“In his first interview since losing the election, Mitt Romney says it kills him to not be in the White House. He said he’ll always think of it as the one house he couldn’t buy.” –Conan O’Brien
“In his first interview since losing the election, Mitt Romney says it kills him to not be in the White House. He said he’ll always think of it as the one house he couldn’t buy.” –Conan O’Brien
“What I said is not what I believe.” –Mitt Romney in interview with Fox
Romney was specifically referring to the 47 percent comment but this quote has attracted considerable attention today for what it says about Mitt Romney’s entire political career. As First Read commented, “Folks, that one sentence sums up Romney’s two failed presidential bids.”
In a polarized political world, disgust over Mitt Romney’s dishonesty is a rare thing which many on the left and right agreed about. Liberals objected to the manner in which Romney repeatedly lied about everything from Obama’s positions to economic statistics to questions on his own background during the campaign. Steve Benen documented 917 falsehoods during the campaign (and over the course of the year I noticed a few more which didn’t make the list).
Conservatives also distrusted him, believing that his conversion to far-right conservatism was opportunistic and not sincere. They were also right to mistrust him. Take this assessment of Romney from Daniel Larison at The American Conservative:
Of course, it never mattered whether Romney “really” believed what he was saying, because it became clear years ago that he would have said almost anything to win. In that case, it was a good bet that Romney was always more likely to lie to his audience than not, and for that reason he disqualified himself through sheer, overwhelming dishonesty. When in doubt, it was safe to assume that Romney was lying, and it was usually safe to assume the worst about his intentions. If there was a chance that he might cave in to hard-liners and ideologues in his party, there was no reason to believe that he would ever stand up to them. When the 47% remarks came out, it didn’t matter whether he believed what he had said, because he had been willing to say it and he had done so because he was so desperate to appeal to the worst elements in his party. As it was, everyone assumed that he didn’t believe what he was saying, but we attributed it to his unprincipled willingness to pander, which simply made his awful statements seem that much worse.
Romney told more falsehoods than most politicians, but other conservatives were coming close. To a considerable degree Romney’s falsehoods echoed the false narratives which are common in echo chamber of the conservative movement, as they falsely portray liberals as supporters of big government and out of control spending when this is a better description of actual Republican policies when they are in power. Newt Gingrich is often as out of touch with reality as any conservative, and at other times provides an accurate insight into politics. He was honest in an interview with Salon:
…I think conservatives in general got in the habit of talking to themselves. I think that they in a sense got isolated into their own little world. So our pollsters, many of whom were wrong about turnout. No Republican pollster thought you could get 87 percent turnout in Milwaukee. You just sort of have to say that to some extent the degree to which we believed that the other side was kidding themselves, it turned out in fact in the real world – this is a part of what makes politics so fascinating – it turned out in the real world we were kidding ourselves.
Reality intruded into predictions of the election outcome. Does Gingrich realize that the same isolation from reality applies to virtually all the noise now coming out of the conservative movement? Being out of touch with reality, as well as the beliefs of most Americans, is why the Republicans are now unable to win a national election.
Michigan wound up with far right Republicans in control of state government during the GOP sweep of 2010. This has led to problems including passing a so-called “right to work” law, attempts to restrict reproductive rights, and state government attempting to ignore the will of the voters in legalization of medical marijuana. While most states have given up on the idea of trying to rig elections, many Michigan Republicans are still pushing for this:
Republicans handed Bobby Schostak another two-year term as state chairman Saturday and overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to change Michigan presidential electoral vote rules in a way opponents charge is intended to distort election results in favor of GOP candidates.
By a 1,370-132 margin at the party convention in Lansing, GOP members approved a resolution backing a proposal from Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, to divvy-up 14 of the state’s 16 electoral votes according to which candidate got the most votes in each congressional district. The other two would go to the state-wide vote total winner.
That switch from a winner-take-all formula that has been in effect 175 years could water down the dominance Democrats have had in Michigan in presidential elections for the last 24 years.
Critics say the plan would have given Mitt Romney nine of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes last year, although he lost by more than 500,00 votes to President Barack Obama state-wide. With the win, Obama captured all 16 Michigan electoral votes.
Lund introduced a bill to make the revision last year but it was unsuccessful. Hesaid he intends to reintroduce it in 2013, but leaders of the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers haven’t publicly announced a position on it.
