Posts Tagged ‘Mitt Romney’

Avalanche On Bullshit Mountain

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

John Stewart’s classic look at the moment the Republicans realized they had lost and tried to justify it to themselves. 

What an incredible story to tell yourself: We would have won were it not for the moral failings of the non-real America. Fox lost because last night minorities, who feel entitled to things, came and took the country from the self sufficient white Medicare retirees and upper class tax avoidance experts, or as they’re also known, your audience.

Perfect.

Reality Pierces Republican Bubble

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Last week’s election was a big victory for President Obama and the Democrats.  But aside from a win for the Democrats, the election was also a win for the pollsters — you know, the trained statisticians who make their living surveying public opinion? These guys were under attack this year by Fox News and the conservative media. According to the perpetually paranoid over at Fox News, the pollsters who were showing Obama leading in the Electoral College for the entire year were just as liberally biased as the overwhelming number of scientists who believe in global warming and the statisticians in the Bureau of Labor Statistics who showed a decline in the unemployment rate in the run up to the election.

Even to the bitter end, Fox contributor and Harvey Fierstein impersonator Dick Morris was predicting an electoral college landslide for Romney, and the conservative media bought it hook line and sinker. I always try to keep Mark Twain’s maxim about statistics in mind, but when you have different polls with varied methodology all telling you something that’s at odds with your view of the world, that’s a pretty good indicator that your assumptions might be incorrect. Morris was contrite this week, explaining that he assumed a turnout more in line with 2004, but it’s not clear that there was any evidence to suggest this except the personal opinions of him and others on Fox.

I was having this debate months ago with my conservative uncle whose comeback for “the polls are showing you behind” was always “not according to Scott Rasmussen.” Rasumssen was was the king of the 500 person automated poll which assumed a strong Republican turnout based on responses to questions regarding party identification. Rasumussen’s polls consistently showed a Republican bias of a few points, which can make a real difference in a close election. But a little knowledge can be dangerous and Rasmussen’s polling bred a cottage industry of bloggers contesting the polling in the presidential race by adjusting the party identification mix the pollsters were predicting based on their interviews. The website unskewedpolls.com was the most prominent of the naysayers and they “specialized” in taking other peoples polls and recasting the results by adding more Republicans to the mix.

Meanwhile, the conservative media shills needed to find a visible scapegoat and they found it in Nate Silver, a statistician who turned to election prediction in 2007. Silver had a great record in 2008, predicting every state except Indiana for Obama. In the wake of that election, he was hired by the New York Times as a blogger, where (in case you were wondering) he did well predicting the Republican Congressional landslide year of 2010 as well.

Silver’s model was projecting an Obama win for most of the year based on his narrow but steady lead in the Electoral College polls. Oftentimes, his percentage prediction of an Obama win seemed over-optimistic, so you could quibble with the confidence level, but it’s hard to look at a guy who leads for most of the year in enough electoral college states to win the presidency and argue that he’s not the favorite. Plus, this is a statistical model. One assumes that if Romney was showing the same swing state resiliency, then it would have shown the same result for him.

By the Monday before the election, Silver had Obama at an 85% chance of victory. Meanwhile, the folks at Fox were still telling their viewers that Romney had the momentum and was going to win this thing. Dick Morris, George Will and others predicted a Romney landslide. Perpetually smarmy Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote a blog post that Monday in which she predicted Romney would win the election based almost completely on… a feeling she had. Business Insider called it “the most anti-Nate Silver column imaginable,” not because she spoke about or even alluded to Silver, but because her analysis was almost completely devoid of empirical facts. This seemed like bravado at the time — a way to embolden the troops before a big fight–but in the aftermath it looked like they spent so much time in their own bubble that they couldn’t imagine any other objective reality where a majority could vote for Obama. Last week James Fallows likened it to the dismay attributed to Pauline Kael in the wake of the 1968 election when she couldn’t imagine how Nixon could have won, since “no one I know voted for him.”

To a certain extent, this makes sense. If you spend all your time talking to white Republicans who think that Obama is leading this country on a dangerous slide to socialism, that’s going to color your analysis. To be sure, Romney did carry white voters by a big margin and if the electorate turned out to be as white as they all seemed to think it would be, then we would have been looking at President Romney. But with all of the evidence pointing the other way, these guys should have known better. I have to imagine that there’s more than a few Fox viewers this week who feel like they’ve been had.

