As Romney’s lead in the polls widens, libs slip further into funk
posted at 5:46 pm on October 10, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Barack Obama, despite having placed the country’s future in greater jeopardy than he found it in 2008 and having no second-term plans for dealing with the deficit or entitlements, was supposed to coast to a second term against a hapless, floundering Mitt Romney.
Then along came that wretched debate and Romney lied and now he’s ahead in the polls by a full percentage point. Today’s Real Clear Politics average has Romney at 48.2%, the president at 47.2%. Romney now has a lead of between 1 and 5 points in three polls, Obama a lead of between 1 and 3 in two others, and the two tied according to Gallup.
These are not fun times for the likes of Andrew Sullivan, who supplants one day’s desperate keenings with the next’s even louder wails of grief for what might (should?) have been.
But The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein is still back at the first stage of the grieving process, denial. His column today is titled “In excitable pundits vs. political scientists, I’ll take political scientists every time.” (Presumably he himself is not an excitable pundit, so he’s on safe ground casting stones.) Here’s his lede into an article that is optimistic about the state of the election:
Political scientists will tell you that debates don’t usually decide presidential elections, or even lead to noticeable changes in the polls. In their huge survey of every publicly available poll in the last 15 presidential campaigns, Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien concluded, “there is no case where we can trace a substantial shift to the debates.” A study by James Stimson came to much the same conclusion.
It’s possible that Klein penned the piece before today’s polling, but the current shift has been several days in the making. If you go back to Oct. 4, the day after the debate, Obama was still ahead 49.1% to 46%. By the end of the day yesterday, Obama had lost 1.8 percentage points and Romney had gained 2. The difference—3.8 percentage points—might strike even Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien as “noticeable.” So what is Klein babbling on about?
Besides if he is going to put all his faith in political science, shouldn’t he be worried that poli sci types are also responsible for the stat that no incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt has won re-election with the unemployment rate over 8%? Yes, I am aware of the happy, albeit inexplicable, tidings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of September, but one more jobs report is due out prior to Election Day. After 43 straight months of joblessness north of 8%, neither Obama nor Klein should be hanging their hopes on the recent jobs numbers.
Another truism of political science that Klein choose to ignore is that presidents who seek re-election in the midst of a sagging economy usually lose. The best example of this tendency is Herbert Hoover, who lost his bid for a second term in 1932, but more recent cases include Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H. W. Bush in 1992.
Klein ventures off on his own when he notes that promises to cut the deficit are a loser with the electorate. He cites the fate of deficit-cutter Walter Mondale in 1984 and George H.W. Bush’s losing supply-side campaign. Ignoring the fact that a third-party candidate siphoned off votes from Bush the Elder, the fact remains that the deficit now is a thing apart from any previous deficit. And the primary reason for that is Obama, who increased the deficit he found on his first day of office by 50%.
Finally, Klein seems to be ignoring Team Obama’s antics of the past several days, particularly their effort to save Big Bird. The loony ad the campaign is running certainly has a number of Klein’s brethren gnashing their teeth. Then again, they don’t teach about Big Bird in political science courses, so maybe Klein is right to ignore the ad.
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