High drama preserved for posterity by Noah Rothman so that future generations might know what it looks like when a man presses the record button on his digital camera. Lefty media has been throwing a ticker-tape parade for this guy replete with multiple interviews over the past week after he revealed his identity, which was predictable but still feels bizarre. He happened to be recording when Romney said something damaging during a speech; he had the minimal political awareness to recognize the damaging utterance and to share it with the media. What’s left to tell? Granted, no campaign season is complete anymore without an everyman like Joe the Plumber emerging from anonymity to confront the other party’s candidate, but there was no confrontation here. Prouty doesn’t even claim to have recorded the speech out of animus to Romney or because he heard him say something during the speech that triggered a fateful “Aha! He’s about to implode politically!” glimmer of awareness. He just thought it’d be worth taping the GOP nominee giving a private speech and he ended up being in the right place at the right time with the shutter open when lightning struck. I can understand wanting to interview him to hear the nuts and bolts of what happened but Frank Foer acts like he’s listening to Abraham Zapruder recount the Kennedy assassination. Mellow out.
Question: Before we send this tape of Prouty showing off his Canon to the Smithsonian, shouldn’t we try to establish definitively that the “47 percent” comments were a gamechanger in the campaign? I’ve been taking it on faith that they were but I don’t think I’ve seen any convincing analysis that O would have lost but for Romney’s gaffe. In fact, one of the points made by statistical modelers after election day was that no one should have been surprised by the outcome; Obama led Romney from start to finish, with the only moment of real weakness coming after Romney crushed him at the first debate in Denver. You can see this at a glance by examining Nate Silver’s election forecast graphs. The red line never climbed above the blue in any of the three metrics, not even for a day. If you study the trend in September specifically there’s some evidence that the “47 percent” remarks did hurt Romney: Obama’s on a downward slope until September 17, the day the video emerged, and then suddenly he begins to rebound. Or, maybe, Obama was set to rebound anyway: Notice that the downward slope begins on September 11, the date of the Benghazi attacks. It could be that the video halted O’s slide due to the sudden shift in news coverage away from Libya and towards Romney (smart priorities, media) or it could be that the fallout from Benghazi had been fully absorbed a week later and the public had concluded that Obama didn’t bear much responsibility. In that case, his rise after September 17 could in part be a return to his numbers pre-9/11 as outrage over Benghazi faded. Either way, there’s no denying that the “47 percent” remarks didn’t stop Romney from putting a major dent in O’s lead two weeks later after the first debate, despite the heavy coverage of the remarks in political media over the preceding 13 days. Clearly the video didn’t help him and there’s no question that it ended up costing him votes, but a gamechanger? Go read this Harry Enten piece again if you missed it when I linked it yesterday. The grim truth was that Romney was fighting a losing battle all along.
But look. This is really just the left’s version of Rick Perry saying yesterday at CPAC that you can’t blame conservatism for losing in 2008 and 2012 when the GOP didn’t nominate conservatives. We all want to see election results through the analytical prism that’s most flattering to our own beliefs. What’s more heartening to the left, the idea that Obama won because the economy, while dismal, wasn’t quite dismal enough to knock off an incumbent? Or the idea that the people revolted at an aloof plutocrat who sneered at the thought that the “takers” were propelling Obama to victory over the “makers”? C’mon.