NEXT NARRATIVE

It's hard to fault the Romney campaign for their attempts at spin and damage control, which are right in line with what we would expect from a campaign fighting the perception that it is circling the drain. We hear these same narratives in every election except for the very closest: it's closer than you think, the media is biased, Mitt's gonna turn it around at the debates, there's plenty of time left, etc etc. They've spent the last week running wild with the conspiracy theory that every poll is biased (including those at Fox News, apparently, in which Obama's numbers are higher than in polls from rival Lamestream media outlets) without thinking much, if at all, about how desperate that sounds. As much as it makes my skin crawl to listen to people who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground talk about polling methodology – really, I think I need a Xanax prescription if I have to listen to Newt Gingrich talk about "oversampling" any more – this is a predictable part of the election when one campaign has its lips clamped around the tailpipe.

Wednesday night after the debate we will hear both campaigns declare an overwhelming victory and Team Mittens declaring that the race is "tightening". Of course every bit of available evidence tells us that the debates are essentially meaningless, with low ratings, low comprehension, and an audience that has largely made up its mind already. Barring a spectacular foul-up by one of the candidates – Obama waving a Koran around while beheading Michael Phelps, for example, or Mitt Romney opening his mouth and talking – they simply aren't going to change anything. Conveniently, this leads us to the next really irritating and nonsensical narrative: Why can't Obama "put Romney away"? Isn't Romney proving his mettle by "hanging in there" despite everything working against it?

This will be lapped up enthusiastically by the media, as this is first and foremost a ratings play and they have a vested interest in convincing viewers that the election is extremely close. That it is profoundly stupid will not deter anyone. It is never explained how it is feasible for one candidate to "finish" the other given the reality that it's impossible to win before the election happens, nor is it explained how the leading candidate is supposed to poll like 60% given the current composition of the electorate. It is accurate to say anything can happen – True, but not everything that can happen is plausible or likely – but quite silly to claim that because Mittens is trailing consistently rather than by a growing margin over time he is somehow achieving something or building positive momentum.

That won't stop anyone from making such claims, of course, because the narrative has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with a floundering campaign searching for positives and unafraid to grasp at straws. Any bets on the first campaign surrogate or right-wing pundit to use some variant of "Why can't Obama put Romney away?" or "Romney's hangin' in there"? Smart money's on Chris Christie, since the campaign appears to be turning to him whenever they need someone who lacks shame to mouth the company line of the day.

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38 Responses to “NEXT NARRATIVE”

  1. Heywood J. Says:

    Anytime Newt Gingrich utters the word "oversampling", one can be sure that there's a breakfast buffet involved.

  2. Heywood J. Says:

    Also, too, it is obviously the vested interest of the perpetual campaign industry and its commentariat class to keep this a horse race. Polling could show a 2-1 spread, and you would still have half the birds chirping that hey, shit happens, and tides turn and all that. Anything to keep the ad money pumping.

  3. FMguru Says:

    Of course every bit of available evidence tells us that the debates are essentially meaningless, with low ratings, low comprehension, and an audience that has largely made up its mind already.

    Debates are the most over-rated aspect of a modern campaign, even more so than the party conventions. I used to analogize them to NASCAR races – the candidates run in circles for the duration and viewers wait to see if one of them crashes spectacularly – but politicians have largely figured out how to get through them without too much hassle (if not sure of an answer just reply with a couple of sentences from your stump speech that are semi-on-topic, have a couple of zingers up your sleeve, and remember to smile) and now they're just simultaneous press conferences. It was fun in 1988 to watch Dan Quayle get depantsed by Lloyd Bensen, but nowadays even a dipshit like Sarah Palin can manage to hold her own, so what's the freaking point?

