Thursday, July 19, 2012


Apart from politics junkies and people with highly developed ideologies, does anybody really care about all the stuff the campaigns put out between the end of the primaries and the conventions? The new New York Times/CBS poll suggests that, to most voters, it's mostly just noise:
The new poll shows that the race remains essentially tied, notwithstanding all of the Washington chatter suggesting that Mr. Romney's campaign has seemed off-kilter amid attacks on his tenure at Bain Capital and his unwillingness to release more of his tax returns. Forty-five percent say they would vote for Mr. Romney if the election were held now and 43 percent say they would vote for Mr. Obama.

When undecided voters who lean toward a particular candidate are included, Mr. Romney has 47 percent to Mr. Obama’s 46 percent.
I said from the beginning that I didn't think Bain-Departure-Date-Gate, in and of itself, was going to sway very many voters -- but now it looks as if none of the attacks on Romney are doing more than sustaining an equilibrium. Similarly, the Romney attacks on Obama don't seem to be having much effect.

What might be causing a slight drift to Romney is -- yeah, who'd have guessed this? -- the economy:
Declining confidence in the nation's economic prospects appears to be the most powerful force influencing voters as the presidential election gears up, undercutting key areas of support for President Obama and helping give his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, an advantage on the question of who would better handle the nation's economic challenges....

... the poll showed a significant shift in opinion about Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, with 39 percent now saying they approved and 55 percent saying they disapproved.

In the Times/CBS poll in April, when the economy seemed to have momentum, 44 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved.
The Obama campaign's attempts to paint Romney as an unacceptable choice seems to have persuaded nearly enough voters for Obama to win, but not quite enough. The same for the Romney campaign's attempts to paint Obama as unacceptable. Those people are standing pat. But the people in the middle may be slowly drifting toward Romney because the economy just never seems to get better. Or it may be just a temporary flirtation with the notion of voting out the incumbent -- remember, John Kerry dominated the polls in July 2004.


This makes me even angrier than I already was about our electoral system. All that money, all that fund-raising, all that butt-kissing of fat cats to get fat checks -- and the money's spent on opposition research and focus groups and idiotic ads that get cranked out for months and months in the doldrum period after the conventions and it apparently all has no effect.

I know, I know: Obama is test-marketing messages for the fall campaign. He's defining Romney before Romney can define himself. And, yes, I want Romney defined as a guy with a balance sheet for a soul who thinks the lives of ordinary citizens are just data points. I also want him defined as the standard-bearer for a party that hates blacks, Hispanics, gays, poor people, and anyone who ever has non-marital sex. All that is true, and voters should understand it.

But the Obama campaign seems to have successfully defined Romney for a certain percentage of the electorate, just as Romney (building on a billion hours of broadcast right-wing propaganda) has defined Obama for another percentage -- and now there's hardly anybody left, and that remainder is paying no attention to all this noise. The remainder is just paying attention to the economy.

I wish we could have a six-week campaign, or at least a six-week general election campaign. Then I wish we could pick up the entire primary calendar and move it months and months forward, so there's little or no gap between the end of the primaries and the beginning of the general campaign. Why does this nonsense have to stretch on for two freaking years? It should be three months, tops. Our system is ridiculous.


AND: A big reason I'm not freaking out about Romney's lead is that a new Fox poll has Obama up by 4 and a new NPR poll has Obama up by 2. The race is still a tossup, with Obama maybe up by an eyelash.


Victor said...

After the Convention, the Obama team needs to continue the attacks on Bain and taxes, but also expose the Romney/Ryan plan.

THAT might scare some sense into folks!

ploeg said...

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

Josh Marshall says that what's being done now is basically being done to jam Romney and his positives, such as they are. I think he makes a good case:

Mitt Romney has two claims on the presidency: successful governor of major state and captain of industry. He’s largely written off the first by disavowing a genuine and perhaps far-reaching accomplishment: health care reform. Which leaves him with Bain Capital.

The play here is to make this swirl of awfulness the first thing people think of when that phrase gets uttered.

Think about it this: when do you think the next time will be that Romney talks about Bain Capital on the stump? What will people be thinking about when the 15 minute convention video about Romney’s life gets to the part about Bain capital? The Obama camp is working to build a mental roadblock in front of any persuasive discussion of Romney’s professional life, something which should be the major predicate of his whole campaign. They’re not quite there yet. But they’re getting close.

While I was writing this post a friend emailed and asked "Why now? Isn’t it better to hold this for the convention or some time later?"

In a word, no. The Obama team’s goal here is to make the entirety of Romney’s professional life toxic and off-limits before Romney even gets the chance to introduce himself to much of the public. And they’re off to a pretty good start.

Ten Bears said...

And if Willard's "presumptive candidacy" fails spectacularly twixt now and September?

ploeg said...

This also influences how well Mitt and his people can keep on message on the economy. They'll have a hard enough time as it is, with all of those independent groups pumping their ads into the pipeline. If it seems like Obama's being tough and smacking Mitt around, the pressure will be on to retaliate, and it's not entirely up to Mitt whether these independent groups retaliate on his behalf. And a food fight that takes the focus off the economy will make things very interesting.

Ten Bears said...

Seriously, Steve, tis doesn't come out of nowhere:

Steve M. said...

Well, fine. But he absolutely won't drop out -- not unless there's a revelation about him that's flat-out earth-shattering.