The 3D Chess Rope-A-Dope Kung Fu Debate Strategy

Photo by: Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America

A couple of weeks ago I posited for group consideration the hypothesis that Obama threw the first debate in order to keep GOP contributor money flowing to the presidential race rather than fleeing to congressional and senatorial races, where the money could conceivably alter the composition of Congress for the next two years, under the idea that he could make up any lost ground in the second two debate. I asked for the thoughts from the readers on this idea, after taking care to point out that simply positing this idea did not mean I necessarily thought it was really happening, I was just asking if people thought it was plausible.

Now that the debates are done, I’ll offer my thoughts on the scenario:

No, it doesn’t strike me as plausible. I think Obama just screwed up badly with the first debate. I think he may have gone in with the plan to be cool and not to appear too aggressive with respect to Romney, but if that was the plan he badly undershot. What the reasons for this screw-up might have been I couldn’t say, because, strangely enough, Barack Obama doesn’t call me nightly to discuss the events of his day. But it’s pretty clear to me that whatever his plan was going into the debate, it didn’t survive the first encounter with the enemy. Romney was pumped up and he, at least, recognized (or thought, anyway) that this was a do-or-die event for him.

So he did, and he didn’t die, and the election cycles went his way very significantly until Joe Biden stepped in to help liberals stop freaking out. Then Obama, who was now awake, at least, did better in the second debate and (by all standards but the most delusional on the right) won the third debate by a significant margin. However, it’s probably safe to say that none of the other debates have had the same impact on the election narrative as the first and at the end of the day Obama was simply foolish to (depending on your opinion of his kung fu mastery) either let the first debate get away from him, or not to have a good defensive plan to counter Romney, who was generally considered to be the better debater and who had excellent reasons to make the first debate the major part of his late election strategy.

Shorter version: Obama got sloppy and got served, and has no one to blame for it but himself.

The irony is that if Obama does end up winning, I suspect that the result of his screwing up mightily will look like the scenario I posited, to wit, donors who were ready to write off Romney took a look at his performance and kept more of their money in his race rather than reassigning it to the house and senate races, which, in the case of the senate, at least, could have made a different between a bare Democratic majority (which seems to me the more likely outcome at this point) and a bare Republican majority (which now seems less likely). Obama did have margin to burn, and intentionally or not, he burned it, and as a result may have burned up GOP control of both houses.

Mind you, the smarter way for Obama to have done that would have been to bury Romney in the first debate and then let his coattails grow to encompass a possible Democratic majority in both chambers. But again, this assumes that Obama has a 3D Chess Rope-A-Dope Kung Fu Debate Strategy to win this election. I think reasonably highly of Obama, but at this point I don’t think he’s doing the Vulcan thing with this election. I think at this point he’s just trying to grind the damn thing out.

166 thoughts on “The 3D Chess Rope-A-Dope Kung Fu Debate Strategy

  1. A reminder that what this thread doesn’t need is rah-rah GO MY TEAM GO nonsense, but rather a discussion of the entry and the issues it raises that reflects the fact that you’ve thought at some length on the topic.

    Begin.

  2. *gasp* You *don’t* talk to Obama every night? Oh, all my preconceptions are gone down in smoke! *scurries away to hide in a hole and mourn*

  3. “I think at this point he’s just trying to grind the damn thing out.”

    Amen – aren’t we all. Here in NH the political ads and robocalls are near-constant. I can only imagine that the frequency of them in Ohio has increased since you posted about it.

  4. I have to wonder whether Obama’s anniversary played a role in his I-don’t-wanna-be-here mindset during the first debate. With no such distractions, he did better in the other debates.

  5. I think the first debate was a reflection of preparation. Romney’s campaign had been publicly declaring his preparation for sometime, and I think it was reported that Obama had something like 5 prep sessions. I think this reflects the inherent advantage of being the contender. I also suspect that most people were decided going into the first debate, and people are so flooded with politics in today’s world where we start campaigning 2 years before an election, that most of those those who were still undecided watched only one debate. Just my thoughts on it.

  6. I personally felt that the first debate was blah because not only was it Obama’s anniversary, but it was also the final night of the MLB regular season and there was some good baseball being played.

    But all kidding aside, when/if Obama does win and if by some twist of fate he actually DID pull the Rope-A-Dope move successfully, then wow… that was pretty damn ballsy of him and I’ll be happy to have someone that ballsy remain in the White House for another four years.

  7. Over at the Atlantic, James Fallows noted (in advance) that sitting presidents often do poorly in their first debate. They’ve been busy, they haven’t recently had a primary season full of debates, they have other priorities even in the context of re-election. Thus, they often get served. Seems the simplest explanation to me.

  8. I think that the miscalculation by Obama, if there was one, was the foregone conclusion that Romney would unveil some kind of ridiculous, over-the-top, wacky-doodle; the traps were laid but Romney didn’t take any of the bait.
    Or perhaps they figured that an energetic, going-for-broke Romney would dissuade people all by itself and all Obama had to do was sit back and let it happen.
    Or maybe, just maybe, Michelle pulled a “Knight’s Tale” move on Barack, demanding that in order to prove his love, he lose the first debate without getting knocked off his horse.

  9. I guess I’m one of those “delusional” people because while I think obama won the third debate, I don’t think it was by “a significant margin”.

    Judging who won or lost a debate is highly subjective. Not only to the person judging it, but also in the context of the greater effort of which it, the individual debate, is part of. In this case it was part of a general election effort in which Obama lost the first debate by a very large significant margin (judged by an average of polls of people watching) and barely won the second. A debate process in which his Veep acted like a complete bore who needed an ass-kicking.

    But I notice that people who’ve made up their minds to vote for Obama largely think he won just by showing up and being active. People I know who are undecided thought he did fine, but are still undecided because the president came off as “peevish, condescending, snarky and small”. Completely unpresidential

    But it’s not debates that determine who is president, it’s the November 6 election. And viewing the most reliable polls (Gallup and Rasmussen) it appears he’s behind. But we’ll see.

  10. Well I’m pretty sure that if the President does manage to win the election, no one will look back and say that first debate had anything to do with his success.

    It seems clear to me that Obama’s strategy was to destroy Romney as a viable candidate. The first debate was the point at which that was either confirmed or denied. As it turned out, it was denied.

    And that would have been the case whether or not Obama showed up to play. But he didn’t and that made it worse for him.

    But that was always the flaw in Obamas strategy: That Romney could never be as awful as he was being portrayed.

  11. The last paragraph points out what seems to me to be a radical difference between Republican and Democratic politicians. Republicans are interested in winning, are generally good at winning, and are even eager to claim victory when they lose and hope to sway opinion into at least calling it a tie. Democratic politicians often give out the impression that they aren’t particularly interested in winning, they are always willing to cede points and place fair, and when they lose they publicly accept the loss and cement the idea that they are losers.

    What Republicans generally understand and Democrats generally don’t is that perception is the game-winner and the perception of momentum is often a self-fulfilling prophesy. If Obama had smacked Romney around in all three debates, the entire narrative could have been “Obama is unstoppable” and that would have been that. Galloping victory laps and efforts transferred to down-ticket races, and the perception of a Democratic mandate for the first time in 30-40 years.

  12. The best explanation of what happened in the first debate, from my perspective, has been altitude sickness. (Romney arriving in Denver the day before the debate, with time to adjust, and Obama arriving in Denver the day of.)

    Mind you, even if it’s true, Obama can’t reasonably use altitude sickness as an ‘excuse.’ He’d probably been in Denver before and knew how he reacted to the altitude previously, and more importantly, one doesn’t provide excuses for performance; one accepts the blame and moves on. Still, from the stories I’ve heard from others about their reactions to being a mile high, it makes a lot of sense.

  13. Honestly, my complicated plan on what happened was simply that Turkey started firing on selective targets in Syria and the US, as a NATO ally, had a very busy day that didn’t involve debate prep.

  14. @Improbable Joe,

    I could recite back to you you’re comment with “Republican” swapped with “Democrat” (and vice versa) and Republicans would agree. When i ask non-partisans they say “both parties are only interested in winning at any cost and never play fair”.

  15. Romney was incredibly shrewd in that he simply ignored that the first debate was, in fact, a debate. He used the prime time platform as an opportunity to reboot himself and reintroduce himself to voters with an all-new persona and positions. I think Obama was blindsided because he didn’t anticipate the sheer gall of Romney rolling right over the moderator, going way over time with extended campaign speeches rather than answers, and outright contradicting his previous words. He succeeded in part because Jim Lehrer allowed the entire format to fly off the rails. We witnessed a full-blown implementation of the Etch-a-Sketch in action, and Obama was clearly caught flatfooted by the sheer audacity.

  16. Yeah, the president was off his game, possibly because his campaign had a ‘don’t mess it up’ mentality, or thought Gov Romney’s aggreesion would be off-putting, or that Romney’s total re-invention of himself on camera and complete disavowal of prior positions would be obvious to the viewer. That was certainly a miscalculation.

    @Scorpius, cherry-picking polls is going to lead you to disappointment. Look at the aggregates and the trends, and keep in mind that to win, you have to win states. Gov Romney had strong momentum for about a 10-12 day period, but he has never actually led the race.

    There’s still a long time to go, and where Donald Trump failed maybe some other real or ginned-up scandal may succeed.

    But barring the truly unexpected, the story Nov 6th will be: Gov Romney gave it a good fight, but it wasn’t enough.

  17. @Christopher Re: Lehrer, yes I’ve been telling friends that the clear loser of the debates, taken as a whole, was the Male Moderator. Binders full of Men are needed next time.

  18. I’m actually really amazed that debates are supposed to make any difference at this stage. The vast majority of people I know made up their minds long ago (and those who haven’t are trying to decide whether to vote for Jill Stein). I have no idea what it would take to make me vote for a Republican candidate for president at this stage, but it would start with them being pro-choice and get even less likely from there.

  19. Grinding it out, yeah, pretty much. The more I see of these things, the less I believe that it’s all planned, and the more I see the truth of Indiana Jones’s line in the first Raiders movie: “I don’t know — I’m making this up as I go.”

  20. Rb,

    Saying Gallup and Rasmussen, the most reliable polls judging by past success, showing Romney slightly ahead with the electoral college and othe polls starting to show his lead isn’t cherry-picking. Deciding to ignore polls you don’t like just “because” or weighting polls who work for people on your side of the partisan line over others like Nate Silver does is cherry-picking and wishful-thinking.

  21. I know that debates are mainly for the undecided voters, but at this point are there any? On the first debate, we did find out that Romney wants to put a revenge hit on Big Bird for the Chick-fil-A getting rushed by the Muppets, but apart from that…

  22. Romney got an initial and continuing boost after the first debate, because it dispelled the notion that he was the Worst Candidate Ever. Remember, it was coming off the heels of the 47% tape. Even if Obama had won the first debate, I suspect Romney would have gotten a boost just from beating low expectations.

  23. What Doug said at 2:50. I heard (on NPR) That every sitting president who was had a televised debate has lost his first debate, with one exception. The one exception: Bill Clinton. But I mean, come on, Clinton vs Dole? Yeah.

    So, yeah, Obama lost the 1st debate (presumably) for the same reason all the others did (whatever that is). And then, like the others, he got his sh*t together and did better the next 2…

  24. Obama did have margin to burn, and intentionally or not, he burned it, and as a result may have burned up GOP control of both houses.

    Gods, one can only hope. With Republicans willing to burn the entire nation to the ground to make Obama fail, this might be the one bit of good news.

    The Republican plan for economic recovery: Same plan they always have: Tax cuts for the rich. Raise taxes for the poor. Cut benefits for the poor. And do everything possible to “starve the beast”. Oh, and throw in some Laissez Faire bullshit disproven ages ago and assume no one will notice. Corporations are people, my friend. Corporations are my friend, people. EIther way works.

    The Republican plan for Health Care Reform: Same plan as above, just specific to health care. Starve the beast. Cut benefits for everyone. The end result is Don’t get sick, and if you do, die quickly. As Romney said, there are emergency rooms for people without insurance, and that should be good enough, right?