It’s Demographics, Dummies

Sunday, November 11th, 2012


Today’s Meet the Press panel on the demographic bomb that helped to decide this election.

I joked this week that the good news for Mitt Romney is that he won the white vote decisively. The bad news is that it’s not 1952…

As Chuck Todd wrote the day after the election:

Yes, the auto bailout mattered in Ohio. Sure, Hurricane Sandy helped the president. And, yes, the economy was the No. 1 issue. But make no mistake: What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces.

Steve Schmidt points out that the last Republican to win 60% of the white vote was George H.W. Bush and he won 400 electoral votes as a result. This week, Mitt Romney won 206 with a similar percentage. Not only did Obama benefit from increased numbers of Hispanics in the electorate,  his get out the vote efforts brought out a higher percentage of African Americans in 2012 than in 2008, as well as (contrary to most predictions) increasing youth turnout, with 60% of 18-29 year olds voting for him. Romney also took a beating at the hands of single women, losing that demographic by a whopping 36%.

This trend was a long time coming for the Republicans, with George Bush winning 44% of Latino’s in 2004, John McCain winning 31% in 2008 and Romney winning only 27% this time around. If you want to understand the reason for this change, just watch some Republican debates from earlier this year. If you want to understand the single women margin, just watch Todd Akin’s infamous “Legitimate Rape” interview or Richard Mourdock’s “God’s Plan” comment, or read Virginia’s forced ultrasound bill.  As Matthew Dowd noted last week, the Republican party is “a Mad Men Party in a Modern Family world.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Mad Men. I’d just rather live in the modern world, and apparently neither would most Americans.

 

Romney Doesn’t Have The Mojo

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Well, here we are.

After all of the blood, sweat, tears and trash talk, the election is one and a half days away. I don’t think a day has gone by in the last four months in which I didn’t check the polls for the day. Real Clear Politics is the biggest aggregator of polls in the country, and I’m on that website every day despite their obvious Republican bias. One thing you do get from Real Clear Politics, is a sense of how different news sources provide alternate realities. The Republican flacks have all come out to predict their candidate’s victory on Tuesday. To read Michael Barone and Dick Morris, we are headed to a Mitt Romney Electoral College landslide. Even George Will, an Obama hater to be sure, but at least someone who has been intellectually honest in the past, predicted a Romney Electoral College victory of 321 to 217 (including Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire). 

I do find that the Left is more intellectually honest in their analyses of the situation, but then again, they have had the numbers in their favor for the last year. Statistician and election prognosticator Nate Silver has been a target of the Right lately because his model has consistently been predicting an Electoral College win for President Obama. Currently, his model is forecasting an 85% chance of President Obama winning the Electoral College. Do I think that Barack Obama is an 85% favorite in this race? I’d say that’s aggressive, but it’s very difficult to argue that he is not the favorite.

When you are winning an argument, you don’t need to jump up and down to mke your points. You usually just need to calmly recite the facts. Silver has done exactly that over the past few days and in the process has made a very convincing case for an upcoming Obama victory. The key to the Obama victory is what has been called his “Electoral College Firewall,” comprised of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and/or Nevada. The theory in a few sentences: in the week and a half after the first debate, Mitt Romney caught up in Colorado and Virginia and took a narrow lead in Florida, but his gains were not enough to overtake Obama in enough states to win the Electoral College. The easiest path for Mitt Romney to flip this result are winning either Ohio or Wisconsin, and Iowa or Nevada. Even with a win in Ohio or Minnesota, he’s not guaranteed victory unless he can hold Virginia and Florida (and in some scenarios Colorado). 

Looking at Ohio specifically, Real Clear Politics currently has Obama up by 2.9%. Republicans pundits argue that this result is within the margin of error of most individual polls, and that makes it a tossup, but this ignores the fact that across 12 Ohio polls in the last week and a half, Romney has not led in one.  One pollster had him down by only one and Rassmussen (a notoriously Republican biased pollster) has it a tie. This is not what a tied race looks like. If you want to see an actual tie, look at Virginia, where Obama and Romney often switch leads by a point or two, depending on the pollster and date of the polls.

Silver looks at Romney’s momentum in the swing states over the past few weeks and concludes that, if anything, Obama’s firewall is solidifying in these states:

There were 12 polls published on Wednesday among Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Mr. Obama held the lead in 11 of the 12 surveys… On average, Mr. Obama led in the polls of these states by 3.9 percentage points.    

