Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Night Live

Our weekend laughs come from the comedy stylings of Mitt Romney, or at least a few of the writers who find him a rich source of mordant humor.

In his article entitled Romney: My Magic Tax Plan Will Repeal Laws of Arithmetic, Jonathan Chiat in New York Magazine ran this photo with the caption: Together we will go to a magical realm where two plus two equals eleven.

In looking for cover for his tax plan which cuts more for the preposterously wealthy, to be paid for by lesser mortals, Romney tried to cite a new study. It required contortions even a climate crisis denier would admire.  Chiat:

Republicans have been frantically denying the math, which Obama has turned into the potent (and accurate) accusation that Romney’s plan would cut taxes on the rich in order to raise them on the middle class. Republican economist Martin Feldstein tried to defend Romney by doing his own study showing that Romney’s math could work, but in an epic blunder, inadvertently confirmed the charges. Despite cutting all kinds of methodological corners, Feldstein’s study found that the threshold above which Romney would have to raise taxes was not the $250,000 he promised but $100,000 a year. That means Romney would have to raise taxes on a huge chunk of income below $250,000 a year, just as the TPC study found. Feldstein dealt with this problem by writing his column about his study as if it disproved rather than confirmed the TPC, and other conservatives have gone on pretending the same thing.

But what Romney says about his plan is "mathematically impossible."  Even the Minister of Magic couldn't make it work.  But smoke and mirrors have worked to bedazzle the public before.

"The basic problem for Republicans is that their highest policy priority is to cut the effective tax rate paid by the richest 1 percent of Americans, but the vast majority of the voters don’t share that goal. Handling that problem is the single biggest challenge the Republican party faces. Normally, when a party has an extremely unpopular position, it just jettisons it. But Republicans care so much about this goal that they won’t give it up, which makes sense — you compromise on your secondary goals, not on your primary goal. Still, this ultimately places them in the position Romney finds himself and Paul Ryan and George W. Bush have found as well — the only way they can get elected is to obscure the real trade-offs and make up a bunch of fake numbers."

Getting at the depths of Romney's fail on the tragic events in Libya and Egypt caused New Yorker writer Amy Davidson to venture into the surreal as well.

"The incident is also a problem for Romney for some of the same reasons that the stories about Bain Capital are—and, indeed, it reprises some of the same themes. Trouble at the Embassy? Go after those you’ve decided are the employees who aren’t performing; put aside questions of loyalty, or about the difficult times they may be going through. Act as though all that’s needed for a transformation is a little managerial sleight of hand. Don’t be distracted by suffering, not even by the knowledge that some of the people doing the same jobs as the ones you’re attacking, in another branch office, are dead—that the next of kin for a couple of the victims haven’t even be informed. He wasn’t reckless and premature in his judgments, just efficient: “It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values”—suggesting either that Mitt doesn’t care that he got the chronology wrong, or that he has more control over the space-time continuum than anyone suspected. (Come to think of it, time travel might explain some of his investment returns.) "

Once again a writer points out that Romney has " fictionalized the Embassy statement and demonized its authors."

A number of GOPer politicians got away with this in the recent past.  But maybe not this one.  In at least one poll, 49% said that President Obama believes what he says is true.  48% said the opposite of Romney.

Update: Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof gets a little caustic in his Sunday column:

"DIPLOMACY is a minefield, and Mitt Romney spent the last week blowing up his foreign policy credentials to be president. He raised doubts about his capacity to deal with global crises, and we were left hoping that if that 3 a.m. call ever went to him, he’d have set up call forwarding."

To conclude with a poll question that may wind up inspiring something on the real Saturday Night Live: when asked who would win a fistfight between Obama and Romney, a clear majority picked Obama.


As the four Americans killed in Libya came home (see post below), violence spread across the Middle East.  But in most places, it did not involve many people.

Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating the Benghazi attack, and their working theory is that it was an organized terrorist attack, possibly by an al Qaeda affiliated group.

Eugene Robinson's column is the latest to go after Romney for his role in this crisis, adding to the other charges this one: ignorance."...I guess this whole performance says a lot about what kind of man Romney is. The most charitable explanation is that he’s in a panic over polls that show Obama opening a lead. If this is not the case, then Romney’s ignorance of foreign policy is more profound — and potentially dangerous — than anyone could have suspected."

