Can Romney Beat Obama?

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112 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    I tend to agree with all this. I do find it interesting to believe Romney is non-ideological and only lying to win. The interesting part is believing he would govern that way. If he wins he will have the current R. House and a likely R majority in the Senate. Given the make up the R’s in the House and Senate would you really predict managerial, centrist government? Or would it be the Ryan budget plan, more talk about privatising SS and full on hawkish foreign policy.Report

    • Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to greginak says:

      I wish I could be as sanguine about it.    He’s made too many promises, already.

    • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

      I doubt Romney would discipline a Republican Congress.  But I think he and a Democratic Congress very well might discipline each other sufficiently to be bearable.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        I suspect we’d see the joys of “bipartisanship” in that situation, myself.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        I doubt Romney would discipline a Republican Congress.

        But really, who could? The crazies are running the asylum right now. From the “conservatism = opposing the Democrats, updated daily” crowd TVD seems to be a member of, to the willfully delusional “the small government leading to big deficits” crowd that Koz walks amongst, to the ” ‘I’m rubber your glue’ misogynist/racist” crowd, they’ve all gone completely insane.

        The only rational conservatives left are part of the Democratic party.


    • greginak:

      That’s pretty much my view, too.  It’s not so much that I think he’s an ideologue–I don’t–it’s that I’m afraid he’d continue to sell out to the far right on whose coattails he would have won and who would control congress if he wins the election.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        And to get re-elected! No RINOs allowed!Report

      • This is what I am looking out for. I think that it’s too tempting to think that the game of musical faces is going to stop at the current one. How many times have we had the assumption that the snapshot leader of the GOP race actually had a chance at the nomination when, in retrospect, they clearly never did? I’ve been a Romney-is-going-to-win(-the-nomination) guy since the start, but even I was less than entirely certain at some point. So I am not taking it as true, as a number of people are, that his musical face stops with the one he has worn during a particularly surreal primary season.

        If, however, he continues to wear that face all the way through October, it’ll be likely enough not to take a chance on, and I’ll vote for Obama or Johnson. It’s just less clear to me than it is others that this one will stick and that he won’t run more of a competence-based campaign after all is said and done.Report

  2. superluminar says:

    Okay, but a few quibbles:

    1) I can’t see any reason why you think Romney would be better than Obama (not really making a political point here, just want a clarification).

    2) not sure what your thinking is regarding a more competant Speaker of the House – I mean Boehners n ot great, but given what he has to deal with I think his job is pretty much impossible.

    3) Thank you for recognizing that Obama is no radical. As someone on the leftier side of the spectrum it is good to see someone who is not lefty admitting that instead of trying to paint the President as the second coming of Karl Marx! Thanks James!Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to superluminar says:

      It has occurred to me that Barack Obama has never once directly opposed the progressive agenda, no Sister Soulja moments for him, nothing to tell the rest of America that he’s not 100% in sympathy and in league with the progressive phalanx. He does not explain why he can’t close Gitmo, or can’t keep the rest of his campaign promises to them, that he disagrees with their position. He simply blames the GOP as obstacles.

      That he is remotely any sort of “centrist” except by political necessity is not in evidence.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Romney has never declared himself opposed to the Galaxtic Empire. What should we make of that?Report

        • Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

          Were he to receive several million dollars from them and from organizations dedicated to their various causes, I would say this would be an issue.Report

      • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        So if O said congress(both parties) didn’t want Gitmo closed then he could be a centrist? So having a media moment where he separates himself from a simpleton on the Left would show him to be centrist. That would matter more then not doing all sorts of things some liberals wanted like a public option, end bush tax cuts, pull out of Afgan., support unions, etc. I know this is your schtick Tom, but you have made this all about shallow messaging instead of policy. There are all sorts of actual policies liberals wanted that he hasn’t even tried to pass.Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

          Since yours is an adult reply and not a driveby shoutdown, Mr, Gregniak [and thank you], I’ll reply.  Via Mr. Isquith, I find this examination of BHO’s campaign promises kept and broken very much to his credit.

          Yes, the rest was my “shtick,” I suppose, because I didn’t expect my fans and admirers to actually take up the challenge, to argue where Obama actively opposes the progressive agenda.  That he is unable to enact it doesn’t indicate disagreement.  Does he affirmatively support keeping Gitmo open?  Of course not.

          His nod and a wink to #Occupy?  Ditto with the Trayvon situation?  BHO’s differences with the usual suspects are not in evidence.

          [Some case might be made for his “hawkishness” in Afghanistan, although he’s hardly attempted to sell the American people on his rather inert policy there, which is neither fish nor fowl. But one flower doth not a bouquet make.]Report

          • Will H. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            I think the logistics of transfer of prisoners from Gitmo got in his way. More “progressives” out-of-step with reality.

            And I believe that Afghanistan had a lot to do with Clinton & Clark.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Now you’re just trolling.


      • Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


        Jaybird, seriously, does anyone even need to say anything about this comment, other than, “Jesus Christ, did someone just say that with a straight face?” I think even 99 might be too much. Here:


        • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

          How unrepresentative do you find his comments to be?

          They strike me as being perfectly representative of insular conservativism. It’s a mirror image to Pauline Kael’s apocryphal story.

          When we wake up on November 7th and see conservatives saying “how did this happen?” and we say “how in the flying hell could they possibly say ‘how did this happen?’, I mean how in the holy hell did they *NOT* see this coming?”

          I will be able to point to comments like Tom’s.

          There. The ones who didn’t see this coming? That’s how they think. (I find Koz to be useful for this as well.)

