Mitt Rebrands Campaign Rallies as 'Storm Relief Efforts'

Hurricane Sandy from NASA satellite
If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got an email from the Romney campaign this morning, you could probably boil it down to three words: "You're not helping."

In the wake of former hurricane and now current "superstorm" Sandy, Christie has been all over the media talking about what an awesome job President Obama and the federal government have been doing in dealing with the crisis. "The federal government's response has been great," Christie told Today. "I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president, personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area," adding that "the president has been outstanding in this."

Later, he told Joe Scarborough that "the president has been all over this and deserves great credit." We already know what Mitt Romney think would be the ideal federal response to this sort of thing -- none. For Mitt, responding to natural disaster means deficit spending, so helping people is "simply immoral" in his worldview. Christie's praise of Obama does double damage to Mitt's message.

Here's Romney's idea of disaster relief:

[The Hill:]

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan scheduled "storm relief" events Tuesday after previously canceling planned campaign rallies.

Romney will attend an event in Kettering, Ohio, Tuesday morning with race car driver Richard Petty and country music artist Randy Owen. He had previously scheduled a campaign rally at the same site with Petty, Owen, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday afternoon, but later scrapped the campaign events out of deference to those in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

The Romney campaign did not advise what the event would entail, but a Republican source indicated attendees would be asked to bring disaster relief supplies to the event, and that Romney might give brief remarks.

Let's be honest here; Romney hasn't cancelled a campaign event, he's simply rebranded it. Meanwhile, Romney running mate Paul Ryan will pose for a series of photo ops in a swing through Wisconsin, thanking campaign workers there for all the hard relief work they're doing donating cans of beans to Romney campaign offices. Ann Romney will make a similar tour of Iowa. The fact that these are both "swing states" is purely coincidental, mind you. This is all about helping the victims of Sandy or Sonya or whatever it's called.

Basically, what's going on here is that Romney's FEMA comments are coming back to haunt him and are combining with his 47% comments, creating the impression -- once again -- that Mitt Romney simply doesn't care about ordinary Americans. So he'll pick up some blankets and some ramen noodles at a campaign event and prove he cares.

But how useful is that as a national response to disaster? You're not going to help every displaced person this way -- not in a million years. And what are noodle cups and cans of Spaghetti-Os going to do to help with washed-out roads and bridges, downed power lines, or damaged schools and hospitals? Since Romney says he believes all deficit spending is "simply immoral" -- and mind you, he said that specifically in the context of disaster relief and FEMA -- then we have to assume that in Mitt's perfect America, states are on their own.

If you think I'm twisting Mitt's words, check on me. He specifically said that responsibility for disaster relief should be given "back to the states" as a step in the right direction. "And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better," he went on.

But how do you monetize disaster relief? Is it like flood insurance, where if you can afford it you're OK and if you can't you're screwed? We've seen how this sort of for-profit disaster coverage works out -- it doesn't. It doesn't at all. And Mitt makes it clear that this shouldn't be federally subsidized, so what else is there? I'm sorry, but dropping off cans at your local Romney campaign office is not a realistic response to natural disaster.

But it is a nice way to get your picture in the paper. And, in the end, isn't that really what's most important?


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Team Romney Tries One Last Desperate Lie

Yesterday, I wrote a Tumblr post titled, "Is the '12 presidential race essentially over?" In it, I pointed out that pollsters and analysts have been describing a pretty static race for a while now and that Barack Obama was favored to win. "It’s a little more than a week to the election, there are like five undecided voters left in the country..." I wrote, "Nothing left to do but sit on the edge of the bed and try not to wrinkle your suit while you wait for your big election night date."

The Romney ad above seems to back up my argument. Currently running in Ohio, Taegan Goddard calls the ad "a fairly clear indication -- despite surrogates claiming Romney is now leading in Ohio -- that he's more likely running behind as the polling averages show." Why? Because it's pretty much a complete reversal of the story he's been telling Ohioans, while being a steaming pile of BullsMitt.

ThinkProgress counts "four myths" in the Romney ad. The one that leaped out at me was "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy." This from the guy wrote wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." The rest are about as egregious, that just struck me as the most glaringly obvious.

And the whole thing's based on a lie Romney told last week; that Chrysler was shutting down plants in the US to move production to China. The truth is that Jeep is expanding production by opening plants in China, while maintaining all their plants in the US. Romney was lying to people and telling them they were on the verge of losing their jobs, frightening them and their families for the sole intention of getting a few more votes. It was unconscionable and decidedly unpresidential. The last Republican nominee who was such a shameless fearmonger was George W. Bush. Mitt is not in good company.

And, when called on his lie, Romney doubled down and ran this ad. "Even for Mitt Romney," Steve Benen writes, "this level of mendacity borders on nauseating":

It's important, on a substantive level, for the public to understand that Romney is trying to mislead them about the underlying policy, but it's also important to appreciate the larger context: Romney simply doesn't respect voters enough to be honest with them. For the Republican candidate, it's an era of post-truth politics, in which he no longer even cares about getting caught lying.

As for why he's so eager to deliberately mislead the public, Obama's successful rescue of the American auto industry is a very difficult issue for Romney to deal with, especially in a state like Ohio that benefited so directly from the president's accomplishment.

And, to go back to Goddard, that's why the ad is a sign of Romney desperation in Ohio. He tries to confuse Ohioans about who did what, who said what, who wanted to "let Detroit go bankrupt." Mitt's argument is now this: All that stuff you don't like about the auto bailout? Obama did that. Mitt wanted to do it all the right way. The reasons you like Obama are the reasons to like me. And the reasons why you hate me are the reasons you should hate Obama.

This version of events is a 180-degree reversal of reality. Hell, it's practically identity theft. It's a big, stupid, blatant moron of a lie. A clumsy lashing out from a drowning candidate's panic. I never liked Mitt Romney; he's a slippery, dishonest, pirate of a man with a corporate boardroom where his heart ought to be and a focus-group instead of a belief system. And I've never disliked him more.

Here's hoping this one last desperate lie does more harm than good. Let's hope the people whose lives he tried to upend with fear of losing their jobs are as angry at him as they should be. And here's hoping that, after this election is over, we never again hear from this lying sack of horse dung who goes by the name "Mitt Romney."



Reality Does Not Care for Your 'Momentum' Narrative

Romney's 'momentum' is negative
I guess my physics are a little rusty. Can momentum be the same as downward velocity? If so, Mitt Romney has plenty of momentum. It's just not the kind I'd spend a lot of time bragging about, if I were a Romney-ite. Because that red line in the FiveThirtyEight forecast? That's Mitt. And you'll notice that the trend there isn't the sort of momentum that screams, "Behold our coming electoral triumph!"

Yet "momentum" is the newest aspect of poll trutherism. I've already written about Silver trutherism, which would demand you deny that FiveThirtyEight graphic's validity. Now we have backers of what Ed Kilgore calls "the Big Mo" claiming -- without any evidence whatsoever -- that Mitt Romney has momentum and is poised to crush Barack Obama any minute now. And it's that lack of evidence that I find most disturbing.

