Posts Tagged ‘Romney’

A little while back, a big brouhaha broke in the States over a chicken fast food chain called Chick-fil-A.

The business, hitherto best known for its amusing billboard advertising, became the centre of a storm when key personnel spoke out against gay marriage, prompting calls for a boycott of the business.

Perhaps Chick-fil-A should have stuck to their knitting.

Their cause was taken up by right wing conservative commentator Mike Huckabee resulting in a highly successful protest in favour of the company’s position, when sales in one day went up 29%. However quite recently opinion polling revealed that some 13% of people were still considering or actively boycotting the business.

As recently as two days ago, the controversy continues to rumble. The long term effect on the brand is, as yet, unclear.

Now, a similar controversy has broken over another fast food company. And calls for a boycott are growing fast.

Pizza maker Papa John’s chief executive John Schnatter has criticized President Obama’s health-care law and said it will raise costs by 15 to 20 cents a pizza.

The blow-back has been fierce:

Papa John’s pizza extortion,” ran the headline for a story Wednesday from Salon, an American news website.

Vote for Romney or we’ll raise our prices” was how Daily Kos, a liberal news site, topped its story , which went on to illustrate Mr. Schnatter’s links to the GOP presidential candidate..

Some Twitter and Facebook users are now actively urging a boycott of the Kentucky-based pizza chain.

This is not what you want to see on your Facebook page when you check it over breakfast.

Nor this. See the ease with which the graphic encourages people to hit the Share button on Facebook? Be afraid. Be very afraid. You do not want this on a couple of million customer’s FB pages overnight.

But the Christian Science Monitor, for one, argues that such reactions may be overdone. They ask: was Mr. Schnatter making a political threat – or simply explaining the economics of the pizza business? Well, you be the judge.

In the middle of an Aug. 1 conference call with reporters and analysts to discuss the chain’s second-quarter results, Schnatter was asked about the impact of the new health-care law on Papa John’s. Here’s what he said, according to a recording of that call on the company’s website:

“Our best estimate is that the Obamacare [law] will cost about 11 to 14 cents per pizza – or 15 or 20 cents per order from a corporate basis. To put that in perspective, our average delivery charge is $1.75 to $2.50 – or about 10-fold our estimated cost of the Obamacare [law] to Papa John’s.

We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry. But our business model and unit economics [are] about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare. We have a high ticket average with extremely high frequency of order counts – millions of pizzas per year. To give you an example … let’s say fuel goes up, which it does from time to time, and we have to raise delivery charges. We don’t like raising delivery charges. But the price of fuel is out of our control, as is Obamacare.

So if Obamacare is, in fact, not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto the consumer in order to protect our shareholders’ best interest.”

CSM believe several points stand out: The 15 to 20 cents he’s talking about are costs, not prices. If he was making a political statement, would he really make the point that delivery charges, based at least in part on fuel costs, are 10 times the size of the hit from Obamacare? And he is promising to cut or “shallow out” the costs of healthcare before passing any price increase to the consumer.

Is that a threat? Really? I guess it depends on what “shallowing out” costs actually means.

Schnatter is certainly no fan of the president or the health-care law. Who knows? Perhaps he will cut health-care costs by laying off or shafting his employees. But, the CSM argues, he deserves to have his words quoted in context, before another battle of the culture war is fought over fast food.

Fair enough. What is certain is that the row over his words is likely to grow. Like a brushfire. And it highlights dramatically the care that business owners and managers must take when commenting, in whatever medium, on controversial political issues.

At Wellthisiswhatithink we believe that it would not be a good thing for business to be prevented from expressing its point of view through fear of igniting controversy – it is, when all’s said and done, a key segment of society and we need to know the perspectives it holds, and why it holds them, given that “business” is somewhat opaque to the non business community.

But look out: the swamp is full of alligators, and treading warily would seem to be in order.

What a smart thing it might be, for example, for Boards of Directors to deliberately seek out and include ex-officio Directors with different points of view to their own, who might be closer to the general public, and with a better than passing knowledge of the likely public effect of policy decisions. The same could be said of a Board’s approach to environmental issues, risk management issues, (hello, BP, we’re talking to you), personnel issues generally, and many more.

“What’s on for the weekend, Bill, taking the boat out?” “Hell no, Ted, I’m heading for the mosh pit at the Midwinter Rave. Just love that feeling of mud on my jeans and getting off my face.” Yeah, right.

When companies are basically run by a group of accountants, lawyers and entrepreneurs, they can get a very narrow view of the society in which they do business. And when those same people leave work for the day, they often – not always, but often – circulate in a social milieu that usually does very little to broaden their horizons. It’s called “living in the bubble”. When a storm breaks, they are generally shocked and scramble to play catch up, often ineffectively.

As an adviser to business, I have sometimes found the upper echelons of management to be staggering insular, tone deaf to the likely public impact of their activities or statements, and completely lacking understanding of how social media has fundamentally altered the rules of the game, and as a result – essentially – they are riding for a fall.

It will be interesting to watch how Papa John’s deal with the crisis. The cost of getting it wrong will be a hell of a lot more than 14 cents a pizza, that’s for sure.

Some more examples that we have covered of how NOT to embrace social media can be found here, concerning recent industrial disputation and management actions at Australia’s national airline: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-cb and here: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-cu. A very funny and cautionary tale.

Anyhow, as we all sit mesmerised with horror at the new power of social media, my final word to managers and Directors is very simple.

For more than 2,000 years, Christian society has been based on what is known as the Golden Rule. To wit:  “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.”

Why not try applying that rule to your next major decision? Forget what you think is your responsibility to your shareholders, just momentarily, and imagine you are your customer. You will soon find, I assure you, that building shareholder value isn’t actually about pinching pennies here and there, it’s about providing world class products and services. World class.

Because in an internet world, world class is the new basic standard. Think about it.

More interesting coverage is here: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/papa-johns-pizza-ceo-john-schnatter-owes-president-obama-two-words-thank-you/  I note his share price is now down more than 4%. Bet his shareholders are delighted.

Barack Obama

Change that America still appearently believes in. Will you welcome, please, Ladies and Gentlemen, the next President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Wellthatswhatwethink, anyhow.)

So. Well. Here it is. This is where the rubber hits the road.

After months – nay years – of fulminating and opinionising (great word, huh?) on the likely result of the 2012 Presidential election, this is now our considered view of what will happen tomorrow, so we can be hung out to dry or lauded as geniuses, when the actual results are known.

It’s currently about 9.00 am on Monday on the east coast of America. It is reasonable to assume that the various party managers will not allow anything much to affect the overall outcome now.

What matters now is trends, and the trends are heading Obama’s way, strongly during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and gently now, the waters are pretty much stagant. The electorate has politics exhaustion.

We are gliding to a predictable result, unless everyone polled by everybody has been lying through their teeth – which is, it has to be said, entirely possible.

State by state, we tell you what will happen

We give the key battleground state of Ohio to Obama. Primary reason – the stimulus. Whether or not one agrees with it and its targeting, it shored up hundreds of thousands jobs in the state directly or indirectly. People simply won’t forget – well, enough people won’t forget. What’s more, recent growth in the energy sector (amongst others) in the state actually has its unemployment level comfortably below the national average. No Republican candidate has ever found a way to the White House without Ohio in the bag, and the latest RCP rolling average has it +2.9 for Obama.

More importantly, it has been for Obama to one degree or another in every poll since 23rd October. The ground campaign has also been very effective for the President in the seat. Obama only won it by 4.6% in 2008, and there is unquestionably less enthusiasm for him this time than last time, and – yes – the Republican ground campaign is better organised there than ever before. Nevertheless, it is the trend to Obama that interests us. So – Ohio goes for Obama.

Although it is tightening, we give the other huge and vital battleground state of Florida to Romney.

Both sides have poured work into there, but in my view the state is gradually becoming more conservative, not less, and the Obama campaign have failed to reassure the elderly on Obamacare, or frighten them enough on the vouchers for Medicare issue. Also, the strong Jewish vote may be less than enthusiastic about Obama’s obviously less aggressive attitude to Arab states in the Middle East, and less than cheerful embrace of Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, the large Latino vote is breaking strongly for Obama.

In the end, barring seeing precinct by precinct pre-polling data, it’s a gut call. I have always thought in a tight race that Obama would lose Florida, and I see no reason, even though Romney is currently only 1.4% ahead, to change my mind, especially as he has been so consistently for a while now. What’s more, just watching Obama adviser David Axelrod on TV, (and I consider myself a good judge of body language and facial expression) he looked utterly convincing when he called Ohio for his team, and a lot less so when he spoke of “good reports” from the southern state. So – Florida for Romney.

(What will also be interesting in Florida is when it “declares”. If it is early, and it is for Romney, it will be treated as bigger news than frankly one thinks it should be. For that reason, I expect multiple challenges and recounts all over the state from the Democrats, some of them frivolous, to delay the result here being published or assumed with any certainty, until Ohio, where a very high percentage of ballots have already been cast, declares for the President.)

The next key state to consider is Virginia. I have long been of the view that Virginia will go for Romney, largely because of the military influence, and also because it is essentially a safe “red” state, giving Bush the Younger wins by plus 8% twice in a row before the Obama bandwagon rolled through in 2008.