The current winner take all system in effect in all but two states might sound undemocratic, but provides results far closer to the national popular vote than allocating electoral votes by Congressional district. Under the current system, the winner of the popular vote has won the vast majority of elections. The 2000 election provided a notable exception with Al Gore winning the popular vote but George Bush winning the electoral vote. Reviews of the results in Florida afterwards did show that Gore would have won Florida (and therefore the election) if there was a state-wide recount, but not in the more limited recounts sought by Gore which were ultimately shut down by the Supreme Court.
There are two problems with the Republican proposal to allocate electoral votes based upon Congressional districts. Republicans hold a larger number of Congressional districts than they should receive based upon numbers of votes for each party due to gerrymandering. Even if not for gerrymandering, the concentration of Democratic voters in cities compared to the more rural Republican voters would result in Democrats controlling a smaller number of Congressional districts–winning by larger margins in cities than Republicans would win in other areas.
While is is preferable that the winner of the popular vote becomes president, allocating electoral votes by state helps to level out these issues and provides a result far closer to the popular vote than the Republican proposal would. Of course the Republican proponents realize this and prefer rigging elections to providing a platform which more voters would support. Even many Republicans oppose this. Hopefully some oppose this in support of democracy. Other motivating factors for some Republicans is the hope that they can carry an entire state and receive all of its electoral votes in the future, and fear of their state becoming less meaningful to candidates and receiving less attention during elections.
The Democratic demographic advantages in presidential elections has been predicted for years in works such as The Emerging Democratic Majority published in 2002. There is no doubt that changing demographics played a major role in Barack Obama’s victories but Republicans should be cautious about blaming their loses too much on this and ignoring other reasons for their electoral defeats.
The most recent use of this argument comes from an article entitled How to Save the Republican Party by Michael Gerson & Peter Wehner in Commentary:
The first factor is America’s changing demographics. Much has been written on this topic, but the essential datum is the long-term shrinking of those demographic groups, especially white voters, who traditionally and reliably favor the GOP: from 89 percent of the electorate in 1976 to 72 percent in 2012. This decline is partially an artifact of a change in the way the Census Bureau classifies Hispanics, who used to be counted among whites before being placed in a separate category. But it has much more to do with a real, ongoing change in the composition of the American populace. In any given contest, the GOP can overcome this obstacle. Over time, however, the obstacle will grow ever larger.
Consider the performance of Mitt Romney, who carried the white vote by 20 points. If the country’s demographic composition were still the same last year as it was in 2000, he would now be president. If it were still the same as it was in 1992, he would have won in a rout. If he had merely secured 42 percent of the Hispanic vote—rather than his pathetic 27 percent—Romney would have won the popular vote and carried Florida, Colorado, and New Mexico. Republicans, in short, have a winning message for an electorate that no longer exists.
While demographics were important, this does not mean that Obama or another Democrat could not have won with the electorate of earlier years. Besides demographics, Obama did better than Romney due to using modern technology more efficiently and understanding the electorate better than the Romney campaign. If the demographic changes had not occurred, Obama would have targeted the electorate which actually existed and might have won some of the voters which were written off to Republicans in recent years.
A more important factor is that the white vote, which Romney won, would not have voted as they had if not for the demographic changes. The Republicans have been promoting fear, racism, and xenophobia to win a large percentage of the white vote. Republicans would not have been as effective in promoting fear of minorities among white voters if the percentage of minorities in this country has not been increasing, and Republicans likely would not receive as high a percentage of the white vote as they currently do.
Gerson and Wehner are also making a mistake in concentrating on racial demographic changes and not the effect of losing young voters. The Republicans have taken positions on economics, national security, and social issues which are counter to reality and out of touch with the desires of most voters. Even most remaining Republican voters tend to support Democratic positions in polls where positions are polled without attachment to a party. As people tend to stick with the party they first vote for, Republicans might have lost a generation of young voters who understand the folly of current Republican positions.
Gerson and Wehner are also over-confident about the prospects of Republican recovery because of controlling the House and a majority of governorships. This is due to a combination of gerrymandering, the concentration of Democratic voters in cities, and the electoral advantages for the party which dominates in small rural states. More people voted for Democratic Congressmen than Republican in 2012 but that was not enough to give Democrats a majority in actual House seats. Republicans dominate in state governments due to a combination of victories which were probably an aberration in 2010 and because of holding a large number of small states.
