Keeping the Faith

Dukakis was up 17 points over Bush in ’88

It’s over! At least, that’s what the liberal pundits are saying 24/7. Romney is lagging behind in key states and since Barack Obama is awesome – this whole election is over.  In the words of Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over, til’ it’s over.”  We’re 41 days away from Election Day and some on the right are convinced that the Romney campaign is being eaten away by aflesh-eating virus.

Better yet, being undercut by your own (or supposedly your own) team by being labeled “incompetent.” At least, that’s what Peggy Noonan wrote on her blog with The Wall Street Journal on September 18.  She implied that it’s time for an intervention a la A&E style.

It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet: He chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. ‘Mitt, this isn’t working.’

She wrote a follow-up in her column on September 21.

How did we get here? What can turn it around?

1. Mr. Romney came out of the primaries ‘a damaged and flawed candidate.’ Voters began to see him as elitist, rich, out of touch. “Here the Democrats’ early advertising was crucial.” Newt Gingrich hurt too, with his attacks on Bain.

2. The Democrats defined Mr. Romney ‘before he had a chance to define himself.’ His campaign failed in ‘not doing a substantial positive media buy to explain who Mitt Romney is and what kind of president he might be.’

3. ‘Perceptions of the economy are improving.’ Unemployment is high, but the stock market has improved, bringing 401(k)s with it.

4. Obama’s approval ratings are up five to six points since last year. He is now at roughly 49% approval, comparable to where President Bush was in 2004.

5. ‘The president had a strong convention and Romney a weak one.’ The RNC failed ‘to relaunch a rebranded Romney and create momentum.’

6. Team Romney has been ‘reactive,’ partly because of the need for damage control, but it also failed to force the Obama campaign to react to its proposals and initiatives.

7. The ’47%’ comment didn’t help, but Mr. Romney’s Libya statement was a critical moment. Team Romney did not know ‘the most basic political tenet of a foreign crisis: when there is an international incident in which America is attacked, voters in this country will (at least in the short term) rally around the flag and the President. Always. It is stunning that Team Romney failed to recognize this.’

No wonder Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan said conservative punditry had an inherent whiney personality.  We’re never going to find the perfect candidate.  We just the one who is best to defeat Obama in November.  As such, Mitt Romney came out on top.  Some conservatives still need to make peace with this.  I was never on the Mitt Romney train wholeheartedly since Rick Perry was my number one choice – but he blew it and Romney destroyed his rivals.  The war is over.

Second, many feel that the 47% comments were wrong. I couldn’t disagree more.  For all the bellyaching over his robotic disposition, at least we caught Mitt articulating his true feelings about the entitlement mentality brewing in this country.  There was a scintilla of truth in what he said and it was within the confines of conservative principles.

Third, no one with sense believes that the stock market going back up above 13,000 is an accurate gauge on the stability of our economic situation.  We have almost 1/3 of all houses in this country in serious financial trouble concerning the financing of their mortgages – which is one of the largest impediments to our recovery.  We have 8% unemployment for over 40 consecutive months and the lowest labor participation rate in 31 years.

Concerning the Obama’s bounce in his approval ratings, it’s a different cycle.  It’s not 2004.  One thing Barack Obama did change  was the way Republicans were elected president.  George Will aptly said that the strategy used to be win the south, the Midwest, parts of the Pacific Northwest, and then spend the equivalent of the GNP of Brazil to win Ohio to be elected president. 2008 changed all of that.  Furthermore, unemployment wasn’t nearly as high in 2004 under Bush and his tax cuts created 8 million new jobs and 50 months of uninterrupted economic growth.

As for the weak convention, the Democrats defining Mitt, and Team Romney’s pervasive sluggishness – I blame the first two on the media coverage of this campaign, which, to no one’s surprise, is grossly skewed towards the president.  Team Romney has very smart people running his campaign; they just need to be more aggressive.  It’s time to take off the white gloves.  They can start by giving Paul Ryan a little more breathing room on the campaign trail.

