Sunday, September 30, 2012


I've said it over and over and over, Mitt Romney just can't win without Ohio. And Ohio is getting worse and worse for him. Here's what Ohio looks like:

And this doesn't include today's Columbus Dispatch poll that has Obama ahead by 9. The last 3 polls have Obama ahead by 9, 10, and 8 respectively. Not to put too fine a point on it but Obama only needs to win Ohio by 1 ... vote.

Romney's situation is more dire than many believe. Yes, this week's debate can start turning things around for him. But that needs to be the start. He needs something bigger at this point in my view.

UPDATE: A PPP poll has Obama up by 4. Want to know how bad Romney's situation is? It is so bad that a credible poll showing Romney down by just 4 is "good news." I should say though there are some very funky things inside this poll. They have Obama doing better among men (leading 50-43) than among women (48-46). I can assure that's not right. Specifically, Obama is almost definitely doing better among women. It is also likely he's not doing that well among men. To put that another way, if Obama is really leading 50-43 among men in Ohio, Mitt Romney is done, done, done.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The YouTube ...

... is not Romney's friend either ...

It turns out that even "Invisible Obama" (Clint Eastwood and his empty chair) has been viewed twice as much as Mitt and Ann Romney's speeches combined.

Now, most of the reason for this is just the demographics of the coalitions supporting the two candidates. Barack Obama is supported by the young. Mitt Romney is supported (nominally) by the old. So people who are more likely to cruise around on YouTube looking for videos of a monkey washing a cat are younger and less likely to support Mitt Romney. They don't want to see Mitt Romney's convention speech but they might want to see where Mitt Romney said bad things about the 47%.

But there's another part to this story. Old people use YouTube less but they're not dead and they're not luddites. They also aren't watching Mitt Romney's convention speech because ... it was not very interesting or even watchable. It was boring.

As I mentioned at the time, it was a big missed opportunity.

Now, as we approach the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney is under increasing pressure to do something dramatic to change the race. He needs to rattle a guy whose whole public persona is all about being cool. Indeed, people complain that Obama doesn't get angry enough, he's too calm and aloof. The odds that he'll fly off the handle and make a mistake is really quite small.

Mitt's in a tricky box.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Devastating Ad

You've probably seen it by now but this is a devastating ad being run by the President against Mitt Romney:

There's many things going on in this ad that make it very tough. Putting sympathetic faces on the 47% hurts. The music is haunting. Romney's own voice is as unfeeling and inhuman as ever.

But Jonathan Chait nails what is soooo devastating about the ad:
It’s the sound of silverware clinking on china in the background as Romney speaks. That detail contrasts the atmosphere Romney inhabits with the one in which most Americans live. You can tell, even though you’re not seeing this, that the remarks are being made to people enjoying a formal dinner.

Snakes on a Plane

Samuel L. Jackson's new mantra is almost as good ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scarborough: "Oh Sweet Jesus"

His reaction to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail. Priceless ...

Balance & Competitiveness Canards

The media’s reporting and analysis of the 2012 election is replete with two irrepressible canards: a phony notion of balance and a need to inflate the competitiveness of marquis races. Obviously, it’s literally true that even the most lopsided races are not over until they are over, so to speak, but the tendency of media analysts to break their backs trying to include positive and negative comments about both sides in campaign coverage is annoying and absurd. For example, ending every column with some version of “anything could happen” is often transparently absurd, if not dishonest.

So why do they do it?  Click HERE to read on.

ALL the Polls are Biased

... The first in our many-part series, "Things Troubled Campaigns Say."

You may have seen this article in one form or another over the last 24 hours.

Republicans, conservatives, and Romney campaign officials say that public polls showing Obama well-ahead in Ohio and nationally are biased. Specifically, they argue that these polls are over-sampling Democratic voters.

Let's start by taking a look at the state of the public polling in Ohio: lists 14 public polls in Ohio in the month of September. Just one of those polls shows Romney ahead in Ohio. That poll was done by Gravis Marketing and it is the oldest poll in the group. And they've re-polled the state twice since then and Obama has been ahead (slightly) in each of those polls. The two most recent polls of the state, one released today and one yesterday, have Obama ahead by 10 and 8 points respectively.