It's long been my contention that ignorance is a core value of the Rabid Right.

But Andrew Sullivan argued for the importance of temperament, and what this week says about the President and the GOPer candidate:

"But when I think of the characteristics I want in a president in turbulent times, this capacity for calm and poise comes pretty high on the list. And that's why I think this past week was almost as damaging to Romney as the week before. He over-reacted in a petty, political way to a sudden, murky series of events that demanded restraint and calm and fact-gathering. Then he doubled down on his attempt to politicize it. This was talk-radio performance, not presidential behavior."

On MSNBC, veteran journalist and editorial director Cynthia Tucker commented that "Governor Romney has put his conscience--if he has one--in a blind trust."

NYT/CBS likely voter poll shows President Obama up by 3 points.  But as TPM points out, this is their first likely voter model--in comparison to their last registered voter poll, President Obama has increased his lead by 8 points.

The GOP war on voting rights suffered a significant if unheralded defeat.  A court has stopped the Iowa GOPer secretary of state declaring a "state of emergency" so he can suddenly purge voter rolls.  One of the judge's reasons was that given the lack of evidence of in-person voter fraud and the likelihood that legitimate voters would be denied their rights without recourse in time to vote in this election, the likely harm clearly outweighs the possible good.  It's a decision that the PA Supreme Court might note and heed.

Finally, a tribute to the two-way conversations that can occur on the Internet, admidst the mostly toxic comment systems.  In both cases, the sites themselves pulled these comments from the mailbag and published them.

From TPM

From a Foreign Service Officer …
It’s probably not a surprise. But can I just say that if Mitt Romney wins in November, he is going to have a very chilly reception from his employees every time he goes abroad? I don’t think I can quite state the rage we’re all feeling towards him. 

From The Dish:

A reader writes:

Your quoting of two then-future presidents regarding the Iran hostage crisis got me thinking even more about the horrific events of the past couple days. Candidates Reagan and Bush were responding to an event that Jimmy Carter had an actual hand in deciding. Carter was the one who made the call to attempt to rescue the hostages. By doing so Carter is accountable for what happened. And yet Reagan and Bush stood firmly behind their president and did not criticize the decision that he made.

Fast forward to 2012. The Republican presidential candidate chooses to attack the Obama administration for a statement that upon reflection looks like a balanced respectful approach to a situation that President Obama had nothing at all to do with.

The reader goes on to comment on the transformation of "my father's Republican Party" and concludes: "Mitt Romney and those who classlessly have been backing his attack are not only not fit to be leaders of this nation, they are not fit to maintain any public soapbox at all."    

Coming Home

The four Americans killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya returned to the U.S. on Thursday. President Obama and Secretary Clinton spoke.

These four men died in service to their country, to the new democracy that the U.S. helped to establish, and in service to each other.  They were not there to hurt or kill anybody.  Ambassador Stevens in particular faced danger every day, unarmed, to do difficult work in which he deeply believed.  His courage, their courage, is cause for humble admiration.  May they rest in peace.

On another note, but a related one: I was not the only one to notice the moment when Secretary Clinton takes President Obama's hand.  Four years ago such a moment would be unthinkable.  The relationship they have built since then is a testament, an example, and a cause for hope.  As are the sacrifices of these four men.  Maybe we'll make this experiment of humanity work after all, or at least some of us will acquit ourselves honorably and well.    

Friday, September 14, 2012


On Thursday, there were more images of demonstrations in several countries, including large ones in Yemen and Egypt that involved police and some violence to American Embassy property.  Three people, none of them American or Embassy staff, were said to have been killed in Yemen.

These demonstrations were based on the continuing misinformation that the U.S. government was responsible for an Internet video that insults Islam.  More demonstrations are expected on Friday, the day of prayer.  Governments in Egypt and Yemen were active in guarding the American embassies.

Information on the quite different event in Benghazi is still contradictory.  Some stories maintain that the violence resulted from a protesting mob, while another quoted witnesses as saying that the consulate was attacked by heavily armed fighters who arrived together in vehicles, and there never were real protesters.  Rachel Maddow again made the case for an organized terrorist attack.  Meanwhile, the Libyan government has arrested four and is questioning others in connection with the murders of four Americans.

