Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sunday panel guests for October 28, 2012

Meet the Press: John Kasich, John Hickenlooper,Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, E.J. Dionne, David Brooks, Rachel Maddow, Chuck Todd

Face the Nation: John McCain, Rahm Emanuel, Haley Barbour, Jennifer Granholm, Bob Shrum, John Fund

This Week: Stephanie Cutter, Newt Gingrich, Gwen Ifill, Andrew Sullivan, Nicolle Wallace, Austan Goolsbee, George Will

Fox News Sunday: Mark Warner, Mark Udall, Rob Portman, Ron Johnson, Brit Hume, Juan Williams, Joe Trippi, Karl Rove

State of the Union: Reince Priebus, David Axelrod, Bob McDonnell, Ted Strickland

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Minority president

By Mustang Bobby

Although I don't think it's going to happen, the Villagers are positing that the election could be close enough that Barack Obama could lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College. And they predict consternation if that happens.

One such Villager is Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post:

A win in the electoral college that is not accompanied by one in the popular vote casts a shadow over the president and his ability to govern.

If Obama is re-elected that way, "the Republican base will be screaming that Romney should be president, and Obama doesn't represent the country," McKinnon predicted. "It's going to encourage more hyperpartisanship."

Josh Marshall has a response: Spare me.

Now, the possibility of election without a national majority exposes a genuine glitch in our system. No doubt. It is also true that these are the rules we play under and there is little reason to think that we'd have just the same result if both candidates were trying to maximize raw vote nationwide. Think how many more votes both candidates would mobilize in New York, California and Texas — not to mention among African-American voters in hopelessly red states in the South. But mainly to those making these arguments I would make the following points: Get over it and most of all STFU.

When a president wins election but doesn't win with a majority of the popular vote (vide Richard Nixon in 1968, Bill Clinton in 1992), he's called a minority president and it's supposed to force him into building a coalition with the other party because he's perceived as not being a strong leader. (In Mr. Obama's case, "minority president" has a little more meaning.) But that didn't happen with Mr. Nixon or Mr. Clinton. They took the oath. They're in the Oval Office. They've got the launch codes.

The last president to lose the popular vote and win the election was George W. Bush in 2000. Not only were the Republicans perfectly happy with that outcome — we heard a lot of "Get over it and most of all STFU" from them — Mr. Bush went ahead and governed as if he had won in a landslide.

It's all a matter of perception. Act like you won big and people will think you did. As for the talk of "hyperpartisanship," all I can say is welcome back to Earth and did you enjoy your four years in the Delta Quadrant?

I would much rather that Barack Obama wins both the popular vote and the Electoral College (and Nate Silver is saying his chances are good that he will), but if he is a minority president, I hope he governs like he beat the snot out of them. The GOP will richly deserve it.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Today in polling: Obama improving?

By Frank Moraes

The big news is that Obama's poll numbers keep improving. On October 4, Nate Silver predicted that Obama had an 87.1% chance of winning the electoral college vote. This was his highest chance during the campaign because the first presidential debate happened on October 3. (Actually, the causality is not so clear; it looks like Romney was improving before the debate.) That was the start of the liberal freakout, where Silver's prediction went down steadily until reaching its nadir on October 12 with a 61.1% chance of winning. I'm sure you remember that week: it was a dark time for us all.

But since then, things have turned around. Obama has steadily increased his chances of winning. As of yesterday, Silver gives Obama a 74.4% chance of winning the electoral college. The popular vote is much tighter, but we see the same dynamic. On October 4, Obama was predicted to win 51.6% of the popular vote. This number dropped to 49.8% on October 12. Note: even on that day, Romney was only predicted to win 49.1% of the vote. So even at his lowest point, Obama was still looking okay. And it has only gotten better. Nate Silver now predicts that Obama will win 50.3% of the popular vote.

None of this means that Obama will win re-election. The race could change in the next ten days. And Republican voter suppression efforts could be highly effective. And the Frankenstorm could upset everything. And Silver's model could be all wrong. Perhaps he doesn't have sufficient height and weight to accurately predict elections. (See below.) But right now, the Obama campaign has to be a lot happier than the Romney campaign.


Last month I wrote about undecided voters and how they will vote. Whoever is winning always claims that this group will break heavily toward them. I've been in this situation many time. But in my experience, they generally go pretty much as the decided voters. It is pretty much never the case that the undecided votes are anything other than a fifty-fifty split.

John Sides over at The Monkey Cage looks at this question quantitatively, "How Will the Undecideds Break?" He finds that they will go 50.1% for Obama. However, looking only at those who claim they will definitely vote, they skew toward Romney with 56%. But even with this, it would add only 0.4% to Romney's total. The final prediction is that this will not be enough to give Romney the popular vote.

Bizarro World

You probably don't know who Dean Chambers is, but I'd bet you know about him. He's a little brain who decided that all the bad polling for Romney before the first debate was one vast left-wing conspiracy. So to counter it, he started the website UnSkewed Polls. Even though I feel pretty good about the polls going into this election, I'm willing to admit that it could go either way. The polls are indeed all over the map. But not according to Mr. Chambers. Using his unskewing procedure, every poll now shows Romney with a handsome lead over Obama. This morning, his poll average is Romney +5%.