Yet it is now possibly the most fascinating contest of the lot, as it stays stubbornly in the “too close to call” camp, with Obama leading by just 0.2% in the rolling average of the polls.

The interesting thing here is that the trend is now firmly towards Obama, and the growth of younger, affluent voters now living in the state and commuting elsewhere is supposed to aid him. What’s more, Axelrod (whose face is usually very revealing, so I really don’t know why the Obama camp puts him up on TV, personally) almost jumped out of his chair with obvious delight when he claimed that he was thinking Obama would win there, and I thought he looked completely sincere.

Another interesting factor is that except for two tiny blips (around the first disastrous debate for Obama) Romney has trailed by a substantial factor in the state since February. Then again, that could be said of many places around the nation. But after agonised consideration I am going to go against the current opinion trends and say that I think Romney will win Virginia – just. So that’s another 13 votes for the Republicans in the electoral college, and although its near neighbour North Carolina has often been considered to be in play I think that’s solidified for the Governor too; he’s up round about 3-4%, here so make that another 15 votes for Romney.

But there I really believe the good news for Romney ends. Of the other toss up states I honestly only think he has a chance in Colorado, where Obama is leading by about half a percentage point, having won it by 9% last time. Here again, though, the trend has recently been away from Romney and towards Obama. Obama is starting to look like a winner, and that all-important oh-so-elusive “Big Mo” or momentum becomes vitally important in very tight races. Also, for a state to go plus 9% to negative is a hell of a leap, even with an unpopular Presidential incumbent. I would say Obama’s loss over his 2008 performance will – overall – be in the region of 6-8%, although in a couple of states it may go as high as 10%.

On that basis Colorado is line ball, (9 electoral college votes) and so, looking westward, is Nevada (six votes).

But, and perhaps crucially, it’s worth noting that Colorado is two hours behind the Eastern seaboard, and Nevada three hours. Exit polls will slam onto the airwaves giving Florida to Romney and Ohio to Obama within seconds of the eastern polls closing.

This will have two effects in the swing states of Colorado and Nevada. Firstly, it will call the race as close and encourage late voters and those intending to vote on the way home to actually do so. And the higher the turnout, the more the Obama camp will like it. Second, it will demoralise some Republicans and boost Democrats, because the prevailing commentators mantra (except on Fox News) will be “Romney can’t win without Ohio, it’s all over bar the shouting”.

And if that sounds as if it is contradictory (on the one hand calling the race as close, and on the other calling it as a likely Obama victory) the two effects do not actually cancel each other out.

Why? Well, people like being on the winning side: so a small but significant number of possible Obama voters will be persuaded to jump on the winning ship.

People also like being in a close race and thinking their vote matters – but the effect is stronger with unenthusiastic voters who might otherwise stay home. So that factor – a close race – will, I believe, be marginally more effective for the Democrats than the GOP.

So: I give both these states, with some degree of nervousness, to Obama. But I freely admit I might be wrong. The effort going into local Senate and other races will matter, and certainly in Colorado I think those are leaning to the GOP. Who’d be a poll predictor, eh?

But after that small caveat, I frankly consider Romney is toast.

I remain to be convinced otherwise, but I simply do not see any of New Hampshire, Michigan – for heaven’s sake, the state only still exists as a going concern thanks to Obama’s largesse – Wisconsin or Pennsylvania (despite much huff and puff about the latter by the right, desperately trying to offset a loss in Ohio) being in play any more.

NH voters are notoriously independent. They will have been impressed by Obama’s efforts over the “superstorm”, and warmed to him very late. (This state always decides late, anyhow.) Four more votes for Obama.

Wisconsin is more problematical but the figures look like it is following its neighbours in reluctantly holding its nose and giving the President from the big smoke over their border another chance. Ten in Obama’s column.

Pennsylvania is a biggie – 20 electoral college votes – but in my view it is simply too urbanised, overall, to fall to the Republicans. With the exception of one poll (a tie) it has been in plus territory for Obama since the 21st October, and currently by nearly 4%, and if, for example, I give Florida to Romney on the basis that the trend has comfortably been his way for a while (which is one of the other reasons I like him there) then it seems logical to give Pennsylvania, despite a new TV buy by the GOP, to Obama.

And any talk, in my opinion, that Iowa (6 votes), Minnesota (10 votes) or Oregon (7 votes) are in play for Romney is purely fanciful. And beyond that, the latest margins reported by polls in other states are all so large as to make any late changes in their likely result impossible.

The what if game

But let’s play a game. Let’s pretend I am allowing my pro-Democrat rose-tinted glasses to cloud my independent commentator judgement, and let’s give everything that’s called a toss up to Romney except, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which I really do think are so solid for the President now that it would be pointless messing around with them.

I call this the “Crazy Game Scenario”

Let’s give Romney all of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oregon. It’s highly unlikely, of course, that every single swing state listed would flop into the Romney column, but not literally impossible. On that basis, Romney/Ryan actually win by 280-258.

But remember, as at today the polls have Obama leading in Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota and Oregon. It would be an earthquake for the Republicans to win this way.

The “Best Revenge Is Voting Scenario”

Let’s give Florida, Virginia – yes, still – and North Carolina to Romney, and Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota and Oregon to Obama. Under this scenario (which on current polling is at the very least “likely”) then this gives the race to Obama by 290 to 248, a Democrat majority in the electoral college of 42.

If by some remarkable result Axelrod’s confidence is well founded and Obama takes Virginia as well, then the math becomes Obama 303 Romney 235, or a majority of 68. This is also conceivable. And there’s a lot of people around who think it’s becoming likely as we are about to see.

If I was a betting man – which I am – I’d therefore be having a close look at an Obama victory in the region of 20-42 electoral college votes, and probably nearer the upper end of that spread.

If you feel like having apunt, then these two options are currently offered at 7-2 (270-289 electoral college votes) and 5-2 (290-309 electoral college votes) respectively on Ladbrokes (UK), for example, so one could take both bets and still end up ahead. But you can do better with tighter spreads – for example, you can get 6-1 around the traps for 281-290 electoral college votes if you hunt. Oddschecker.com might be helpful.

As these figures reflect actual money being invested by people who are studying the runes and placing often substantial sums on as a result of their research, they are historically often better indicators of likely outcomes than anything else.

Interestingly there has obviously been substantial money on a big Obama win – garnering as many 330-349 electoral college votes – as the odds I have spotted are miserly, just 3-1.

You can also get a little worse than even money, 5/6, on Obama getting under 304 electoral college votes. That might be a smart bet if you can afford to put enough on it to make an even money bet worthwhile.

I can tell you that looking around the betting websites, I see the bookies have the Democrats favourites in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, and even Virginia. They are such strong favourites in New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Iowa that they aren’t worth a bet. The smart money currently has Romney winning Florida – just.

Some serious money has gone down on some sites for a Democrat win in Virginia. Ditto, they are almost unbackable in Pennsylvania, which is supposed to be the state that is rescuing Romney’s ass. Er, not.

Overall, the Democrats are almost an un-backable favourite, both to win the Presidency and the popular vote.

OK, so that’s about it.

As I have said consistently for six months, Obama will win, probably about 40 electoral votes ahead, maybe as little as 20 (unlikely) maybe as high as 60-70 ahead (unlikely, but possible).

Oh, and as I have said elsewhere, I haven’t got an election result in the USA, UK, or Australia wrong in over 35 years. (This of course means it is certain I have got this one way wrong, I guess!) But I take no responsibility whatsoever for you losing your shirt on the result, whatever it is.

In short: all care, no responsibility, people.

Enjoy watching the results flow in. Come Wednesday, we can all get back to talking about the football.

Katy Perry performs at a campaign rally for US President Barack Obama in a rubber dress …. phew. Then again, Romney has, er, Meat Loaf on his team.

From AFP and others

President Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney darted across the United States Saturday in an 11th-hour blitz, with the close White House battle heading to an ill-tempered climax.

Sharp political arrows flew much as they have throughout the bitter, months-long battle between the two parties’ flag-bearers, but the rivals also turned to soaring rhetoric as they made their closing arguments.

Three days before voters choose between giving Obama a second term or sending him back to Chicago, the rivals chased one another through a handful of states that will decide Tuesday’s too-close-to-call election.

The president dashed from small rural towns in Ohio to the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a larger rally with a big, rowdy crowd in a conference center.

He also heads to Iowa and then Virginia, two of the eight or so battlegrounds that the campaigns are obsessing over in the final 72 hours of the race. Romney spent the day in New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado.

Gratuitous extra photo of Katy Perry. Um, well, look. She just makes Obama look better than ever, OK?

Obama’s applause lines were greeted with lusty cheers, and chants of “four more years” from a crowd, put at 20,000 by Milwaukee event officials, warmed up before Obama’s arrival by pop star Katy Perry.

“As long as there is a child in any place in Milwaukee, any place in Wisconsin, any place in this country, who is languishing in poverty and barred from opportunity, our fight goes on,” Obama said,.

