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I’m Not Concerned

[ 229 ] October 4, 2012 |

In keeping with the spirit of LGM on this Fourth day of October 2012, I have a few observations about yesterday’s debacle debate.

As Scott suggested moments ago, and as Silver wrote yesterday, challengers typically do well in the first debate.  However, in this case, while it might make it more of a ballgame, it should not make a real difference.  Silver offers a lot of sound evidence-based points, as he does, and three are especially pertinent here:

The challenger’s gains have come mainly from undecided voters rather than from the incumbent himself.

No candidate who trailed by as much Romney did heading into the first debate went on to win the election.

There has not been any tendency for the challenger to gain over the remaining weeks of the election.

The average gain by a challenger after the first debate, between 1976 and 2008,  has been 2.3% according to Silver.  If we narrow the historical range to between 1996 and 2008, the average shift has been 1.4%.  Furthermore, if current polling data are to be believed, there are relatively fewer undecideds remaining at this point in the campaign than in previous years.  Hence, while the CBS poll of undecided voters has Romney “winning” 46%, Obama 22%, and 32% reckoning it was a draw, I’m relatively sanguine.  Assuming a) that this event was the crucial decision rule for this population, and b) the 32% break 50/50, 62% of undecideds were swayed to Romney, while 38% to Obama.  Even rounding up to a conservative 2:1 break between Romney and Obama amongst the undecideds, it’s not enough to shift the outcome.

The current RCP national average has Obama 49.1%, Romney 46%.  That’s a 3.1% Obama lead (which is one of the more conservative esitmates available).  This average suggests 4.9% remain uncedided.  If they break 2 to 1 for Romney, (3.3% to Romney, 1.6% to Obama) that leaves a final result of Obama 50.7% to Romney 49.3%.  Romney narrows his gap from 3.1% overall to 1.4%: a shift of 1.7%.  This is within the averages above: an average shift of 1.4% from 1996 to 2008, to average of 2.3% from 1976-2008.

The third point is also telling: this was Romney’s last chance.  Yes, Obama’s conservative strategy basically gave him this game, but at the same time, Obama did not screw up beyond his passivity.  While ideally the Democrats use Romney’s ill-conceived line about money and hearts against him early and often, I don’t think that the Romney campaign took anything away from this that they can use against Obama.

But let’s get even more conservative about this.  The current (October 4) map at ElectoralVote has four “battleground” states where Obama has a 1% to 5% lead (again based on the most recent poll, so the usual caveats about any single poll apply).  These are CO (9), IA (6), VA (13), and FL (29).  Let’s assume Obama retains the others where his lead is > 5%, but loses these four on the basis of last night.  This assumes a shift of at least 2% in FL and VA, over 3% in CO, and over 4% in IA.  Obama still wins the EC 275-263.  The current EC map at RCP, not including toss-up states, has Obama on 269 votes in the bag (toss ups include CO, IA, VA and FL I list above, as well as NV, MO, and NC).  We can safely assume that Obama will not win MO, but under a worst case scenario, he’ll still pull out one of the remaining states.

Hence, I don’t share the breathless overreaction noted by Scott’s insta-outsourcing of  Kuttner last night: “Tonight’s debate did serious damage. There are two more to come. If Obama does not pick up his game, he is a one-term president.”  Dude.  Chill.  A more realistic, sober appraisal is offered by Sargent:

What remains to be seen is whether he conveyed convincingly and affirmatively enough that his plan would engineer a faster rebound and would strengthen the middle class, at a time when voters are already concluding the groundwork has been laid for recovery. That’s what he really needed to do to alter the basic trajectory of a contest that Obama is currently winning. It was unquestionably a good night for Romney, but it’s unclear whether it will produce the big change he needed.

Frankly, I’m far more concerned that my wife just took three of five ‘words with friends’ games from me (following a ten game undefeated run) than I am about the debate last night.  The difference is, as I start the next five games, I have a better chance of reversing this tally than Romney does of winning the election based on the debates.

Comments (229)

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  1. Antonio Conselheiro says:

    The debate didn’t do anything to sheer me up about what kind of President Obama would be during his second term. Agreeing with Romney on Social Security, for example. The message seems to be that Obama will be even more bipartisan than he has been.

    • Aaron says:

      The President wasn’t pitching that type of argument to you. He was making that pitch to undecided voters who, as you can see from both candidates’ talking points, want Washington to be “bipartisan” and don’t have any real grasp of the context.