According to Chambers, it isn't just the polling that has been skewed. The election models are in on the conspiracy. Yesterday at (more or less the dreadful San Francisco Examiner), he wrote an article attacking Nate Silver and his model. Remember that, if anything, Nate Silver is far more bullish on Mitt Romney than all the other models. But that doesn't matter to Chambers. Chambers knows Silver's model is wrong. How? Because Nate Silver is short and skinny:

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the "Mr. New Castrati" voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound. Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he's made out to be. His political analyses are average at best and his projections, at least this year, are extremely biased in favor of the Democrats.

Mostly, the article is just a proclamation that Nate Silver must be wrong because Dean Chambers doesn't like his results. In particular, he complains that Silver's model weights some polls higher than others. This is true. For example, he weights Rasmussen rather lightly because they have been shown year after year to be wrong. Apparently, Chambers doesn't understand the difference between weighting data according to their value and weighting them just because you don't like what they're telling you.

Chambers ends his article with another unsubstantiated claim:

[Nate Silver] claims to have been highly accurate in predicting the 2008 election results, and perhaps he was. But it's highly unlikely his current methods and projections will have the level of accuracy unless he changes them quite a lot between now and election day. The race has shifted profoundly in favor of Mitt Romney while Nate Silver is still projecting an Obama win. Unless he changes that, the credibility he earned in 2008 will be greatly diminished after this year's election.[1]

It isn't clear what exactly it would mean for Nate Silver to be right about this election, given that he is just providing probabilities. But let's suppose that Romney wins by a sizable margin. I'm sure this will cause Silver to go back and change his model. On the other hand, if his model turns out to be right and Obama wins by a comfortable margin, will Chambers admit that he was wrong? If I know conservatives, he will not. In 2016, he will still be predicting ridiculous Republican wins.


[1] Note: I fixed about five grammar errors in the sections I quoted from Chamber's article. The awkward syntax was left in. I did this rather than throw in a bunch of [sic]s. I understand this is the Internet, but he's writing for kind of a real publication. Geez!

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(Huffington Post): "Romney's foreign policy: About face or two-faced"

(Bloomberg): "Economy in US expands at 2% annual rate, more than forecast"

(New York Times): "In Virginia, Romney scours coal country for edge over Obama"

(Washington Post): "Romney, Obama could split popular and electoral college vote, polls suggests"

(Washington Post): "Lena Dunham's fist time, all over again"

Other News

(CNN): "Northeast in crosshairs of possible 'superstorm' Sandy"

(Washington Post): "Report: One day in, Syrian forces already breaking cease-fire"

( "Five story lines for game 3 in Detroit"

(Reuters): "Former Senator McGovern remembered as passionate, principled


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Friday, October 26, 2012

Lena Dunham and Ronald Reagan vs. Republican (faux) outrageaholics out to smear President Obama however possible

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So you may have heard that Lena Dunham, the extremely talented young woman of Girls and Tiny Furniture fame, has made a video for the Obama campaign called "Your First Time." You may even have seen it. (Watch it, for the first time or again, below. It's really good.)

And you may also have heard that Republicans are freaking out over the double entendre (voting for the first time = losing your virginity), saying the ad is in bad taste (among other more vitriolic takes).

Women, it seems, aren't allowed to be sexual, or at least not when they support President Obama.

That, and these Republicans just can't take the obvious humor here. Said the loathsome Erick Erickson, for example: "If you need any further proof we live in a fallen world destined for hell fire, consider the number of people who have no problem with the President of the United States, via a campaign ad, ridiculing virgins and comparing sex to voting."

Ridiculing virgins? What? Okay, voting is compared to sex, but, again, it's meant to be humorous -- and it is. Not that these traffickers in right-wing outrage can appreciate the (fucking) joke. I hardly think President Obama and Lena Dunham would do an ad that treats women like sex objects or that diminishes them in any way. To the extent that both sex and voting can be empowering, well, yes -- that's the point. And everyone who isn't an intellectually and sexually stunted fool surely gets it.

Hey, even Ronald Reagan got it. As TPM's Eric Kleefeld notes, the Republican who could never do wrong said this on November 1, 1980:

I know what it's like to pull the Republican lever for the first time, because I used to be a Democrat myself, and I can tell you it only hurts for a minute and then it feels just great.

Oh, but Republicans are outraged! And it's all so very faux, because do you really think they give a shit about a woman's dignity, as they're suggesting? Please. These anti-sex theocrats would much prefer it if women stayed home, baked some apple pie, took care of the kids, and pleased their husbands -- that is, if they did the opposite of what Ms. Dunham is proposing here. Indeed, Ms. Dunham, and all such liberated women, are threats to the repressive right-wing worldview that is so clearly on display here.

