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September 10, 2012 11:30 AM Panic Attack

By Ed Kilgore

As Nate Silver noted over the weekend, four major national tracking polls (Gallup, Ipsos, RAND, and—yes—Rasmussen) all showed Obama making significant gains against Mitt Romney during and immediately after the Democratic Convention.

Although the “bounce” was relatively modest, and as Nate and everyone else have been careful to observe, it could quickly fade, a bit of a panic attack seems to have set in amongst the more aggressive Mitt-Can’t-Lose spinners of the conservative chattering classes. In a pretty amazing pot-calls-kettle-black gesture, Jay Cost questioned Nate’s objectivity. His counter-attack went after the straw man of “Obama winning the summer” instead of the more limited claim that Obama’s gotten the better of the convention battles, and his case for Romney’s strength in state polls depends on excluding the “partisan” PPP surveys but not the “non-partisan” Rasmussen numbers.

Well, whatever; Jay’s staked his rep on confidently predicting a Romney victory every minute of the cycle, so none of this is surprising. More telling, perhaps, is that the Romney campaign hurried out a memo to the troops from their own polling director that is about one-third spin, one-third boasting about the GOP’s money and ground-game (first time I’ve heard them claim an advantage in this area, though the memo actually just compares Mitt’s GOTV resources to McCain’s), and one-third empty assertions that Mitt Will Win Because Mitt Is Good For America.

You can assess this furious denial of a problem as you wish. But what continues to amaze me is the palpable fear and loathing of Republicans towards any adverse public opinion findings, which seem to reflect a sort of self-hypnosis wherein admitting the possibility of an Obama victory will somehow affect the results. Sure, there are some Democrats who think Obama’s going to run away with it all, but not that many; most seem to expect a cliff-hanger, and those who don’t are pretty much keeping their over-confidence to themselves. With a few honorable exceptions (e.g., Sean Trende), though, Team Mitt and its echo-chamber are acting as though defeat is almost literally impossible. It makes you wonder if they’ll be willing to accept defeat on November 6, if it happens. I’m afraid some will be out there the next day, still spinning madly, and that, of course, will be a recipe for a contested election, either in the courts (if it’s very close) or among conservative activists who will be eager to believe Obama has stolen the presidency again!

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • rea on September 10, 2012 11:40 AM:

    If Romney's really ahead, why did they cancel ad buys in Michigan and Pennsylvania?

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  • Daryl Cobranchi on September 10, 2012 11:45 AM:

    Yeah, I was down at my local Dem HQ the other day and overheard a plan that ACORN is going to bus (spaceship?) in whole herds of Martians (the ultimate illegal aliens) to steal the election for Obama.

  • Lifelong Dem on September 10, 2012 11:49 AM:

    A bounce in the polls is nice, but this election will be all about the turnout. That's why the GOP has been so aggressive with Voter ID laws and other measures aimed at suppressing Democratic turnout.

    Anyone interested in seeing Obama win has to do their part to get out the vote. GOTV!

  • Gummo on September 10, 2012 11:50 AM:

    I’m afraid some will be out there the next day, still spinning madly, and that, of course, will be a recipe for a contested election, either in the courts (if it’s very close) or among conservative activists who will be eager to believe Obama has stolen the presidency again!

    Well, that's the entire plan and has been since Obama first got elected.

    "He's not really a Christian." "He's not really an American." "He's not ONE OF US."

    All dogwhistles meant to delegitimize Obama's presidency.

  • LAC on September 10, 2012 11:50 AM:

    Well, that explains the shrillness of Jennifer Rubin's latest drivel. She swings for the upper decks, but as always misses.

  • c u n d gulag on September 10, 2012 11:53 AM:

    I think their supposed great ground game factors in the 17 million Evangelical Cristians that Ralph Reed claims are on a list, and will be hit with a barrage of phone calls, mail pieces, and door-to-door efforts before Election Day:

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Reed-evangelical-vote-religion/2012/06/15/id/442510

    I suppose Republicans still haven't learned that if that smarmy pr*ck, Ralph Reed, is selling something, the best course of action, is closing the door on his face, shuttering the windows, and hiding your wallet.

