — out, and while he’s at it, get rid of Planned Parenthood—the health care provider that nearly three million Americans rely on for their life-saving cancer screenings, well-woman visits and affordable birth control. Planned Parenthood was well represented on the show, too — Brian “Smash” Williams’ mom worked there, Tami got a pregnancy test there, and, after being abandoned by her parents, Becky Sproles was able to get a safe and legal abortion there.
So as women, let’s take “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts” back and use it as it was always intended — as a motivator for progress, power, and greatness. Let’s use our clear eyes and full hearts to vote early. Let’s use our clear eyes and full hearts to tell every friend, family member and neighbor about what’s at stake for women in this election. What’s at stake for all of us.
If we women make ourselves aware of the issues and make our voices heard, we most certainly cannot lose.
Polling purely on issues shows that a majority support liberal positions, even if unaware they are choosing the liberal viewpoint or siding with Democrats. This is one reason that Mitt Romney is now hiding the conservative beliefs he ran on, realizing that Republican beliefs are unpopular. One reason that Republicans still manage to win elections is that far too many voters are unaware of what each party supports. A YouGov survey had some rather disappointing findings:
In a recent YouGov poll, I asked participants about their views on abortion policy and what position they thought Obama, Romney, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party took on abortion. Only about 60% of respondents knew that Obama and the Democrats supported more pro-choice policies than Romney and Republicans. Given that the parties have had clear and long-standing positions on this issue, it’s astonishing that 40% of Americans don’t know this basic fact (other surveys find even higher levels of ignorance).
It doesn’t help matters when the Republicans such as Mitt Romney hide their views and distort the views of others. This includes taking positions entirely different from those he previously ran on to appear more moderate, along with regularly distorting the facts while campaigning and in ads, such as he is now doing regarding the auto industry. Besides being misled on issues such as abortion, voters might easily be fooled into believing that Romney supported the auto bailout which he actually opposed, along with being fooled about the manner in which his policies would severely damage Medicare and Social Security
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 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.
As with the earlier debates, I will be commenting throughout the debate on Facebook and Twitter.
Mitt Romney was embarrassed by his belief in the untrue attacks on Obama from right wing about Libya during last week’s debate. Yet more evidence has come out debunking the attacks on Obama. CIA reports support the Obama administration:
The Romney campaign may have misfired with its suggestion that statements by President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Riceabout the Benghazi attack last month weren’t supported by intelligence, according to documents provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official.
“Talking points” prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account, “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
The CIA document went on: “This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.” This may sound like self-protective boilerplate, but it reflects the analysts’ genuine problem interpreting fragments of intercepted conversation, video surveillance and source reports.
The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate.
“We believe the timing of the attack was influenced by events in Cairo,” the senior official said, reaffirming the Cairo-Benghazi link. He said that judgment is repeated in a new report prepared this week for the House intelligence committee.
Here’s how the senior official described the jumble of events in Benghazi that day: “The attackers were disorganized; some seemed more interested in looting. Some who claimed to have participated joined the attack as it began or after it was under way. There is no evidence of rehearsals, they never got into the safe room . . . never took any hostages, didn’t bring explosives to blow the safe room door, and didn’t use a car bomb to blow the gates.”
The Benghazi flap is the sort of situation that intelligence officers dread: when politicians are demanding hard “yes” or “no” answers but evidence is fragmentary and conflicting. The political debate has focused on whether the attack was spontaneous or planned, but the official said there’s evidence of both, and that different attackers may have had different motives. There’s no dispute, however, that it was “an act of terror,” as Obama described it the next day.
“It was a flash mob with weapons,” is how the senior official described the attackers. The mob included members of the Ansar al-Sharia militia, about four members of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and members of the Egypt-based Muhammad Jamal network, along with other unarmed looters.
The official said the only major change he would make now in the CIA’s Sept. 15 talking points would be to drop the word “spontaneous” and substitute “opportunistic.” He explained that there apparently was “some pre-coordination but minimal planning.”
Kevin Drum summarized what we know and ended with this summary:
There were conflicting reports on the ground, and that was reflected in conflicting and sometimes confused reports from the White House. I don’t think anyone would pretend that the Obama’s administration’s response to Benghazi was anywhere near ideal. Nevertheless, the fact is that their statements were usually properly cautious; the YouTube video really did play a role; the attack was opportunistic, not preplanned; and it doesn’t appear to have had any serious connection with al-Qaeda. It’s true that it took about ten days for all this to really shake out, but let’s be honest: ten days isn’t all that long to figure out what really happened during a violent and chaotic attack halfway around the world. I get that it’s a nice opportunity for Republicans to score some political points in the runup to an election, but really, there’s not much there there.
While it took time to figure out exactly what happened, it is not true, as Mitt Romney claimed, that Barack Obama did not refer to this as a terrorist attack for fourteen days. He actually made such references during the two weeks after the attack, including in speeches on September 12, and 13.
Republicans who are looking for a failure on national security might look back at George Bush, who first ignored intelligence warnings about the 9/11 attack, and then attacked Iraq based upon false claims of weapons of mass destruction.This shows the importance of Obama’s approach of viewing the intelligence as an evolving source of information as opposed to jumping to conclusions as Bush did with Iraq and Romney did with Libya.
Mitt Romney has stopped using Libya on the campaign trail, finding that his claims on the issue are not supported by the facts. It also will be harder for him to use Iran as a campaign issue now that the Obama administration has been successful in getting Iran to talk regarding their nuclear program:
News of the agreement — a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.
It has the potential to help Mr. Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but it could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of the direct talks to buy time.
It is also far from clear that Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win election. Mr. Romney has repeatedly criticized the president as showing weakness on Iran and failing to stand firmly with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat.
Conservatives who oppose negotiations with Iran certainly might be right that Iran will not negotiate in good faith. Despite this risk, it would be foolish not to attempt a negotiated settlement. It will be interesting to see if Mitt Romney takes a position on the proposed negotiations.