    But mainly, everything the Republicans have done the last 4 years was simply “Oppose whatever Obama wants”. Part of Obama’s healthcare reform was a copy of a plan proposed by Republicans earlier. When Republicans proposed it, Republicans loved the idea. When Obama proposed it, Republicans hated it. Just to make Obama fail.

    This, I think, is why Democrats keep looking like “losers”. They try to find a solution that Republicans would agree to, because Dems priority is to get something done. But Republicans’ priority isn’t to get something done, it is to make sure Democrats fail, even if it endangers the nation. Republicans perfectly demonstrated this in the 2011 debt ceiling crisis.

    Only problem I can forsee is if Democrats don’t have a supermajority in the Senate, then republicans will simply fillibuster everything. But I suppose its better than nothing.

  25. Well, I’m glad the debates are behind us and that we’re moving into the home stretch. I’m planning on printing out the 538 president and senate predictions and seeing how it all unfolds on Nov. 6th.

  26. So here’e the cold light regarding undecided voters:

    Like everyone else in this country, they have experienced four years of President Obama. They are undecided because they don’t like the job he’s done. If they did, they wouldn’t be undecided. In each and every debate, no matter which Obama showed up, Romney came off as a credible alternative each and every time. Obama may have “won” the last debate, but that does not negate the fact that Romney came off as a credible commander in chief. So the challenger has presented himself as a credible alternative. If he didn’t, they wouldn’t be undecided.

    This late in the game, tenets of poltical science take over and the experience of hundreds of races shows that undecideds will mostly break for the challenger because of the above. Now that the race has tightened to within a few points, and given that 5% or so are undecided, it does not bode well for the incumbent so long as nothing major changes.

    The President knows this. He knows his original strategy didn’t work out. So now comes the 20 page agenda for his second term. Most likely too little too late.

    Just my opinion.

  27. I listened to the first two debates on the radio. The third one was the only one that I watched on television. In the first two cases, I honestly felt as if neither side “won.” I did not think that either of them did more than deliver sound bites and attempt to one up each other. Not a lot of actual facts, logic or rebuttals. Just a lot of re-hashing of things I had heard before. And in the case of the first one, I truly felt that the moderator had little to no control over the situation.

    In the third debate, I watched it with friends. Obama did indeed present himself well and I can see why people say that he won. But although I do support him, I do not think that what we have been given are actual debates. They are just televised pomposity where each candidate attempts to overpower the other.

    I would be ecstatic if political debates were more like the ones I watched in high school. Alas, I fear that such a thing is unlikely to occur.

  28. I really wanted to watch the debates this year, but it turned out that the first presidential debate was scheduled the night we had tickets to go see Amanda Palmer (it was a great show by the way – I HIGHLY recommend if you even vaguely like her music), the VP debate was the night of the annual fundraising dinner for an organization my boyfriend supports, and the second presidential debate was on our anniversary. By the time the last one rolled around, the energy was just gone so we went out for pizza instead. I’m definitely ready for this to be over, and as a person who doesn’t live in a swing state, have a land line or consume traditional media, I know I haven’t gotten it as bad as others. As has been said by others, I think it’s all about turnout now.

  29. [Deleted because Greg finished off a perfectly reasonable post with a completely jackassed personal dig. Seriously, Greg, please grow the Hell up or leave -- JS]

  30. David,

    My recommendation is that you shouldn’t rely on the NYTimes for you instuction in political science. It’s best to pay the cash and take the class. That goes for International Relations as well. FYI.

    But our analysis of 155 polls reveals that, in races that include an incumbent, the traditional answers are wrong. Over 80% of the time, most or all of the undecideds voted for the challenger.

    http://www.pollingreport.com/incumbent.htm

  31. One person I know had declared herself undecided before the first debate. But her choice wasn’t voting for Obama or Romney, it was voting for Romney or not voting at all, and the debates helped her make up her mind (well, Joe Biden had a huge role in that as well from talking to her.) More than a few of my more liberal friends were shocked by how trivial Obama seemed to treat the first debate, and were happier with his performance in the second debate, but more than one also remarked how the third debate it appeared as thought Romney were the President and Obama was the challenger. The debates were “Make or Break” for both candidates, Romney had to do well, Obama had to do poorly, and in the first debate I believe Romney certainly exceeded expectations as much as Obama hurt himself. From then on, Obama was playing catch up, and that’s not a good place for the incumbent to be in this late in the campaign.

    It would be interesting to see what the breakdown of undecided voters is in polls, and how many of them are “Candidate” or not voting at all.

    Dav

  32. cool1blue: So here’e the cold light regarding undecided voters:

    Thta’s actually quite a “warm light” of the undecided voter. Makes everyone else sound partisan and makes them sound… reasonable. Here’s undecideds in a cold light.

    Romney came off as a credible commander in chief

    Bwwhhaaaa?????

  33. @scorpius,

    You could do that flip-flopping, but you would be wrong to do so. There IS a reality outside of our own heads, and that reality can be accurately described. Perception matters, but it doesn’t change the facts about the parties… anymore than a large minority of Republicans believing that Obama was born anywhere but Hawaii actually changes his place of birth.

  34. @coo1b1ue: The NYT is hardly the Bastion of Truth, and it may well be that ‘undecided’ voters go with the challenger, but your link is to a 1989 article by a research firm on a website of unknown provenance.

  35. @Scorpius

    The best prediction of all is based on States, and the aggregated model at PEC is the best at doing that. They were off by 1 (!) electoral vote in 2008 and perfect in 2004.

    Here is their picture of today. http://election.princeton.edu/electoral-college-map/

    Romney has *never led.* He has certainly had momentum at times (notably after the Ryan announcement and after the first debate), but he has had *not one day* in the actual lead.

    Anything can happen, but it will need to be very dramatic to change this picture.

  36. As a partisan, it’s hard for me to objectively view these bouts of speaking. (I refuse to call them debates as very little debating occurs.) My impression was that Obama won the third debate by about the same margin as Romney won the first debate.

    The difficulty is that by the time you reach the fourth such event, the public has lost interest and is just pissed you’re interrupting their regularly schedule TV programming.

  37. My recommendation is that you shouldn’t rely on the NYTimes for you instuction in political science. It’s best to pay the cash and take the class. That goes for International Relations as well. FYI

    cool1blue: I teach the classes, thanks, in both politics and international relations.

    But our analysis of 155 polls reveals that, in races that include an incumbent, the traditional answers are wrong. Over 80% of the time, most or all of the undecideds voted for the challenger.

    http://www.pollingreport.com/incumbent.htm

    One of the things I teach in those classes is that you need to be sure you know what you’re saying. Just to give one example, the report you cite is by Nick Panagakis, who fathered the idea of the “incumbent rule.” In his first article on the “incumbent rule,” Nick noted that “Presidential elections do not seem to fit the rule, so they were not included” (Nick Panagakis, “Incumbent Races Are Closer Than They Seem,” _Applied Marketing Research_ 29. 2 (Spring 1989): 41).

    You might wish to study harder for the next exam.

  38. Greg: Greg finished off a perfectly reasonable post with a completely jackassed personal dig

    Uhm. I’m trying to remember what I said so I can apologize for it. The last thing I said was in reply to Scorpius saying: People I know who are undecided thought he did fine, but are still undecided because the president came off as “peevish, condescending, snarky and small”. Completely unpresidential

    Scorpius had just criticized people for “cherry picking” and “wishful thinking”, and I thought Scorpius’s “People I know” might be a sampling problem. If Scorpius is Republican and all the people he knows are Republicans and the undecideds are undecided-sortof-Republicans, then “people I know” is a biased sample and not statistically useful.

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t call him any names. I may be wrong though. I’ve been wrong before. Clearly I said something shitty, I’m just not sure what it is. Either way, doesn’t matter. I didn’t mean to be a jackass. I’ll try to do better.

    Sorry.

  39. @RB,

    The issue with the PEC model, and the model used at 538, in fact all of the models this cycle, is that they are all skewed Democratic, and using them as a basis for a model without correcting for the skew leads to a flawed outcome. And many of those sites are using information on polls that are two and three weeks old, IIRC 538 uses the most recent poll available, and if a states poll is dated Oct 1, it uses those numbers.
    As an example, of the 8 Major polls taken in the month of October from the 15th (ABC,CBS, NBC, GWU, Monmouth, IBD, Rasmussen, Gallup) average numbers wise, the Skew has been D+3.5, but independent voters are +8 for Romney, and it’s Obama 46, Romney 50 overall, with a Romney spread at 4. And that’s with the skew taken into account. Take the skew out, and the numbers get worse for the Democrats.

    That said, what a person says they’ll do in a phone interview and what they do on election day are often not the same. End of the day, it will be Ohio or Florida deciding who wins IMO.

    Dav

  40. I mentioned Scalzi’s 3D Chess strategy of Obama throwing the first debate to my boss. He replied he didn’t know about that, but that he’d been considering not voting this election. When he heard Obama had resoundingly lost the first debate, he concluded he needed to vote this year after all.

    I don’t think the President intended this tactic, either; he just blew the first debate. Anyone else, I’d attribute it to hubris, but he looked so out of it that maybe it *was* altitude sickness; maybe he was having trouble breathing.

    Through all three debates, I felt Romney was the guy that wouldn’t shut up. I’ve never formally debated, maybe that’s a debate ploy, that you just keep blathering until someone stops you.

    Whoever wrote Romney’s closing speech did a good job. That last phrase of his ‘America as the hope of the earth.’ keeps ringing in my ears, and I’m not a fan.

  41. I think Romney’s performance in the debates accomplished several things. The first debate clearly turned the tables on which candidate was aloof, out of touch and condescending.

    In the second debate he was able to continually hammer home the point that the economy is still in the toilet and the steps Obama has taken to improve it (like investing billions in sketchy green companies that later went bankrupt) has only made things worse. The only misstep he made was engaging the president on Obama’s specific language about the Benghazi cover up. He was right, but the moderator stepped in to make it appear he wasn’t and even though she corrected herself later, the damage was done. Today’s revelations that the State Department told the White House it was a terrorist attack within hours only proves Romney’s point that it had nothing to do with some video.

    Romney was pretty shrewd in the third debate. He managed to annoy both his own supporters, who wanted him to attack the President on the Benghazi debacle, and the liberals (including the mainstream media) who wanted to paint him as a warmongering douche. It was a good strategy. All of the focus groups agreed that Obama won the debate but 80% of them said that they were going to vote for Romney because he would be better on the economy. It was remarkable.

    Finally, Romney put the lie to the characterization that he was some evil, woman-hating, war-loving shitbag. In fact, many women found the belligerent antics of Biden in the VP debate, and Obama in the last Presidential debate extremely off-putting.

    Overall, I would say that Romney did what he needed to do, and to many undecided voters he looked much more presidential than Obama.

  42. I suspect that the President is simply not used to having anyone disagree with him, and that’s a real weakness in a debate. He has always been his party’s favored son, his party has had a majority in the legislature during his administration, the press, by and large, has worked diligently to show him in the most positive light possible.

    Romney, on the other hand, has a background in business, which is frequently adversarial, has been a Governor of a state with an opposition legislature, and the press has been against him for years. He knows how to talk to people who don’t like him.

    You don’t train for the big game by playing against people who always let you win. Watching the debates I was struck by President Obama’s expression when being challenged, he wasn’t thinking of an answer, he was dumbfounded that anyone would dare to disagree with his pronouncements.

  43. All of the focus groups agreed that Obama won the debate but 80% of them said that they were going to vote for Romney because he would be better on the economy

    I’m going to need to see a citation for that.

    his party has had a majority in the legislature during his administration

    Yeah, no. The Democrats had a majority in both parts of Congress for the first two years, then the GOP had a majority in the House for the last two.

  44. @Billy Quiets Your evidence for “All of the focus groups agreed that Obama won the debate but 80% of them said that they were going to vote for Romney” is actually a sample of 8 Ohio voters out of the 521 polled by CBS after the third debate? (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57537795/poll-decisive-win-for-obama-in-final-debate/?tag=contentMain;contentBody )

    “All of the focus groups” is actually eight people? I should note that not only is that *not* close to being indicative, but your math is wrong. 6/8 is 75%, not 80%.

  45. @Todd

    Sigh, the “unskewing” again.

