Election 2012

The Comeback Kids

Six months ago, liberals were preparing for the worst. After a winter of fast growth, the economy had begun to slow down and unemployment had begun to creep back up. Mitt Romney was close behind in the race for the White House, and there was little indication that President Obama could pull ahead and win. And the Senate, a stronghold for Democrats over the last six years, looked vulnerable.

Colorado: The Florida of 2012?

(Flickr/Chris&Rhiannon)

Unlike 10 other states this year—the most strict of which are Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kansas—Colorado has no law that will require voters to show up at the polls with photo identification* on Election Day. Voting-rights activists say such laws will disenfranchise the poor, young, or very old—voters that tend to lean Democratic—and point out that the in-person vote fraud these laws are intended to address is exceedingly rare. But voter-ID laws are only the most obvious way to make it harder to vote.

The Most Mysterious Man in the Election

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

It's often said that the way a candidate runs his campaign gives insight into the way he'll run the government, but unfortunately it usually isn't true. A campaign has a few similarities to a government, but not many; likewise, while there are similarities between running for president and being president (lots of speeches, for instance), most of the really important things couldn't be more different.

Nate Silver, Artist of Uncertainty

(Flickr/Randy Stewart)

We’re heading into the last week of a tight presidential campaign, and polls are coming in too fast to count. Partisans everywhere are desperate for omens. But at moments like these, it’s people who care most intensely that the “right outcome” occur who run a high risk of getting it wrong—picking out positive polls for comfort, or panicking over an unusual and unexpected result they don’t like.

Fortunately, our most prominent number cruncher has been giving us the straight story instead of capitalizing on this anxiety. In 2008, Nate Silver correctly predicted the results of all 35 Senate races and the presidential results in 49 out of 50 states. Since then, his website, fivethirtyeight.com (now central to The New York Times’s political coverage), has become an essential source of rigorous, objective analysis of voter surveys to predict the Electoral College outcome of presidential campaigns.

Have White Voters Been Taken for Granted?

Have white voters been taken for granted? That’s the basic thesis of a recent piece from Politico’s John Hohmann, who argues that if Mitt Romney wins, it will be proof that “white voters still matter.” This, we suppose, is true. Mitt Romney is winning by historic margins among white voters, and Barack Obama's re-election depends on his ability to win over at least 40 percent of them.

The Last Word on Richard Mourdock

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock was already an extremist, not to mention not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, before he offered up his opinion on abortion and rape the other day. But I'm sure that even as he scrambles to contain the damage from his remarks, he can't quite understand what all the fuss is about. He expressed an opinion that is, among many millions of religious Americans, totally mundane: that God loves every baby and blastocyst, and therefore even a pregnancy that results from rape is good in His eyes. This episode reveals a couple of important things that are worth reiterating before we move on to the next campaign controversy, about both abortion and religion.

Hope in Maryland for Marriage Equality

I’ve heard from many folks in the Maryland and D.C. area who really, really want to win marriage equality at the ballot this November 6. And I deeply hope that you will—more profoundly than I can express. But I don’t like how the numbers look at this particular moment. Going into the balloting with only 52 percent in favor is very close; historically, we’ve lost a few points from the public polling once people get in the voting booth. In the past, 52 percent just hasn’t been enough to cut it.

Paul Ryan's Other Opponent

(Flickr/Rob Zerban for Congress)

Paul Ryan's congressional district should be prime swing territory for Democrats. The party held the seat from the 1970s through the mid '90s, and it switches its allegiances during presidential years, voting for Bush in '04 but flipping to Obama in '08. Yet for some reason Democrats haven't bothered lately to field a serious opponent against Ryan. Ryan—the boyish-faced Rage Against the Machine rocker who wears a backwards baseball cap to workout—might look like he just stepped out his college frat house before joining Mitt Romney on the Republican national ticket, but he's actually be in office since 1998, with nary a threat to his seat. This time, Rob Zerban just might be up to the task. Zerban, who formerly owned a catering business in the area, is a staunch liberal, supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget and wanting to shift the health care system to a single-payer one, what he terms "Medicare for all." There's reason for him to be hopeful. Ryan's draconian budget hasn't played well in a district full of seniors who rely on Social Security and Medicare. Zerban raised nearly $2 million through the end of September, and is running a ad against Ryan's Medicare proposals, calling them stingy. Zerban's campaign released an internal poll in early September that put him just 8-points behind Ryan; striking distance.

Fri, Oct. 26 Electoral Vote Predictor

Are We Heading toward a Split Decision?

The closer we get to election day—and it is only 12 days away now—the more likely it becomes that the voters render a split decision with Mitt Romney winning the popular vote and Barack Obama winning the electoral college. A new WaPo/ABC national poll of likely voters puts Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent. This is the first time Romney has hit 50 percent in this poll. Both sides are enthusiastic, with 95 percent of the Obama supporters and 93 percent of the Romney supporters being somewhat or very enthusiastic. Noteworthy is that 52 percent of the respondents think Obama will win vs. 40 percent who think Romney will win.

