Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Remember: Obama Is Good At Politics

Breaking the Etch-A-Sketch

There has been a bunch written  about the Obama attacks on Romney and Bain Capital.

At first, we got the usual pearl clutching from the pundits - many of whom know and have friends in finance - about how unfair this all was.  (I am teaching a workshop on research-based writing this week, and half the teachers are from public schools.  Needless to say they are dealing with different issues than we are.  My main issue is why so many of our brightest graduates wind up working in finance, when they seemed so full of promise when we taught them.  I guess that's just where the money is.)

Anyway, people are marveling at how the national tracking polls were trending Romney's way, while the swing state polls tended to favor Obama.  There are a few reasons for this.

First, Obama is going to get killed in the Red States.  That's going to drag down his national numbers.  Second, national tracking polls are only being done by Gallup and Rasmussen.  The latter has a well-known Republican "house effect" and the former has some odd assumptions about the demographic makeup of the 2012 electorate.  Interestingly, both daily trackers have shown movement towards Obama in the past few days.  An after effect of the ACA ruling?

Finally, with all respect to Nate Silver and Ruy Teixiera's excellent demographic analysis, candidates and campaigns matter.  Romney is not a good candidate and he stepped all over his response to the Court ruling.  And Obama is beating the Bain drum loud and often.  This is smart.  Because few "independent" voters were paying attention to the horror show that was the GOP nominating process.  All they know is Romney is a handsome guy with an "R" after his name.  Obama is systematically defining Romney as a vulture capitalist, an "outsourcer in chief."  Since Romney is predicating his campaign on his business acumen, this is a perfectly legitimate line of attack, no matter what Cory Booker says.

Most people's minds are made up about Obama and whether they will vote for him or not come November. Most people also don't like to be told they screwed up at the last election.  This is why the only incumbent Presidents to be beaten in a two person race since 1900 are Hoover and Carter, and even Carter had John Anderson on the ballot.

Romney's only chance is for the economy to weaken significantly - so far it's soft rather than weak - and to define himself as a reason to chuck out Obama.  By defining him first, the Obama campaign is reducing the efficacy of Mitt's Etch-A-Sketch moment.  Combine that with Romney's own tin-ear and his lack of demonstrated political empathy (as opposed to personal empathy, which who the hell knows) and you have a great opportunity to end this campaign before it really begins.

The poll numbers will continue to fluctuate.  McCain led Obama or was tied with him in the Summer of '08.  

The question is whether or not the Citizen's United billions will overwhelm people or whether - like most bad advertising - they will simply tune it out.

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