While demographics present a problem for Republicans, in the long run their platform is what harms them more. Republican politicians and the media outlets they control talk about issues in terms which do well in polls and focus groups, regardless of actual Republican policies. While they do still fool a significant number of low-information voters, enough voters see through their propaganda. Republicans cannot win by claiming to be the party of small government when they are the ones who support a government which intrudes in the private lives of individuals. Cutting the deficit polls well, but that does not help Republicans among informed voters who understand that in recent years the deficit problem is the fault of Republican economic policies. Similarly Republican fantasies of winning in 2012 because of the economy didn’t come true because informed voters realized that it is Republican policies which are to blame for the recession and for slowing economic recovery.
Republicans have electoral problems as their history of promoting racism and xenophobia is now back-firing against them and because of promoting policies which are unpopular with most voters. Blaming this on racial changes among the electorate as opposed to understanding the faults their entire message will not help the Republicans recover.
There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere today about why the polls underestimated Obama’s lead in the 2012 election. Obama won by four points while most polls showed him with a smaller lead. While those studying the polls in depth might find other reasons, I was not surprised as I had discussed possible reasons why the polls might be underestimating Obama’s lead prior to the election. These include under-counting Latinos and exclusive cell phone users. I also felt during the campaign that Obama had greater up-side potential than Romney if he could get his coalition out to vote. Since the election we have heard a lot about how good Obama’s ground game was, and how poor Romney’s was.
Pollsters adjust the raw numbers based upon their model of the actual voters. While conservatives accused the pollsters of being biased against Romney and predicting a higher percentage of Democrats in the electorate, the electorate in 2012 did turn out to be more favorable demographically to Obama than most predicted. Having a larger number of young and minority voters overlaps with the points I previously made about polls potentially underestimating Latino voters and cell phone users (who tend to be younger.) It certainly helped Obama that blacks turned out in a higher percentage than other minority groups. and possibly at a higher percentage than white voters.
Polls are also just a snapshot of a given point in time. The fact that Obama had a far better final week of the campaign might have given him a greater margin of victory than if the election was a week earlier. During the final week Obama benefited from favorable jobs numbers and favorable response to his handling of the storm hitting the east coast, including the pictures of him with Chris Christie.
Poll aggregation presented another issue when polls with different degrees of accuracy were lumped together:
Real Clear Politics began the practice of averaging polls before the 2002 midterm elections. RCP was joined by Pollster.com–which is now part of The Huffington Post–four years later. “Pollster started in 2006, and we were really building on what Real Clear Politics did,” founding Coeditor Mark Blumenthal said. The statistician Nate Silver began a similar practice in 2008, and his site, FiveThirtyEight, was acquired by The New York Times shortly thereafter. More recently, the left-leaning website Talking Points Memo started its PollTracker website before the 2012 election.
Each of these organizations differ in their approaches. Real Clear Politics does a more straightforward averaging of the most recent polls. TPM‘s PollTracker is an aggregation involving regression analysis that uses the most recent polls to project a trajectory for the race. FiveThirtyEight and HuffPost Pollster use polls, adjusting them for house effects–the degree to which a survey house’s polls lean consistently in one direction or another. FiveThirtyEight also uses non-survey data to project the election results.
All four of these outlets underestimated Obama’s margin of victory. Both Real Clear Politics and PollTracker had Obama ahead by only 0.7 percentage points in their final measurements. HuffPost Pollster had Obama leading by 1.5 points, while FiveThirtyEight was closest, showing Obama 2.5 points ahead of Romney in the last estimate. The aggregators that came closest to Obama’s overall winning margin were the ones that attempted to account for pollsters’ house effects.
Rasmussen threw off the average with its Republican bias, typically having a two percent house effect. It was easy to throw out Rasmussen. It was harder to feel comfortable ignoring Gallup, which also was more favorable to Republicans. Here is a Fordham University study ranked the polls.