“Our fight goes on because America has always done best when everybody has got a fair shot,” he added, pushing his populist economic message.

Obama also hit out at what he says is Romney’s effort to roll back the clock to the days when Wall Street had “free rein to do whatever” it liked, contributing to “an economic crisis that we’re still cleaning our way out of.”

“And governor Romney now is a very talented salesman,” Obama added. “So in this campaign, he is trying as hard as he can to repackage the same old ideas that didn’t work and offer them up as change.”

Wisconsin had been considered safe Democratic territory, but a combination of a resurgent Republican Party, waning enthusiasm for Obama and home state hero Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate has tightened the race.

The latest RealClearPolitics average of state polls has Obama leading in Wisconsin by 5.4 percent.

Romney began his day in New Hampshire, which has only four of the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House but could punch above its weight in a tight finish, and accused Obama of “demonizing” political foes.

“I won’t represent just one party, I’ll represent one nation,” Romney told a crowd at an airport rally outside Portsmouth, and warned Obama would find it impossible to work with congressional Republicans if he wins re-election.

Romney also debuted a new political ad Saturday, seizing on Obama’s comment in Ohio a day earlier when he told supporters angry at the Republicans not to boo but to vote, saying “voting’s the best revenge.”

The ad featured Romney telling his biggest crowd of the campaign in Ohio Friday that Obama “asked his supporters to vote for revenge – for revenge.”

“Instead, I ask the American people to vote for love of country,” he said.

(Implying Obama doesn’t love his country? Disgraceful. I think Obama was simply stating the obvious. The best way to fight back against the continual lies and obfuscations of the Romney camp is to get out and vote.)

Romney repeated the message in New Hampshire and then at a rally in Dubuque, Iowa, where in close combat on the last weekend of the campaign, Obama was set to touchdown for his own event at the same airport hours later.

He also blasted the president for four years of failed economic policy that has left the nation mired in debt, with high unemployment and soaring gas prices.

“He wants to settle. Look, Americans don’t settle. We aspire, we reach, we dream, we achieve,” Romney said.

Later in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Romney said he saw Tuesday as “a moment to look into the future, and imagine what we can do to put the past four years behind us.”

“We’re that close right now,” he said. “The door to a brighter future is there.”

The president earlier visited the Washington headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as New York and New Jersey struggle to deal with the aftermath of murderous superstorm Sandy.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Obama, stressing he had no time for government “red tape” which could hold up the relief effort, after discussing the crisis with the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and New York.

The Obama campaign enjoys the comparison between Obama doing his job managing the government while Romney campaigns as polls show a majority of Americans approve of the president’s handling of Sandy.

Latest polls show Obama and Romney tied nationally, but Obama appears to be solidifying his position in enough of the eight or so swing states that will decide the election to support his hopes of a second term.

New surveys by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News Saturday showed the president up by 49 to 47 percent in Florida and leading Romney 51 to 45 percent in Ohio, double the margin in the current RealClearPolitics average.

A Mason Dixon poll for the Miami Herald, however, had Romney up by six points in Florida, which the Republican, who also needs Ohio, cannot afford to lose if he is to be elected America’s 45th president.

Harold MacMillan

Harold MacMillan making his “winds of change” speech that heralded the end of British colonialism. “The President’s been so helpful” may turn out to be another historic moment.

Oh, yes. Sorry. I have been distracted by a couple of delightful days down the beach at St Leonard’s.

In response to many commentators and Wellthisiswhatithink readers who have asked why would prominent Republican Governor of New Jersey Christie be so voluble in his praise of Obama? Just a week after tipping another bucket on Obama, and his star turn at the Republican conference in Florida?

Well, that one’s just too easy – you really think the cheerfully chubby lad wants Romney to win next Tuesday? Nu-uh.

He wants the Republican nomination for himself in four years, which he wouldn’t get if Romney wins this time because Romney would automatically secure re-nomination in 2016.

I’m quite sure he – like much of the Republican establishment – wants Romney to do well enough to set Obama up for another four difficult years – and drag a few Congress and Senate candidates up with him – but not so well that the rather wacky crypto-moderate reborn right winger actually wins. And then it’ll be Cry Havoc and let loose the dogs of war for whoever replaces him on the Democrat ticket in four years. It’s called the long game. (I still have my eye on Hillary Clinton for the Democrats in four years, personally.)

Anyhow, as UK Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe once memorably remarked when Tory Prime Minister Harold McMillan sacked getting on for half his cabinet to revive his flagging electoral fortunes, “Greater love hath no man than he lay down his friends for his life.”

Mitt Romney is looking at falling just short in the race for the White House. He’ll be spitting chips right now at Christie’s very deliberate intervention.

Politics, huh? You gotta love it.

Meanwhile, if Hurricane Sandy comprehensively de-rails the already flagging Romney momentum and means the President garners extra kudos (and votes) for doing his job properly, then I am looking forward to Rush Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee and all the other lunatics on the religious right (including Romney and Ryan themselves) confirming that the Good Lord obviously wanted Obama to get another four years to complete the job he’s started.

They do call it an “Act of God“, you know, fellas …

Michael Moore

Rowdy, unashamed, unabashed, curmudgeonly, grumpy, trouble-making, not to mention resolutely overweight and ugly. My type of guy in other words.

 

It has long been my opinion, born of both commonsense and practical experience, that elections are actually won away from the flashing lights and razzamattaz of national media coverage and TV ads by legions of worker bees toiling away patiently on doorsteps, on the telephone, in cars giving lifts to voters, and with their neighbours and friends.

I arrive at this opinion from many years slogging round the streets for the Liberal Party in the UK – then a tiny outpost of insanity or sanity depending on your point of view – where we had no money but endless enthusiasm, no press support but brilliant organisation, and a ruthless obsession with getting our vote out.

Simon Hughes

My good friend Simon Hughes, first elected to Parliament in the Bermondsey by-election of 24 February 1983. Hughes won the seat with 57.7% of the vote.

That obsession was, more than anything else, the genesis of so many of those “unexpected” Liberal or Liberal-SDP victories in by-elections that no one saw coming – except, of course, those of us in the eye of the hurricane, who knew full well that our “ground game”  was infinitely superior and we were going to win. Seasoned campaigners like Trevor “Jones the Vote” from Liverpool and Peter Chegwyn – from seemingly everywhere – and many other unsung luminaries – rigidly marshalled their ranks of duffle-coated apparatchiks to deliver “shock” victory after shock victory, built on the back of superbly targeted local issues. In seats as diverse as Sutton and Cheam, Liverpool Edge Hill, Ripon, Isle of Ely, Croydon NE, Glasgow Hillhead, Bermondsey and Crosby these victories galvanised public opinion and kept a small party alive.

Years later in Australia, dismayed by the antiquated centralised campaigning I saw around me, I wrote a pamphlet on “Community Politics”  which in one form or another was enthusiastically taken up by the then Australian Democrats, and then later to a lesser extent by the Labor Party and the Greens, and even a few forward-thinking Conservative politicians as well.

Anyhow, opening my in-box this morning, I found an email from documentary film-maker Michael Moore.

He points unerringly to the manner in which President Obama will definitely gain re-election. As that, I firmly believe, will be good for America and for the world, I commend his remarks too you.

Now is the time for action, not words.

“I have a personal favor I’d like to ask each of you. We all know the election next Tuesday is going to be very close. But I’ve got an idea that could help put President Obama over the top.
I want you – yes, YOU, the person reading this right now – to get ONE of your fellow Americans who would not otherwise vote to show up at the polls and support Obama.
Here’s the math: there are upwards of five million of you seeing this, via email, on my website, on the Huffington Post and all over the internet. There are 1.2 million following me on Twitter. I’ve got almost 700,000 Facebook friends.
I want just one million of you to convince just ONE person each – one person who’s planning NOT to vote – to go to the polls and vote for Barack Obama. That’s it. And those million extra votes could make all the difference in what will be a very tight election – and it will save us from a tragic return to the Bush years.
Do you realize that there are 90 million people who are planning to NOT vote next Tuesday? That’s according to a poll conducted by USA Today. 90,000,000!! It’s a shocking number, isn’t it? In the old days we’d just label these people as apathetic or stupid. Not anymore. They don’t need our admonition – they need our empathy.
The non-voter today knows exactly what’s going on, and he or she wants no part of it. They are discouraged, disillusioned, and have almost lost hope that things will change. Many are jobless or working for peanuts. They’re angry, and we should tell them they have every right to be.
But here’s something else about them: despite everything, they haven’t utterly given up on politics. When USA Today asked the non-voters who they’d choose if they HAD to vote for someone in this election, 18% said they would vote for Romney – and 43% said they’d vote for Obama! That means there are nearly 40 million people who prefer Obama – AND THEY ARE NOT GOING TO VOTE.
The other question they were asked was, what would it take to get you to vote? 85% of the pro-Obama non-voters said they would go vote IF they thought the election was going to be really close and that their vote would actually make the difference.
This is, for all its frustrating logic, incredibly good news. So our job for the next six days is clear: We – you and me – have to bring a little over 1% of the 90 million non-voters to the polls. If we do we’ll send Romney packing back to New Hampshire/Massachusetts/California or wherever he’s going to build car elevators next.
The time to convince undecideds to vote for Obama is over. All it’s about now is whose supporters simply show up. The side that does the best job of literally dragging people out of their homes between 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM on Tuesday, November 6th is the side that wins.
Each of us knows Obama-supporting non-voters. They’re your cousin, your coworker, your friend from the choir at church. Identify just one of them (best of all if they’re in a swing state) and pledge to get them to the polls. You can try to convince them with all the good arguments as to why they should vote for the O (click here), but I think the best way to do this is to ask them personally, just this once, to do this for you. Not for the country. For you.
Then, once they’ve committed to vote, make a commitment to them: that you are not going to be silent after Tuesday, that you are going to keep fighting like hell (including, when need be, fighting Obama) every single day after the election for them, for you and for all of us.
So, that is your mission – YOURS, the person reading this right this second. Bring just one non-voter to the polls. Easy! Do it and be known as part of the group that defeated Mitt “Bush #3″ Romney and gave Barack Obama another term – and another chance to do what we sent him there to do. “

Er … Wot he said.