  • MuddyLee on September 10, 2012 11:53 AM:

    Mitt and Lyin Ryan won't win it, and they probably can't steal it given the experience the dems gained during the 2000 election fiasco - but they CAN probably have a great election night "silver medal" party with Hank Williams Jr on hand to provide the entertainment.

  • Basilisc on September 10, 2012 12:02 PM:

    And if they do lose, get ready for the impeachment. The exact charges - Fast and Furious? Leaking national security docs? - may be hard to predict right now, but there's no doubt that it's coming.

  • Eeyore on September 10, 2012 12:05 PM:

    My nightmare is this: on election night, the Republicans see Mittens going down to defeat. The GOP governors of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida start screaming VOTE FRAUD (a black panther type was seen outside a polling booth) and send in the cops to seal off the ballot boxes and stop the vote count. Those states go un-counted, it goes to the Supreme Court. The Supes conVEEEENiently determine that Bush v. Gore suddenly IS a determining precedent, award the electoral votes of those states to Mittens, and there you are.

  • Josef K on September 10, 2012 12:09 PM:

    This cuts both ways, you know. The public has apparently woken up to the various voter ID cons and aren't likely to give R/R much benefit of the doubt if they squeak out a win here.

    Granted it won't cause the GOP to so much as pause for a single breath these days. Mores the pity we now live in such interesting times; it means literally anything can happen.

  • jprichva on September 10, 2012 12:14 PM:

    How about my nightmare? Obama wins, but Fox tells its viewers that Romney won. They don't have any other source for news, so when Obama takes the oath of office they grab their guns and head to the streets, convinced that Obama has staged a coup d'etat.

  • Diane Rodriguez on September 10, 2012 12:22 PM:

    As long as MSM continues to support the lies on camera, the GOP spin gets traction.

    I don't watch Network Sunday am talk shows, but I eagerly await the disassembling by Driftglass and Pierce. Pierce is priceless on Gregory today, had me howling. Apparently it was so bad that the censors required the camera to pan away as Gregory fellated Romney.

  • sapient on September 10, 2012 12:32 PM:

    They're setting up people to believe that Mitt Romney won, whether or not people actually vote for him. That way if they manipulate the polls, or the numbers, it won't seem so unfathomable.

    Obama needs to win big so that there's no question.

  • Josef K on September 10, 2012 12:45 PM:

    From sapient at 12:32 PM:

    Obama needs to win big so that there's no question.

    These are people who question whether or not the Earth moves around the Sun. At this point, the incumbent could sweep all 50 States and they'd still question his legitimacy.

    The best thing that can happen is that he'll win, period. The maximal scenario is that he does so and the Democrats regain the House and Senate, and the latter gets rid of the fillibuster (irregardless of methods employed), and Boehner and McConnell both loose their leadership posts to Cantor and DeMint (respectively).

    Thats a lot of "ands", I know. At this point, I'm ready to wish for the stars, if only so I don't start considering suicide.

  • Charles on September 10, 2012 12:47 PM:

    Will the Republicans claim that Obama (and ACORN, though it no longer exists) stole the election, no matter what the vote count margin is?

    Yes.

    As Atrios would say, simple answers to simple questions.

  • mb on September 10, 2012 12:48 PM:

    I have been, for some time, supremely serene about the outcome of the election. Particularly since Mitt sealed the nomination, I have been convinced that, barring malfeasance, Obama has it in the bag.

    It is gratifying to see events unfold as expected.

  • Tom Hilton on September 10, 2012 12:48 PM:

    My favorite Mitt shill is Jennifer Rubin, who every day sounds more and more like Baghdad Bob (see her response to the campaign dropping ads in WI & PA). Hilarity ensues.

  • boatboy_srq on September 10, 2012 12:55 PM:

    Is it me, or are we all concerned that we're about to see 1860 redux? Because I sure can see South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and a handful of other states convincing themselves - and their state legislatures - that any result other than a Romney win is proof that the Union has failed (again) and try to do something about it.