    Their one purpose, as you point out, is that when one campaign starts talking them up as a chance to change the election, it's a reliable signal that the campaign is near terminal (the offiicial signal that a campaign is over is the ritual invocation of Dewey-Truman 1948 as proof that the polls can be wrong). This batch of debates is going to be even tougher to watch than most, because Romney will be desperate to try and goad Obama into saying something stupid or off-message, while Obama is the politician of his generation that's least likely to lose his cool and get baited into saying something that will bite him in the ass. Obama knows that he has the lead and it's his election to lose, so he'll just stick to the script in a low-key manner (like his convention speech) and try to run out the clock. Dullsville, even with Romney splashing flopsweat everywhere.

  4. FMguru Says:

    However…1992 did have the single greatest political stunt of the modern era, when the Clinton campaign tried to make an issue of George HW Bush's refusal to debate by hiring a guy in a chicken costume to follow Bush around to campaign appearances (he got admission to one event by claiming he was a mascot for the local poultry industry sent to show support) and calling him "Chicken George". It worked, too – Bush was eventually humiliated into accepting a series of debate engagements with Clinton (and Perot).

    This was a thing that actually happened. This was how the world's only superpower conducted its politics at the highest level immediately after winning the Cold War. God bless the United States of America.

  5. Eric Titus Says:

    One rational reason why campaigns want to drum up the suspense is that there are congressional races to be won and lost. But can you imagine the sound and the fury from the Republican gallery if any network said: "that's it, Obama has won, we're going to go back to showing you pictures of cats on skis"

  6. Middle Seaman Says:

    "This will be lapped up enthusiastically by the media, as this is first and foremost a ratings play and they have a vested interest in convincing viewers that the election is extremely close." That about half the truth about the media. In 2000, the media practically joined the Bush campaign and fought Gore all the way to the Supreme Court coup d'état. They didn't treat Kerry much better although they were disenchanted with the inferior Bush by then. In 2008, had Hillary won there is no doubt about the lynching the media would have staged. Due to Obama's "easy guy" and color of skin, the media flocked to his enthusiastic support.

    The best proof that the debate don't matter is the Democratic primary debates in 2008. Obama was clearly the weakest of the three. Sometimes he was downright pathetic. Yet, the media still supported him over his rivals.

  7. Xynzee Says:

    The main event will occur in the voter laws. This whole thing smacks of de-legitimising the Presidential Office no matter who wins.

    This fantasyland narrative on the polls serves to make it difficult for Obama to serve, because obviously the Media was in cahoots w Obama to steal the Presidency, and our side was demoralised into staying home…

    If Romney were to win — never under estimate the power of stupid people acting in large groups — the left will claim voter suppression — *pretend* for a moment voter laws have zero effect on voter turn out.

    Shrub's legitimacy was only marginally and grudgingly accepted by the left, and only because acceptance is apart of generally "accepted civil order". This time, not so much.

    So how could any President do their job effectively if they are not perceived as legitimate by the people? All of these games by Rove, ALEC and Co. really are doing a great job of undermining our civil institutions.

  8. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    I was kinda hoping Obama would come out with gold chain and afro and order Mittens to Guantanamo where he certainly belongs. There would also be a simultaneous roundup of Limbaugh and various other radio personalities who have contributed greatly to the terrorist cause–Limbaugh with drug money even.

  9. c u n d gulag Says:

    Follow dee moolah!

    There's still hundreds of millions of dollars in ad bucks out there.
    And the MSM wants every penny of it.
    So, they'll paint it as close as they can make it.

    We still need to make sure we GOTV, not only for Obama, but down-ticket. We've got to get the KKKrazies out of the House, and keep the Senate.

  10. anotherbozo Says:

    "This was a thing that actually happened. This was how the world's only superpower conducted its politics at the highest level immediately after winning the Cold War. God bless the United States of America." —FMguru

    "…never under estimate the power of stupid people acting in large groups…" —XYnzee

    Ed's blog is the gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes the comments are as witty as the post. I was gonna add something, but I am outclassed. They also serve who only stand and applaud.

  11. caroljane Says:

    I second that emotion.