Poll trutherism at least has some tether to reality. If you'll recall, poll truthers look at polling that shows Mitt Romney down, assume the demographics are way off, then "fix" the sampling to favor Romney. Presto-chango, Mitt's winning by huge margins. Backers of the Big Mo narrative aren't even doing that. They're looking at polling that under the most charitable interpretation shows Mitt Romney's numbers flattening out and they're declare a long rise in his numbers that simply is not there.

Kilgore's Big Mo piece is worth a read. It doesn't lend itself to encapsulation or abbreviation. Basically, he offers examples of rightwing pundits frantically trying to spin everything into some sort of victory for Mitt, while painting every setback as a media conspiracy; the triumphs are real, according to them, and the setbacks are lies. Mitt's trajectory can only go up, up, up and shut up about anything other than that. If it's still close on election day, Peggy Noonan writes, we're poised for a big, messy recount in Ohio -- suggesting that the ground will be ready for some (assumedly Democratic) post-election shenanigans. Others look at reporting after the first debate and find reasons to believe that every bit of info showing Romney's rise ending is a lie.

"It’s this sort of perspective -- the search, eleven days before the actual election, to find reasons it should have been stopped like a boxing TKO the first moment Romney pulled into the lead in a single poll -- that makes me pause and look again at Noonan’s reference to an Obama victory producing a 'bloody and prolonged recount.'" writes Kilgore. "Romney’s Big Mo must live -- even if he loses!"

But there's more to it then just sore-loserism in advance of the loss. In talking about poll turtherism, Ron Reagan recently hit on an explanation for all this reality-denial that the right has been engaging in. "They’re not delusional, they’re dishonest. They’re not crazy, they’re craven," he told Chris Matthews. "What they’re trying to do here and accomplish here is to say in advance, if President Obama wins this election, it’s because the pollsters suppressed the Republican vote, it’s therefore an illegitimate election, he’s not really president. They’re setting the table for that."

Mitt Romney lost when everyone knew he had the momentum? The media stole the election! See? Look at these "unskewed" polls -- proof! To the streets, my flying monkey teabaggers! This wrong must be set right! We must take our country back!

I'm not looking forward to four more years of that sort of crap -- which is exactly what we're heading toward getting. But it's better than the alternative, which is watching Mitt Romney take the oath of office and the teabagging morons running the show. And they would be running the show. If there's one thing we know about Mitt Romney, it's that he has absolutely no talent for leadership. He'll lead by following and the people he'd follow are the people who got him elected -- and those people are insane rape-apolgists and lunatic math-haters who think you can close deficits by squeezing blood from a turnip raising taxes on the poor.

So yeah. Compared to that, a bunch of rightwing brats crying their eyes out over a "stolen" election will be music to my ears.



Fox Covers for Mourdock

On the slim chance that you haven't heard about it, Indiana Republican Senate candidate and Tea Party whackjob Richard Mourdock found himself in hot water after comments Tuesday suggesting that maybe rape wasn't such a bad thing. "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God," Mourdock said. "And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

You'd think that after Todd Akin and Sharon Angle got in trouble for statements on the same subject, Republicans would learn to keep their opinions about the wonderful gift of rape pregnancies to themselves. It really doesn't seem to work in their favor.

Of course, when I say there's a "slim chance" that you haven't heard the latest GOP rape idiocy, I'm assuming that you're a serious news consumer and that you don't watch the worst news network in America, Fox News. If you're a Fox viewer, the odds of your complete ignorance of the subject is actually pretty damned good. As the chart above shows, Fox viewers have been exposed to little more than two minutes of not-very in-depth coverage of the controversy. So if you decided to make a sandwich, you probably missed it.

And that scant coverage is despite the fact that Mourdock later dug in on his comments and that Mitt Romney continues to support him. This is an ongoing story, not a flash in the pan that was over before it began. The comments could cost Mourdock the race, which in turn could cost Republicans the Senate -- which explains why it's a big story and why Fox is trying their damnedest to ignore it. Reporting this particular story doesn't help Republicans. Fox News' entire reason for existing is to help Republicans.

Of course, the Mourdock story is typical of both Fox and the GOP, in that ignorance serves them very well. Over the years, seven studies have found that Fox News consistently churns out the least-informed viewers. In fact, one study from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that Fox News was actually worse than not watching news at all:

The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly -- a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.

And no wonder. As Fox's coverage of the Mourdock controversy demonstrates so well, Fox viewers aren't watching the news -- at least, not all of it. Fox News is literally keep stories from their audience, in order to maintain that audience's ignorance on certain subjects harmful to the Republican Party. If Fox had been around during Watergate, you wonder if their viewers would've known anything about it.

In the end, maybe the question isn't why Fox keeps their audience so poorly informed. Maybe the question is, why does so much ignorance serve the Republican Party so well?



Poll Trutherism's Dumber Sibling

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver
I suppose it's a predictable offshoot of poll trutherism -- the popular rightwing conspiracy theory that has every pollster skewing numbers to make Mitt Romney look bad when the numbers are down. And when those polls show Romney up, then they're fine. The idea is that pollsters are trying convince Republicans that the cause is lost, so they'll stay home on election day. The new one isn't any saner. We'll call this one Silver trutherism -- the idea that Nate Silver, the statistician behind the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog, is likewise trying to use his predictions to throw the election for Obama.

The reason Silver trutherism is happening is pretty obvious. The right has joined with the Romney campaign in trying to create an illusion of Romney momentum. It's not true of course. At this point, no one has any momentum; opinions are pretty well fixed and there are like five undecided voters in the entire country. There's no reason to think that where we are now isn't pretty much where we'll be on election day. There's some movement among individual polls, but unless you're cherrypicking, they all even out. But you can cherrypick polls, blare triumphant headlines about them on your wingnut blogs, and hope someone in the media notices and runs with the story. This is what the right has been trying to pull off for Romney.

But Nate Silver is a problem because he's respected. He and others like him are the clear-eyed pragmatists who put the brakes on "runaway Mittmentum!" stories in the press. The wingnut blogosphere could easily game a press eager to be gamed if it weren't for those meddling statisticians with their science and their math. Something must be done.

So something was. Led by that hoary publication of downward-spiraling reputation, The National Review, the attack on Nate Silver began. Even sillier bloggers followed suit. But the problem with this line of attack is that Nate Silver isn't the only guy with a statistical model out there -- he's just the most famous. And a quick trip through a few of them shows that, far from skewing everything in Obama's favor, Nate Silver is actually lowballing Obama's chances in comparisons with other models.

Today, Silver predicts an electoral vote of 288.3 Obama to 249.7 Romney. Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium has it 294 Obama to 244 Romney. Drew Linzer's Votamatic has it 332 Obama to 206 Romney. Electoral-Vote.com is more pessimistic about Obama's chances, with 281 Obama to 244 Romney.