  • TCinLA on September 10, 2012 1:00 PM:

    Of course Rasmussen is "non-partisan," Aren't all Republicans non-partisan and only interested in what's best for the country?

    /snark

  • lgerard on September 10, 2012 1:06 PM:

    LOL


    again with the "we're going to win New Jersey" nonsense that they try to peddle every election.

  • boatboy_srq on September 10, 2012 1:09 PM:

    @mb:

    [B]arring malfeasance, Obama has it in the bag.

    With the modern GOP - replete with voter suppression, questionable law enforcement tactics, a massive propaganda machine and a horde of deluded Teahadist followers, malfeasance isn't something we can blithely dismiss. Not that I expect the GOTea to actively subvert the democratic process, just that it's demonstrably less unlikely this year than previously.

  • John B. on September 10, 2012 1:09 PM:

    1. Polls.

    The reason partisans spin their poll standing is a lot of Americans -- especially those who truly are "independent" and "undecided' -- wind up voting for the guy they think will win. Call it the "America's Got Politicians" effect. They want to feel like they're on the side of a winner. Sad, but true.

    2. Religious Trolls.

    Cund Gulag: Do not underestimate the right-wing evangelical GOTV activities. The fact they are nearly invisible to the media and even more so to Obama partisans does NOT mean they won't be effective. Exactly as in the 19th century with the Second Awakening, the crazy religious nutbags will turn out to the polls in great numbers to record their prejudices and stupidities.

    As then, so sometime soon the day will come when they begin to lose so often (or feel betrayed by their winners) they finally retreat once again to their churches and decline to participate in such "secular" activities as voting, but that day hasn't yet come.

  • Ronald on September 10, 2012 1:19 PM:

    @John B.- I disagree with your second point. In previous elections, esp. 2010 there was a lot of action on social issues (such as gay marriage). Yeah, there is a collection of the usual 'Sturm und Drang' on the right over some issue, but with the Right so badly bumbling womens issues, even things like abortion are an almost non-starter this year.
    Besides, nobody on the far right really believes that Romney is going to stand up for their wing anyway. Even they have been coming to the conclusion that they were duped in the primary.
    That's important because with no driving social issue, they're not usually the 'hold the nose and vote for the white guy' types, at least not in large numbers.

  • Jim Pharo on September 10, 2012 1:29 PM:

    Don't most lefties believe Bush stole the election -- twice!

    To me, the insight here is that the GOP are sore losers. If they do not win, they believe the process must have been rigged, and then continue to behave as though the winner is not legitimate. While the Dems believe the process was rigged, but then go on to try to deal with the declared victor as best they can.


    Would the GOP have helped President Gore as the Dems did GWB in 2001-02? Would the GOP have stood with President Kerry as the Dems did with Bush in responding to a financial crisis?

  • Doug on September 10, 2012 1:49 PM:

    I've been confident that President Obama would be re-elected, the only question being by how much and how large his coat-tails were. These polls give greater hope that Democrats will no only regain the House, but jus possibly increase their seats in the Senate.
    As stated up-thread, there is a large number of voters out there who will vote for the person they believe is ahead and if President Obama and the Democrats are well ahead of R/R in the polls on election day they'll tend to vote for the President. Seemingly, the Republicans are well-aware of this and THAT could explain their panic over ANY news/polls that don't support them.
    Well, that and the fact their spoiled children...
    Down-ballot races aren't so clear-cut as many voters, too many in my opinion, seem to think the Federal government runs best when power is shared between the two poarties.
    Once again it's "Back to the Fifties!"

  • boatboy_srq on September 10, 2012 1:49 PM:

    @Jim Pharo:

    The GOP have been sore losers since at least 1972. Add to that the apparent conviction that anyone other than they must necessarily be the opposite and converse from themselves, and you get the conviction that all good, Right-Thinking Ahmurrcans™ will necessarily vote GOTea. And all rascally, community-organizing, ACORN-vote-and-housing-scamming, young-buck-and-welfare-mom-coddling unAhmurrcan islamofascososhulists will necessarily vote Democrat because that's just what they do. The idea that disagreeing with them doesn't automatically indicate conviction of the exact mirror opposite of their beliefs just doesn't occur to them.