(Along, of course, with the transparent and pathetic attempt to score some of the women's vote for Romney by characterizing the president as some sort of sexual predator, or at the very least as a  degrader of women. Stupid and ridiculous -- the president is in a loving relationship with a strong, brilliant woman and has two lovely daughters, lest we forget, and strongly advocates policies that specifically empower women (e.g., equal pay, abortion rights, access to contraception) -- but what do you expect from these clowns?)

It is 2012, right?


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Behind the Ad: Thank you, Richard Mourdock, for saying what's on Paul Ryan's mind

By Richard K. Barry

(Another installment in our extensive " Behind the Ad" series.)

Who: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Where: Indiana.

What's going on: We expect the Democrats to be making effective use of Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's despicable comments on God and rape, and so they are.

Here's the latest.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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A vote for Romney is a vote for anti-gay bigotry

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It isn't just the right-wing expression of opposition to marriage equality, which of course is de rigueur in the Republican Party, it's what he did, for example, when he was governor of Massachusetts:

It seemed like a minor adjustment. To comply with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2003, the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics said it needed to revise its birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The box for "father" would be relabeled "father or second parent," reflecting the new law.

But to then-Governor Mitt Romney, who opposed child-rearing by gay couples, the proposal symbolized unacceptable changes in traditional family structures.

He rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney's lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word "father" on individual birth certificates, and then write in "second parent," in ink.

Divisions between the governor's office and state bureaucrats over the language on the forms and details about the extraordinary effort by the Republican governor to prevent routine recording of births to gay parents are contained in state records obtained by the Globe this month. 

This may not seem like much, holding up the issuing of birth certificates, but this was a case of "Moderate Mitt" Romney going to great lengths, delving into a seemingly peripheral policy area, to discriminate, even in this one area, against same-sex couples:

The practice of requiring high-level legal review continued for the rest of Romney's term, despite a warning from a Department of Public Health lawyer who said such a system placed the children of same-sex parents at an unfair disadvantage.

As John Aravosis writes, Romney "threw as many administrative obstacles in their way as possible, in an effort to show his disproval for parenting that he didn’t morally agree with... Mitt Romney made gay parents go to a high level government official, with each and every child, in order to simply get a legal birth certificate."

Romney contines to flip and flop all over the place on gay rights, but generally he has gone from anti-gay moderate to anti-gay extremist as his political aspirations shifted from Boston to Washington.

But of course he's also inconsistent on the "activist" role of government (i.e., government actually doing something as opposed to sitting back and letting social Darwinism rule the roost), as we have seen throughout this campaign and indeed throughout his political career. Usually he's against it, at least when it means regulating the 1%, individual and corporate alike. But when it comes to something he doesn't like, like gay rights (in this case going so far as to target children, who of course need birth certificates without delay), he's all for it, even using his own elected office to enforce bigotry.

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We are the Republican Party

By Mustang Bobby

My brother came up with this little checklist for his Republican friends.


We are the Republican Party:
  • We hold dear the Second Amendment and think the world would be a lot safer if everyone was armed to the teeth. Unless, of course, you're talking about Iran.
  • We are vehemently pro-life from birth to death, from protecting a zygote to banning euthanasia. Unless, of course, you're not white and have committed a crime.
  • We clearly need to keep icky gay people hidden in the closet. Unless, of course, you're talking about a closet on Capitol Hill.
  • We think drug testing is another example of government overreach. Unless, of course, you need welfare.
  • We want to keep government out of our health care. Unless, of course, you're talking about Medicare.
  • We want every single dollar of new spending to come from cuts. Unless, of course, you're talking about the defense budget.
  • We passionately support freedom of religion and want to put religion back in the public square. Unless, of course, your religion is Islam.
  • We want to quit sending all our precious tax dollars overseas. Unless, of course, they're in the back of a C-130.
  • We want government out of our private lives, let us live the way we want. Unless, of course, you're in your own bedroom.
  • We are all about bipartisanship. Unless, of course, that means compromising anything we want.
  • We think FEMA is just a huge waste of federal money. Unless, of course, that disaster hits within 100 miles of my house.
  • We have to get control of the deficit at any cost. Unless, of course, that means increasing revenue in any way.
  • We will repeal Obamacare at the very first chance we get. Unless, of course, you're talking about pre-existing conditions, keeping your kids on your insurance...
  • We will go to war to protect other nations' right to choose their own leaders. Unless, of course, you choose the wrong guy.
  • We kinda support a woman's right to choose. Unless, of course, you choose to have an abortion.
  • We want to kick out all illegal aliens. Unless, of course, they're here to mow our lawn.
  • We believe every word of the Bible is the true word of God. Unless, of course, you're talking about the weird or contradictory parts.
  • We think everything Obama says or does is socialist, wrong, and evil. Unless, of course, we thought of it first — then, well, it's still wrong.
  • We don't want Michelle Obama or the government telling anyone what to eat. Unless, of course, you're on food stamps.
  • We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves, and are all for equal rights. Unless, of course, you mean to actually keep track of it with things like affirmative action.
  • We think it's fine if women want to have jobs outside the home. Unless, of course, they want our jobs at our pay.
  • We can't stand any tax of any kind. Unless, of course, the money gets sent right back in a pork barrel.
  • We might be willing to grant you that the earth is getting warmer. Unless, of course, you try to pin that on humans.
  • We are huge defenders of the right to vote. Unless, of course, you're inclined to vote for the other guy.

