'Comforting Thoughts on Obama and Romney's First Debate – As Undecided Voters Think It Over'
No question in this 1st presidential debate, putting it kindly, Romney mangled the truth. But it is known that there is an assertive classic power, if one takes that view, as Romney certainly did during this 1st debate by implying:
'I'm often wrong, but never in doubt*; and I absolutely believe in what I'm telling you whether it be true or not'.That in itself carries its own dogmatic power and strength! As George Costanza of Seinfeld fame once famously said, "If you believe it, then it's true!"
If you believe what you're saying to be actually right and true, even though it isn't, can you still be considered a liar (rhetorical)⸮ Irrespective, is this the kind of person—Romney, a known prevaricator—you'd want as President of the United States⸮
Okay, so most of us watched the debate the other night (maybe) and maybe just right now we're not feeling all that good about it. Well, what about all those so-called undecided voters; did they watch also—maybe not. Kind of funny when you think about it because one of the main purposes for the debates is that they are supposed to help all those independent undecided voters decide—did they⸮
Since the undecided are one of the prime audiences that President Obama and Romney tried to reach during the debates perhaps we should give some thought as to who these so-called undecided voters are. Do they even exist—and if they do, just how many of them are left? The latest 'YouGov' poll for the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project (http://ccap.yougov.com/) puts the share of undecided voters at just shy of 3 percent. Assuming this is correct—not very many to make a difference. Roughly half of those people have been undecided for over a year, but interestingly the other half have become undecided over the course of 2012 after initially preferring either Obama or Romney—I guess you could refer to them as the confused voter group. However, previously undecided voters making choices over these last few weeks will continue to break slightly for the president, which is one of the reasons why this first debate was so crucial for Romney, and so maybe he got them—maybe not.
This is all very nice, but I'm not so sure there are any such voters. Back about a year ago I wrote a brief essay on the subject titled, 'The Independent Voter is a Nonexistent Species', (see a recap of that essay below) and concluded that for all intensive purposes the independent undecided voter in all probability doesn't really exist. Oh I know people refer to themselves as being undecided, but I question whether they truly are—maybe they don't even know for sure themselves—however, I don't think with today's intense media coverage that anyone is truly undecided. Confused maybe, but undecided—I don't think so. We've all pretty much made up our minds; assuming we're going to vote, and unless, of course, we've been living on another planet. Obviously there does exist, being kindly, what's known as a 'low-information' voter, those who are pretty much oblivious to almost all that's going on around them.
I know political pundits commonly generalize about these so-called undecided or 'low-information' voters, but it does appear they may have a valid point. Twenty-one percent of the so referred undecided voters report that they hardly pay any attention at all to news about politics and public affairs (obviously they're not confused). And only 4 percent of the electorate as a whole says this. Takeaway: one-fifth of the undecided voters that the candidates tried to persuade the other night will in all probability not even have watched—so smile, another natural win for Obama!
Okay, you may ask, whom am I trying to comfort, for we all know that Romney won the 1st debate—but then so did the presidential challengers in 1984 (Mondale v Reagan) and 2004 (Kerry v George W.). In those previous presidential debates both sitting Presidents, Reagan & George W., badly lost their 1st debate but then both went on to win the election. In fact, in the last 7 presidential debates in which a sitting President debated (76, 80, 84, 92, 96, 04, 12), the sitting President lost the debate 6 times. So then what does losing a debate tell us about its predictability in whom will ultimately win the presidency—absolutely nothing. For a single debate in the overall realm of an election matters not.
Past Presidential Debates in the U.S (watch video)
Let me give some further comfort in Romney's winning the debate the other night. Let's hypothesize for the moment that there are in fact real undecided voters out there who haven't made up their minds and who actually watched the debate. And let us say further, pick a number, say 3% (YouGov poll) of the voters are yet undecided. As a student of political history it could safely be surmised that maybe ¼ of those undecided might have been swayed towards Romney after they watched the debate (assuming they watched). That would then equate to less than a 1% shift; but for argument sake, let's say it's a full 1% shift in the polls. It would not change the current direction of the final outcome. And lastly, every poll before the first debate usually ends up being the standup poll at the end, which essentially brings us right back to where we started—with Obama ahead in the polls.