Yesterday's Gallup tracking poll also shows Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent, but this represents a 4-point gain for Obama in this poll in a week. Romney led by 7 points in Gallup's tracking poll a week ago. While it is difficult to compare results from different pollsters due to different methodologies, Gallup's results suggest that Romney's momentum has stopped and maybe been reversed.

National polls aside, Obama maintains a small but steady lead in the electoral college. In the past two weeks in Ohio, nine polls have had Obama ahead and only one had Romney ahead. Three polls were tied. As we and everybody else has said a hundred times, without Ohio, it is nearly impossible for Romney to win, even if he gets every last vote in the Deep South and a large popular-vote margin. In Nevada, Obama has had leads of at least 2 points in all five polls in the past two weeks. Another key state is Virginia. There in the last two weeks Obama led in five polls and trailed in four. So a plausible outcome is that Romney wins the popular vote but Obama wins the states the Democrats have won the past five elections, plus Ohio, New Mexico, and Nevada, for a total of 271 electoral votes. Virginia would be icing on the cake. With such a narrow victory, Obama would have no mandate at all and we would have four more years of gridlock. Of course, an equally narrow Romney victory coupled with Democratic control of the Senate (thanks to the politics of rape), would yield a similar result.

And Best Supporting Zinger Goes To...

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Right, so the 2012 presidential debates are done with at last—triggering, as predictably as natural disasters produce fundamentalist sermons, a stew of grousing in Wonkland about their shallowness, triviality, and failure to articulate much of substance about whatever issues made the cut. Everybody had a laundry list of topics that never got broached at all (global warming and torture were just two of the big ones). But from my unwonky perspective, complaints of this nature reflect an either earnest or wilful inability to recognize the nature of the beast. All that counts—to the electorate, to the campaigns, and even to the outcome on November 6, which means to history—is whether they were good TV.

Mail In Your Ballot, Cross Your Fingers

(Flickr/Nadya Peek/Jenn Vargas)

Ohio's Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has been under fire now for months from Democrats. They’re angry, particularly, about his moves to limit early voting hours across the state—especially those on the weekend before the election. Poor and minority voters rely on the expanded hours. Black churches have used the last Sunday before election day to bring voters to the polls; low-income voters often have inflexible work schedules and childcare demands at home. After a lengthy court battle, Husted has now authorized county election boards to offer hours in the three days before election day. But he did limit early voting hours in the weeks before, with fewer evening hours and no weekend hours.

Central Florida's Corridor of Power

(Flickr/Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau/Express Monorail)

If you want to know what’s different about Florida, both in general and in this election cycle, just ask Jose Lopez. The organizer and leader of a laundry workers’ union that’s part of the Service Employees International Union, Lopez has been walking precincts as part of SEIU’s campaign to re-elect President Obama since mid-summer. One day, as he was chatting with an elderly man on his doorstep, his canvassing partner interrupted and asked Lopez, “How much do you know about snakes?” A rather large snake, it seems, had slithered between Lopez’s legs.

The elderly gentleman, who, like hundreds of thousands of new Florida voters, had migrated from Puerto Rico to the Orlando metropolitan area, excused himself, returned carrying a machete and proceeded to hack the snake not entirely to death. “The machete was too dull,” says Lopez, shaking his head. “He ended up just beating that poor snake to death with that thing.”

Calling Bullshit

So it seems that President Obama got a little salty in an interview Rolling Stone will publish tomorrow. According to Politico, the prez says of Mitt Romney, “You know, kids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.’” The high-pitched sound you can hear now in the distance? It’s the keening wail of shocked, dismayed, flabbergasted, and mortally offended Republicans—mixed with the low murmur of apology from Team Obama.

Will President Romney Chart a Moderate Course?

I raised my eyebrows a little when I saw this story from Politico’s Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin on how Mitt Romney would conduct the first months of his presidency:

Top Romney aides say they have studied the opening months and moves by President George W. Bush and President Obama, and are building a government designed to avoid their mistakes. Shortly after the Nov. 6 election, for instance, a President-elect Romney would begin reaching out to House and Senate Democrats for discussions about challenges facing the economy as the opening step in trying to figure out a grand bargain.

Is the Democratic Party Too Diverse?

Writing for The Daily Beast, John Avalon makes an odd complaint about the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party writ large—that they're focusing too much on attracting non-white voters. To be fair, the bulk of the column is devoted to explaining the dangers of a strategy that relies on high turnout and support from African Americans and Latinos; if Obama underperforms with those voters in states like Colorado and Virginia, he will have considerably narrowed his path to reelection.

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