How Gary Hart Taught Me that Obama Will Win in November


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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134 Responses

  1. Avatar Thoreau says:

    To you, and to me, Obama is the more likeable candidate. It isn’t clear to me that he’s more likeable to a sufficiently broad swath of the electorate. He might be, but I don’t feel like I have enough info to say that at this point.

    Granted, he won last time, and that means something, but he won after an economic meltdown under the watch of a party that had disastrously misruled for 8 years. The Democrats could have run a dead skunk and won a plurality. And whatever you think about the economic recovery (or lack thereof), and however you do or don’t assign blame to him, the economy is hardly strong enough to give him a substantial advantage.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Although Obama is vain, he is also nasty.

      BTW, new Gallup:

      “Romney’s standing has improved as the party unites behind him as the nominee, and his favorability — the personal sense of the candidate — now stands roughly equal to that of Obama:

      Since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Romney’s favorable-unfavorable rating has jumped to 50%-41%, his best ever and in the same neighborhood as Obama’s 52%-46% standing.”

      Should the election actually come down to substance [there is a small %age that votes that way]:

      “In the poll, 55% say the economy would get better over the next four years if Romney was elected, compared with 46% who say it would improve if Obama was re-elected. Twenty-seven percent say the economy would get worse in a Romney first term, compared with 37% who say that of an Obama second term.”

      The spin of the USAToday article

      is fascinatingly different than the HotAir analysis:

      In the USAToday piece, the good news for Romney doesn’t appear until the 6th paragraph; the first 5 paragraphs are opinionation as to why the poll may be good news for the president.

      Stipulated that the HotAir post is partisan and spun for Romney. What is the difference between a partisan-spinning blog and a newspaper like USAToday? If you answered, “not much, apparently,” you’re probably already a Romney supporter.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        And in 2004, the polls and the pundits predicted a horse race and maybe even a Kerry presidency every single day until it was time to vote – and then the nation said, “nah” despite two unpopular wars and a sagging economy.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Kerry was actually ahead at this point in 2004. I think it was the same point in the election as now, where he was the nominee and was a bit of a high point. He fell behind in June, but was competitive or ahead up until September. At which point Bush pulled ahead and stayed there.Report

      • Avatar Josef Goebbels says:

        Using the words Hotair and analysis in the same sentence? Come on now.

        If you have to quote somewhere, try not quoting a racist cesspool full of birtherism.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          That was sort of the point, Mr. Grumpy, that USAToday was not much more even-handed in its presentation of the poll than a blatantly partisan blog.

          The HotAir analysis was accurate, BTW, not that it matters. I have no desire to litigate what’s there in cyberblack & white. The point of Tod’s post is Obama’s likeability, and Gallup indicates Romney is pulling even. Without likability going for him, BHO will have to run on his record.

          That will be litigated over the next 6 months, we are assured.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      He did win last time, but he didn’t just win the general. He won the primaries, against established DNC stalwarts, one of whom was crowned the nominee by the press before the race even began. And in the general, he wasn’t just elected, he became an icon. If you remember, a big part of what the GOP ran against as the race heated up (and right after he was elected) was that you had to be suspicious about someone that was that popular.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        I always expected Edwards to do better than he did. To the Dems’ credit that he didn’t. On the visceral level, Edwards vs. Kerry was a duh.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        No, Tod, check the tape. The bloom fell off Obama late spring / early summer 2008. If Lehman Bros and the Wall Street meltdown had happened 6 mos later we’d have President McCain today.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          Koz, if the bloom fell off him in mid 2008 how the hell did he so utterly dominate in November? ANd not just electorally, but with half the country wearing t-shirts with his logo and image?Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            Because when the financial crisis of 2008 hit it became clear that Sen McCain lacked the energy and depth of engagement to deal with that and the other serious problems that America had and has. Ie, “get off my lawn.” By contrast, then-Sen. Obama got one over on the American people. To the extent they will remember that, is one reason why it will be so difficult for President Obama to be reelected this November.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          And stimulus for all!
          Don’t believe me? Talk to Zandi, or you’re just foolin’Report

  2. “The Bush I-Dukakis race doesn’t properly fit, since it started out as a race between two candidates that rubbed people the wrong way, and bizarrely added a third with the emergence of independent Ross Perot. ”

    Perot was actually in the Bush I-Clinton (and Clinton-Dole).Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Mickey Kaus has a “Secret Patriotism” theory that may be worth exploring here (and, yes, while he touches on the Gary Hart story, you’ve filled in blanks that Kaus didn’t).

    This is a theory that makes sense to me.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      There may be some truth to this. I think there’s a lot more intuition in such things than a lot of other people. Sometimes I think this leads to a liberal bias. Other times I think that “super patriot” may well be a part of it. But other times… I think they just get an idea in their collective heads. Despite my belief that the media tilts to the left, I also believe they demolished Gore. Something about him rubbed the wrong way with the press.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        I agree: the press didn’t carry Gore or Kerry’s water. And the underqualified BHO also got less scrutiny because frankly, they knew McCain and that he’s a bit screwy. A Secret Patriot might well be inclined to take our chances with BHO.