This is a much better and more balanced article on the likely US election outcome than most. (Thank you to Richard Ember for forwarding it to me.)

And not just because it bears out what I have been saying, which is there has been a modest return to Obama, and also that Obama will indeed win Ohio (thus denying Romney the White House, because there is nowhere Romney can pick up the votes he won’t get in Ohio, even allowing that Romney will probably – not certainly – win Va and Fla.)

It also confirms my previous assertion that the national lead he currently enjoys is because Romney has been piling up votes where he doesn’t need them, in solid “red” states, as conservative voters (including Evangelical Christians, emboldened by Billy Graham’s flip-flop over whether Mormonism is a cult) decide they can, after all, hold their nose and vote for him.

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/oct-28-in-swing-states-a-predictable-election/?smid=tw-share

Anyhow, in related polling, RCP’s rolling average today pulls Romney’s lead back from 0.9% to 0.8%, not enough to win the electoral college vote. Is there wild enthusiasm for Obama? No, there is not. Will he win, if the Democrats get their ground game right? Yes.

I am definitely going to write about something other than American politics soon, I promise. Promise, honest injun, I pinky swear.

Obama and Romney

“I really don’t like you.” “I really don’t like you more.”  “Keep smiling though, eh?”  “OK”

This is a much better and more balanced article on the likely US election outcome than most. (Thank you to Richard Ember for forwarding it to me.)

And not just because it bears out what I have been saying, which is there has been a modest return to Obama, and also that Obama will indeed win Ohio (thus denying Romney the White House, because there is nowhere Romney can pick up the votes he won’t get in Ohio, even allowing that Romney will probably – not certainly – win Va and Fla.)

It also confirms my previous assertion that the national lead he currently enjoys is because Romney has been piling up votes where he doesn’t need them, in solid “red” states, as conservative voters (including Evangelical Christians, emboldened by Billy Graham’s flip-flop over whether Mormonism is a cult) decide they can, after all, hold their nose and vote for him.

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/oct-28-in-swing-states-a-predictable-election/?smid=tw-share

Anyhow, in related polling, RCP’s rolling average today pulls Romney’s lead back from 0.9% to 0.8%, not enough to win the electoral college vote. Is there wild enthusiasm for Obama? No, there is not. Will he win, if the Democrats get their ground game right? Yes.

I am definitely going to write about something other than American politics soon, I promise. Promise, honest injun, I pinky swear.

The economy is one thing. What type of world we live in is another, and frankly it’s more important.

I don’t care what your personal position on abortion is; after decades of careful consideration – and I have agonised over it, I assure you – I have come to the conclusion that we should all manage to agree on being pro-choice. In favour of CHOICE.

This decision – this terrible, imposing, huge decision – is and should be up to the individual.

And it’s this simple for public policymakers. Women will get abortions WHATEVER politicians say. So they should be safe, medically supervised, and entirely up to the woman concerned.

Obama is right, Romney and his crew are wrong. It’s as straightforward as that, and women should support the candidate that supports them.

I am so looking forward to getting back to discussing art, music, business, advertising, football and ephemera.

Can you spell A-I-R-C-R-A-F-T C-A-R-R-I-E-R?

The funniest (and pithiest) moment in last night’s US Presidential debate was Obama comprehensively making Romney look like a total idiot on the future of the US Navy.

This great article on Think Progress not only shows (in a very useful graphic) that Obama has actually done a great job of protecting the US Navy’s interests, but also replays the relevant segment of the debate for us all to enjoy again.

If you haven’t seen it, this moment may well be considered historic in the future – do yourself a favour and click on the link and watch.

http://thinkprogress.org/lbupdate/1067981/our-ship-production-is-just-fine/

#horsesandbayonets is the leading Twitter item in the US right now, hours after the debate. I reckon this is – just possibly – a gotcha moment.

And I will say again what I have said before – if the Obama of Debate #2 and #3 had turned up in Debate #1, this thing wouldn’t even be a race right now.

And by the middle of this week, it might not be so again.

#horsesandbayonets indeed

Opinion polls

Down the end of this docco – well, a bit more than halfway thru –  are the actual current USA polls, without anyone cherry picking them, and the dates on which they were taken.

It should be noted that the second Presidential debate was on the 16th. The clear controversy is the difference between the Rasmussen and Gallup Polls, (the latter which has been criticised because of its sampling type and as a result of having a track record of being incorrectly inflative to the GOP) and the IBD and HC/UConn and ABC polls. The last four, being entirely pre-second debate can probably be discounted.

If we discount the Gallup poll change by 50% down to +3 (which of course is arguable, but also less of a discount than indicated by its previous performance – it over-estimated McCain by +9% at one point last time) and make it Romney +3, and then average the results for the top four polls, then the result is Romney +2 and Obama +3.

And I am GUESSING this is about right. I predicted about a 1% increase for Obama over his low point int he aftermath of the Debate #1 debacle. I expect to see the trend continue after a win for Obama on Monday night, but that is pure star-gazing.

But in my opinion, something else is happening too. As always happens in tight races, both sides are shoring up support in their stronger areas. Thus a state like NC for example, where Bush won very easily, and in which Obama squeaked home last time, is, in my opinion, not really “leaning” Romney but should be thoroughly placed in his camp. However, that doesn’t really help him win, because he’s piling up votes in a state which he really should win easily anyway. Similarly, Obama is comfortably ahead in Michigan, but so he damn well should be, since he bought into the car industry and also won it by 16% last time.

The fact that a state like Virginia is a dead heat at the moment should be very concerning for the GOP. I think it will go to Romney, but given it’s importance, and given Bush won it by 8.1 and 8.2%, and Obama by 6.3% (which is around his current fall in the polls) it should surely be comfortably trending towards Romney now. But it isn’t.

The fight in the battleground states is much tighter than it is in the homebase states. One word of wisdom – back in the Democratic primaries before 2008, Obama beat Clinton by concentrating his support in the key battleground states, and conceding states that didn’t matter. Democrat investment in Ohio – which should, by national polling, be long gone from the Obama camp – shows they are doing it again.

Rasmussen Tracking         10/17 – 10/19                  Romney +1
Gallup Tracking                 10/13 – 10/19                  Romney +6
IBD/TIPP Tracking         10/14 – 10/19                   Obama  +3
Hartford Courant/UConn   10/11 – 10/16             Obama  +3

ABC News/Wash Post 1    0/10 – 10/13                    Obama +3
Politico/GWU/Battleground    10/7 – 10/11         Obama +1
Monmouth/SurveyUSA/Braun 10/8 – 10/10      Romney +1
FOX News    10/7 – 10/9                                                Romney +1

In short, I believe Obama is just one good debate away from being home again. Whereas I believe Romney is one GREAT debate – plus some problems for Obama plus a better organisation on the ground (which he doesn’t have) plus getting lucky in every battleground state in the country … from being home.

The odds, whatever GOP operatives and supporters would have us believe, are still very pro-Obama. Tonight. Tomorrow? Who knows.

I’ll say this too. I think the GOP will be delighted to have hurt Obama, to have defended many seats around the country, to be “back in the game”, and in the process to have got rid of the uncomfortable and disliked Romney. A few more years to knock the edges of Ryan (or someone similar) and they think they’ll be back in for a generation. And they well may be right.

Stephen "Yolly" Yolland:

 

OK. Now tell me again, Romney plans to beat this guy how, exactly? Pfffft.

Romnesia. Bwahahahahahahaha …

Roll on Monday.

Originally posted on Emily L. Hauser - In My Head:

My friend Angry Black Lady has this up at her place, but I feel a veryvery powerful need to have it up at my own, too.

FOR IT IS SO MANY KINDS OF AWESOME THAT I CANNAE COUNT THAT HIGH.

(Heh! He is so getting into it at the end there!)

View original

A psephologist is someone who simply eats lives and breathes the sways and nuances and surges of voter opinion, burying themselves in electoral statistics, voting boundaries, and opinion polls, to try and divine what is likely to happen in any given election. So far I haven’t got a major election wrong in over 30 years in any jurisdiction I have turned my mind to, but I will freely admit this Presidential election is fascinatingly obtuse and difficult to parse.

