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The excellent History Channel production on the age of the business tycoon included this observation, which held true in the 19th century and continues to hold true today:      

"To be a successful negotiator, you've got to be willing to walk away from the deal."

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell blocked many Obama Administration proposals by repeatedly making it clear that they would walk away from any deal short of capitulation, from 2008-2012.

In today's meeting with the President, neither Boehner nor McConnell showed any strong inclination to deal, although they nodded their heads a few times and mumbled a word or two about demanding new spending cuts before they would give in on any kind of revenue increases.

Neither Boehner nor McConnell has ever warmed up in the televised photo opportunities in the White House, which they have used as proof that they are standing up to the President, nodding in a mocking way and rolling their eyes whenever the President says that there will have to be painful compromise, and that all must work together.

Both Boehner and McConnell are playing a different game than the one that the President thinks he is playing with them.   What they are playing is POKER.  The President is playing something else, like let's have a group sing-along, let's play beautiful music together, or even let's dance.

How do we know that they are playing poker, rather than "let's dance"?   It is fairly clear.  Both Boehner and McConnell made it clear that they were laying their "CARDS ON THE TABLE," or that they are putting "revenue" or taxes "on the table."   Boehner also got in a physical jab into the President's rib when Obama joked about it being Boehner's birthday but not having a cake due to not knowing how many candles to put on it.

In other words, Boehner's body language - the little mock-jab to President's rib - shows further that what Boehner has in mind is that he and the President are actually engaged in a boxing match.  It makes a certain amount of sense, because Boehner has had a lot of experience physically pushing people around when he was a bouncer at the family bar near Cincinnati.

Poker and boxing - these are typical metaphors for the ways that two opposing parties interact - they exchange blows, and they play their cards as shrewdly and craftily as they can to beat their opponent.

Now, President Obama has been trying for 4 years to try to persuade Boehner and McConnell to dance, to make music together, and to prove his good will, he has repeatedly extended olive branches to them, offering to compromise.  They have balked every time, after mumbling a few words and nodding their heads a few times.  Why?

Because Boehner and McConnell only know one way to handle power - by fighting as craftily and shrewdly and aggressively as they can, and to fight dirty when they think they have to.

Boehner and McConnell are not going to play any game except poker and boxing with the President.



When Harry Reid and Joe Biden enter the picture, the situation is entirely different, especially where the Senate's consent is required.   Reid and Biden are poker players and boxers, just like Boehner and McConnell are.  

Boehner and McConnell would prefer to meet with the President in the White House, because they have mastered the art of acting jovial and friendly, and then proving that the President failed to convince (i.e. force) them to do anything other than what they think Republicans want them to do.

So the little photo op meetings with the President actually make President Obama look like a less effective leader, and they empower Boehner and McConnell, by making it clear that President Obama will consider anything that comes from their meetings to be a failure unless they can all agree on making changes that his opposing players do not want to make.   (Can we try changing the key of the song from D to E major, the second time that we sing the chorus together? (he asks)  They reply:  "No way, Jose." or they say that they will change key halfway through, but they never do it, and the song collapses into disharmony, ending abruptly.).

This requires a change of strategy on the President's part:


new strategy (1) - accept the fact that the game being played is poker, not "sing-along."

new strategy (2) - accept the fact that the President is not a poker player.

new strategy (3) - allow Reid and Biden to handle the poker match (with input from Pelosi and Schumer), freeing up the President to handle everything else that he needs to focus on.

new strategy (4) - the President can steer clear of the useless meetings with Boehner and McConnell, which don't accomplish anything and just make them look stronger, and what the President does instead is takes over the job of "The Secretary of Explaining Stuff" to the American people (i.e., does a series of fireside chats with the nation about what is happening, how Americans can help, explaining the narrative to them so that they can see for example, that we have three aces, and the other side is playing a weak hand and trying to bluff us into capitulating.  And we aren't going to fall for that nonsense anymore).


Why does President Obama keep on letting himself get sucked into this silly and pointless photo opportunities for Boehner and McConnell to make a mockery out of?


The answer is that he really, genuinely thinks that compromise is necessary.  He has been an acolyte of the Tom Daschle school of negotiating, which is that if one runs a "good government" philosophy, then everyone will see how good the intentions are, and everyone will cooperate, and they will get along, and there will be a happy ending.

Similarly, he observed how Bill Clinton was very eager to please everyone in economic negotiations, and wanted to make it seem like everyone had a good outcome and was happy.   The only problem with using that approach is that (A) Obama does not have the same ability to snooker the Republican leaders or make fools out of them when needed, and (B) Even if he had the same skill set as Clinton had, including the ability to "explain stuff" to the nation in a compelling way, thus gaining the upper hand, even so, he might end up being the victim of the triangulation game as Clinton sometimes did.


Here is the most treacherous issue of all for the President, in all of this:   Boehner and McConnell know that Obama will lose the negotiations if they refuse to compromise with him.   In other words, if they do anything but what he wants them to, then Obama is, de facto, the loser (in his terms, as the President has defined the situation).

So, they can in essence beat him about the head, and run circles around him and his Administration, refusing in every possible way, teasing, acting like horses or elephants, for the next four years, and in their eyes, they automatically win.   This time, they won't say that they will block Obama, but in reality, they will play their cards to win and to defeat him at political poker.


The President set this scenario up today, by meeting with Boehner and McConnell, with body language and words from them showing that they weren't really interested in doing the kind of compromise or sing-along that Obama was asking them for.  They walked away happy enough, because they had their photo op, and pretended to negotiate - they played their little bluff hand of poker today, and they think they won it, and they probably did, in their way of thinking.


The President can change this dynamic very quickly.  He can take notice of the pointlessness of these photo ops with Boehner jabbing him and rolling his eyes in a mocking way, and McConnell insisting again that spending cuts are required for any talk of revenue (he can play back the tape and see that it doesn't play out well visually for the Dem side).