        But it didn’t hurt that BHO was a Dem, and historically black, etc. And there was zero excuse in helping bury Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes like Gennifer Flowers vs. a solid Bush41. That was partisan. Clinton got Flowers a state job, and that’s not mere cocksmanship, that’s corrupt, and it should have brought him down.Report

        • Avatar Josef Goebbels says:

          If getting one’s mistress a job in government were grounds for firing, the Republicans wouldn’t have a sitting congressman left.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            Do you have any proof of this?Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              a dead dc madam had plenty of proof of plenty of things (blackmail, mostly– and on nobody’s partisans in particular — you either valuable, or you’re Socialist (seriously, nobody got nothing on the man from VT — too unimportant)). Pity she’s dead, ain’t it? Sharp cookie, that one…Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          Again with “the press”.
          Why didn’t Fox investigate BHO?
          Or are they not part of “the press”?Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            I dunno, Lib60. How many proudly avow they’d never watch Fox? And based on their inept criticisms of it, I have to agree: they get their Fox via Media Matters or one of the other usual sources that filter out adult content.


            “Faux” News. Ever hear that one? Very witty, don’t you think? Not the real press atall. No point in watching.Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              But wouldn’t it seem reasonable to think that if there were any vetting to be done, Steve Doocy would be the man for the job?

              And if there were any skeletons in BHO’s closet, Megan Kelly would be just the intrepid sleuth to crack the case, no?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                You’d ignore it either way, Lib60. And don’t mess with Megyn–she’s smarter than you and better looking than me.

                You realize that Barack Obama would’ve got creamed in his 2004 Senate race without the help of the press [Chicago Trib] getting Republican Jack Ryan’s divorce papers unsealed, yes? What was the story with that, and what was David Axelrod’s involvement?

                Is it true that

                “One month before the 2004 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Obama was way down in the polls, about to lose to Blair Hull, a multimillionaire securities trader.

                “But then The Chicago Tribune — where Axelrod used to work — began publishing claims that Hull’s second ex-wife, Brenda Sexton, had sought an order of protection against him during their 1998 divorce proceedings.”

                Result: “Hull’s substantial lead just a month before the primary collapsed with the nonstop media attention to his divorce records. Obama sailed to the front of the pack and won the primary. Hull finished third with 10 percent of the vote.”

                Why did Obama win the Senate seat after winning the Democrat primary?

                “Luckily for Axelrod, Obama’s opponent in the general election had also been divorced.

                “The Republican nominee was Jack Ryan, a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard law and business schools, who had left his lucrative partnership at Goldman Sachs to teach at an inner-city school on the South Side of Chicago.

                “But in a child custody dispute some years earlier, Ryan’s ex-wife, Hollywood sex kitten Jeri Lynn Ryan, had alleged that, while the couple was married, Jack had taken her to swingers clubs in Paris and New York.

                “Jack Ryan adamantly denied the allegations. In the interest of protecting their son, he also requested that the records be put permanently under seal.

                “Axelrod’s courthouse moles obtained the ‘sealed’ records and, in no time, they were in the hands of every political operative in Chicago. Knowing perfectly well what was in the records, Chicago Tribune attorneys flew to California and requested that the court officially ‘unseal’ them — over the objections of both Jack and Jeri Ryan.”

                The records were unsealed, Ryan quickly dropped out of the race, Alan Keyes rushed to Illinois to contest Obama instead, and Obama won with a 43 percent margin.

                Before you play “Impeach the Source,” is the above accurate? Do you care?

                Hint: Not Steve Doocy. But close.

                Not Fox. Worse.

                You don’t care and the press doesn’t care, and that’s the name of this tune. But as far as I know, the above is true, that Obama wouldn’t even have got through the primary let alone the general election without serious douchebaggery. I’d bet most Obama supporters never heard this story.

                Hey, I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. It’s not that it bothers me much that the Obamans play down and dirty. So did GOPer Lee Atwater by all accounts. Politics is a full-contact sport.

                And I’ll tell you what, just between you and me, Lib60—Romney played pretty damn rough in the primaries. There is no glory or honor in getting out-douchebagged, eh? As they say in North Dallas Forty, seeing through the game isn’t the same thing as winning it.

                Do keep your eye on Breibart’s Army of Davids and “The Vetting,” though. What would be fishing perfect would be somebody inside the LATimes leaking this to!


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Wrong. I was around for Barack Obama’s Senate campaign. He used to be my State Senator. Here’s how it really went down, that little idiot Megyn Kelly notwithstanding.

                Obama was the protégé of Emil Jones. Obama had volunteered to carry water to the Republicans, worked on some deeply troubling issues related to accusations of police violence. The Republicans, who dominate rural Illinois, were surprised and delighted to find this ambitious young man could get things done. Obama had two important attributes: no previous alliances with the Chicago Crowd in the State Senate and his ability to negotiate in good faith with the GOP’s staunchest supporters, the chiefs of police. Obama came through for everyone: the chiefs of police were glad enough to institute a policy of videotaping interviews and the Democrats were glad to have a solution to this problem, free of the usual party shenanigans.

                It was those Republicans who rallied to Obama’s Senate campaign. Megyn “Food Product” Kelly won’t tell you that. Those GOPers from rural Illinois knew they would have a friend in the US Senate.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          “I agree: the press didn’t carry Gore or Kerry’s water. “

          Oh I think they did. In Gore’s case it didn’t matter and in Kerry’s case it backfired, a la Dan Rather.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            … and this is why we can’t have nice things.
            Because you say that the “press” carried water, adn I say that GE fucked him (and rather, who didn’t deserve it) over.
            Do you motherfucking see the difference?Report

  4. Avatar Scott says:


    I think you are looking at the wrong metric, characteristic, etc. Bush didn’t beat Gore b/c he was likable (in fact the liberal press did everything to make him appear less likable. Remember all the news that George was a drunken drug addicted spoiled frat boy who dodged the draft), he beat Gore b/c folks were sick of Clinton and Gore appeared to be a continuation of Clinton. Same thing with Barry, he won b/c folks were sick of Bush and wanted a change.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      You might be right about that in general, but I would have loved to see a continuation of Clinton. I knew Clinton, and Gore was no Clinton.

