Saturday, October 20, 2012

Welcome to Romnesia

It was the talk of the political world on Friday--at a rally in Virginia, President Obama rolling out a new riff on Romney and his etch-a-sketchy ways, particularly on women's issues but also on the economy and, well, everything else.

The vid and for the printcentric the quotes are courtesy of Think Progress:

“[H]e’s changing up so much – backtracking and sidestepping. We’ve gotta name this condition that he’s going through, I think it’s called ‘Romnesia,’” Obama announced, referring to Romney’s efforts to abandon the positions he held in the Republican primary in order to appeal to more moderate voters during the general election:
OBAMA: Now, I’m not a medical doctor but I do want to go over some of the symptoms with you because I want to make sure nobody else catches it.
If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work – you might have Romnesia. If you say women should have access to contraceptive care, but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care – you might have a case of Romnesia. If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you’d be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases – man, you’ve definitely got Romnesia. [...]
And if you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you’ve made over the six years you’ve been running for President, here’s the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions.
We can fix you up. We’ve got a cure. We can make you well, Virginia. This is a curable disease."
Apparently the term Romesia has been twittering around for awhile, and has even been in print.  But it's the first time President Obama has used it, and what's interesting about this is how polished it sounds already--suggesting that it's a natural fit for President Obama, who is having fun delivering it.  I think we may be visiting Romnesia for awhile.

Romnesia arrived just in time to echo sentiments showing up in newspaper endorsements, especially in Utah's Salt Lake City Tribune's editorial endorsing President Obama:

[This] is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party’s shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: "Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?"

It also reinforces the idea that those who know Romney best--like the citizens of Massachusetts, where he was governor--and Utah, where he managed the Olympics, also like him least. 

But as Andrew Sullivan points out, the other part of his newly refined stump speech is the final argument, the case for re-election:

Chris Matthews has gone back to ethics-free hardball politics in once again seeing Romney as the favorite, so his prescription for what the President must do is lay out a bold vision for an FDR-style second term.

For those of us puzzled by the polls--which by some interpretations are starting to edge back to Obama, though the swing states polls Friday were very mixed--Sullivan also isolates an unbelievable stat, which is that Romney's favorability number has been going up, and is now marginally higher than President Obama's.  If this is so (and it may be as much bullshit as women voters' sudden attraction to Romney), it could be traced to that infamous first debate.  And if that is so--if it is a combination of Romney's energy and Obama's lack of it, that impression would be countered by the second debate, seen by even more viewers.   I just can't believe this new Romney romance (if it exists) will last another 18 days.

President Clinton Thursday kept isolating the main GOPer assumption: "They think we're stupid."   I guess we'll see.

One prediction about the effect of the second debate has come true--the margin by which President Obama won it has increased.  A Gallup poll says he won by 51-38; among Independents it was 54-33.

And something else happened the night of the debate: the next 24 hours constituted the Obama campaign's biggest single fundraising day ever.  Although the total hasn't been released, the previous one-day winner was $50 million in 2008, the day after Sarah Palin was announced as McCain's running mate.  With the big haul in September, it seems that the campaign won't have money problems, and even with the carpet bombing from GOPer billionaire-funded groups, a smart and agile video ad campaign can continue, including a superior ground game, at least in terms of numbers.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Barry's Back

Barry Zito of course.  With their backs against the St. Louis wall, the SF Giants got what brung them: a dominating performance by a starting pitcher.  This has been Zito's year, even with his last brief postseason outing.  He pitched 8 2/3 clutch innings, backed up by clutch fielding and even some hitting. 

It's what's been missing, this Giants trademark of dominant starting pitching, and why they were down to a 3-1 deficit, and in danger of losing it all on the road.  Of course, they did get pitching that was pretty good, if you're hitting, but not lights-out, until Vogelsong in game 2 and now Zito.  And even after more than 100 pitches he was throwing wicked curves in the eighth.  I've never seen balls drop like he threw in that inning.

So they come home, have Vogelsong again and Matt Cain, who is due for a groove.  Just to get back home is a good thing.  Giants baseball.  They've been fun. 

Thursday Recap

The battleground state polls on Thursday continued to show President Obama ahead, except in North Carolina. Romney is moving key staff from North Carolina to Ohio, presumably because they think they've got NC won.  The margin for Obama is thin in Virginia and thinner than before in Colorado, but as people vote and election day gets closer, even 3 point margins start looking big.  One poll had an 8 point margin in Iowa, another a 6 point in Wisconsin.  One even had a 3 point margin in Florida.