    So you are saying Romney is up 4 before “unskewing.” So you are saying he is currently up 6 or 7 or more? A greater advantage in the pop vote than the most extreme Romney outlier at the moment (Ras)?

    OK. That must be why R is flooding PA and MI with staffers, and abandoning the “safe” FL and OH. That must be why he’s no longer worrying about CO.

    God, Dick Morris has done a number on you folks, pun intended.

  46. Has anyone mentioned Occam’s Razor here yet? Will I be hounded for doing so?

    I mean, to me, the simplest explanation is always the best. Obama simply messed-up in the first debate, could not believe it and said, as SNL once put it: “I can’t believe I am,” almost, “losing to this guy.” (Courtesy of the Great SNL Alumn Jon Lovitz).

    Whether this election goes deep into the night on Election Day, and we’re talking about “hanging chads” or their 2012 equivalent, President Obama has no one to blame but himself. He should have locked this up weeks ago, if we go by this theory…

    But I could be completely wrong myself.

  47. They are undecided because they don’t like the job [Obama’s] done. If they did, they wouldn’t be undecided.

    Then why aren’t the “decided” for Romney? Especially if Romney is so “credible” as a C-I-C? Couldn’t it be that they don’t like either of them? Or that they kinda like both of them for different reasons?

    Mostly, I don’t think this statement makes nearly as much sense as you think it makes. Also, you’ve spent the last several months making very clear statements about the thoughts and intentions of people who just plain don’t share your views on the topic, based entirely on your views. Why do you do that?

  48. David,

    So the defense of “were not partisan” is from a site being accused of being partisan? Using polling data from :-) A site that admits polls in 2004 were biased, if only “modestly”?

    Given that there’s a fewer than 10% respondent rate to today’s polling samples (as opposed to 1972, when the percentage of respondents was much greater), getting a qualified pool of participants is much harder, and there’s bound to be oversampling.

    Even so, if we are to accept the fact that the polls aren’t skewed, the numbers do not look good for the incumbent.

    Dav

  49. I think it’s a mistake to regard Obama’s loss in the first debate as some sort of weird anomaly. Since television, we’ve had incumbent presidents debate challengers 7 times: 1976, 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2012; and in all 7 of their first meetings either the presidents were regarded as having done shockingly poorly or the challengers were regarded as having done surprisingly well, or both.

    1976: Gerald Ford claims that Poland is not under Soviet domination, which prompts a near spit take from the moderator in real time.
    1980: A week before the election, Ronald Reagan begins the press’s modern love affair with the zinger with “there you go again” and “are you better off today than you were four years ago?” and immediately gains like 7 points in the polls.
    1984: Ronald Reagan gets crushed by Walter Mondale, yes Walter Mondale, as he loses his train of thought during an answer and rambles through his closing statement. The country actually started seriously considering whether he deserved medical attention rather than a second term and lost 11(!) points before a joke in the second debate righted the ship.
    1992: George HW Bush checks his watch and Bill Clinton wins with an answer to “How has the deficit affected you personally?”
    1996: Bob Dole is generally regarded as having done well, but not well enough to win many votes as Bill Clinton turns in solid but unspectacular performance. Bill Clinton wins the instant polls, but 3/4 say that Bob Dole did better than expected.
    2004: George W Bush blinks a lot, looks uncomfortable being criticized by somebody and tells America they “forgot Poland”, as John Kerry wins the first debate by about the same margin as Romney 2012, and pulls the race from a comfortable Bush lead to evenish.
    2012: Romney has his best 90 minutes of the campaign, and Barack Obama his worst 90 minutes.

    Basically, the best case scenario for an incumbent meeting a challenger in the debates is 1996, and that was probably only possible because of the massive charisma gulf that separates Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, and Bill Clinton easily had the best performance by a President. In every other case, the President got trounced.

    The presidents that do poorly all tend to make the same kinds of mistakes. They look uncomfortable on the stage, they don’t put a point on their answers and they usually get bogged down in the process instead of keeping the focus on the voters. Similarly, the challengers all usually come off better than they even do in the rest of the campaign.

    There are a few reasons why I think this is:
    1. You can’t maintain the presidential aura during a debate. As a president, your disadvantage is that you’ve done specific things that people don’t like while your opponent hasn’t. Your advantage is that being president is a big job not everyone can do it and you have a much easier job of convincing people that they can imagine you as president. So president’s try to run campaigns that paint their challengers as not able to fill the role. When successful, this wins the election, but in a debate your challenger is standing right next to you and is well prepared, and you don’t have any of the trappings of office. So there’s the shocking sense that the king is just a man, and can bleed like a man.
    2. Challengers put more time into the debates. Because standing next to a president on equal terms is one of the best ways to appear presidential, challengers really bank on the debates as a way to either solidify their own advantage or shake up the race, and since campaigning is their full time job, they can devote as much time as they like to the debates. Presidents are busy presidenting.
    3. Presidents are out of practice and challengers aren’t. An incumbent president hasn’t been in a live presidential debate in 4 years while the challenger has just been through a primary. And nothing a president does is really anything like the presidential debates, so they’re not in game shape. Presidents still do a lot of debate practice, but practice ain’t the real thing.
    4. In debates, knowledge is a handicap. Whether it’s creationists versus evolutionary biologists on evolution, goldbugs versus monetary economists on money, hacks versus climatologists on the climate change, the President versus not the President on being Presidents, even, and maybe especially when the sides are not competitive on the merits, the side that believes that it’s supported by facts and experience and solid, logical thinking tries to explain to the audience the very good reasons why such and such a thing and what my opponent said is not correct because there’s this report that …. and loses badly. Debates are not about the truth, they’re about making minimally flawed arguments using facts your audience recognizes, and compact, memorable phrasing to zing your opponent. Now the knowledgeable side usually knows this, but under stress the brain reverts back to the more familiar systematic thinking that experts usually do on those topics and only negative debate performances will condition the brain to stop doing that.

    As a final note, the fundamentals based models suggest something in the neighborhood of a 1-2 point Obama victory, which implies that Mitt Romney should have led this race at several points during the campaign yet Romney didn’t have a lead in general election season until after the debates. Romney failed to get significant advantage from the end of primary season, from his VP selection, or from his convention, all while suffering significant debacles on his tax returns and the 47% video and making a significant strategic concession in accepting a “choice” frame over the “referendum” frame he had preferred. Obama has basically won the entire campaign aside from the first debate and that created an expectation that he would be able to blow Mitt Romney off the stage, which would be historically unprecedented. But then deep disappointment with Barack Obama’s inability to deliver historically unprecedented success is pretty much the ground state of America in the Obama years.

  50. @MishaBurnett:

    I suspect that the President is simply not used to having anyone disagree with him, and that’s a real weakness in a debate. He has always been his party’s favored son, his party has had a majority in the legislature during his administration, the press, by and large, has worked diligently to show him in the most positive light possible.

    Yeah. Nah. Sorry, are we both in one of those Bizarro World alternate universe episodes of Fringe?

  51. WHY OBAMA LOST THE FIRST DEBATE: He didn’t use the second-person.

    In the first debate, Romney came off as much more forceful and aggressive for a few reasons, but one sticks out to me: Romney consistently used the word “you” in reference to the President. As Jeffrey Nunberg said on the Oct. 9th, 2012 episode of “Fresh Air”, “The real outlier in this last debate was Romney. He addressed the president directly 37 times, either as Mr. President or just as “you” — almost twice as often as he referred to the president in the third person. That was dramatically different from Obama, who referred to Romney in the third person fifty times and addressed him directly only six.”

    This helped Romney look more forceful and aggressive, and the President look more professorial and distant. Obama learned his lesson. By the third debate, he had turned the tables on Romney. In his very first answer in the Foreign Policy debate, Obama said, “I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after al-Qaida, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East.”

    From then on, practically every answer Obama gave referred to Romney directly as “you”. “You just gave a speech…”, “your suggestion [about Qaddafi] was that this was mission creep”, “When you were asked about reduced class sizes, you said class sizes don’t make a difference.”, etc. etc.

    As I’m sure John Scalzi would agree, language matters, and something as seemingly inoucuous as whether you choose to refer to something in the second-person or the third-person can make a huge difference on how something is actually heard.

  52. David, the CBS focus group was one example, and it was intended as just that, an example. If you want to prove me wrong, then you are welcome to compile your own results.

    I’m well aware that 6/8 is 75%. Again, it was one example, as I said when I cited it. I chose a group that I thought would be more acceptable to the generally liberal crowd here at Whatever. All of the groups had different, but similar, percentages. If I had cited the FOX group you would have cried about conservative bias. If you want to make a spreadsheet maybe you can prove that it was only 78% or possibly I underestimated and it was 84%. Whatever dude. I don’t have the time to argue about it, I was just sharing my observations and giving you a reference for them.

    No need to be pedantic and imply that I am incapable of simple math.

  53. @Billy Quiets. You are asserting something factual, and I would like evidence of those facts. No, I am not going to do your research for you.

  54. “I think at this point he’s just trying to grind the damn thing out”

    Spoken like a man who just finished writing a novel.

  55. Doc,

    Decided voters have decided. They either want the Presudent re-elected or they want someone else elected. Take them off the table. They have their reasons. If undecideds thought the president was doing a great or reasonable job, they’d want him reelected. Seems logical to me.

    And I don’t know who you have me confused with but I’ve probably posted 3 times in the last several months on this site, today excepted, and they were all pretty brief.

  56. I think Obama believed his own campaign’s trashing of Romney. I think he was stunned to find that people thought he had lost. Then Smiling Joe … smirked a few too many times and suddenly there were two quarters left. But unlike any number of other sports, “debate” in American politics, each quarter is worth less in the total for the entire game. Final isn’t half your semester grade, it’s ten percent. Oops.

    And yes, the debating and formats and moderating were horrid.

  57. David: This helped Romney look more forceful and aggressive, and the President look more professorial and distant.

    Personally, I find it odd that people would want a “forceful and aggressive” president after 8 years of George “I feel it in my gut” Bush Jr. Then again, I was amazed that McCain was still considered a viable candidate to hold his thumb on the nuclear button after his “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” jingle.

    There was a study… somewhere… google skills are failing me at the moment but I found this… that showed “certainty” is not connected to “accuracy” in the mind.

    The feeling of certainty is most likely an outcome of evolutionary biology. It feels like a “reward” to provide a means to continue on when there is no objective incentive to continue something. It is the (literally) feel-good version of “winners never quit”. It’s true that winners never quit. But it’s also true that there are losers who didn’t quit either. The positive results are reinforced and the negative results of the same behavior are ignored, and you end up with a non-causa-pro-causa idea that says “not quitting means you will win”.

    But brains don’t evolve purely at the logical level. Internal subjective reactions (“feel good” rewards and negative reinforcement like “disgust” etc) are the result of evolution, and when a feel good reward survives it can get reinforced, even though survival doesn’t mean the reward was connected to the correct behavior. We’ve evolved with some subjective reactions of “disgust” to many bodily fluids. We’re generally disgusted by poop and pee. This likely had evolutionary advantages. To quote the wise man Jules: ” sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfucker. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s a filthy animal. I ain’t eat nothin’ that ain’t got sense enough to disregard its own feces”.

    But at the same time, ask most people to spit in a perfectly clean glass and then ask them to drink their own spit, and most won’t do it without major incentive to overcome the “disgust” biological reaction.

    “Certainty” is a biological reward. It feels good to be certain. Doubt feels like complete shit. But certainty and doubt have fuck all to do with being accurate, being correct, being right. Bush Jr was certain that Iraq had to be attacked and I believe his followers were certain we’d be welcomed as liberators and we’d be in and out in 6 months tops.

    “aggression” is also a biological response. It is generally tied to lower level emotional responses like fear, doubt, and anger. Aggression also has fuck all to do with being the best and most appropriate response. It’s just what survived, evolutionarily speaking.

    Being “forceful” is little more than a combination of “certainty” and “aggression”.

    If you’re on the battlefield, especially fighting third generation warfare, certainty and aggression was rewarded among officers. A standard test was to give an officer two sets of mutually conflicting orders. If the officer seized up and did nothing, he failed. If he did something, anything, he generally was considered to pass the test to become an officer. Once they’ve been determined to have initiative, then they’re ingrained with tactics and such needed to win a battle.

