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October 22, 2012
Obama's Problem: Reality Bites
President Barack Obama's popularity is disintegrating faster than his credibility. Less than a month ago his re-election seemed assured. Today the election looks like it has shifted dramatically in favor of Romney.
Mitt Romney is not Obama's problem, but he is the beneficiary of Obama's problem. Romney's surge is derivative, emanating from the growing "anybody but Obama" crowd. Wes Pruden describes the reason:
The overriding concern in this campaign is the consistent, driving incompetence of Barack Obama in everything he touches -- at home and abroad.
Obama was elected as a dissenting vote against Bush and Republicans. He was aided by a magnificent marketing campaign which sold him as a messiah, at least in the political sense. But as Mr. Pruden's statement indicates, there is no magic left. Now Romney represents a dissenting vote to Obama and his policies.
These comments are not meant to diminish Romney, but to express the harsh dynamics of most elections. Romney appears to be a decent man, devoid of the funky "American Idol" features that some recent presidents used to gain office. He appears squeaky clean, experienced, reasonably humble, and competent.
In short, Romney is the quintessential anti-Obama. His election offers an opportunity to escape the political Bizzaro World of the last several years.
My simple answer is: not much. For those who believe the early polling numbers, there was a "surprise," but a reasoned case can be made that the early polls were irrelevant. Obama was never as strong as the media and pollsters led voters to believe. Nor was Romney as weak as he was portrayed.
Races naturally tighten as elections near. Voters pay little attention to politics or politicians most of the time. They have more important things on their minds, like feeding their families, getting an education, caring for a sick relative, making mortgage payments, etc. When their opportunity to alter things comes, they become interested.
Until recently, there was little incentive for the average voter to pay attention. Even those who did got their news filtered primarily by the mainstream media. Now, information is available directly.
Campaign events, speeches, advertising, and debates all provide information unfiltered, at least by the media. Obama had the advantage of a bully pulpit and a compliant media. The campaign allows a competing message to get through.
For four years Obama has been sheltered. That ended with the debates. As Sarah Hoyt pointed out:
anytime .. they let Obama talk in public without a teleprompter, he lets ideology leak out. And that their ideology is scary to those of us in the real world.
This is much worse, of course, when the press cooperate to enable him. I wonder when they will realize this is counterproductive.
The debates also showed that Romney was not a monster as alleged. He appeared presidential, thoughtful, and concerned. He won the first debate handily. Independents and others who voted for Obama last time discovered a reasonable and sensible alternative.
Reality Is The Difference
Data, records and performance become drivers around the time of elections. Debates ensure that they become so. When people pay attention, information ultimately gets through. Reality can be hidden or suppressed for a time, but it now dominates this election.
It is reality that has doomed Obama. Four years ago he was isolated from it. He had no data trail, record, or reputation . He was the Bagger Vance of politics, appearing out of the mist and running solely on myth and image as created by himself and his handlers.
Obama's only hope in this election was to suppress reality once again, for it is a potent contraceptive against the only thing that Obama can trade off -- false promises, distortions, and propaganda. To understand the realities Obama must now answer to, here are just a few headlines of the last day:
Surprise! Jobless Claims Return to 18-month Range
Obama Spending, Not Bush Tax Cuts, Drives Deficit
WELFARE SOARS 32% IN 4 YEARS... Now Costs $1,030,000,000,000...
NO SURPRISE: Jobless Claims Rrise 46,000...
Under President, for Every $7 Brought in by Gov't, $11 Spent...
Obama's problem relates to his performance. He is now known, has a record, and is unable to run away from it. Arguably he has failed at everything, making most matters worse than they had to be.
Until the nearness of the election, Obama had two groups running interference and protecting him:
For reasons explained below, neither is willing to help him much at this late stage.
Reality and Pollsters
Pollsters have an opportunity to influence elections, at least up to a point. To the extent they choose to do so, polls can easily be skewed in favor of one opponent versus another. Ultimately, however, a pollster's future is dependent upon accuracy.
If political meddling occurs, it dissipates as the election nears. The future value of a pollster is based on his accuracy. Polls late in the election cycle are the ones used to evaluate pollsters. The closer the election the more effort and objectivity is put into the design and sampling for polls.
To the extent that pollsters were attempting to affect the outcome of the election toward Obama, this effort is over. Self-preservation now trumps political ideology.
Reality and The Media
The left-leaning bias of the media is well-documented in studies dealing with matters such as voting patterns, selection of relevant news, etc. The media has substantial impact on public opinion.
Even the media is constrained by the same credibility concerns that force pollsters toward honesty. Because their performance and its evaluation is more subjective than poll numbers, they have more room to maneuver. Still, credibility -- to the extent they still have any -- is the coin of the realm, at least for true reporters.
Smarter members of the media have already showed signs of moving away from "their man." This evolution has nothing to do with disagreement or change of heart. It is motivated by the need to preserve their personal brand. Wise newscasters cannot afford to appear dumbfounded by what is about to happen.
As the election outcome becomes more apparent, more will distance themselves from being associated with a loser. This process is subtle and not subject to being captured in data like the narrowing of polls. The change is nuanced rather than overt. Yet its motive is the same one that drives pollsters -- retain future credibility. Habitual news watchers are already picking up the signs.
Despite H. L. Mencken's views of the masses, occasionally they lurch into a correct decision. Now the so-called intelligentsia is forced to follow the booboisie. It is a delicious process to watch.
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