Political Animal


October 08, 2012 9:58 AM What It Always Was

By Ed Kilgore

Despite the excitement of Republicans (and horse-race-frenzied pundits of every variety) over the first presidential debate, anyone looking at the race seriously knew we’d have a wait a few days before there was evidence about whether and how much the event had affected the contest, and longer than that to see if was ultimately going to matter at all.

There was a lot of excitement among conservatives on Saturday when, as Sam Wang of Princeton Election Consortium put it, “a remarkably sharp and large downtick for President Obama” was shown via “a massive polling release from three Republican-leaning pollsters: Rasmussen, Gravis, and We Ask America.” The Gallup tracking poll was showing a sizable shift towards Romney as well, though not enough to wipe out Obama’s lead.

With the benefit of another day’s perspective and a bit more tracking poll data, Nate Silver reached the conclusion last night that (a) there was indeed a Romney “debate bounce;” but (b) it seems to have already subsided. Nate figures (with a lot of qualifications) that Romney got about a 3-point bounce, leaving him just south of 2 points behind Obama nationally, with reversion-to-mean tendencies perhaps eroding Romney’s bounce a bit unless something new happens to give it staying power.

Another way of putting it all is that we may be back to about where we were before the conventions, with the added phenomena of (a) renewed enthusiasm on both sides and (b) another month of economic data and experience.

I’m about to throw up my hands and stop boring readers with too many objections to the extraordinary level of belief among conservatives this year that spinning Romney as ahead is itself a vastly important political asset. They do seem to believe it, maybe because of the impact on marginal voters of “being on the winning team,” perhaps because of the need to keep donors on board and focused on the top of the ticket, and almost certainly, in most cases, for deep psychological reasons of their own. At the elite, chattering-class level, conservatives are, after all, in the habit of thinking of themselves as “winners” in life, and of Democrats as a vast coalition of “losers.” This is why so many of them are bullies by nature, and can’t really accept defeat in any legitimately framed competition. They are The Elect, and Elections should reflect that fact, right?

So it will be difficult some days to cut through the din of perpetually renewed lusty conservative cries that the Black Devil-Man in Washington is on the run, and to avoid the temptation to spin right back just to annoy the wingnuts. But I am going to try, and best I can tell, the presidential race is what it always was—a close contest that could go either way—but with the fundamentals now favoring Obama to the point where it will take more than endless and interminable and often silly hype (I’m going to scream if I hear one more reference to “energy levels”) over one debate to change the outcome.

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.


  • c u n d gulag on October 08, 2012 10:17 AM:

    The problem with renewed enthusiasm by Conservatives, is that after they lose, there will be blood.

    If Obama wins, I think they will go nuts on November 7th - or MORE nuts, I should say.

    I'm not kidding, they may riot, and call for a military coup.

    FOX "News" and Radio Rushwanda may very well determine how crazy they may get.

    Let's hope that Roger Aisles still has some sanity in his fat old body, and that Rush's head or heart explodes at the voting results (but, then, he has neither, so that's not likely to happen) - or they both realize that 4 more years of having that interloping Kenyan Socialist darkie in the White House is good for their business. Hate sells.

  • sjw on October 08, 2012 10:25 AM:

    I beg to differ: it is where it is. A week ago Obama was riding high. He had a chance to put it away and lock it up on Wednesday. Instead he wimped out in the debate, unable to show a modicum of passion for his policies or even to call out a liar. The result is a significant 3-point bounce in Romney's favor. Another anti-Obama bounce could happen again with bad economic news or another bad debate performance or a retooled Romney aided-and-abetted by a MSM wanting a neck-and-neck race to the finish. It ain't over. I'd love to say that I am comforted by the fact that Obama is a fighter: he's made the claim, but I've seen too many head-in-the-sand episodes to feel anything except worry right now.

  • stormskies on October 08, 2012 10:31 AM:

    If in fact the 'bounce' for Romney did occur, if, then what does it say not only about the nature of our corporate media, but Americans themselves, that this pathological liar lied 27 times in 38 minutes and was then declared the 'winner' ?

    How many times have we heard in past presidential elections that for any Repiglican to be elected president that he would have to have, at minimum, 40% of the Hispanic vote ? We have heard it over and over as we all know. Yet we don't hear it at all now because the latest polls show buffoon Romney has about 20% support with the Hispanics. So exactly why are we not hearing this now from the corporate media who has declared Romney the 'winner' of the last debate.

    Or the fact that he has be within ten points of Obama relative to the women's vote ? The fact is, according to the polls, that Obama has about a 20% lead with the women.

    The corporate media is in fact one of the greatest dangers to our country because they create narratives and story lines that are simply the vehicle of the propaganda they generate that furthers the corporate agendas.