    But being president isn’t the same as being a lieutenant among troops on the battlefield.

    Snap decisions put us into Iraq. Certainty put us in Afghanistan. And even if Romney exudes certainty and aggression (I don’t think he does at all, but in case you do), he has disowned the training that would come after passing the initial officer’s test. He thinks Laissez Faire is a good idea. He wants to give tax breaks to the rich and increase taxes on the poor. He wants to reduce services and starve the beast. He would be one of those lieutenants who would get himself and his men killed with shitty decisions. Or a general. Robert E. Lee’s orders to attack the Union soldiers who held the high ground at Gettysburg comes to mind.

    In a president, feelings of certainty and aggression, without the underlying knowledge, tactics, strategies, understanding of economics, justice, diplomacy, and so on, likewise leads to horrendously bad results. Bush Jr. who got us into Iraq and Afghanistan comes to mind.

    Maybe someday we can move beyond the limits of feeling certain, feeling aggressive, feeling forceful, and actually sort out the tactics, strategies, economics, sense of justice, and so on, needed to find the best solutions for the planet.

  58. “I think at this point he’s just trying to grind the damn thing out.”

    Just like the rest of us.

  59. If undecideds thought the president was doing a great or reasonable job, they’d want him reelected

    You’re going to ignore the part where the *study you cited* actually points out that it doesn’t apply to the Presidential race, aren’t you?

    Oh and @Billy Quiets:

    All of the groups had different, but similar, percentages

    Then you’re not going to have any trouble citing them, are you?

  60. Misha: I suspect that the President is simply not used to having anyone disagree with him,

    I think Obama probably remembers when Republicans disagreed with him on his health care reform every step of the way for an entire year even when he borrowed parts of his plan from a plan Republicans had themselves proposed earlier. So I would suspect he’s used to people disagreeing with him.

    I think what may have thrown Obama at least in the first debate is just how much Romney was willing to shift his political positions from pre-debate-Romney to first-debate-Romney, and just how much Romney is willing to lie about what he believes.

  61. All the people who ever believed in the 3D Vulcan Space Chess theory might usefully remember the January 2010 Scott Brown / Martha Coakley electoral debacle. Coakley had run the epic fail of campaigns (she managed to diss the Red Sox, and took two weeks off shortly before the election), and going into the last week, all across the liberal blogosphere there was this narrative of people frustrated with her, despising her ineffectiveness and passivity, and determined that by gum they’d show her, they’d pick her up and drag her seemingly unwilling metaphorical electoral carcass across the finish line – much like tygerstripes’s comment about their boss, above.

    Didn’t work out too well for Coakley, and I’m sure it wasn’t a deliberate choice by Obama, either.

    PS note also the sheer difference in dedication and professionalism in the flacks on both sides. If the Democrats could swamp the airwaves with committed spinners inanely burbling complete confidence in their candidate’s overwhelming victory no matter what just happened on the stage, as the Republicans did after the second and third debate, they could have significantly blunted the damage immediately after the first debate. They might even have convinced the media to pay some attention to whether any of Romney’s claims were factual, or consistent with his record.

  62. John, not that you have to share with us of course, but I am curious as to your thoughts, but if the election ended today do you think the debates helped Romney enough to win? Or overall did it end in enough of a stalemate that we are back to where we started, i.e., a fairly close Obama victory. My personal opinion is that while the debates helped Romney, it wasn’t enough. Too many independents are a bit scared of him and Ryan, I think.

  63. dlgrn: Although I agree that an incumbent president “losing” his first debate has been the pattern, Gerald Ford’s eastern Europe gaffe was during the second Ford-Carter debate, not the first.

  64. If the Democrats could swamp the airwaves with committed spinners inanely burbling complete confidence in their candidate’s overwhelming victory no matter what just happened on the stage,

    they did. It’s called MSNBC, the NYTs, Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, NPR, WAPO, Rachel Maddow….

    I was surprised in the Veep and the second Presidential debate that they automatically believed he won.

  65. I think Obama just blew the first debate. He wasn’t prepared for Romney to just flood the air with lies. He did OK in the other two, and Biden handed Lyin’ Ryan his ass in the Veep debate.

    Romney is really counting on the Etch-A-Sketch, which he seems to shake every couple of days. Anyone who thinks Romney is plausible as a C-in-C hasn’t been watching him at all.

    As for polls, anyone who believes Rasmussen…well, is a right-wing Republican and doesn’t actually want to know anything about political reality, because everyone (including the right-wing Republicans) knows that Rasmussen is the “poll” that’s used only to let Republicans say they’re winning in at least one poll. Rasmussen is partisan garbage, like Fox News.

    Gallup is more credible, though.

    TransDutch: [Obama]’d probably been in Denver before

    Uh, yeah, like in 2008. If that was it, it was a massive botch-up.

  66. After reading this post, I was totally reminded of my third favorite movie, The American President. I imagine Obama’s got a Michael J. Fox type character making frantic calls and losing his shit as the political capital well starts to dry up.

    Of course, I also assume that everything that goes on in the White House is basically an Aaron Sorkin script.

    “My name is Barack Obama and I AM the President.”

  67. As for polls, anyone who believes Rasmussen…well, is a right-wing Republican and doesn’t actually want to know anything about political reality, because everyone (including the right-wing Republicans) knows that Rasmussen is the “poll” that’s used only to let Republicans say they’re winning in at least one poll. Rasmussen is partisan garbage, like Fox News.

    Save for the fact that Rasmussen was the most accurate in 2008 given the lead up and final results combined.

    Xopher, you come off as a typical partisan. Making broad, unsubstantiated statements that all you agree with you are JUST WRONG! SO THERE!

  68. Of course, I also assume that everything that goes on in the White House is basically an Aaron Sorkin script.

    What? Fueled by cocaine and self-righteousness?

  69. What? Fueled by cocaine and self-righteousness?

    Yes! Also: eloquent speeches and a dramatic soundtrack that crescendos at specific moments.

  70. Xopher, you come off as a typical partisan.

    I was going to make a comment about pots and kettles, but that seems inadequate, because in fact you are the Platonic ideal of a partisan extremist.

  71. because in fact you are the Platonic ideal of a partisan extremist.

    Ah, Xopher, you don’t even know me. I’m a cuddly Libertarian. Seriously, are there Libertarian “partisan extremists”?

  72. Scorpius:

    Aggregate your posts, please.

    Everyone:

    Remember to be polite to each other, please.

    J. Swan:

    “but I am curious as to your thoughts, but if the election ended today do you think the debates helped Romney enough to win?”

    No. The first debate happened when Obama was at the very height of his electoral and popular vote advantage, so he had a lot of margin to burn. Romney spent almost all of his first debate gains getting closer, not getting ahead (in the electoral vote — he’s been ahead on the popular vote). As far as I can see, Romney’s never not been working from a deficit on the electoral vote. He could definitely still win, but I don’t think he will.

  73. @htom:

    Final isn’t half your semester grade, it’s ten percent. Oops.

    And you know the fundamental problem with that analogy, htom — Mitt Romney really believes that the President of the United States can demand perpetual do-overs and slide on by with a Gentleman’s C grade every damn time. Problem is that when you’re in the Oval Office your words and actions actually have lasting consequences.

    It’s easy to forget that the last debate was ostensibly about “foreign policy”, but there’s a wide world out there of people who don’t actually give a rat’s rectum about how “moderate Mitt” is playing with the focus groups and the Sunday morning talking heads this news cycle. They’re also folks who don’t have Romnesia when he staked out very far from moderate positions about “dealing to China” or being totally on board with pre-emptive strikes on Iran.

  74. Scorpius, I invite you to look at the responses of the people and institutions you name after the first debate (hint: all three individuals you name declared Obama had disastrously lost the first debate, and Andrew Sullivan in particular was hysterically despondent), and to measure them against a comparable list of pundits and institutions who root for Romney, after the third debate (which snap polls showed was a rout of Romney comparable to the rout of Obama those same snap polls observed in the first debate).

    Also: in the list in your response, you name three individuals and four institutions. All three individuals are strongly supporting Obama, but of the four institutions you name, one supports him in prime time (in which category you double-count at least one person on your list) and opposes him in the morning; one editorially supports him and reports the news fairly straight; one might just barely editorially support him, by a tiny smidgen, and reports the news fairly-straight-to-conservative; and one has no editorial line and is pathologically committed to being fair to all sides, no matter what they claim. Not a very well crafted list.

  75. Save for the fact that Rasmussen was the most accurate in 2008 given the lead up and final results combined.

    Well, no.

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/rasmussen-polls-were-biased-and-inaccurate-quinnipiac-surveyusa-performed-strongly/

    Money quote:

    “They were about average in 2008.”

    And bad in 2010:

    “[In 2010], polls conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports — which released more than 100 surveys in the final three weeks of the campaign, including some commissioned under a subsidiary on behalf of Fox News — badly missed the margin in many states, and also exhibited a considerable bias toward Republican candidates.”

  76. scorpius: are there Libertarian “partisan extremists”?

    Yes. Absolutely. They’re human just like everyone else.

    Libertarians are essentially followers of laissez faire economics and I’m not exactly how one can be a follower of laissez faire without being an extremist. Laissez faire is, by definition, completely at the end of one end of the economic spectrum. Regulate physical crime, deregulate everything else. The only way to be more extreme than libertarianism is to be an anarchist, and well, anarchy isn’t really at the political end of a spectrum so much as an unorganized non-collection of individuals who have done their very best to chew the far end of the spectrum to tatters and shout at anyone who would try to mend it. Anarchists don’t want to be on anyone’s spectrum. So, really, the spectrum ends at libertarianism and quickly comes to a ragged, gnawed, end.

    A libertarian-non-extremist would use parts of libertarianism, namely the parts that work, to the degreee that they work. But that would describe both conservatives who want some regulation but want much of business to be deregulated, as well as progressives who want businesses that can regulate themselves to stay in a free market and only regulate the bits that don’t work unregulated. There are attitudes of libertarianism in both the left and right, both Republican and Democratic parties.

    For example, I like the engine that is private enterprise. I don’t think the government can do what private enterprise does. But I also know that certain conditions exist where monopolies become a positive feedback loop that no private enterprise can break and therefore regulation is needed there. And I’m a lefty-progressive politically speaking. But I actually do understand the notions of Libertarianism at least to the extent that in some situations the best thing to do is let free enterprise be. Let it do its thing.

    To be a pure Libertarian, means that neither R nor D party is sufficiently Libertarian enough, which leaves for the most part, only those folks who really, really, really, really want pure, undilluted Laissez Faire capitalism and nothing regulated beyond that. And those particular folks would be both partisan (Libertarian only, nothing else will do) and extremists (at the utter ragged end of the political spectrum).

    Cause really, Laissez Faire says individuals, unfettered by regulation, will find the best and most efficient solution. Apply that to cars and laissez faire says we should wipe out all traffic regulation and drivers would just naturaly find the best and most efficient outcome. Laissez faire applied to traffic laws says if we remove the stop signs, the stop lights, the speed limits, the lane markers, the median barricades, the “one-way” signs, and all other forms of traffic regulation, then drivers, unfettered by traffic regulations, would naturally find the best and most efficient ways to drive, they would regulate themselves far better than traffic laws could, and they would find the oslution that gets cars from A to B far more efficiently than government regulation ever could. I think to believe that is about as partisan and extreme as one can get.

    But even if we remove the fact that LIbertarianism is at the extreme end of the political/economic spectrum, Libertarians are still human, and can be just as extreme and partisan as any other human.

  77. I’m afraid I respectfully disagree with every single one of you. This election will come down to wearing pants.

    Mark my words: the first candidate to be photographed or filmed not wearing pants will lose the election. Both candidates know this, and they’re doing everything they can to wear pants in public.

  78. Intentional or not, it might be a good thing in the long run that Obama lost the first debate largely because of the money issue.

    #1 Much of the media narrative before the debate was literally “anonymous Romney campaign staffers” all pointing fingers at each other as the ship was sinking and everyone was wondering what went wrong and how Romney’s campaign had already lost unless they pulled off a miracle.