          You find posts like his offensive for some reason. For the life of me, I don’t know why. (On top of that, when you’re having an actual “for real” conversation with him that isn’t about politics, he’s not a bad guy.)

          (Hell, if anybody should be pissed off at his comments, it ought to be those who are likely to make arguments that also argue against the arguments he’s arguing against. Why aren’t you delighted to argue against someone who argues as he does? It’s a GIFT.)Report

          • I pop in to see if I’ve missed anything, but I guess not. Tom is still an idiotic troll, and Jaybird is still defending him. Plus ça change.Report

          • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            I can’t really say whether this is representative in a place like Red Satate, or Pajama’s Media, or in people’s kitchens, but I sincerely hope it’s not representative of any group here.

            Now, this post doesn’t irk me. That’s why all it elicited from me was an “I can’t believe you just fixed your mouth to say that shit,” and a 99, because it’s a clear example of sophistry at work. For an example of a comment that irked me, and my response to it, look here:


            Scroll down to the comments on a paper of Haidt’s. Misrepresenting scientific findings , particularly those in my own field (broadly — I’ve haven’t done a lot of social cognition research), to score rhetorical points is a pet peeve of mine.


            • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              Excellent. Well argued.

              I sincerely hope it’s not representative of any group here.

              One of the things I quite regularly fail to do is grasp things to the point where I can recreate the arguments of my intellectual opponents. I *TRY*… but I fail a lot. I think I’m getting pretty good at being able to recreate many liberal arguments to the point where I’m rarely surprised when I read any given counter-argument but I’m not good at recreating conservative arguments for the most part (well, not *STATIST* conservative arguments, anyway).

              He may not be representative of a group *HERE*… but I suspect he’s pretty representative.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

                I suspect he’s pretty representative.

                No; Tom is a conservative in fairly subdued colors.
                I write (infrequently) at a conservative blog with 54 other authors. I know the types of postions that conservatives take, and the type of things they’re inclined to say.
                TVD is only moderately conservative by any true measure.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                One of the smartest things I’ve ever done is stop reading both liberal and conservative blogs. Both groups were starting to make me sick. That’s probably why I can’t stand either of the two most partisan OPers here (one conservative, one liberal): I thought I’d stopped reading them.

                I think a blog with a bunch of libertarian and leftist (not liberal, leftist) writers, all outside of the political system here, would be fun.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Chris says:

                I think the distinction you guys are making is between conservative and right wing. They’re not the same thing.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to superluminar says:


      Romney’s the competent (or at least trying to be competent) managerial type; Obama’s a bit of a believer.  Given that I like neither side’s ideology, a relatively non-ideological managerial president is preferable to me than a believer, and the party identifications are interchangeable.  I understand why others don’t feel that way; it’s just my idiosyncratic approach to the presidency.

      Re: Boehner. Agreed that he has a tough group to work with, but the man notoriously failed to count noses before bringing an issue to a vote, and he is perpetually rolled by that set of his members.  He simply hasn’t showed signs of competent leadership, imo.  This is one of those issues where I–not being anything remotely like an expert on Congress–turn to my friend who is an expert on Congress, worked in Congress, and is a Republican pretty much in line with Boehner ideologically.  And he agrees.  So, take that for whatever you think it’s worth.  Maybe it has some value, maybe not.

      As to Obama not being a radical, I just can’t see how he is.  I think TVD sets too high a bar–what evidence would there be for Obama actively opposing a radical agenda, when none has actually been proposed?  And Obama’s certainly not proposed a radical policy agenda himself.  He even came out against single-payer health care (which, if not exactly radical in today’s world, is at least quite ‘progressive,’ as that term is generally used), even though he favored it before reaching the presidency. On foreign policy he’s been moderately hawkish (intervening in Libya, and now promising aid to Syrian rebels); he refused to prosecute any Bush officials for sponsoring torture; he has pursued the state secrets claim to keep injured parties out of court; he’s continued the war on drugs, including having U.S. attorneys try to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating legally under California law; he moved with great caution (in this case wisely so, I think) on repeal of DADT; and he is only willing to go so far as civil unions for homosexuals.  Overall, that’s a pretty decent Republican record, right?Report

      • superluminar in reply to James Hanley says:

        Yeah I can agree with most of those criticisms, but I don’t think they invalidate Prez Obamazms view.Report

      • Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

        Re Obama: I think he’s more of a traditional Democrat. The word “Chicago” pretty much explains it.

        Re Boehner: I like Boehner, and I think he has the capacity to be a truly great Speaker. I think him & Obama could have a good chemistry, but for the Tea Party.
        And I believe it’s the whip’s duty to count the votes.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

        I don’t think you want a “competent managerial type” who is in charge of a nest of loonies. A Romney win will almost certainly include a flipping of the US Senate and at least a strong majority of the Tea Party caucus in the House. Likely as not it might also include the ouster of Boehner and his replacement by Cantor (who is by most accounts already the de facto head of the Republican caucus).

