The weaknesses are bad enough. But it’s worse for Romney: These flaws have left him struggling to defend himself against and rebut the relentless Obama campaign attack — an attack designed to overcome the weaknesses in the incumbent’s own record by rendering his opponent an unacceptable alternative.Greg Sargent:
For those in the political class, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest tactics or economic indicators. But it’s important to step back and consider the broad-brush images that voters who aren’t following the race that closely are receiving courtesy of President Barack Obama’s assault and Romney’s own missteps.
Politico is leading with a much-discussed story today that quotes a lot of Republicans lamenting that Mitt Romney is losing because he just isn’t a good politician. These folks just know Romney is very qualified to be president; his poor skills as a candidate are the problem, as are his pedigree and stiff personal style, which are ill suited to the moment.Nate Silver:
Sure, Romney is a bad candidate. But to ascribe his problems only to his failures as a salesman for himself obscures a key aspect of all this: For now, at least, Romney’s problem is also what he’s selling.
After a secretly recorded videotape was released on Sept. 17 showing Mitt Romney making unflattering comments about the “47 percent” of Americans who he said had become dependent on government benefits, I suggested on Twitter that the political impact of the comments could easily be overstated.Gerald Seib speaking to GOP pollster Whit Ayers:
“Ninety percent of ‘game-changing’ gaffes are less important in retrospect than they seem in the moment,” I wrote.
But was this one of the exceptional cases? A week and a half has passed since Mr. Romney’s remarks became known to the public — meaning that there’s been enough time to evaluate their effect on the polls.There’s a case to be made that they did damage Mr. Romney’s standing some.
“He’s got to win day after day, play after play, so he can march back down the other end of the field to kick the field goal he’s going to need to tie the score.”Oh, really?
Mr. Ayres insisted that is possible because undecided voters, in a race against an incumbent president, are more likely to break for the challenger: “You would expect the remaining undecided voters to break not exclusively but disproportionately for Romney rather than Obama.”
How important are the debates starting next week? “I think particularly the first debate is crucially important and will have a huge viewership,” Mr. Ayres said.
Everywhere you look these days in the political world, you see stories touting just how important next Wednesday’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney will be to the final outcome of the race.Check out this pair:
But, at least according to data gathered by Gallup in 2008 and covering the last five decades of presidential campaigns, there are relatively few examples of times in which the general election presidential debates fundamentally altered the course of a race.
Why Is It So Hard to Get the Fundamentals Right?John Sides:
He’s not a “natural candidate.” He didn’t air enough positive ads to make voters “comfortable” with him. He should have taken Rubio’s position on immigration to win Latinos. He shouldn’t be having a discussion of Medicare.
Maybe those things are true. Or maybe the economy just doesn’t predict that Obama should be losing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: many an unduly complicated interpretation of an election began with a misreading of the fundamentals.
Do Presidential Debates Really Matter?And then check this out from Francis Wilkinson:
Remember all the famous moments in past debates that changed the outcome of those elections? Well, they didn’t.
Anyone who has witnessed a presidential campaign or two will find this premise familiar. As long as there are newspapers to sell, web traffic to juice and TV ratings to increase, we'll have incentives for an "October surprise" or a "game changer" or whatever cliché comes next.Speaking of reality and political scientists, Simon Jackman on unskewing the polls:
But look around: This sacred tradition is increasingly imperiled. In fact, the media's capacity for creating self-serving, fanciful political narratives is more constrained today than ever. An army of spoilsports -- many with Ph.Ds in political science -- has established camp on the banks of the Web, from which it takes aim at whatever diaphanous journalistic concoctions float past.
It has been largely one-way traffic in national and battleground state polling in the last several weeks. My model-based poll average puts Obama's lead over Romney at just over four percentage points, nationally. Indiana looks like the only 2008 Obama state that is an "almost sure" loss for Obama at this stage. North Carolina and Virginia remain interesting. States considered must-wins such as Ohio and Florida look increasingly safe for Obama; indeed, Ohio and perhaps even Florida too could even be bucking the national trend, swinging towards Obama relative to his vote share in the 2008 election.
Set against this context, it is not unreasonable to ask if the polls could be wrong. But based on the evidence, it would be unreasonable to conclude that the polls are giving us a qualitatively incorrect impression of how the election is shaping up.