To correct my previous post, the compound that was attacked was a consulate, not the U.S. embassy.  The official embassy is in Tripoli, and that's where Ambassador Stevens was headquartered.  He was visiting the Benghazi consulate on the fatal day.  The consulate was not as heavily protected as the larger and more permanent embassy.

Campaigning in Colorado, President Obama said:

Obviously, our hearts are heavy this week,’’ Mr. Obama said, as a hush fell over the crowd. But to a wider television audience he vowed: “I want people around the world to hear me: to all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.” He added, “no act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.”

Political fallout continued, directly or at least partially related to these events.  A number of neocons and other GOPers began voicing support for Romney's general critique of the Obama foreign policy.  At least one (Rob Portman) was called out for supporting Romney's lies of the day before.

But criticism also continued, by still other Republicans.  Joe Scarborough, a media figure more than a Republican heavyweight but still a voice with some volume to it, made the most dramatic charges.  Addressing his fellow conservatives in a Politico oped he wrote: "And the lesson is clear: If we want to win the battle of ideas in the long term, we should be willing to face the fact that Mitt Romney is likely to lose — and should, given that he’s neither a true conservative nor a courageous moderate. He’s just an ambitious man. Nothing wrong with that, except when you want to be president." 

Meanwhile, TPM noted that a web version of a New York Times story on the Romney reaction was replaced by another story, which lacked a key quote: An earlier version of the story quoted an unnamed Romney adviser and former George W. Bush administration official saying Romney’s response to the attacks made it seem like “he had forgotten the first rule in a crisis: don’t start talking before you understand what’s happening.” 

Also on Thursday the last of the "bounce" polls showed that President Obama has opened up leads in three key swing states: Florida, Virginia and Ohio. He was at 50% in Ohio, 49% in Florida and Virginia.  From now on, the theory goes, the traditional convention bounce period is over and any change would be considered more telling for the long run.  But then there's the Egypt/Libya event and Romney's reaction.

So maybe it is telling already: In the latest Reuters/Ipso tracking poll made on Thursday, President Obama widened his lead over Romney by 7 points: 48% to 41%.  President Obama won all categories, including the war on terror, taxes and Social Security,   Romney won but one category: the federal deficit.

So the GOPer chances may be down to voter suppression, and some observers of the first day of the PA Supreme Court hearing were talking about the grilling that the PA government attorney got from the judges, especially the 3 Dems and the Republican Chief Justice. (Another observer however said something quite different: that the Chief Justice was mostly silent and appeared annoyed by the Dems.  This reporter for the Nation doesn't think the four votes are there to overturn.)

 The most damning statistic I heard that apparently was offered was that PENNDOT estimated it could process only a fraction of the eligible applicants for ID before election day.That should be game set and match right there.  It cannot stand for this election.  It's a travesty.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Economy: Good News

Economic recovery in the U.S. has been threatened by several factors beyond the control of policymakers: notably the effects of the drought on food prices, and especially the unstable situation and threat of economic meltdown in Europe.

So it was good news a few days ago that decisions by a central bank and a court in Germany seems to put off a euro crisis there for awhile (some say six months to a year) which provides some breathing room for more positive efforts to stimulate economies, if governments can get there from their obsession with austerity that isn't working.

Economic recovery in the U.S. is being depressed by lack of action from the government, which until Thursday included the Federal Reserve.  That changed, with the Fed's decision to provide more stimulus.  It was generally expected but its open-ended extent was not.  So a stock market that had already been rising on the expectation shot up on Thursday by 200 points, to its highest level since the year 2000.   

Both of these actions took away immediate uncertainty and bolstered longer term predictability for markets and businesses to plan on.  So possible immediate drags on the economy are avoided, with the potential for economic growth improving in the future, and soon.  So, at least for now and the next several months, good news.  As long as you try to forget Congress.