      I thought that the Social Security line could have been delivered better, but I thought that was more of a trap for Romney – either accept the President’s argument that Social Security can be preserved indefinitely with a few tweaks, or correct the President with claims of pending bankruptcy, calls for privatization…. If the agreement on the issue is apt to haunt anybody, it would seem to be Romney.

      • Cody says:

        I agree. I pointed this out in the other thread – tying yourself to Romney’s Social Security plan means nothing. He has no plan, or changes it daily. He never said he was going to privatize it, but eluded to raising the age it starts. This age-raising has very broad support, so I’m not upset even though I’m also not a huge fan of it.

      • Antonio Conselheiro says:

        Of course he wasn’t talking to me. He was presumably hoping I wouldn’t notice. He’s given many, many hints that he’s squishy on Social Security and Simpson-Bowles, and this is just one more.

        I’m assuming that you, like me, oppose Simpson Bowles. If not, of course you feel good about Obama. But if you do, you and Cody below) are fooling yourself.

        • Like all of these “hints,” you’re interpreting posturing which is completely at odds with his actual governing record as his affirmative case about his intentions.

          • Antonio Conselheiro says:

            We will see. If there’s no lame duck grand bargain, point to you. If nothing happens by 2016, game to you.

            The hints have not exactly been subtle.

            • We’re 3-3/4 years into his first term, and the only substantive action he’s taken on Social Security was to exclude it from the automatic cuts in the sequester.

              Tell you what: let’s go with “we’ll see.” It would be a great improvement from “Oh my God he’s selling us out and has been all along!” without any evidence.

              • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                When you don’t trust someone and are worried about what they’ll do in the future, you obviously can’t prove anything, any more than if you trust them and expect them to do the right thing.

                • Why are you talking about “trust?” Why are you talking about feelings?

                  I’m talking about facts. I’m talking about his record. I’m talking about judging his future performance by his past performance (while you are talking about judging his future performance without any reference whatsoever to anything that he has ever actually done).

                  What part of this is supposed to relate to “trust?”

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Facts my ass. We’re both speculating about what we can expect, and you believe for some reason that the facts you have should answer the question to everyone’s satisfaction. When in human history has it ever been that way?

                  Based on what Obama has done and hasn’t done and what he’s said and hasn’t said, I am not at all confident that he will do the right thing. I’m hardly the only one who feels that way. If that’s too feely-touchy for you, I suggest that it’s your problem.

                  As I understand, you’re saying that the nice things Obama says about Simpson Bowles are just chaff, whereas the things he says to reassure me are solid and reliable. Forgive me for doubting that. Maybe I’m getting the chaff.

                  Can I assume, BTW, that you think that Simpson-Bowles is a very bad idea? Because if you don’t, we have nothing to argue about.

                • you believe for some reason that the facts you have should answer the question to everyone’s satisfaction. When in human history has it ever been that way?

                  The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Oh, for Christ’s sake. The reality-based community is made up of people who think that you can predict a politician’s future actions on the basis of his past actions and words?

                  In a strategic situation this is suicidal. Politicians deceive and politicians change direction according to the circumstances. Even Obama isn’t sure what he’ll do yet. Just you.

                  What I’m trying to do is figure out to interpret one salient fact: Obama’s statement that he probably mostly agrees with Romney on Social Security. I can’t be sure what it means, but it bothers me a lot.

                  Sorry, Joe, but you’re dead in the water. You’ve shown yourself to the world as a delusional fanatic. Your “reality-based” zinger is a big stupid joke. It is not possible to predict a politician’s future actions.

                • The reality-based community is made of people who base their opinion on objective evidence. As opposed to their guts.

                  Politicians deceive and politicians change direction according to the circumstances.

                  Indeed. And the most favorable circumstances for Social Security cuts were in the 2011 budget/debt ceiling negotiations with the Republicans. In that situation, the only substantive action he took on Social Security was to make sure it was entirely excluded from the automatic triggers.

                  You’re right that politicians posture. That’s why it’s so inadvisable for you to base your opinion on (one small segment of) what he has said in public appearances, instead of looking at his record.

                  Money talks, as they say, and bullshit walks.

                  Sorry, Joe, but you’re dead in the water. You’ve shown yourself to the world as a delusional fanatic. Your “reality-based” zinger is a big stupid joke.

                  I hope it doesn’t crush you too much to find out that the opinion of people who think the concept of empirical analysis is “a big stupid joke” doesn’t worry me very much.

                  I’m dead in the water in this dispute. Me. Right.