In a more broad based look at the race from Thursday, Silver takes on the pundits that argue Romney is ahead or that the race is a tossup. He basically demolishes the arguments that Mitt Romney has been showing any momentum since his post-Denver debate bounce, as well as the idea that undecideds usually break for the challenger (they have in some elections, but not in the past 3 presidential elections). This really only leaves two options: either the state polls are getting it completely wrong, or Obama is a very big favorite to win. It’s not impossible that the polls are wrong, but it seems exceedingly unlikely that so many polls showing the same thing can be that far off.   

My take on this? In order to unseat an incumbent, you need to make the case for two main things:  1) the incumbent needs to be fired, and 2) you’re a better alternative. There’s certainly an argument that Romney and Co have been successful at the first. Although Obama is close to 50% approval, the popular vote is too close to call, and I get the sense that most of the country would be at least open to a change in leadership. But while Mitt Romney may have done a good job of convincing the country that Barack Obama might not be a great leader, most people look at Romney and don’t believe that he is a credible alternative. The reasons for this are myriad, but they include the complete demolishing of Romney’s business record by the Obama campaign, the ideological contortions that we all witnessed him go through in order to get the Republican nomination and the fact that he just doesn’t seem like a guy that most Americans will want to see on their TVs for the next four years.

I don’t take anything for granted and an upset is still possible, but it’s looking less and less likely that Romney has the mojo to turn this around in the next 40 hours.

The Real Mitt Romney

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

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I’m having a long and heated debate with my  conservative uncle about whether the result of the election will be solely determined by the two questions “is the economy good” and “who do you think would do a better job of managing the economy?” He, of course, believes the latter, while I maintain that this is a much more complex decision driven by many varied factors. More on that later, but I want to focus on one factor that clearly still matters which is “which guy do you want in your living room for the next four years.”

Check out James Lipton on how Romney reminds you of “the  kind of boss with whom you never feel comfortable or sure of yourself.” This is a brilliant insight into the way that Mitt Romney came off during that debate, and more importantly, what it reveals about his character. Chris Matthews said that “Romney is the guy on the plane who won’t turn his cell phone off.” Charles Pierce cut even closer. Referring to Romney’s jaw dropping, “You’ll get your chance, I’m speaking now” comment:

To me, this was a revelatory, epochal moment. It was a look at the real Willard Romney, the Bain cutthroat who could get rich ruining lives and not lose a moment’s sleep… Outside of street protestors, and that Iraqi guy who threw a shoe at George W. Bush, I have never seen a more lucid example of manifest public disrespect for a sitting president than the hair-curling contempt with which Romney invested those words. (I’ve certainly never seen one from another candidate.) He’s lucky Barack Obama prizes cool over everything else. LBJ would have taken out his heart with a pair of salad tongs and Harry Truman would have bitten off his nose.

And Romney bitched endlessly — endlessly — about the rules, and why this uppity fellow on the other stool was allowed to speak before he was spoken to, and why he didn’t get to speak at length on whatever he wanted to speak on because, after all, he is the CEO of the stage.

Jesus Christ, I’d hate to play golf with the man. He’s the guy who counts to make sure you don’t have too many wedges in your bag. He knows every cheap subsection of every cheap ground rule, and he’ll call you on every one of them. You couldn’t get a free drop out of him with thumbscrews, and forget about conceding any putt outside two inches. And then, on the 18th hole, with all the money on the line, he kicks his ball out of the rough and denies up and down to the rules committee that he did it. Then he goes into the clubhouse bar and nobody sits with him.

Brilliant.

Obama Bounces Back

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

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Great summary of the Obama-Romney debate from Chuck Todd on the Daily Rundown.

Todd notes that, if the debate ended at 10:10 Eastern Time, then it would have been called a draw, but then came the exchange on Benghazi. You could see Romney thinking that he had the president cornered when he said that he never called it a terror attack, but Obama was cool as a cucumber. Didn’t take the bait at all. He just said “Please proceed Governor Romney…”  Romney should have known something was up, but kept going.

Then Candy Crowley fact checked him right on the spot and Obama amplified it with “Can you say that a little louder Candy?”

Right or wrong, these debates often do turn on the little gaffes and momentum shifts and that Benghazi exchange was the key moment of the debate.