No more of these photo op sessions - this isn't getting anything accomplished, except questionable PR and pseudo-negotiation.

Now, let Boehner and McConnell go back to Capital Hill and let them play the only game they know how to play - political poker, or some political boxing. . . but not with the President who has other important things to do.   Let them play poker or boxing with Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden.   See how it goes then.


The current debate about whether or not President Obama and the Senate Democrats have won a political mandate raises an interesting - and even more profound - question: Does the 2012 election signal the beginning of a major political realignment in the U.S. ?

Although right-wing pundits have scornfully dismissed the idea of a 2012 Presidential mandate, as House Speaker Boehner has shown snide contempt for the idea, there are also strong signs of fear, confusion, and even hopelessness from major right-wing media figures such as Limbaugh and Coulter.   Their own sense of frustration and failure indicates that the 2012 election has to be considered more than just a mandate.  

What the election signals is not just 4-year mandate to Obama, but something much larger than that.  This election may signal the end of one era in American politics and the beginning of another.   Limbaugh and Coulter are not profoundly upset by the loss of one political election in itself, but rather because they sense that their movement itself may be facing a decline.  As Bill Reilly put it, hyperbolically and with sadness and near-indignation, traditional (for him, "white christian") America is no more.

Nate Silver has brought this to our attention in his early election analysis, in which he states that "As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are at an Electoral College Disadvantage."   Importantly, Silver states that the 2012 election suggests that a structural disadvantage may be building - indicating that the next Democratic nominee (perhaps Hillary Clinton) will start out with a large block of northeastern, pacific, mountain, midwestern, and southeastern states that lean Democratic.   Further, the trends are long-term trends.  Virginia and North Carolina are likely to be more Democratic, as are Colorado and Florida.  States such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin remain blue in presidential elections, and States such as Iowa and Nevada and New Mexico are a deep blue shade of purple, if indeed they can still be called purple.

It is generally recognized that the U.S. has gone through a number of major political realignments throughout its history.   As in the quotation below regarding words of Marjorie Hershey, there have been at least six major "party systems" in American History (the last of which is the Republican-dominated era that began with the realignment of the old southern bloc in the Nixon election of 1968).

If Hershey is correct in identifying "six party systems," then we may now be seeing evidence that a "seventh party system" is in its early stages of development.

Similarly, the historian Arthur Schlessinger Jr. wrote a well-known book "The Cycles of American History" in which he extended his Father's historical analyses indicating that there have been a series of cycles between what we have come to know as conservatism and liberalism (i.e., between capitalist focus on individual wealth vs. emphasis on caring for the needs of the community).   In the Schlessinger analysis, the average cycle of American history has lasted approximately 30 years, ranging in length from approximately 15 to 50 years.   Schlessinger notes, there are also smaller epicycles (e.g., the Eisenhower, Carter, Clinton years) that take place within the larger historical cycles.

Given that the "sixth party system" in American history began when the deep southern states began to flip to the Republicans in 1968, this system or "cycle" has been 44 years in duration, putting it at the high end of the Schlessinger range (15 to 50 years).  It has been getting long in the tooth for some time and is running on empty, ideologically, offering fewer new ideas to the nation.

So, it should not come as a surprise to us that the words of the right-wing pundits ring hollow when they deny the significance of President Obama's re-election mandate.  In this case, we may be starting to understand why it is that, to paraphrase the Bard, "(we)-thinks (they) doth protest too much."

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There are several new signs from Ohio indicating that the Governor and Sec'y of State have taken steps to ensure that Romney will win the 18 electoral votes from Ohio:

1) In his most recent public appearance, Kasich stated in the most unequivocal and certain terms that "WE will win this election."   The intonation and pronounciation of these words indicated that he, as Governor, has made the decision to do whatever it takes to make sure that Romney is found to win the election.  There was no doubt in his voice - it was not just a typical slogan, but rather a statement of fact with a tone of warning, to prepare the listeners for the inevitability of this fact.  

2) To prepare Americans and Ohioans for the Romney victory, Kasich and Romney conveyed the message that Romney is already ahead in the early voting.  In other words, it is already clear, already known to them that they have won the early vote in Ohio.  This is tantamount to a pre-announcement of the decision of the governing administration of the State of Ohio, that they will certify that Romney has won the early vote in Ohio.

3) The Governor and Sec'y of State of Ohio have continued to undertake a programmatic and exhaustive effort to reduce the participation of Democratic voters in Ohio.  Dozens of efforts have been documented, and although some have been overruled in the courts, others are continuing.  These include seemingly "inadvertent errors" (or doing things accidentally, on purpose), which consistently make it harder for Democratic votes to be counted in Ohio (such as mailing voter materials weeks after requested, or with inaccurate information).  It is clear that the Ohio efforts are part of a coordinated strategy among Republican administrations in swing states including CO and FL, as well as Ohio.

4) The State of Ohio, by decision of Gov Kasich and Secy of State Husted, has undertaken, just days before the election, a comprehensive installation of Diebold software into voting machines in half of the Ohio voting precincts.  The use of Diebold machines in the past has been associated with major vote tabulation errors, which have systematically supported Republican candidates.  In 2004, such "errors" delivered Ohio's electoral votes to GW Bush, resulting in Bush being declared the winner of the Presidency.  It was discovered, in 2008, that there was a systematic effort undertaken by Ohio Secy of State Blackwell, in coordination with Ohio's Governor and Republican leaders, to hire a private firm to tabulate the electronic votes of Ohio.  The private firm hired to tabulate the votes and declare the winner was a major contributor to the Bush campaign.  In 2008, the owner of the firm admitted in a statement that the violation had taken place.  A few weeks later, he perished while piloting his personal aircraft, thus ending the investigation.  However, it is clear that Ohio's vote was stolen in 2004 due to systematic fraud committed by Ohio Governor and Secretary of State in that year.  At least 300,000 Democratic votes were not tabulated electronically.