      I voted for him with my fingers firmly pinched over my nostrils. (He was really about as despicable a candidate as Dems – or at least this Dem – could’ve feared in their worst nightmares.)Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Scott, agree about Bush fatigue but the press let the Gore “earth tones” story play, and iirc, it’s not accurate. Same with the “invented the internet,” Gore as serial exaggerator—Erich Segal wrote “Love Story” about him & Tipper.

      Gore had no business losing what was a referendum election on peace and prosperity. The prevailing narrative is that Gore lost by shedding Clinton instead of running on their joint record.

      The press isn’t always in the Dem bag [although never in the GOP one, mind you]. Afterall, they also chose sides against Hillary, and let the Obamans play the race card on Bill. They have their own internal logic.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The prevailing narrative is that Gore lost by shedding Clinton instead of running on their joint record.

        He needed to flounce (FLOUNCE!) his reputation as a beta-male.

        (Ooops, I meant flout. Whatever.)Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I’ve hated the Gores since the PMRC hearings in 1985. Could it be that the press corps are die hard Prince fans??? Okay, probably not, but it’d be cool.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        because union bashing is never the republican line…
        You’re right, you know — the republicans are in the press’s bag, adn not the other way around.
        Because you can’t spell press without General Electric.Report

  5. Avatar Koz says:

    This doesn’t quite work, among other things the premises are shaky. Think about GWB and the general perception of his likability. I don’t think it’s especially controversial to say it was much different in 1999 than in 2004, and different still in 2007. President Obama is viewed much differently today (and not to his benefit) than he was when he was candidate Obama back in 2008.

    The bigger point is that relative to any other Presidential election I can recall, I don’t think this election is going to be about likability. Clive Crook wrote an interesting piece a couple of days ago:

    Frankly, I think he overstates the case in Obama’s favor. Somehow, he’s going to have to put the major decisions of his 3+ years in office in context, or else his attempts to avoid it will make him look more ridiculous than he already does.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

      Frankly, I think he overstates the case in Obama’s favor.

      Frankly, it’s not surprising that you think that.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        No, it’s not. Among other things Crook writes:

        “Offer centrist compromise proposals on the issues that confront the country–Bowles-Simpson on fiscal policy, to cite the most obvious instance–and let the Republicans reject them. Keep offering, keep being rejected. Don’t stop coming back with appeals for moderation and common sense, and let the GOP respond with promises to eliminate the federal government. See where that gets them.

        In the end, remember, Bill Clinton defeated Newt Gingrich. He had to stare down the base of his own party to do it–but he won.

        What you recommend is exactly what we have been doing, say many Democrats. No.”

        Notice that, according to Crook, Demo’s believe that they have been reasonable and willing to compromise already. I don’t know if Demo’s really believe that, but if they do it’s just a matter of how out of touch they are and why they’re going to go down this November.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          It might work, Koz. Raise taxes a zillion dollars on the rich? The reasonable compromise position is therefore a half-zillion.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            Yeah, that’s pretty much how they think. It actually would be a reasonable position if the only two players in the game were the political interest of Team Red and Team Blue. Unfortunately there are also the expectations and authority of the citizens, and the reality of what’s effective as good policy.

            Libs and Demo’s want to believe that their failure to adapt to those things is somehow our team’s fault. It’s not.Report

        • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

          What, I wonder, would the “Demo”‘s have had to have done, said, or said and done to have qualified as “reasonable and willing to compromise” in your world?Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            They could have pulled the plug on PPACA or further attempts of the same at any of several points during President Obama’s first year in office.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

              So, being “reasonable and willing to compromise” means completely abandoning the centerpiece of their agenda? I won’t even go into the argument over characterizing the legislation itself on the right-left spectrum. If completely abandoning multi-generational commitment to universalization of health care access is being “reasonable and willing to compromise” on the part of the Democrats, what similar “reasonable compromise” would the Democrats be in a position to expect from the Republicans in exchange, or is “reasonable compromise” something that occurs only within the right?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Well yeah, when your agenda sucks or it gets beat you have to give it up.

                The important point is that is you aren’t ‘compromising’ to us, ie, Team Red. We know you could give a shit about us, and frankly we don’t take it very personally. What you are compromising to is the authority of the American people and best interest of the nation as a whole. The reality that Team Blue is willing piss on the sovereignty of the American people, can’t conceivably be punished enough.

                In fact, this is why Corey Robin and theses like his can never be legitimate. The more abstract Left likes to talk entertain themselves about how capital in the late industrial period is part of the social project of retrenchment to maintain hierarchy through complex phenomena, blah blah blah.

                Politically speaking, the one thing we know for sure about the 99% is that the 99% hates PPACA. Therefore, to give meaningful agency to those people means that PPACA has to go.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                I’m not a huge fan of Corey Robin, but I think your position that he and his thesis “can never be legitimate” fits that illegitimate thesis of his rather well. So does much else of what you have to say, but even more how you say it – especially aggressive assertion of unquestionable authority masked in pseudo-democratic language.

                blah blah blah piss shit sports punish authority America: “reasonable and willing to compromise.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m not a huge fan of Corey Robin, but I think your position that he and his thesis “can never be legitimate” fits that illegitimate thesis of his rather well.

                Point, CK!Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “…but even more how you say it – especially aggressive assertion of unquestionable authority masked in pseudo-democratic language.”