Notice anything similar in all these models? Yeah, Romney loses. In every one. If Nate Silver's jiggering his model to give Obama an advantage and hide Romney's supposed "momentum," then everyone is. Even Charlie Cook writes that "the road to 270 electoral votes is considerably more difficult for Romney" and that "the campaign has stabilized and the map still favors Obama."

"[I]t’s a bit odd to see commentary out there suggesting that Romney should be favored, or that quantitative, poll-based analyses showing Obama ahead are somehow flawed, or biased, or not to be believed," writes Votamatic's Drew Linzer. "It’s especially amusing to see the target of this criticism be the New York Times’ Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog has been, if anything, unusually generous to Romney’s chances all along. Right now, his model gives Romney as much as a 30% probability of winning, even if the election were held today. Nevertheless, The Daily Caller, Commentary Magazine, and especially the National Review Online have all run articles lately accusing Silver of being in the tank for the president. Of all the possible objections to Silver’s modeling approach, this certainly isn’t one that comes to my mind. I can only hope those guys don’t stumble across my little corner of the Internet."

So again, if Silver's model errs it errs on the side of caution -- and, at the moment, that favors Romney, not Obama.

But, as is so often the case, science and math -- because of their inability to be budged by baseless opinion and spin -- is the enemy of conservatism. The numbers refuse to adjust themselves to fit in the Romney narrative of momentum, so the man tabulating the numbers must be attacked. Math is truth. Republicans aren't big fans of that.

But the numbers are what they are. And anyone hoping that the numbers are wrong on election day -- be they from predictive models or from state level polling -- isn't very likely watch the balloons drop on their candidate. That's not to say that that candidate won't be Mitt Romney, just that -- from where we stand now -- it doesn't seem very likely.

Those are the facts -- and the facts won't change for you just because you don't like them. Killing the messenger doesn't change the message in any way.


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Looking for the 'Horses and Bayonets' Bounce

Google debate graphic for term 'horses and bayonets'
That Google graphic is really all you need if you want to learn who won the debate last night. Snap polling is unreliable, but the consensus seems to be that Obama won. CNN's poll gives it to Obama, 48%-40%. Public Policy Polling's results [pdf] were more stark, with a 53%-42% Obama win. And CBS News reports an absolute blowout: 53% Obama to 23% Romney. Yeah, that's a two -- as in twenty-three.

But it's the fact that everyone's searching the "horses and bayonets" line that confirms these findings. That wasn't exactly a Romney gaffe, but it's sort of a gaffe that Obama forced on him. One of the few foreign policy positions that Romney didn't completely reverse himself on last night was his promise to throw $2 trillion at our already bloated military and build ships the Navy hasn't requested. And Obama whacked him for it:

But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works.

You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.

And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you're putting forward because it just doesn't work.

When people are looking for that particular bit of text (or video), things are not going Mitt Romney's way. Romney, clearly out of his depth on foreign policy, played for a draw. He didn't get it. "President Obama won the foreign policy debate, cleanly and decisively, on both style and substance," writes Joe Klein. "It was as clear a victory as Mitt Romney's in the first debate." Romney screwed over his neocon backers, he abandoned the warmongering cowards in the base, he threw the Willard Romney of just last week under the bus -- and for nothing. He lost. He so lost.

The question now is whether that will matter. Romney's hoping it doesn't, but history shows it could -- easily. Nate Silver writes that the third debate has historically resulted in the smallest bounce, but with the race so tight, a small bounce could easily lead to an Obama victory. "If Mr. Obama’s head-to-head polling were 2 percentage points higher right now, he would be a considerably clearer favorite in the forecast, about 85 percent," he writes. "A 1-point bounce would bring him to 80 percent, and even a half-point bounce would advance his position to being a 75 percent favorite in the forecast."

So, if you're hoping for a bounce like Romney got from the first debate, you're going to be disappointed -- and you shouldn't be.

Silver cautions -- as I did earlier -- that snap polls are unreliable, but I think it's unlikely that things will swing around toward a Romney debate victory. I mean, did you see it?

No, if this debate results in any change to the race, it'll be to President Obama's advantage. And he only needs a small advantage.



Mitt's Deflated Foreign Policy

Romney blimp
Hey look, it's giant metaphor for Mitt Romney's foreign policy positions ahead of tonight's presidential debate:

An airship promoting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Florida drew attention for other reasons Sunday when it was forced to make an emergency landing just north of Miami.

According to WSVN-TV, the blimp, bearing the banner, “America Needs Romney,” was caught in high winds on its way back to a local airport, forcing it to the ground near a residential area in Davie, Florida.

“It was getting lower and lower,” one resident said. “It was totally going down, it was just losing altitude. The wind was just taking it and taking it.”

Team Romney took a double-whammy this weekend, as the Obama administration announced a major diplomatic breakthrough with Iran and the Republican version of the Benghazi attack collapsed under the weight of reality. Their foreign policy blimp went crashing down. Team Romney is furiously trying to spin good news into bad, but I seriously doubt anyone other than the base will bite. As is so often the case, good news for America is bad news for the GOP -- which means this weekend was a disaster for them.

This is especially true when you consider that the subject of tonight's debate will be foreign policy. Mitt's FP plans have been as sketchy as the rest of his platform. For the most part, his foreign policy positions seem deeply reactionary -- i.e., everything Barack Obama does is wrong.

Yet Pres. Obama will be able to take the stage tonight and announce a foreign policy victory and a vindication, since a lot of people go light on news consumption over the weekends. Romney's foreign policy blimp is deflating rapidly. President Obama ended the Iraq War (something Mitt Romney likely wouldn't have done), likewise ended Osama Bin Laden, and has restored America's reputation around the world. Barack Obama has had a remarkably successful geopolitical first term.

For the most part, when Romney ventures out of his shell and speaks about what he'd do differently, it's typical Republican bellicose bluster. You're going to "get tough" with China? Great. Now what's that mean, exactly? He won't tell you. Why? Because he's trying to avoid taking the subject to it's logical conclusion and, as a result, sounding as idiotic on the subject as Donald Trump on oil prices. This tough talk plays well with the teabagging base, who seem to identify schoolyard bullies with heroism somehow, but it scares off everyone else who see it leading to war. Even if you're not a fullblown pacifist, it's not very likely that you're real comfortable with the idea of war as the answer to everything.

Yet that's the neoconservative approach to foreign policy that Romney has adopted. You know, that whole Bush foreign policy. The same one that brought us 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the subsequent snipe hunt for phantom WMD, created enemies and adversaries around the globe, and brought us the shame of torture. From his statements on the subjects, it's hard to see how Mitt Romney would've done anything different. After all, people who recognize the failures of the Bush administration doesn't hire former Bushies to shape their foreign policy.

In the end, it may be that Romney's main foreign policy criticisms crashing to Earth was just gravy. It may be that just pointing to Romney's foreign policy team would've been enough. When it comes to geopolitics, Mitt Romney is George W. Bush. And, as far as the average voter is concerned, Dubya automatically loses any foreign policy debate.