But actually, the news is quite a bit worse than that for Romney in Ohio. If you go back much further, lists 50 public polls in Ohio since October 2011, a full year. The polling is remarkably stable. Romney leads in 6 of these polls and the two are tied in 2 of them. So, the President has leads ranging from 1 to 12 points in 42 polls of the state in the past year including a string of 13 straight polls in September 2012.

So, the only way the Romney campaign could NOT be behind is if these polls are systematically biased against Romney in some way. The specific charge is that the samples of the polls include too many Democrats. Technically, that's possible. Realistically, it is not happening. Pollsters (remotely competent ones that is) don't weight by party ID but they do sometimes weight by demographic groups (like African-Americans, for instance) whose voting patterns are highly correlated with one party or another. If one over-weights a demographic group that supports the Democrats, you would effectively be over-sampling Democrats. But, for the most part, that's not happening. When you look at the polls that provide sub-sample breakdowns, you simply don't see groups like African-Americans being oversampled systematically.

Now, it is true that we have seen a recent rise in the number of people identifying as Democrats in recent polls. But that's consistent with separate polling indicating a rise in voter enthusiasm among Democrats. As Democrats become more enthused, more are likely to vote and to get through the likely voter screens in these polls.

The tell-tale sign the Romney campaign knows they're behind can be found in the comments of Rich Beeson, Romney's National Political Director. In criticizing the public polls, Beeson said, "We are, by any stretch, within the margin of error in Ohio." The Washington Post Poll released yesterday had the President ahead 52-44 in Ohio. The poll surveyed 759 likely voters and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 points. This means that Obama's number AND Romney's number could be 4.5 points higher or lower within the 95% confidence interval. Romney could be ahead 48.5 - 47.5. And he could be ahead by even more if this poll is one of the forty likely to fall outside the margin of error on that side of the curve! Of course, it is just as likely that Obama is ahead 56.5 - 39.5 and there's a 2.5% chance his lead is even greater.

The reason we know these outlier interpretations are exceedingly unlikely is that so many other polls are showing similar kinds of numbers. We don't see a lot of polls showing an 8-point Obama lead as the Washington Post poll does. But, as I said, we aren't seeing ANY polls right now showing Romney even or ahead. Romney IS behind in Ohio. The Romney campaign can quibble with the size of the deficit but arguing Obama's lead in Ohio isn't real ... is just silly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't Worry Romney Supporters ...

... Romney's latest comments about the 47% of people not paying taxes voting for Barack Obama are not going to cause his numbers to go down. The race is just that stable.

People already think that he's dismissive of Obama voters (all of whom don't pay taxes and receive food stamps, welfare, and healthcare from the government).

What DOES hurt, however, is when Romney gets up and says he stands by it all. For the record Mitt, the right answer was to point out that 47% of Americans do not pay income tax and that's a fact. He should have emphasized that and been done with it.

Of course, 3% of Americans who pay no income tax earn more than $2 million a year (potentially Romney himself but I wonder where we'd look that up???). And a lot of the other people who pay no income tax are elderly Americans living on Social Security ... many of whom are voting for Romney.

But, today, he should have simply pointed out that 47% of Americans do not pay taxes and that is why we need tax reform. It is a stupid point to make ... but at least it would have moved him towards policy and away from the politics of this.

The problem with the Romney campaign is not that they make mistakes. Every campaign makes mistakes. The problem is that the Romney campaign compounds their mistakes by not pivoting to some larger point they DO want to make. They seem unable to make this basic presidential move - the pivot. They'd better figure it out quickly.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Advising Romney

Some have asked me if I were advising Romney, what would I tell him to do.

There are lots of stories these days about Republicans starting to panic that Romney is running a bad campaign. Yesterday, the Hill had an article with lots of Republican senators (anonymously) explaining what Romney should be doing differently. This advice is drawing, of course, on the long history of Republican senators who've won presidential campaigns. The exact number of Republican senators to move right to the White House is ... zero. So they sure know a lot about running losing campaigns but winning? Not so much.

Anyway, the advice they were giving was that Romney needs to spell out his policy plans in more detail. It is surely true that voters don't know what Romney wants to do and it is true he's been criticized along these lines. And Romney seems to be responding by taking the advice of "Those Who Know Nothing of What They Speak" and is now outlining his "5-point plan" which is more stump-speech friendly than his original 59-point plan.