        Divided government would be far preferable in that case. I can’t see how Romney could afford to do anything but be a rubber stamp to Boehner(or Cantor)/McConnell nor do I see him doing anything but capitulating on the order of cabinet members. I for one, don’t want to see the Paul Wolfowitz wing of the Republican party back at Foggy Bottom or the NSC. But YMMV.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          The thing that’s important in elections is which persona they’re the avatar of- Obama has been an avatar of the 1960s Midwestern bank manager for some time now, while Romney has been the avatar of the high powered 1980s corporate executive. They both gain a certain amount of contact authority by playing these roles, but our culture is conflicted about authority, unsure if we want to completely abolish it or keep some around for when we need it. Both Democrats and Republicans are in open rebellion against authority, trying to snatch whatever power they imagine comes from authority without, they hope, legitimizing authority itself. The truly attentive, however, will note that power is the absence of authority; not its product. So, the Democrats and Republicans are sadly characteristic of their culture, looting the dead archetypes of the past for whatever’s in their pockets. Everything has a use value.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Rufus F. says:

            Obama has been an avatar of the 1960s Midwestern bank manager for some time now,

            Would you mind fleshing that out just a bit more?Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to James Hanley says:

              By avatar I mean the persona he embodies in public- it’s the steady, mild mannered, Midwestern Jimmy Stewart type. Actually, maybe it’s even Ozzie Nelson- it’s a very Eisenhower era persona. It’s either boring or reassuring depending on your perspective. You could easily imagine Obama in a grey fedora reading the paper on the bus or rolled up sleeves going over the accounts with his employees. It’s not to say that this is who he “really is”; it’s more the image that comes through regardless of what he’s actually saying. You pick up on it as a sort of tone that resonates from the man in public appearances. It’s why the attacks on him as a “radical” are such wet squibs- it’s very hard to see the man in the grey flannel suit as a bomb thrower. Part of his appeal with his supporters was that he represents a very conventional American type that came before the culture war radicalism of the late 60s, while still validating those years. He allowed them to identify with the “establishment”. None of them will admit this, but it’s something that happens just below the level of consciousness. It’s also why most of the attacks on him have to posit that he’s some sort of sleeper agent of radicalism. Otherwise, the right has to play the role of the counterculture, which is anathema to what they actually believe.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    Where I agree that Obama’s likely to win is that “Our guy is awesome!” is just more persuasive than “Our guy’s alright, but the other guy is really, really bad”, and “The other guy is really, really bad- you’ll see” is less persuasive than, “The other guy wasn’t nearly as bad last term as he is going to be in his second term- that’s when the mask comes off”.

    That said, a lot about this race is reminding me of Pauline Kael’s famous comment, “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”Report

  4. Will Truman says:

    I agree with most of this (less so on #2 and a little less so on parts of #1*). Eight months or so ago I filed my prediction, which was Obama winning with 284 electoral votes. If I were to modify it, I’d modify Obama upwards. Significantly. But perhaps in the future I would modify him downwards and Romney into the Oval Office. As you say, it’s a long way between here and there.

    With regard to #2… When it comes to running against an incumbent, I think you sometimes can beat something with “nothing” or at least “not much” (the big exception here is if you have a candidate that is less than nothing – a huge negative like Bachmann or Gingrich). Re-elections tend to be referenda on incumbents. John Kerry almost won. I think John Edwards (pre-affair, of course) and Howard Dean would have done approximately as well, despite the fact that they are three rather different candidates. One of those other two might have been able to gobble just enough votes to cross the finish line, but to the extent that is true it only would have made the election because it was slated to be close (and because none of them were Kucinich).

    The question is whether Romney is “not much”, “nothing”, or “a negative”. Right now, almost all predictions seem to run in the direction of how the person talking perceives him. People I know that like Romney (there are a few) think that he will be perceived as they perceive him. People I know that don’t like Romney tend to believe that others will come to dislike him even more or will definitely not come around on him. This is one of those areas where it is *extremely hard* to put aside our personal perspectives.Report

    • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

      Most polling finds people don’t like Romney all that much. His negatives have shot up in every one of the contested primaries. He does have a Kerryesqe talent for seeming less then human. He doesn’t always appear like he could pass a Turing Test.


      • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

        Yeah, but this is one of those things that I do believe is subject to change as the election rolls on. People on the right don’t like him because they are comparing him to their preferred candidate to his right. People on the left don’t like him because they see him as the alternative to their preferred choice. People in the middle take their cues in good part from people who pay attention, who are the people on the right and left. When it’s down to Obama/Romney, I think things have a real potential to shift.

        I think the comparison with Kerry is apt*, but I also put Kerry in the “might have won” camp if Bush had been less popular. Would have won handily if Katrina had happened a year earlier. Might have won if the economy in 2004 looked like the economy now. And so on.

        * – I am actually rather bizarre. I actually came to like John Kerry over the course of the election. On a personal level, I mean. More than I ever liked Bush (though less than I liked Gore – okay, I am a freak).Report

        • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

          I don’t know if you’ve seen it but there is youtube clip of Romney with some black kids in 08. He breifly sings Who lets the dogs out. Might be one of the squarest and most awkward attempts at being “down with the streets” from a pol. I haven’t seen it in a while, but pretty goofy when i first saw it. Bush got a ton of mileage out of the “good guy to have a beer with” stuff. Romeny can’t make that work.


          • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

            Romney will never be the beer candidate (or near-beer candidate, since he is Mormon!), but when you’re the challenger, I’m not sure you have to be. Neither Gore nor Kerry were that guy, and both almost won. A more charismatic candidate might have won, but only because both elections were close.Report

            • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

              Ahhh yeah the 2000 election was close all right.Report

            • MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

              he is Mormon

              And Bush is an alcoholic.  Apparently, people like to have a beer with someone who shouldn’t drink.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

              Dick Gephardt would have beaten Dubya in 2004.

              Think about *THAT*.

              (My argument for this assumes that Gephardt would have won every state that Kerry won (given the ABB dynamic of those states) and that Gephardt would have won, for example, Ohio. I also suspect similar things about Howard Dean.)Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

                Someone like Howard Dean would have either won decisively or lost decisively.  (woah, way to out on a limb there).  What I mean is, being fully against the Iraq War in 2004 was polarizing, but it was also provided clarity.  Maybe the Dems could have sold the idea that the war (in Iraq) was already going badly (but it wouldn’t really hit the fan until just after the election), and maybe they could have pivoted attention to Afghanistan in time for that to avoid becoming a soup sandwich.  (though 1) anti-war in one was highly correlated with being anti-war on the other, and 2) a soup sandwich might have been an inevitability anyway).

