Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mr. President, It’s Not a Game

And It Certainly Shouldn’t Be a Game of Lies

Do Americans care if our President can cook, creatively doodle, play golf well, sing, win at cards, improve at bowling or skillfully play basketball?  Or do Americans think our President should be focused on growing jobs, reducing spending, bringing down enormous deficits, creating energy independence, and reducing regulations…just a few critical issues confronting our country and this administration.  Americans believe our president must solve some of the problems facing him…he had promised significant progress by this time in his presidency…e.g. unemployment would be below 5.6%, the deficit would be reduced by half and GDP would be growing at over 4% annually.  A fawning press has generally heaped accolades on President Obama and ignored his failings both from a performance standpoint and as a person.  At the outset of his run for the presidency the mainstream media (MSM) decided he was a strong candidate with a terrific message.  He was ‘a different kind of candidate’…he had the answers, he spoke with skill and conviction, and he certainly offered hope.  The MSM as a consequence did not vet candidate Obama, his prior associations were ignored, his thin record was overlooked, his leadership skills were conflated...he was a ‘very likeable guy’.  In effect the apotheosis of Barack Obama was well on the way. 

After 43 months of unemployment in excess of 8.0%, a foundering level of economic activity as measured by GDP, staggering deficits over a trillion dollars yearly, and a national debt that now exceeds $16 trillion, we are starting to hear and read stories that portray a president that wastes time and has a host of other negative traits.  These narratives have even been found in The New York Times; The Competitor in Chief, by Jodi Kantor on Sept. 2nd spells out some of the issues as does Carol Platt Liebau’s story in titled, “Is Our President a Bit of a Jerk”.  Liebau, a conservative attorney, quotes a number of respected left leaning reporters to strengthen her argument.  The problems outlined in both articles and others include President Obama wasting significant time trying to improve his golf, basketball, bowling, and card playing skills.  The hagiographical tone is gone from these narratives and well known reporters in the MSM describe the president using words/phrases like arrogant, conceited, overbearing, selfish, overestimating capabilities, and nasty. The journalists include Jake Tapper, Mark Halperin, Greg Kandra, Laura Meckler, Glenn Thrush, Jonathan Allen, Al Hunt, and more; all can be safely described as pro-Obama in the past.  

An increasing number of articles and polls are discussing and measuring likeability due to the unprecedented attacks launched by both candidates but most notably Obama and his campaign.  Two articles worth perusing are Caddell and Schoen: A Campaign in Need of a Clintonian Pivot” and Politico’s, “Verdict is in: Obama levels more personal attacks” by John Harris & Alexander Burns.  Again these authors lean liberal/democrat and Politico is a pro-left, pro-Obama site.  Caddell-Schoen state categorically, “What voters are looking for—and particularly what swing voters, independents, and disillusioned Obama voters are looking for—is a new direction for America based on fiscal discipline, a balanced budget, and economic growth and leadership”.  The balance of their thoughts discuss the erosion in Obama’s polling statistics and forcefully suggests that the president stop “unceasing attacks” on Romney, demonizing and dividing.  The Politico comments note that Obama has suffered through many personal attacks on issues like his birth and college transcripts, but flatly says, “Lost in the smoke is the fact that few of the personal assaults—as opposed to political or policy criticisms—have come from Romney or his official representatives”.  The article is astonishing in its condemnation of not just Obama but his staff and related supporters that have directly or indirectly accused Romney of murder, a felony, possible tax fraud, and “lying to the American people”.  Interestingly, fact checkers have found little to complain about per Romney/Ryan statements and the statements made by their surrogates at the RNC and during other campaign situations.   

This isn’t a game and an effort to see what makes the candidates tick is important to the voter decision making process.  American’s want the candidates to play fair and give them facts; outright lying is frowned upon.  The President and his surrogates are increasingly seen as purveyors of spin, stretching the truth and out right lying.  In Contrast Romney/Ryan and their representatives are largely found to be truthful.  It’s telling that Paul Ryan was castigated for lying regarding the closing of the GM plant in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin and on two other issues during his convention speech. PolitiFact labeled his plant closing remarks, ‘pants on fire’, The New York Times said ‘he bent the truth’, the Washington Post gave it 2 Pinocchio’s, but FactCheck said true.  Within the next nine days the Times retracted their assessment, PolitiFact removed their on-line post without comment, and the Washington Post’s ombudsman said the paper had not properly researched the facts on the plant closing and stated the paper was “just wrong” and Ryan was truthful.  The other two supposed Ryan mistruths were meekly retired immediately after being challenged by FactCheck.  Ryan was also reported to have tried “to restrict the definition of rape”, a charge that was repeated with frequency although completely false.  

To get a sense of the dilemma facing Americans read, contrast and compare the following fact check narratives: (1) Democratic Disinformation from Charlotte, by, on Sept. 4; (2) Celebrating Democrats, past and present, in Charlotte; PolitiFact, by Bill Adair, Sept. 4; (3) Day 2: More Convention Canards; by, on Sept. 5; (4) Fact Check:Top Ten Clinton DNC Falsehoods; by Ben Shapiro, on Sept. 6; and (5) Rebutting Vice President Biden’s Convention Speech; by Elizabeth MacDonald, on Sept 6.  With the exception of PolitiFact, an often biased & highly criticized checker the other named analyzers try to ‘get it right’.  However, checking with more than one check authority (which is unlikely) is necessary if voters want to know the truth.  