If I were advising Romney, I'd tell him his best bet is to stop doing stuff. Romney's best bet for winning is for people to sour on the President, perhaps because the economy goes south, or perhaps for other reasons. And then, voters will be looking for a credible alternative. Romney is a former governor, businessman, graying-at-the-temples, and has a beautiful family. That's all people need to know. The more they know about Romney beyond that, the worse he does. The more he opens his mouth, the REALLY worse he does. So ... just stop! Let the campaign be about Obama.

The good news for Democrats is that Romney won't stop. SNL made this point in the season premiere last night.

Obama's best weapon is Romney talking. So stop talking. He gives a convention speech and flubs it by not mentioning the troops. He speaks out on Libya/Egypt? Disaster. He's asked about repealing Obamacare? Mess. He decides to talk about how he defines the middle class? Oy. So bad, so bad. All the time.

Mitt's best shot is to stop talking ... and then hope the economy sinks. I know it isn't a hopeful kind of plan. But it is his best shot.

UPDATE: For instance, this is the kind of thing Romney says when he talks. Not good:

Monday, September 10, 2012

What If Romney Catches Obama?

Andrew Sullivan frequently uses Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner as a metaphor for Obama outpacing his various nemeses. This particular episode speaks to me more than others:

To me, Romney doesn't seem to have a plan to win. He seems to have a plan to get it to a tie. Then what? It sounds like a bit of a "hoping for a coin flip" strategy. For instance, notice what Neil Newhouse (Romney's pollster) said today in a memo for NBC News on Obama's post-convention bounce in the polls:
"Don't get too worked up about the latest polling," Newhbouse writes in the memo. "While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly. The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama presidency, and Mitt Romney will win this race."
So, the plan is that the Romney campaign won't get too worked up and "the basic structure" of the race will reassert itself (I agree) and ... Romney will win. That last part needs a little fleshing out Neil. "The basic structure" of the race ... had Obama winning. Not by a lot. But it does seem like a pretty clear, stable pattern.

The Romney strategy, in short, is to "catch" Obama. They figure he's struggling to get above 50% (aside from the "bounce" polling) and so the "basic structure" of the race is roughly a 47-45 lead for Obama with about 8% undecided. And they figure most of those undecideds will break for Romney in the last few days.

Here's the problem: IF they break 5:3, Romney has "caught" Obama. Romney needs them to break 6:2 his way. I think that even if Romney "catches" Obama, he's going to be in a position much like Wile E. Coyote (Super Genius) above.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Obama Bouncing

It appears my prediction of a very modest to zero bounce was incorrect.

Obama now leads by 4 points in the Gallup and Reuters tracking polls and by 2 in the Rasmussen tracking poll. That's a significant shift when you consider that some of the data in these tracking polls is still from before Obama's speech.

Nate Silver estimates this means Obama has been running about 7-9 points ahead nationally in the post-convention polling

Look, this is called a bounce for a reason. It bounces up and then comes back down. But sometimes it doesn't come all the way back down and you'd surely rather spend your time bouncing from up 1 or so to up 4 or 5 and back than bouncing the other way. And Nate Silver is at least suggesting the bounce could be bigger than a few points. We'll see. But it isn't zero or "very modest."

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Anti-Bounce?

Lots of Democrats are hoping for a big bounce in the wake of the Democratic Convention which was capped off by a terrific speech by the President.

My initial reaction was that the speech and the performance were very good (particularly the end) but that Obama would get very little or no bounce because of many of the same reasons that Romney did not get much of a bounce.

Today, the jobs report was very disappointing. The unemployment rate ticked down because many people stopped looking for work but the economy added under 100,000 jobs.

The bounce was likely to be non-existent and now this jobs report is bad so could Obama actually lose ground in the polls? Not likely. First, some will focus on the fact that the unemployment rate ticked down, even though it is not for good reasons. Second, the news is disappointing but not disastrous. The "locked in" electorate is not likely to be moved in EITHER direction very easily.

Finally, if anyone is looking for the tiniest ray of hope in the jobs report (or if you're just inclined to be blissfully delusional), it is this: The public sector continued to shed jobs in August and public sector job losses were revised upwards for June and July. You're probably thinking "how is that good news?" The answer is that those public sector job losses are likely to stop in September and October. If that could be combined with some slightly better private sector job growth, the jobs picture could improve.