The national tracking polls are all basically tied except for Gallup which continues to grow Romney's lead.  Nate Silver sees it as an outlyer, and not inconsistent with Gallup's record of huge (and hugely wrong margins) at this point in 2000 and 2004. 

The internals in one of the state polls--Wisconsin maybe-- suggested that the gender gap is back, big time,with women in favor of President Obama by double digits.  And the poll was taken mostly before the debate.

All the polls on Thursday were taken all or mostly before the debate.  Steve S. at kos says we won't know if there's a debate-related shift until the next debate on Monday. 

I remember hearing about dirty tricks in elections even in the 60s, like the GOPers phoning old people and telling them they can vote by phone, or the age-old tactic of sending voter information to people on the other side with the wrong election date. 

However it does seem to have gotten worse this year, even aside from the blatant voter suppression laws.  It's amazing how open GOPers are about it--especially using their actual public office, their public trust as elected officials of all the people, to mislead voting groups they don't like and discourage them from voting.  This case of a GOP operative caught destroying presumably Dem registrations is probably the tip of the iceberg.   I'm sure it's also being fueled by the amazing amount of raw hate at work in this election.

On Thursday President Obama held a big rally while Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen wowed a crowd in Ohio.  Romney apparently did nothing, with but one event Wednesday.  Both President Obama and Romney told jokes at the Al Smith dinner in New York.  Romney's were mostly aimed at the President, and a few were borderline vicious, as well as not funny.  President Obama mostly made fun of himself, though he got some digs in, too.  And he's much better at it.  The dinner of rich Catholics should be Romney country, but the crowd seemed to warm to the President.   

In the realm of it should be relevant, 68 Nobel Laureates in science signed a letter endorsing President Obama.  “President Obama understands the key role science has played in building a prosperous America,” the laureates wrote in a letter that was released on Wednesday. Mr. Obama “has championed investment in science and technology research that is the engine of our economy.” Plus he's also (shhh, don' tell anybody) won a Nobel Prize.  

Not a good day for the SF Giants, a better one for the Niners.  Farewell Yankees and good riddance.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Notes from The Day After

A few notes on the presidential debate, its possible effects, and the state of the race.

At some point in the days and hours before the debate I dreamt up a line for President Obama to say about the Romney economic plan.  "It's a two part plan," President Obama would say (or maybe, v.p. Biden, Bill Clinton, or even Jon Stewart.) "Part one: smoke.  Part two: mirrors."

President Obama actually did a variation on this, which while not quite as funny, is maybe more to the point:

"Governor Romney doesn’t have a five point plan. He has a one point plan, and that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as governor, that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than someone who makes less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money. That’s exactly the philosophy that we have seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle class families, and we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess. The last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there. "

Last night and early the day after, the chatter was about several important moments in the debate.  There was the Libya exchange, when a coldly angry President said he found the charge by Romney and the rabid GOP that he and his administration were playing politics with the Bengazi situation "offensive," and Romney had his Gerald Ford moment with his "gotcha" that got only him:

Also about President Obama's closing, in which he took the opportunity Romney presented him in his closing when he mentioned his concern for "the 100%" to skewer Romney on his "47%" comments:

But apart from deconstructing the new batch of Romney lies (which he added to old ones he repeated), the talk on Wednesday was about women's issues that came up in the debate: contraception, abortion, equal pay, etc., which got folded into the viral soundbite of Romney's "binders full of women."

This went viral for the telling awkwardness of the phrase, but went really big when it was revealed to be another lie--it wasn't Romney but an independent group that supplied the names of qualified women that would have been presented to whoever won as governor that year.

But President Obama hammered at Romney on women's issues at his campaign events, including to 2,000 students at a college in Iowa and a huge crowd in Athens, Ohio.  And with good reason, for a survey of women in swing states shows that abortion is far and away at the top of the list of issues they are most concerned about--39% vs. 19% for jobs.

Women probably will determine the winner of this election.  But by all accounts, Romney's answers on immigration further alienated him from Latino voters, and may well have made them more determined to vote for Obama. 

So...what about the impact of the debate?  The first poll after the instant polls last night show the perception growing that President Obama won the debate.  Preliminary figures suggest the audience for the debate was larger than for the first debate--possibly the largest in history.  And don't forget what I mentioned yesterday before the debate that Nate Silver noted: second debates move poll numbers just as much as first debates do, historically.  So despite the pundits sort of doubting the poll numbers will now move...I'm saying the poll numbers will start moving, especially in the swing states.

