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Unless Something Is Wrong With the Polls…

It looks like Obama is going to get his second term.

Of course there is a chance that Obama could somehow lose Wisconsin and Pennsylvania even as he wins Ohio. Or there is a chance that somehow the polls in Ohio are all wrong for a reason we will only discover after the campaign. But Ohio is the key state and Romney has never really achieved anything like a lead there. Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner has laid out his forecasting [1] and he comes to the sensible result of Obama 290, Romney 248. I think he is right that Obama won’t break 300. For a looser take on things that argues for a Romney win, look to Jay Cost at The Weekly Standard [2].

Everyone will take what they want from a Romney defeat. Democrats will exult in a demographic shift that is favoring them with every election. Social conservatives will say that Romney never excited the base. Elite conservatives will castigate the party for not making efforts to attract and win over more Hispanic voters. Social liberals in the Republican party will blame the “war on women” and the incessant chatter about contraception and rape. Hard-core restrictionists will argue that Republicans failed to maximize their appeal to alienated white voters. Anti-war conservatives will say that Romney didn’t sufficiently repudiate the deeply unpopular Bush legacy and voters were afraid of blowing up the world again. Post-election analysts want their political coalition to become more like themselves.

But the truth is that the election was winnable for Republicans and perhaps several of the above strategies could have paid off. But Romney’s history, his personality, and his campaign were not suited to winning a national race during a bad economic downturn. He is one of the most intensely “disliked” presidential candidates in a long time. He is not a natural campaigner.

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#1 Comment By reflectionephemeral On November 2, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

Not sure how much of the flaws of the campaign we can chalk up to Romney’s personality.

As Seth Masket pointed out, “[A]ny Republican presidential nominee today would have to be a serious flip-flopper. … No one taking the stances Romney needed to take to win this year could have had the sort of résumé needed to be a typical major party nominee. … Almost no one taking the stances that Romney is taking now could have been elected as a senator or a governor from most states just a few years ago. … Rapid polarization makes flip-flopping a necessity.”

Longstanding, constructive conservative attempts to address real-life issues– like the EITC, housing vouchers, the individual health insurance mandate, cap and trade, etc.– suddenly became anathema to the GOP. That’s because being a Republican is about resenting perceived outsiders, not about coming up with rational policies related to anything going on in the real world. [3]; Republicans responded by nominating Romney, who promises Bush redux on domestic & foreign policy, and Paul Ryan, who actually voted for all the policies that caused the deficit.

Romney knows all this, and acts accordingly. He wrote in the summer of 2009 that “we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar.” He said in June 2009 that Wyden-Bennett, which contained an individual mandate, was a plan “that a number of Republicans think is a very good health-care plan—one that we support.” And it was accurate at the time.

He artfully worded both statements, recognizing the then-universal consensus that an individual mandate would be part of a bipartisan compromise, without actually coming out in support of anything.

Smart, or he could have been torpedoed in the primary. He relied on the primaries on the “Obama’s a foreigny outsider who apologizes to foreigners” line of rationale, which he stuck to until the first debate against the president started.

The GOP had a choice of an artful flip-flopper like Romney, an artless flip-flopper like Perry or Santorum or Gingrich (or Paul Ryan or John Thune), or a guns-blazing ignoramus outsider like Bachmann or Cain or Trump.

In addition to his Clintonian parsing, Romney has a reassuring speaking voice and good hair. Mitt Romney is the absolute best that today’s Republican Party can hope for.

#2 Comment By Bob Jones On November 2, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

While I think you are correct to point out that unless something is really wrong with the polls the likelihood of a second term for Obama is getting stronger, I think you have left out one group on the right, who will spend much of the next 4 years arguing about how the President “stole” the election. These are the hard-core Obama haters, birthers, and other right-wing conspiracy folks, who produce all of those crazy e-mails and Facebook posts. It will likely be ugly and their craziness will be fanned by talk radio and, unfortunately, Fox News to some degree.

#3 Comment By Charles Cosimano On November 2, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

And of course folks in Wisconsin last summer learned how wrong polls could be.

We really don’t know how accurate they are this year because there is one big thing militating against it–the ringer switch. We don’t know who is actually answering the phone these days and the result is the polls are all over the place mostly staying within the margin of error,meaning they have no idea.

I think the story after the election and the inevitable recounts and court fights are over will be which poll was the most wrong.

#4 Comment By MBunge On November 2, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

There are at least 3 specific and huge mistakes to be pointed at if Romney loses.

1. Opposing the auto bailout. Did no one at Romney HQ look at an electoral map and see how many EC votes are in Michigan and Ohio?

2. Running to the right on illegal immigration.

3. Right wing media spending a bizarre amount of time in the campaign’s last month pushing the Benghazi attack as a major deal, even after it fizzled with the public and blew up in Romney’s face in the 2nd debate. How many hours have been spent on Benghazi instead of the economy?


#5 Comment By Chad On November 2, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

@Bob Jones I’d say that falls under the “hard-core restrictionists” described above and their poutrage will be designed to recruit alienated white voters.

#6 Comment By John Pickett On November 2, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

Both of you are probably right but, one great person that should have taken the GOP is not mentioned because of the fear he gives to these people. The only man that could destroy both Romney and Obama with the Constitution. I think you both know the answer. This country was lost way before Ron Paul came along. Go back to that tyrant Ole Dishonest Abe.

#7 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 2, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

Democrats will exult in a demographic shift that is favoring them with every election.