News of how misinformation about the film attacking the religion of Islam was spreading must have reached the American Embassy in Cairo. (See the post below for that narrative.) Some six hours before any demonstrations began, and in the absence of the ambassador herself, someone there put out this statement:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

While the attack in Libya was happening, Mitt Romney issued a statement accusing the Obama administration of "sympathizing with those who waged the attacks," apparently based on this Embassy statement, made hours before the attacks began. Even when this timeline became fully known, candidate Romney in person (photo above) once again accused President Obama of apologizing to the attackers.

The reaction to Romney's accusations were swift and harsh: that they are manifestly untrue, and that they are so badly timed that if anyone took Romney seriously they would be a serious undermining of his supposed country while it was under attack.  Foreign policy specialists in both parties expressed shock that he would inject politics so blatantly into a national tragedy and foreign policy crisis, when Americans traditionally come together behind their President.

Political reporters were nearly unanimous in characterizing Romney's remarks as foolish and desperate. Even Mark Halperin, often a Romney apologist, said "his doubling down on criticism of the President for the statement coming out of Cairo is likely to be seen as one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign." 

But President Obama said it best, in an interview he did that had been previously scheduled. While declining to comment on Romney's response, he added: "There's a broader lesson to be learned here," he told "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft at the White House. " Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that. That it's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."

Some conservatives were among those who roundly criticized Romney's statements.  Daniel Larison called it "shameless opportunism" and observed: "The extraordinary thing is that Romney may have been losing yesterday, but he wasn’t being widely ridiculed and attacked for having practically disqualified himself from consideration. When senior Republican foreign policy professionals start referring to this as his “Lehman moment,” likening it to McCain’s mid-September meltdown in response to the financial crisis, we can see that Romney’s latest attempt to seize on an international event has done significant and possibly irreparable damage to his campaign."

[Photo: Benghazi U.S. consulate.]
But by evening much of the Rabid Right blathersphere was lining up behind Romney's critique, which may be the political calculation. But for most Americans, it's likely to be a different story. Such obvious contempt for the Commander in Chief at that moment does not usually go down well.  Romney has already demonstrated that he doesn't know what he's talking about, and that he'll lie and repeat his lies endlessly, although some might excuse this on domestic political subjects. But not in a volatile national security situation, when lives are at stake, when war and peace are at stake, and  the way the President handles a dangerous international situation has major implications. 

James Fallows on Romney in the Atlantic: "In short, when faced with a 3 a.m. test, he reacted immediately, rather than having the instinct to wait. And after he waited, he mistook this as a moment for partisanship rather than for at least the appearance of statesmanlike national unity...Think of this temperament and these instincts in a command role, and with stakes much higher than they were today."

Before this, Romney clearly didn't have the policies that would make him a good choice for President.  Now it's clear that he doesn't have the character or the political skills to be President.  As many were saying today, he is unfit for the job.  


Information is still coming in and being sorted on what really happened in Egypt and Libya in the past 36 hours.  But the picture that is emerging looks like this:

Somebody posted a video on youtube, a kind of crude preview for what it said was an upcoming film that apparently attacks Islam as a religion.  Somehow (and this part is unclear) Egyptians in particular and perhaps Libyans were told that this film was a major part of U.S. commemorations of 9-11 on September 11.  This of course wasn't true.  Nobody much knew about it, in the U.S. or most of the world.  The film itself (if it exists) has never been seen.

Nevertheless, a few hundred people gathered in loud protest outside the Embassy's substantial walls.  Some climbed over the walls, got into the courtyard and burned the American flag. 

Later a small crowd may have gathered outside the American Embassy in Benghazi in Libya, in a similar protest, but this is not really clear.  What is clear is that an organized and heavily armed group attacked the embassy, essentially burned and destroyed it, and killed the U.S. Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, at least one other American (a former Marine), and two other members of the Embassy staff (not yet identified pending notification of next of kin.)  One report said they did so with rocket propelled grenades.

On Thursday morning, when the deaths were confirmed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama condemned the attacks, and mourned the loss of these Americans, as well as the reported Libyans who tried to defend them.  The new Libyan government and the vast majority of Benghazi citizens consider the U.S. as a friend.  Ambassador Stevens had been the U.S. envoy to the rebels in Benghazi. 

Secretary Clinton said:  "Today, many Americans are asking – indeed, I asked myself – how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be. But we must be clear-eyed, even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya."