                It would have also been a challenge to warn against the bubble that was forming in the housing market, because that too didn’t hit its full stride until immediately after the election.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

                Looking at the list again, I can’t see a single state that Kerry won that Dean wouldn’t have also won.

                New Hampshire and Wisconsin were close… but I see a strong Democratic candidate making those states have bigger Democratic gains rather than flip. Meanwhile Ohio and New Mexico could *EASILY* have turned around (and I’m on the fence about Colorado because maybe Boulder/Denver/Fort Collins would have more than made up for the increase of Bush votes in Colorado Springs and west of I-25).

                Additionally, we’d have had the benefit of Howard Dean being a fairly dull Governor type who knows how to use a calculator in the White House.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

                Iowa could also have flipped, with a stronger candidate. However, it remains to be seen whether Dean (whose stark opposition to the Iraq War may have lost him more gains than it won) or Gephardt (who is Gephardt) would have been appreciably stronger.

                It does make won wonder if, Bush winning when it lost the popular vote and then losing when he won it (flipping Ohio would have been easier than overtaking PV) over two straight elections would have been enough to kill the Electoral College.Report

              • Jeff in reply to Jaybird says:

                It could be that TPTB were truly afraid of a Dean win, and that’s why he was forced out early.Report

            • I also get the sense that Romney’s “who let the dogs out” style humor (I haven’t seen the video) can come across as charmingly self-deprecating.  Someone–I think at the Atlantic–made this argument about his recent “y’all” in some southern state:  the person who made this point claimed, and I believe her, that Romney was exercising a dry sense of humor.  I buy it.Report

              • If I were a Romney adviser, this is what I would go with. Romney isn’t a fun guy, but has a sense of humor about it. On the other hand, I would worry that it would always be portrayed as a genuine attempt to be with-it (even though it seems unlikely to me that Romney is so clueless as to think that he will be the real “who let the dogs out” kind of guy).Report

        • MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

          In the pre-internet days, Hugh Sidey (and whoever his counterpart at Newsweek was) would write a cover story humanizing Romney, telling the story of his life in nostalgic pastels to reassure the reader that he’s not so different from you and me.  (Sidey would do the same for the other candiate, of course,  If pushed, he could show the human side of David Duke.)  As polarized as things are these days, I can’t think of anyone who still does this kind of centrist amelioration.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:


          I suspect the perception of Romney won’t change, but I see the logic in your approach. Time will tell what happens. If you’re right and I’m wrong, please link back to this and I’ll give my mea culpas with as much grace as a curmudgeon like me can muster. 😉Report

          • I follow politics more closely than most, and my perception of him has been all over the place. At one point I was considering putting a bumper sticker on my car. At this moment, I may vote for Obama (though Johnson is more likely, if I don’t vote for Romney).

            In some ways change in perception is a constant. Especially when one goes from running against one type (Republicans in primaries) to another (a Democratic President), and when you reach the level of scrutiny a nominee does (it’s not the same, running in a primary as part of a group and running one-on-one). It could well be that the most damning fundamentals don’t change. I don’t think the flip-flopper thing will. Nor will the woodenness. The degree of importance attached to each will change. But we’ve not seen Romney with the level of scrutiny of a nominee. We don’t have a sense of who he is, just the vague sense that he is a wooden weasel statue. That will change. And it could be that it changes in the sense of solidifying current impressions. Romney had better hope it does not. That’s a change for the worse.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

              Will Truman April 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm I follow politics more closely than most, and my perception of him has been all over the place

              Yes, so you’re unusual, right?  And that “most” who don’t follow politics as closely as you (and really won’t even as we get close to the election), perhaps that not following closely is the reason their perception won’t change much?

              Just throwing that out off the top of my head in a break between watching student presentations–I don’t have time to actually think about it and figure out if it makes any sense or not.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to James Hanley says:

                Well, I could be wrong about this, but I would expect the opinion of someone who follows something closely to be less… malleable… than someone who has only sort of been paying attention.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Trumwill says:

                There may be an interesting dynamic there.  The person following less closely may be more malleable, but may not pay close enough attention to ever have their view actually changed.  Many non-politically oriented folks don’t pay any real attention until the last few weeks of the campaign.

                Then there are those who don’t pay attention because they don’t think they need to–they already “know” everything they need to know, and when they do pay attention they’re indulging in pure confirmation bias.

                I don’t know. I suspect both of these plus those matching your expectation are present in the electorate, but in what proportions?Report

      • Morat20 in reply to greginak says:

        You’ve missed the worst aspect of that.

        Romney’s negatives trend higher as [i]more people get to know him[/i]. That is…not a good trend for a political candidate, especially one slogging through a grinding primary.

        Which is why Romney’s campaign has been relentlessly negative, even by modern standards. He doesn’t have a choice. People don’t like him, and exposure to him does not change that. So he has to tear the other guy down.

        Problem is, in the general, he won’t have a zillion times more money then his opponent. It’s gonna be an UGLY election, no matter what.

        As to the actual election, I’d say this: If current polling on the female vote holds up, Jesus couldn’t win on the GOP ticket.Report

  5. MikeSchilling says:

     Gray Davis, the former governor of California

    You’re thinking that Obama wins, get impeached, and is replaced by Chuck Norris?Report

  6. DensityDuck says:

    Trying to walk back from a massively socialist act doesn’t make you not a socialist.Report

  7. Kimmi says:

    Romney beat Obama? Wrong question. Can Wromney beat Bush? Rubio? Christie?

    foolz have given up hope.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    Pretty much in agreement as far as the analysis goes, but of course it doesn’t go that far because events are more likely than not to change the fundamentals of the election before November – if not An Event.

