If you're a Romney partisan, and you've seen Barack Obama move ahead in the polls over the last couple of weeks, you may be saying to yourself, "Maybe the debates can save him." After all, the four debates (three presidential, one VP) are the the only planned events between now and election day. Though you never know what kind of unexpected events might occur, tens of millions of voters will be watching. And so many times in the past, the race has been transformed by a dramatic debate moment.
Except that's actually not true. As John Sides lays out quite well, after all the sound and fury, debates almost never change the trajectory of the race. Of course, something never happens up until the moment that it happens, but there's strong reason to believe that the debates will change nothing this year in particular. But before I get to that, here's Sides:
Former governor Mitt Romney’s serial gaffes seem to be doing cumulative damage not just to his own campaign, but to Senate and even House races.
In the days since Romney’s clumsy attempt to make political gain from the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Politico’spiece revealing ineptitude and finger-pointing at the Republican National Convention, and the leak of the infamous “47-Percent” video, Democratic Senate candidates in most contested seats have opened up leads, according to usually trustworthy polls.
Until not long ago, there was a widespread assumption that the economy could well be Barack Obama's undoing. After all, no president since Franklin Roosevelt had been re-elected with unemployment as high as it is now, so if Obama were to prevail, it would take an unusual combination of factors that usually matter only on the margins—the skills of the respective candidates, a foreign crisis or two—to allow him to win.
Fox with a thoughtful exploration of the topic, featuring Donald Trump.
Mitt Romney and his Republican allies thought they had a way to diffuse the fallout from his now-legendary secretly recorded fundraising video when somebody unearthed a tape of President Obama saying he favored "redistribution." Sure, the tape is 14 years old. And sure, as Jamelle pointed out yesterday, pretty much everybody favors redistribution in some form, even Mitt Romney (if he didn't, he'd be advocating removing all progressivity from the tax code). Romney is bringing it up whenever he can, as is Paul Ryan, and the Obama tape has been shown on Fox News approximately three million times in the last 24 hours. Are they a little desperate? Of course. But the fact that they think such a thing will have even the remotest impact on what people think of Barack Obama shows that they are existing within an ideological cocoon that makes it almost impossible for them to figure out what they're doing wrong.
It isn't just that the tape is 14 years old (and man, has Obama aged in that time), or that what he's saying is pretty innocuous. It's that they think there's any statement of Obama's that they can unearth that will change how voters think of him. As though some significant number of voters are going to say, "I've been watching this guy on television every day for the last four years, but this 14-year-old videotape that contains the word "redistribution" has finally made me realize that he's a dangerous socialist. I was undecided before, but now you've got my vote, Mitt."
A new Gallup poll shows that 36% of voters are less likely to vote for Mitt Romney as a result of the video in which he said that 47% of of Americans are dependent on government and consider themselves victims. In contrast, 20% said they were more likely to vote for him. The rest weren't swayed one way or the other. Among independents, 29% said they were now less likely to vote for him while only 15% were more likely.
Yesterday, surveying the Romney ruins in the aftermath of the Libya fiasco and the 47 percent flap, Nick Gillespie at Reason led his post by declaring, “President Barack Obama is one lucky bastard.” In a very narrow sense, he’s right: Obama has certainly been fortunate to draw two general-election opponents whose political savvy is no match for his. He was lucky in 2004, too, to end up running for U.S. Senate against the unhinged Alan Keyes. But these are the strokes of happy fortune—and propitious timing—that any politician needs to ascend to White House heights.
Lots of Republican conservatives, Paul Ryan and Bill O’Reilly among them, have taken the position that even if Mitt Romney’s rhetoric was clumsy, his point was basically right. Some Americans pay taxes; others collect benefits.
But his basic claim was total baloney. When you count income taxes, payroll taxes, excise taxes, and highly regressive state and local taxes, the typical lower income working American pays about one-fifth of his or her income in taxes—more than Mitt Romney!
According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, the bottom fifth of the income distribution paid 17.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The second-poorest fifth paid 21.2 percent.
Take a breath and think carefully. Was Mitt Romney's candid-camera comment on how he'd handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really as awful as it sounds at first?
Actually, yes. In fact, it's even worse, especially if you are listening to it in Israel, or the Palestinian territories, or anywhere else in the Middle East. The man who would be president of the United States has said that he would throw the entire region under the bus.
Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats. The ancient Greeks had word for it—a phrase, actually: Character is Fate.
In one misstep after another, Mitt keeps revealing his true character. What we’re learning about him is that he is another rich guy who is disdainful of ordinary people; that he can’t speak off the cuff without blundering; and that he is clueless when it comes to foreign policy—not to mention ordinary diplomacy.
A lovely pattern has set in. Mitt says something truly dumb and alienating to ordinary Americans. The campaign goes into panic mode, and can’t decide whether to walk it back or double down.
It's a lot easier to talk about a law—and pass one—than to implement it. Just ask Pennsylvania lawmakers—and Pennsylvania citizens, and judges, and voting-rights activists.
The state's voter ID law, passed by Republican lawmakers in March, is best known for threatening to disenfranchise more voters than laws in any other stae. But in mid-August, Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson refused to grant an injunction to stop the state from implementing the law in November. The judge said that he believed state officials' assurances that they had plans in place (though some were still not in action) to prevent widespread disenfranchisement.
The world has rarely seen a more fiercely determined smile than the one that stayed fixed on Mitt Romney’s face throughout his Tuesday-afternoon interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto. Scrambling furiously to rescue his already-floundering campaign after Mother Jones’s release of the mother of all secret campaign tapes, the beleaguered candidate must have figured that ten minutes on Fox, his more-or-less official propaganda network, was the safest (or only) option.
National Review editor Rich Lowry is not kind to Mitt Romney’s instantly infamous comments from a private gathering with fundraisers: “The overall impression of Romney at this event is of someone who overhead some conservative cocktail chatter and maybe read a conservative blog or two, and is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read.”