Feel free, readers, to add your own.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Quote of the Day: Haley Barbour on Richard Mourdock's rape remarks

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Said the former Mississippi governor, and one of the most quintessential Republicans (a very nearly perfect Republican, in fact), yesterday:

I don't agree with what he said. I thought that what he said was kinda crazy.

Of course, good surrogate that he is, he tried to put some daylight between Romney and Mourdock by saying that the latter's remarks have nothing to do with the presidential race and pivoting to the usual pro-Romney talking points about the economy.

To which I make two points:

1. Far from distancing himself from Mourdock, Romney continues to embrace him. There was a terse statement of discontent from the Romney campaign shortly after the remarks were made, but Romney still enthusiastically supports him in Indiana's Senate race. (And, of course, Paul Ryan's views on such matters are pretty much the same as Mourdock's.) So, yes, it's an issue, and a bad one for Romney, however much Barbour may protest otherwise.

2. Even Haley "Boss Hogg" Barbour thinks what Mourdock was said was crazy. That says something. Just as it says something that Romney, shameless panderer with an unprincipled core that he is, won't take a stand against Mourdock and say enough is enough. (He needs the crazy Republican vote, which is to say, he needs Republicans to vote for him.)

Which is to say, the loathsome Barbour is making Romney look even worse than usual. And that's saying a lot.

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Republicans gaming Intrade and feeding "the momentum myth"

By Frank Moraes

In Blinded By the Right, David Brock talks about conservative operatives buying huge numbers of conservative books in New York City. They did this (and presumably still do), in order to game the New York Times Best Seller List. If a book makes this list, the author will be invited on talk shows and the (mostly vile) ideas in the book will get more attention. Well, it appears the conservatives are doing this with polling data.

Other than Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight predictions, no polling data source gets more attention than Intrade, the political betting market. On Wednesday, Silver wrote that Intrade's prediction for Mitt Romney was way out of line with not only models like his, but with other political betting markets. In general, Silver's model has given Obama a chance of winning in the high sixties.[1] Markets other than Intrade put the number in the mid-sixties. Intrade is predicting a 55% change of an Obama win.

Silver suggests that people may be trying to game the system, although like a good statistics nerd, he is very careful not to make any concrete claims. This idea is bolstered by an $18,000 purchase of Romney stock Tuesday morning. This single purchase caused Romney's Intrade predicted chance of winning to rise from 41% to 49%.

As Silver says, there is no way to know what is behind this $18,000 bet. But we do know a few things. First, if the bettor had real information that indicates Romney is more likely to win than the models predict, he could have made far more money investing in regular stocks (e.g. coal). Second, the return on a Romney bet would have been substantially more if he had placed his wager on one of the other betting markets where Romney was going for 10 percentage points less. To me, this says that the bettor was either an idiot or a political operative.

Combine all of this information with what we know about how conservatives approach winning elections. It isn't just gaming the bestseller list. Republicans have a long and disgusting history of political dirty tricks. Think about it: would a party that suppresses votes in legal and illegal ways really shy away from this kind of behavior? Of course not. I think there is almost no question that Republican operatives are gaming Intrade.

Up to now, this kind of thing has worked pretty well for them. The mainstream media are reporting that Romney has "momentum" -- a term that has no meaning in this context. (Nor is Romney surging in the polls, which I guess is what they mean to imply.) And all of this is coming from the Romney campaign claiming that they are, like Charlie Sheen, "Winning!" They are even claiming that they will win Nevada. So what is a poor reporter to do when he wants to back up this narrative? He can't look at the polls: they're a mess. He can't look at the models: they all show Obama winning handily. But Intrade? The only betting market they know about? It supports the narrative!

The fact that the Romney campaign's claims and the Intrade betting [2] all come from the same guys reminds me of the lead up to the Iraq War. Cheney tells The New York Times that Iraq was WMDs. The New York Times reports it. Cheney goes on TV and quotes The New York Times. Luckily, elections are a little more fact-based than justifications for war. A little more.


[1] Silver notes that other models like his predict a substantially higher likelihood of an Obama win. So if anything, Silver's model is tilted toward Romney.

[2] The Intrade prediction was way off before the $18,000 bet, so I suspect that Romney supports have been gaming it for a while.


Update 1

All good nerds think alike. Ezra Klein on the "momentum" question:

The past week has seen a bit of a media meme that Romney has some hard-to-quantify thing called "momentum," but it's difficult to find it in the polls, which have been stable since then... My view, as explained here, is that the momentum narrative is essentially a conspiracy between the two campaigns, as the Romney campaign sees a margin in making their voters more confident and the Obama campaign sees a margin in making their voters more anxious.