The end result of Obama's personal attacks and derision and those of his minions is reducing his likeability.  The attacks are also decrementing his chances of being reelected.  The American people can sense rank dishonesty and do not appreciate incessant personal attacks and ridicule that have been central to the President’s reelection strategy.  However, the American people also do not appreciate negative Romney/Ryan responses although they do not believe the responses are equivalent to Obama's in vitriol and viciousness.  The aforementioned fact check reports are worth reading and are an indictment of the Democrat tactics used during this election cycle.  Truth is the casualty as is the base knowledge the American voter will use to decide who should become president.  One result is a decline in Obama’s polling numbers (e.g. ABC News/Washington Post Poll) with independents, women, Hispanics, and even other blacks in both likeability and electability, but will it be enough?  Hopefully...and ‘That’s because it isn’t a game Mr. President’… ‘and it certainly shouldn’t be a game of lies’.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Convention Was Positive & Fruitful…Stay Tuned

The Republican National Convention (RNC) came to a close on Thursday, August 30th.  It will be followed on Tuesday, September 4th by the opening of Democrat National Convention (DNC).  Post mortems are inevitable.  Many will carry significant Main Stream Media (MSM) bias while some dissections will be more balanced and objective.  An assessment of the ‘state of the race’ has merit now and may provide the basis for a pragmatic future evaluation after the DNC ends.

Some relevant history bears mention correlated to a well-used polling index, the Real Clear Politics (RCP) General Election average of the major national polls, which are calculated daily.  President Obama has led Romney every day in the RCP General Election poll since October of 2011.  One week (on August 5) before Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate the RCP avg. had Obama at 47.4% vs. Romney at 44.6% a 2.8% lead.  The next day the unemployment statistics for July were released; the unemployment rate grew to 8.3% and 160,000 jobs were created.  On August 11th, Romney announced his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate.  The RCP General Election avg. equaled 48.0% for Obama and 43.4% for Romney a 4.6% difference.  This difference had declined to 1.2% at the onset of the RNC with Obama holding a 46.8% edge to Romney’s 45.6% rating.

The reality of the timing of this assessment is that a fully measured bounce is not doable.  Even the ‘daily’ tracking polls haven’t fully cycled, i.e. Rasmussen’s poll is a 3 day average while Gallup’s is a 7 day average.  Further comparing polls is in many cases similar to comparing peaches and pears.  Gallup uses an ‘all adult’ (All) poll to measure candidate approval ratings and a ‘registered voter’ (RV) poll to measure the general election race.  In contrast Rasmussen applies a ‘likely voter’ (LV) poll to measure both approval and the general election status of the candidates.  ‘All polls’ survey adults even those that cannot vote (e.g. aliens, felons, those not registered); ‘registered voter polls’ measure the opinions of registered voters (from 25-30% who do not vote); and ‘likely voter polls’ measure those voters who will usually vote and therefore are much better predictors of election outcomes.  Nevertheless, a Reuters/Ipsos poll (RV) released on August 30th gave Romney a 46% to 42% lead over Obama; Romney had started the week trailing Obama 46-42%, thus the new results showed an 8% bounce in this poll.  RCP battleground state polling has also moved from plus 4-6% Obama to dead even at 45% to 45% Obama-Romney in the last few days.  States such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois have come into play in the past 2 weeks.  These states were believed to be safe or strongly leaning toward Obama.

So what does this mean and where are things likely to go in the remaining 60 plus days until November 6th?  In fact no one knows.  Obama has to defend a record that is not good, particularly on jobs, debt, deficits, spending and growth.  Even his foreign policy initiatives are suspect given the realities in the Middle East, Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea etc.  Yet he is the incumbent and Romney faces the daunting task of convincing the electorate that he can fix things…he can and will make things better.  Obama has the added advantages of the sycophant MSM bent on his reelection, the bully pulpit, and an appreciable lead with women and Hispanics.  Obama, however, has the disadvantages of blow back due to his divisive and very negative campaign, erosion within key voting blocs, a major movie, "2016 Obama's America" surfacing plausible motivations for many of his actions, and the growing credibility of the Romney/Ryan team as a solutions oriented twosome willing to address the ‘big’ issues including entitlement programs. 

Obama’s biggest concerns center around his widening disadvantage with independents, his continued approval ratings hovering between 44% & 47% in many polls (a harbinger of an incumbent’s defeat), the fact that the economy is not improving, that job loses grew in July in the battleground states, that only 6-9% of voters remain undecided, that the democrats’ base enthusiasm lags republican enthusiasm, and that up to 24% of the voters are still persuadable giving Romney/Ryan a larger than expected upside.  Further the Purple Poll, a respected battleground states poll found that Romney’s selection of Ryan was the cause of small leads for Romney in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia in advance of the RNC.  And, the University of Colorado ’prediction model’, a very unique presidential election model, points to a Romney win.  This model has accurately predicted every election since 1980 premised on state level economic factors.  The Colorado model will be updated with recent economic data in September for the final time.  The model gives Romney 52.9% of the vote and 320 electoral votes to Obama’s 47.1% of vote and 218 electoral votes.

In summary, Romney has made appreciable gains in numerous polls subsequent to the selection of his running mate on August 11th.  In the RCP average ‘General Election’ poll the gap has narrowed to .1% today after early August when it was 4.0-5.0% for Obama.  In many other polls (All & RV) the differential has narrowed to 1-2% during the same time-frame and in most ‘likely voter’ polls (LV) Romney is up 1-3%.  This improvement is positive yet possibly ephemeral. A much more reliable review will be possible around September 13th or 14th  after the DNC is over and more polling is available.  Therefore psephologists drawing hard conclusions now would fall prey to wishful thinking.  Similarly placing too much faith in one poll or predictor would be foolish.  In the end, even emphasizing the current trends could be misleading since a huge array of factors will come into play in the remaining 66 days of this presidential contest.  In other words, stay tuned.