Saturday, September 15, 2012

Race for the White House

52 Days Until Election Day

I am going to move forward on these posts, emphasizing some general themes of the week and not details of every little thing that happened.

With the first post-convention week of the campaign now ended, it is clear that Barack Obama and the Democrats received at least a little bit of a bounce. That bounce now also appears like it could have started receding. Looking back over the elections of 2000, 2004, and 2008, the party that held the second convention also received a bounce.While many in the media, including some inside the Beltway conservative pundit types seem to be wanting to declare the election over, I believe that is far from the case. The national polling lead that Obama has had this week over Mitt Romney in national surveys is about on par with the lead that polls were showing John McCain leading with four years ago at this very point. Four years earlier, George W. Bush, running for reelection, held an even larger lead in the polls at this point in time, and at this point in the 2000 calender, Al Gore was ahead of George W. Bush by double digits. In both the 2000 and 2004 races, there would still be wild ups and downs in momentum and both races turned out to be close.

Nationally, Obama is ahead on average by about three to four points now. The only pollster who seems to show a different result is Scott Rasmussen, who as of today, has Romney ahead by two points nationally. This has all to do with how samples are conducted. Republicans are pointing out that so many of the national and state polls showing Obama ahead are counting on a pro-Democrat turnout that will be equal to or exceed the large advantage that their party had in 2008. If that does happen, then Obama is likely to win the election, but polls like Rasmussen, which are weighing party participation in voting a bit different are taken into account, the horse race looks dramatically different. Generally speaking though, over the past three days or so, there has been some slight movement back to Romney, (despite media declarations that events in the news would make things even worse for him immediately) and a week from now, we can have the first real look at the state of the race, after the conventions.

In my view, the psychological operations being waged by the left and by their allies in the media to both discourage conservative voters and to create a narrative that Obama is going to win easily now are overwhelming. I have no doubt that most Democrats and most in the media genuinely do believe at this point that there is no way for Obama to lose, but they seem to be ratcheting up an agenda (which may very well include polls that oversample Democrats as a way to make those polls part of the narrative) to declare an endgame on Campaign 2012. The fact of course is that besides close (and conflicting) national polling numbers, there are still several states that are well within the margin of error. States like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia are indeed likely "must win" for Romney, but there is nothing at all out there to indicate that they cannot be won. It all of course depends on who turns out to vote. I still believe that even if more people go to the polls in November saying they are Democrats, that advantage will not be at the level of where it was in 2008, and that Independent and Republican voters are going to be less pro-Obama than they were in 2008 as well.

I could write pages about all the foreign policy developments that happened this past week, and what they all might mean, both in terms of policy and politics. My hunch was that in the short-term they would benefit Obama, but in both the Rasmussen and Gallup daily tracking polls, there does not seem to be any indication they have. Most importantly, all American should mourn what happened the past week as U.S. embassies found themselves under attack, perhaps not coincidentally on the anniversary of 9/11, particularly in Egypt and Libya. Shockingly, Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, along with three other Americans, were murdered by an Islamist mob in the country. He became the first U.S. Ambassador to murdered in the line of duty since 1979. Anti-American protests have now spread across the globe. So much for Barack Obama's 2007 campaign declaration that anti-American hostility in the Muslim would cease as soon as he became President. In fact, while this is certainly no justification for any acts of anti-American violence, the overwhelming and repetitive celebration over the killing of Osama bin Laden at the previous week's Democrat National Convention probably did not do much to improve our image in the eyes of terrorist extremists. As I said last week, if Republicans had focused on killing bin Laden as part of a political convention to the extent Democrats had, that party would have been appalled.

Of course, all Americans, despite political differences, mourn the loss of life and have great concern for American interests around the world at this difficult time. Democrats seem to believe the sole reasoning for these protests and attacks were an anti-Islamic film made in the U.S. Conservatives believe that it goes far beyond that, and these were well planned and orchestrated attacks, not simply the actions of a small spontaneous mob. Al Qaeda perhaps chose to act deliberately on the 9/11 anniversary, and they found U.S. embassies that sadly did not have the personnel or weapons to adequately defend themselves. Broadly speaking, all this shows that while a Democrat President gave the successful order to end the life of bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the War on Terror are still with us, and we can never forget that, even if it might score political points to declare a victory.

The left and the right see these issues very differently, and have taken great offense at the actions and behavior of others over the past week. The Obama Administration has sent out a plethora of mixed messages (including regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel) during this time. The Cairo Embassy originally sent out a message which seemed to indicate sort level of understanding of those who were attacking the embassy because they felt religiously offended. That very message was later taken back and denounced by the same Obama Administration, but not until after Mitt Romney had sent out a press release criticizing the original message.

The next day, news came about the tragedy in Libya, and Democrats and the media were quick to pounce on Romney as having "played politics" by being critical of the Obama Administration in the midst of a tragedy. While I agree that changing the focus of any news cycle away from the economy is not optimal for the Romney campaign, I totally agree with everything Romney said and did this week. Along with almost every other outside the Beltway conservative, I thought he showed great leadership, even though he knew he would be mercilessly attacked politically. Whether they believed it or not, Democrats, and many in the media, declared Romney totally out of bounds for his statements critical of Obama foreign policy and many declared things like "this is the week that Romney lost the election and proved himself unworthy, etc. etc." I believe that is all part of the media narrative to declare the campaign over and have perception settle in that Obama cannot lose and should not be challenged. As I mentioned earlier, if anything, the polls over the past couple days have shown Romney increasing his standing, not decreasing it, (which even came as a mild surprise to me) so this could be an instance of the media totally misreading the American people. It would not be the first time that happened.

It is best to cut this post off here, as I am trying to just stick to broad themes. The election is still likely to be decided almost entirely on the economy, but I am someone who has long said that foreign policy and national security are really the main duty of the President and should be getting far more attention. Needless to say, they are more than legitimate issues for the homestretch of a Presidential campaign. The 2004 election saw the Iraq War as the main issue. Nobody on the left or the media were in anyway saying that George W. Bush should not be second guessed. Obama used his opposition to that war as the main reasoning for his 2008 Presidential campaign. Of course foreign policy is fair game, and the performance of the Obama White House and the State Department deserve as much scrutiny as they can be given.

With a new week approaching, we will see if the news cycles are primarily focused on foreign policy or the economy again. By the end of the week, most national and many state polls are very likely to still show Obama narrowly ahead, but Republicans should certainly not be discouraged, and in fact should examine the date closely and find much to be quite encouraged about. As I have said throughout, the final momentum of the campaign will not occur until undecided voters start to commit in the final few days of the campaign. It is still likely to be a very close election, despite what Democrats and their friends in the media want us all to believe.