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On Iran Sanctions, Thompson Fails Integrity Test

Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson
I don't know what to make of Tommy Thompson performance in the Wisconsin Senatorial debate last night, other than to wonder whether perhaps Tommy is not well. The political lion who was the state's longest serving governor is still in there somewhere -- you can see him at times -- but this is one confused lion. And that became very apparent. It was on the subject of Iran that things started to look a little shaky.

The Thompson campaign had leaked a story to the press earlier in the day that detailed opponent Tammy Baldwin taking $60,000 from an organization that opposed sanctions against Iran. That in itself is no big deal. You can agree or disagree with the sanctions approach to Iran. If you think an anti-sanctions position is worthy of criticism, go ahead and criticize away. It's a foreign policy debate that would be absolutely within bounds. We'll get into all that in a moment.

But consider, if Team Thompson had leaked the story ahead of the debate, that means the candidate spent the day -- at least -- preparing to discuss the issue. The result of that cram session? This:

It is necessary to prevent Iran and Ahmadinejan (sic) — who is an individual that is somewhat mentally impaired, who believes that the Holocaust never existed, believes that Israel should be destroyed, and has threatened America that they’re going to blockade the Gulf of Hormuth (sic), which would block all the oil going worldwide, and it would enter us into a world depression.

He can't remember the name Ahmadinejad or the real name of the Strait of Hormuz (in fact, he can't even picture it in his mind; a strait and a gulf are entirely different things). He'd had to have been going over this again and again -- it was, after all, pretty much the entire strategy to winning the debate -- and Thompson still couldn't get even the most basic facts down. Worse, he kept referring to the organization which made the Baldwin contribution -- Council for a Livable World -- as a "company," prompting an exasperated "Who are you talking about?" from Baldwin.

I don't think I can stress enough the fact that Thompson had in all likelihood spent a good deal of time going over all this stuff. Yet when the moment came, Baldwin was accused of supporting a company that wanted to go easy on some Ahmadinejan guy who wants to blockade the Gulf of Hormuth. No wonder Tammy had no idea WTF he was talking about.

Meanwhile, Tammy brought up the issue of stock -- sold by Thompson that very day -- in a company that does business with Iran. Thompson still owns stock in several other companies that do the same. It was one of his more embarrassing moments in the debate. "Thompson said the stock was purchased by his broker. He said he only found out about it Thursday and sold it immediately," reports WisPolitics.com. "The answer prompted some laughs in the audience of about 350 people."

As I said, it's entirely legit to have a disagreement over sanctions. Baldwin has begun supporting sanctions lately -- probably a combination of running a high-profile, high-stakes campaign for the US Senate and shifting facts on the ground. But the case against sanctions is very, very good. Oppressive governments are run by megalomaniacs. Megalomaniacs are by definition selfish. They're also in positions of power. Therefore, the very last people who are going to be hurt by sanctions are the oppressors. We saw this play out in Iraq, where the people were struggling under sanctions, while Saddam Hussein had a palace on a corner every three or four blocks. Sanctions didn't harm him a bit, because he was able to use his power to shift the burden onto his victims. You might also want to take a look at Cuba while you're at it. Sanctions are what you do when you say, "Well we have to do something," but have no idea what else to do -- a Hail Mary pass. Only this pass never seems to actually lead to a completion.

But Thompson's disagreement with sanctions was not legit. It was demagoguery. He was claiming that not supporting sanctions was equal to supporting the oppressive government in Iran. Meanwhile, he's shipping money off to Iran in the form of investments.

Maybe sanctions should start at home, Tommy. Maybe you should stop literally supporting the Iranian government (don't think they don't see a little piece of any business that happens in that country), before you dishonestly accuse someone else of doing it. You don't get to send money to Iran, while arguing that it's a terrible, terrible thing to allow people to send money to Iran. Hypocrisy married to demagoguery is the worst. Just the worst. And you're absolutely guilty of it.

So yeah, Thompson seemed to have everything all screwed up and confused last night. But that's not what disqualifies him in my book. What makes him unfit for the US Senate is his easy willingness to engage in demagoguery and hypocrisy. We have enough people like that in the Senate already. Tommy Thompson would just be redundant.


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Mitt's Final Debate Strategy: Be a Dick Again

Mitt won't shut up during second debate
If you think Team Romney are secure in their belief that they're running away with the election, you'll probably have to reassess after reading this story from The Hill:

Mitt Romney's campaign indicated Wednesday they have no plans to rein in the GOP nominee during the third and final presidential debate.

Romney's aggressive performance Tuesday night — directly challenging President Obama and quarreling with moderator Candy Crowley — had Democrats and even some Republicans arguing he came across as too assertive, which could turn off undecided voters.

But Team Romney claims their candidate won the night with his argument on core economic issues, which are the leading concern among voters. And Republican strategists say that Romney has more leeway to adopt the role of the antagonist because it's Obama who is so heavily reliant on personal favorability to buoy his poll numbers.

That last part doesn't make a lot of sense: apparently the argument is that people like Barack Obama, which is why it's OK to try to slap him around a bit. Voters will really get into that. People love it when you sink your fangs into someone they like.

But more telling than the obvious flaw in their reasoning is the fact that Romney feels the need to change the dynamic -- and with it, the race. People who are winning don't do that. People who are winning try to change things as little as possible. Team Romney points to a CNN post-debate snap poll to argue that Mitt held his own, but everyone knows snap polls suck -- you just don't have the time to get the demographics right. Predictors with better track records gave the debate to Obama, by a country mile. That seems to be bearing out, as the two most talked about moments from the debate -- Romney's self-laid Rose Garden trap and his "binders full of women" comment (which turned out to be a lie) -- aren't exactly gleaming moments of debate brilliance for the GOP candidate.

And, while Mitt's doing well in a lot of national polling, state level polling is a different story. That's got to have Team Romney worried. "[The] advantage of relying more on state polls is that if you fail, you will tend to fail well," explained Nate Silver earlier this week. "That is, if there really is a big difference between the Electoral College and the popular vote, the state polls will at least get the Electoral College winner right — and that’s what determines who occupies the White House." It could be that Romney's headed toward landslides in some safe red states and that's reflected in national polling. But that doesn't help you out with the Electoral College. Texas, for example, gives you 38 electoral votes and only 38 electoral votes -- whether you win it by 51% or by 99%. Big leads in states you were always sure to win amount to noise when it comes to making predictions. Therefore, national polls contain a lot of this white noise. If you're always talking about national polls because the state levels don't look as hot, you're probably not doing really well.

I suppose there's always the possibility that Team Romney's telegraphing the wrong strategy, to try to get Obama to prepare the wrong defense. It's not like they haven't done that before. But the fact is that Romney has to do something to put this thing away or it will in all likelihood slip away from him.

And this final forum probably represents Mitt's longest shot at a debate win. This third one will be devoted to foreign policy -- Mitt's weakest subject. The Libya/Rose Garden gaffe serves as an example of how ready-for-prime-time the candidate is here. His last foreign policy address was a joke. On issues of the economy, Mitt can fake it. On foreign policy, he can't even do that. He's probably sharpening that particular edge as we speak, but it's an extremely dull blade -- he may not have the time. Geopolitics is a subject of breathtaking magnitude. "Get tough with China and Iran" and "let's throw money at our already bloated military" doesn't even begin to cover it all.