    #2 This is the first Presidential election since the Citizens United decision and by far the most expensive one to date (over a billion spent on each side, I think).

    #3 A multimillion dollar SuperPAC would sure live to clinch the top prize and help win the Presidency, but they aren’t dumb. If Romney was really down for the count with no hope, the best bet is to shift that money down ticket.

    #4 Obama crushing Romney and hoping to have giant coattails could work, but with the much larger amounts of money in free floating Super PACs rather than tied to a campaign, it’s al too easy to shift money from Romney down ticket. A few million in the Presidential campaign isn’t much. In a Senate campaign, it can have a far larger impact especially if properly targeted (in a House campaign it could overcome any coattails easily).

    So there’s not only far more money in this election, and it’s pretty easy to shift to lower races for greater impact this time. With the fat lady warming up for Romney before the first debate, a solid win by Obama might have made the Senate a far more difficult fight. So, intentional or not, losing the first debate and burning some of the massive lead he had could work to Democrats advantage in the long run. But it could totally blow up in their faces. Or Republican Senate candidates could open their mouths again and say something about rape that is insanely far from mainstream making debates and SuperPACs moot.

  79. Scorpius, I don’t actually believe you’re a Libertarian any more, much less a cuddly one. I can’t see how a Libertarian could support a guy who wants to put even more restrictions on individual liberty than we have now. I suppose a Libertarian could ignore that if he regard women and gays as people, and saw the interests of the 1% as displacing all the rights and freedoms of everyone else, but it’s hard to credit.

    It’s Republicans who believe, as Romney does, that only the interests of corporations and the very rich count, women only in so far as they’re connected to appropriately wealthy men, and gay people not at all. Someone who’s supporting Romney couldn’t really credibly be a Libertarian.

    And Libertarians can be extreme too. We call them Randroids. They’re the people who believe they’d prosper if government would just get out of the way. Of course, in reality most of them would be dog meat in the first five minutes. The rest would be the dogs.

  80. Christopher: Mark my words: the first candidate to be photographed or filmed not wearing pants will lose the election.

    So, Kilts? The underappreciated third-party garment?

    I could see that.

  81. David, You are once again attacking the messenger because you don’t like the message. Your reference on Rasmussen’s credibility cites an article by a partisan hack who writes for the NY Times, whose bias toward liberalism is beyond question. Nate Silver may think being the MOST accurate pollster is average but I think the rest of us would disagree. For the 2008 presidential election, how about this report from Fordham University that shows Rasmussen was THE most accurate poll.

    http://www.fordham.edu/images/academics/graduate_schools/gsas/elections_and_campaign_/poll%20accuracy%20in%20the%202008%20presidential%20election.pdf

  82. Ayn Rand is a partisan extremist.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/the-darker-sides-of-ayn-rand/article1208790/

    “In her 1964 Playboy interview, she flatly declared that it was “immoral” to place family ties and friendship above productive work; in her fiction, family life is depicted as a stifling swamp.”

    “Rand declared, “There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.” She lambasted free-market theorists such as Friedrich A. Hayek for their lack of purity”

    “Ms. Rand sarcastically notes that many people would regard the dead passengers [of a train accident] as innocent victims of a tragedy and then, in a series of brief character sketches, endeavours to show that they were far from innocent: All had benefited from evil government programs, promoted evil political or philosophical ideas, or both. … she clearly suggests they had it coming.”

    I don’t know how a Libertarian could be more partisan and extremist in their views that this.

    But, there you have it, one of the most influential writers among libertarians was in fact a partisan extremist.

  83. @Billy Quiets You still haven’t come up with more evidence of your “80% [sic]” of “all focus groups” were going to vote Romney.

    For the 2008 presidential election, how about this report from Fordham University that shows Rasmussen was THE most accurate poll

    The author of the Fordham U report is Costas Panagopoulos and the report you cite was his immediate reaction. He had time to write a final report (http://www.fordham.edu/images/academics/graduate_schools/gsas/elections_and_campaign_/2008%20poll%20accuracy%20panagopoulos.pdf ) in 2009.

    How did it rate Rasmussen?

    9th.

    In a three-way tie.

    Average.

  84. David, Panagopoulos final report excluded polls prior to October 29, 2008. That’s the point. All of the pollsters try to get it right in the end to preserve their credibility. The initial analysis includes the polls for the time period leading up to the election, which shows that Rasmussen was the most accurate (or perhaps the least biased) throughout the process.

    If you want to believe that everything is all tea and crumpets in the Obama campaign go ahead, but I don’t think so. I’m backing up my opinion with facts. If you think they aren’t valid, that’s your prerogative.

  85. President Obama seemed out of it during the first debate. Head down, writing on something or the other, not looking at Romney, not fighting back, allowing Romney to interrupt him, etc. I don’t think he was so bad that he deserved the freakout from Andrew Sullivan and some MSNBC commentators. I wish the media had focused more on the substance of Romney’s arguments during the first debate — he seemed to have abandoned some positions which he had previously held (flip flopping? straight up lying?).
    Romney got a good bounce out of the first debate. We’ll see if President Obama is able to grind this out in the next 12 days.

  86. I find it most interesting that the majority (in my non-scientific, possibly sample-biased experience) of people who are still debating this as if the candidates were somehow equal are men. Yes, there are women voting for Romney (straight, white and wealthy, and thus deluded into believing they can’t be affected by GOP social policy), but by and large, the gender gap is utterly enormous in this election, and with excellent reason.

    I admit I find it somewhat infuriating to see straight guys debating this stuff as if there were somehow a genuine choice in this. How nice it must be not to have one’s basic survival be the largest factor in how one votes.

  87. My sense of what happened in that first “debate” is that President Obama suffered a double whammy of over work plus little sleep exhaustion and altitude exhaustion. Whereas Romney had been hanging in Denver for a week already and doing nothing but prepping for the debate. In fact that’s all he’s been doing for years. While President Obama is POTUS and working all the time and traveling for work all the time. Multi-tasking non-stop is what it means to be POTUS. Personally don’t believe Romney’s up to that. But then he’s a biz guy par none so he’ll just delegate when he needs a break. You know, like Dubya did. Who was a biz guy par none too.

  88. A Mediated Life,
    I understand why the Republican platform alienates the majority of the LGBT community. A lot of us are working to change things but it’s a long process. Take heart, though, we are getting there.

    The war on women thing is complete nonsense. Most Republicans are against abortion, many of them are women. No one is against women. Seriously, it’s just ridiculous. We don’t want to take away mammograms, or birth control. That’s silly, and it amazes me that the Democratic Party thinks so little of your intelligence that they promote this lie.

    Republicans, many of whom have religious reasons, don’t want to PAY for someone else’s birth control. We had eight years of Reagan and twelve years of the Bush One and Two, did they outlaw birth control? Please, it’s nonsense.

    Personally, I don’t want to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control and it has nothing to do with religion. Why in the hell should I have to pay for someone else’s? That’s nuts. The fact that Obama is even trying to make it a campaign issue offends me.

  89. I don’t know if any has pointed this out or not, I gave the posts a glance, but maybe the “landscape” changed too drastically for the incumbent campaign to realize. What where you doing “Online” four years ago? My guess is that the “Online Landscape” exceeded expectations on both sides, and both campaigns have suffered accordingly. Obama’s by not realizing the presence of the opposition, and Romney’s by thinking they have done better than they actually have because of a bigger “Online” presence of their base. Places like Facebook and Twitter were not really common place four years ago in the “Mainstream” of the American culture. In other words… I think the election is still up in the air and won’t really be decided until election night because this “Election” is unique. I think both campaigns played untested strategies. In other words both campaigns may be trying the “3D-chess-rope-a-dope-kung-fu-campange-strategy.”

  90. avid, Panagopoulos final report excluded polls prior to October 29, 2008. That’s the point.

    Well, then citing Rasmussen NOW would be counter to the point, hm?

  91. By the way…

    Personally, I don’t want to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control and it has nothing to do with religion. Why in the hell should I have to pay for someone else’s? That’s nuts.

    Actually, that’s not nuts. Birth control and contraceptives is part of a woman’s health, just like blood pressure checks. It’s a normal part of the biological process for 51% of the population, and is needed for a good percentage of that 51% to regularize their monthly cycles. Not taking care of that is nuts.
    Not to mention cruel, coming from a minority of the population.

  92. The initial analysis includes the polls for the time period leading up to the election, which shows that Rasmussen was the most accurate (or perhaps the least biased) throughout the process.

    Shorter BQ: “I like the source I cited as long as it says what I want. After that? Not so much.”

    You don’t get to pick and choose which of the results you like, according to which you like. Panagopoulos’ report–the one he claimed as his final analysis–has Rasmussen at 9th.

    Average.

    I’m still waiting on any other source for your “80%” comment that doesn’t rely on 8 voters out of 521.

    So far, I’ve checked on two of your claims and two have been wrong. That’s not even an average track record, so you’ll have to do a bit to measure up to Rasmussen.

  93. Billy Quiets: No one is against women.

    Erm.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/24/1149239/-Another-crazy-Republican-rape-theory-and-Mitt-disagrees-Again

    Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, said in a debate on Tuesday that “even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”

    Yeah, about that “No one is against women” thing. I think that’s one right there.

    That’s silly, and it amazes me that the Democratic Party thinks so little of your intelligence that they promote this lie.

    These aren’t fringey nutjobs with tinfoil popehats, sitting in faraday cages made out of crucifixes, writing their rants to some crazy site about atheist conspiracy theories, while sitting in their underwear in their parents basements. No, they’re senators and congressmen and others in powerful political offices. You think you can shrug that level of power+craziness as some sort of Democratic Pary lie?

    Personally, I don’t want to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control and it has nothing to do with religion.

    A woman gets raped, and you don’t want to pay for her emergency contraception? And it has nothing to with religion? What then? I’d love to hear this one.

  94. Betting Billy won’t say “Well, Greg, it just so happens that I’m a privileged white male, and can afford the health care *I* need, and so I don’t see why I should deprive myself of [pipe tobacco|a boat payment|12-year-old Scotch|whatever*] to take care of some mere woman’s healthcare needs.”

    Anyone gonna fade me on that? (Billy can’t, ‘cuz he controls the outcome.)

    *Note small w.

  95. David,
    No, I didn’t say “I like the source I cited as long as it says what I want.” I pointed out what your source said. I read the final report and referenced it. The final report excluded the polls leading up to the actual election, the initial report did not. So if we apply the same standard to this election it would exclude the polls ones we are looking at right now. Rasmussen was the most accurate when those polls are considered. I think that is relevant even if you don’t.

    Don’t make it personal. You seem to think that I’m trying to convince you, but I’m not. I was stating my opinion and backing it up with facts. You keep bringing up my 80% comment. If it bothers you so much try to disprove it. I provided an example of a liberal source that showed a focus group (not a poll) that showed 75%. The comment was about focus groups. If you think I’m out of line, why don’t you go look at the Luntz group, or CNN. I don’t care. I wasn’t writing a dissertation, I was making a comment. If you are so certain I’m full of shit, do your own research and post it.

  96. Greg and Xopher,

    I am a white male. Does that make my opinion less valid? Will you judge me be the color of my skin and my gender or by the content of my heart?

    And if we are going to judge the entire party based on the actions of one individual, I can do that. Is Anthony Weiner a good character reference for you? How about Bill Clinton who talks a great game about women but used his “privileged white male” status to take advantage of a young intern and many, many other women. He didn’t just have a stupid opinion about rape like the guy you mention, he was actually ACCUSED of rape more than once and settled out of court. He is the paragon of virtue in the Democratic Party.

    Give me a break.

  97. No, I didn’t say “I like the source I cited as long as it says what I want.”

    Sure, you did. You’ve cherry-picked two sources now to say what you want them to say, and when someone else actually looks at them, they’re either 1) completely unrepresentative (the 8 out of 521 voters) or 2) saying the opposite of what you want (the Rasmussen polls).

    If you are so certain I’m full of shit, do your own research and post it.

    You made a factual assertion and then failed to produce credible evidence for it. Where is that evidence? All you have to do is produce it.