                Not at all. Somehow, on its own terms, Left politics is an attempt satisfy or create agency, human needs, complete personhood for people other than the ruling classes of society. Therefore those of us not on the Left can say, great, name that tune. What exactly have you accomplished, or what can we reasonably expect that you will accomplish on those terms?

                When the answer comes back, and it’s not good, then we can say Left politics is bad. More specifically, it is simply an assertion of power by its own enthusiasts for their own desires and ends. Which of course cannot be ethically privileged because it’s not positively differentiated from anything assertion of power, political or otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                well, I’d go for more entrepreneurship. you like that, don’t you?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I’m not too crazy about the record of your side for the past few decades. Complete personhood for people other than the “ruling classes” of society is important – how do you propose to go about achieving it? Or do you insist that personhood should only be for the wealthy, as it was in the days of slavery and voting rights only for the landed aristocracy?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Personhood for the wealthy and people of fetusness.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                “Complete personhood for people other than the “ruling classes” of society is important – how do you propose to go about achieving it?”

                We don’t. We look at things from a different angle. We say, great, what do have you achieved or expect to achieve in the interest of personhood for those other than the ruling classes of society? Nothing? I thought so. Then there really is no value in Left politics at all.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:


      “Somehow, he’s going to have to put the major decisions of his 3+ years in office in context, or else his attempts to avoid it will make him look more ridiculous than he already does.”

      Barry’s explanation after almost four years is always, “it is Bush’s fault.” Sadly, the liberal media doesn’t question this desire to avoid responsibility.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        Frankly, I don’t think he’s even going to try that. My guess is, as laughable as it seems, he’s going to spend the next six months campaigning without mentioning the major decisions of his time in office, the condition of the economy, or the relationship between them.

        I don’t think he can get away with it. The American people are not look favorably on a candidate who insists on getting the people’s attention, then has nothing interesting to say when he gets it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        Yeah, he should put a finer point on it. It’s all Alan Greenspan’s fault.Report

  6. Avatar J. Compere says:

    “Their candidate, on the other hand, couldn’t stop facing questions about why he said he invented the internet, despite the fact that it had long since been proven that he never had. ”

    …Golly. Mr Kelly, I’d like you to meet Mr Somerby:
    …you could search the site for “gore, internet”…Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      There are two ways of parsing that sentence, and I think Tod wrote it mindfully.

      Their candidate, on the other hand, couldn’t stop facing questions about why he said he invented the internet, despite the fact that it had long since been proven that he never had [claimed to have invented the internet.]


      • Avatar J. Compere says:

        Or: Their candidate, on the other hand, couldn’t stop facing questions about why he said he invented the internet, despite the face that it had long since been proven that he never had [invented the internet]…

        Because the first comment in *any* webarticle mentioning Mr Gore is “huhah he sez he invented the internet duh!” (if not “he’s fat!!) I think my comment stands… Mr McSnarksnark, if in fact that’s your real name…Report

  7. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    I’m with Tod all the way on this one. Unless something dramatic happens between now and November, I think the election belongs to Obama.

    There’s 30% of the country convinced he’s Kenyan, Muslim, socialist race warrior, but this is precisely the same 30% that thought Bill Clinton had two of his best friends murdered, indulged an eight-year vendetta against him; so they would never have voted for any Democrat.

    But Obama has been sober, thoughtful, likable and elegant. Romney is sweaty, wooden, and shifty-eyed. I think the sober, likable one will win.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Like a catastrophic collapse of the Euro brought about by Hollande posturing and a Greek default bringing on a cascading bunch of sovereign debt defaults by Italy, Spain and Portugal?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Depending on how far it ripples through the US finance industry, that particular drama might well favor Obama. If it turns out that the big US banks have written a few hundred billion dollars worth of default insurance (and there are certainly rumors to that effect) that they can’t pay, then Romney is toast because of his association with Big Finance. If the rumors are true, the big US banks have got to be doing everything they can to keep those defaults from happening until after the election — if the wheels come off before the election and it looks like Big Finance has thrown the US into another deep recession, the Republicans lose big everywhere.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      To be fair, Romney isn’t sweaty. In fact, I haven’t seen him do any of the usual throw-a-football-around pseudo-jock stuff that defines a successful Presidential campaign (and many unsuccessful ones) over the last 30-40 years.Report

  8. Avatar Morat20 says:

    Likeable is too fluid a concept. Kerry unlikeable? He’s apparently very likeable in his home state — he’s been representing them for years. Same for Bush, same for every politician. “Likeable” isn’t always regional. (Palin’s likeabilty, for instance — as well as Cain’s — seemed sharply limited. The people who liked them LOVED them. Everyone else? Not so much. Add Ron Paul into that as well)

    Dubya’s likeability? Drove me crazy, because a lot of his “likeability” nationwide (his ‘authenticity”) wasn’t — I’m Texan, and Bush…well, he sorta was. Sorta. The dude owned a ranch and was afraid of horses. There’s nothing wrong with that — I’d rather someone be overly nervous around a huge animal like that than overly friendly. (Every been bitten by a horse? My father-in-law used to ride rodeo. He’s missing a joint on one of his fingers — horse ate it — and a kick once cracked his hip. Horses are big, strong, and dangerous).

    Meandering back to the point — Texans do have a term for a guy that owns a ranch, but never works it, and owns horses but won’t ride them. It’s not a nice term, because in general we don’t view those people as likelable. Because they take things that Texans in general like — real things — and turn them into props for nationwide consumption. (No, he didn’t clear brush in August. Only the king of all morons would try that, and not after the first time he was hospitalized for heat stroke. August is freakin’ hot down here).