  12. Anonymouse Says:

    Xynzee, while the left grudgingly accepted Shrub (the whole election was very badly and obviously manipulated), the right has done everything they can to undermine Obama, including screaming out death threats to him at meetings. Egged on by the right's chief agitators, the right is primed to sabotage any Democratic contender for years to come.

  13. sluggo Says:

    @ c u n d

    I second your 'follow the money' theory and wish the add something else:

    These political reports are wannabe sports reporters; so they cover political races like a pennant race. How many games is so and so out of first place? who won the last game? who is pitching tomorrow? is the first place team going to blow that big lead?

    So, if you have something that pays well the company well, and the workers think it's fun, then how can the mainstream media resist?

    My other theory is that political reporters are wannabe gossip columnists.

  14. Arslan Says:

    "So how could any President do their job effectively if they are not perceived as legitimate by the people? "

    It doesn't seem to be bothering Vladimir Putin. But I think he is taking notes on the American system. The European liberal democratic system would be too unwieldy and dangerous from his point of view. It would be much better if he could trade the presidency with a recognized opposition candidate for a term or tw, as opposed to his own prime minister.

  15. ladiesbane Says:

    It seems the rags who adore Romney are saying the debates matter, and everyone else is saying Not So Much. Did anyone see the roster of Wall Street Journal contributors known to be Romney advisors who were not identified as such? WSJ should call themselves "Pravda" and have done.

    In terms of the debates, I don't know anyone who cares about the presidential advertising. But some are worried about Wildcard Joe Biden. Paul "I Was Smart Til I Opened My Mouth" Ryan might not be a challenge, but Joe can find trouble all by himself.

    And hey, where does Karl Rove fit into the Romney campaign? I kind of expected him to be the new Atwater, but no. Is he involved, has he moved on, or is he spinning webs for 2016?

  16. Anonymouse Says:

    The debates mattered in 2008 inasmuch as I saw Palin implode and wonder, "Are they #$%$#% kidding??!"

  17. xynzee Says:

    @Anonymouse: That was my point about Obama. At no point has he been given his due as a legitimate leader. What Obama is going through is a more aggressive form of what Clinton was subjected to. Now with added racial prejudice.

    How many remember the "Don't blame me…" bumper stickers after Clinton was elected? And the horse that he got from that bleached sack of turds, let alone Starr and Co.

    Unless he gets a clear majority in both Houses, we're going to have four more years of the same crap.

  18. Monkey Business Says:

    If you're winning, the debates serve as a useful exercise in not stepping on your own dick. That's all you have to do; just don't say or do anything stupid.

    If you're losing, the debates are your last chance at being relevant. You need something that can go on YouTube or bumper stickers or a commercial or SOMETHING to keep your support from collapsing entirely.

    Let's be honest: the Presidential race, barring some kind of massive, entirely unexpected problem, is effectively over.

    The real game is the House and Senate. The GOP is down to a 20-ish percent chance of taking the Senate when it was once considered a done deal. Their chance of holding the House is about 50/50 at this point. If Romney flubs the debates, it's possible enough of his people will stay home on Election day for the Democrats to recoup most of their losses from 2010.

  19. TheStone Says:

    One really fun example of trying-too-hard can be observed regularly when Mark Dickhead Halperin makes his near-daily appearances on Morning Joke. The panel turns to him whenever they are casting about for "paths to victory" for Romney/Ryan. And Mark tries really, really hard – you can see the sweat on his brow.
    The thing is, I have no clue what that show would consist of absent a compelling horse race to spout off about. Not to mention, the too-close-to-call meme goes very nicely with their vintage False Equivalency.

  20. bb in GA Says:

    President Obama is going to win and I hope he kicks ass or if WMR wins I hope he does the same. I'm tired of every damn body (right and left) whining about electoral robbery in the close ones.

    The bad news for the US is that if BHO is re-elected I expect the HoR and maybe the Senate in R hands. This will lead him to govern like a damn emperor by issuing EOs to overcome what he will call 'unconscionable congressional inertia' or something similar.

