In light of the recent Pew and PPP polls (both very legitimate polls with understandable findings and using reliable, scientific methodology, I have been seeing a resurgence of panic, both here and in other forums and news site comment pages. I get it. I mean, it's hard to be a Democrat that watched George W. Bush beat* Al Gore and John Kerry, and not be completely nervous. I wanted to shine a light briefly on our positives, and then give some brief final thoughts about the debate that still has everybody chattering.
First, we are winning. Period. Not because Pew and PPP polls were skewed, either. We just are. Both of these polls were snapshots with the majority of the interviews in the samples coming on Thursday and Friday, in the immediate aftermath of the debate. As I've said before, the real effects of the debate will be short-lived as the narrative shifts to the substance of the debate and reveals that Romney lied his ass off. Would it have been better for Obama to call Romney out in the debate? Yes. Then there would be NO bump. But Obama can still (and has begun to) effectively negate the bump over the next few weeks by exposing the lies.
If you look at the Gallup tracker, which has a history of accurately predicting the margins on recent presidential elections, President Obama's lead has bounced back to five points (50-45) after dipping briefly to three points. Why? The Gallup tracker uses a running average over seven days, smoothing out a lot of the noise from big events in a race to isolate the real impact those events have on the race. The Thursday and Friday samples had the race even post-debate (46-46), a five point shift for Romney from the pre-debate samples of +5 Obama. BUT, the average was still three points Obama.
First, since the debate, there's been a good jobs report with unemployment under 8%, showing that we are moving in the right directions. Since previous polls had found consumer confidence and voter confidence in the economy improving, the new jobs numbers, outside of conservative circles, will only reaffirm the general feeling that things are slowly getting better. Going forward, that takes away the central premise behind the Romney campaign against President Obama.
Second, since the debate, the narrative has begun to shift from "Romney won" to "Romney hates Big Bird, and Romney lied a lot." Fact-checkers have poured a lot of ink and the printed press has carried a number of stories covering Romney's excessive dishonesty and flip-flopping. Romney won the day, but he also provided A LOT of ad ammunition to Obama, and OFA has just begun to use it. A video on YouTube from DKos' own Jed Lewison of Romney debating himself, using footage from the Romney campaign set against Romney footage from the debate has half a million views already. Things like this will only continue as Obama continues to pound it in speeches, surrogates pound it in the press, and fact-checkers do their jobs and draw attention.
The point: The two things above means that Romney's bounce from the debate will be ephemeral. This is why we have multiple polls, with multiple methodologies, using multiple samples, from multiple sources. Yes, samples from Thursday and Friday were bad. But, the intervening events and developments above lead to Saturday and Sunday samples being good to Obama. That's why the Gallup tracker is back to a +5 Obama gap, AND Obama has hit the magic 50% mark in it. Not to mention the EC map has only marginally narrowed, and very few post-debate polls from swing states (excluding those from Republican outfits) have been conducted and released. In other words: nothing has changed. Obama still leads, the electoral map still favors him, two polls and one debate do not make a race, your hair is not on fire, and Obama has learned his lesson and will be back in force for round two. In the meantime, I guarantee Biden has prepped well for his debate with Ryan. Seriously people, chill the fuck out on this.
But what I would really like to explore is the reaction to the debate, both on here and generally in the media. What I still find so surreal about the whole thing is that Romney lied with energy for two hours, revealed no details on his vision for the future, but the pizazz he brought equals a win. I mean, really?! I get it: Obama seemed distant and seemed like he didn't want to be there. Maybe because, I don't know, it was his anniversary, he's still president, and he was debating someone who has not put any serious proposals forward for addressing significant national problems. I mean seriously, who could blame him?
President Obama went out there and said, "Well, here's what Romney's been saying for the last several years, here's why it's silly, and here's what I will do." And Romney just flailed his arms around and went, "Nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh, nuh-uh" for an hour. And since Romney performed his arm-flailing and denials with pizazz, the television media and pundits were like, "OMFG ROMNEY DOMINATED WE HAVE A RACE HOLY HELL OBAMA SUCKED LALALALALA!" I feel like I was watching a completely different debate than the rest of the world sometimes. I just listened to the pundits afterward and read the op-eds thinking, "Why do we have you guys around?" I mean, if only Thomas Jefferson could see what they have decided to use the freedom of the press for...
Of course, I don't deny the polls, the public perception, and the pundit reaction that Obama "lost." It's just still dumbfounding to me that being right on the facts, not lying, correcting a lie once and moving on (even though it gets repeated over and over), and laying out detailed plans, but doing so without sufficient energy, or shouting, or condescending, or interrupting, or otherwise disrespecting your opponent is somehow a LOSS. I mean, imagine describing this to someone who didn't see it:
"So what did Romney say about his plans?"
"Well, that his previous plans are not his plans."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, he won't cut taxes. Or he will, but but he will close loopholes."
"What's Romney going to do to Obamacare?"
"Repeal and replace it."
"Replace it with what?"
"What about pre-existing conditions?"
"Well he'll still mandate that those are covered."
"How will he make that work without expanding insurance access?"
"Didn't say. Obamacare already does it and provides the means for it to work though."
"Okay, well what about Medicare?"
"Well, under Romney's plan for Medicare, young people today will get an option for a voucher to buy private insurance when they retire."
"Won't that undermine traditional Medicare?"
"Yes. Obama pointed that out too. But Romney said Obama cut Medicare."
"Did Obama cut Medicare?"
"No. Obama explained that he lowered payments to service providers, eliminated waste, fraud, and abuse, and eliminated the big giveaway of taxpayer dollars to insurance companies through Medicare Advantage to make Medicare more solvent for a longer period of time without any cuts to benefits."
"But Romney kept repeating it even after that."
"Well, what about the economy? What was Romney's plan?"
"That his tax cuts and eliminating regulations will grow the economy. He said it would create 12 million jobs."
"Oh. Did he say how?"
"But didn't you say that Romney denied his tax cut plan?"
"Well, yes, he did. But he said he would only do it if it was deficit neutral. But that it was still central to creating jobs."
"I thought we already tried that? What about Obama?"
"He said we should invest in job-training by expanding access to community colleges and creating partnerships with businesses. He said we should update our infrastructure, as he laid out in the American Jobs Act. He said we should close loopholes that encourage investing overseas. He said we should invest in improving education and hiring 150,000 more teachers."
"Well, who are they saying won?"
"Romney. By a landslide."
"?????? I think I need to sit down...Why are they saying that?"
"Obama seemed 'listless,' like he didn't want to be there. Romney had energy and enthusiasm."
"But Romney didn't say anything significant or worthwhile?"
"Well, that's the world we live in now."
I don't blame President Obama for being caught a little flat footed. He probably naively expected more from the media and, well, the public. I thought Romney seemed desperate, and his rude talking down of the moderator and interrupting the President fit with the image of him being a spoiled, rich, entitled brat. And then I heard the reactions and thought, "Am I crazy? Did I not just see someone offer no plan, a bunch of lies, and even more 'No it's my turn' whining? That's winning? When did that happen?"