It may be that being aggressive is Romney's only hope in the final debate. By taking control of everything, he can steer the conversation away from the vast, foggy grey areas of his ignorance and toward the simplistic, bumpersticker slogans that make up his foreign policy positions.

But we also now know that can't possibly work. If the last debate is any indication, Mitt Romney will get away with nothing when it comes to trying to steal the debate from the moderator.

There is no doubt that Mitt Romney is hoping for the opportunity to put this election to bed. But the odds for doing that may actually be better for Barack Obama.


[image source]


Not a Good Night for Mitt Romney

Obama, Romney at town hall debate
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
-President Barack Obama, remarks on the deaths of US embassy staff in Benghazi, delivered in the Rose Garden on September 12, 2012.

It's the moment that will probably be best remembered from last night's debate. Mitt Romney took the opportunity to once again exploit the deaths of Americans for political gain -- and got it all balled up and wrong. Kevin Drum has the exchange (full transcript here):

ROMNEY: I think it's interesting the president just said something, which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

When the president told Romney to "please proceed," he clearly saw where this was heading. He might as well have said, "You go ahead and take all the rope you think you need." Then came all the beauty:

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: He did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror....

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

Mitt was handed a "I have no earthly idea what the hell I'm talking about sign" and made to hold it up for everyone to see. Through bad debate prep, he'd humiliated himself.

But personally, I think the most damaging exchange for Romney came in the discussion of women's issues. Romney would not say whether he would've signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act into law and bizarrely suggested that his interactions with female hires was limited to looking at their names in binders. He suggested that women need more flexible schedules so they can go home and cook dinner. Nearly his entire answer was a misstep. Romney was way off in left field throughout this whole segment, never once addressing the question, which was, "In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?" But that still wasn't the worst. In my opinion, this was:

ROMNEY: We're going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women. In the -- in the last women have lost 580,000 jobs. That's the net of what's happened in the last four years. We're still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 31/2 million women, more now in poverty than four years ago.

Basically, what he's saying here is that he plans to create so many jobs that employers won't be able to afford to be picky and they'll have to resort to hiring women; they're going to have to hire you lady people, even if it means you have to slack off and run home early to fix dinner for your breadwinner husband. Seriously, what the hell? It's like he's completely unaware that the second half of the twentieth century ever happened. Mitt's "solution" to workplace inequality would make women the canaries in the job market coal mine. When things start to turn south, they'll be the first to be cut loose, because women were the ones employers settled for -- not the ones they wanted. Seems to me that's not so much a solution to inequality as it is a continuation of it.

And President Obama made Romney look terribly out-of-touch by pointing out the obvious fact (obvious to everyone but conservatives, anyway) that women's health is an economic issue.

OBAMA:...When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country, who rely on Planned Parenthood for, not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That's a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work. When we talk about child care, and the credits that we're providing. That makes a difference in whether they can go out there and -- and earn a living for their family.

These are not just women's issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues.

As I said, the Libya exchange is the one everyone will remember. But I think the exchange on women's issues is where Mitt Romney was most heavily wounded. The right seems convinced that everyone's going to start freaking out over Benghazi any minute now -- and it's just not happening. Meanwhile, women are fighting for their rights and their equality right now.

And, by dropping the "Moderate Mitt" act and firing off a few shots in the GOP's War on Women, Romney made it clear last night that they're fighting against people like him.



See How Much Romney-Ryan Love the 47%? See? See?

Paul Ryan pretends to wash clean pots
On the off-chance that you're not familiar with the what I'm going to call the Youngstown Clean Pot Massacre, here's the skinny. If you are familiar with the story and don't need a refresher, go ahead and skip the following blockquote. Frankly though, I found the real-world absurdism of the story almost as hilarious the second time around.


Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is in hotter water than it takes to wash dishes that are already clean over his ill-advised Saturday photo-op at a Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen. After pool reporters revealed that Ryan’s visit to the St. Vincent De Paul Society Dining Hall consisted of washing dishes that were already clean, and after the hall had emptied, the president of the charity blasted the Ryan campaign for “ramrodd(ing) their way” into the soup kitchen, and added that ““The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”

On Monday night’s
The Ed Show, host Ed Schultz tore into Ryan over the artifice involved in his visit to the soup kitchen, which included washing dishes that were already clean, and later speaking only for still cameras, not reporters, with some people who “appeared to be homeless,” wondering just what Ryan could have been saying to them.

“I wonder what Ryan told those men he talked to,” Ed fumed. “He probably didn’t tell them he plans to turn Medicaid into a block grant program, to voucherize Medicare, to slash billions from food assistance programs.”

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, took the Romney-Ryan campaign to the woodshed last night over the incident. Soup kitchens are not for photo ops, he said. "We're a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations," Antal told the Washington Post. "It's strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors."

So Ryan walks into a clean kitchen, pulls clean pots and pans out of the cupboards, and pretends to scrub-a-dub-dub. He puts the kitchen's fundraising at risk, by making the organization running it seem partisan and making it seem to endorse Romney-Ryan. And it's all so hamhanded and transparent that reporters can't help but figure out what's going on right away. The Youngstown Clean Pot Massacre was not a carefully planned out operation.

So the question is, why? Why stage this photo-op at all?

Because of the 47%, that's why. Polling has Romney closing the gap in Ohio, but not by nearly enough to win. And he has to win Ohio. Worse, current polling trends show Romney's post-debate bounce slowing or even coming down and the race returning to where it was before the debates. The latest PPP poll shows Obama up 5 on Romney in Ohio, similar to the last pre-debate PPP poll that showed him up 4.

And what do Romney's internals show? Probably nothing good. If Romney was doing well in Ohio, he wouldn't want to change the race. So no rushed and poorly thought-out photo-ops; everything would be safe and well-planned, with plenty of time taken to get everything right. No, Team Romney clearly does not believe he's doing well.

And the reason he's not doing well is also clear. As I said, it's that 47% video. Apparently, that's still a big deal in Ohio. "We don't give a crap about the lower-middle-class and the poor" isn't really the best campaign slogan, so off they send Paulie to pretend to give a crap about the poors. Strap on an apron, wash a clean pot... that ought to do the trick.

Except of course it's all backfired now. There's no way this story can help him in Ohio, where pretty much every outlet is reporting Antal's objections to the stunt -- and, in case you missed it the first time around, mentioning that Ryan only pretended to help out. There just is no positive here at all.

If Obama's on his game at the debate tonight, he's going to swing everything he can back to that 47% video. And a joke about Ryan up to his elbows in clean pans and lukewarm dishwater wouldn't hurt any either. After all, fooling the 47% into believing Romney-Ryan gives a crap was what the Youngstown Clean Pot Massacre was all about. And failing to fool anyone is why it's turned into a debacle. There is no way Romney can talk about this -- or even stand there while Obama talks about it -- and look good.