    He will stare down Congress into irrelevancy and dare them to stop him.. Anybody who challenges him on any Constitutional grounds will be SURPRISE, SURPRISE! (as Gomer used to say..) crucified openly as a racist. Imagine that…?

    //bb

  21. mothra Says:

    This will lead him to govern like a damn emperor by issuing EOs to overcome what he will call 'unconscionable congressional inertia' or something similar.

    Our Obama? Mister Moderate? Nah. The only thing he likes to do like an emperor is to assassinate American citizens without due process, send drones over Pakistan and Yemen to take out so-called "terrorists" along with whoever happens to be standing nearby, and keep innocent people imprisoned in Gitmo just "because." For heaven's sake, the Senate hasn't approved half of his proposed appointees for a variety of positions. He could have gotten those taken care of in any number of recesses, but he just didn't care enough. My guess is that there is no domestic policy he cares about enough to pull out the E.O. for. Unless maybe it's cutting Social Security and Medicare. Because, you know, SERIOUS.

  22. Major Kong Says:

    That's not how you do it bb! Do I have to teach you guys everything?

    What you do is have your pet news network, talk radio and think tanks brand anyone from the opposition party who dares question the President a "traitor" or "pro terrorist". This works especially well when said President wants to start a war.

  23. bb in GA Says:

    @mothra

    Amen, you're making me go full Alex J w/ you. I'm a rwinger who hates the hell out of the drone program (maybe just the non-lethal part coming to your town soon!) and don't know how we can determine the real status of Gitmo prisoners w/o some kind of judicial process civil or military.

    Remember what BHO said to Dmitri to tell Mr. Putin – more flexibility after his re-elect.

    //bb

  24. bb in GA Says:

    @major kong

    Thanks, but we've aired the stats before. Please correct me if I'm way off here.

    The US has about 150E06 adults

    Limbaugh has about 20E06 listeners per week and with the way they count noses there are generous repeats within that demo during the week.

    The rest of the right wing gaggle on am radio is prolly another 10E06 per week with some of the same crowd that listens to Rush.

    Fox News pulls about 2E06 per hour in the 8 thru 11 pm (ET) opinion show slots M-F. Again there is generous cross pollination w/ am talk radio.

    Big time newspaper editorial pages – help me here Major – WSJ and…

    Think tanks to your order sir.

    I still think Dancing w/ the Stars carries more weight than any of these sources.

    Oh, the MSM evening news combo still draws in the 10-12E06 per night don't they?

    They aren't the pets you are talking about are they?

    I think the 'Right Wing' media is primarily a Leftist fantasy boogie man. Perhaps some on the Right would wish for the power you ascribe to those sources.

    //bb

  25. Haydnseek Says:

    The Romnoids know Mittens is hopeless in a straight-up exchange with Obama if the emphasis is on policy and the implementation of such in a fiscally sustainable way. His only hope is to get personal, implying in not-so-subtle ways that Obama is not really an American like "us," doesn't understand our core values, etc. ad nauseum. They're not trying to sell this idea, they just want Obama to blow his cool, and even if he schools Rmoneys ass six ways from Sunday they can scream and point at the "Angry Black Man!" It won't work, of course, but the Romnoids know all about shooting themselves in the dick. There are only so many loonies to pander to. They may despise Obama, but they hate Rmoney only slightly less, and write in votes for Ron Paul and even wackier "candidates" will seal his fate among what he still believes to be his base.

  26. Major Kong Says:

    @bb

    So you mean the Scaifes, Kochs, Coors, Bradleys, Olins et al have been just tossing money away all these years?

    Heck, even "The Liberal National Public Radio" always seems to have somebody from AEI, Heritage or Cato on.

  27. Matt Says:

    "Obama waving a Koran around while beheading Michael Phelps"

    I'm pretty sure you meant *Fred* Phelps, and I'd pay good money to see *that* on pay-per-view. The electoral consequences would be dubious – it's difficult for teabaggers, no matter how enraged, to vote after cerebral hemorrhage / head-asplosion. ;)

  28. chautauqua Says:

    @bb

    "I'm tired of every damn body (right and left) whining about electoral robbery in the close ones."

