Ringside

Karl Rove's Money Trouble

After declaring a new national post-election holiday yesterday—Liberal Schadenfreude Day—we’re starting to think it should be a week-long celebration. So much to gloat over after all these years of despair! Our favorite gloat-worthy item on Thursday came courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation. The money-in-politics watchdog did a nifty calculation of the returns that 2012’s big spenders got for their money. It’s not complicated math: Sunlight simply calculated how much outside groups (super PACs, non-profits, and political committees) spent per “desired result” in Tuesday’s elections—supporting candidates who won, in other words, or opposing candidates who lost. The two groups that fared the worst? Coming in dead last, in terms of “desired results,” was the National Rifle Association’s optimistically named National Political Victory Fund, which spent $11 million for a success rate of less than one percent . But the biggest money-waster of all, you will be eternally gratified to hear, was...

Reasons to Cheer?

(Flickr/ Barack Obama)
For progressives, waiting for tonight's election returns is less a matter of giddy anticipation a la 2008 and more a cause of intense nail-biting. There is potentially more to lose tonight (or God forbid, in a couple of weeks if Florida, Colorado, or Ohio make a mess) than to gain. There’s health-care and regulatory reform, of course. But more than that, there’s the much-needed sanity that President Obama has brought to a politically fractious, often-unhinged Washington. The wingers are champing at the bit, eager to unleash the destructive powers of an unfettered free market and the hounds of war. But if they fail—if we start to see confirmation this evening that Obama’s slim swing-state margins are holding—there will be plenty of reasons for liberals to do more than heave great sighs of relief. In 2008 we had a repudiation election: a national rejection of the destruction wrought by the Bushies. In 2012 we have had, as the president repeatedly said, a “choice election.” The choice,...

Will Mendacity Win?

Looked at from a certain angle, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been a grand experiment in whether it's possible to lie your way to the White House. Sure, all politicians stretch the truth like Play-Doh. They dissemble. They exaggerate. They tell the occasional out-and-out whopper. Traditionally, though, politicians tend to stick with truthiness, in the Colbert sense. Until now, there’s never been a presidential campaign built almost solely on a foundation of lies. Romney’s people have made no bones about it; his pollster, Neil Newhouse, told media at the Republican National Convention, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers." Strangely, that might have been the single most honest statement to come out of the campaign. Romney has lied about Obama raising taxes on the middle class. He’s invented an overseas “apology tour." He’s sworn up and down that the president cut $500 billion from Medicare. He's claims that under Obama, the federal government...

America's Dumbest Voters

As the Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie noted earlier today, the most ludicrous ad of the election cycle has to be the latest from the conservative super PAC, Empower Citizens Network, that tries to sway African American voters to the GOP by pointing out that Abraham Lincoln was a member of the party. But that’s not all! Republicans also founded the NAACP, the ad informs us, and they voted for the Civil Rights Act. So what if there’s been nothing to recommend the party to black voters since 1964? Let history be your guide, folks! Republicans are forever grumbling about how African Americans form an unthinking Democratic bloc—if they’re not just plain insulting them, like Congressman Allen West does, by saying they’re enslaved on the “Democratic plantation.” But as Jamelle notes, “the fact of the matter is that blacks are well aware of their political and economic interests,” and they vote accordingly. If only the same could be said of non-wealthy whites. White people have a long, rich...

Mitt's Parallel Universe

Last week, when the campaign was still trying to project momentum, Mitt Romney promised to close his campaign with “big ideas”: plans for jump-starting the economy, reducing the debt, and giving every American a pony. Of course, little of this was credible: Analysts have debunked Romney’s jobs plan (which simply takes credit for jobs that would have been created anyway), challenged his tax plan (doesn't add up), and noted the extent to which his proposals for tax cuts and higher military spending would explode the deficit . (The pony proposal has gone unscored, however.) This week, the tone from Team Romney is a little more somber. According to the polling averages, Obama is either leading or tied in every swing state other than Florida and North Carolina, and there, he’s gaining ground. Part of the problem is that, in Ohio especially, Obama has successfully run on the automobile bailout. Romney tried to argue against the bailout as unwise, but that didn't work. So instead, he’s just...

Obama to the Rescue

When Chris Christie delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in August, he had some choice words for President Obama. “It’s time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House,” Christie thundered . If he ever genuinely believed that Obama was an “absentee leader,” the New Jersey governor has certainly had a dramatic change of mind. With his state confronting a historic level of destruction courtesy of Superstorm Sandy, Christie has been full of praise for his "pro-active leadership." This morning, he said , “The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president; personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area. The President has been outstanding in this and so have the folks at FEMA.” Obama has indeed appeared to be at his calm, commanding best during this crisis. He has made the case not only for himself but...

Romney Versus Our Better Angels

As "Frankenstorm" churns up the East Coast, it brings into relief the central argument of the 2012 campaign. Beneath all the minor squabbles and distractions, Obama vs. Romney is a contest between two starkly different views about the proper role of government. It’s Lincoln’s concept that informs the president’s approach: "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves,” the 16 th president famously said. Romney, meanwhile, has run as the faithful representative of the anti-government strain that, as Frank Rich recently wrote , has infected American politics from the git-go. One of Romney's most pointed articulations of the government-hating strain came in a primary debate last June, when he was asked about a more localized version of what millions are facing today—the devastation in Joplin, Missouri. Should the states deal with such things rather than the federal...