  98. Personally, I don’t want to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control and it has nothing to do with religion. Why in the hell should I have to pay for someone else’s? That’s nuts. The fact that Obama is even trying to make it a campaign issue offends me.

    Billy – you’re taking the piss, right? I suspect Sandra Fluke doesn’t actually want to pay for Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and pretty much the entire GOP to impose their religious beliefs on her uterus but she doesn’t get a lot of choice about it.

    And, personally, I get pretty offended when straight white men get all huffy when they stop being the center of the political universe for a whole thirty seconds. I believe the technical terms is Diddums.

  99. cranapia, you quoted me accurately. I said my not wanting to pay for someone else’s birth control has nothing to do with religion. I also said that many other Republicans object on the grounds of religion. I personally don’t give two shits what Sandra Fluke does with her ladybits. I just don’t want to pay for it.

  100. David,
    Please don’t look at this link. It is from the Luntz focus group of voters who voted for Obama last time and are now undecided. Fifteen out of twenty of them (yeah, yeah only 75%) decided to vote for Obama after the debate. For those of you with an open mind, it’s a pretty interesting article from Real Clear Politics.

  101. Billy Quiets:

    “And if we are going to judge the entire party based on the actions of one individual”

    Do you agree that Mourdock – and Akin (two individuals now) – are bad representatives of the Republican party based on the positions they’ve espoused?

    Second, how many Republicans would be required to support those positions before you would acknowledge the Republican party is fundamentally flawed when it comes to this issue?

    “I am a white male. Does that make my opinion less valid? Will you judge me be the color of my skin and my gender or by the content of my heart?”

    Also, BOO. Come on.

  102. Other Bill, Absolutely. I think Akin is an idiot and I even bet Kat Goodwin that he would withdraw from the election. Sadly, I underestimated his stubbornness. Most of the party did everything they could to get him to withdraw, including Romney.

  103. Billy Quiets, RE the “war on women”: please defend for me the legislated, forced humiliation of women by means of a mandatory and completely unnecessary vaginal ultrasound – an act not inaccurately described as manual rape. This was supported by the Republican legislatures and governors of several states.

    Less vividly, less graphically, please explain the the voting on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: in the House and the Senate combined, seven Republicans voted for the final version of the bill. This is a bill that merely made it possible for women to seek justice if they later discovered they had been discriminated against by their paymasters.

    Regarding contraception, I could care less whether you want to pay for Ms. Fluke’s contraception (though I will note that her testimony was actually about someone else’s contraception, which they needed not (or not only) to prevent pregnancy but because of a separate medical condition). Frankly, I don’t want you informed about Ms. Fluke’s contraception decisions, nor about her friend’s, let alone making them; nor, obviously, should I be so informed. I see contraception as being part of a woman’s medical care, and if there is a question of conscience surrounding a woman’s use of contraception, it’s for damn sure hers to make, and not yours or mine, or her employer’s.

    Furthermore, contraception coverage doesn’t even cost money: policies that provide contraception are cheaper than those that don’t, because complications from foregoing contraception, including pregnancies, can cost an awful lot of money. Basically, you just want women to pay for that part of their health care themselves, or not to get it at all, in either case resulting in a net increase in health care dollars spent.

  104. Oh, thank God, actual evidence. Okay, I’ll take the Frank Luntz group. Now we have 8 voters (from your original link) and 20 voters (from the Luntz group). Against that, we have the CNN instant poll of the third debate, with 448 voters, 25% of whom said they were more likely to vote for Romney against 24% more likely for Obama.

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/22/cnn-poll-who-won-the-debate/?hpt=hp_t2

    And we have the 500 voters surveyed by PPP, which has it 38% more likely for Romney, against 37 for Obama.

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/10/obama-wins-debate-by-11-points-in-swing-states.html

    (Note by the way that the better way to measure this would be (more likely minus less likely), which comes out worse for Romney (+3%) in the PPP vote than Obama (+6%)).

    So now we’ve established two things. 1. Your assertion that “all focus groups” went 80% for Romney is a ridiculous one, and 2. That you have 28 people making your case, and I have 948 making mine.

    That’s 97.3% voting my side, by the way.

  105. Warren,
    I’m not advocating vaginal ultrasound. (Boy, we’re getting a long way from talking about the debates now) but I understand why the mandatory ultrasound was passed.

    First, it is my understanding that an ultrasound was mandated by those states. Did it specify vaginal ultrasound? Second, isn’t it true that over 90% of abortions already employ a vaginal ultrasound prior to the procedure?

  106. I personally don’t give two shits what Sandra Fluke does with her ladybits. I just don’t want to pay for it.

    FFS, Billy, you’re really channeling Romney in “say something obnoxious and keep ‘doubling down’” mode. I did quote you accurately, and you were in a state of high dudgeon because (gasp!) the President of the United States had the gall to talk about “ladybits”. I do get that you don’t give a rat’s arse about women’s health issues, reproductive rights etc., and guess what, nobody else is saying you have to. But try really hard to wrap your head around the fact that a non-trivial number of of your fellow citizens who actually get to vote in the 21st century (you know, like WOMEN) do, and you don’t get to tell ‘em to STFU until your psychic ouchy boo-boo goes away.

  107. Billy,
    This was not a medical ultrasound, used for purposes of diagnostics and determining developmental stage. This was an ultrasound used to display to the woman a video of the embryo in her body. That’s a huge difference. Its only purpose was to humiliate the woman, and to increase the expense, time, and effort involved in her deciding what happens to her body. As a mandate, it genuinely had no other function. It was an underhanded attempt to reduce the incidence of abortion by physically, emotionally, and economically punishing the women who seek it.

    And, yes, the mandate was for a vaginal ultrasound. It is my understanding that at the stage mandated – at the stage where abortion remains legal in these states under any but the most extreme circumstances – this was necessary.

    I agree with you that this is far afield from the topic of the thread. Maybe we should therefore drop the subject. But I was (rightly or wrongly) replying to a long series of “war on women” comments from you and your interlocutors; I wasn’t coming out of left field.

  108. @Billy Quiets, there’s nothing shameful about a math error. What is shameful is responding with petulance and personal attacks merely because somebody called you out for being inaccurate.

  109. Hey mythago, how’s it going? I’m pretty happy with my math skills, actually. The two liberal focus groups I cited were at 75%. One of them was not just undecided voters, but former Obama-voting undecided voters. Note that they were actually focus groups. David is determined to confuse a polling sample with a focus group.

  110. @Billy Quiets, really, I can read your posts; they’re still up there, and unless you’re accusing someone of WTFHAX!!!, I can assume that you in fact said what is posted in this thread and intended to say what you said.

  111. mythago, I’m not sure what you’re on about. I said 80%. The two examples I cited were at 75%. My bad. The point is still valid. The groups said that Obama won the debate and then most of them said they were going to vote for Romney. I took the two most liberal focus groups I could find. WTF? I’m not making it up.

  112. “Personally, I don’t want to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control Rush Limbaugh’s Viagra and it has nothing to do with religion. Why in the hell should I have to pay for someone else’s? That’s nuts.”

    “I personally don’t give two shits what Sandra Fluke Rush Limbaugh does with her ladybits his manlybits. I just don’t want to pay for it.”

    Or as another said, I guess he “wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her him to have sex … as many times and as often as they want, with as many partners as they want.”

    So if we are paying Rush to have sex, doesn’t that technically make him a prostitute? Why would I want to pay for that?!!

  113. See, this is why stupid people think the left look like losers and the right look like winners. The right never, ever admit that they said something wrong. (Oh, a little wrong, sure, that gets dismissed with “my bad.”) The left, being more fact-based (and disinclined to, say, dismiss fact-checkers as irrelevant) correct when they say something wrong, and therefore look weak (to the stupid).

    The term ‘statistically valid sample size’ is not one with which the right will bother to become acquainted. That’s because they don’t want anyone to know about it, as it would undermine the lies on which their arguments are based. All those fallacious “person-who” arguments (the “welfare queens,” the Willie Hortons) are obvious bullshit when one acquires the most rudimentary knowledge of sampling.

  114. kenmarble, Exactly. I think you have it. I don’t want to pay for Rush Limbaugh’s Viagra. Do you?
    I guess you do if you support Obamacare.

  115. The point, Billy, is that people are saying no one should pay for Fluke’s birth control, but NO ONE is saying (or at any rate trying to make laws, as they are about birth control) we ought to take Viagra out of the health care system if the employer has religious objections (or for any other reasons).

    YOU may not want to pay for either, but only one is under attack.

  116. As far as the debates went, I think Romney took his first debate victory and leveraged it to bet everything on the economic argument. As evidenced by the fact that Romney spent the third debate insisting he agreed with pretty much everything Obama did, but that he would have done it to 11.

    So, Romeny made foreign policy a push by reassuring the voters that all of the benefits from Obama will be retained, but now with more unrelenting backbone. This was the same strategy he took on another winning issue for Obama (between the two of them): health care. Romney spent the most recent bit of the campaign arguing that everything you like about ObamaCare, he’ll keep, whilst being a bit vague on the definitions of “you”, “like” and “keep”.

    I think Romney has bet everything on the economy. And, while I’ve found his presentation on that front to be bumbling, it isn’t a fundamentalyl unsound wager.

    I also think that this has been a reasonably consistent strategy for Romney in the presidential campaign. Given that, Obama lost the debate he needed to win. Pushed on the debate he need to gain ground on. And won the debate he should have won. So, if his grand strategy was to deliberately throw the first debate to sway money from the congressional races into a losing campaign it is obvious that Romney knew that Obama knew that Romney knew that Obama knew that Romney knew the game.

  117. Hrm. A few minutes ago, I made a post on G+ suggesting that if you aren’t sure whether or not it’s worth voting, you go out onto the Interwebz and look for some political jackass sufficiently odious that you want to go vote just to go cancel their vote out. (http://goo.gl/CKdmR)

    After looking over this thread, I’m pretty sure I was right. :)

  118. Xopher, you lost me somewhere around “person-who” and Willie Horton. But as to the assertion that I’m stupid and unwilling to admit I’m wrong, you are missing my point. I took the two most liberal focus groups I could find and used them to illustrate that 80% of the focus groups were going to vote for Romney even though they thought Obama had won the debate. Those two groups were at 75% not 80%. For those two (liberal) groups I was wrong about the percentage. Happy?

    Does that make my point less valid? I think not.

  119. Now, Billy, read me again. I didn’t say you were stupid; I said you were using a strategy designed to make stupid people think you won.

    And you said “all” the focus groups. The larger focus groups weren’t nearly that one-sided, as several people have pointed out. You haven’t acknowledged that. Instead, you’re pretending your only error was in calculating 80% when you should have calculated 75%, and not admitting that your tiny sub-valid sample wasn’t the “all the focus groups” you originally cited. So yes, it does make your point less valid: it invalidates it completely. Not the point you’re making now, to be sure; but you cannot get away with claiming that’s what you were saying all along, because it is not.

    And the “person-who” fallacy is an extreme case of statistically subvalid sampling, also known as anecdotal evidence.

  120. Greg: A woman gets raped, and you don’t want to pay for her emergency contraception? And it has nothing to with religion? What then? I’d love to hear this one

    Billy: I am a white male. Does that make my opinion less valid? Will you judge me be the color of my skin and my gender or by the content of my heart?

    If you prick us, do we not answer the question?

    No. No, we do not answer the question. We absolutely fucking do not answer the question.

    And if we are going to judge the entire party based on the actions of one individual, I can do that. Is Anthony Weiner a good character reference for you? How about Bill Clinton who talks a great game about women but used his “privileged white male” status to take advantage of a young intern

    Weiner was a schmuck. He whipped out his weiner and sent a picture of it to six women. Politicians on the Right want to outlaw abortion for ALL women even in the case of rape and incest. You’re lack of a sense of proportion has you conflate harrassment with genocide. Individual nonviolent victims versus an entire population as violent victims, which will knowingly cause the deaths of many women.

    Weiner is a schmuck. Outlawing abortion for all women even in the case of incest and rape is heinous. Don’t even think of playing moral equivalency there.

    And whatever you do, do NOT answer that question.

