Monday, October 22, 2012

Beyond the numbers

The polling numbers in the presidential campaign have been hard to take seriously in this cycle for a variety of reasons. I think you can get a better sense of where things really are at by watching the behavior of the campaigns.

In the past week or so, we've seen the Obama campaign latching on to strange things like "binders." They've also taken to calling Mitt Romney a liar pretty much on a daily basis. I was thinking I'd seen this behavior before. In a very shrewd piece, Ed Morrissey reminds us where we've seen it:

 In fact, it was 20 years ago, when George H. W. Bush lost in a three-way fight to Bill Clinton.  What made that election remarkable was that Bush had enjoyed some of the best-ever job approval ratings of any modern American President just a little over a year earlier, into the 80s — unthinkable these days for anyone, Republican or Democrat.  Bush, a decorated veteran of World War II and a longtime player in diplomacy and national security, lost the election to an upstart Governor when the economy turned somewhat sour.

I recall the moment when I realized for the first time — not feared, but realized — that Bush would lose the election.  Bush was campaigning in Michigan at the end of October, trying to whip some energy back into his campaign in the home stretch, a task that would fall far short just a few days later.  Then-Governor John Engler told the Warren, MI crowd that the Bush campaign was “hot” and the Democrats “dead in the water,” which was merely the kind of fantasy all campaigns spin toward the end.

Bush then spoke, and went after Clinton and Al Gore in a personal, demeaning way I’d not heard from the President before then:

Morrissey then pulls this quote from news coverage of the event 20 years ago:

At a midday GOP rally at Macomb Community College, the president unleashed a rhetorical fusillade on Bill Clinton and running mate Sen. Albert Gore Jr., attacking their fitness for office, their character and charging, "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."

In particular, Bush targeted Gore, whom he now calls "Ozone Man," or just plain "Ozone." "You know why I call him Ozone Man?" Bush said. "This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we'll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American. He is way out, far out, man."

Does any of that sound familiar? Here was Obama on the hustings on Friday:
 But now that we’re 18 days out from the election, Mr. “Severely Conservative” wants you to think he was “severely kidding” about everything he’s said over the last year. He told folks he was “the ideal candidate” for the Tea Party, now suddenly he’s saying, “what, who, me?” He’s forgetting what his own positions are, and he’s betting that you will too.

I mean he’s changing up so much – backtracking and sidestepping. We’ve gotta name this condition that he’s going through.. I think it’s called “Romnesia.” That’s what it’s called. I think that’s what he’s going through.

Now, I’m not a medical doctor but I do want to go over some of the symptoms with you because I want to make sure nobody else catches it. …
A confident candidate usually finds a way to subcontract his cheap-shot duties to surrogates. That Obama is doing the dirty deeds himself tells you a few things:

  • He's not as confident in his prospects as, say, Nate Silver is
  • Hope and Change are gone
It's possible that tonight's final debate will be yet another game changer, but I suspect not. While Obama had been implying that his dog knew more about foreign policy than Romney/Ryan, that's not really a good argument in the wake of Benghazi.


26 comments:

Night Writer said...

Well, the dog would have likely barked a warning.

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