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 problem with Hohmann’s argument, of course, is that no one has said otherwise! There is no one in American politics arguing that white voters somehow “don’t matter.” In fact, the exact opposite is true. At the moment, the campaigns are obsessed with winning voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado. What do these states all have in common? They are fairly white compared to the rest of the country. Obama has been campaigning with Bill Clinton in an explicit effort to increase his margins among the “Bubbas” of American politics. African Americans are nearly taken for granted by Democratic...

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. "What is true is that trust is a very important part of the election," Obama spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer told reporters as Obama Romnesia-ed his way today through Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. "The president is someone who says what he means and does what he says and Governor Romney's answers in the debates on domestic issues and foreign policy raise real questions about that." Pfeiffer urged folks to not be "distracted by the word," but to "focus on the issue.” Good luck with that! If there’s one thing we know from...

Bald-Faced Romney

One of the most dramatic moments of the three presidential debates occurred during Monday night’s foreign-policy finale. In a back-and-forth over diplomacy with Iran, Mitt Romney threw Barack Obama a bone by repeating his persistent claim that the president had gone on an “apology tour” in 2009. The baseless notion of Obama “apologizing for America” has been a central theme from the start of Romney's campaign, and his opponent was ready to jump on it: "Nothing Governor Romney just said is true," Obama said . "Starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has probably been the biggest whopper told during this campaign." There was more, and it was damning for Romney. But in the aftermath, the Republican’s response set a bold new standard for shamelessness (not an easy thing for a politician to do). This morning, his campaign blasted out a brand-new “Apology Tour” ad —containing zero evidence to support the lie he won’t let die. Both Romney and his campaign have made it abundantly...

Calm Down and Do the Math

Is President Obama ahead or tied in Ohio? If you look at the poll released this morning , from Quinnipiac University, the clear answer is that Obama has a solid lead—five points, as a matter of fact. But if you tuned in this afternoon and saw the poll from Suffolk University —which shows a tie between Obama and Mitt Romney—you’ll either be panicked (if you’re a Democrat) or thrilled (if you’re a Republican). All of which makes today a case study in why you shouldn’t give too much weight to individual polls. At this point in the election, dozens of companies are polling thousands of people in an attempt to get some sense of where the electorate stands. Each pollster will have a different methodology, a different strategy for getting respondents, and a different way of weighting the various answers. Some sample sizes will be incredibly small, others will be unusually large. All of these variables and all of this activity means that, every so often, polls will show mutually exclusive...

Obama's Missing Bounce

Wait a minute: Wasn’t President Obama supposed to get a generous boost in the polls from his masterly comeback performance on Tuesday night? A counter-bounce to the one Romney got from Round One? If so, it’s been awfully slow in coming. The main polling headline in recent days sent Democrats right back into a depressive spiral: Gallup’s weekly tracking poll, out on Thursday, showed the Republican leading nationally by his biggest margin yet—seven points. The swing states remain much the same, with Obama clinging to narrow leads in most. So what gives? If Obama fails to get much or any post-debate bounce, you can blame it at least in part on the power couple of new media: Republican spin and instant journalism. Long before the debate was over, the right was busy making it all about the moderator, Candy Crowley, and her perceived bias against Romney. (The Prospect 's Paul Waldman shot this down decisively .) They’d been warning of the threat this partisan Bolshevik from CNN posed for...

Gallup Gulp

Undoubtedly, there are some liberals panicking over the latest Gallup tracking poll, which shows Mitt Romney with a seven-point lead over President Obama, 51 percent to 44 percent. Before confining themselves to despair, however, liberals should remember a few things: First, individual polls aren’t accurate measures of the state of the race. As more and more polls are released—and there is more and more noise—it’s important to pay attention to averages . Even something as crude as the Real Clear Politics average—which brings together the most recent polls—is useful in reducing the influence of outliers. Second, Gallup is a well-regarded survey outfit, but that doesn’t mean its polls are perfect. This isn’t to say that Gallup is “skewed,” but rather that Gallup has had erratic results over the last few election cycles. In 2010, for example, Gallup showed Republicans leading on the generic ballot by 15 points; the actual margin was 6.8 points. Similar disparities were seen in the 2008,...

The Big Finish

All across America on Tuesday night, a little after 10:30, Democrats were leaning forward in their seats, rubbing their hands in eager anticipation while Republicans covered their eyes and winced over what was about to happen. Mitt Romney, after spending the night treating his opponent, the moderator, and the truth with ugly contempt, had just done the nicest thing you could imagine: He’d offered President Obama a kind invitation to close the festivities by invoking the Republican’s most devastating blunder of the campaign, his “47 percent” remarks at a fundraiser in Boca Raton last May. Not once, but twice, Romney had used his own closing moments to claim that he cares about “100 percent” of Americans. Obama graciously accepted the gift, turning his final answer into the piece de resistance of an evening when he hit every note he needed to hit—and turned the confident Romney of Denver into a caged animal, prowling the stage with a fierce scowl and bickering with the moderator rather...

Advantage Mitt?

Everyone knows that Mitt Romney is stiff and awkward, which is why everyone also knows that he’ll do poorly at tonight’s town hall debate. Of the two candidates, Barack Obama is supposed to be the one who is friendly and personable with ordinary people. Even with his poor performance two weeks ago, the assumption is that Obama will benefit from the change in format. But will he? The fact is that there are serious pitfalls for the president tonight. The first, of course, is that if he doesn’t do well, he'll give Romney a chance to solidify his gains with another solid win. There’s also the chance that he overcompensates for his initial loss, and is too aggressive against the Republican nominee. In which case, he comes across as unpresidential—and a little bit desperate. Romney, on the other hand, doesn’t need to do much to come out ahead. He's already proven that he can go head-to-head with Obama; tonight's task is to show that he can “connect” with voters in a way that’s escaped him...

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