5) Large numbers of Ohio voters have been deprived of the right to vote in the 2012 election, due to decisions by Ohio State officials not to approve registrations, not to provide materials to voters in time, etc.

6) It was announced on Saturday, by the Secretary of State Jon Husted that the vote in Ohio will be transparent, and that he will not learn the results of the election until the voters do.  This was the same arrangement as that used in 2004, when hundreds of thousands of Democratic votes were not tabulated, resulting in the election of GWBush.
In 2004, as in 2012, the Secretary of State's office itself did not tabulate the votes, but received the vote tabulation totals electronically, from the private firm that the State had hired to do the electronic tabulation of votes from Diebold voting machines with newly installed software.   This had the effect of insulating the Secretary of State's office from accusations of vote tampering - - it provided "plausible deniability" long enough to ensure that the electoral college's decision in 2004 would be irreversible.

In summary, the Ohio Governor and Secy of State (SOS) have been carrying out a systematic program to manipulate the results of the 2012 Ohio election.  They are continuing to take measures to hold the number of Democratic voters to a minimum.  Some of these measures will be in place on election day, and voters are on notice to expect major difficulties in voting in Ohio on election day, due to multiple restrictions, voter suppression efforts, and voter intimidation efforts.

Kasich and Husted have made it clear that they will do anything within their power to ensure that Romney will be found, in the electronic tabulation of the vote from Ohio, to have won the State's 18 electoral votes.

Although it is clear that Ohio Democrats have over 2,000 lawyers enlisted to assist with the Ohio election, it should be noted that efforts undertaken after the election are often found to have no legal remedy, as in Florida's 2000 election.  In other words, after the vote is cast and tabulated, the vote is effectively a "fait accompli," and it cannot be undone or repeated.  Votes can be recounted, but the process can become so complex and disorderly that the courts are limited in their ability or inclination to over-rule the State authorities.

Karl Rove is one of the Republican strategists who has worked with Ohio and other State officials to develop kitchen sink efforts to use every conceivable method to deny Democratic voters the right to vote, to suppress their votes, to intimidate them, and to make it harder for them to vote.   The Republican planners have effectively used a "game theory" approach, working out all the kinds of legal remedies that the Democratic lawyers might use to limit the damage they are doing to the voting process.   In other words, they have "gamed" this out, already.  They know how to violate the law in such a way that the courts will not be likely to overcome the net result of their efforts (as in 2004).   So, although we can wish the Democratic teams of lawyers, we can be assured that those working with Rove have already "gamed" the whole process carefully, so that no Republicans will be caught and punished, and so that Romney is indeed found to "win" the State of Ohio in 2012.

This is why it is so important for President Obama to be elected via other electoral pathways - - by winning Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, or Florida.  

This is also why it is vital for the Ohio Obama vote to be as high as possible.  The Republicans were able to miscount 300,000 Democratic votes in 2004, but they might not be able to mis-tabulate 500,000 Democratic votes in 2012.


Will Ohio Gov Kasich & SOS Husted get away with it?

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As the 2012 campaign winds its way into its final week, this is an apt moment to reflect, for a moment, on the legacy of the 2012 Romney/Ryan and Republican campaigns.

How shall this Republican campaign year be remembered?

The most vivid memories of these final weeks of campaigning, will be of: (1) Two weasels (Romney & Ryan); (2) Rape Pregnancies; (3) and the Racist John Sununu.

(A) Two Weasels:

Romney and Ryan will be remembered as two weasels who, after devoted the most concentrated and intense effort on appealing to the right-wing of the Republican and Tea Parties, found a way to WEASEL out of every single controversial thing that they had ever said or done to appeal to right-wing organizations.   Many words were used to describe them, including "liars," "bullshit" artists, con men, and flim-flam men; but the words "two weasels" may resound through the halls of memory, because the visual imagery of the weasel in action conveys their very essence.  Who were Romney and Ryan, children will ask, one day, and we will remember them as "a couple of weasels."

(B) Rape Pregnancies:

Ryan was selected by Romney to appeal to the right-wing extremist sector, including Akin of Missouri and Mourdock of Indiana, and 10 Republican Senate candidates.  Romney, Ryan and the 12 senate candidates succeeded only in bringing to voters' attention the dire warning that, if elected, they would see to it that the Supreme Court majority would force women to give birth when pregnancies were caused by rapists.  Worse still, their words conveyed a profound lack of sensitivity to the concerns, rights, and long-term well-being of American females and their families.

(C) The Racist, John Sununu:

In the final months of the Romney/Ryan campaign, co-chairman John Sununu made a spectacle of himself as a campaign spokesman, never hesitating to go live on the air to utter words that shocked many Americans' ears with their raw, unfiltered hatred and contempt for the Democratic campaign.  Not since the 1964 campaign, when Barry Goldwater shocked the nation with words implying an almost eager readiness to wage nuclear war against the Soviet Union, has an American Presidential campaign come so close to violating the spirit of tolerance, equality, and respect for all peoples.  The (often bloviating) face of John Sununu, their highest-profile spokesman, will be the single most memorable visual image for the Romney/Ryan campaign.   The negative, visceral impact and sense of revulsion caused by repeated images of John Sununu will be remembered, despite the very belated and futile recognition among Republicans and other right-wing voters that Sununu repeatedly "crossed the line."




Which will harm the Romney/Ryan ticket the most?

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HOPE is the key to winning the Presidency of the United States.

The candidate who emphasizes fear and trepidation, doom or gloom, or who has a weak or nondescript vision for the future usually loses in a battle for the Presidency.