As for current poll numbers, the latest Ohio poll shows a slight increase for President Obama already.  And on the worst poll of the day--the national Gallup tracking poll--kos took a look at the crosstabs and found that Obama is actually ahead in every region of the country except the south.  Obama is ahead in the East and the Midwest 52-48, and in the West by 53-47.  He's fallen further behind in the South--39% to Romney's 61%.  These are mostly states Romney was going to win anyway.

In any case, we're probably at or near the nadir.  Tracking polls will start to pick up some post-debate sentiment.  By next week the swing state polls should reflect post-debate.  Even at Romney's high point, Obama remained ahead in Ohio especially, but also in other swing states, though more narrowly than before. In Ohio, he's banked a lot of votes--early voters.

 There was one disturbing report on Wednesday speculating that the Obama campaign has given up on Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, and maybe Colorado, because they didn't mention they felt confident about them as they do about Ohio, Iowa and Nevada. I don't buy it. Maybe in another ten days, I wouldn't be shocked to learn that they shifted advertising from N.C. or even Florida--though they have well-prepared ground games in both states they are not going to abandon.  But I don't see them ever giving up on Virginia or Colorado. 

photo: Obama in Ohio on Wednesday

What about the external reality?  And that last jobs report the Friday before election day?  When Obama was polling higher, the economic numbers were worse, and they didn't hurt him.  Couple that with some upbeat economic news: Retail sales are up, and the housing market is improving faster than experts anticipated.  So it seems unlikely that a much worse economy will determine the outcome.

The basic question really is whether Romney can lie his way into the White House.  The American people unfortunately have proven susceptible to lies--both Bushes for example proved that.  All any of us can do is be as clear as possible about the truth.  Fight the good fight.  And enjoy the good fight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debate Reaction: He Delivered

Taegan Goddard Political Wire:

"Obama won the debate decisively.

The president had a simple formula: Defend and explain his record while insisting that Romney wasn't being truthful. He kept Romney on the defensive and came prepared with counter-punches to nearly every topic. It was devastatingly effective.

The memorandum of understanding setting the rules for the debate -- and the town hall format itself -- went out the window pretty quickly. The debate turned confrontational within the first 20 minutes which probably pleased partisans. Both sides saw fire in their candidate. But it's more likely that undecided voters didn't like the confrontation at all.

In particular, Romney doesn't do testy well. He made a big mistake trying to roll over the moderator. He got away with it in the first debate but he looked mean tonight. His obsession with the rules also came off as petty.

Romney was most effective when pointing out what Obama promised and what actually happened over the last four years. He scored many points But he lost most of them by not knowing his facts on what President Obama said the morning after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Obama acted like a president in the exchange while Romney was much less. It was Romney's Gerald Ford moment."

The excitable Andrew Sullivan:

"To my mind, Obama dominated Romney tonight in every single way: in substance, manner, style, and personal appeal. He came back like a lethal, but restrained predator. He was able to defend his own record, think swiftly on his feet, and his Benghazi answer was superb. He behaved luke a president. He owned the presidency. And Romney? Well, he has no answers on the math question and was exposed. He was vulnerable on every social issue, especially immigration. And he had no real answer to the question of how he'd be different than George W Bush.

I'm excitable - but sometimes politics is about emotion as well as reason. And my view is that Obama halted Romney's momentum in its tracks and his performance will bring women voters in particular flooding back. He's just more persuasive. On watching with the sound off - apart from weird gaps in the CSPAN coverage - Obama did not grin like Biden; he smiled confidently, leaning forward. Within twenty minutes, Romney looked flush and a little schvitzy.

Game, set and match to Obama. He got it; he fought back; he gave us all more than ample reason to carry on the fight."

Alex Altman at Swampland (Time Magazine blog):

"With his presidency on the line, Barack Obama delivered a forceful performance in the second presidential debate Tuesday night, chiding Mitt Romney for failing to provide specifics about his policies and painting the Republican nominee as a more conservative version of George W. Bush."

For Obama, however, it was a performance brimming with the kind of fiery rhetoric his supporters were craving. The President has described himself in the past as a “fourth quarter player.” In crunch time of his last campaign, he sank a very big shot Tuesday night."

CBS instant poll of uncommitted voters: Obama 37%  Romney 30%
PPP Colorado Obama 48  Romney 44   Among Independents:  Obama 58  Romney 36
CNN  Obama 46  Romney 39

Huffington Post headline: BARACK IS BACK

Josh Marshall:

"Romney did well. Obama did better. And increasingly better over the course of the evening. I said earlier this evening that a candidate always has to be really careful getting into fights or going on the attack in a Townhall format. But I think Obama pulled it off. In fact, he managed to effectively balance an unwieldy mix of goals he brought into the debate. Be tough. Be presidential. Connect with the audience. Reengage supporters. Push an effective critique of Mitt Romney. Over the course of 90 minutes the cadence of tension and body language and power slowly arched in Obama’s favor.