1. PPP (D)
1. Daily Kos/SEIU/PPP
5. Purple Strategies
13. Pew Research
13. Hartford Courant/UConn
15. FOX News
15. Washington Times/JZ Analytics
15. Newsmax/JZ Analytics
15. American Research Group
15. Gravis Marketing
23. Democracy Corps (D)
27. National Journal
New York Magazine spoke to Public Policy Polling’s director about how he got it right:
When I talked to Tom Jensen, PPP’s director, this morning, he was understandably in the mood to gloat. “These supposed polling experts on the conservative side are morons,” Jensen crowed. “Jay Cost” — the Weekly Standard’s polling expert who’d waged a number-crunching war against PPP — “is an idiot.” But Jensen conceded that the secret to PPP’s success was what boiled down to a well informed but still not entirely empirical hunch. “We just projected that African-American, Hispanic, and young voter turnout would be as high in 2012 as it was in 2008, and we weighted our polls accordingly,” he explained. “When you look at polls that succeeded and those that failed that was the difference.” Given the methodological challenges currently confronting pollsters, those hunches are only going to prove more important. “The art part of polling, as opposed to the science part,” Jensen said, “is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the equation in having accurate polls.”
For some reason I don’t find it to be at all surprising that the Romney campaign ripped off news organizations:
In a coda to the often contentious relationship between Mitt Romney’s staff and the press, news outlets are preparing to file a formal complaint to the Romney campaign contesting some of the seemingly inflated charges that were billed to them from the campaign trail.
It is standard procedure for presidential campaigns to arrange and prepay for meals, bus travel, and charter flights, then bill the news outlets afterward for their share of the cost. In order to travel with the candidate, reporters and their editors must agree upfront to pay for the cost of the trips, as determined by the campaign.
But many of the bills from the Romney campaign — which have continued to trickle in since Election Day — are much higher than during other campaigns.
For example, on Oct. 11, each reporter was charged $812 for a meal and a rented “holding” space, where the press waited before moving to the next event. On Oct. 18, the bill for a similar set of expenses was $461. And on the night of the vice presidential debate, the campaign planned a “viewing party” for the reporters with Romney, complete with a large rented room with a patio, massage tables, fresh cut flowers, and lots of food and booze. One campaign aide told BuzzFeed that campaign officials’ orders were to “go big” — a nice gesture, perhaps, but one that wasn’t discussed with every media outlet.
I might buy the explanation that this was due to incompetence on the part of the campaign rather than dishonesty:
One campaign aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bills were not artificially inflated, but rather the product of a generally mismanaged campaign. The aide said the advance team — which was tasked with arranging meals and accommodations for the press — failed to communicate with other elements of the campaign and consistently spent more money than necessary.
Indeed, reporters on the trail grew accustomed to having five or six catered meals offered to them every day, with long tables full of food awaiting them at each campaign stop. The meals often went untouched and were sometimes consumed by campaign staff. It remains unclear whether those aides shouldered some of the costs of the meals.
In another case of apparent overspending, the campaign rented four “mini-busses,” seating 20 to 30 people apiece, to transport the press after a campaign event in Pennsylvania. According to an aide, the total cost was around $5,000 — divided among just 23 reporters.
An aide said they raised concerns about the costs early on — once media outlets began complaining about the outsize bills — but senior campaign officials dismissed them.
Perhaps Mittens should pick up the bills.
Mitt Romney may have lost the presidential election but he does hold the title for running the most dishonest campaign in modern history. To add to his accomplishments in this area, PolitiFact has awarded him their Lie of the Year:
It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.
And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.
People often say that politicians don’t pay a price for deception, but this time was different: A flood of negative press coverage rained down on the Romney campaign, and he failed to turn the tide in Ohio, the most important state in the presidential election.
PolitiFact has selected Romney’s claim that Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.
Romney lied so frequently that it is hard to choose just one lie. This was a good choice as it was a blatant lie which Romney repeated despite considerable media coverage of the fact that he was lying. It is a perfect example for an outfit such as PolitFact to use in that it highlights the role of fact checkers in exposing a lie which wound up hurting the lying candidate. However if I were to choose the Lie of the Year I would choose one which the Factcheckers exposed with far less success–the distortion of Obama’s didn’t build it statement. While Obama was speaking of government infrastructure which businesses benefit from, the Romney campaign twisted this to claim that Obama was saying that businessmen did not build their own business. I would give this lie the award because of the audacity of the lie and the frequency with which Republicans repeated it. This including making this lie the theme of the Republican convention in 2012.
“Earlier today Mitt Romney was spotted on a Costco shopping spree. Romney ended up buying 14 Costcos.” –Jimmy Fallon