President Obama immediately ordered a rapid reaction force of U.S. Marines to protect the Embassy in Tripoli (Libya), where the remaining Benghazi staff (rescued by Libyans) are quartered.  Two U.S. warships moved closer, and it was made known that recon drones were over Libya.  In his statement in the White House rose garden, with Secretary Clinton at his side (photo above, video below), President Obama said:  No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."

I add emphasis there because of speculation about this attack.  President Obama called it an act of terror, which is a characterization with some meaning.   If it was organized and planned, rather than improvised, then a particular group is responsible.  Rachel Maddow made a strong case that it could well be an al-Qaeda group.  This late story suggests that U.S. officials are coming around to this view.

It's not known if the Egypt demonstration and the Libyan attack were linked at all.  There is also not much known about the person who apparently made the video in question.  He is said to be American or Israeli, but his name is likely an alias.   In this TPM story, the man in question is described as having "an Egyptian accent."  No one I know of is yet saying this, but there is at this point the possibility that the film itself was part of a plot to incite violence or even cover an act of terrorism.

In any case, when President Obama says "We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done," those aren't just words.  Not by the President who has taken out a great many al-Qaeda's leaders throughout the Middle East, including bin Laden.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton spoke movingly of Ambassador Stevens, and so did Senator John McCain.  A video of his Senate remarks is here.

PA Voter Suppression Update

Today the Pennsylvania supreme court takes up the appeal on the decision that upheld the PA voter suppression ID law.  In my earlier post, I wondered if the court can review the total situation or just what is in the appeal.  I still don't know the answer to that, but one thing I learned (via Meteor Blades at Kos) is in the appeal is reference to the 1869 Patterson decision I wrote about in that earlier post.  He quotes from the brief:

 " Patterson is an anachronism, predating the modern framework of differing levels of scrutiny by more than half a century and based on outright prejudice. Patterson is no guide to a current construction of the constitutional rights of Pennsylvanians."

The rest of the brief hits the main issues and responds specifically to elements of the previous decision.  I still wonder if the supreme court can take into consideration how the system is actually working right now, which is to take care of a noisy celebrity's father and make it as hard as possible for non-celebrities to recover their right to vote.

The other piece of information is this oped by a PA Rep which observes that the chief justice, a Republican, has been known to stray from party positions, and in a recent controversial case about redistricting, referred to  "the constitutional commands and restrictions on the process exist precisely as a brake on the most overt of potential excesses and abuse.”  Rep. Waters suggests this directly applies to the voter suppression ID case.

One of these days there's going to be a court that really stands up for this basic right to vote in a big way, with a lopsided decision.  This could be that court.  As the Economist magazine observes, " we ought to recognize it for what it is: deliberate voter suppression, and a betrayal of democracy."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

President Obama's statement at the White House Wednesday on the attack in Bengazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.  More about this later.
Congratulations, it's a bounce, baby, bounce.

Update: Two new polls Wednesday: a Fox poll shows President Obama got a 5 point bounce, with an 11 point bounce among independents.  Their likely voter model shows him ahead 48-43.

An Economist poll also shows President Obama getting a bounce and pulling ahead and it notes what other polls have noted: a big increase in Dem enthusiasm.  According to Pew, it's now higher than GOPer enthusiasm.  (All of this should not be too much of a surprise to readers of this blog.)

It's showing up in most polls, with several--including the Gallup tracking--showing Obama 50 Romney 44.  That 50% threshold again--the first time since April in Gallup.  More meaningful now of course, this close to the election.

And as the LA Times points out, Romney has lost his last categorical advantage--in recent polls President Obama has drawn even with him on who can best handle the economy.  President Obama's advantage on foreign policy is just waiting to be capitalized, for as Rachel demonstrated with a raft of survey results, Americans of both parties overwhelmingly agree with Obama's policies, as opposed to the BushCheney policies that Romneyryan less that secretly would reinstate.  (A sample: 82% support withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, 67% Iraq war not worth fighting for, 71% be more cautious about use of force. Only 27% support military confrontation with Iran, 32% say should not cut military spending, and two-thirds say U.S. should act militarily only with the UN or NATO.  The survey found no significant difference between Ds and Rs on these issues.)