[image via Talking Points Memo]


Joe Biden and a Possible Coming Poll Correction

Anchor checks post-debate poll
Well, that was quite a debate. Check out Taegan Goddard's post-debate reaction: "The vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan was one of the best debates I can remember. It was a great service to all Americans." I could've done without all the lying (#LyinRyan was trending on supposedly conservative dominated Twitter last night), but close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. The consensus among the punditry is that Biden won. A CBS flash poll of undecided voters backs that up. But the consensus is also that it probably won't move polling in Obama's direction. "Biden stemmed the bleeding," seems to be the most overused metaphor of last night and this morning.

But can a vice presidential debate change the dynamics? The consensus seems to be no, but the fact is that anything's possible.

[Nate Silver:]

Vice-presidential debates rarely move head-to-head numbers between the presidential candidates – even when there is a much clearer verdict in instant-reaction polls. So one should err on the side of caution in assuming that the debate had much influence either way.

There is a plausible hypothesis, however, that some of Mr. Romney’s recent surge in the polls reflects a growing “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans. To the extent that Mr. Biden’s performance re-energized Democratic partisans, he may have left President Obama in a slightly better position than where he started the night.

And polling-wise, we'll probably see the president's numbers improve -- which likely would've happened anyway. But it's possible that they may improve dramatically. And that's where things get interesting.

See, part of the problem with a post-event bounce is that a certain portion of the numbers are completely inaccurate. Is there this big group of Americans who wander back and forth between candidates like a dog being coaxed with two bones? And is that big group so skittish that bad news sends them scampering off to the other candidate? Probably not. Bounces have a lot of noise.

When pollsters called after the first presidential debate, Obama backers were demoralized and Romney backers were energized. Where the Romney group were probably more likely to answer a poll, the Obama group probably didn't want to talk about the presidential race at all. So part of the sudden swing in support was illusory. It's an unrepresentative spike in the data. After a while, this lack of balance evens out and the bounce comes back down again.

Now consider, the consensus seems to be that Biden reenergized Obama voters and helped close the enthusiasm gap. Will this help erase that statistical noise sooner? Logic would seem to suggest so. We'll have to see. But there is some evidence that the race was basically unchanged by the first debate and that "evening out" would look like a dramatic gain for Barack Obama.

Keep in mind, this is all speculation at this point. I'm just saying what might happen. But none of this strikes me as completely unreasonable or even unlikely. And what's important here isn't the fact that it happens, since it's artificial in the first place, but that everyone takes it the wrong way if it happens -- as they did with Mitt Romney's artificial bounce.

Then the news stories and headlines start talking about a "resurgent Obama." The problem facing Democrats right now is that polls influence polls. When a lot of other people question their opinions, it's not unreasonable for you to question your own. This can create a bandwagon effect, where polls start to shift in a non-noisy way -- i.e., legitimately. If things even out quickly and Obama returns to his earlier standing, then count on the media to misread it all again. Which turns the tables and puts Team Romney on the defense against the bandwagon effect.

Whether any of this will happen or whether I'm just screwing around with a logical argument will become clear in a few days. Strap in and wait. This could get very interesting.


[screengrab source]


Logic Dictates that Mitt Romney's One of Two Kinds of Sick

There are times when Mitt Romney's clearly just lying and there are times when you wonder if he just has no idea what the hell he's talking about. I'm hoping that the following, given in a interview with The Columbus Dispatch, is an example of Romney lying; because if this is an example of Mitt's ignorance, he's got a lot of explaining to do. The quote comes by way of ThinkProgress and the emphasis is theirs:

“We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’  ” he said as he offered more hints as to what he would put in place of “Obamacare,” which he has pledged to repeal.

“No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

He pointed out that federal law requires hospitals to treat those without health insurance — although hospital officials frequently say that drives up health-care costs.

That statement is at odds with this report from a little over a year ago, about an incident in the city of Cincinnati, state of Reality. This time, the emphasis is mine:

[ABC News:]

A 24-year-old Cincinnati father died from a tooth infection this week because he couldn't afford his medication, offering a sobering reminder of the importance of oral health and the number of people without access to dental or health care.

According to NBC affiliate WLWT, Kyle Willis' wisdom tooth started hurting two weeks ago. When dentists told him it needed to be pulled, he decided to forgo the procedure, because he was unemployed and had no health insurance.

When his face started swelling and his head began to ache, Willis went to the emergency room, where he received prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medications. Willis couldn't afford both, so he chose the pain medications.

The tooth infection spread, causing his brain to swell. He died Tuesday.

Hey look, there's a guy who died because he didn't have health insurance and he went to the ER for care. Why does reality so often disagree with your little stories, Mr. Romney?

"Emergency rooms serve as a place of last resort, but 45,000 Americans still die every year because they lack health insurance, or one every 12 minutes," reports ThinkProgress's Rebecca Leber. "Uninsured adults under age 65 are also at a 40 percent higher death risk. Hospitals may treat patients for emergency medical conditions regardless of legal status or ability to pay, but patients with chronic conditions that don’t require emergency interference are often unable to access needed care."

Think about it. How many times in your life have you heard the words, "Early detection is the key?" Imagine heading out and telling your spouse, "Well, I'm off to get my cancer screening at the ER... No, I don't have any symptoms. But Mitt says they'll handle all our uninsured healthcare needs."

How do you see that story panning out? I kind of don't think you're getting your cancer screening, do you -- and more importantly, does Mitt?

The fact is that Romney either knows all of this and doesn't care or he's either suffering from chronic amnesia or Alzheimers. Romney passed healthcare reform in Massachusetts. These are basic healthcare facts. He had to have known them at one time. He had to have studied the bill -- and the need for the bill -- he signed into law. And yet here he is, acting like he's never seen even the most rudimentary figures about the uninsured.

As I say, I hope (for the sake of his conscience) that Mitt really is having some sort of mental problem -- hopefully, a treatable one. Because the only other explanation is that he's a monster. He's promised to repeal Obamacare ASAP, returning to that one death due to lack of insurance every twelve minutes stat as status quo.

And why will he repeal it? Because the wingnuts don't like it. He was for it before he was against it, but now he's running for president. If 45,000 Americans need to die every year so that he can call himself President Romney, then you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Mitt Romney winning an election seems to be worth an actual death toll, in his mind. People dying of freakin' toothaches is nothing to worry about. I mean, they're poor. It's not like they're real.

As I said, that would make him a monster. Cutting him slack means assuming he's sick. Either way, he's completely unfit for the office he seeks.


[image source]


GOP Race- and Religion-Baiting Finally Pays Off

Bigoted billboard attacks atheists
In May of this year, the Republican Party received crushing news -- it was dying:

[CBS News:]

For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S., capping decades of heady immigration growth that is now slowing.

New 2011 census estimates highlight sweeping changes in the nation's racial makeup and the prolonged impact of a weak economy, which is now resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S.

"This is an important landmark," said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. "This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders."