Research by Martin Seligman and others has supported Seligman's hypothesis that HOPE is an essential component of a successful campaign for President.  The candidate who has found a way to maintain the most hopeful view of the future has generally won, even if their hope for the future turns out to be little more than self-delusion, as in our last President.  The important thing was that, no matter how flawed they themselves may have been, they believed in themselves and in the nation's future.

President Obama and his team did a wonderful job of driving home the message of HOPE in 2008 - - to such an extent that millions of Americans wore Obama t-shirts with the HOPE logo, with slogans emphasizing hope for the future, and the famous image of a rising sun in red, white, and blue.

HOPE ... for what?   For change, and for a better future for most Americans.  For peace and for prosperity, and fairness, and for the rights of all.   Most voters were persuaded that this gifted and still-young man could lead us out of a barren wilderness and into a land that we felt we had been promised to all in the form of an American dream too long deferred.   Senator Obama and Joe Biden helped us to dare to dream, again, as an 8-year nightmare drew toward an end.


Fast-forward 4 years, to 2012....

Would the message of HOPE be an important part of the 2012 campaign?

Has it been?

Images and words of HOPE, such as the HOPE poster, the cartoon-like image of a rising red, white, and blue sun, and the 2008 emphasis on the prospects for a brighter and happier world have not been nearly as evident in the President's re-election campaign.  And this is a potential sticking-point with the election only 2 weeks away.  If there is one thing that President Obama and his team need to do now, from a messaging standpoint, is to make HOPE for the future the centerpiece of his campaign, once again.

The word "FORWARD" hasn't had the same oomph as HOPE.  Forward sounds a bit like a kind of vague command to go boldy forth against fearsome foes.  But "forward" toward what?  So far, the voters have been informed, mainly, that we must go "forward" rather than "backward" to a time in the past when there was less fairness and equality.

So "forward" has mostly meant for us, as a campaign idea, to keep going in the direction that we have been going in for the past 4 years, and most of all, not to go backward.  Additionally, we have been told that we must go forward so that we can finish what the Obama campaign and Administration started in 2008 and 2009.

"Let's go forward, not backward, so we can finish what we started."

But these words and slogans are actually less then ideal, simply because HOPE is missing.   The voters may ask "Where is the HOPE" that we were told we could have in 2008?    Further, going "forward" could conjure up mixed feelings, since "forward" could be either good or bad, depending on where the road forward happens to lead.  Not going "backward" seems to make sense, but some voters may not believe, or may find it frightening to imagine that going backward is a likely option.

"Forward toward a better future" now that would be an improvement.  How about this:
"Forward toward a more hopeful future."   That feels more encouraging, doesn't it?

According to research on the presidential hope hypothesis, the hope itself has to be felt, and not necessarily understood.  For example, G.W. Bush won in 2004 not because he was smarter than Kerry, but because he had a naive, even arrogant sense of hope that everything would be ok if the nation followed his leadership.  People didn't know why, exactly, but Kerry came across as a bit like "Ichabod Crane," a bit on the stiff and foreboding side when it came to relating to everyday people in the nation's heartland.  A lot of people said that they'd rather have a drink with Bush than with Kerry, or Gore, and that despite his obvious flaws, there was something folksy and likable about him, at least compared to his gloomier opponents.  Similarly, Reagan was considered more hopeful than Carter or Mondale, GHW Bush somehow moreso than Dukakis, Clinton definitely moreso than HW Bush, Perot and Dole.

So it should be a no brainer to emphasize HOPE in the remaining days of the Presidential campaign of 2012.  

This is especially important because his opponent, Mr. Romney, himself not a particularly sunny optimist, has repeatedly stated that the President "has not told us where he is going to take us in the next four years."   Romney, in doing so, has tried to take the focus of his failure to disclose tax returns, his misdemeanors in corporate leadership, his mendacity and willingness to say anything to get himself elected.  Yet, somehow, his question has left a nagging question in some voters' minds.  Romney has appealed to the fact that a lot of 2008 Obama voters felt let down by the way things went, and that millions of them felt so disenchanted that they failed to vote in 2010.  Romney knows that he doesn't need to convert them into supporters of his campaign, but only needs to say enough to convince them not to make an effort to vote for Obama in 2012.

If HOPE was a keystone of Mr. Romney's campaign, he would be a much more dangerous challenger than he has turned out to be.  If anything, he has an air of the Ichabod Crane about him.  And yet, he has been able to sell the naive idea that voters can be confident enough in him to HOPE that he will create 20 million jobs as President.  And when voters are asked why they decided to vote for him, that's what they say, that they HOPE he will create jobs and somehow believe he'll do it because that's what he says he will do.   No facts, just feelings, just a few words of HOPE from a slightly scary or stiff-looking kind of guy with gaunt cheeks, a wrinkled forehead, a worried look, red-rimmed eyes.

Here is a simple question, and a word of encouragement to President Obama and his team - - why not sprinkle some HOPE liberally into your campaign ads, messages, campaign appearances, and ...  into debate #3?   Research has shown that you only need to use the word and idea of HOPE in a way that people can feel that you really feel hopeful about the future, and can make them feel hopeful again, too?

If Romney promises 20 million new jobs - go a step further and promise 30 million new jobs - say that we are going to find a way to help everyone in the country find a job.  Don't need to worry about the details - hell, Romney won't even release his taxes or answer any questions about tax deductions or deficit details or anything else.   Don't need to worry if the full employment scenario doesn't get achieved in 4 years, just say that we are heading for FULL EMPLOYMENT for everyone who wants and needs a job.  Full employment - we're not going to stop until we get there.

Two chickens in every pot and a car; forty acres and a mule - - those kinds of campaign promises are remembered because they won elections.