So another day of the Rabid Right turning their rabidness on Romney and his campaign.  Now all the political commentators can say is Romney's Last Stand is the first debate on October 3.  The Romney people are raising expectations of their guy, noddingly called a good debater (which is exactly what they said about Nixon in 1960).  But close to 60% of the public expects President Obama to do better.  Romney has to live up to his own hype and exceed expectations to have much of a chance.

Others are suggesting that the ad carpet bombing is reaching the point of diminishing returns, especially if Romneyryanrove can't come up with a new line of attack that's effective--and attack is about all they will be doing.  Andrew Sullivan believes that more attacks will benefit President Obama. (The poll chart above also comes from that post.)

Although August was the first month that the Obama campaign raised more than Romney, Mother Jones thinks the Obama campaign will end up raising more for the campaign as a whole.  There's also the suspicion (which I admit I had when I started hearing the Romney panic talk) that with Republicans trashing the Romney campaign, at least some of his big donors are going to turn off the spigot, or at least hedge their bets with some cash for the Dems.

So their leading tactic, apart from increasingly silly lying and hyperbole, is voter suppression.  All eyes move to Pennsylvania, where the state supreme court takes up the appeal on their voter suppression law on Thursday.  It's a six judge panel, 3 of each.  A party-line tie upholds the law.

The initial decision was revealed to be even more dubious by a review of the PA law that the judge referenced, made by a University of Pittsburgh law professor in a piece in (one of) my old stomping grounds: the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  It was an 1869 decision based on blatant prejudice and racism, giving judicial voice to the silent intent of the current law: to keep "undesirable" citizens from voting.

The law that the decision upheld in 1869 once again was designed to make it harder for citizens of Philadelphia to vote than the rest of the Commonwealth.  The judge's reason for upholding it was that rural voters were virtuous while urban voters included "rogues" and "strumpets."  To allow Philadelphia to vote with the same freedom as elsewhere “would be to place the vicious vagrant, the wandering Arabs, the Tartar hordes of our large cities, on a level with the virtuous and good man.” (All this also quoted on Think Progress, which had the Catch of the Day in flagging this article.)

I'm not sure what the supreme court can consider in this appeal, but if they can examine actual reality they would also find that the current law is being applied capriciously and arbitrarily.  One instance became news Tuesday when cable stock market screamer and very rich guy Jim Cramer tweeted that his father couldn't get a PA ID to vote because he didn't drive and couldn't prove his citizenship.

Half a million people read Cramer's tweets apparently, and within hours, lo and behold, his father was found eligible for special consideration and got his ID. Other sad sack Pennsylvanians have had to spend weeks, many hours in lines and spend lots of cash (one figured it cost him more than $65) in the hopes of getting their right to vote back.   The 1869 decision and the celebrity shortcut are enough to demonstrate the rank injustice of this law all by themselves.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The good news for the Obama campaign just keeps on coming.  The best of Monday: the CNN poll, and the August campaign contribution numbers.

The CNN poll of likely voters moved from a tie (O-48% R-48%) to Obama-52% Romney-46%.  The 8 point margin (and bump) is the biggest movement in a long while, but the best news is the 52%.  Any time a candidate gets to 50% and over, it means that more than half are at least open to the possibility of voting for that candidate.  Even if he slips back in this poll, the 50% threshold, once achieved, is major.

The August contribution numbers show that the Obama campaign actually outraised the Romney campaign $114 million to $111 million.  The Obamas got contributions from 1.1 million donors, including me, which is possibly why my checking account was down to $12 today.

Apart from the number, which means the Obama campaign can remain competitive in the swing states which the Romney campaign bragged they were "carpet bombing" with TV ads this week, there's the additional fact that last month the Romneyryans spent more than they took in.  They spent more than a hundred million dollars, and they lost the month, and they're still losing.

Those some commentators suspect that the race has been fundamentally changed by the Dem convention, all we can say for sure is that Obama got a healthy bump.  But apart from a certain herd mentality in the media, the odd effect is that this is all it took to unravel more of Romney's party support, at least according to Byron York who reports that GOPer anxiety threatens to turn into a stampede.   Mark Halperin, a soft GOPer, seems to agree.