Update 2

I hope it is obvious why I'm focusing on electoral "momentum." If not: it is this meme that the Romney campaign is pushing because they are hoping for a bandwagon effect. Here is Jonathan Bernstein on "The 'momentum' myth":

The real question isn't so much whether Romney -- or Obama -- has "momentum," but whether there is any such animal when it comes to presidential elections. For the most part, it's just a term campaigns use to excite their partisans and to fool gullible reporters into writing stories that create the illusion of momentum that never existed in the first place.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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New poll: Romney hits 50%, but who has the momentum and what does it all mean?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

ABC News:

Mitt Romney has seized further advantage on economic issues at the core of the 2012 campaign, taking him to 50 percent support among likely voters vs. 47 percent for Barack Obama – Romney's highest vote-preference result of the contest to date.

The difference between the two candidates is within the margin of sampling error in the latest ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll, and their individual support levels have not significantly changed. But the momentum on underlying issues and attributes is Romney's.

This has been, recently, the dominant media narrative, one they are reluctant to let go of: Romney is on the rise, and there's no stopping him, as if he can just keep going up and up. This has been the story ever since the first debate, Romney's one solid outing in the entire campaign, even though Obama won the next two debates, Biden beat Ryan in theirs, and Romney has continue to spew his dishonesty and nonsense out on the campaign trail, very much the candidate he always has been though now with a phony "Moderate Mitt" twist.

(For more on this media-driven development, now fueled by the Romney campaign's inevitability spin, see Alec MacGillis's critique of the "liberal" media's "trajectory" narrative. It very much mirrors my own view of things following the first debate, when I said that the media wanted Romney to win -- not so much because they agree with his politics but because they wanted a new story, and some drama -- and so aggressively gave the debate to Romney on style and hammered the "Romney crushed Obama" meme, willfully ignoring Romney's deluge of dishonesty.)

Now, obviously, there's something to it. Romney has in fact risen in the polls, even if the debate was only part of it (basically, the race was bound to tighten), and at least this one poll now has him up to 50%.

But a poll, a single poll, is just that: a single snapshot of a complex and narrowly volatile situation. The question isn't whether a single poll is an accurate measure of where the electorate stands but how the race is going generally, and the way to do that, as scientifically as possible, is to aggregate polls while accounting for individual polls' biases. The result is still a snapshot, of course, but one that tells a more comprehensive story.

And as Nate Silver writes -- and he knows a thing or two about such things -- Romney's "momentum" appears to have stalled, if not stopped:

Mr. Romney clearly gained ground in the polls in the week or two after the Denver debate, putting himself in a much stronger overall position in the race. However, it seems that he is no longer doing so.

Take Wednesday's national tracking polls, for instance. (There are now eight of them published each day.) Mr. Romney gained ground in just one of the polls, an online poll conducted for Reuters by the polling organization Ipsos. He lost ground in five others, with President Obama improving his standing instead in those surveys. On average, Mr. Obama gained about one point between the eight polls. 

And, indeed, if there is any momentum, it may now be going Obama's way:

The FiveThirtyEight model looks at a broader array of polls — including state polls — in order to gauge the overall trend in the race.

Our "now-cast" also finds a slightly favorable trend for Mr. Obama over the course of the past 10 days or so. Mr. Romney's position peaked in the "now-cast" on Friday, Oct. 12, at which point it estimated a virtual tie in the popular vote (Mr. Obama was the projected "winner" by 0.3 percentage points). As of Wednesday, however, Mr. Obama was 1.4 percentage points ahead in the "now-cast," meaning that he may have regained about 1 percentage point of the 4 points or so that he lost after Denver. Mr. Obama's chances of winning the Electoral College were up in the FiveThirtyEight forecast to 71 percent on Wednesday from 68.1 percent on Tuesday.

I don't pretend to be a polling expert, but I know enough to know that you have to take a step back to see the bigger picture, and that's something many in the media are simply incapable or unwilling to do, preferring to latch on to out-dated narratives (or, rather, to become enamored of their own narratives, as if they've discovered the meaning of the cosmos) and participate in the echo chamber that develops whenever a new narrative takes hold (think of a petulant child, facing a plate of broccoli, sticking his fingers in his ears and yelling in response to his parents telling him to eat up, it's good for you, which of course it is, he just doesn't know it yet, and perhaps never will).

Look, we're still talking about an awfully tight race that could go either way. And of course it's a race for Electoral College votes, not the total national vote, so what we really need to look at, as Silver does, is the state-by-state picture, particularly the key swing states like Ohio.

And there, President Obama has maintained a fairly consistent lead, even if it's down from the pre-first debate highs, with the race certainly not close enough for comfort -- and with anything possible heading into the final ten days.

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The math is hard

By Mustang Bobby

The Romney campaign has entered the stage where if things look dicey in the hard numbers, they cannot let it show that they're at all concerned. In fact, the worse things may look, the more upbeat they are.