It can be an honest commitment too - we are committed to an ongoing effort to achieve full employment during the next four years.

Bill Clinton knew and knows that those kinds of words not only win elections - - they also force Republicans to go along with the hopeful president  Every time the Republicans tried to stop Clinton, he just found another way to make them look like fools for standing up to him, and he made a new announcement every week of a new action that he was taking to lift Americans' spirits.  President Obama can learn how to do what Clinton knows so well.

Admittedly, President Obama was shocked by the severity of the nation's economic downturn, a near-depression, worst in 70 years, enough to shake the global economy to its foundation, pushing the entire world into bankruptcy.

Comments on the serious tone of his inauguration speech and the markedly less optimistic feeling in the air signaled the beginning of what has turned out to be a dream not "denied" but at least "postponed" for an undefined and indefinite period.

Two years into his Presidency, he stated that he wasn't sure if he would run for re-election, because he had already achieved most of his goals.  This struck many of his supporters as odd, because the first two years of his Presidency were devoted to trying to wind down Iraq and Afghanistan, win the war with Al-Quaida organizations, and keep the economy from deteriorating into a double-dip recession.  The period leading up to the 2010 elections was devastating for Democrats who felt a very high level of disillusionment.  It isn't clear whether President Obama has ever fully regained the sunny optimism that drove him forward in 2007 & 2008.  We have seen some familiar traces of 2008 in debate #2 and in recent campaign appearances.  Deja vu....

But President Obama needs to let the nation know, now, that Romney is wrong when he accuses the President of not having a vision for the future.  As stated in the current Morgan Freeman ad on TV, his team points out that he has had challenges greater than most, but is going to lead us forward, helping the middle class toward economic recovery.   This is good, because there is hope in it, a kind of veiled hope through adversity - - things will gradually get a little better if we keep moving forward.

Many voters who are still not sure if they will support his re-election are waiting for a clear riposte to Romney's challenge.   Mr. President, where are you going to take us in the next four years?   As if to say that "forward" is not enough, and that the pace of recovery is much too slow, and that people are angry about it.

What President Obama needs to do now is to remember that he made a promise to the nation in 2008, and that this promise still needs to be fulfilled.  The dream was postponed, and up until now, Americans have not been spoken to about this, the way a parent would tell a child, "Darling, we wanted to be able to make your dreams come true, and we're trying as hard as we can.  Things are going to get better soon, and you're going to be so happy!"

He needs to say to himself, and the team needs to say to itself - yes, we have to admit that we set the nation up for a wonderful 4 years, and a hell of a lot of people feel that they've been disappointed, to such an extent that they wonder if the dream was just an illusion.  When the  air went out of the balloon, you could feel it - it was on inauguration day, when the President sounded determined, yet somehow disillusioned, with words that didn't resound from the hills, but rather sounded almost flat in tone.

If the President hasn't fully come to terms with it yet, and if he is still running on empty in some way, if his reserve tanks are low, and he has had some trouble maintaining a rosy view of the future, it isn't too late.

He, like each of us, can get up one morning, look ourselves in the mirror and say, "Damn it; I lost the sense of hope and belief that we can do anything - - but I can get back - - Damn it, I'm just going to do it right now."   I went off the path, was thrown into the rocks and brambles, and I was all scarred up and bleeding, and I thought it was going to be impossible at times.  I got scared, maybe I even lost my bearings at times.  But I can do this!  WE CAN DO THIS!   All we have to do now, for two weeks, is believe in ourselves and feel the same passion that we had in 2008.  Nothing has changed inside of me, or of us.  We are still just as capable as we were then to dare to dream huge dreams and believe that we could make them come true.  Damn it - we'll find a way to make Congress pass programs - we won't take no for an answer, and if I have to I'll shed a bit of pride and just ask Bill Clinton how you do it.  Bill - how do we do this - and take his advice.   Make him Secretary of HOPE, and let's see how far we can take this economy, and this nation, and this world in the next four years!


Can he put a great new dose of HOPE into the campaign?

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There are a lot of conflicting stories in the news about early voting totals.  At a TPM blog on this topic, there is a statement that recent polls have estimated a D advantage ranging anywhere between 19 and 52 % pts (that's a gigantic range of estimates), and a statement that the R team is doing slightly better at early voting than the McCain team did.   However, a Republican spokesman reported that the D advantage is only 7 % in OH.
This means that the actual advantage could be anywhere from 7% to 52% - as of yesterday.  In other words, there don't seem to be any accurate estimates of early voting totals or advantages in OH.  We know next to nothing, other than that there has been a D advantage, not (quite? nearly?) as large as it was in 2008.

Welcoming anyone with solid information on early voting in OH (& other States) to please share it here at dkos, and also tell us how different polls are monitoring early voting.

Because we don't really know (1) the early voting numbers, or (2) which polls are properly monitoring early voting, most of the polling data in states with early voting have any extra source of error variance.  In other words, as much disagreement as there has already been, the polling data will become even more chaotic now that the early voting uncertainties have become part of the picture.

With respect to PPP, does anyone know if early voting is part of their data, and if so, how do they assess it?

In the State of Iowa, PPP has just released an estimate that Romney is up +1%.  But it is widely reported that the largest Dem early voting advantage is in Iowa.  Further 7 of the last 9 polls in Iowa have reported Obama to be ahead, by a margin of 4 to 5% (the other most recent poll NBCMarist has Obama +8%).   Since it's an outlier, something appears to be amiss with the PPP data in Iowa, and so the question arises whether they are using any means to inquire as to early voting.

The Iowa PPP data, accurate or not, is of interest not only with respect to early voting, but also because it is one in a series of the most recent PPP polls that has departed dramatically from early PPP polling that tended to show a slight (D) house effect, in Nate Silver's words (he estimated ppp house effect was around 3% in early summer, and that their house effect had diminished noticeably by September).