  121. Xopher, Nope. My comment was about the focus groups, not the polls of undecided voters. I was referring to the focus groups that were on TV the night of the debate and I stand by my assertion. If you or David or whoever want to go look at all of them, be my guest. But lets not confuse what I said. I was using the focus groups to illustrate that the undecideds were more likely to vote for Romney based on the debates. If the actual percentage of those people is 75 instead of 80 I’m cool with it. Are you more upset about the percentage or the fact that my argument has validity?

    As far as your other point, so you weren’t saying that I’m stupid, just that anyone who believed what I said was?

  122. You said ALL the focus groups then pretended you were just talking about one focus group. You’re still claiming you never said ALL the focus groups, but it’s right there for everyone to see.

    So yeah, I think people who believe that are stupid. Anyone can see that you’re not telling the truth.

  123. Xopher,
    ALL the focus groups. All those people. All of them. Every person in a focus group the night of the debate. The entire population of focus groups. If they were in a focus group they are mine. I own them. CNN, MSNBC, PBS, Bloomberg, HNN, Current, The Travel Channel, Bravo, Comedy Central, Spike, Cinemax, you name it. Every last single one of those ***ckers. That is what I was talking about. Exactly. You’ve got it.
    What am I missing? Where do we disagree? 75-80? You were right. It’s only 75% in the two examples I cited. Let’s check MSNBC and CNN and PBS as well. Will that make my point less valid?

  124. None of the tv polling group sessions Luntz does are useful. That guy is a master at manipulating statistics and presentation to suit his positions. He is a master class stage magician with those tv sessions. So, don’t get me wrong, he’s an artist. And his bullshit is a masterpiece. But the only reliability in his bullshit is that it suits his ends.

    He’s a Republican strategist with a polling operation. The legitimate research is used to determine which razor thin arguments and lines can be exploited for maximum gain. Everything else he does is a big show to get the most out of those razor thin margins.

  125. Other Bill,
    You believe that Luntz is manipulating his polling to skew the results to the Republicans. Are there any pollsters/politcal pundits on the other side that you think are doing the same kind of thing?

    I don’t think you are right about Luntz, but it is certainly a possibility. The results should tell the tale. We will see.

    I think that Romney is winning the Independents. Time will tell.

  126. Billy: First, it is my understanding that an ultrasound was mandated by those states. Did it specify vaginal ultrasound?

    Hm. You said “The war on women thing is complete nonsense.” And simultaneously, you don’t actually know what the laws are? You came to a conclusion about a broad subject without even knowing the specific details? Interesting.

    Second, isn’t it true that over 90% of abortions already employ a vaginal ultrasound prior to the procedure?

    Lets assume that’s true. So you’re saying you “understand why” the Government would require that the 10% of women who get an abortion but didn’t need an ultrasound, now have to pay for an ultrasound for no other reason than Needless Government Regulation?

    You don’t want to pay for a womans birth control, but you understand why someone would want Government to require those women pay for an unneccessary ultrasound?

    Maybe women who want an abortion should get incorporated first.

  127. I think that Luntz is a highly informed Republican strategist and field operative. And to think he publicly does anything else first is silly. He doesn’t lie or falsify data. He contructs panels that give the answers for which he is looking. And he’s talented enough to not have to lie about that. He’s not self deluded enough to use those same panels to develop his attack lines and wedge issues. They’re a demonstration of his skill.

    I dislike Luntz for his abuse of math, but I respect his talent with words. He constructs arguments that are highly situationally specific and relates them in a way that both admits this and encourages the casual listener to hear something much broader. And, when you follow his segments, he leaves it to the show host to expand his limited claims to a bombastic level. So, in the case where something hits major blowback, it goes to a self proclaimed blowhard who then uses the the “my bad” excuse to disappear the concern.

    The only statistician I follow is Nate Silver, who I like. So, make of that what you will.

  128. “I think that Romney is winning the Independents. Time will tell.”

    He may be. But, I think “independents” tend more often to be disillusioned Republicans or libertarians. That’s part of why I think it wasn’t a poor strategy for him to bet everything on the economy argument. I question his execution, but it was a strong strategy.

    Still, I think the race is pretty tight at the moment. And, I’m not particularly surprised about that.

  129. reaclearpolitics.com is the best place to go for polls since they have all of them. They average them out. They also break it down state by state and average out the states to give you an electoral roadmap. Right now they have romney up 206 to 201 with alot of tossups. If you look at the tossups, there seem to be enough breaking Obamas way (but too close to put in his camp). Its looking like Romney gets more votes, but Obama gets more electoral votes. It would be interesting to see how Republicans respond. In 2000, Gore got 500,000 more votes than Bush (Has nothing to do with Florida). If this happens again, I would if we can finally get rid of the electoral college and go to a straight up and down vote?

    CNN was saying that if its a tie, the presidential choice goes to the house and the VP to the Senate, so we could end up with Romney/Biden. Imagine the quality SNL material? I can just imagine the important tasks that Romney would give Biden. Romney sends Biden to Antarctica to oversea Global Warming Scientists. Then when he gets there his administration quietly releases a statement on a Friday before a holiday that ‘due to budget cuts, the VP will be staying indefinitely’.

  130. reaclearpolitics.com is the best place to go for polls since they have all of them. They average them out. They also break it down state by state and average out the states to give you an electoral roadmap. Right now they have romney up 206 to 201 with alot of tossups. If you look at the tossups, there seem to be enough breaking Obamas way (but too close to put in his camp).

    RCP actually has a “no leaners” map option, which shows Obama beating Romney 281 to 257. The funny thing about RCP is that they tend to favor GOP candidates–their owner has stated in the past that they “have a frustration all conservatives have”, which is “the bias in media against conservatives, religious conservatives, [and] Christian conservatives”–and yet even they show Obama in the lead, as does pretty much every electoral vote site.

  131. Billy: “We don’t want to take away mammograms, or birth control.”
    Romney: “The actions I’ll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood.”

    ??

  132. Even on this site it looks like some people are treating Obamacare like it was the NHS. The ACA does NOT do half of the stuff people claims it does.

    Fluke was asking that she get something of value for her from something she pays for with her own money. And that it not be denied her based on someone else’s biases which were unrelated to either a) medical concerns or b) financial concerns about the viability of the insurance program. The taxpayer does not pay out any extra money to cover Fluke’s shameless depravities. Is that really a hard thing for economic conservatives and Libertaritans to support? (Yes, shameless depravities, Ms. Fluke has the same God given Right as any other Red-Blooded American to engage in shameless depravities in her free time.) (Plus if you object to the Man oppressing Georgetown with Da Regulatin’, then why not support measures to give Fluke viable options for purchasing useful health insurance? Then the government would not have to patch up the market failures in the current system and religious institutions would not have to soil themselves with this commerce. Win. Win.)

  133. BilluQuiets, I think you to willfully ignoring the general strategy of the Republican party in the last few years to make the case that the “War on Women” is “complete nonsense”. If you want to make the case that it’s exaggerated, sure. But the idea that it’s a single individual or that there isn’t a coordinated strategy on the part of the GOP to cater to conservative Christian voters blithely ignores the greater body of evidence.

    Look at the current kerfluffle over the Violence Against Women Act, the mandatory ultrasound programs (you know, the ones Tom Corbett says you ‘just close your eyes’ for), the 10 states that have passed more restrictive abortion laws, Kansas’ abortion gives you cancer law and of course, the kerfluffe around the Blunt Amendment which led to three female Republican senators to speak out against it, most famously LIsa Mukowski stating that “If you don’t feel this is an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and your daughters.

  134. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandra_Fluke#Speech_to_Congressional_Democrats_on_contraception_mandates

    citing a friend with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fluke said this friend needed contraceptive hormones costing over $100 per month to treat this disease, and that while PcOS was “covered by Georgetown insurance”, the insurance company repeatedly denied contraceptives because they suspected the purpose of the medication was contraception

    Billy Quiets earlier in this thread: Personally, I don’t want to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control and it has nothing to do with religion. Why in the hell should I have to pay for someone else’s? That’s nuts. The fact that Obama is even trying to make it a campaign issue offends me.

    Offends, I say. Offends

    The war on women thing is complete nonsense.

    Nonsense is invoking Sandra Fluke while ignoring the content of her speech to Congress including the example of someone needing contraception hormones for medical purposes being denied due to some muckity muck with a Conscience Clause thinking their conscience knows better than an actual doctor, reducing her testimonty to little more than a Rush Limbaugh soundbite that it’s all about “birth control” and women having sexity, sex, sex.

    Your invocation of Sandra Fluke shows you don’t even know what she actually said. And yet again, you’re certain the “war on women” doesn’t exist, and you’re actually offended that this is getting national attention.

  135. Has anyone here actually come up with an actual mathematical reason (i.e., no tinfoil-hattery, personal reasons, or “just because”) as to why they think Nate Silver could be wrong? His methodology is freely posted, along with an extensive description of each element, to say nothing of his comments that expand on it in multiple blog posts.

  136. @PrivateIron
    In its purest form the Catholic argument against being forced to provide/pay for/support the birth control of others is not about the actions of others. Some Catholics believe that supporting birth control is equal to supporting abortion which is equal to murder which is a mortal sin and a ticket to eternal damnation.

    I am not a Catholic. I am a primary health care provider. I frequently have discussions about birth control and abortion and would very much like to tell people to drop their silly superstitions and just do as I recommend. That would be wrong on many levels and does not help find a solution for the problems of an individual or a country.

  137. Steve: I think answering your question (to the extent I understand it) would take even further off topic. I know why (some) Catholics object to this (and as a Catholic I know why a lot of us don’t); I just don’t think their objections should override Ms. Fluke’s interests in this case.

    Genufett: People ask Nate Silver questions about his methodology and he has a tendency to answer them, in detail.

    Greg: part of my reason for posting is that I am kind of getting sick of defending women’s basic rights to birth control with further extenuating circumstances. Some women need birth control for reasons other than sex and I realize that is a powerful additional reason for them to have access to it. But most of them need it for sex and quite frankly, I don’t think they should have to apologize for it. This is not a knock on you or Ms. Fluke herself for shoring up the argument with persuasive supplementary points. But the basic argument ought to be good enough and I am tired of giving up ground to the ignorant and the hateful. Women have bodies that need heath care. The system should not pick and choose which parts get treatment and which do not OR make them jump through hoops to prove they are worthy of care in this special circumstance.

    I am also sick of the “I don’t want my taxes to pay for X” trope in arguments about health insurance. Your taxes do not pay for private health insurance; so why do I have to hear this argument dragged out in every argument about the election. If you pay penalties under the ACA, I don’t think Obama will go out and buy a pro-Choice health insurance policy in your name. He’ll just throw it into the federal pot where it might do any number of good, awful or just plain boring things.

  138. Steve: Some Catholics believe that supporting birth control is equal to supporting abortion which is equal to murder which is a mortal sin and a ticket to eternal damnation.

    Ya know, I don’t actually buy this. I don’t think the ultra-religious people oppose abortion because they think supporting it would be their personal ticket to eternal damnation. I think they’re of a mindset of obediance, such as obediance to their notion of the Ten Commandments, and obedience to their selective reading of the bible, and they think that since they obey the bible, then everyone else should obey the bible too.

    I don’t think these sorts of religious people want “In God We Trust” on our money because they think using money without those words will damn them to hell. I think they want the words on our money to be like how they relate to the ten commandments: Obey. Thou Shalt Trust In God.

    I don’t think these sorts of religious people want statues of the Ten Commandments in government courthouses because they’re afraid the lack of said statue will be their personal ticket to eternal damnation. I think its more a matter of they want to impose their religion on everyone around them. They obey their god, and they want everyone else to obey their god.

    PrivateIron: “Greg: part of my reason for posting is that I am kind of getting sick of defending women’s basic rights to birth control with further extenuating circumstances”

    I understand. But for Billy to have such certainty about his opinion of Fluke, and yet have no idea what Fluke actually said, tells me he’s letting someone else do the heavy lifting for his arguments. He’s cribbing his answers from someone. And until he acknowledges (at least to himself) that who he’s cribbing from is fundamentally wrong, I don’t see much point in getting into the thick of an even bigger discussion with him, because he’ll just crib more answers from his source and disregard any substantive argument I make.

