Friday, August 31, 2012

Election 2012: Post-RNC Update

Well ... that was certainly interesting. Given what went down last night, I think it would be appropriate to recap the Republican National Convention with the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good: I have been saying for some time that Mitt Romney's Vice-Presidential pick would give us a bit of a window into his decision-making. It's the first Presidential decision that the nominee makes. What, why and how gives you the template for their decision-making, and some idea of how their Administration would go. We saw Reagan and Clinton both pick former rivals as running mates. We saw Bush the Elder pick a non-entity. Bush the Younger picked Dick Cheney, who was the chair of the search committee, and who became a virtual shadow President. And do we need to rehash McCain's choice? Mitt Romney ended up picking Paul Ryan. And yes, I think that's a good thing. And yes, I think that reflects credit upon Romney as a candidate. He didn't pick someone to be a media-wowing "game changer". He picked someone with serious policy cred. Even if you don't agree with him (and in a lot of ways I don't) you can't dismiss him out of hand. Not only does he have some policy chops, and some legislative experience, he also comes from a swing state. That's a pretty canny choice. It brings me a bit of relief. The world probably won't end if Romney were to win.

The Bad: But ... what on God's green earth was Team Romney smoking last night? I mean, I like Eastwood as an actor. I like him as a director. But dear Lord, improv is not his form. And that was a huge speed bump in what could have been a perfectly stellar nomination night. The video got rave reviews, and was a great starting piece. If they'd slid from that into Rubio's speech, and if Rubio's speech has been more about Romney than about Rubio, then the lead-up to Romney's acceptance speech would have been an ascending crescendo of splendor. But no. Which makes you ask, who's driving this bus, anyway?

The Ugly: The purified, distilled crazy at the bottom of the pot, that would be my suspicion. The incident with the CNN camera operator -- you know, the one where they threw peanuts at an African-American and said "this is how we feed animals" -- tells you just about all you need to know about the sorry state of the GOP today. This is why I can't be a Republican. They can claim they were just random guys, but you know that they had to have been either delegates or alternates, which means that their home state party vetted them and sent them as their representatives. No one gets out on the convention floor that's not a delegate or an alternate. This is distilled, concentrated ugliness. The very idea of an African-American President utterly unhinges them. Republicans don't like it when people say this, but... Pray tell, where was the Tea Party, alleged "libertarians" that they claim to be, when the Patriot Act was being passed? Where was the Tea Party when Bush was spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave? Nowhere, that's where. They didn't show up until November 5, 2008. I find the timing suspicious.

And now, the numbers. As usual, my data sources are Intrade, FiveThirtyEight, and Pollster. Information is current as of Friday afternoon.

From Intrade:

Barack Obama (D): 57.4%, 281  EV (-0.4%, -6 EV)
Mitt Romney (R): 42.6%, 232 EV (+2.8%, -18 EV)

From FiveThirtyEight:

Barack Obama (D): 71.6%, 302.4 EV (+0.5%, +2.8 EV)
Mitt Romney(R): 28.4%, 235.6 EV (-0.5%, -2.8 EV)

From Pollster:

Strong D: 211 (+20)
Lean D: 20 (-79)
Tossup: 116 (+59)
Lean R: 16 (+16)
Strong R: 175 (-16)

The Pollster map is fascinating, as always, but I'm not really sure what it means. Both sides' support is softening in the negativity of the campaign. But the negativity is hurting Romney far more than it's hurting Obama. Romney is softening in places he can't afford to, and still has to clean up all but one of the toss-ups. Obama only has to pick up two or three of the toss-ups, so long as he can hold onto his "lean" states.

And I'm still curious about the divergence between the gambling public and the pollsters. I'm pretty sure it comes down to the fact that a man might lie to a pollster, but won't lie to a bookie.

What Romney Must Do: That last-day bobble at the convention was unfortunate. They needed a more coherent message. They're going to have to go at it hammer-and-tongs over Labor Day weekend, then there's a week-long blackout while all eyes are on Charlotte. There's really no option for them but the nuclear option: go negative, and go big. Negative advertising sickens independents and rallies the base, at least in theory. It probably won't work. But that's about the only card they have to play.

What Obama Must Do: Avoid major screw-ups in their own convention. Draw the public's attention to their accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, such as they are. Obama never did a very good job of selling health care reform, this is his chance for a do-over. And Biden's idea for a slogan is still a pretty good one: "General Motors is alive, and Bin Laden is dead." (But sorry, Joe, I won't be watching your speech. You're on opposite Cowboys/Giants. I'll read the transcript later.)

And The Winner Is: Odds are holding steady at 3-2, as they have for months. I don't expect much movement in the next two weeks. I'd take Obama/Biden at 3-2 for the win, and I'd probably take 290 EVs for the over/under.

Remember, vote early, and vote often!

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