It appears that Nate Silver's numerous discussions of house effects may have caused both ppp and rasmussen to tighten up on procedures that accentuared house effects.  However, it should be noted that rasmussen continues to show a clear R house effect or "bias" (i.e., rasmussen remains "R friendly").

In the case of PPP, Nate Silver's words appear to have had a particularly strong impact, and indeed a growing impact.  Nate recently wrote about his appreciation for those polls that do not make any adjustment for demographics or partisan alignment of voters (in other words, polls that just use raw data without weighting or adjustment).

It is debatable whether procedures such as weighting data to known population characteristics is or is not the optimal approach to polling with samples of 500 or 1000, and more importantly, the methods for weighting and adjusting data vary widely - - no one has established that there is a particular best way to do it.  The science of polling remains somewhat unresolved on this point, which is why polls handle these issues differently.

There is a disadvantage for the (D) team if PPP has abandoned its previous efforts to ensure that its samples were representative of the American voting population in terms of demographics and partisan alignments.   The disadvantage is that PPP is the only truly D-friendly polling firm that regularly monitors swing States and national vote preferences.   We Dems had only one horse in the race, PPP, and it appears that Nate Silver may have persuade the people at PPP to let the data come in as they come in, somewhat randomly or representatively, or sometimes not very randomly or representatively, depending on how the polling winds blow from day to day.

The bottom line is that, if PPP is listening to Nate Silver's general statement that it is a nice thing to have some polls that don't weight their data, and drawing from this that Nate is somehow requiring or demanding that PPP should stop the weighting and adjusting (or is being pressured by Nate in some way to do this), well, this might be exactly the explanation for the wacky changes in PPP polling recently.

In other words, many have been complaining about changes in PPP polling in the past 10 days.  In this diary, one idea is being put forth - - that it's possible that Nate Silver has cajoled or persuaded PPP in some way to get rid of its "house effect" entirely, and to do so by no longer weighting or adjusting the data to match features of the population.

Now - it is controversial whether all polls should suddenly abandon weighting and adjusting or oversampling.  These procedures are used in most of the social sciences, and they are considered very important in fields like public health, where it is essential to weight data to offset non-representativeness in samples.  No one has argued that weighting or oversampling should not be used in these sciences, and indeed the trend has been toward more (not less) use of these procedures in recent decades.

Nate has one good point - which is that from time to time, it is important to just collect raw data from a very large sample to establish what the actual population features actually are - so that other polls can use this for weighting and oversampling accurately.  He has also made the point that it seems like a good thing for some polls to use these procedures, while others don't use them.  That way, in his website, he can study the differences between the various methods.

PPP, it appears, has been bending over backwards, to a greater and greater extent to seem completely "neutral" and no longer "D-friendly," even though its funders are kos and organized labor (SEIU).  The Dems who commission the PPP polling have somehow gotten stuck with a polling firm that is no longer trying to offset the effects of the R polling firms that intentionally weight and oversample to favor R candidates.  

If correct (and it is possible that there are other mysterious reasons why PPP has started to report Romney-friendly numbers in swing states or nationally, due to changes in their sampling or weighting procedures), then the one polling firm that Dems used to be able to rely on to provide information from samples weighted to ensure an adequate number of Dems and Independents were sampled, is no longer providing this kind of information.

One could argue that all the R firms should do the same (but it is not at all clear that weighting and oversampling should be abandoned altogether to maximize accuracy, as noted above).   But, regardless, the R firms are not going to stop weighting and adjusting their samples or oversampling.  Gallup is an R-friendly firm (historically) that has no qualms about continuing to report data from samples that appear to Dems to be unrepresentative and R-friendly.

The problem raised here for discussion is whether PPP has made the correct decision at this crucial moment, or has made some other systematic changes in its polling methods, with the result that PPP now stands alone as the only previously (D) or "D friendly" poll to cease the efforts that it had made to ensure balance among polling firms (i.e., to offset the overwhelming effects of many (R) polling firms.

As reported at DailyKos in recent diaries this week, PPP is a land-line robopoll (automated phone poll) that relies on land lines, but uses statistical procedures to offset the effects of reliance on land lines only.   It does not appear that the adjustment for cell phone users has stopped.  The question raised here and elsewhere is whether PPP has made a more and more stingent effort since September to eliminate any traces of D-friendliness and to eliminate the formerly detectable PPP "house effect."

Nate himself has written that his estimates of "house effects" are themselves very imperfect.  For example, he has noted that there is no way to know that a polling firm with a "house effect" of 0 is going to be the most accurate poll.  Indeed, as Nate has shown awareness of, it would be possible to throw the "house effect" estimates off by several % points (for example, by overloading the polling data world with an abundance of Republican-friendly polls that would skew the entire polling aggregate or average off, making it less and less accurate).

Here is a mind experiment of Nate's acknowledgement of how the polls themselves determine how "house effects" are calculated.  If there were 20 (R) polls, 10 non-partisan polls with varying levels of D or R lean from week to week, and 2 (D) polls, when these were all averaged together, they would show that the 2 (D) polls had overwhelmingly "left-wing" bias or "house effects."  Most of the (R) polls would be close to the average, and so few or none of them would have any detectable house effect more than 1%.

So (using game theory, for example, and knowing how Nate computes "house effects"), the funders who underwrite (R) polls would logically know that the correct thing to do is absolutely overwhelm the polling field with as many new (R) polls as they possibly could.   By thus "gaming" the system, as they have actually done, they have flooded the election 2012 websites with information from the (R) polling perspective.  And, further, if most recent observations of PPP polling are accurate, they have also succeeded in intimidating PPP by making it appear that PPP has had an unduly strong house effect.  In other to offset this (R perpetrated) perception, PPP has had to stop making the efforts that it had made to ensure that the voting population was sampled accurately, from a Democratic standpoing.