This is not a new tactic. In fact, at this stage of the game, it's one way to tell that they know they've got a rough road: crank up the optimism and exuberance to 11, to the point where you start creeping people out with the maniacal laughter and straw-grasping:

"I'm optimistic, I'm optimistic," Mr. Romney told supporters Wednesday night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, repeating the word throughout his rally. "Not just about winning — we are going to win, by the way, we're going to do that. I'm more optimistic about the future for America."

If that confidence is welcomed by Mr. Romney's supporters, who far outnumber the crowds at most Republican rallies four years ago at this point, the mood is more guarded back at his headquarters in Boston, where the campaign is trying "not to get caught up in the moment," in the words of one aide.

The Romney team is mindful that the new enthusiasm has not opened any new paths to winning 270 electoral votes. The campaign continues to keep an eye on trying to make a late run at Pennsylvania, advisers said, but it remains more of a last-ditch option.

Sure, it's easy to understand why a candidate has to project that they're going to win; if they don't, who will? It's also part of the grieving process; denial, bargaining, etc. And the Republicans also have the tendency to bully the press into believing anything they put out there due to the sheer force of their will: they never back down, even when they're faced with overwhelming facts and reality, like the little kid denying that he raided the cookie jar even as the crumbs spew out of his mouth.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

Always good for a laugh
U.S. Politics

(Time): "Why Ohio will decide the presidential election"

(Politico): "Sununu suggests Powell motivated by race"

(New York Times): "Bad luck and missteps make GOP Senate climb steeper"

(Washington Post): "Polls show widening racial gap in presidential contest"

(Associated Press): "Romney pressed on abortion question"

Other News

(CBS News): "Hurricane Sandy forces East Coast to brace for hit"

(Jerusalem Post): "Fighting ruptures ragged Syria holiday cease-fire"

(Los Angeles Times): "Suicide bomber kills 40 at Afghanistan mosque"

(ABC News): "Halfway to title: Giants win 2-0 for 2-0 WS lead"

(New York Times): "Jacques Barzun dies at 104: Cultural critic saw the sun setting in the West"


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Thursday, October 25, 2012

With him or against him (and why Romney still stands with Mourdock)

By Mustang Bobby

(Ed. note: Make sure to read the hilarious Onion article MB links to at the end of this post. To whet your appetite: "Responding to inflammatory remarks made by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock during a debate Tuesday night, Our Lord God the Almighty Father sought today to distance Himself from both Mourdock and the entire right-wing fundamentalist Christian movement, sources confirmed." -- MJWS)

The backlash against Indiana senate candidate Richard Mourdock and his comments about God and rape continues. Some notable Republicans (John McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire) are distancing themselves while others (Mitch McConnell) are supporting him.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who cut a commercial endorsing Mr. Mourdock, is still with him. Via TPM:

[Wednesday] night the Romney campaign put out a statement disagreeing with Mourdock's comment but not denouncing him. And the campaign did not respond to questions about whether he was withdrawing his endorsement.

The key though is the ad. Democrats are pushing hard for him to ask Mourdock to take it down. And if the Mourdock story grows, I suspect he'll have to ask him to take it down, which would be devastating for Mourdock — not so much because of the ad not showing but because of the merciless press it could spawn so close to election day.

The fate of the ad is what I'd watch to see where this story is going over the course of the day.

Late Update: The Romney campaign has now said they have not asked Mourdock to take down the ad.

Later Update: Freshman GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte cancels trip to campaign with Mourdock. 

Even Later Update: Romney reaffirms support for Mourdock candidacy.

One reason might be is that Paul Ryan's view on abortion is basically the same as Mr. Mourdock's.

When Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin brought up the subject of "legitimate rape" back in August, the GOP couldn't run away fast enough. Now Mr. Mourdock has said something equally outrageous, and yet he's still got support from big names in the party. Why?

It may have something to do with the fact that Mr. Mourdock invoked God in his statement, whereas Mr. Akin only went with pseudo-science. It's far easier to distance yourself from someone who only offers what he thinks are scientific facts as proof rather than incur the wrath of the Almighty by seeming to contradict His Will. Scientific facts are debatable; God is not.

P.S.: According to The Onion, God is not pleased with these recent developments.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Behind the Ad: Richard Mourdock is Mitt Romney's kind of candidate

By Richard K. Barry

(Another installment in our extensive " Behind the Ad" series.) 

Who: American Bridge (pro-Obama super-PAC).

Where: Web video.

What's going on: Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said pregnancies resulting from rape can be "something God intended." And while the Romney campaign has said they don't support the comments, they indicated yesterday they would continue to support the candidate. In fact, they made an ad for Mourdock featuring the GOP presidential nominee that Romney is not asking Mourdock to take down.

The Obama campaign had this to say:

"The president felt [Mourdock's] comments were outrageous and demeaning to women," Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One.

"This is a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican president Mitt Romney would [feel] that women should not be able to make choices about their own healthcare... This is an issue where Mitt Romney is starring in an ad for this senator [sic] and it is perplexing that he wouldn't demand to have that ad taken down," she said.

American Bridge, a pro-Obama Super-PAC, has produced an ad to draw attention to Romney's support for Mourdock. Mitt may be able to convince some people he has moved to the middle, or was always there, but it's harder to do when he has so many radical conservatives on his team.