    So we end up with creeps like David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory talking about the delusion of Obama 'cooking the books' over the 7.8 percent unemployment rate and interviewing, of all people, the hemorrhoid called Newt Gingrich to see if that is possible at all. And, of course, the used condom got the answer from the hemorrhoid that he wanted. "Yes, it is possible".

    Like I said the corporate media is a clear and present danger to what is left of our once great country.

  • Ron Byers on October 08, 2012 10:32 AM:

    The problem for conservatives is there are very few voters out there who haven't already made up their minds. Obama's debate performance alone isn't enough to change things that much.

    That said Obama's debate performance does point to a real problem facing Democrats in general. By focusing far too much on the problems and practical solutions Democrats fall into a familiar trap. Democrats have to be able to articulate a real vision for the next 4 years, one that is both achievable and inspiring at the same time. Facts might have a liberal bias, but people look for inspiration and aspiration when thinking about the future. Great political leaders never forget that they have to inspire as well as articulate practical solutions.

  • c u n d gulag on October 08, 2012 11:18 AM:

    You'll love this:


    Disco Dancin' Dave Gregory is the Keynote Speaker at a GOP event.

  • PTate in MN on October 08, 2012 11:23 AM:

    Ed Kilgore: good post. I chuckled at the "black devil-man" in Washington image. So sadly true.

    stormskies: good comment! What does it say about our public discourse that Romney could lie so much during the debate and not be roundly condemned for it? Instead of declaring him the winner, he should be disqualified for a want of moral integrity.

    I don't have a high opinion of the wisdom of the American electorate, but the idea that "winning" a debate qualifies one to be POTUS--rather than policies and character--just leaves me flabbergasted. Just how many gullible fools are out there?

    And I will scream the next time I hear someone comment that "Romney looked more Presidential." Jeebus! What kind of implicit stereotype is knocking around inside the skull of the person who says something like that? Get over it, idiots. Update your unconscious representations of POTUS as handsome, rich, white guys who ooze testosterone. Obama IS the President. Obama is what Presidents look like.

    Finally, c u n d gulag: "If Obama wins, I think they will go nuts on November 7th" Yeah, I'll second that. I suspect we haven't seen anything yet. History is full of disgruntled uprisings against legitimate authority. Back in the day, the conspirators would usually be rounded up, imprisoned and exiled after a few leaders were drawn and quartered. Life would go on. Here, with our 1st amendment protection, the rabble rousing and fevered delusions can continue unabated. There's no one who can knock sense into these disordered minds, and many who benefit from keeping them riled up and confused.

  • bluewave on October 08, 2012 11:39 AM:

    Pretty important to keep it looking "close" and keep feeding the narrative of the 50/50 election. Because if Obama is ahead 7 or 8 in the polls and Romney "wins", a fair chunk of the country will be upset, to say the least. But if a convincing narrative that allows for "a late surge by Romney, "last minute movement away from the president", etc., etc. is built, then Democrats and Independents, while unhappy, will shrug their shoulders and respect the rule of law. Which is more than the Tea Partiers would do in the same situation.

    Happy to be wrong, but just sayin'.

  • Jes curious on October 08, 2012 12:12 PM:


    "We ask America"?

    There's only one thing less trustworthy than a known pollster right-wingers promote, and that's an unknown pollster which right-wingers promote.

    Anyone else ever heard of them before?

  • Joe Friday on October 08, 2012 12:44 PM:


    The polling in the battleground states hasn't gone anywhere versus the MOE.

    The MSM desperately needs a racehorse story.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 08, 2012 2:02 PM:

    Obama could have ended the race last Wednesday. Period.

    His impotence has done a lot more damage than what everybody is seeing. Very, very damaging performance, and Kilgore is vastly downplaying it. If two idiots out of a 100 changed their minds because of a fake alpha male during the rutting season...

    Romney-Ryan are on to new fabrications, new stories, new things to have to respond to. It's not possible to keep up with it. Obama-Biden are left trying to respond. And the press is only concerned with who speaks with the most thunder; the truth of it of little concern.

  • yellowdog on October 08, 2012 2:06 PM:

    stormskies had a good response, I think.

    It is troubling indeed that the MSM saw the first debate as a Romney win. I saw it as a lesson in Romney's incoherence, inconsistency, and lack of candor on basic policy issues. Just who is this guy and what does he want to do? I am afraid the answer is that he is someone who will cave in at every turn to the right wing. Obama said Wednesday, in a point he should make again, that Romney has never taken a stand against even the farthest out-there members of his party. Romney cannot say no to them. Look at how weakly he has responded to the latest nonsense, on BLS. It gives you a pretty good idea that his appeal to bipartisanship was an empty and cynical gesture. He is still chasing the right-wing, not leading his party in any meaningful way. That will continue in his policy agenda if he is elected.