Friday, October 26, 2012


On the one hand, President Obama seems to be on course to win the Electoral College -- Pollster gives him 271 electoral votes right now, Intrade has him with a 63.4% chance of victory as I type, Nate Silver has him at 73.1%. On the other hand, he's down 1 in the new ABC/Washington Post tracking poll, down 5 according to Gallup, and trailing Mitt Romney by a point or so in popular-vote poll averages.

Does that matter? I think it might matter for the next four years.

I think Obama will win the Electoral College. I can spell out a scenario in which the right then steals the election (by persuading us that 2000 is irrelevant to now, by hypocritically demanding that "the will of the people" be obeyed, by digging into the pasts of obscure electors). But it's not clear that will happen, and maybe it's the kind of thing that even the right-wing noise machine can't pull off.

Nevertheless, if Obama wins a second term in a split election, the media will treat him as a loser who backed into office and doesn't really deserve to be there. That wouldn't be true for Romney if he won the presidency this way, because the press has now decided it likes him more than Obama, and because, well, he's Republican Daddy -- just like George W. Bush twelve years ago. Oh, sure, if Romney somehow wins this way, the press will ask him, very politely, to live up to the tone of his debate appearances and govern from the center -- but if he then charges hard to the right, the press will just sit back and speak with awe of his "bold" moves.

The press, treating a split Obama victory as a loss, will demand that he tack right in response to the circumstances of his win. This is what Obama will face going into his second term.

So Romney just has to win the Electoral College. Obama really needs to win the Electoral College and the popular vote so that he can have a third victory -- victory over a press that will tell us he's not really president, or at least he shouldn't be (a meme that will drive public opinion).

The press right now is parroting Romney talking points about the lack of an Obama second-term vision. It doesn't matter that, as Paul Krugman says, Romney's "vision" is threadbare and empty, and Obama's is more substantial and reality-based. Obama isn't really getting across the notion that he has ideas for the future.

Part of this stems from the way he's running his campaign. I really, really understand why he's touting early voting and going on Leno and putting out Lena Dunham ads and so on -- he's trying to drum up turnout among groups that aren't seen as likely to vote (non-whites, "waitress moms," young people). That granular approach will probably get him to 270 electoral votes. It might get him to 50.0001% of the popular vote -- though I wonder.

In the last days of the campaign, I think he should strike more of a balance between these voting-bloc moves and bigger, broader pronouncements of a "vision." Doing that might impress the sorts of voters regarded by pollsters as likely to vote, and thus give Obama a slight uptick in the likely-voter polls. It also might get the press off his back.

I'm not saying he should abandon the segmented appeals. But he should go big, too. Maybe then he can win all the races in November.


Victor said...

My hope, admittedly unstubtantiated, is that women, who when polled with their Republican males in the same room (and if they don't take the phone themselves), may hear all of this "rape" BS, and say one thing to the pollsters, and do another when pulling the lever, or filling-in the dot.

On the other hand, if they don't come through, and there's a a close election, that leaves a chance for a few Electronic Voting Machines to flip in certain districts, and von Spakovsky, if the suppression and flipping don't work, to contest the elections in any number of different states.

This election may make 2000, and its aftermath, including the Brooks Brothers Riot's, look like a collegial get-together of different frats.

Unknown said...

Dude, you're so wrong that if right touches you you'll explode.

Wingnuts will whine if Obama wins electorally but loses the pop vote? Dude, when do the wingnuts ever NOT whine?

Pundits will whine Obama has to move to the center? Dude, that's all they EVER do.

Whining is not power. Votes are power. An Obama administration with a Democratic Senate will have enough power that they can ignore the whining of irrelevant outsiders.

barent said...

Obama was treated as illegitimate by the right after winning the popular vote by 7. Nothing he does will make things better in his second term. Only the media can improve things, and that's not likely. The hack gap is too great.

What you will see, whatever the popular vote is, demands for recounts in every close state, appeals, etc. in the hopes that daddy Scalia can save things.

Steve M. said...

An Obama administration with a Democratic Senate will have enough power that they can ignore the whining of irrelevant outsiders.

An Obama administration with a Democratic House and Senate struggled in 2009 and 2010, despite sky-high initial approval ratings for the president.

BH said...

I see your point, Steve, and tend to agree - except that "getting the press off his back", as a goal/motivator for political tactics, seems suspect to me. For one thing, I doubt it's possible, because the press' tribal narrative(s) seem impervious to external fact (e.g., the persisting myth of 'Mitt-mentum' long after any numbers supported it); for another, it might not prove to be any wiser than making substantive policy decisions with a view to pleasing the 'mediots'.

Roger said...

A win for Obama is a loss for Romney.

I'd love more, but if that's all we get, I'll take it.

Romney will govern from the far right because, no matter how far to the right he goes, he will still be primaried from the farther right.