Artur Davis’ First Response
[Krystal Ball’s Provocation; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #1; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #2; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; The RP’s Rebuttal #4; Ron Granieri’s First Response; Rod Jetton’s Rebuttal #5; The RP’s First Response:; Jimmy Dahroug’s Rebuttal #6]
A few reactions to the many good insights on this thread:
- Because the participants on this thread are all people who love the lore of politics, and are embarrasingly steeped in its historical trivia, we all tend too much toward analogy: so all of us, myself included, strain to determine whether this year is 1980 (enough political instability that Reagan’s liabilities, much greater than they seem now, didn’t matter) or 1972 or 1984 (vulnerable incumbent ends up winning big because of internecine strife in the other camp, and because big events (Vietnam winds down, Nixon goes to China in 72,) (a roaring economic recovery in 84) changed the equation. I’ll venture one way, though, in which this cycle has no comparison: for the first time in memory, the country seems polarized and split so closely that for two years and seven months, an incumbent president’s approval ratings have essentially stayed static, no matter what good or bad news is cluttering his in-box.
- There have been mild fluctuations–a short-lived bump after Bin laden was killed, a short-lived free fall in the summer of 11 when the economy just stopped, but to a degree that is unprecedented, the needle has been stuck, with Obama’s approval and disapproval staying frozen in equilibrium. To pull put out the historical card again, that kind of pattern has never lasted so long in the post JFK era. Obama’s defenders will say that his critics are so ferocious that he has not enjoyed the free run that some of his predecessors occasionally enjoyed; his critics will say that the president’s policies and his overreaching have made him too divisive to reap the rewards of an improving economy and a sometimes dysfunctional opposition. Wherever you fall on that scale, the hardened, persistent divide around Obama is a counter to too much bullishness about his prospects.
- Jonathan makes the interesting point that Mitt Romney, for all the slings at him, has run a campaign that is underrated for its skill and tactical soundness. While Romney is blunder-prone whenever the subject is his taxes, or the poor, or his business record, he has done two things very well. He is skilled on the attack in debate, and has avoided being pushed too deep to the right. As Jimmy Dahroug wisely observes, Romney’s own foes have claimed the hard-right space and Romney has the look not of a moderate, but of a standard issue pro business conservative who is no counter-revolutionary. If the mood in late October is that voters think government has been too busy and too free-spending, Romney will seem like a plausible, none incendiary way to slow things down.
- One observation about the economy: we all know that if Iran and Israel collide, that oil prices will explode, perhaps to levels that seem inconceivable ($5.00 gas). If that occurs, consumer confidence will be rocked all over again, which will slow business activity, which will turn off the hiring spigot, which will undo the gains made of late. I doubt that Obama wins in that environment, even if he finds a middle-ground on military action toward Iran that the public approves.
- One last observation: There is something about Obama that makes people wildly miss the mark on predictions, and whatever it is, I suspect one way or another, we are at risk of getting burned again. If you wonder what I mean, remember the Obama in early 07 who seemed luminescent on the stage in Springfield and seemed as if he couldn’t lose; or the Obama who seemed so pedestrian during the early primary debates and so overmatched against Hillary, and who had David Broder writing “what has happened to Obama” columns; or the Obama who seemed to have blended RFK and MLK on the nights he won Iowa and South Carolina; or the Obama who seemed aloof and tone-deaf during primaries in Ohio and Pennnsylvania, and whom the Clinton insiders were dubbing a sure loser. Barack Obama has seemed invincible and in possession of super powers in his ideal moments; he has seemed tentative, peevish, and overwhelmed in his worst spots. Any bets that between now and November, each Obama will surface several more times?