    In particular, I think Romney’s potential trouble with his base in the general election is being significantly underplayed in mainstream analysis.  Normally, the claim that The Candidate will be able to successfully execute The Pivot without eroding base support has historical empirical evidence, but normally this level of doubt about The Candidate’s basic ideological bona fides has not been raised in the minds of the base in question.  Moreover, this candidate has demonstrated profound ineptness in communication. It’s certainly possible he could complete this maneuver successfully, and I’m very curious to see how it goes for him. But I’m (literally) not betting on it going very well.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

      events are more likely than not to change the fundamentals of the election before November

      Obviously this can happen, but for some reason–nothing more than gut feeling–I suspect that the fundamentals are more likely than not to remain the same.  I suspect a long, slow, monotonous campaign season where little of note happens and the polling numbers move very little.

      God only knows if my gut is trustworthy, though. I always say that predicting the future is a good way to go broke, but it’s kind of good to just put the prediction out there sometimes, just to see what happens.  (Kind of like with the League competition in the NCAA tournament, where I am–I am proud to boast–sitting at #2.)Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

        Yeah, that’s slightly stronger than I meant.  Just meant it’s a significant enough probability that things get scrambled that it really makes concrete predictions (as opposed to analysis of the race assuming stable fundamentals) pretty much a crapshoot.  In addition to more mundane events like an economic downturn, my gut, for whatever reason, tells me not to underestimate the probability (still low of course even after a slight inflation) of Something Major happening.  Of course, often even what seem like really big events, unless they literally happen in the second half of October, can pretty much blow over in terms of political impact in the course of a few weeks (thinking bin Laden strike, etc.).Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:


          Agreed.  My analysis relies on unpredictable things not happening, but I make no assumption that they can’t, or that it would very shocking if some unpredicted, but significant, even did happen.Report

  9. Derp says:

    I think Romney is a pretty reasonable person, all things considered. What does concern me though, is just how many of his advisors and handlers are transplants from GW’s staff.Report

  10. Will H. says:

    I’m wondering how you’re going to feel after the first debate.
    It should be fairly interesting.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Will H. says:

      Yes, it should.

      There’s a couple of pretty obvious gotchas that they can both shove in the other guy’s face.  How well they handle it will be interesting.

      I expect that the “who won the debate” question will have slanted answers by political identification; what will really be interesting is how the Independent/Unaffiliated crowd rates the debate.Report

  11. Robert Greer says:

    It’ll be hard for Romney to beat Obama as long as the incumbent doesn’t make any huge mistakes, but he seems to be making one right now with the fight he’s picking with the Supreme Court.

    Obama doesn’t seem to realize that in the rock-paper-scissors of government branch showdowns, dusty old legal doctrines aren’t defeated by Presidents per se, but are instead defeated by the populism the executive branch can more easily muster. The Supreme Court is the only national governmental entity with above-water approval ratings, and that’s not because of the popularity of its recent decisions, but rather because most voters have no idea what it does.  This is normally how a President gains the upper hand in these situations: He can communicate directly to the voters, in non-legalese, what the problem is and how his popular proposal fixes it.  Voters are more likely to credit arguments they can actually understand.

    But that’s not what’s happening here — the natural advantages of the presidency over the judiciary don’t exist in the mandate debate.  First, while health care reform is very popular, the mandate isn’t.   Second, the non-legal argument in favor of the mandate, which references things like adverse selection and asymmetric information, is about as comprehensible to most voters as a court squabble over Tenth Amendment jurisprudence.  Obama’s picking a legitimacy fight with a popular entity whose alleged failures are impossible to explain to the typical voter crisply, he’s doing it over an issue that’s controversial with the voting public to begin with, AND the merits of which can only be explained by a health economics lecture.

    I think Obama’s really stepped in it this time.  I hope he takes a step back and wipes off his shoe instead of jumping in with both feet.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Robert Greer says:

      “First, while health care reform is very popular, the mandate isn’t”…

      That’s the thing, though.  The court would have to sever the mandate and toss only it in order for this factor to define public reaction.  That would create the highest level of chaos in the insurance markets of any of the possible actions the Court could take, and it’s just not going to do it.  Short of invalidating the whole law – clearly from Day 3 arguments the most likely outcome if the mandate is struck – the Court could deem the Medicaid expansion and subsidies severable from the regulate/mandate tradeoff (they are), and strike the regulations which are dependent on the mandate for sustainability even in the short run.  This is the minimum they’ll do if they invalidate the mandate. But – and this is the key point – those regulations are by far and away the most popular part of the law, and a good number of them are already in effect.  Obama will have the argument that the Court chose to invalidate popular constitutional insurance regulations on the basis of an argument that the means that Congress chose to make them workable are unconstitutional that a year ago was regarded as a long shot under current precedent by those who devised and advanced it.

      Now, that doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong that picking a fight with Scotus is not a winning move for Obama.  There’s not much traction there to be had in it for the reasons you give, except for one: the notion that in this specific instance, Obama would be defending only an unpopular provision in his law.  He would likely be defending the entire law, if not primarily the most popular part of it.  But as a general matter, I think you’re right; there’s still not much traction there.  That’s why I don’t think we’re seeing an indication of any eagerness to do it.  We’re seeing the laying of groundwork to prepare the option of going that route if it is a move that is forced upon him – something that tthe invalidation of the law, an event whose political repercussions are essentially impossible to predict with certainty at this time, certainly could do.  If the decision comes down against Obama, but looks not to be sinking his reelect chances, then i wouldn’t look for this to be a major part of his campaign (though you’ll certainly hear at least some pushback from the White House; would you expect not to under any circumstances?).