I am not a professional psephologist by any means. I am, however, a really sad anoraky type who would rather spend hours working out a likely election result than just about anything other than watching my beloved Southampton FC win easily. (Preferably against Portsmouth, but honestly, any win will do.)

This little play toy is, therefore, much like heroin to an opiate addict for me.

Make your own electoral map

 

Click on the map or this:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/obama_vs_romney_create_your_own_electoral_college_map.html

Just click on a state and give it to one of the candidates, and bingo, the updated expected electoral college vote materialises.

You wanna know what all the apparatchiks and backroom boys do all day in the Obama and Romney camp? This! Wanna feel like you’re Josh Lyman living an episode of “West Wing”?  Here it is.

Get rid of all the swing states at a touch of a button and award them to the current leader in that state. See that? Way cool. (Yes, the current electoral standing in each state is there too to make life easy for you.)

Think Romney will pull a surprise in Ohio, or flop unexpectedly in Florida? At the touch of a keypad or mouse it’s all yours.

Last time around this little tool won me a lot of money at the bookies by allowing me to correctly pick Obama’s tally. So go for your life, if you think you know what’s going on. But all care, and no responsibility, eh? Don’t blame me if they take you to the cleaners. This is the hardest election to call accurately in a l0ng time.

If you wanna know what I think, I have different scenarios running currently: Romney winning by a few, and Obama winning by a lot, depending on what happens in the next few days. In other words, it’s still too early to tell.

In summary, I still think the “win all the swing states” bar for Romney/Ryan is set too high, but we shall see what we shall see …

Really, it’s better than sex, innit?

Stewart Yolland

Thomas Stewart Yolland, died 1957, 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, Pacific Star, Italy Star, 1939-45 King George medal. Vote for Yolland if you can’t think of any other reasons.

A message to all Americans. OK, I don’t care whether you vote for Obama or Romney or one of the 1% candidates (Whoa! He’s lying right there, fact check him, quick!) but I do care that you vote.

You see, Democracy is dead simple. Use it, or lose it.

This little video makes the point SO well. I really hope all Americans view it, and show their 18 year old kids and their 90 year old grandparents, and their neighbours. It’s too late to register to vote if you haven’t already (I believe, I think I have that right, all the way from Oz) but if you are registered then this little video charmingly and intelligently explains why you MUST vote.

You. Must. Vote.

Quite apart from the fact that my Dad spent six years on destroyers in WWII to defend our right to a free vote, and it killed him. So if you can’t think of any better reasons to vote, vote for my Dad’s sacrifice. And for all the others who sacrificed, and still do.

Please.

You believed in what you did.
And I believe in what you did.
But all we are left with are the yellow photographs.

They get more yellow with the years. Time eats them alive.
They rust, like life. Until all that is left is a shell,
ready to crumble at the lightest touch and disappear.
We never had the days at the football.
We never had Christmas.
We never had a shared pint.
We never had a quiet laugh in the garden at dawn.
You had the waves, and the torpedos, and the fear,
and the cigarettes, and the fear.
And I got the yellow photographs.
That’s the way of it.

Obama and Romney

“I hate your tie.” “Well, I hate your tie more.”

That the race for the White House has tightened is undoubted. That it is still likely Obama will get back seems probable.

This article explains the current situation well, taking the likely feelings over the second deabte and translating them into likely results. Polls released in the next few days will be helpful too, and, of course, the last debate on Monday is shaping up to be very significant.

It is also going to be significant, I think, that it is on Foreign Policy.

Romney is not as strong here as Obama, it is widely acknowledged, and Obama’s anger at Romney going after him on the Benghazi incident was one of his strongest moments in Debate 2. “I find that offensive” he snarled, eyes flashing, and suddenly the man looked every inch a President and Commander-in-Chief. Looking every inch a President and Commander-in-Chief is exactly what he needs to do to get re-elected, so Monday will be interesting to say the least. Anyway, for someone’s views other than mine you would do worse than to read this excellent summary:

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/instant-reaction-polls-show-narrow-obama-advantage-in-second-debate/

What does interest me in this article and much recent analysis is that Romney appears to be doing better in Florida than I expected, (where I have been regularly predicting a Democrat scare campaign on Medicare – although maybe the on the ground campaign is yet to begin in earnest, and volunteers – who make up the bulk of party workers – really get energised in the last couple of weeks), not as well in Virginia as he needs to be at this stage, and definitely not as well in Ohio (where he is being massively outspent on TV by Obama).

As he has to win all three states to win, I stick with my prediction that he can’t. Win. But heigh ho, forecasting elections is a tricky business, and I may yet have egg on my face.

What is also clear is that one major implosion by either candidate now will not leave time for a recovery.

One side note: the Fox News panel of undecided voters was actually made up of of EX Obama supporters – not drawn from the ranks of the genuine undecideds or independents. Not surprisingly, despite everyone else calling it for Obama by one margin or another, these actively disillusioned voters felt Romney did well and looked “Presidential”. What next, if Romney falters? A panel of tea party supporters?

What a bizarre pretence of journalism that network really is. Rupert Murdoch – busy tweeting his support of Romney, no less – take yet another bow for what you have done to our body politic.

Close call – who do you think won?

Well, it depends who you ask.

I thought Biden looked measurably more confident – and well briefed – than Ryan. But with me, he is singing with the choir. I have long considered Biden a very impressive and honourable individual, and I am openly arguing for a return of Obama to the Presidency. So how did it all look to non Obama fans?

Immediate post debate reaction seems more mixed. Some people did not like Biden’s aggression and interrupting. Fair enough: and it never plays well with the general public. On the other hand, I am sure this is how he was briefed, as the Obama campaign considered their man had abandoned the field in the previous debate, so it would have done the workers, supporters and ironed-ons no harm at all to see their side be more confident and combative.

The “Undecided” panel from CNN (who make up the worm respondents) judged it thusly:

Biden was strongest on the economy, certainly when discussing the middle class, and was lowest on the Libyan consulate affair. (Which goes to a generalised lack of trust in the Administration, although one foreign policy incident is surely a lower order issue taken in the whole scheme of things.) On the other hand, Biden scored well in an opinion poll on the judgement of whether he could step up and be President if needed.

Ryan was also strongest on the economy, (surely a sign that people are genuinely confused as to the best way to go) and, interestingly, weakest on abortion. In other words, he was caught talking to his own base, and ignoring the more nuanced attitudes on the topic from mainstream America.

In the end they voted it a tie. On the panel, Obama picked up three intending votes, Romney picked up 3. Hardly a scientific pool, but overall, I suspect the effect of the debate is likely to solidify the base support and move a tiny percentage of undecideds to the Romney camp as well. But for most people, it will have just made the decision what it appears to be for the entire country – obviously tighter than last time.

What has become clearer is there is certainly a strong and deep mistrust of the Administration, and no great enthusiasm for it. But, in essence, Romney/Ryan need to convince people that they could do better. That’s the whole game, right there. At the moment they seem to be just short of that goal to this watcher, but certainly further on than they were. A lot will depend on the next two Presidential debates, and, as I have opined previously, how the Obama camp nails – or doesn’t nail – what I consider to be the obvious holes in the Romney/Ryan tax plan.

For example, Ryan asserted confidently that the Romney tax cuts could be implemented without touching middle class welfare allowances like mortgage relief. Biden huffed that it was mathematically impossible. Later, the bi-partisan Tax Policy Centre delivered their verdict. “Not possible.” So expect to see that hammered again and again in the next couple of weeks.

The other issue will be how the “vouchers not Medicare” issue plays in Florida.

Florida. Keep your eyes on Florida. As I keep saying, it is where the Obama campaign will focus their anti-voucher campaign but it will be much more than some TV ads. I suspect we are about to see a classic case of grassroots campaigning affecting the overall result. Either they will beat Romney there, on the ground, or they will not. And if they don’t, Romney just – just – stands a chance.

Certainly not a bad night for either camp. Just not especially good for either, either.

One side note. Well, two.

I was fascinated to see Fox News split their screen with camera angles that made it look – erroneously – as if Biden and Ryan were not looking at each other courteously. The effect was to make Biden look excessively dismissive – bad for Biden – and surely can only have been deliberate. CNN instead used head on cameras. It really does make one wonder.

Second, Obama has conceded publicly he got the first debate wrong.

In a radio interview with nationally-syndicated Tom Joyner on Tuesday he remarked as follows:

“I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite, because, you know, it’s hard to sometimes just keep on saying and what you’re saying isn’t true,” the president said, when asked what happened at the debate.

“It gets repetitive. But, you know, the good news is, is that’s just the first one. Governor Romney put forward a whole bunch of stuff that either involved him running away from positions that he had taken, or doubling down on things like Medicare vouchers that are going to hurt him long term.”

Questioned on why he “had the open shot and … didn’t take it” in last week’s debate, the president said “I understand, but you know, what happens though is that when people lose one game, you know, this is a long haul. I think it’s fair to say that we will see a little more activity at the next one,” he said.

