I'm going to call it: PolitiFact has now devolved into farce. Sure, maybe some things are tough calls. It can be difficult to tease out facts, or find the most accurate statistics, or look something up from the old-timey days of the 1990s. But this one reads like an Onion piece making
of PolitiFact—that's how ridiculous it is.
Here's the statement being fact checked. During Thursday's debate, Mitt Romney said:
"I've never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot."
Now, people had a wee bit of a problem with this, because the context was Romney's vote for Democrat Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. The Republicans certainly were having a primary that day as well: The incumbent president, George H.W. Bush, was running against Pat Buchanan. Now we can all look back now and have a good laugh at permanent cable news fixture Pat Buchanan taking on the incumbent president, but they both were certainly "on the ballot" in the 1992 primaries. So Mitt's completely making stuff up on this one—his critics have got him dead to rights. In the past, he's argued that he voted for Paul Tsongas for various strategic reasons, but this time around, in front of a national audience, he flatly claimed there was no Republican on the ballot. That statement is absolutely false. There were two!
Can't wait for the fact-checkers' ruling on this one, can you? Well, here's PolitiFact's decision:
In the Jacksonville debate, Romney said, "I've never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot." Romney has been open about the strategy behind his decision, and we expect many voters would have done the same thing. We see two contrary interpretations as having merit. Romney has a point that the ballot he was handed didn’t include any Republicans. On the other hand, Romney had a right to request a GOP ballot that day and opted not to. We rate the statement Half True.
Got that? They're giving this one to Mitt Romney, because Mitt Romney asked for a Democratic ballot, and there were no Republicans on the Democratic ballot.
No, seriously. Let's just all absorb that wisdom for a moment. The statement "I've never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot" is declared "half true" because there were no Republicans on the Democratic ballot Mitt requested.
As ostensible checkers of facts, PolitiFact devotes most of its analysis to a long explanation of how back in 2007, Romney said he was voting for Paul Tsongas because he thought Tsongas was the weakest candidate, i.e., casting a strategic vote, and how as an independent he certainly could have done such a thing (and PolitiFact even points out, in the body of its analysis, how Mitt Romney in 1994 used his vote for Tsongas to burnish his moderate, independent credentials, which conflicts with that more recent explanation that he was only voting Democratic to choose a weak candidate. As usual, Mitt Romney has offered a whole host of explanations over the years.) And that's great, if PolitiFact was fact-checking things Mitt Romney said in 2007, or in 1994. But the statement they were supposedly fact-checking, the quote right there in the nice big box, is the one where Mitt Romney claimed there were no Republicans on the ballot.
To acknowledge that there were Republicans on the ballot, but call Mitt Romney's claim "half true" because there weren't Republicans on the Democratic ballot Romney specifically asked for? That may be the single most ridiculous ruling among PolitiFact's growing history of ridiculous rulings.
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