      But if it greatly impacts his polling, his hand will be forced, as he’ll have nothing to lose.  I suppose it’s possible (or even likely) that the campaign won’t feel like it has the luxury of waiting out the polling impact, and will feel like it has to activate this option immediately.  Even then, that is an assessment that its hand has been forced (by political survival – I’m not arguing this is a principled or laudable choice; I’m purely talking strategy from their perspective), not an elective choice.  I don’t think they’ve chosen that path at this time, and I especially think that the comments today are being exaggerated and mistakenly extrapolated by commentators left and right (both of which are spoiling for this fight). Between now and then, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of escalation or reiteration of rhetoric that indicates a desire to take a fight with the Court to the public. In a world of their choosing, surely we wouldn’t expect for them to elect to run against the Supreme Court.  The downside is too obvious.

      Btw to Professor Hanley – this is another reason that I assign “events” broadly conceived a higher baseline expected role in shaping the election dynamic this year than in many other years.  The ACA decision 1)is a certain event just qua event that will impact the race, which doesn’t exist in a standard year; 2) but its basic nature is itself an unknown, and 3) whatever its nature, its impact on the race is largely unpredictable at this time.  Hence, as a baseline, greater uncertainty as to the fundamental dynamic of the general campaign this year as compared to an average year.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It’s really another instance of Chicken Little-ism on the part of the Left.
        Last cycle it was that a Democrat would get the troops out of Iraq.
        This time, it’s that people who have health insurance will be required to forgo that purchase should a Republican win.
        It’s always the end of the world to the Left.
        Oddly enough, they have quite a number of Doomsday scenarios, each one of which is required to be accepted whole-heartedly and without compunction.
        From having been on both sides of the aisle, I see the Left as much more ideologically rigid, and much less inclined to consider (not necessarily ‘adopt,’ but ‘to consider’) other points of view.
        That’s what I (the union man that writes for the same conservative website as Dr. Don Boys) see.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

          If the Court strikes down the law, things actually will go back to how they were (i.e. insurers won’t have to cover children with pre-existing conditions and young people won’t necessarily be able to stay on their parents insurance until age 26), and actual regulations that majorities of people currently like the idea of won’t go into effect.  If saying what the effects of a thing happening that has been proposed is Chicken Little-ism, fine.  Who cares?  What else is a public discussion of policy options going to consist of?

          The rest of this seems unrelated to my (if I do say so myself) tightly argued post.  Make it a separate comment then, how about?Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

            … (my) comment, I should say, not post.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

            No thanks.
            I believe I could mimic all the arguments well enough myself, and there is nothing to be gained from it.
            Were there any new points to consider, I might do that, were the issues I might raise not ignored.
            And really, I think you reaffirmed the basic point of my previous comment well enough.
            I hereby opt out.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

              You missed my point.  Proper etiquette here (and nearly everywhere online) requires staying on-topic.  I’m instructing you to observe that etiquette where I am concerned. My apologies if phrasing that as a request with a question mark was too subtle for you to be able to receive that message.

              Your general impressions of the Left are just unrelated to my comment, which was part of a conversation assessing the potential political effectiveness for the administration of a fight with the Supreme Court (and whether that is going to happen). Just flat unrelated: personal stalking-horse territory.  If you want to make a point about the Left’s propensity to consider viewpoints, or any other free-standing, pre-fabricated points like it, that’s great.  Find a thread where you think it is relevant and make an original comment of your own to the end, or find someone else’s comment that makes the point relevant.  This comment of mine was not one such comment.

              I’m going to speak only for myself here. If you’re going to respond to my comments, make what you say relevant to them.  Do not try to pass off your personal stalking horses as relevant to what i write here when it is not.  I trust I am being clear enough now.  No question marks in sight.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

                You can keep your instruction on etiquette and shove it up your ass, you fool.
                Do NOT presume to lecture me– and particularly so when your inane ramblings might take the form of more than two sentences.
                True enough, my previous comment should have gone on another thread. I happened to have more than one tab open in the browser at the time.
                Now, for you to attribute an error so slight to ‘personal stalking-horse territory’ amounts to no more undue stridency on your part.
                Seriously, such an accusation is entirely inappropriate.
                You have said to me nothing more than that you are worthless as a human being.
                You are not to be considered above the beasts of the field, nor would I consider any diatribe emanating from such an ass, no matter how inordinately wordy, to be above their braying.
                So please consider this polite request– Go take your pontifications of superiority and kindly shove them up your ass.
                By all means, consider the matter.
                Please do.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

                If it’s any consolation to your wounded pride, this particular instance was just a last-straw kind of situation; by all means this is not the most egregious example of this behavior here of late.  People do it much more blatantly than you did here; this was just the time when i decided to let my view on it be known. It is just commonplace here now, that people will offer a thought or at most two that is relevant to whatever it is they are ostensibly responding to, and then head off in obviously unrelated and pre-determined directions determined by their own agendas.  it screws up discourse, and I’m sick of it.  It’s not entirely right that you’d be the recipient of my first comment expressing that, but someone had to be, and you did do exactly that here.  I don’t intend offense, but neither do I have any obligation to be silent when this is my view.  I hope we can continue to interact on particular topics in the future.Report

              • Erik Kain in reply to Will H. says:

                Will H this is a totally unacceptable comment. Consider this a warning. We do have a comment policy which you are in clear violation of.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Erik Kain says:

                First of all, I disagree.
                Secondly, if this comment, which appears to have been deleted, was “totally unacceptable,” then show me the unacceptable part. I sort of remember what was in there.
                And third, I had considered the matter that this might be a violation of the comment policy before I posted that. I came to the conclusion that when a pit bull has latched on to my leg, the comment policy hits the back seat.
                Fourthly, if this is a notice that I am on borrowed time, so be it.
                And fifth, I have to question your own objectivity in this matter in both deleting the comment and issuing such a stern warning.
                And sixthly, if you care to discuss the matter, you have my e-mail address. There’s been enough of public contention on this thread, and I fail to see the benefit of you adding to that.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                I regret that you have chosen not to respond to my invitation to discuss the matter in private. We can parse the statements in public if you’d like.

                The term “cluelessness” is a charitable middle-ground reading of the expression, “wounded pride.” Pride is not at issue. To forward this claim is to deny the basic character of the offense.
                On the one hand, it is possible (and it is my belief) that the person making this claim is of a severely pathological social character. That’s if the mischaracterization was done without intent. If the mischaracterization was intentional, this would indicate that the speaker is employing a number of intolerably underhanded rhetorical tactics; minimizing, blame-shifting, et al.
                He literally told me in the first few words that any degree of honesty was completely out of the question.
                He chose to respond to the previous comment; which, it should be noted, incurs a certain degree of culpability.
                I made note of that.
                And I was fully aware that further dialogue would prove unfruitful.
                But I’m not going to be shoved around by some jackass with a chip on his shoulder. I don’t care who it is.
                For you to require that of me is out of line on your part.
                Frankly, I question the one-sidedness of the implementation of this ‘policy.’ Keep in mind that I have seen Tom be the subject of abuse in numerous comments that no one should have to endure.
                I think your trigger finger might have gotten a bit itchy.
                I understand well enough that this is your sandbox, and I just come here to play; but let’s both acknowledge that the reason I do so is not on your account.
                If you wish to cultivate an echo chamber, that is your right.
                I was not around for an extended period of time, because I had other demands. I know that situation will soon arise again. There will be a stretch of long months where I simply have no time to read or comment as I would wish.
                Perhaps because of that absence, I have noted a distinct change in the comments; and frankly, not for the better. Personally, I would rather attribute this to the high passions of an election year than to point fingers or assume ill will or other ungentlemanly attributes.
                I’ll leave it at that for now.
                Consider the invitation still open.Report

              • Erik Kain in reply to Will H. says:

                Will, I discuss comment violations in public for a reason. And I have no idea what you mean when you say the comment has been deleted. It’s right there. Upthread. Saying things like:

                “You can keep your instruction on etiquette and shove it up your ass, you fool.”

                That’s totally unacceptable, for all the obvious reasons. I don’t think there’s anything to discuss.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                I understand that you felt the need to assert policy.
                And previously, your use of the word ‘This’ was unclear to me.
                It can mean so many things.
                Yes, I could have phrased myself better with only a slight bit more thought.
                I get it.Report

  12. Will H. says:

    I see little point in that, frankly.
    The first few words there show an utter cluelessness.
    No matter how anal retentive you might be, people are people, all over the world.
    The more people you gather together in one room, the more likely it is that someone will fart.
    That’s not to say that crowds should be avoided.
    It’s just to say that there’s no need to stick your nose up into someone’s ass when that happens.
    There is no issue of ‘wounded pride.’ I don’t know how you could have possibly read that into the comment that I wrote.
    You are welcome to your own cluelessness, but count me out.
    As noted previously, I believe I could mimic every argument you could make, and do so more convincingly; with the sole exception of those moments of innate cluelessness.
    Go in peace.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

      I didn’t figure you probably were interested, but I wanted to make clear where I stood.  I do take this to mean I can be assured not to see any responses from you to anything I write here going forward, in particular to include comments that are not related to it.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I consider myself to be under no manner of contractual obligation.
        If you came online looking for any manner of assurances on any topic, you are indeed on a fool’s errand.
        Further, I’ll be damned if some ill-mannered lout will direct my speech as to what manner of things I may or may not say.
        You’re free not to read, if it should offend you.
        While you have a right to control yourself according to the requirements of your anal retentive characterlessness, I refuse to be bound by the same.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

          You’re surely not bound by anything I say.  I’m simply trying to determine the meaning of your statement about your intentions.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

            By all means, feel free to parse the meaning as much as you’d like, with my blessings.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

              I did more than that, i took a stab at it and let you know what I thought I could conclude.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

                It seems like a pretty twisted sort of conclusion, all in all.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

                Fair enough.  I’ll anticipate your on-point interactions with me in that case.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …Or not on-point responses!  Obviously it’s up to you.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Oh, really?
                Well then, what if the point happens to be a specific deficit in character on your part characterized by inordinate anal retentive behaviors?
                Now, don’t get me wrong.
                I truly hope that you can get the help that you need.
                Maybe some of your Far Left buddies can do that communal thing and pass the hat around a few times to come up with some lobotomy money.
                If, on the other hand, the point which I am on happens to be the lack of good faith on your part demonstrated by clumsy attempts to divert the topic away from pertinent issues to procedural or parliamentarian observances, then you are simply stuck with your aforementioned pathetic delusions.
                Well, up until the time that your particular brand of socialism is given value in the concrete by producing said lobotomy funds.
                But I don’t want you to think that I am unsympathetic to the mentally ill.
                It’s just that, for some, holding their heads in the toilet until the legs stop kicking is really the only genuinely humane option.
                And I really do hope that you receive the attention to your “special needs” that they truly deserve.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