“But keep in mind that, you know, the issues that are at stake for folks haven’t changed. You know? We’ve got millions of people who’ve got health care right now because of our health care bill. And they won’t have it if Mitt Romney is elected president.”

The president also protested the idea that he had the election locked down going into the debate.

“This is always going to be a close race,” he said. “Governor Romney kept on making mistakes month after month so it made it look artificially like this was, might end up being a cakewalk. But we understood internally that it never would be. That it was going to tight – it tightened over the last three or four days, but it could have tightened after the convention if they hadn’t had such a bad convention.”

He added: “By next week I think a lot of the hand-wringing will be complete because we’re going to go ahead and win this thing.”

We will see. Obama needs a real triumph in the next debate to recapture momentum. One telling moment will do it. We know that from past debates. Aides will be holding their breath. Whatever happens, expect a much more combative performance from Obama.

The gloves are off.

 

You thought I was just going to fade away? Nu-uh, dude.

Having appeared stumbling, humourless, overly conservative, faltering and gaffe prone for months, tonight Mitt Romney stepped onto the stage in Denver, Colorado and promptly looked magisterial, gentlemanly, well briefed, confident and sincere.

Really, who knew?

Little wonder his aides and advisers were reported to be “ecstatic” afterwards.

A CNN flash poll of registered voters found that by 67-25, they thought Romney won. It was a small sample but big enough to be significant. At Wellthisiswhatithink, our own viewing of the debate confirmed it. When Romney spoke, he was generally in positive area on the worm indicator. When Obama did, he struggled to shift the worm into the positive, and it came back to even stevens or below and especially whenever he was lecturing or self satisfied.

The CNN poll also asked Who Seemed to Be Stronger Leader? Romney won this again, 58% to Obama’s 37%. Although perhaps the silver lining for Obama in that in the post-debate poll fave/unfave numbers for both candidates were mostly unchanged.

The Opposition must oppose, of course. So on the measurement Who Spent More Time Attacking His Opponent? Romney 53% led over Obama – 30%. Obama was obviously busy being Presidential. And that was a good tactic, because it’s his to lose, and Romney’s to win. Interestingly, though, the Romney attacks don’t seem to have segued into negative emotions from the voters – a sure sign that his criticisms were seen as justified, and not mere carping.

For the survey, 430 adult Americans were interviewed by telephone after the end of the debate. The poll obviously does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans: it only represents the views of people who watched the event. But as that is some 40 million people, it is a reasonable sample of the nation as a whole. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

In one last interesting statistic, Who Did Debate Make You More Likely to Vote For? resulted in Romney 35%, Obama 18%, Neither 47%. Revealing again, in our opinion, that the electorate as a whole is battered, cynical, largely un-engaged, and will vote for one candidate or the other begrudgingly.

But you know what? I would love to see that figure for those who self-identified as undecideds before the debate – because as I say, if the worm was to be believed, Obama did markedly badly against these.

It’s a simple fact that very few people ever change from Republican to Democrat or vice versa … swings are generated from the 4-6% of genuine undecideds (also known as swinging voters or floating voters) who will sometimes move one way or the other on election day. I suspect that Romney did himself no harm at all with those voters tonight.

What will be missing from most commentary the day or two after the debate is why Romney did so well. In this, as a professional public speaker, I think I can shed some light for you that may not come from elsewhere.

it wasn’t essentially presentational. The political machines know how to get people ready for these things now – this isn’t Kennedy versus Nixon any more. So … both candidates smiled, talked to camera confidently, were courteous with each other, and yes: they are both good looking guys. Tick for both.

But some other observations will help us delve a bit deeper.

The tone for the whole hour and a half was set in the first 45 seconds. Talking to his wife on their wedding anniversary, Obama opened with “next year sweetie you won’t be celebrating our anniversary in front of 40 million people”. Romney and the audience duly giggled.Yes, it was nice, but it seemed planned. Also, calling the First Lady “sweetie” might have seemed a good idea when the speechwriters suggested it, but frankly demeaned a woman who would probably whip both of them if she was on the ballot. He might well call her “sweetie” in private. None of our business. Just not on national TV, please.

Romney’s riposte was good – it seemed natural, not planned, which, of course, it was. He said ” And it’s so romantic spending it with me”. Instantly all that “he’s an automaton stuff” seemed wrong. “The man has a sense of humour? He can be self-deprecating? He’s quick witted? Wow.”

Soon after, Romney’s folksy answer on the economy – talking about people approaching him and wife looking for jobs – was stronger than Obama’s defence of his record. And this is the real issue Obama faces – people are not necessarily sophisticated in their understanding of economics (which Obama is, and as a result he frequently cannot get his rambling discursive answers “down” to their language level) and all Romney has to do to draw blood is remind people that real, worthwhile, ordinary people – not dole bludgers – can’t find work, and Obama’s biggest Achilles heel is nakedly there for all to see.

It was, as always, very interesting watching the “worm” on CNN – it is always the case whenever I watch these things that positive answers make the worm trend upwards.

Obama’s problem was he has so little positive to talk about. One exception was Obama talking about not using tax breaks to be “helping companies that are shipping jobs overseas” – it caused a very positive spike for Obama and reveals that uncertainty about the morality of Romney’s business career, not to mention the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas in itself, is a hot button issue for people. Accordingly, I expect to see the Obama campaign focus much more intently on picking apart Romney’s tax plans over the next two weeks.

But Romney talking on middle-income Americans also caused a very strong spike – Romney was doing well time and again when he stuck to his ” I will save the middle class” story. Why? It de-focused attention on his own vast wealth, and also spoke to all those people who in America consider themselves middle class – which as anyone who knows Americans will confirm is almost everyone, despite the fact that the middle class is actually vastly outnumbered in reality by the working poor and the unemployed.

Simple facts, presented with passion always resonate.

In general, throughout the debate, Romney scored well because he spoke more simply, and more obviously. In an example that most commentators will have missed, but which added strongly to the atmospherics, he made a strong point about energy exploration and energy independence, for example, when he said that exploration permits had been cut by half on Government land in the four years of Obama’s reign.

But when Obama presented a positive fact, even when he did so simply, it was nearly always against the backdrop that people blame him for the economic situation in the US right now, and were therefore essentially doubtful about anything he claimed as a success. So whenever Obama said “we have done something or other” his worm actually flatlined or dipped. Ouch.

Whether or not this credibility gap is enough to see him defeated is still up for grabs. But it revealed that his camp has a fight on its hands.

With the oil issue, for example, it would have passed almost un-noticed by most people that Romney also took the opportunity to quickly say that he would allow offshore drilling in Alaska – but most interestingly Obama left it completely alone, when I am reasonably sure that candidate Obama from four years ago would have seized on it and talked confidently about big oil despoiling the wilderness that he would protect for all Americans. Obama then was the golden boy. Obama today is the statue with feet of clay. And he knows it.

So he didn’t embark on a scathing denunciation, he let it bounce through to the keeper. Which might have been him trying not to “go negative”, but in my opinion was more a sure sign that the strength of Romney’s performance was rattling him. As was the increasing number of times Obama used … “er” …. “and, and” … and other delaying “thought gaps”.

Also – and his advisers have to summon up the guts to deal with this – he has a dreadful habit of sounding like a University lecturer – which, of course, he is.

At one point he said “Let’s look at taxes … because it’s instructive” – and the reaction of women dipped instantly – they just don’t like it when he speaks professorially.

“It’s instructive”? What’s wrong with “It tell us something important” or “It’s revealing” or “We need to examine this.”? “Instructive” is simply not a word that ordinary people use. Bang – the President is not like me, right there.

I made a number of notes during the debate that “Romney has got the President sounding negative, and it’s not working for him.” I also noted that “Romney has him addressing his points – Obama needs to kick positive”. In other words, Obama conceded the course of the debate to Romney. Fatal.

In general, when he talks, Obama does well with women when he speaks seriously, but less well with men with whom he clearly has a credibility gap on the economy. At one point it was very interesting – instructive, even – that when they were both getting stuck on tax detail, Romney was excellent when he again talked about a small electronics business and how much tax they’re paying. “More than half of what they make”. Boom! goes the average American’s mind – is that fair? No it isn’t. Romney says it, Obama can’t (otherwise why hasn’t he done anything about it?). Simple facts, simply presented. And well briefed.

Sometimes Romney got it wrong too. Talking about the President picking winners and losers in alternative energy companies, he cheerful intoned “You can pick winners, you can pick losers, you just pick the losers” – and women instantly tanked, although men stayed strong. If that was a scripted line – which I suspect it was – that scriptwriter should be instantly fired.

Romney also skewered Washington effectively. “States are the laboratories of democracy not the federal government” produced a great response despite it’s high falutin’ tone and language. Obama originally got elected – in part – because he was an outsider. The danger for his campaign now is that it has painted Romney as so much of an outsider that he will reap benefits from being anti-centric, despite being a long-term Washington insider, both in business and politics.

So – the wash up? Well, Romney got it right, and Obama got it wrong.

In my opinion, hubris was the cause. Just didn’t prepare well enough, and it showed. To be fair, he’s been off busily being President, I guess, especially with the Middle East going mental again. But the real problem, I an sure, is that no-one in the Obama camp would have thought, for a moment, that Romney would come out swinging anything like as effectively as he did.