    Kerry got bitten by this — the windsurfing picture. As best I can tell, Kerry has always been a fairly avid windsurfer. Lots of people like windsurfing. But, you know what? Nationwide, not a big sport. Sends a different image. So Kerry got double-slammed — he was caught participating in a sport that’s not highly thought of AND it was widely suspected he was posing for it. Whereas, as best I can tell, the fact that Bush’s ranch was pretty much entirely a campaign prop was never aired.

    Now, back to Hart (that Monkey Business story is one of my brother’s favorites) and how it might apply to Romney.

    Sometimes politicians come across as…off. Not right. Hart seemed to bug his press pool that way, and they took action. Good thing, bad thing — I’ll leave that aside. The question is…does Romney? And does the press even need to make that call, in the era of 24/7 news (but also of carefully scripted politicians and monitered appearances)?

    Anyways, I don’t think Romney comes across as “off”. I think his “perception problems” (for lack of a better word) are going to stem from a lack of conviction. (Although the strangest things can turn off voters. My mother, staunch Republican that she was, washed her hands on Dole the minute he said “It’s my turn” or whatever that line was. She voted Democrat for the first time in her life because she was that furious, months later, that Dole seemed to feel entitled to the office.).

    But no, even as a staunch anti-Romney sort, I don’t think he has that “off” vibe. That sorta..plasticy/oily/faux air that makes you think “charm” is merely “narcissitic manipulation” thing that Hart had.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      FWIW, the vibe I get off videos of Romney campaign stops is the same vibe I got from the guy who sold me my last car. I’m not sure whether it’s a positive or a negative for a politician to get compared to a greasy used car salesman. It probably means they both practice their handshake and looking people in the eye, and it probably means that one on one they could convince a lot of people about a lot of things. The local used car salesman has the smile and nod thing down, but I’m not sure that can translate to televised speeches and debates. When I did watch a couple of the debates it was different, Romney’s facial expressions standing behind the podium often looked like he was trying desperately not to pass gas, which isn’t a very friendly thought.

      The unlikeability of John Kerry actually compares well to Romney. Both are a very northern breed, both aristocratically minded, and both of them have trouble proving that they relate to lower social classes well. Both Kerry and Romney wouldn’t know the price of a gallon of milk, but more than that, they wouldn’t know why the price of a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread was really a big deal for most people. And as others have observed it the harder either of them tries to be likeable or relatable, the more wooden and forced they come across. Sitting down having a beer and watching baseball or football like common folks isn’t their thing, they’re more at home kicking back in a smoking jacket with a champagne glass full of Dom Perignon or a snifter of brandy and checking the horse racing results.

      The vibe I get off of Obama is a cross between some of my old college professors, and somebody I wouldn’t mind having a beer with and some high-minded conversations. He does seem like someone who keeps his emotions tightly in check, most of the time. You’ve got to wonder what would happen if he were ever to get seriously angry about something.

      Cain, Palin, and Ron Paul – definitely Ron Paul – all struck me as people with a very limited but focused appeal more suited to creating a small, loyal following. In Ron Paul’s case it is exceptionally over-loyal, such that friends who’ve recently joined the bandwagon won’t shut up about him. The vibe I get off of them is like the vibe from a TV salesman, though. Sarah Palin or Ron Paul talking in a campaign advertisement totally sound like some of the old Billy Mays commercials. “Constitution Powder, the classic cleaning agent, it wipes away dirt and grime! Order now and we’ll include the State’s Rights Finishing Wax as an added bonus, it repels communism and godless heathens, only $9.99 plus shipping and handling” or something like that.Report

    • “But no, even as a staunch anti-Romney sort, I don’t think he has that “off” vibe. That sorta..plasticy/oily/faux air that makes you think “charm” is merely “narcissitic manipulation” thing that Hart had.”

      Speaking for myself, I don’t see Romney as “off” in the way that Hart has been accused of being “off,” even though I’m no Romneyite.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        No, Romney is definitely not “oily.” I suspect there is some chance that the race can profoundly change when the voting public gets some appreciation of Romney’s actual greatness. I want to say that Willard doesn’t have to pretend to be the smartest guy in the room because he is the smartest guy in the room. But that’s not quite right.

        It’s more that Willard represents a particular miracle of timeliness for America now. Willard has a salutary combination intelligence, experience, accomplishment and the determination to do the right thing even when it’s difficult. I think it was the Kaiser Wilhelm who famously said that God loves children, dogs, and the United States. For my money, it’s about time that we catch a break.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            Willard moves house for his neighbors with one arm.

            The other was in the shop getting a new set of diodes.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          2 things:
          1. I agree that Romney is not oily. When I look at him, the archetype I see isn’t the Gordon Gekko slick suit the Dems are trying to paint him as. It’s the guy that wants the popular kids to think he’s cool, and is having a really tough time of it.

          2. Had not seen that Atlantic piece, thanks for the link. That story about him showing up after he lost the election to help his neighbors move? If I were Romney’s peeps, THAT’S the Mitt I’d be marketing, not the Uber-Wall Street Mega-Conservative. THAT Mitt Romney would resonate with people, I believe.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            I agree, and I think there’s some chance that will happen yet. And the whys and wherefores of that are interesting, in some ways that agree with your OP and others that don’t.