                Those points i would acknowledge as, if not actually on point, at least with some basis in the conversation, since I am a party to it.  It’s not like ad hominem must has no potential relation to a discussion, it’s just that it’s a fallacy with regard to the substance of it.  And it’s hardly declared out of bounds as a blanket matter around here.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Did you say something?
                I say a stream of words, but I couldn’t tell if you were saying something, so I thought I’d ask.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

        And really, I think you’re just upset that I was able to point out a particular instance as concrete, objective fact regarding the topics related on that other thread; namely, that the Left is chock-full of Doomsday scenarios, any one of which is, in itself, quite laughable.
        It was pure partisanship at first, strongly diluted with childishness later.
        It serves to alter the salience of the point not one whit.
        And so, you do the bait-and-switch of changing the topic to your anal retentive nature.
        But I really don’t care what manner of mental illness you suffer from.
        That’s all on you.
        “But I’m mentally ill, and I wish to change the subject” is not a viable argument.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Will H. says:

          Your Doomsday point was on point, and I addressed it.  Your “the Left doesn’t consider viewpoints other than its own” was not related to the discussion.  It’s just a broad swipe, which is not a problem if it’s on point, but it wasn’t, and I’m not interested in being stuck having to either address tacked-on stalking-horse rants (mini- or not) or else have to leave them unaddressed.  So I said something different to that effect.  I regret that you’re having such a hard time dealing with it.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

            I’m not having a hard time dealing with it.
            I’m able to see a meta in the messaging; that’s all.
            I might be myopic in the natural sense, but not in the meta sense.
            It’s simply that I do not feel inclined to share in your mental illness.
            Nothing really difficult to figure out.
            The concept that I might be having a hard time not sharing in mental illness is another one of those conjured sentiments having no basis in reality.
            I pity you for your pathetic delusions, but your mental illness is your own, regardless of what manner of fraudulent means you employ to shift the burden of it elsewhere.
            In fact, I feel much, much better for not sharing in your mental illness, and likewise in regard to your pathetic delusions.
            At least, I can more clearly discern the basis of your positions.
            But I wouldn’t worry about it so much if I were you.
            To be clear, being rather forthright and open about your mental illness, your pathetic delusions, and your numerous attempts at fraudulent means, bait-and-switch, and various swindles, in no way alters my perception of the Far Left policies for which the endorsement of has won you some renown.
            It just clarifies the matter somewhat.Report

  13. BlaiseP says:

    I’ve got a little model running now, using CME RBOB gasoline futures combined with BLS labor numbers to compose the probability for an Obama re-election.   Now Obama can’t do much about either number, but those seem to be the important pain variables.  If November rolls around and the current BLS trend continues, he’ll win big.  If RBOB keeps trending up, he’s toast, no matter what the BLS trend does.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:


      How does that model work for retroactively predicting prior presidential elections?

      And do you know (have you tested) to see if gasoline futures are a better predictor than the Brent or WTI spot prices?  And does it matter if you use RBOB or the NYMEX crude futures?

      (Given our recent vigorous debate, I want to make clear that this is not a critique, but an expression of sincere interest. The social scientist in me is intrinsically interested in the potential for very simple predictive models.)Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

        RBOB gives me a Pucker Factor for the outside world, since it’s the tail end of many processes, a nexus point.  BLS gives me an internal Pucker Factor, for employment numbers are usually the last to move in an economy.   Currently, I’m running the RBOB node at about weight 40 and the BLS node at weight 60.

        I should see if I can do any retrofitting to historical data, it’s currently fed from my TradeStation stream.   It’s been running about six months, I think, I rejiggered it a few months back, thinking RBOB transits were more painful.   Purely subjective, mind you.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Purely subjective, mind you.

          So this…

          If November rolls around and the current BLS trend continues, he’ll win big.  If RBOB keeps trending up, he’s toast, no matter what the BLS trend does. …

          is your working hypothesis for a first test of the model, and not based on any supporting data to date? Just what you expect to be the (rough) relative weight of the two variables?  Do I have that right?

          Do be sure to let us know how it works out. Even if it’s purely subjective at the moment, it’s obviously real data, so it lends itself long-term to non-subjective analysis.

          • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

            Currently the model is just giving me thetas, with two Dark Clouds keeping me from a true Intrade type odds-maker.  The farther I get from the last BLS data, the less I can depend on it, and that data is already a bit stale by the time I get it.   Now that the Nov RBOB contract has just now come into view, I’m about to put in nodes for each open contract, talking to each other.    The BLS data isn’t quite as useful as I thought it would be:  I will probably move to U-3 numbers from U-6 numbers in light of the fact that all the remaining RBOB contracts between now and November are trading.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

        Here’s how the model works, sorta.   Look at the Nov 2012 RBOB contract.  It’s still in light trading, at this moment it’s at 1003 volume.    Notice, too, that the Dec 2012 contract is about twice that volume, just about 2000.   As we get closer to November, we’ll see more volume.   There’s a cumulative price trend, (again, this is just using the cmegroup website, not actual option data ) as we look down the contract list from May to Nov, look at the change values for the near contracts, all down.   The Nov contract is light.   Look at its price graf, you see it popped up from Jan through to March, where the Nov contract starts bouncing around.

        The Nov contract is light because everyone knows the US election will have consequences.

        That’s sorta where the model gets interested, it sees an odd dip in volume in this one contract and lots of stochastic motion for a few weeks.   The market views the Nov RBOB as a hot potato just now.Report

  14. Barnum says:

    Are youtube links banned or filtered?Report