This diary is written on the day following PPP's publication of a poll indicating that Obama's lead is currently only 1% in OH, an estimate identical to that of the (R) firm Rasmussen, with (R) firm Gravis estimating a tie in OH.  In comparison the other recent polls include O+3 (Survey USA, Fox), O+4 (YouGOV), and O+6 (NBC, WSJ, Marist).  Oddly, PPP itself did report O+5 when the YouGOV poll was published.   This helps to emphasize that PPP has reported at least some poll findings that showed a strong Obama lead within the past week.

There is no way of knowing if the recent PPP data are actually accurate and right on the money, but there is information indicating that several recent PPP samples had notably higher numbers of Republican poll respondents than usual.  

Thus the one question that can be most strongly justified is this:  Why would PPP suddenly start reporting poll data based on samples in which Republican voters were over-represented?   One hypothesis has been advanced in paragraphs above.  

Other hypotheses are also welcome.   Also of interest - - do D-leaning kos readers recognize the importance of having polling firms with D-friendly sampling and weighting procedures?   Or do they think that PPP should stop making any effort to set the sampling parameters in a way that ensures demographic and partisan balance as the Democratic voter currently understands it to be?


PPP should:

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The Ohio polling averages have changed considerably in the past two weeks, and the recent trend has not gone in the (D) direction.  In addition, the news reports have suggested that rather than a 20 point lead, President Obama may only have a 7 point lead in early voting in Ohio.  Whether or not these reports are accurate is unclear.  But, taken together, the most recent early voting and polling data suggests that Ohio is nearly tied, with only a very small Obama lead.

This comes as a great surprise, because for many weeks, OH has been the most resilient and reliable State in the President's electoral column.   OH held up quite well during the Romney bounce, and the current downturn in polling and early voting comes at a time when the Romney bounce has been receding elsewhere.

It is possible that the news of very large rallies for Romney and Ryan in Ohio are indicative of a change in the political wind there only 17 days before the election.

In the polls, there has been consistency amongst most (R) pollsters, most of whom have showed the race essentially tied with small leads for either candidate.  When the polls with any kind of partisan affiliation are put aside, the larger and Ohio polling organizations have tended to show a lead for the President in the 3 to 6% range, with the average varying slightly between 3% and 4.5% from week to week.

The data at, which used to show such leads, are now showing dramatic day to day swings in poll results, indicating that what was considered a stable Obama lead may have now become a very unstable and even unpredictable race.

It may be hoped that the recent Clinton/Springsten event and the dissipation of the effects of the very large Romney rallies will cause  the Ohio polling data to revert to the consistent pattern seen in prior weeks.  It can also be hoped that some of the increase in the instability of Ohio poll data is attributable to other temporary factors.

But the narrowing poll data, coupled with reports that Obama's early voting lead in Ohio has been cut in half already, suggest a pattern that many kos readers may not yet have taken notice of.

Any information that you may have about this would of interest.  Are reports of narrowing early vote totals reliable?  How large is the Obama lead in early voting today, and what are the trends?

Surprisingly, Fox has continued to report Obama with a 3% lead, but if it weren't for the Fox data, or ppp 5% lead, there is little other evidence that the lead is indeed over 2%.  And there are many polls, mostly (R), indicating essentially a tie in Ohio.

It would be a great relief to see encouraging early vote data in Ohio, or a new Marist or Quinnipiac or Mason Dixon or Columbus Dispatch polling showing Obama up by 3 to 5% in Ohio.  If this doesn't happen, then the electoral pathway for Obama through Ohio may not be something that can be relied upon as solidly as most of us were thinking within the past week.

The most likely alternative pathways, without Ohio, might be NV+IA+CO+NH or NV+IA+VA, but both CO and VA are rated too close to call at this point, toss-ups.

Ohio is our best bet, and there are indications that it could be heading toward toss-up status unless the recent instability trend dissipates.

Hoping this is an interesting topic for discussion, and that we're not heading for another 2004 type of result in Ohio.


On a triumphant evening such as this, in the glow of two debate victories in a row, this seems like a good moment to pause and express the deepest appreciation for the MSNBC journalists and their colleagues, who have done a truly extraordinary job of covering the campaign and the debates.

It is hard to think of another year when the coverage has been as consistently strong as it has been this year.  It's a remarkable achievement for this "junior" NBC network.  This may be as memorable as the Huntley-Brinkley-Tom Chancellor coverage in 1968, or the Walter Cronkite & Dan Rather team coverage in 1972.

MSNBC's team has brought together skilled veterans who have raised their games to a higher level with a new group of journalists and pundits - Rachel, Ed, Chris, Ezra, and a host of others, from Al to Chuck Todd to EJ Dionne, etc. etc.   It's remarkable to hear how some of them have matured and come into their own.  When I hear Ed Schultz during the debate coverage, I hear a voice that has the resonance and authority that I haven't heard since Walter Cronkite.    And, importantly, Howard Fineman has been absolutely incisive and brilliant - it's hard to think of anyone who has shown the ability to distill clouds of information into the most crystalline summary.  

Thanksgiving is 7 weeks away, but this is a perfect time to recognize how very lucky we are to have such a wonderful network covering the 2012 campaign.  Every member of the MSNBC team must recognize what a golden moment this is - they are on fire.


Careful analysis & comparison of the Romney and Ryan debate strategies shows that both Romney and Ryan emphasize three components in their debates:

1) Filibuster:  In both debates, Romney & Ryan tirelessly maintained the position, whenever possible that "I have the floor", making it difficult for Obama & Biden to get in a word edge-wise.   Even Joe Biden wasn't aggressive enough in holding the floor.  Ms. Radditch allowed Ryan to take advantage of the filibuster strategy.  Biden was able to overcome this when he spoke straight to Ryan and to the camera, but not when he was looking at Ms. Radditch - and Obama spent too much time talking to the moderator, not looking at the camera, and not talking to his opponent directly.