            First of all, part of the reason we see such a thing is because Erik, James Hanley, the guy from the WashPost and the like are attempting premature demagoguery about forced haircuts. So you are right, in that people are going to see what they want to see. And they are going to make up whatever it takes to justify their belief in seeing Willard “Mitt” Romney in a negative light. What’s interesting as it applies to the League, is that for however many hundred comments the whole episode generated here, nobody mentioned that there’s good reason to believe the thing was never true in the first place. The “victim” was dead, the WashPost issued a non-correction correction, close surviving members of the “victim”‘s family denied it, etc. This just happens to be a bubble that the lib / liberaltarian contributors to the League want to live in.

            But let’s note they are also failing. Romney’s polls were going up through the whole episode. In another ten days, he’ll probably have a consensus 3-5 point lead across the major polling organizations. I don’t think they went up because of the haircut thing but nonetheless it got no traction at all. After Dan Rather, people know this sort of thing is politically motivated bullshit.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:


              Doesn’t look like that to me. Maybe I can’t see the glory of Romney, and it’s blinding me to poll movement. But that appears to be a 2 point gap in Obama’s favor, with no trends to indicate narrowing.


              This one is one a Romney supporter needs to worry about — Obama’s favorables are at +8. Romney’s are at -1.4. That is not where a candidate wants to be,Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                The last say,10 days have been very clearly trending Romney. At one point he had a 7 point lead in Rasmussen, 3 point lead in NYT, a one point lead in Gallup and a couple of other places, and a one point deficit somewhere.

                The size of Romney’s lead is not very important at this time but rather that I don’t see the developments that are going to help President Obama’s campaign going forward and I see quite a number that I expect will help Romney.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                And yet it doesn’t show up in aggregate polling.

                Are you sure you’re not seeing what you want to see, instead of what’s there?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Noticeably, Morat20 provides links to support his claims, while koz provides no links to support his claims. That always tells us something.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              Likeability is always different across different demographics. Obama would probably get a 5-point bump if he was shown on TV playing basketball with his daughters or some of his staffers, which as I understand hasn’t happened yet.

              The haircut thing hurt Romney with people who weren’t likely to vote for him anyways, but probably gave him inroads with the frat-boy crowd. After all, if you’re one of the people who was likely also abusing smaller students in high school, then you’re going to “identify with” Romney and think he did nothing wrong. So it’s conceivable that in the minds of that demographic Romney went from a robotic, mormon nerd to a guy who they could have participated in abusive “pranks” with.

              There’s a lot of politically motivated bullshit out there, true. But there’s also a lot out there that isn’t bullshit at all and is still politically motivated. And there’s a lot out there that is politically motivated bullshit, but that the newsmedia are seemingly afraid to call false lest they lose the ability to claim objectivity. I’ve taken a few glances at politifact recently in following the talk show memes and it’s amazing to hear items brought up in this morning’s radio talk shows that were debunked weeks or even months ago at politifact, brought up yet again by host and caller alike as if they were the god-given truth.

              I would say that part of the problem is the way corrections are handled. Video media are hardly ever corrected, and corrections to print media rarely run with the prominence of the original story. The original stories are unlikely to be updated online unless it’s caught within a very short “developing story” window, which means that people searching for the original story will often find the uncorrected version and continue quoting it. Blog posts and other online commentary based on an inaccurate story are even less likely to see correction or update, leading to a self-reinforcing cycle where partisans are highly unlikely to ever see the correction. All of this need not suppose actual malice – merely a systemic inadequacy involving lack of resources and desire to properly fact-check stories before deadline – though I suppose it is also possible that partisan bloggers would deliberately seek out the most incendiary, uncorrected source version to link or quote in order to keep a meme going.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “The haircut thing hurt Romney with people who weren’t likely to vote for him anyways…”

                The purpose of the haircut thing was to give Republicans who felt vaguely uneasy about Romney a concrete reason to dislike him. “Well he’s kind of a jerk,” they can say, and be happily justified in their dislike. Specific policies? Positions? Issues? Well they don’t really know anything about any of that. But he’s…kind of a jerk, you know?Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Erik, James Hanley, the guy from the WashPost and the like are attempting premature demagoguery about forced haircuts.

              At what point in time will the demagoguery no longer be premature?Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                I dunno, maybe when unemployment has reverted back to 5.5% some time in the middle of Willard’s second term as President of the United States.

                The idea being that those Americans who want to express their desire for opportunity in the workplace and lower unemployment through participation in our political culture get the opportunity to do it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Who’s denying them the opportunity to express their desires through participation in our political culture?

                Seriously? How does any criticism of Romney–however wrong and stupid the criticism may be–prevent even one person from participating in our political culture? Are Republicans so weak that criticism of their candidate actually paralyzes them? I’ve never noticed that before, but maybe I haven’t been looking closely.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                I dunno, it looks reasonably clear to me.

                Generic American voter: Unemployment is too high and job prospects aren’t good enough for Americans nowadays and I think we need to do something about it. Unless something significant changes pretty soon, I’m going to vote for Willard “Mitt” Romney for President this fall.

                James Hanley, Erik, WashPost guy: Oh look over there, shiny!! Willard and some buddies pinned a guy down and gave him a haircut back in high school because he looked funny. Shiny, shiny!!!

                Now truth be told this probably won’t work. It certainly hasn’t worked yet. But it’s not about whether it works or not, it’s still an _attempt_ to prevent American voters from participating in our political culture and bad for exactly that reason.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                … but is it jangly?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Is it star spangled sprinkly?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                “I dunno, maybe when unemployment has reverted back to 5.5% some time in the middle of Willard’s second term as President of the United States.”