Yes, white people were becoming just another minority in the vast, multicultural landscape of America. It was terrible. Decades of scapegoating minorities as the source of all evil in the nation -- whether it be casting Latinos as people who "refuse to learn English" or blacks who they pretty much argue are all on welfare -- had finally come back around to bite them from behind. They had been launching racist attacks against minorities for decades. These people would never vote for them in any real numbers in a million years. Richard Nixon's racist "southern strategy" turned out to be as lacking in forethought as the invasion of Iraq. And as disastrous. Publicly, Republicans either shrug their shoulders over the troubles they have with minority voters or blame Democrats for it. But in their heart of hearts, they know why minorities shun them.

Already coping with that particular demographic death sentence, the GOP received another yesterday.

[Bloomberg News:]

Protestants have lost the majority status they’ve had in the U.S. for more than two centuries, as the number of Americans who don’t claim any religion has surged, according to a Pew Research Center survey released today.

The number of Protestants has fallen to 48 percent, from 53 percent in 2007, reduced by the growing number of unaffiliated Americans, now 33 million, as well as 13 million agnostics and atheists. Almost one of every five Americans doesn’t belong to a church, the center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found.

“This is part of a long-term trend,” Cary Funk, a senior Pew researcher, said in a telephone interview. “The startling thing, though, is that in the past five years, the pace of change has accelerated.”

This is bad news because, according to the report, the unaffiliated are "reliably Democratic, overwhelmingly voting for the party’s presidential candidate in the last three elections."

Worse, where Republicans used dog whistles and code words to attack racial minorities, they're openly hostile and intolerant to the non-religious. If there's a demographic group that's more "gone for good" for the GOP than non-whites, it may be atheists and the unaffiliated. Conservatives attack people and groups for being insufficiently pious and when people complain that Republicans are forcing them to abide by their religious believes, Republicans shriek that they're being persecuted. The hypocrisy is rank -- and obvious to everyone other than evangelical Republican voters, who are apparently as prone to idiocy as they are to fits of blind, unwarranted panic.

All of which brings to mind a February New York Magazine piece by Jonathan Chait. Titled "2012 or Never," it foreshadowed the census report on minority births. Chait argued that demographic trends spelled GOP doom and, in typical conservative fashion, they've waited until it was nearly too late to address that disaster. That explains the sudden rash of voter suppression efforts like voter ID, voter list purges, and various other dirty tricks.

With racial groups, there's a chance at keeping them from the polls, since race and class are nearly identical in America. But with the religiously unaffiliated? No such luck. How do you keep people of a certain religious persuasion -- or in this case, non-persuasion -- from the polls? How do you attack the non-religious when legislation that would hurt them would be clearly unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds? After all, a law has to stand up in court if it's to be anything other than a waste of time.

When I write the words, "Unless they change, Republicans face eventual electoral doom," I'm reminded of Strunk & White's advice to writers in the Elements of Style: "A sentence should contain no unnecessary words."

So I rewrite it "Republicans face eventual electoral doom." Because Republicans are, by definition, resistant to change.



Settle Down, Obama's Still the Favorite

People I respect and think are well worth listening to seem to all have the same four words for Andrew Sullivan: "Settle the f**k down." On the subject of a debate which resulted in what was most likely a Romney bounce, Sullivan posted a piece he titled, "Did Obama Just Throw the Entire Election Away?" If it were a blogger who got less traffic on a regular basis, I'd suspect link baiting. But Sullivan is no slouch for eyes on ads, so it's clearly histrionic hyperbole and blind animal panic.

The Pew poll is devastating, just devastating. Before the debate, Obama had a 51 - 43 lead; now, Romney has a 49 - 45 lead. That’s a simply unprecedented reversal for a candidate in October. Before Obama had leads on every policy issue and personal characteristic; now Romney leads in almost all of them. Obama’s performance gave Romney a 12 point swing! I repeat: a 12 point swing...

For his part, Ed Kilgore says that Sullivan is guilty of confirmation bias. "He is someone who clearly thought the first presidential debate was a disaster at the time, and is now freaking out because he’s seeing confirmation of his worst fears," he writes. "So telling him that this is just one poll (or two polls counting PPP’s new survey showing Romney up by two points among LVs) won’t cut much ice, since he’s now expecting others to show the same confirmation of his own impressions of a catastrophic debate defeat for Obama."

It's important to remember that polls -- as people who love cliches will constantly remind us -- offer a snapshot in time. What the cliche-lovers don't remind anyone of is that the moment in time being captured isn't now. And different polling organizations have different methods of harvesting and organizing the data, so polls don't come out in the order they're taken. This isn't extremely important during the middle of a campaign, but at the end of it this tends to create some cognitive noise. If you account for that noise, Barack Obama is still the clear favorite; Nate Silver has revised his numbers down slightly to a 74.8% chance Obama wins v. a 25.2% chance of a Romney win, while the traders at Intrade give Obama a 62.3% chance. Remember Intraders have money riding on this -- they're betting on who they think will win, not voting for who they hope will win.

If you're looking for a rough ride, you've found it. If you're looking for a car wreck, you'll need to keep looking. Tracking polls, which are more reliable at this point, show Romney bouncing and receding. Nate Silver:

The most unfavorable numbers for Mr. Romney came in the national tracking polls published by Gallup and Rasmussen Reports. Both showed the race trending slightly toward President Obama, who increased his lead from 3 points to 5 points in the Gallup poll, and pulled into a tie after having trailed by 2 points in the Rasmussen survey.

In both cases, the numbers looked more like pre-debate data than the stronger numbers that Mr. Romney has been receiving since then. On average between the Democratic convention and the debate, the Rasmussen poll showed Mr. Obama with a 0.7-point lead (the Rasmussen poll is Republican-leaning relative to the consensus), while the Gallup poll had Mr. Obama ahead by an average of 3.4 points.

A third national tracking poll, an online tracking poll published by the RAND Corporation, showed essentially no change from Sunday. All of this seemed to be consistent with a story in which Mr. Romney’s debate bounce was receding some. (A fourth tracking poll, from Ipsos, had not been published as of the time we ran our forecast on Monday.)

And Romney is already back to making missteps. Yesterday's foreign policy speech do less to shore up Romney's world politics credentials and more to undermine them. Mitt Romney has not magically become more competent because his poll numbers are rising. The best thing to do would be for Romney and Ryan to wall themselves up in a cave until election day and not say a word. But that's not going to be possible and they will screw up. Already, the lasting impression from the debate seems to be that Romney wants to fry up Big Bird.

"Some people have said that Obama's performance was the worst in history, but that's just ridiculous," writes The American Prospect's Paul Waldman. "George W. Bush was much worse in all his debates in 2004, Bob Dole was terrible in 1996, George H.W. Bush was awful in 1992, and the worst debate performance was without question Ronald Reagan's in his first debate in 1984, where he was barely coherent and, in retrospect, probably showing some initial signs of Alzheimer's. You'll note that two of the people I just mentioned ended up winning. Obama didn't do particularly well last Wednesday, it's true. But he's a very competitive guy, and I'm sure he's going to show up next week with plenty more focus and vigor. There are a lot of other factors—a recovering economy, the fact that it now looks like he'll have more money, a superior ground operation—that continue to make him the favorite. So liberals can feel free to stop rending their garments."