I think he made a strong case for persuadable voters... With tonight’s performance, Obama changed that equation dramatically."

From TV I can only paraphrase.  Howard Fineman said that Romney's lack of credibility on the issues was exposed.  Rachel Maddow called it a decisive win for President Obama.  Steve Schmidt complimented Romney's performance but said he screwed up on specific issues, and believes the modest win the first polls are giving Obama will turn into a bigger win as the week goes on.

The moments being talked about: Romney on immigration.  The President's strong answer on Bengazi followed by Romney's attempted gotcha moment on whether President Obama called the Bengazi attack an act of terrorism in his Rose Garden remarks the next day--which readers of this blog know he did, and moderator Candy Crowley also knew he did, and a double Romney smackdown.  On this one of the many wiseass live bloggers noted:

"Obama clearly prepared for his Libya response. Romney makes a dumb mistake: Obama says he spoke in the Rose Garden after the attack and called it an act of terror. Romney says "no you didn't." Obama says "get the transcript." Crowley says "he did." THE AUDIENCE APPLAUDS CROWLEY LIVE FACT-CHECKING ROMNEY. Like, twice. They applaud twice. Romney stutters through the rest of his response, and it doesn't matter what he says: He just got fucking destroyed. By the audience, basically."

And some gleeful twittering on Romney's phrase "a binder full of women."

Reuters is calling the Libya confrontation a smackdown moment for Obama, after which "Romney appeared stunned."

The Guardian (UK): "Barack Obama secured the comeback he desperately needed in the second presidential debate against Mitt Romney, finishing the night on top after a series of fierce clashes in which the two made no attempt to hide the extent of their personal hostility."

Jonathan Chiat at New York Magazine:

"Obama came into this debate having formulated a simple frame for his opponent: Romney believes that people like himself can play by different rules. Into this frame he shoved Romney’s business career, personal income tax rate, and his public policy. And on the very last question, he attacked Romney for his infamous 47% comments – not as fiercely as he could have, but well enough. At times, Romney appeared complicit in Obama’s strategy. Tonally, he seemed nastier, and more like the plutocrat Obama painted him as.

Romney’s message against Obama was that the economy has been bad, something everybody already knows. Obama’s message against Romney is that his opponent is a wealthy, self-interested Republican fully invested in his party’s platform. That’s something that not everybody believed after the first debate."

Dem pollster Stan Greenberg:

"I thought Obama made the determination from the first second to be forward-looking — laying out each element of his economic plan. He repeatedly said, this is what I want to accomplish in a second term. While he clearly sounded confident about what he had done, he didn’t say, give me a second term because of a job well done. He repeatedly said , I would like another term to do this or that — on energy, education and others. I think voters will feel they heard him talking about the changes and progress he wants to achieve."

kos notes this about the debate audience, chosen because they're undecideds (which might account for the fact that there was only one black person):

"After the debate, audience members mobbed President Barack Obama while Mitt Romney was surrounded by just his family. He didn't last long, out of the hall as fast as he could. He has a hard time being around carbon-based life forms, you know?  On the other hand, Obama stuck around 10-15 minutes signing autographs and taking pictures. We saw our real president tonight, and we also saw the real dick Romney. The contrast couldn't be clearer."

Pre-Debate Tuesday

       Will he deliver?

late afternoon update: Tuesday's polls are even weirder than yesterday's but good news for Ohio--the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the GOPer state gov's appeal on early voting, so the final weekend of early voting must happen, or GOPer officials face contempt of court or worse.  Nate Silver notes that the stats show the second debate is potentially just as important as the first in moving poll numbers.  Not that there's any pressure or anything.

After the ABC/Washington Post poll, the many polls issued Monday offered a very mixed bag.  Poll guru Nate Silver essentially threw up his hands and couldn't say what was going on.  Though he upped President Obama's chances for reelection fractionally from yesterday, to about 2 in 3.

Looking at the bright side, several observers agree with Steve S. at DKos:

With about three weeks until election day, and 43 polls in the hopper from this weekend and Monday, we can draw a few very tenuous conclusions about the state of play in the 2012 election cycle: The presidential race has moved clearly back into a very competitive position, although President Obama may have finally stalled the Romney momentum on the polling front over this weekend. Conversely, the GOP's fortunes on the Senate front seem to be getting worse, with it now looking just as likely that the Democrats will gain seats in the upper chamber than they are to lose the Senate altogether.