                Soooo…… never, then.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Actually, it seems reasonably plausible at the moment. But even if it were never, what difference would it make? Certainly we’re not lacking for examples of high school pranks if that’s what we really care about.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            In contrast- or maybe in addition to- my post below about Romney’s harassment, if Romney’s team wants to inflict damage on Obama, then yes they need to get more stories like these out there.

            Then again, Romney still has to motivate the people who lustily cheer the idea of letting sick people die without treatment, so I guess its a fine line to tread.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Then again, Romney still has to motivate the people who lustily cheer the idea of letting sick people die without treatment, so I guess its a fine line to tread.

              Lustily? Euthanize a few 1000s for the good of all, all of a sudden you’re the “Executioner.”

              “The revolution is successful, but survival depends on drastic measures. Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. Your lives means slow death to the more valued members of the colony. Therefore I have no alternative but to sentence you to death. Your execution is so ordered. Signed, Kodos, governor of Tarsus Four.”

              And never mind that. Blow a few goats and they never let you hear the end of it…


  9. Avatar Bob Mabry says:

    1. The election is damned far away.
    2. Scott is on to something.
    3. The only exceptions I can find to this thesis are when the press got fooled or forced into thinking that the less creepy candidate was really more creepy. LBJ was not, in fact, more likable than Goldwater was, though to be fair, his followers were. Dole was pretty rigid and stentorian by the end of his campaign, but before that, he had the reputation for being a loose, funny guy. I recall that he even got Bill Maher’s vote.

    I don’t think that it’s too late for Romney, though at the present he seems to be a suit that has no soul in it, and I bet he is smarting from the lesson of his father’s campaign for president: a moment’s candor, intended to show vulnerability to the public (“I was brainwashed about Vietnam.”) crashed all his dreams to the ground.Report

    • Avatar Friday Next says:

      I recall right after the election, Dole was on Deavid Letterman and was bright, witty, and personable and I remember thinking to myself. “Where the hell was the guy during the election? This isn’t the guy I didn’t vote for? I coulda voted for him.”Report

      • I remember the David Letterman thing (or maybe it was some other talk show right after the election?). My mom was watching and she (no fan of Clinton) had basically the same reaction you did.Report

  10. Avatar Aaron says:

    “…Jaybird noted that Barak Obama’s senior yearbook, where he made a risqué and misogynist remark captured for posterity, was never a big story or issue…”

    I think you’re looking at the wrong slang dictionary…. It looks like what Obama posted was a shout out to his fellow pot smokers. Given that he admitted to cocaine use, a story that did get coverage, and freely admitted smoking marijuana during his teen years, the fact that he had previously smoked pot in high school would seem somewhat anti-climactic.

    The story was covered – prominently – back in 2008. It didn’t get traction, most likely because Obama did not attempt to deny it – and nobody was concerned that his past behavior was a continuing problem.

    The better analogy appears to be to GW’s alcoholism and thinly denied history of drug use. By the time of the election, it was common knowledge but voters were reasonably certain that the man they were voting for was sober.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I mean to come back to that but have been OBE so far this weekend.

      “Choom” and “Choon” are two *VERY* different experiences.

      That said “It didn’t get traction, most likely because Obama did not attempt to deny it – and nobody was concerned that his past behavior was a continuing problem.”

      Oh, is that why people care about whether presidential candidates smoked pot in High School? Because they worry that they’re still smoking pot every weekend now that they’re 50?

      (Also, the story you quoted doesn’t seem to fully jibe with the high school yearbook page… Shouting out to the Choom Crew seems to be something that’d be done by someone who has a different relationship than the one mentioned in that story… and, for that matter, that story doesn’t mention the high school yearbook page *AT ALL*. My comment was that I thought it odd that nobody I know (and I know a lot of people online!) had seen his high school senior yearbook page until *AFTER* the election… and I thought that odd. Don’t you think it’s odd? Or would you like to point out the quotes given in the column to the side of the article you posted? They sure are doozies!)Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Well, the other thing in the specific context of the 2008 election was the John McCain was, quite famously, an unserious student all throughout high school and college.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          The other other thing I remember was the NYT covering the potential affair that John McCain was having… while the affair that John Edwards was having was not only not covered, Mickey Kaus was mocked goatily for discussing it.

          The John Edwards that is currently on trial now for funding shenanigans? Yeah, the shenanigans involved his mistress.

          Now, do *I* think that what Edwards did was that big of a deal? Well, I think it really undercut his argument that “(John Kerry and I) both believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.” Other than that? Well, it’s between him and his wife and his mistress and whomever his mistress happens to be married to and his campaign staffers that he has claiming to be the father and whomever those staffers are married to.

          Which, pretty much, means that I cared approximately about as much about McCain’s affair.


          It does seem that the Edwards story had much more grounding in reality than, say, the McCain story… which makes me wonder why one was covered by the NYT and the other was covered by the National Enquirer (and the other person who covered it was mocked for bestiality).Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Yes, JB: The NYT front-page coverage of the McCain non-affair was indefensible. [Although it is defended as a Caesar’s wife sort of thing.]Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            “Mickey Kaus blows goats” has nothing to do with Edwards. Kaus has been to Democrats what Bruce Bartlett is to Republicans for many years. Nor would I say he “covered” the Edwards story — he pointed to the National Enquirer coverage in his column. Which makes me wonder why he’s said nothing about Cindy McCain.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Kaus was attacked for bringing up a legitimate issue. That’s JB’s point [among others].Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              No, that’s where it started. Kaus was talking about Edwards’ affair… and Yglesias started talking about how we needed to speculate about whether Kaus blew goats.