Boy, I’d hate to have been the aide who told Romney that the president never referred to it as an act of terror. Romney doesn’t seem like a very nice boss when things don’t go his way.

Obama closing the debate by bringing up Romney’s 47% comment for the first time was the coup de gras.

Altogether, a great debate performance by Obama. Too bad this guy didn’t show up for the first one.

Moderate Mitt

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Gotta love Bill Clinton.

Joe Biden Opens Up a Can on Paul Ryan

Monday, October 15th, 2012

 

Joe Biden was on fire Thursday night.

Lots of debate on whether or not he was inappropriate or rude, but I think it’s hard to argue that he was not effective. Biden dominated the debate, refusing to let Ryan sanctimoniously lecture on the inadequacies of the Obama record and laughing not only at the blows that he tried to land, but at Ryan’s whole persona and the persona of Mitt Romney as well. Obviously this was a tactical decision on Team Obama’s part, and it has roots in the historical messaging of the campaign.

Early on in the campaign, Obama’s campaign had to make a decision on whether to attack Mitt Romney for the far right positions that he took throughout his 6 year campaign for the presidency, or on his historical habit of changing his positions depending on what office he was running for. They chose the former and, aside from destroying the contention that he was a “job creator,” their campaign was mostly about the extreme positions that Romney had based his campaign on to date. Team Obama knew that this was never an either/or choice, because if Romney started to move towards “Moderate Mitt,” they could always go back to the flip-flopper charge.

Just before Romney locked up the Republican nomination, top advisor Eric Fehrnstrom noted that once a nominee locked up the nomination, it represented a reset for the campaign, sort of like shaking up an Etch-a-Sketch. Most people assumed that this, in fact, would be Romney’s strategy.   What most people underestimated was how much the far right prevented Romney from moving to the center. This was made evident in August when Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul dared to mention Romney’s Masachussets health care reform in a positive light and the right wing threw a three stage hissy fit. Ann Coulter even demanded that Andrea Saul be fired for daring to suggest that Romney’s major accomplishment as governor could be seen positively. Given these constraints placed on him by his own party, it was perhaps understandable that Romney would not be able to move effectively to the center, but I think the Obama campaign was surprised how Romney neglected to even try.

Fast forward to last week’s debate, where Romney seemed to disavow many of the themes he ran on. $5 trillion in tax cuts by cutting income tax rates? I don’t have a plan to do that… Cover people with pre-existing conditions? Sure, my plan does that, just like yours… Repeal Dodd-Frank? Well, I’m not for all of it, but we really do need regulation. Business can’t function without regulation, and so on…. Frankly, I think that Obama’s team was surprised by this sudden move to the center because it’s probably unprecedented for a candidate to do it with less than a month to go in the campaign.

The Obama campaign spent millions of dollars convincing America that Mitt Romney was a joke, but in one and a half hours of a debate that Obama just neglected to show up to, Romney effectively turned that on its head, seeming not only presidential, but moderate once again, and in the process, erasing all of the gains Obama made post-convention. Biden’s job last week was to once again make Mitt look like the craven politician that he has always been, and (despite the rhetorical excesses) he did that effectively on Thursday night.

Ryan is the conservative Boy Wonder, but Biden treated him an insolent young punk, laughing when he spoke, looking at him with amazement every time he dared to criticize the Administration, throwing his hands in the air and interrupting him frequently.  The pundit class at Fox was outraged (outraged I say!) at Biden’s debate demeanor. The following day we were treated to Dick Cheney on Hannity saying that Biden seemed unstable and that ”It’s not the type of personality I’d like to see in the Oval Office” Ponder that for a second: the guy who invaded the wrong country, shot a man in the face and told a sitting Senator to “Fuck Yourself” on the floor of the Senate thinks Joe Biden is too “volatile” to be Vice President?

To be sure, I thought Biden did take it a little too far (giggling during a discussion of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability was slightly unseemly), but Matt Taibbi summed it up pretty well, arguing that given what Mitt Romney is trying to pull on America, “We should all be rolling our eyes, and scoffing and saying, ‘Come back when you’re serious.’” 

The Romney/Ryan ticket decided, with incredible cynicism, that that they were going to promise this massive tax break, not explain how to pay for it, and then just hang on until election day, knowing that most of the political press would let it skate, or at least not take a dump all over it when explaining it to the public. Unchallenged, and treated in print and on the air as though it were the same thing as a real plan, a 20 percent tax cut sounds pretty good to most Americans. Hell, it sounds good to me.