So he was inadequately prepped. As an Obama supporter, I hope someone has the guts to tell him “you need to listen to me, Mr President.” He would do worse than to read this blog, frankly.

They will surely not make the same mistake again. He will be better honed, better able to present his positives in smarter soundbites, and armed with more wounding barbs.Which is why, ultimately, despite the surprising strength of his performance, that Romney didn’t score a knockout blow.

In short, we still have a long way to go.

Two more Presidential debates, and a Vice Presidential debate, and there was no real knockout moment anyway.

But he definitely got himself back in the game.

As I said, the news tomorrow will be all about “Whooaaa! Wait! Who is this guy? Where has he been?” I expect him to see a small bounce from this performance. Maybe as big as 1-2%. It will be a big talking point. And for a candidate largely written off as a no hoper, that’s news with a capital ‘N’.

However, as a seasoned observer of elections (I have not got one wrong for about thirty years, in the countries I am interested in), I still think Romney is still the one with the uphill task.

It is not generally understood (even by the commentariat) that Romney must win ALL the swing states on offer to overhaul Obama’s electoral college votes from the states that are comfortably ironed on to him currently.

This task will be hugely difficult, especially as in some of the swing states – Florida is the classic example – where Romney’s plans for Medicare are not going down at all well. What you don’t see in something like a Presidential debate is the local campaigning hammering away at people’s fears and hopes on a daily basis. All those phone calls, leaflets and doostep conversations matter a great deal.

I think that’s why Romney sought to position himself as the protector of Medicare. Obama’s crew won’t let him get away with that twice. They have been slow to nail his plans on it. This will wake them up.

But in general, the Governor will sleep a lot better than the President tonight.

Hear that? Game on.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney – Mr Nice Guy’s mask slips, possibly terminally

Whilst no one with any commonsense would argue that the size of the American Government needs to be trimmed to match more closely the productivity of the country, an interesting attitude from the man who would be President for all Americans – and not just those worth millions and billions of dollars – is now on public display for all to see.

As AFP report from Washington, Mitt Romney’s campaign was rocked Monday by a secretly filmed video in which the Republican tells rich Republican Party donors that nearly half of Americans are government-dependent ‘victims’ who dodge taxes.

President Barack Obama’s team quickly seized on the film, released by the liberal Mother Jones magazine, as proof that the multi-millionaire Romney had written off half the nation, and was not fit to serve as president.

The video was the latest blow to the Romney team as it fought off reports that the Republican’s White House bid is in disarray, as he struggles to close a small but growing and consistent gap to Obama in national polls and battleground states.

In excerpts from the video, which has emerged 50 days before the November 6 election, Romney is seen to say in a closed-door, private fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans will vote for the president “no matter what.”

“There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

“These are people who pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

I find this attitude astonishing, but it is great to see the bullsh*t stripped from the carefully-posed performances that have characterised the uber-rich billionaire’s campaign so far. Here, laid bare for all to see (except those who don’t wish to) is the reality of the new ultra-right Republican party’s attitude to the American people.

Of course, if Americans are in receipt of Government care, it doesn’t mean that they are entirely dependent on the Government. It can be anything from medical support, education and retraining, to the more desperate needs of unemployment benefit, to food staples delivered (via food stamps) to people who would otherwise, literally, be in danger of starving, starving. In the richest country in the world.

Wellthisiswhatithink asks: Is it beyond the wit and ability of the right to understand many millions of people receiving some sort of welfare support are EX tax payers who are now GETTING THEIR TAXES BACK AGAIN – loaned to the Government to do with whatever it wishes – to survive in a tough period? Frankly, I would have thought that small government right wingers would approve of that concept?

“President Romney” is, thank goodness, looking increasingly unlikely. Because increasingly he looks like a buffoon, and not a very nice one at that. As one Bloomberg correspondent put it today:

You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released today by Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney’s campaign for President.

On the tape, Romney explains that his electoral strategy involves writing off nearly half the country as unmoveable Obama voters. As Romney explains, 47 percent of Americans “believe that they are victims.” He laments:  “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

So what’s the upshot? “My job is not to worry about those people,” he says. He also notes, describing President Obama’s base, “These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.”

This is an utter disaster for Romney.

Romney already has trouble relating to the public and convincing people he cares about them. Now, he’s been caught on video saying that nearly half the country consists of hopeless losers.

Romney has been vigorously denying President Obama’s claims that his tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class. But now, he’s been caught on video suggesting that low- and middle-income Americans are undertaxed.

(That one is especially problematic given the speculation about what’s on Mitt’s unreleased pre-2010 tax returns.)

Corn tells us there are more embarrassing moments on segments of the video he hasn’t released yet. For example, Romney jokes that he’d be more likely to win the election if he were Hispanic. And he makes some awkward comments about whether he was born with a “silver spoon” in his mouth.

But those are survivable. The really disastrous thing is the clip about “victims,” and the combination of contempt and pity that Romney shows for anyone who isn’t going to vote for him.

Romney is the most opaque presidential nominee since Nixon, and people have been reduced to guessing what his true feelings are.

This video provides an answer: He feels that you’re a loser. It’s not an answer that wins elections.

Poll: Obama widens lead over Romney despite weaker jobs data – see the end of this article for 17 Sept update confirming trend is in Obama’s favour.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today. I think Ryan looks too young to run. Oh, sorry, my bad. (Photo credit: tvnewsbadge)

As predicted in the pages of Wellthisiswhatithink a few days ago, Obama has done better out of the conference season than Romney. The scheduling of the Democrat convention immediately after the Republican one may come to be seen as a strategic masterstroke when the experts parse the result of a Democrat win in November.

The President widened his narrow lead over Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday.

The latest daily tracking poll showed Obama with a lead of 4 percentage points over Romney. Forty-seven percent of 1,457 likely voters surveyed online over the previous four days said they would vote for Obama if the November 6 elections were held today, compared with 43 percent for Romney.

“The bump is actually happening. I know there was some debate whether it would happen, but it’s here,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark, referring to the “bounce” in support that many presidential candidates enjoy after nominating conventions.

Obama had leapfrogged Romney in the daily tracking poll on Friday with a lead of 46 percent to 44 percent.

The president’s lead comes despite a somewhat mixed reaction to his convention speech on Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Friday’s government data showing that jobs growth slowed sharply last month.

Obama’s lead over Romney is comparable to Romney’s former lead over the president after the Republican National Convention finished last week, Clark said.

“We don’t have another convention now to turn our attention to, so (Obama’s bounce) may maintain,” Clark said. “How big it’ll be and how long it will last remains to be seen.”

I am frankly surprised that the candidates aren’t closer this week, and in my opinion, as I explained the other day, the bounce will become slightly more pronounced next week, as this week’s averaged polls drop off polls from when Obama was in a comfortable lead.

From that point on, it is Obama’s election to lose. The difficulty for the Republicans is that the next major opportunity for them to draw blood is the debates, and these will almost certainly favour Obama, as, regardless of one’s political bias, he is clearly a stronger candidate than Romney – more charismatic, more likeable, and despite the mixed scorecard for the first term of his Presidency, appearing more capable. This is born out when one analyses the poll’s investigation of specific qualities of the two candidates.

Obama increased his lead over Romney in certain favorable characteristics. Asked who was more “eloquent,” 50 percent of the 1,720 registered voters questioned in the poll favored Obama, compared to 25 percent for Romney. Asked about being “smart enough for the job,” 46 percent sided with Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney.

In fact, Obama led Romney in a dozen such favorable characteristics, such as “represents America” or “has the right values.”

The only such category in which Romney had an advantage was being “a man of faith,” as 44 percent picked Romney, who is Mormon, compared to 31 percent for Obama, who is Christian, but who is dogged by rumours spread by his opponents, completely unfounded, that he secretly a Muslim.

The Democratic National Convention itself received a rather muted response in the poll. Of those registered voters who had heard, seen or read at least something about it, 41 percent rated it as “average” and 29 percent as “good.”

The Republican National Convention that wrapped up August 30 in Tampa, Florida similarly was rated slightly worse: “average” by 38 percent and “good” by 27 percent in Saturday’s polling results. Although these two results seem “nip and tuck”, this is actually further evidence of a setback for the republicans, who needed to attract a couple of percentage points from the very small group of “undecideds” in order to be competitive.

This election is close, but barring a disaster, should be won by Obama with a reasonable margin. As Harold Wilson said, however, “a week is a long time in politics”. That makes nearly two months a veritable aeon, in a world where the effect of banana skins are amplified tenfold by the voracity of the media.

In any two horse race, either can win, because one can falter or fall. But as we speak, Obama looks like he is a few furlongs from home with a handy lead.

Material sourced from Reuters. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

UPDATE 17 SEPTEMBER 2012 10.50PM AEST

As predicted – almost to the day – by this column, Obama’s bounce has solidified in key battleground states this week. Here is the data:

As the Monitor’s Liz Marlantes reported last Friday, Obama’s post-convention bounce apparently endures, most significantly in key battleground states.