              It’s right here. He links to his post here and talks about the comments… but, sadly, the comments have disappeared because of time or upgrades or what have you.

              In any case: It was about Edwards.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Being Matt Yglasias: “Mickey Kaus’ long post here about John Edwards’ alleged affair with Rielle Hunter is almost self-refuting. Basically, we have an anonymous source saying Hunter said she had an affair with Edwards, versus Hunter, on the record, saying that’s not the case. Then there’s Edwards, also saying it’s not the case. But Kaus initially deems Edwards’ denial too vague and non-specific.

                No doubt by now we’ve had all the legitimate news organizations in the country looking into it and it seems that . . . nobody can come up with any evidence.

                Um, that would be Kaus’ point [and JB’s, I suppose], that they didn’t look into it. No wonder they found nothing!

                On the other hand, there was nothing to the McCain story and the NYT came up with a front page story anyway!

                [BTW, did Yglesias ever apologize or retract?]Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Did Yglesias ever apologize? Not that I know of.

                Did the Romney campaign apologize for “This is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration”, now that Chen Guangcheng is safe in the US?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                But that would be changing the subject, Mike.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                You brought up apologies.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                It’s all grist for the mill. Rock on, man.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                From wikipedia: “On 19 May, Chen, his wife, and his two children had been granted U.S. visas and departed Beijing on a commercial flight for Newark, New Jersey.”

                It says nothing about them being safe. Quite the opposite.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Is that a shot at New Jersey?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Better pray for the safety of your buddy Tebow, then.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I wish the comments were there, because I have the strong impression that the comment was using an existing insult to make fun of Kaus (as if it said “We know Limbaguh’s a big, fat idiot. They couldn’t print it if it wasn’t true”). But I can’t find any MKBG cites older than 2007, so you’re probably right.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                For what it’s worth, my recollection is that those threads were where it began. Atrios picked it up from there and ran with it, and it became quite the meme.

                There were more jokes when Mickey Kaus speculated about the existence of a sex tape.

                For all of Mickey Kaus’s faults, he was right on this one. Yglesias, for all his virtues, was wrong.

                Which is why I always smile a little when I see Kaus make up a headline like “Matt Yglesias Blows Graphs”.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I am morally certain that people were saying obscene things about Kaus before 2007. Now I wonder what they were.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “The story was covered – prominently – back in 2008. It didn’t get traction, most likely because Obama did not attempt to deny it – and nobody was concerned that his past behavior was a continuing problem.”

      Maybe, but I have to confess I have zero memory of this story. And I still think JB is correct. It’s true we’re not worried about Obama lighting up on the White House lawn. But on the same token, we’re not really concerned that if Romney is elected President he’s going to wrestle down effeminate staffers and shave their heads, are we?Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

        You never know…Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        Not literally.
        But its completely reasonable to assume that Romney has little or no desire to protect gay people from injustice or harassment.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        We’re not supposed to think he would cut people’s hair; we’re supposed to feel(*) that he’s an Evil Bully with an Evil Bully Mind who would do Evil Bully Things. And he didn’t say he was sorry (well, not properly) (at least, not the way he should have done) and so he must still be an Evil Bully.

        (*) not think, this is a presidential election we’re talking about hereReport

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          The story of Mitt Romney is a young man who wasn’t just a participant, he was a leader in a full-scale assault on another human being. That definitely speaks to a lack of empathy.

          The things I’ve heard on the radio today have predominantly come from two memes. First a denial it ever happened, second an assertion that Obama “bullied” a classmate – when both were in middle school – during an incident in which both were being taunted by other classmates. The second is in a section of his book where Obama recounts how he himself was bullied by his own classmates due to appearance.

          I don’t see how they are comparable, despite the desire of the other side to insist that they are.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    In another demonstration that life is weirder than fiction, the blonde confection in that picture later re-emerged as a crusader against, of all things, Internet porn.Report

  12. Avatar Anderson says:

    Good piece ( love the line “Comparisons were made to JFK, back in a time when comparisons to JFK weren’t made with any candidate that had a full head of hair.”) Only gripe would be along the lines of Morat20 above that “likability is too fluid a concept.” Anyone who has ever gotten elected (ie everyone that has run for Prez besides Washington, Eisenhower, and a few other generals) must be likable to a good amount of people. Plus, someone’s politics can determine whether an issue-focused voter likes someone or not, as in people hating Obama for being pro-choice no matter how great his smile is. And, moreover, broader issues like the direction of the economy–often out of the control of the Prez–seem to be backed up by more evidence as influencing elections. Your most important point here may be about the irrationality of voters (though one could make the argument that voting for someone who makes you feel good is indeed rational.)Report

  13. Avatar damon says:

    I’ve not seen much of Romney. I don’t need to as I have no intention of ever voting for him, but on looks alone. BOB is a better looking guy. I also expect he’s a better speaker, at least when it comes to “smoothness”.

    Nothing above indicates I’d vote for BOB either. Well, I would but I’d need six figures to the left of the decimal point in my bank account from the candidate first.Report

  14. Avatar damon says:

    Forgot this: I was around during that Hart incident. My thoughts at the time was that he was an idiot to challenge the press like that.Report

  15. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    “For those much, much younger than I, Gary Hart was a Colorado Senator – and for a while he was widely presumed to be the savior of the Democratic Party.”

    Thank you, you saved me a google.Report

  16. Avatar Johnny Scrum-half says:

    Donna Rice didn’t pose for Playboy.Report