  139. Genufett – there are two reasons, in my opinion, that Silver is “wrong” to some degree (though not about who is winning). And there is another *potential* reason that he *could* be wrong about who is winning.

    1. His model builds in things like “fundamentals,” i.e. the economy. In my opinion this is not useful because if (for instance) the stock market is having a bad time of it AND that is actually important, the polls will pick that up. There’s no need to “double count” the effect of the stock market on the polls and an “extra” effect of the market that somehow the polls are supposedly missing. So to whatever degree the inclusion of this information is ‘nudging’ the numbers toward or away from either candidate, I think this is an error. Mostly this should have little effect, it just makes the model a little noisier than it should be. By the time we get to Nov 6, Silver will have removed all of this information, so that his projection is purely poll-based. This is what it should be at all times, in my opinion. The fact that the polls on Nov 6th are an extremely good prediction of the result on Nov 6th is evidence that the polls today are a very good measure of where things stand today, no additional info needed. The only time you need ‘fundamentals’ are when there is no polling or no recent polling – these things are proxies for voter sentiment, which polling estimates directly. Sam Wang at Princeton Election Consortium makes the same argument in a more technical way, but the idea is a simple one.

    2. Silver’s model includes national polls. I think this is a mistake, because to win the election you need states. So really you need the best possible models of the 10 or so swing states. The best measure of the current situation in Ohio is a measure of the current situation in Ohio, not some sort of amalgam of that and the national polls. This is less clear-cut than the prior objection, because it seems to me (and I haven’t worked out the theory, just going on reason) that it’s POSSIBLE that somehow the national polling could “fill in the blanks” where a state is not well polled. But in fact, the swing states are VERY well polled and the rest don’t matter (for the electoral college). The national polls, aggregated, are a fantastic measure of the current state of the national popular election, but (again) only a proxy for what matters in our system: winner-take-all at the state level in the EC (keeping in mind the splits in Maine and Nebraska). Again, I think PEC has this more right than 538.

    3. The unobserved reason he could actually be wrong about the *winner.* If there is a systematic bias affecting ALL of the polling, this would escape the model. For example, if in general a substantial proportion of people who swear (to pollsters) they will vote for O are actually going to vote for R (for whatever reason, savory or not) then the entirety of the polling universe could have a bias (in the statistical rather than ideological sense) toward O. There is little evidence for this – the best models straight-up NAILED the election on Nov 5th in 04 and 08, but I guess you can never say never.

    At this point, Romney partisans are almost to the point of needing this kind of scenario to have a chance, given the stacking of the EC deck against them. Barring craziness, there’s little time to actually move the polls enough to produce a win from where things currently stand. They have to hope that the polls are underestimating Romney’s vote share by 3-4 points across the board. With each early vote cast, that is looking less likely.

  140. At this point, Romney partisans are almost to the point of needing this kind of scenario to have a chance, given the stacking of the EC deck against them. Barring craziness, there’s little time to actually move the polls enough to produce a win from where things currently stand. They have to hope that the polls are underestimating Romney’s vote share by 3-4 points across the board. With each early vote cast, that is looking less likely.

    Not to mention the ground game to get out the vote from Obama’s team. That’s certainly underestimated by the various models (and probably by a lot of pundits).

  141. rb: Good points, just a few quick notes.

    #1: IIRC, the 538 “now-cast” is pure polling, but I could be wrong. I do agree that PEC’s model could be more useful, and has been very accurate in the past. I tend to think the real answer is somewhere in between the two.

    #2: Nate had a post on why exactly he used national polls, but I couldn’t find it. I think he said he uses it more for trending, but he gives a lot more weight to the state polls.

    #3: True, but the tinfoil hat brigade claims it has to do with party weighting and exit polls, which no one is really doing, or at least not the way the “unskewed poll truthers” are claiming. Several interviewers (including Nate) talked to pollsters who pointed this out, among them Scott Rasmussen. It basically came down to who had the base more excited to talk to pollsters and making guesses about demographics that came between 2008 and 2010.

    Of course, my main point is that commenters are claiming it’s because of the librul NY Times (never mind that it was the main cheerleader for WMDs in Iraq), or that he is a Democrat. Both are judgement calls that have nothing to do with the math, it’s just opinionated blatheration that is being presented as a refutation to math.

  142. Ah, Genufett, i see your question was more rhetorical than I realized. Sorry, I wouldn’t have gone on at such length.

    That said:

    1. I thought so too, but then something I read by Nate a few days ago (I believe I read him saying that the stock market affected the now-cast; I may be mistaken) made me think otherwise. But if it is pure polling, I retract this criticism.

    2. This is my recollection as well. I don’t agree with the reasoning, but then again I also have quibbles with the model predicting fractions of electoral votes. I would prefer that the model yield the most likely number that could actually occur. But it’s indisputable that the overall power of the aggregation dominates these concerns.

    3. Agree 100%. The “unskewing” phenomenon is just malarkey, to coin a phrase. See my responses to Todd above.

  143. Catching up on today’s comments in this thread and just slowly shaking my head.

    Moral objections about where one’s tax (or insurance premium) dollars go virtually never address anything other than reproductive health care for women. I care next to nothing for religious people whining about how “their” money is spent if they’re not also complaining about it being used to pay for war and the death penalty.

    Tax dollars, by the way, are the dues one pays for living in a civilized society. If you want the benefits of a healthy, educated population, ya gotta pay for people to be healthy and educated. And the healthy part includes reproductive health care. We are not anatomically incorrect dolls whose health care needs stop at our smooth and formless crotches.

  144. Moral objections about where one’s tax (or insurance premium) dollars go virtually never address anything other than reproductive health care for women.

    Well, they also address assisting people who are in poverty. “I don’t want my tax dollars going to help [lazy ethnic group]“, often the same [lazy ethnic group] accused of taking all our jobs because they’ll work under the table for below-minimum wage 18 hours a day.

    I myself am not thrilled that my tax dollars go to fund poorer districts whose elected representatives scream about taxation and public spending; unfortunately, the alternative is to cut social services just to spite said elected representatives.

  145. Mythago at 8:57 pm: Well, historically speaking, that isn’t entirely true (as I suspect you know)–Thoreau refused to pay has poll tax as a protest against the Mexican-American War/expansion of slavery, and I seem to remember some Vietnam era complaints as well, though I couldn’t find any specific instances and might well be confused about that. In fact, the current “I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for . . .” that you outline actually here troubles me more because of the historical context of such protests. It makes today’s attitude seem even more mean-spirited, somehow.

  146. But that was always the flaw in Obama’s strategy: That Romney could never be as awful as he was being portrayed. — coo1b1ue

    Yup. Pretty much this. For all the leftward pontificating about how dreadful Romney is as a potential President of the United States, all of it got washed out to sea in the first debate. Very few true blue Obama supporters were convinced. But Obama’s next four years do not ride on the opinions of his true blue fans. They ride on the coveted fence-sitters. Right now Romney’s got a significant advantage with that group, and it’s getting so close to the election I am not sure what Obama can do or say to pry them back to his side. Yes, for Obama fans, there is always the shining prromise of Ohio. But if Romney’s advantage with fence-sitters remains significant or — horrors — grows, Romney might not need Ohio? The road to the Oval Office need not go through the Buckeye State.

    Of course, Romney could just take Ohio, too.

    Lots of people hate being broke and out of work more than they hate rich Republicans.

  147. Brad:

    “For all the leftward pontificating about how dreadful Romney is as a potential President of the United States, all of it got washed out to sea in the first debate.”

    I think part of the problem with the hyperfocus that the US has put on the debates is that somehow the rhetoric used there becomes a placeholder for completely different rhetoric and positions held throughout the rest of the campaign.

    Obama spent the runup describing Romney as the unreasonable politician and Romney countered that by simply agreeing with Obama on just about everything, regardless of whether or not he’d previously supported it. And in the instances where agreement was cover for disagreement, Romney used the idea that his plan was MORE the people’s ideal Obama than Obama actually was.

    I agree that for low intensity, undecided voters that performance certainly didn’t jive at all with what they’d heard about Romney. That doesn’t mean the veracity of the points got washed out to sea, just their impact. Which, again, is a pretty good evidence that if Obama’s playing twelve dimensional chess the worst thing he could have done would have been to throw the first debate in that manner.

  148. @Mary Frances: True enough, and I think you are correct about the Vietnam war.

    @Brad: I’m not sure what you mean by concerns about Romney being ‘washed out to sea’, exactly, unless you mean that Romney showed himself to be capable of debate; but then, you’ve cheerfully admitted you have the same true-believer attitude as to Romney that you here ascribe to Obama supporters.

  149. (tw: racism, ableist intelligence slur)
    Okay, haven’t read the comment thread (my headache barely let me read this), but here’s my theory on why Obama wasn’t as aggressive in the first debate:
    1. He told Romney, “you’re lying, that’s not true, this is what you said earlier,” etc. Romney told him, “Nope! You’re wrong!”
    How in the hell are you supposed to debate with someone like that? It was a he-said she-said argument, and not a very good one.
    2. Do you remember when Obama got mad a few weeks (maybe months) ago? Like, really, really mad? Almost instantly, racist references to him being a ‘monkey man’ or ‘a big dumb ape’ popped up everywhere.
    He constantly has to tread a fine line between aggressive and not ‘ape-like.’ And in that debate, I don’t think he had found his stride yet. McCain got to be aggressive right off the bat, quite frankly, because he wasn’t black.

  150. But if Romney’s Kerry’s advantage with fence-sitters remains significant or — horrors — grows, Romney Kerry might not need Ohio? The road to the Oval Office need not go through the Buckeye State.

    Of course, Romney Kerry could just take Ohio, too.

    There’s a certain delicious schaedenfreude in watching Republicans act like Democrats, circa late October 2004. It’s not the pie, but…

  151. Romney needs FL, VA, and NC just to get within striking distance of 270; if he loses any of those three he’s toast. Meanwhile, Obama could win without any of them (or indeed, without a single state from the former Confederacy in the South). Obama could also lose CO, IA, and NH in addition to those three and still have 271 EVs.

    On the flip side, Obama needs wins in OH, WI, and NV; Romney is behind in those three states by bigger margins than Obama is in most if not all of the six states listed above. He also trails Obama in early voting in OH, NV, IA, and NC and is essentially tied in FL and CO.

  152. Also, FWIW, no modern incumbent (in a close race or not) has lost with job approval ratings near or above 50%, and Obama’s is 49.3% in aggregate polling. For comparison’s sake, Bush had a job approval rating of 49.5% in aggregate polling about this time in 2004.

  153. “Of course, Romney could just take Ohio, too.”

    Yes, we are aware of all Jon Husted traditions.

    But note: O will win Kerry states, NM, and the battleground states CO, NV, IA. Just one of many redundant paths he he has without Ohio.

    Oh, and he’ll be taking Ohio too, Husted tears be damned.

    Romney needs to draw the mother of all inside straights. Voter suppression makes a steal possible, but it won’t be enough. The people are too fired up.

  154. @ anne – “[Obama] constantly has to tread a fine line between aggressive and not ‘ape-like.’”

    Thank you for saying so. I think the issue of racial privilege and how it affects how Obama is perceived in this election & the debates, ESPECIALLY when his opponent is the epitome of the patrician white male authority figure that our culture has been conditioned to expect to see in positions of authority, is one that’s been severely overlooked (or actively avoided).

    This piece over on The Root tackled the comparison that was inevitable after Joe Biden’s more forceful performance against Paul Ryan. http://www.theroot.com/views/white-privilege-joe-biden-style?page=0,1&tid=sm_tw_button_toolbar For me, it crystalized just what was steaming me about the multiple comments I was starting to see post-VP debate in the “Hey Obama, take a page from Biden and go after Romney the same way!” vein, because they seem to ignore the reality that you neatly point out: the instant Obama gets mad, or even anything that could be vaguely interpreted as “intemperate,” Right Wing pundits erupt in a pearl-clutching orgy over the “angry black bogeyman.” Biden, for obvious reasons, isn’t constantly operating under those same constraints. Neither, for that matter, is Romney.

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