Before the debate Obama had a significant lead in the most critical states for him to win the election—Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Hampshire. These 4 swing states plus those already solidly in his corner will give him the election. Right now he has 237 electoral votes in the bag; and with these 4 additional states (OH, WI, NV, & NH) in which each currently has an 87%+ probability of voting for Obama, it would give him 275 electoral votes. As you are probably aware a candidate must have 270 electoral votes to win the presidency because 270 is the majority of the 538 electoral votes. Thus Obama wins—forget the debates. In addition he has a 70%+ probability of picking up Colorado, Florida, Iowa, & Virginia, so while he has a good chance of winning them also, he doesn't need them. So please move on from the nonessential debates—especially the 1st one—it matters not!
NYT Nate Silver '538 Political Statistics': State-by-State Probabilities – Pls note that these 4 states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Hampshire) currently show probabilities of over 87%+ for Obama.
NYT - The Electoral Map: Building a Path to Victory: Map 1 - Move Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Hampshire into Obama 'Blue Circle', and see Obama's path to Electoral victory to win the Election with 275 Electoral Votes
Romney may have accomplished the equivalent of kicking a field goal here, but he has definitely not brought this race to a draw. Obviously, he's helped his comeback chances—that's all; but more importantly he has not changed the overall dynamics of this race—not yet anyway. Outside factors matter mightily, and the fact that the jobless rate just fell to 7.8%, its lowest point since January 2009, will significantly weigh in President Obama's favor—people can see and feel that the economy is improving—a solid sign that bodes well for an incumbent president!
*An expression first heard in 1919, as reported in the Kansas City (MO) Star; where to dispute Missouri Senator James Reed, Bainbridge Colby, Woodrow Wilson's last Secretary of State, said, "And, of course, Senator Reed,
like the English judge who often was wrong but never in doubt,is going to stand out against this accursed idea if he has to be the entire hollow square himself."
My original essay, 'The Independent Voter is a Nonexistent Species', below as written on FB November 14, 2011 (https://www.facebook.com/...)
I've always considered myself to be a so referred 'Independent' voter so it was of much surprise to learn that, although the designation is commonly used, the actual independent voter for all intensive purposes doesn't always really exist.
Eric Benson (9-25-11) writes a very interesting Article 'The Illusive Indie' (http://bit.ly/...) in the New York Magazine in which he discusses the fantasy of the independent voter. He based this on data he draws heavily upon from pollster and former Clinton adviser Stanley B. Greenberg, who adroitly debunks the existence of the independent.
I read a Wall St Journal article noting that in his good deed of trying to defuse partisan tensions, Obama has been punished with massive desertions by the very independents who are supposed to love his pacifism.
In a recent Pew poll (http://bit.ly/...) they found that nearly half of independents are, in fact, either faithful Democrats (21 percent) or Republicans (26 percent) who simply don't want to call themselves Republicans—can you blame them! Another 20 percent are "doubting Democrats" and another 16 percent are 'disaffected' voters, respectively anti-business and anti-government, angry and populist rather than mildly centrist. The remaining 17 percent are what Pew calls 'disengaged'—young and uneducated.
There's nothing about the makeup of any segment of these 'all-important independent voters' that suggests bipartisan civility has anything whatsoever to do with winning their support. For Obama or any politician to pursue this motley crew of the electorate as if it had a coherent political profile is absolutely nuts.
I wish Obama would get the message — stop trying to placate these so referred independents and get down to the business of fighting for his base—those who elected him.
Now is the time to stand-up and be counted, for otherwise he will be a one-term President—rightly and deservingly so!