The proper way to report such a tactic is to bring to your coverage exactly the feeling that Biden brought to the debate last night: contempt and amazement. We in the press should be offended by what Romney and Ryan are doing – we should take professional offense that any politician would try to whisk such a gigantic lie past us to our audiences, and we should take patriotic offense that anyone is trying to seize the White House using such transparently childish and dishonest tactics.

Taibbi points to this specific dodge on tax policy, but that analysis can be applied to any number of characteristics of the Romney-Ryan campaign: from his high profile shifts on long held positions like health care, abortion rights and gay rights, to his claim to be a “job creator” when his firm was a “pioneer in outsourcing” American jobs, to his claim that he views debt as a moral imperative, while his tax and defense plans dig a $7 trillion hole in the budget before they try to balance anything, or to the idea that he claims to be someone who wants to tell America “hard truths,” but refuses to name any of the sacrifices he would ask of Americans in order to get to where we need to go, or to Ryan’s derision of the stimulus as “green pork” when he actually wrote to Biden asking that constituents in his district be awarded green energy contracts since the programs “would create jobs and growth,” or to Romney and Ryan’s laughable assertion that they are the would be saviors of Medicare when they were both in favor of a plan to dismantle it last year, or to his constant criticism of Presdent Obama’s foreign policy when they are offering NOTHING different save their vague promises not to “apologize for America.” The only thing consistent about Mitt Romney seems to be his inconsistency and Joe Biden put that into stark relief last week.

Now that Biden has softened up the target, expect that to be a big theme in Tuesday’s debate between Romney and Obama.

Obama’s Debate Performance Erases Post-Convention Bounce

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Yikes!

A week later, Nate Silver on how post debate polls show that Obama basically erased his convention bump with his no- show at the debate last week.

Lot’s of hard work gone to waste because the guy decided to phone it in.

Plenty of time to turn things around,  but it needs to start now. The Pres can’t afford another week like the last one.

Debate Serves As Wake Up Call for Obama

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Like a lot of other Democrats, I spent Wednesday night yelling at the TV while watching President Obama debate Mitt Romney. Explanations for his performance abound, but I think it mostly comes down to complacency on the campaign and especially on Obama’s part. 

The President has been leading in enough swing states to win the election for over a year, got a very nice bump coming out of the convention, and the country has spent the past three months watching Mitt Romney self-immolate with a series of unforced errors.  When Jon Stewart recently did a bit on how Romney had seemed to get dumber as the election progressed, his audience cheered wildly. Stewart interrupted them to say “Really? Is that how you want to win this thing? The other guy tears his ACL?” That didn’t seem far from the truth, as a bruising Republican primary in which he sold himself out over and over, a brilliant negative Obama media campaign that destroyed his business record, and gaffe after gaffe, increasingly made Romney seem like an unviable alternative.

Given this set of circumstances, it’s understandable that the Obama campaign would have a conservative strategy in the debates, but that still doesn’t explain the many missed opportunities, the total lack of a strategy to tie the individual policy details they were arguing about into a coherent theme and the general lack of enthusiasm the President showed for being there. What it most reminded me of was George W. Bush’s first debate with John Kerry, when President Bush mostly seemed annoyed that he had to be there. His attitude was something like: I’ve been working my ass off here, making the tough decisions of governing this country while you’ve been running around doing nothing but complaining for a year and a half. I’m the president. Do I really need to explain myself to you? The answer, of course, is “yes.” No matter how lacking in credibility the challenger is, we still expect the President to defend his record voiciferously and with energy, like his job depends on it. Because it might.

To use a boxing analogy, Obama had Romney on the ropes before this debate and could have gone for the knockout punch. Instead, he danced around the ring, playing mostly defense, hoping to win on points. Meanwhile, Romney fought as if his political life depended on it, because it did. If the Obama team thought this was a viable strategy before, you can bet they don’t anymore.

Of course, one debate doesn’t erase an entire political campaign and Bush v. Kerry is proof that you can still lose the debates and win the election, but those debates also show the danger of that scenario. Kerry surged 8 points over the course of those debates and many thought he would win, even on election day.  This debate should serve as notice to the President and his team: this race is gonna be a dogfight. Playing defense and trying to win on points isn’t gonna cut it. If he wants to keep his job, he’s gotta fight for it.