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Saturday, October 6, 2012
Politics ...

Over the past 2 weeks, a lot of commentators wrote Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign off, D.O.A. Romney’s 47% comments before a room of super-wealthy partisans from Florida’s Gold Coast seemed fatal; about a week later, the poll averages showed a 2 to 4 point divergence toward Obama from a previously tied race. Here are some article titles from that period:

This Election Is Already Over – Obama Has Won

Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election

A Mood of Gloom Afflicts the Romney Campaign

But, as Gloria Gaynor once sang, what a difference a day makes. Mitt Romney put in a surprisingly strong performance at the first debate this past Wednesday night, and Barack Obama was unexpectedly lame. Most people anticipated that Mitt would show more debating skill given all the practice he’s had over the past year, and that Obama would play things a bit more defensively.

But what actually transpired went quite a ways beyond expectations. It’s too soon to tell what the actual effect will be upon those who are most likely to get to a polling station on Nov. 6; it takes 4 or 5 days for things to sink in and for the polls to gauge movement after a significant event (as with Romney’s 47 percent gaffe). But the early “flash polls” indicated some movement in Romney’s direction. We could well have a tied race once again, a real squeaker that comes come down to the last vote (or the last court ruling, as in 2000).

Every bump in the political road over the next 4 weeks will be significant, given that a close race like this is subject to the famous “butterfly over Beijing” effect (from chaos theory). And let’s not forget our old friend the black swan either. In the latest jobs report released yesterday, the unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly from 8.1 to 7.4%. Of course the Obama camp is touting this as proof that his plan for recovery is working. Sounds great, until you look at the details — still too many discouraged ex-workers not even looking, too too many people on disability, too many people scraping by on food stamps and off-the-books work, too many part-time workers, too many college graduates busing tables, too few earners getting pay raises that keep up with living costs, not to even mention improvements in their life-styles. The employment situation is a bit better than previously thought, due to some data collection lags; but US economic growth remains at 2% or less and doesn’t seem ready to jump anytime soon. We’re still stuck in an economic twilight zone, and the voters are not at all sure if things are getting darker or brighter.

So, we can look forward to more “what a difference a day makes” moments over the next 30 days. This election may come down to the flap of the butterfly wing and the flight of the black swan; if they both flap a certain way, it’s Romney; some slightly different moves and it’s Obama.

All this seems to be dawning on the pundits. Here’s a sampling of their look-back at the first debate, from 3 days later:

[Romney’s] ability to turn one winning performance into a winning campaign comes down to this: Sustain and complete the Romney Reinvention Project . . . It will take a sustained transformation to complete a true reinvention. Mike Allen

The election has not been decided by any means. But Obama’s supporters need to make it clear that the time for excuses is over. Bob Herbert

In the end, it looked to me like a clear win for Romney but not necessarily a decisive one . . . it’s far too premature to say that the trajectory of the race has changed. Michael Cohen

My final thought: from last October thru this past April, Mitt Romney went back and forth between being the presumptive Republican nominee and the GOP analog of Hilary Clinton, being out-shined by a Michelle Bachmann or a Herman Cain or a Rick Perry or even a Rick Santorum. Romney has been flat on his back in the political ring more than once, and always seemed able to get up and keep punching. Every time, his punches got better. After Wednesday’s debate, Barack Obama sees what he’s in for on the final stretch.

Perhaps Obama still has something of the fire of 2008 in him, the stuff that will allow him to outrun the flapping butterflies and black swans (and also dodge the hard-punches of Mitt Romney). Perhaps this past Wednesday was just a bad night, maybe it was something he ate. But if not . . . get set for anything and everything!

PS — Back to New Jersey’s own Gloria Gaynor — she also sang “I Will Survive”. Which candidate will ultimately be able to claim that?

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:49 am      

  1. Jim, I agree with what you are saying–at least I think it’s what you are saying: Nobody can predict how the election will turn out. It’s that simple.

    Then too, I wonder just what the pundits would spend their time actually doing if they didn’t have the election. They would not have that to talk about endlessly, saying basically nothing at all, because in the end nobody knows exactly what will happen.

    I remember back in the 1940s when the Chicago Tribune had the headline all printed: “Dewey Wins!” And there was a picture of Truman who actually won holding up the paper for all to see.

    I also remember a history teacher who I knew well; she was in my college class. We had a good time together: One day she would take one stance; all the students tho’t she was for the GOP. Then the next day she would argue the Democratic side; all the students said, no she was Democratic. After the 3rd day, they began to realize exactly what it was she was doing.

    This is how I see this whole thing: The predictors seem to have learned the same thing the students learned–nobody can predict how the election will turn out. So one day they say one thing; the next day they say another. But in their case, I think they are making sure they CYA rather than doing what the teacher was doing. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — October 6, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

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