2) Fast-Talk:  As part of, or in addition to the filibustering approach, both Romney and Ryan spouted semi-truths, conflations of the truth, or "facts" that they had invented.  They had considerable preparation of just throwing out as many of these as they possibly could, so that the opponent could only respond to some of them.  The opponent (Dems) were thus put in the position of having to try to refute as many false statements as they could one by one, making it harder to focus on getting their own main points across.  Biden did better at this than Obama, obviously.

3) Flim-Flam (or "the con"):  Both Romney & Ryan play fast and loose with the truth, bending and twisting and reinventing the "facts" persistently.  Like the proverbial used-car salesman, they con and flim-flam others during their sales pitch by not answering questions directly, turning the discussion around to their perceived strengths, distracting, and mystifying the listener.   Mystification is one of their most important techniques, and it is also a technique used in methods ranging from interrogation to hypnotic manipulation to abusive relationships.  To mystify is to tell someone that up is down, that left is right, that good is bad and vice versa; to tell the poor that they don't need any assistance but need simply to help themselves, for example.  

By filibustering, fast-talking, and flim-flamming the audience, Romney and Ryan managed to dominate both debates, holding "the floor".  Romney held the floor by simply refusing to go along with Mr. Lehrer's suggestions as to timing.   Ryan held the floor by simply talking or jabbering non-stop, rattling on one dubious statement after another.

President Obama will need to used some of Joe Biden's techniques to prevent the flim-flam and fast talk from continuing.   But even Joe's approach didn't keep the moderator from allowing Ryan to go on talking non-stop.  Ryan is doing what Romney wants him to do - just talk, talk, talk to keep the audience listening to you.  So something else needs to be done.

One idea would be to bring this to the attention of the next debate moderators, letting them know that Romney and Ryan have a clear strategy of filibustering by talking every spare moment, and not allowing it to continue.

We can also do our part by raising awareness of the three-fold Romney debate strategy (filibuster, fast-talk, and flim-flam).  

If the American people and debate viewers have this in mind during the debates, they will see the trickery that is involved, and Romney will have to avoid using these methods.

One help step would be for someone like Rachel Maddow to show how Ryan and Romney used non-stop talking to their advantage.  Simply bringing attention to this debate strategy and its misuse may help to prevent it from happening again or may make it become ineffective for Romney going forward.

Debate 2 is a town-hall format, and it will be interesting to see if Romney can use filibuster, fast-talk, or flim-flam in the second debate.   Not being able to get away with these tricks may itself give Obama an edge in debate 2.  

What do you think?  And what about debate #3 format?  

Do you see the use of filibuster, fast-talk, and flim-flam by Romney and Ryan in other formats, as in answering reporters' questions?   Are the reporters bringing apt attention to the flim-flam, fast-talk and filibuster (not answering questions directly) techniques during their interviews of the candidates?   Can this change by highlighting the use of the "three Fs" in mystifying American voters?


Romney, Ryan strategy includes

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Only a broadcaster as crassly commercial as Bloomberg could run a commercial telling its listeners that they should right-size their companies (i.e., they should lay off some workers), so that they are able to go out to the local Porsche dealer and buy a brand new Porsche!

And the really pathetic thing is that hardly anyone even notices how incredibly unethical it is to lay workers off just so that one can buy a fancy foreign car.  Or, even more, how amazingly idiotic the Porsche dealer was to run such an offensive ad, practically telling employers to fire some workers and spend it on themselves, forcing all the other workers into panic-driven "productivity."  But that is the Republican and right-wing message - bleep the workers, and buy an expensive cigar!

So this is a story about the issue of "productivity."  We see gains in productivity, even today, and of course, it's Bloomberg out there praising all the companies for screwing their workers, laying them of, leaving them unemployed and without health insurance or any other benefits.

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Ed Schultz put it right today (using another term of art) - too many of us progressives are passive __ssies, in the sense that we take it and take it and take it, and keep on taking the bullshit that the right wing @$$h*les have been dishing out at us for the past 30 years.

More, and more, and more, and they never stop.  And we keep taking it.  And we let them go on and be bigger and bigger and bigger @$$h*les, and we keep putting up with it, and letting them abuse us.

And then, when we finally muster the courage to take control of the situation, do we use our new found power to change things for the better?  No - we just let them start abusing us again, even though they're only in control of 40% of the Senate, we let them keep bullying us over and over and over and OVER.

Too often, we are the masochists.

And we never learn.  Maybe we don't want to learn.  Maybe we just want to be bullied and abused and kicked and spat upon.  Maybe we don't really want to make the world better.   Do we want to let the @$$h*les win?

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That you are fuckin' brilliant?

No, I mean seriously...

I know, I know, this isn't a diary.  So rate me down.  Go ahead, I dare you!

Well, wait a minute...maybe it could be a diary.

I mean, have you ever considered how brilliant you really are?  Think about it.  There is a lot of effin' brainpower on this bleeping excuse for a website.  You fuckin' elected a President of the United States.  Well, not single-handedly, mind you, but you had sometin' to do wid it.  No, no aw'shyckins around here - admit it.  You are f'in brilliant.  You worked your asses off, and you elected a 60 seat majority in the Senate, and you got us about 50 or 60 votes ahead in the House as well.  This hasn't happened since about 1978 or so - like 30 years ago.  And it happened right after we went through the most heinously fascistic regime - spell it out - R E G I M E in the whole history of the goddamned republic.  Look what you did!!!!!!


Have you smiled today?

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