    We won't talk about the 2000 (s)election. 2004 was a gift from Florida's emergency responders: without FLDEM owning the cleanup from the 04 hurricane season, we'd have had Katrina-style FEMA response in an election year and that would've been that.

  • marcus on September 10, 2012 1:58 PM:

    I'll say it out loud....Obama by a landslide.

  • mb on September 10, 2012 2:16 PM:

    @boatboy_srq:

    Believe me, I don't discount malfeasance, or blithely dismiss it. It's just that Mitt is such a perfect example of the "Designated Loser" pattern in the GOP, I feel it (Mitt losing) is almost inevitable.

    I don't doubt Mitt wants to win but everybody else in his party (people he's depending on to help him win) wants him to lose -- with the possible exception of Paul Ryan, though I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he'd rather have a clean shot at the top spot in 2016, too.

    It is not just that they all want to run for president in 2016. Apparently, everyone who gets to know Romney, particularly as a political rival, ends up hating him. This suggests to me that the asshole we all see on TV is the real Mitt. It also suggests that Mitt has a base of support within the structure of his party that essentially hates him. Some base of support.

    Bottom line: I'm not sure there will, or can, be enough malfeasance to compensate for the massive failure that is the Romney candidacy.

  • JM917 on September 10, 2012 2:17 PM:

    If the Republicans keep the House, take it as a maxim that they will find some ridiculous combination of trumped-up charges to impeach Obama--probably sometime in 2014, as they ramp up for the fall elections. To their constituency, he is plainly the beast with seven heads and ten horns: Rev. 12.3.

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  • Peter C on September 10, 2012 3:02 PM:

    I think there are two reasons that the Republicans must react loudly to any indication that Romney is falling behind.

    First, their main GOTV organizers are Evangelical PREACHERS, and these people think that Mormonism is a cult, and have said so in the past. The preacher's power comes from the congregation (more than from some top-down power structure like the Catholic Church). The preachers stake their reputations when the mobilize their congregations. If Romney is losing, they will think twice about backing him. A loss in a fight is one thing when the champion is your candidate, but another thing when the top of the ticket is a cult leader. The Republicans need it to look like Romney will win. It is easy to back a winner, but MUCH harder to take a flyer on a RINO Mormon.

    Second, if the election is close, they can hack into the DREs and electronic tabulators and win, but the results have to be CREDIBLE. By November 2008, a McCain/Palin win was pretty unlikely, and too many states would have to have been 'cooked' in order to get a McCain win. This time, they've already said that they are going for a 50.1% electoral college win, so they've already lost a lot of ground.

    We've got an interesting challenge: we've got to sell the idea of an Obama landslide (and thus win the 'expectation wars') AND we've got to maintain our GOTV enthusiasm. I think the key to that is to work for a 'wave' election and not just an Obama 'landslide'. Frankly, things will not improve as much as they should if we don't flip the House, keep the Senate and have Obama win re-election. But, you don't get your 'best case' scenario unless you shoot for it. Happily, the Republicans have picked their weakest general election candidate AND tied him to the whole House Republican agenda, letting us run against Republicans all at once when their standard-bearer is transparently 'only in it for himself'.

  • max on September 10, 2012 3:09 PM:

    I was gonna apologize for length but everyone else is going long, so...

    His counter-attack went after the straw man of “Obama winning the summer” instead of the more limited claim that Obama’s gotten the better of the convention battles

    Well, now that he's gone and point that out, I think it would be fair to respond that since Romney is the challenger (or the 'attacker' in military lingo) he needs to move ahead to have a chance. Unfortunately, no matter how much pretend they put behind it, he didn't. So yeah, Obama won the battle of the conventions... which capped off winning the summer.

    one-third spin, one-third boasting about the GOP’s money and ground-game (first time I’ve heard them claim an advantage in this area, though the memo actually just compares Mitt’s GOTV resources to McCain’s), and one-third empty assertions that Mitt Will Win Because Mitt Is Good For America.

