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July 09, 2012

Romney Senior Staff: Why That Obama Is a Liar, and We Plan To Start Calling Him Such

Useful, I think.

Obama's ads are raking Romney for Bain, and then you have Robert Gibbs saying "no one knows" if Romney is a tax evader. Suggesting he might be (despite no one, including the IRS, ever having alleged such a thing).

But Robert Gibbs wants you to wonder about it.

So yeah, call the Liar a Liar already.

Might as well call him a socialist, too. Or perhaps: "No one knows" if Obama is a Marxist socialist radical indoctrinated at the knees of Marxist terrorist Bill Ayers.

In a conference call Monday morning, senior staff said Romney’s surrogates would stop shying away from the word “lie” in responding to Democrats’ attacks on his business record, and plan to go on TV to call Obama a “liar,” the source said.

“They are very fed up with these attacks,” said the source…

“The feeling was that nobody is watching this right now,” said the source. “They had a time frame to respond to the Bain attacks… But today the counterattack with the surrogates is going to begin.”

This is the only way Obama can beat Romney -- so yes, Romney had better squash this gambit as forcefully as possible.

By the way, I don't really buy this argument from Bill Kristol, echoed/reported by AllahPundit:

The question isn’t whether Romney’s within a few points, it’s why he isn’t leading outright as the Obama economy circles the drain in a tightening, accelerating spiral. Team Mitt seems to be banking on 1980 redux, when an avalanche of swing voters finally gave up on Carter and embraced Reagan after the debates. Is there any strong reason to believe that’ll happen again? With Reagan, the concern was that he was too “radical” and maybe too old to be trusted with the presidency. Once voters felt reassured about his competence and vision, they broke. No one’s worried about those things with Romney, though, despite the Democrats’ dumb insistence that he’s the wingnuttiest nominee since Barry Goldwater. Everyone, including his opponents, accepts that he’s sharp, sober, and cautious. He’s presidential material. So what’s going to change after the debates this time?

I addressed this idea earlier today. I think we tell ourselves stories to make simple, understandable narratives out of complex, multivariable events. Humans are natural storytellers, after all. Our brains cannot process all the enormous information in the world without the aid of stories. (Even our eyes do this: Our eyes engage in a lot of processing of visual stimulus before sending it on to the brain, creating a "story" in pictures for us.)

The story we tell of the Carter/Reagan campaign was that the public was iffy on Carter, but had deep reservations about Reagan's smarts and, actually, sanity, and then the debates settled all that, and then Reagan went ahead.

Well, sort of. First of all, Reagan's huge advantage never really showed up in the polls -- it showed up in election returns. Pollsters were caught off-guard, and were baffled. Witness this 1980 article from Time Magazine, as pollsters speculate what went wrong.

Reagan's landslide challenges the pulse-taker profession

For weeks before the presidential election, the gurus of public opinion polling were nearly unanimous in their findings. In survey after survey, they agreed that the coming choice between President Jimmy Carter and Challenger Ronald Reagan was "too close to call." A few points at most, they said, separated the two major contenders.

But when the votes were counted, the former California Governor had defeated Carter by a margin of 51% to 41% in the popular vote—a rout for a U.S. presidential race.

Some polls -- like the NBC poll -- had Reagan surging ahead. Most pollsters did not detect the surge, though.

And, as that quote suggests, while some people think Carter was ahead before the debates, he really wasn't.

But a review of the late 1980 polls shows that while Reagan soared over the final week (following the campaign's one and only debate on Oct. 29), the contest up until that point was tightly competitive, not trending toward the incumbent Democratic president. At the time, the Associated Press reported "new polls say the race between the two men remains too close to call."

A post-election summary of polls by then-CBS News pollster Warren Mitofsky shows that at no point over the final two weeks did Carter have a lead bigger than three percentage points. There is a published Gallup poll not included in that report showing Carter up six among likely voters in a poll conducted Oct. 24 to 27. Whether six or the eight points cited today, Carter's advantage in Gallup polling was offset by similarly large Reagan leads in NBC-Associated Press or DMI (Reagan's pollsters) polls.

I think, in retrospect, we tend to seize on one poll -- possibly an outlier, and thought of such at the time -- in order to illustrate whatever point we wish to make. If we want to gin up enthusiasm for a losing cause, we note "Gee, Gallup had Carter ahead by six points a week before the election," overlooking the other polls that put it as even, or put Reagan ahead. And then this one poll becomes our Moral for the Story we tell about the election.

But even beyond that, I think it's wrong to think too humanly about big, complicated, multivariable affairs like political elections. It's a good, simple story that the public had doubts about Reagan, until the one debate satisfied those doubts, and then Reagan one. Nice and clean.

But what if the country were doing well under Carter, and Reagan turned in the same charming, reassuring debate performance? Would the debate have turned the election then?

This gets to my point about underlying factors being crucial, and nearly determinative, to predicting election outcomes.

Yes, voters may have seized upon Reagan's debate performance as a reason to vote for him... but due to underlying factors (economy, hostage crisis) they were already looking for a reason to vote for him.

I'm not sure if his debate performance was a game-changer so much as a justification for people to do what they were already inclined to do.

When couples divorce, there's usually some precipitating event -- a singular event -- which spurs the actual decision. "The last straw," as they say. But the last straw was the last straw only because there were so many hundreds of straws before that one.

I believe in the concept of preference cascades and tipping points. I think the country is poised for a preference cascade; I think most undecided voters are looking for a reason to vote against Obama.

Whether it's a debate, or some Obama gaffe, or a charming Romney appearance on some news show, or a global depression... When you're looking for an excuse, you'll eventually find one.

Obama usually gets 46-48% support, in polls. But I consider 5-8% of that support either nominal (I'm saying I support him, but I really don't) or extraordinarily fragile (I'll give him one last chance).

It's an unhappy marriage. The public is very disappointed in Obama, and by the all gods of Hyboria, is Obama disappointed right back at a public too stupid to understand his awesomeness.

Everyone's looking for an excuse to get out of this unhappy arrangement. Including, I think, in his heart of hearts, Barack Obama.

They'll find that excuse. I don't know what it'll end up being, but they will find it.

And then, in 20 years, the Story of the election will be "Oh right, Romney put the election away when he picked [Insert Candidate Name Here] as Vice President."

But that won't be the truth of it. The election was actually all but decided when the third sub-100,000 jobs report came down, way back in early July.

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posted by Ace at 06:37 PM

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