But that's a faint hope for another day. Today, I think the Obama campaign is hoping to just tread water.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bump Bump

Bill Clinton was clearly fantastic last night. Deval Patrick and Michelle Obama were great the night before. My guess is that Obama will be very good if not great tonight. There are also some indications the jobs report due out tomorrow morning will be decent at worst and possibly quite good.

So, what will it mean? Will Obama get the bounce that Romney seems not to have gotten?

I don't know but, if forced to guess, I think he will get a small bump ... a muted bump. David Plouffe made the case today that the campaign is not expecting a bump. That was at least partly his effort to lower expectations of those excited by Clinton's speech. But there is some truth in his explanation. Much of the electorate is locked in. Also, there are simply less people watching than we've seen in the past. Instead, what people see is the media reviews the next day. And there, they'll see Fox panning it and MSNBC saying it was better than the sermon on the mount. They'll see what they want to see.

All of that is my guess. But, if I'm right, it is not all that bad for Obama. He's winning right now. If the conventions pass with little or no movement, Romney will have missed an opportunity to change the dynamic of the race and I think he needs that dynamic to change. There will be more opportunities but not too many of them. It matters that he's missed one here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Eye of the Tiger

Arguably the best quote of the entire campaign season is below:
We are very sorry that your song "Eye of the Tiger" was associated with the 2012 Newt Gingrich campaign.
This was in a letter from the Gingrich campaign yesterday.

It is just pure gold. But the story just wouldn't be the same if we didn't have the video. Here is Gingrich entering CPAC with the song playing him in. Powerful stuff:

Monday, September 3, 2012

No Bounce?

It is awfully hard to discern a bounce in Romney's numbers. Lots of polling has been done in the few days since the GOP convention ended but there's not much there there as Mark Blumenthal points out.

Let me posit a few theories as to why this is:

1) The GOP Convention was a flop. Perhaps there's no bounce because the convention just didn't go well (see Eastwood, Clint). I don't think the convention went particularly well so this is at least part of the explanation. I was somewhat surprised to see some rave reviews for Romney's speech, even on MSNBC. I didn't think it was bad. It just wasn't very memorable in any respect.

2) Having the conventions back to back like this with Labor Day Weekend in between mutes the impact of both. I think this is part of the story. In addition, the DNC had a rapid response team at the GOP Convention and the GOP will do the same in Charlotte. The conventions do not dominate the media space or even the tv space the same way they once did (see #3) and, in short, they are right on top of each other canceling each other out.

3) Conventions are simply non-events and the public has caught on. If we take the view from 30,000 feet for a moment, it is important to remember that conventions were actually newsworthy events just about 4 decades ago. In 1968, there was plenty to cover when nominations were at stake. Even in 1976 and 1980, there was drama over the VP nod (Republicans in 1976) and over the Kennedy/Carter kerfuffle (1980). Since then, conventions have really been staged commercials. For a couple of decades, people tuned in thinking they might see something (a la 1980 or 1968). But then the number of channels available exploded as did the various modes of delivery after Al Gore graciously invented the world wide interweb (a series of tubes). So, two things have combined to end the convention's dominance of media. We've all caught on that there's nothing really happening and we've all got lots of other things to watch and do now. In short, we can watch a 3-day infomercial - "3 days to stronger Abs!!!" - or we can watch something that is important - baseball. Now, it is true that even those watching find out what happened (through a media filter mind you) in the couple of days after the convention by hearing about it, reading about it, etc. But they tend to see very small snippets like the big gaffe (see Eastwood, Clint) or the soaring moments (see ... ???).

I think all three of these theories have something useful to offer in explaining Romney's "little to no" bounce. But I think it is probably correct that #3 is the biggest piece of it. The only people tuning in are political junkies who've already made up their minds. Romney's performance (and the whole GOP for that matter) was fairly weak. But there really wasn't much of an opportunity for them to create a big bounce anyway.

UPDATE: Nate Silver has a piece out this morning that somewhat along the lines of the argument in #3. He says in part:
The three smallest bounces for the challenging candidates came in the last three elections. Bounces aren’t what they used to be, perhaps because voters are saturated with information months in advance of an election, increased partisanship and sterilized conventions that may have become too polished for their own good.

The catch is that each of these things is a structural factor, and therefore might predict that Mr. Obama won’t get much of a bounce either. Maybe this is just the new normal.