Adding to the confusion are the polls that show a 4 or 5 point edge for Romney in the swing states, and a 5 point edge for President Obama. 

But here's some news from Florida on absentee and early voting: absentee vote requests, which were dominated by Republicans in 2008 when Obama won the state, are now nearly even, with Dems just a few percentage points down. “It’s not good news for Republicans,” said Brad Gomez, a political science professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, who studies voter turnout....The Obama campaign has 102 offices, up from 58 in Florida four years ago, and has registered about 320,000 new voters, up from about 200,000 in 2008. Republicans have signed up about 49,000 new voters in Florida, state data show, and have 47 offices for the presidential campaign.

And even those most invested in the "dead heat" thesis are reluctant to conclude that Obama is losing Ohio, even with the extreme barrage of Romney TV ads in that state.  And events like this won't help the Romneyryan ticket: of Ryan's attempted photo op of compassionately helping the poor, the Washington Post reported: "The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall...."

He added: “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.”

Ryan had stopped by the soup kitchen for about 15 minutes on his way to the airport after his Saturday morning town hall in Youngstown. By the time he arrived, the food had already been served, the patrons had left, and the hall had been cleaned.

Upon entering the soup kitchen, Ryan, his wife and three young children greeted and thanked several volunteers, then donned white aprons and offered to clean some dishes. Photographers snapped photos and TV cameras shot footage of Ryan and his family washing pots and pans that did not appear to be dirty."

That this appeared in the Washington Post made for an amusing story for the politically knowing.  But it's the Ohio newspapers--like this one--that are significant in telling this story:

Juanita Sherba, St. Vincent’s Saturday coordinator for the dining hall, said she gave the Ryan campaign approval that day for the visit by the candidate and his family. Sherba say she now realizes it wasn’t her call to make.

The event “was a photo op,” she said. “It was the phoniest piece of baloney I’ve ever been associated with. In hindsight, I would have never let him in the door.”

When an advance person from the Mitt Romney/Ryan campaign asked about the visit, Sherba said it took her by surprise. “I didn’t know it was my place to say ‘no,’” she said. “I made a mistake.” The event was completely staged by the campaign, she said.

They couldn’t have cared less,” Sherba said. “The advance man said Paul Ryan wanted to come and talk to our clientele, but he didn’t.”

  People in that part of the world (generally speaking, my original part of the world) do not like phony, and Romneyryan already has a big problem with phony.  With any luck, that will become abundantly clear tonight.

As for the all-important debate strategy, Andy Borowitz reveals:

With his polite and well-mannered performance widely panned in the first Presidential debate, President Barack Obama is under mounting pressure to prove that he can act like an asshole in the second debate tomorrow night, a campaign aide confirmed. “In America, we demand that our President remain cool and calm in a crisis but go batshit in a debate,” the aide said. “Tuesday night is all about that second piece.”

However, success is not assured:

But even as Mr. Obama worked around the clock to practice being a douche, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, doubted his efforts would succeed. “Being an asshole isn’t a skill that you can just pick up overnight,” Mr. Rhoades said. “Mitt Romney’s been working on it all his life.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

Forward Monday

phone-banking in Virginia Sunday, a break from debate prep

ABC/Washington Post poll
nationally, likely voters:  Obama 49  Romney 46
nationally, registered voters: Obama 50  Romney 43
swing states likely voters:  Obama 51  Romney 46

More voters say the country is on the right track than in any poll of the last three years.
President Obama leads in most personal qualities and on most issues--pretty much the same as in polls just before the first debate. 

New York Magazine surveyed Washington campaign professionals--37 from each party--on their true views of the upcoming election.  82% believe President Obama will win re-election.  The margin named by most was 2%.  A majority also believe he will be a better President in every way, on every issue.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Yes We Can

The extent of new information I can find on Friday's shooting into an Obama field office in Denver is that police are investigating surveillance video.

But while the stories on this tend to be very short, the above photo has emerged that appears to be the first one in time after the shooting that I've so far seen. 

Whoever did this--if ever found--this photo is a reminder of the virulence and even hate that is coming to a head in this election.  There is so much racial hatred by GOPers being reported every day that it's almost overwhelming.  Add to that the news of bosses telling their employees they could lose their jobs if they vote for Obama.  Plus the overt and covert voter suppression tactics, the sudden avalanche of TV ads in the swing states paid for by Romney's buds in the 1%.

But Yes We Can has not been shattered.  The stakes are too high.  We can't let them steal the future. We go forward.