Brian Beutler looks at the recent spate of positive polling data for the Obama campaign and waits with bated breath for pundits to admit they were wrong about “Obama’s bad month”:
[O]f course we’re unlikely to see political analysts who bought into the “Obama’s bad month” meme admit in retrospect that they were wrong, and that campaign professionals know a bit more about what matters in campaigns than pundits do. Instead the notion that Obama had a terrible month will stand unquestioned, and his numbers will be assumed to have improved despite all the pitfalls.
A big part of the story here is confirmation bias — it follows that in a weak economy, the President should be polling poorly, and it’s hard not to filter out information that contradicts the assumption. So everything from bad jobs numbers to the President getting shouted at in the Rose Garden becomes evidence of a campaign in disarray, while the low unemployment rate in Ohio, and Obama’s new immigration policy, and well-placed stories about Mitt Romney’s business record get shorter shrift. Then on top of that, campaign communicators kick so much dust up at the media it can be genuinely difficult sometimes to pluck what matters and what’s really new out of the cloud.
I’m guilty of having pedaled this bit of conventional wisdom. I don’t think it was wrong so much as it was premature, however. The hit Obama took after the abysmal May jobs report was real. But Team Obama’s parries — the economic speech in Cleveland, the immigration executive order, and the apparently successful attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital career — stabilized the president’s numbers, and slightly improved them in some swing states.
I’ve long thought that Romney’s record at Bain was a significant vulnerability, so I’m not surprised to see Obama gaining traction because of it. To the extent that it’s working, he should ignore the Wall Street sycophants in his party and continue this line of attack. I’m not surprised, either, that Romney’s recent rise-and-stall might be attributable in large part to a “honeymoon” period during which he consolidated Republican voters.
That said, if the next jobs report is anything like the last one, Obama is going to have to deploy similar countermeasures — and there are only so many DREAM Act rabbits in a weak incumbent’s hat.
For the most part, Romney’s detractors are right: he’s a terrible candidate; a more naturally gifted Republican politician would be doing better than he is right now.
But the conventional wisdom is not wrong to assume that even a candidate of Romney’s flaws and weaknesses can defeat an incumbent who’s presiding over an economy like this one.