According to a new set of NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls, Obama is now leading Romney by 7 points in Ohio and 5 points in Florida and Virginia, and the RealClearPolitics polling average right now has Obama up by 4.2 percentage points in Ohio, 1.3 points in Florida, and 0.4 points in Virginia.

(Note, if Romney does not win Florida then he needs a clean sweep of all the other battleground states to beat Obama – highly unlikely.)

A Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Saturday has Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania, 50 percent to 39 percent, reports Politico.

“Pennsylvania Democrats are more consolidated behind Obama, with 77 percent in favor of Obama and 13 percent in favor of Romney, while Republicans are 18 percent in favor of Obama and 71 percent in favor of Romney,” according to the poll press release.

“Following the conventions, Obama’s favorability rating has increased by 3 points, while his unfavorable rating has decreased by 6 points. Opinions of Romney have improved slightly following the conventions, but he still has a net negative personal popularity rating among voters in state, with 46 percent favorable/48 percent unfavorable rating.”

Politico also reports on an internal Republican poll that has Romney behind by 4 points in Ohio, not as bad as his 7-point deficit in the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls but behind in the key battleground state nonetheless.

“The numbers underline Romney’s longstanding problems in Ohio, where he’s taken a beating from Obama’s campaign and liberal groups,” writes Politico’s Jonathan Martin.

“But it’s actually a sign of the depth of Romney’s hole in the state that the results were greeted favorably by Republicans. Polling in Ohio before the conventions last month showed Romney with an even larger deficit, closer to double-digits.”

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters has Obama widening his advantage to 7 points, a gap that’s been increasing since the Democratic convention. “What that really means is that Obama is in good shape,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

“Thursday’s online poll also found far more registered voters preferred the incumbent’s policies and approach on taxes (41 percent picked Obama, 30 percent Romney), healthcare (44 percent Obama, 28 percent Romney) and Social Security (39 percent Obama, 27 percent Romney),” Reuters reported.

Obama appears to be winning in foreign affairs, too. “Asked which of the candidates had a better plan, policy or approach to the war on terrorism, more registered voters again favored Obama: 39 percent to Romney’s 25 percent.” (Note that the poll was taken two days after the attack on the US consulate in Libya.)

One sleeper poll that may have particular importance given the tension between the US and Israel over drawing a “red line” regarding Iran’s nuclear facilities: Obama has extended his lead among registered Jewish voters to 70-25 percent, according to unreleased Gallup daily tracking poll data reported by BuzzFeed.

“The data, obtained through a Democratic source, shows Obama up from leading 64-29 in polling this spring – and on par with his 2008 performance at this point when he led 69-25 over John McCain in Gallup polling,” reports BuzzFeed.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

President Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts,...

Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the really interesting things about this US election is that the Democrat convention follows directly on the back of the Republican one, which is unusual in modern times.

That’s because the standing bounce – or increase – expected in a party’s support after a party convention is about 5%.

And in order to be competitive in November, Romney really needs that bounce. Whilst there has been some small movement towards the GOP in recent weeks (which frankly is more reflective of a generalised disinterest in either candidate or party), he is a man badly in need of the “Big Mo”.

To win, he has to look like a winner, or at very least, a real contender.

Why? Simply because it’s a well known fact that, in America as elsewhere, people like to vote on the winning side. Enough people want to be part of the winning tribe that they can tip a close election decisively one way or the other.

That’s why pro-GOP outlets like Fox News constantly talk up Romney’s chances. They need to convince people he has them. Sadly for them and the GOP, they are largely singing to their own choir.

Shoring up votes you already have may feel good, but ultimately it’s largely pointless. What matters is what the relatively few (certainly less than 10%, nearer 4-6%) of uncommitted or undecided voters think.

That’s why the convention bounce is important, especially as the GOP are already predicting that Obama will wipe the floor with Romney in the debates – so that when he does, as is likely, the negative impact of their candidate looking wooden and uninformed is lessened.

Republican convention audience

Not exactly a critical audience, really. White, middle class, committed. Talking to the whole country is more tricky.

A convention gives a candidate a chance to present his case unchallenged by any embarrassing contradiction. So if you can’t get a bounce from the TV viewing audience when everyone in the hall is supposed to love you to bits before you even say “Hello”, you’re in real trouble.

The proximity of the Democrat convention in the key swing state of North Carolina, coming right on the heels of the Republican gabfest, and wielding their biggest vote catcher – which is Obama’s ability as a public orator, and his essential likeability – may well blunt Romney’s much-needed boost in support. The water-cooler attention will swing more rapidly than usually to the Presidential incumbent, reducing the required froth and bubble chatter about the GOP. And in modern politics, invisibility is death.

It also doesn’t help that the most talked about event at the Republican convention became a tired old actor chatting to an empty chair.

It’s not that Romney is unpopular with his own Republican supporters – which he he is – they think he’s not conservative enough, not radical right enough, not Christian enough, not middle class enough, not exciting enough – but that doesn’t really matter because Republicans have reluctantly decided to back him as their best and only hope after an execrable, dragged out selection process. They will hold their nose and vote for him because they detest Obama.

What matters is that without a swing to him of about 5% coming essentially from the political centre then Romney will never get to where he needs to be in key swing states like Ohio, NC, and elsewhere.

It has become popular amongst the chattering commentariat to average opinion polls over a period of time to arrive at a rolling view of where the electorate is at.

This can be helpful in portraying trends, but is less useful as a snapshot, as voter opinion can change rapidly.

Wellthisiswhatithink has been noticing a small move towards the Republicans as Romney’s name recognition and prime time coverage has grown, and as people focus a little more on the imminence of the poll. And as rolling “averaging” polls drop off individual polls taken approximately a month ago (when Obama had just enjoyed a small bump upwards) – and as there must be some sort of bounce during the Republican convention itself last week – then I expect to see a small increase in the GOP’s position in rolling polls released over the next few days.

Two rolling polls released today show the candidates essentially neck and neck, certainly within the margin of error, one going for Romney by three points, one for Obama by a point. I expect to see more of those coming out towards the end of this week and showing Romney with a small lead, and the GOP will frantically do all they can to solidify that impression as a counter to the coverage of the DNC.

However, bounces can be illusory.

There’s a special sort of bounce. It’s usually applied to expectations of economic recovery that look overly optimistic. It’s also applied to political hopefuls.

Falling cat

“I don’t have a good feeling about this. How many lives was that again?”

It’s called a “dead cat bounce”. That’s the extent to which a cat, thrown off a roof, will bounce on hitting the ground head first.

The answer is, of course, even under the most propitious circumstances, not much.

That’s what I expect for Mitt Romney from the GOP convention. A dead cat bounce. The polls we should really keep our eyes on are the polls, especially the rolling polls, released about 7-14 days from today, say anytime from around 14th September onwards. In a world where the electorate has the attention span of a gnat, these will then factor in not only Obama’s expected professional performance in Charlotte – and, critically, Bill Clinton’s performance, still by some distance the most popular politician in America – but also the general froth and bubble that will swell up and about the DNC, which, unlike the RNC, will probably have little hard political news distracting from it.

I expect Obama to move into the lead – consistently – by mid-September, and I expect him to stay there. I expect him to win the election, more narrowly than he did against McCain, but win it nevertheless.

You heard it here first.

(Incidentally, Dear Reader, in researching this article, your humble scribe spent three hours watching Fox News Channel to be sure he had a suitable amount of GOP content in his head so that the article would be balanced and fair. Greater love hath no man.)

I confess I really have a hard time finding common ground with those on the right, even though I know that civility demands that I do – and possibly the survival of liberal democracy insists that I must.

It’s not that I think all right wingers are bad and evil people – clearly they are not. I mean, I have right wing friends.

(Why does that feel like you could add the word “Black”, “Jewish” or “French” in there?)

It is just that my experience of right wing politicians and their apparatchiks is that they never truly compromise – that they have no concomitant respect for the other side of politics, and any accommodations they arrive at with people like me are merely tactical, and never of the heart.

Putting it simply, they are not to be trusted. They hate progressive thought, and they despise those who engage in it. They mistrust innovation, they dislike equality, and they don’t really believe that anyone but them should be running things. Ever. It’s been called the “born to rule” mentality, and I have seen it everywhere for as many of my 55 years as I have actually been attuned to such things. I prefer “born to exploit”, but then, that’s me*.

And then I came across this little cartoon and it explained it eloquently, and simply, and, er, well, forever I guess. Recent right wing opposition to healthcare reform in the USA, to the mining super-profits tax and carbon pricing in Australia, and to rescuing the planet from man-fuelled climate change generally around the world, have merely confirmed me in my view.

So I don’t expect I will be offering much compromise anytime soon, unless the right changes its stripes, which I am frankly not expecting. So much as I love my right wing friends, please don’t ask me to change which side of the barricades are on. Because until we are met halfway, I won’t.

And to my left wing friends, the message is “Maintain the rage”.

Er, yup. That’s about it, right there.

*I exclude genuine entrepreneurs from this judgement, those who actually make something, make it at a price that can be afforded, and sell it to people who gratefully receive it. They are the lifeblood of liberal democracy, and I salute them.