Last week, on The Ed Morrissey Show, Ed had a rather prolonged and in-depth discussion about polls and detailed which ones were salient and which ones were worthless.  Liberals will use any poll giving Obama a lead to continue their sophomoric high school cheering concerning the outcome of this race.  Even, if the polls are D+13 and are based on 2008 voter turnout – which we know is not going to be duplicated this cycle.  Yesterday,Morrissey wrote that Politico reported that:

President Barack Obama has opened a national lead in a tight race that’s been static for much of the year.

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll of likely voters finds little good news for Mitt Romney but a race that remains competitive.

Obama leads 50 percent to 47 percent, which is within the margin of error. His 50 percent job approval rating puts him at a crucial threshold for an incumbent seeking reelection. It’s an uptick from the spring and summer, but 48 percent still disapprove.

Romney, meanwhile, finds himself sliding in the wake of two events — the choice of his running mate and the Republican national convention — that were supposed to buoy his candidacy. His unfavorable rating ticked up from 46 percent to 49 percent over the past seven weeks, as the share viewing him favorably held steady at 46 percent. Personal likability boosts the president, who is viewed favorably by 53 percent.

Ed said the poll was “decent.”

The D/R/I is 34/31/33 without leaners, 43/40/15 with leaners.  That’s a defensible turnout model for the election; D+3 would be just about in the middle from 2008′s D+7 and 2010′s even turnout.

Otherwise, there are a few interesting points from the extensive internals published from the survey.  First, Romney is leading by 2 among independents, 46/44, which Obama won by 8 in 2008.  The gender gap favored Obama by 14 in his last election (+13 among women, +1 among men), but he’s down to a +4 in this poll; Romney wins men by 6, 51/45, while Obama wins women by 10, 53/43.  Romney wins married voters by 14 points, 55/41, and wins married women by five at 51/46, but trails among the single and divorced in both genders by wide margins.  Romney is doing better in McCain states from 2008 (60/37) than Obama is in states he won in 2008 (54/42).  Romney’s also winning ticket splitters by 10, 48/38.

Furthermore, Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster Morrissey used in his post, stated that:

All of this data make clear that Romney has won the strong support of middle-class families and is leading the president on an overwhelming majority of key measurements beyond just the ballot.  In fact, when respondents were asked who, Obama or Romney, would best handle a variety of issues, Romney led on all but one including the economy (+9 percent), foreign policy (+3 percent), spending (+15 percent), taxes (+7 percent), Medicare (+2 percent), and jobs (+10 percent).  Ironically, the one measurement Obama led Romney on was ‘standing up for the middle class’ (+8 Obama), reinforcing that often the Democrats win the message war with the middle class, but not their hearts and souls.

In all, it’s a dead heat.

Townhall’s Guy Benson reiterated this point in his post published yesterday as well.  Additionally, Benson reported that Purple Poll Strategies’s new poll, which gauges likely moderate and right of center voters, also backed up the claim that this race is still deadlocked.  Benson noted “the data largely confirms findings from USA Today/Gallup last week…look at some of the key numbers.”

 (1) Mitt Romney holds a very narrow one-point lead in Florida, at 48/47.  A new Miami Herald poll also shows the race tied, with Romney pulling even on the Medicare issue, and most Floridians saying they’re worse off than they were four years ago.

(2) The race is within the survey’s three-point margin of error in several states, including North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado.

(3) Obama is ahead by four points in Ohio, where Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are set to begin a multi-stop bus tour this week.

(4) Romney’s favorability has taken a significant hit in recent weeks (now 14 points upside-down overall), a trend his campaign will have to reverse to pull of a victory.

(5) In all six of the poll’s highlighted states, President Obama’s job approval rating is underwater.  His disapproval rating is at 50 percent or higher in three of them.

(6) Obama has not hit the magic 50 percent threshold in any of these states, despite enjoying small leads in four of them.  The portion of voters who say they may still change their minds ranges from six to nine percent.