In this ad, attention is drawn not only to Mourdock's views on rape but also other positions that place him far outside the mainstream.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wørd! -- "Flip-Flop Mitt" edition

By Comrade Misfit

What this guy said

Unfortunately, whether it's climate change, reproductive rights, auto bailouts, or even his own proposed tax and regulation policies, the story is the same: Romney has switched sides on many of the most important issues of our time, then declined to give a coherent explanation as to why. In fact, in some cases he actually denies that he ever changed his position despite crystal clear video evidence to the contrary. Between this unsettling tendency to switch positions without providing a reason, and a consistent reliance on vague assertions with contradictory details when it comes to discussing a policy agenda on his website and in his speeches, I have come to the following conclusion: 

I have no idea what Mitt Romney would do if he became President of the United States. 

Nobody does. Rmoney has been consistent in only one thing: He wants the job. He'll flip and flop and suffer from convenient bouts of Romnesia, whatever it takes to win over another vote.

If the cannibal demographis happened to be the key to winning Ohio, you'd see video of Romney cheerfully snacking on Roasted Sucking Baby. 

(Cross-posted at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I.)

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A Picasso hidden behind another Picasso

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Just to take a quick break from our extensive election coverage, I'd like to direct your attention to something really cool over at the Times:

Picasso painted "Woman Ironing" when he was in his 20s. And like so many struggling young artists he often reused old canvases. He first began painting a portrait of a man with a mustache; abandoned it and several years later turned the canvas upside down and painted the image of a skeletal woman ironing over it. The ghost of the man underneath was first detected with an infrared camera in 1989. "Woman Ironing" was recently cleaned and restored by the Guggenheim Museum and is now on display as part of the exhibition, "Picasso Black and White."

Click on the link above. The Times has an interactive feature that allows you to use your cursor to "erase" the "Woman Ironing" painting and reveal the unfinished portrait underneath. (It's upside-down, but there's a button to rotate it.)

You can even see where the two paintings match up, presumably because Picasso was using some of the portrait below as a guide for the one he painted over it. For example, the top of the man's head matches up with a cloth next to bowl just below the iron. And the dark space between the woman's right arm and torso is part of the man's vest.

As to the identify of the man in the painted-over portrait, it's not clear who it is. Perhaps a self-portrait, perhaps someone else. The Times offers a few possibilities.

Really, really interesting. For more, you can read the full Times article here.


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Donald's Trump's "very big" revelation is that he's an idiotic racist jackass

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So what was Trump's "very, very big" revelation about President Obama, that something "bigger than anybody would know" that the media would cover "in a very big fashion"?

Uh... just more of the same spotlight-hogging nonsense, this time full of phony claims of generosity. As New York's Dan Amira wrote:

It turns out that Trump's "very big" revelation was that he still wants to see President Obama's college records, the ones that some right-wing conspiracy nuts believe would show that Obama got into Columbia as a foreign exchange student from Indonesia. Trump would also like to see Obama's passport records, which would prove... something Muslim about Obama, probably. In fact, Trump wants to see these documents so badly, that he's offering to donate $5 million to charity if Obama releases them by October 31. And that's it. That's the whole thing.

So we didn't learn anything new about President Obama today, but we did learn something new about ourselves: However low our expectations of Donald Trump were before, they were not low enough. Perhaps, they can never be low enough.

And we should be ashamed of ourselves for paying even the slightest ounce of attention to him. I do apologize. Watch this, if you will, for it is nothing if not a spectacle of unironic buffoonery, but then let's move on.

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Mark Halperin finally said something I enjoyed hearing

By Richard K. Barry 

I wouldn't want to sound too optimistic about the presidential election. After all, what kind of Democrat would that make me? But I will say that a piece yesterday by Mark Halperin gave me some reason for hope. Based on interviews with senior campaign staff, Halperin had this to say, in part:

Chicago remains sufficiently funded and emboldened by its own polling to compete for the final two weeks in all nine of the battlegrounds: Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia in the South; New Hampshire in the North; Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin in the Midwest; and Nevada and Colorado in the West. As they have in the past, Obama campaign officials say they expect to win a high percentage of those states and conceivably could sweep all nine.

And this:

When pressed, the Obama officials with whom I met said that five of the nine stand out: Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Hampshire. In that quintet, Democrats believe the combination of their current leads in polling, early voting (where applicable), and ground game makes their chances of winning even greater there than in the other four. And given the Electoral College math, unless Romney picks off one or more of those five states, Obama would win a minimum of 281 electoral votes and re-election.

Current leads in the polls in swing states, early voting, and ground game. To this I would add what I think is undersampling of the Hispanic vote in polling in some key states.