Amen to that. If you're worried, volunteer, make calls, knock on doors. Hell, if you're not worried go ahead and do that. But the idea that Obama is heading for definite -- or even probable -- loss is really giving up way too early, with far too scant  evidence.

People need to settle the f**k down.


[image source]


Post-Debate Bounce Not as Big a Story as Everyone's Pretending

ROmney in Detroit
I was pretty busy last week and didn't get a chance to write anything substantial about the first presidential debate. By now, it's old news and I won't bore you with yet another rehashing of a debacle; suffice it to say that Mitt Romney flung the BS fast and furious and this is enough to get you declared a winner of a debate these days. When I was in high school, debaters had to cite facts. Apparently adults running for office get to be much more creative and the media will actually applaud lying.

So what's the damage here? Reports have it that Romney is climbing in the polls, momentum's behind him, and the world is his oyster. He's definitely going to be the next president of the United States and, if you check FiveThirtyEight, you'll see that he's now projected to have a 78.4% of winning to President Obama's 21.6%.

Oh wait, that's all backwards and wrong; Obama's 78.4% and Romney's 21.6%. Further, it's starting to look like Romney's topped out, so his chances aren't going to get any better. According to FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, "polls released on Sunday did not tell quite as optimistic a story for him as those in the debate’s immediate aftermath." He also calls Romney's current polling a "bounce."

So what's with the media all but declaring Mitt Romney the winner of the 2012 presidential race? Simple: bias. But it isn't political bias, it's ratings bias. Remember, the job of the TV pundit isn't to help you understand anything, the job of the TV pundit is to get you to watch TV. And that means drama and excitement. A big turn-around for the Republican candidate qualifies. When the news stories were starting to look like the Romney Campaign Deathwatch, things got a little boring in the political news world. So they'll make this whole poll bounce a bigger story than it actually is. Someone has to watch those ads.

That's not to say that Obama supporters should be sanguine. But there was never really a point where they should've been. It was always going to be a tight race and it's still going to be a tight race. Silver's percentages are wide, but they predict a final popular vote tally of 51% Obama to 47.9% Romney. And according to him, if polling trends settle where he thinks they're headed, the economy will determine the outcome of the election, but "it would no longer be as appropriate to think of Mr. Romney as being an underachieving candidate."

But the anchors dragging Romney down are still there. ABC News' Amy Walter (TV news, I know. But there's an exception for every rule) says the "fundamentals" still point to Obama winning. Like Silver, she sees an economic election and points out that "Romney is not seen as better able to handle the economy." Further, despite national polls tightening a bit, Mitt's road to victory is still very narrow.

Despite earlier predictions by the Romney campaign that they would be competitive in traditionally blue states like Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, they are putting no serious effort into any of them. Moreover, the Paul Ryan pick gave Romney only a short-lived bounce in Wisconsin. The latest polls in the Badger State show Obama with a healthy advantage in the state.

This has left Romney has a very narrow path to 270, and no room for error. If Romney loses Ohio and Wisconsin, he would have no choice but to win almost every single other battleground state to win.

None of which is to say that Obama is guaranteed a win. Mitt Romney's slim chance has improved slightly -- but only slightly. Anyone measuring the curtains for him is likely to be disappointed come November.


[image source]


Registration Fraud May Give the GOP a Taste of Their Own Medicine

voter registration drive
They say Karma is a bitch. After pushing voter ID to disenfranchise groups that tend to vote Democratic, the Republican Party is at the heart of a growing scandal over voter registration fraud. That would be the same crime the right -- falsely, it turned out -- accused ACORN of doing. It was a crime so heinous that ACORN had to be defunded, thereby killing off the organization. Logical consistency demands that the GOP must meet a similar fate.

But no one's seriously going to demand the organizational death penalty. Still, this may be in the neighborhood.

[Los Angeles Times:]

[A California voter registration fraud scandal] has also raised anew the question of whether the state should ban firms that pay workers for each voter they register or signature they secure on a petition rather than paying them an hourly rate. Workers have an incentive to cut corners under such arrangements, according to Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Natomas), who has proposed barring the practice in a bill that is on the governor's desk.

Registration fraud's becoming a bit of a scandal for Republicans. The story broke big in Florida, followed by the California story this weekend.

Pan's California bill would be a blow to the GOP's election efforts because Republicans tend not to rely on volunteers to register voters. If they were forced to, they'd probably have trouble finding them -- which explains why they rely on volunteers. Would this disenfranchise voters like a voter ID law would? No. But it would affect Republican efforts almost exclusively.

Registration fraud works this way: you find a mark who's either unregistered or registered with the "wrong" party, then you register them or re-register them as Republicans -- whether they want to or not. This is accomplished through various methods. In some cases, the forms are just forged or altered. In others, people are duped into signing a "petition" that registers them as a Republican. In California, people who signed a petition to legalize marijuana were told they'd have to sign a registration form as well. The form was later completed by the petitioner to switch the signatory's party.

So what's the big deal with voter registration fraud? I mean, just because you're registered Republican doesn't mean you have to vote Republican, right?

"Have to?" No. But it's less black and white than that.

The fact is that people who are registered Republican are more likely to vote Republican -- even if they're unaware that they're registered GOP. Voter lists are public information, so political organizations use them to make call lists and mailing lists. If you're registered Republican, you're getting mail and robocalls from every wingnut organization under the sun. You're being bombarded with rightwing propaganda and false information, as well as fundraising appeals. You are the target in a targeted advertising campaign. And, when election day comes, the call you get tells you that the Republican is counting on your vote. It suppresses the liberal vote in some cases by convincing them the Democrat is scum not worth voting for and, in other cases, actually converts voters from left to right.

"Democrats say bogus registrations are more than just an issue of workers trying to make an extra buck," L.A. Times reports, "that they're a trick to prevent the Democratic party from getting supporters to the polls as well as to draw more money to the area's Republican races."

Now imagine all the perks of having registered Republicans drying up. Democrats are sending volunteers door to door, signing up new voters and creating relationships with new voters, while Republicans are trying to scare some up in a base unused to real volunteerism. Sure, they'll staple tea bags to their hats and make asses of themselves at rallies held once in a blue moon, but an ongoing effort where doors may be slammed in their faces? Glenn Beck never told them about any of that. They don't think they need to volunteer, that's what the free market is for. They'll just write a check.

Banning hired voter registration workers wouldn't be the blow to Republicans that voter ID is to Democrats. Not even close. But it would hurt pretty much only Republicans. And, unlike voter ID, this law would fight an actual ongoing campaign of fraud. While voter fraud is mostly imaginary, registration fraud is very, very real -- and very, very Republican.

Not only might Pan's bill be necessary on a national level, but it would be poetic justice.


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