As someone who generally ends up voting for Democrats, because a few of them really inspire me, albeit the leadership are a pack of spineless cowards afraid of their own shadow, and because Republican candidates are becoming more psychopathic every election cycle, resting on such “demographic shifts” is sheer laziness.

Despite the rhetoric of the pundits, plenty of “white working class” voters still vote Democratic. Given the raw substance of what the Republicans actually offer, there is no reason Democrats couldn’t advocate for reasonable and necessary regulation to be structured so that legitimate and compliant business activity can get through it with low costs and little delay, support medium sized financial institutions to provide capital for local to regional business initiatives, and make a sound public case for infrastructure development (which might even absorb the welfare population into apprenticeship programs).

Demographic shifts tend to go all over the map after a while. Residents of the Tennessee Valley were solid for the New Deal, but once TVA gave them a few decades of economic development, and they owned their own homes and stuff, they started to drift Republican.

There’s no future in organizing poor people, because nobody wants to remain one. Teamsters are still Teamsters, even when they make $25 an hour.

#8 Comment By JonF On November 2, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

Re: And of course folks in Wisconsin last summer learned how wrong polls could be.

Huh? The polls (those close to the vote, not months in advance) predicted governor Walker would survive and he did.
In any event, off-period elections generate little quality polling and less turn-out: they are vulnerable to minor shifts in opinion (or turn-out issues) in a way that huge national contests are not. The polling for this election has been done to death and the more data is accumulated the less likely the average of it is far wrong.
Romney still has a non-trivial chance to win, but Ann had better not be measuring the drapes as dollars to donuts she will be left with drapes she can’t hang.

#9 Comment By JonF On November 2, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

Any Republican nominee is going to have the trouble Romney had: placating the base while appealing to rest of the nation. The GOP base has made a number of litmus tests which are anathema to most of the res of the country: no exception anti-abortion policy, no negotiations with overseas foes (good grief, even Regan talked to the Soviets and Nixon went to China!), tax cuts uber alles, attacks on middle class entitlements, and so forth. It’s becoming an unsquareable circle, and until the Tea Party itself is jettisoned in the harbor the GOP is in for rough sledding at the national level.

#10 Comment By Sharculese On November 2, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

Nobody anywhere is actually afraid of Ron Paul. He put himself out there and the result was a resounding ‘meh’.

#11 Comment By Clint On November 2, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

Rasmussen Polling, which tied for first place in accuracy. out of 23 polling organization, in The Fordham University Study of the 2008 Presidential Election, has it a dead heat, both Nationally and in Ohio.

Apparently, this is going down to the wire and we’ll see,who’s voters can drag their man across the finish line in first place.

#12 Comment By KateLE On November 2, 2012 @ 7:23 pm


Why would any GOP candidate HAVE to be a flip-flopper? Are we fallen so low that just winning is more important than stating your position and letting the people decide if they like it or not? Well obviously the answer to that is a resounding yes, and that’s our big problem.

#13 Comment By Scott McConnell On November 2, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

very smart comment

#14 Comment By Hill People On November 2, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

If he loses he has only himself to blame.

Kowtowing to Bibi Netanyahu, a moment unprecedented in the history of US presidential campaigns. Then accepting millions in contributions from Sheldon Adelson for good measure.

Failure to put an immigration moratorium front and center (two-thirds of the pathetic few jobs created under Obama have gone to immigrants, legal and illegal).

Failure to disassociate himself from the Wall Street wrecking crew, completely undercutting his supposed strength and credibility as a businessman and capitalist.

#15 Comment By Jack On November 3, 2012 @ 8:43 am

I am one of those independent voters who leans right on some issues but who has this unparalleled disdain of Romney. I mean I really really despise him on all levels. It is a visceral reaction when I see or hear him. I am from Massachusetts so I lived with Romney as Governor and I didn’t feel the same way about him back then. I think his politics on the national level became so cynical, so fake, so lacking any personal truth or reality, that he just ended up crossing my bright red line. And the more he tried to persuade me that he really was whoever he thought he needed to be at the moment, the more I hated him. I have never despised a nominated candidate for POTUS more than Romney and I am 50 years old. And I never bought this “I know how to make jobs” meme because of his business experience. What on Earth does that have to do with being POTUS? I still don’t get it. So I guess whenever we vote we are allowing the candidate we vote for to insult our intelligence to varying degrees. But I am not a complete ignoramus. And that is what Romney has been asking me to be.

#16 Comment By Klde On November 3, 2012 @ 10:34 am

Romney is the least talented politician that I have personally ever witnessed on the national stage. Literally cringe -worthy.
The GOP is in danger of losing Hispanic Americans like we permanently lost African Americans. Can we really afford to lose both coast, the American urban areas, AND the American Southwest in every national election? What happens when that state includes Texas? This is not far-fetched. IF any Democrat for President can pick off Texas, the GOP will never win the Presidency again, relegating the GOP to Big Sky states and small southern states and Indiana.

#17 Comment By Gerard On November 4, 2012 @ 6:38 am

Romney wasn’t ideal but I thought with a Romney Presidency we could get one last gasp of air before plunging into a disintegrating, dysfunctional second-world country. One sees how quickly things devolve in the days after a one-day tropical storm. First-world countries are fragile and took a lot of hard work, strong communites, and common vision to become that way. One wonders if the product of this, the remnants of this, could withstand a sustained crises of any sort (thinking of economic/financial).

#18 Comment By Daniel Baker On November 4, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

Although I plan to vote for Obama, I am amazed that he is winning; indeed, I’m amzaed that he’s even close. When was the last time an incumbent did this well in an economy this bad? FDR in 1936?