Lastly, he cited Pollster Jay Cost who wrote in the New York Post on September 23 that:

It’s only September. For political junkies, this statement makes little sense. They’ve been paying close attention to the campaign for months now, and are giddy over the fact that Election Day is quickly approaching. But political junkies don’t swing elections. In fact, something like 25 percent of voters make their voting decisions after September, and anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent will make their final choice in the last week.

This is why the polls have often swung wildly in the final weeks of a campaign. It’s how “Dewey defeated Truman” in 1948. It’s how a blowout Richard Nixon victory in 1968 turned into a squeaker. It’s how Gerald Ford closed a 10-point gap and actually had a lead in the final Gallup poll in 1976. It’s how a toss-up race between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan finished with a GOP blowout in 1980. It’s how Bill Clinton went from being up 9 in mid-September, 1992 to a tie with George H.W. Bush by the end of October. It’s how George W. Bush went from being 10 points down in September 2000 to the 43rd president in January 2001. And it’s how the very same Bush “blew” the 11-point lead he enjoyed in late September 2004, defeating John Kerry by just 2 points.

In other words, September polls are extremely volatile. And this year’s volatility is compounded by the late date of the Democratic National Convention. It was, in fact, the latest party convention in US history. And when the polls are bouncing around a lot, the chances are much greater that they will disagree with one another — which is exactly what we’re seeing right now … So sit tight, politics fans: There’s plenty more to come.

Gallup has swing state voters in a dead heat as well – but it’s not gauged by likely voters, which is far more accurate.  Yesterday’s ”Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll… show[ed] President Obama attracting support from 47% of voters nationwide, while Mitt Romney earns the vote from 46%. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided.”

Dead Heat.


Granted, there are other factors that could derail us.  Ronald Brownstein of The National Journal wrote on September 21 that Romney’s primary decisions have come back to haunt him.

Romney’s inability to dent Obama’s support among Hispanics (or other minorities) means the GOP nominee probably can’t win without attracting at least 61 percent of white voters. Yet a second early decision has greatly compounded that challenge. Through the primaries, Romney embraced an unreservedly conservative social agenda (such as defunding Planned Parenthood and allowing employers to deny contraception coverage in health insurance plans), especially after Santorum emerged as his principal rival. That positioning helps explain why polls consistently show Obama drawing a majority of college-educated white women—not only the most socially liberal sector of the white electorate but also the fastest-growing. If Obama can hold a majority of those women and match his 80 percent with all minorities in 2008, Romney would have to carry two-thirds of all other whites to win—as much as Ronald Reagan won among those remaining voters in his 1984 landslide.

Now, that’s an obstacle.  Nevertheless,  these polls are a good indicator that the 47% remarks weren’t a catastrophic gaffe a la Todd Akin or Minister Samuel Burchard.  The latter of which cost Republicans the Catholic vote for 100 years after the election of 1884 for his brash remarks about the Democratic Party.  Burchard’s responsible for labeling them the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion.”  Grover Cleveland consequently won the election.

However, gaffes won’t be Romney’s downfall.  It now all rests with the debates – which isn’t Romney’s handicap in this race.  Stay the course, keep the faith, and have confidence in our ideals.  Gov. Michael Dukakis left the Democratic Convention in 1988 with 17 points ahead of George H.W. Bush.  In the end, Dukakis – the tank man – only won ten states and lost the popular vote by 8.  We –  on the right – need to stop overestimating the threat.  As Hugh Hewitt remarked at RightOnline in Vegas last June, the left is”Papier-mâché.” Press them hard enough and they’ll inevitably fall apart.

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Matt Vespa

I'm a staunch Republican and a politics junkie who was recently the Executive Director for the Dauphin County Republican Committee in Harrisburg. Before that, I interned with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2011 and Mary Pat Christie, First Lady of NJ, within the Office of the Governor of NJ in 2010. I was responsible for updating his personal contact list. My first political internship was with Tom Kean Jr's. U.S. Senate campaign in 2006.

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