It is a very interesting article by Halperin. I recommend it. And as for my level of optimism about the outcome, I'm actually feeling fine.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Keeping it alive

By Mustang Bobby

There's no doubt that the presidential race is close, and this keeps the Villagers happy because it gives them something to say on TV. Margins are described as "razor-thin" and "anybody's guess" (which totally blows the true science of polling into the same category as alchemy), but when you get down to crunching the numbers, it may not be as nail-biting as they would have you believe:

Obama maintains a larger advantage in the state-by-state battle that will determine the outcome of the election. Ipsos projects that Obama holds an edge in the most hotly contested states, including Florida, Virginia and Ohio, and is likely to win by a relatively comfortable margin of 332 electoral votes to 206 electoral votes.

The poll has reflected a tight race since shortly after the two candidates met for their first debate on October 3. But a substantial portion of voters remain up for grabs. Roughly 20 percent of those surveyed say they could switch their votes or have not yet made up their minds.

It's the second paragraph that keeps Chuck Todd and his magic goatee on your screens: the Undecideds. Or, as I like to call them, the Clueless.

Anyone who is following this election and still cannot make up their mind between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama should really reconsider whether or not they should vote at all. Don't they know anyone who has trouble getting, keeping, or paying for health insurance? Don't they know anyone who is LGBTQ and faces a continuation of their second-class status? Don't they know anyone who makes less than $250,000 and can't afford a tax hike to pay for someone's car elevator? And if they do, do these realities not weigh on their choice?

It shouldn't be a tough call no matter what party you align with. Of all the elections I've seen in my adult life — and we're talking about six decades — I can't think of one that drew a sharper — or starker — contrast between two candidates. And with all due respect to those who harrumph that there's not a dime’s worth of difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, they need to give up blogging about politics and go back to amusing themselves with LOLcats.

I would like to think that it's all hype that the race is really this close. After all, I can still remember back to 1984 when there were hopeful stories that Walter Mondale was within the margin of error of Ronald Reagan and it was "anybody's guess" as to how the election would go. Really. But I know that it is. And even when I get fretful and worried about it and calm myself by clicking over to FiveThirtyEight to see that President Obama has a 68.1% chance of winning the election, I can't help but think that if those folks who are undecided would wake up and pay attention, it would be an Obama landslide.

Right on cue, the campaigns are working to spin to the willing; they're selling Romney as "inevitable," which reminds me of Baghdad Bob, who kept telling us that Sadam Hussein was completely in charge just as the 82nd Airborne was parking outside the presidential palace. It's all bullshit, and they know it.

But then, what would the pundits have to talk about?

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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New poll: Obama up by five in Ohio

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This eases my anxiety a bit:

Buoyed by early voting in his favor, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney by five points in the pivotal state of Ohio, according to a new TIME poll.

Counting both Ohioans who say they will head to the polls on November 6, and those who have already cast a ballot, Obama holds a 49% to 44% lead over Romney in a survey taken Monday and Tuesday night.

There are any number of different scenarios for how the Electoral College could realistically play out, but one of the more likely ones is that it will all come down to Ohio, which would pretty much be the president's last stand should he lose the other key swing states to Romney. Indeed, Nate Silver finds that Ohio has a 50-50 chance of deciding the election.

And it's nail-bitingly close there. The Time poll is promising, but the RCP average is just Obama +2.1, with a couple of recent polls showing a tie.

Crap. There's my anxiety flaring up again.

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(Washington Post): "Is Mitt Romney's momentum real or fake?"

(New York Times): "Reid's machine powers Obama in Nevada test"

(The Hill): "Romney's standing in race adds uncertainty to GOP Senate quest"

(Politico): "How Mitt Romney would govern"

(Reuters): "Obama tackles rape comments, 'fiscal cliff' on TV talk show"

Other News

(Reuters): "Fighting near Damascus ahead of truce deadline"

(The Guardian): "Israel-Gaza fighting subsides after Egyptian intervention"

(Reuters): "Strengthening hurricane Sandy slams into Cuba"

(ABC News): "Sandoval's 3 HRs lead Giants to 8-3 romp in opener"


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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Obama's got ground game

We are going to hear a lot over the next two weeks about the superior ground game the Obama campaign feels it has in place to help ensure people who are supportive actually get out and vote. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a ground game in electoral politics refers to the infrastructure a campaign has close to the voters in any given constituency that allow it to be in touch face-to-face both to persuade voters and to get them to the polls on the big day: offices, campaign staff, volunteers, telephone lines, literature, campaign signs, etc.

For example, much has been made of the fact that the Obama team has a lot more field offices in battle ground states. Molly Ball had a terrific article at the Atlantic yesterday going into some detail about the comparative advantage the Obama people have on all aspects of their effort.

Still, I liked David Gergen's comment on this. He said:

In the pivotal state of Ohio, for example, the Obama campaign has three times as many offices, often captained by experienced young people. By contrast, a major Republican figure in the state, throwing up his hands, told me that the Romney field team looked like a high school civics class.

Conventional wisdom is that a good ground game can add up to two points to an election result. In 2008, Obama didn't need those points, but he probably will this time. And this time his ground game is better than last time.

By the way, the Obama campaign will be posting a blog by Jeremy Bird, its National Field Director, on what they call its "historic grass roots operation," or what I call its ground game. You can find that here.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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