    'Scuse for wondering just what elections the Republicans have to whine about losing due to electoral robbery. Other than maybe Kennedy vs Nixon in '60.

  29. bb in GA Says:

    @chatauqua

    Off the top, Sen Franken's victory in MN was a BHD for the Rs. It was razor thin and the Rs called that straight up cheating.

    //bb

  30. Major Kong Says:

    @chatauqua

    Nixon couldn't call Kennedy on "cheating" in 1960 because Nixon was doing the same thing in Southern Illinois that Kennedy was doing in Chicago.

  31. chautauqua Says:

    @bb / @Maj Kong

    Thank you both for the elucidation.

  32. Name Says:

    @ladiesbane

    "And hey, where does Karl Rove fit into the Romney campaign? I kind of expected him to be the new Atwater, but no. Is he involved, has he moved on, or is he spinning webs for 2016?"

    Grifters gonna grift.

    I would be shocked to find that he's not taking high eight figures for all the "work" he's doing. I've seen his appearances on Fox lately — dude's just going through the motions already.

  33. Linda Says:

    I understand why the Romney campaign are a band of desperate attention whores: they have nothing to lose, and they are in fact circling the drain. But media sites shilling for page hits are disgusting, and when I see these sorts of WWF-type "contrarian" headlines, I don't give them the satisfaction of a click.

  34. Matt Says:

    @Xynzee: "So how could any President do their job effectively if they are not perceived as legitimate by the people? "

    I dunno, the current one's done an OK job considering the legions of teabaggers who've been accusing him of being everything up to and including the Antichrist for the last 3+ years.

  35. Bernard Says:

    always fun to read BB's comments about the Left. the propaganda really does work, shown whenever i read his words. but then again, we southerners are a testy lot. a shame we have to watch the Right lie, cheat and steal or whatever it is they will do to stop Obama, that Muslim, socialist,kenyan usurpers, aka "black" as they have done for the last 4 years.

    and no, i won't vote for Obama. i could hope that Rmoney wins so we can go down the rabbit hole quicker. a Reagan Democrat/Obama is a traitor to the rest of us. lol. i'd much rather have a die hard communist/capitalist like Rmoney to prove Marx right. Obama will just screw us, the little worker bees, by giving our Social Security and Medicare to the Rich, as he has promised with the Cat food Commission/ Bowles-Simpson. Obama is the best REpublican running.

    so i have to choose the lesser of the two evils and that is Rmoney. Rmoney is so out of it, android/HAL behavior, i think even the Democrats might actually stand up and stop the R's for once. i shouldn't go there, knowing the intestinal fortitude of Democrats to behave like Republicans. of course, i never did accept George's Coup d'Etat, courtesy of Scalia, Thomas et al. and Sandra Day O'Connor is upset that Americans don't trust he Supremes anymore! Imagine that?

    once a Communist/Capitalist, always a Blood sucker on the American worker. but i can dream, can't I. i do bet Obama will win, but the civil war will go ballistic when he/Obama does gets re-elected. If only i could move!!

    and we thought the war on the Clintons was bad. little did we know. lol

    ah the joys of hate from teh Right. and the endless stupidity of the Left.

  36. Bernard Says:

    ouch, "the endless stupidity of the Left". i feel a twinge of regret coming on.

    as Will Rogers said, getting Democrats organized/united to take a stand is like herding cats. Golly…..atonement sure does feel good!

  37. bb in GA Says:

    @bernard

    Most of what I posted was numbers. How is the propaganda working? Those numbers are not manipulations are they?

    On Ed sniffing at sampling plan questions:

    "A Guardian survey of six of the most crucial swing states upon which the outcome of the presidential ballot is likely to depend has found that new voter registrations recorded between January and August this year are markedly down compared with the same period in 2008. The drop is particularly pronounced in several states for the Democrat"

    Shouldn't your model reflect realities like this?

    //bb