There's already evidence of this in the far right blathersphere.  And when a supposed supporter like Gov. John Kasich of Ohio says of Romney's economic plan-- "He says he's got a 53-point plan or whatever, I don't know."--then you've got problems.

The Romney campaign does not seem to be responding well. After going through their latest missteps, Rachel Maddow concluded, "This is either high level genius we don't understand in what they are doing, or they don't know what they are doing."

Meanwhile, the Obama bounce--if that's what it is--is moving on down the line.  Elizabeth Warren has moved back up to a tie in MA (she was down 5 before the convention.)  Meanwhile, Dems running for House seats get higher approval, while GOPers drop off the cliff.

Andrew Sullivan, Nate Silver and Josh Marshall are among those actually contemplating an Obama landslide.  Partly that's because sudden (though explicable) movement in the polls can either be temporary or an early clue to the new direction--they could move even more in that direction and stay there, as voters stampede to Obama.  

Well, it was a euphoric afternoon when the CNN and August money numbers came out, and I've always believed in the possibility of an Obama landslide, but there's a long way to go.  September is the month when outside events and/or gaffes can alter the race.  October is about the debates.  And the election is still about turnout and voter suppression.

GOPer suppression efforts are accelerating in the swing states--most outrageously at the moment in Iowa, where the GOPer sec of state wants to declare a 'state of emergency' to purge registration rolls before election day.  Hey, why not go straight to martial law?

But where past efforts seem most likely to pay off is Florida.  Obama is probably going to be strong enough in Ohio and PA to withstand the efforts there.  But things are seriously fucked up in Florida, and we may be in for a 2000 scenario.  Frankly if the presidency is in the balance again I don't know how the country survives it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Real Convention Bump

Election numbers guy Nate Silver had a column during the Dem convention that worked the numbers to show that "There’s one advantage that President Obama has that Mitt Romney probably doesn’t. If he can get a good turnout from his base, he’ll be the heavy favorite to win in November — even if Mr. Romney gets a strong turnout as well."

If registered Dems and Obama voters actually voted at the same rate GOPers do, President Obama would win by a substantial margin.  While Silver says this is unlikely because Dem constituent groups are harder to get to the polls than are those of the GOP, the higher the turnout of these voters, the better President Obama's chances are, even with a high GOP turnout.

Silver related this to the intentions of the Dem convention organizers--to make sure all the component groups got their issues talked about as part of the overall 2012 election agenda.  From just viewing it on TV, my impression was that this intention was fulfilled, and then some. Think about all the elements of the new Democratic coalition and how none of them left Charlotte feeling compromised.

But even more importantly it was a DNC that was both diverse and unified. Not only did groups visibly and happily intermingle and work together, they seemed to be having a great time doing it. It certainly gave me the impression that the convention energized and focused Dems for the work to win, and that showed voters interested enough to watch and troubled enough by Romney that they were safe voting to reelect President Obama.

So far the polls are saying it pretty clearly: the DNC made a difference. But however the polls go, the real difference will be made by the Dems being focused.  In part the "enthusiasm" gap was to me just a product of Obama voters not yet paying attention.  There weren't any primary fights, and the electioneering that was happening in the GOP was a turnoff.  I always thought the DNC would be the moment that got their attention and reminded them of 2008.  Sure, it's a more sober group and time.   But at the convention the commitment was just as strong, and they all saw that in each other. And we saw them seeing that. That can't be bad.  And President Obama closed that deal by so strongly relating 2008 with 2012 and his theme, you are the change.

Independents, undecideds and lonely sane Republicans got plenty of reasons to vote for President Obama during the DNC. But the DNC did its primary job if the Dems are fired up and ready to go.  Because this is likely going to be a turnout election, and Obama voters have to be more determined to even get to vote this year in many places.  That will depend in part in how determined members of various groups are to vote their voice--women especially, but also members of minorities who see what's going on and refuse to be intimidated or insulted. 

The evidence of this is already starting to come in.  In the latest poll President Obama has widened his lead in Ohio, chiefly because of more support and enthusiasm from Democrats.  But regardless of the polls, it's the voting--and the turnout--that counts.