    So, in theory, with a better ground game than McCain, they've should finish ahead of Obama, if only Obama didn't have a better ground game than Obama had last time and wasn't the incumbent. Gee.

    (The other thing I heard over the weekend is that some Romney campaign guy said they never topped 25% in the R primaries but still one, so obvs. he can pull this one out. To which one is compelled to respond, this isn't a primary contest that can be fixed like that one was, and Romney isn't trying to run as Anybody but Obama against another guy running as Anybody but Obama in a contest to see who can challenge Obama. To be fair, this *is* a primary contest of a sort - it's a primary between the Southern wing and the Northern wing of FDR's New Deal coalition. And Mitt is running as Hoover.

    Yeah, that's gonna work.)

    Sure, there are some Democrats who think Obama’s going to run away with it all, but not that many;

    That would be me! };)

    most seem to expect a cliff-hanger, and those who don’t are pretty much keeping their over-confidence to themselves.

    I think the D's warning of overconfidence have bought too much into the R's self-hypnotic confidence. Which is one of the points of engaging in self-hypnotic confidence. In theory.

    With a few honorable exceptions (e.g., Sean Trende), though, Team Mitt and its echo-chamber are acting as though defeat is almost literally impossible.

    I read that post from Trende you linked, and he made the best case for Romney that could be honestly made, and Trende was over-hyping it as it was.

    But I think it helps to point out here that the R's were considering allowing PA to be divided into individual electoral votes. That telegraphs to me that they had assessed the situation thought there was no way they were going to win PA, and I concurred with their *implied* real assessment. They did their damndest to rig the vote in Florida, VA, and Ohio, which tells me they thought they were going to lose other. And I concurred with their implicit real assessment. Based on other things they said, and their intense dedication to Ohio, VA and Florida, it implied they didn't think they could get New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. And I concurred with their implied real assessment. George Will threw in the towel on the presidential race in January as did others, obliquely. Again, I concurred with their assessment. Do the math on the EVs and it was obvious they thought they were going to lose. I agreed! (Note that that list doesn't include Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina or Indiana. And at the far end, doesn't include (in order) Georgia, Arizona and Texas.)

    Nothing has changed since then. Why the Democratic commetariat has opted to ignore this is unclear to me. (Caution? Fear? Lack of ability to apply pressure to Obama?)

    So the entire R campaign has been based on BS, as you would have noticed. Make Romney appear plausible, pretend he doesn't believe things he believes, keep it close, or

  • MURPHRO2 on September 10, 2012 3:23 PM:

    They did not accept defeat in 2008, why would you expect them to accept it in 2012? Especially now that Obama has been "exposed"!

  • Frank Wilhoit on September 10, 2012 5:10 PM:

    "...the palpable fear and loathing of Republicans towards any adverse public opinion findings..."

    Some Democrats still believe that something rational or substantive is going on, whereas Republicans correctly understand that it is all 100% pure theater.

  • Doug on September 10, 2012 9:26 PM:

    "...the palpable fear and loathing of Republicans towards any adverse public opinion findings..." Ed Kilgore

    Maybe that's because they feel betrayed? After all, they spent 20+ long, hard years demonizing any and all factual reporting because it was "biased" against them. Is all that effort to be ignored? If there aren't any polls out there that can be used to "balance" these polls, then obviously these polls should never have seen the light of day. Harrumph!
    Or perhaps it's because they've been lying all along, they KNOW they've been lying all along and they just don't like everyone else to know they've been lying all along to themselves and everyone else?
    I'm easy with either one...

  • Matt McIrvin on September 11, 2012 12:12 PM:

    It's not going to be a landslide. Obama will get most, but not all, of his states from 2008 (definitely not Indiana, probably not the Omaha district in Nebraska, maybe not North Carolina, and it's possible he'll lose somewhere else). He will not open up any new areas of the map.

    But I think he'll win, and it won't be a nailbiter on the level of 2000 or 2004. There will be vote suppression, but it won't make the difference unless Obama's already badly screwed up the endgame relative to where he is now.

    Control of the Senate, though, will be a nailbiter. Maybe control of the House as well.