                  Have a good one.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  You cannot predict a politican’s future acts based on either his past acts or on his past words. If you think differently you are an idiot. But I give you credit for being a staunch idiot.

                  Empirical analysis often cannot predict the future even in much simply contexts, and if you don’t know that your social science training is decades out of date. But again, you recite the slogans well.

                  Obama himself does not know what he’ll do about Social Security, and neither do I, and neither do you. That’s why I’m worried.

                  BTW, you did not tell me what you think about Simpson Bowles. I’m against it. You?

                  Spiro Agnew was a liberal Republican until he wasn’t.

                • You cannot predict a politican’s future acts based on either his past acts or on his past words

                  Then you must be quite confused about whether or not Mitt Romney wants to lower rich people’s taxes. Past record? Pfft! Past words? Whatever, idiots!

                  He said something in a debate, so now it’s all up in the air, amirite?

                  BTW, you did not tell me what you think about Simpson Bowles. I’m against it. You?

                  No, I’m not interested in letting you off the hook with a deflection like this. My feelings on the non-plan offered by the co-chairs have been made abundantly clear in the past, and if I had any interest in a substantive discussion on the topic, I certainly wouldn’t have it with someone who shares your…shaky connection with reality-based thinking.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Joe, you’re full of shit. You do not know what Obama is going to do, and neither do I.

                  You can repeat “reality based” “empirical analysis” buzzwords until you turn blue and it won’t change that. People who are worried about this question are completely justified, and your reassurances are worthless. Your reasons for your confidence are chaff. Who is Obama trying to fool? Nobody knows.

                  Social science does not work the way you think it does.

                • “reality based” “empirical analysis” buzzwords

                  If that’s how you feel, there is no possibility of us having a meaningful exchange of ideas.

                  Good bye.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Sadly, Joe is gone.

                  If there is some reality-based science of empirical analysis which tells you how to predict a politician’s actions, someone please tell me where I can get it. If it’s been applied to Obama, please send me the analysis along with the dataset. Thx. That would definitely be convenient knowledge to have.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  I am convinced that joe’s sort of social-scientoid confidence was one of the reasons why Karl Rove was able to humiliate the party of smart people over and over again. Semi-criminal Republican opportunists are very good in finding chinks and flaws in confident reality-based empirical analyses. Of course, they had dozens of PhDs on staff, but people like Rove (one undergrad year, Utah) ran the show.

                • My shame at being called out as an empiricist knows no bounds.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  No, Joe. No.

                  You are being called out as someone who thinks that he can predict a politican’s actions — with Science!

                  And you can’t. You can repeat as many buzzwords as you want, but you can’t.

                  Isn’t it time for your nap?

                • You are being called out as someone who thinks that he can predict a politican’s actions — with Science!

                  It’s not actually “Science!” to look at a politician’s record when looking to understand what he will do in the future. It’s consciousness.

                  You’ve certainly offered absolutely no explanation why anyone would ever do anything else – just a condescending tone about people who base their understanding of the world on evidence.

                  See, folks, we can’t use a politician’s record to predict his actions because it’s time for my nap. I guess this sort of posing is what one is left with when you’re ruled out logic and evidence.

                • Anyway, behind Antonio’s pointless posturing about the irrelevance of facts is one inescapable fact: he is forced to agree that there is nothing in Obama’s record he can point to support the notion that he’s looking to cut Social Security, and in fact, the evidence from his record is so strong that Antonio is forced to wage a war against evidence in order to uphold his posture of concern.

                  Make of that what you will. I call it a statement against interest.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Joe, you badly need that nap.

                  Obama’s record is not wonderful. This is not the first time that Obama has flirted with Simpson-Bowles, and he’s been far too close to big finance on many other issues. I haven’t mounted a full-fledged argument on that question because I’ve mostly been concerned with showing the weakness of your bullying argument.

                  I do not claim to know what Obama will end up knowing. I even believe that Obama himself does not know yet. There’s nothing wrong with that; politicians exist in the midst of a fluid situation.

                  What I’ve been arguing against is the assurance you have that you do know. You don’t. You can state your opinion, and others can state their opinions, and time will tell.

                  And your reality-based empirical analysis factual rhetoric is BS. You’re guessing just like everyone else in the world. Your certainty is a sham. You should be ashamed of yourself.

                  You win more arguments than you should because you’re persistent, but alas for me, I’m in a slack time and can be persistent too.

                  Wave your hands some more.

                • Antonio, if you had the slightest confidence in your argument, you wouldn’t feel the need to dress it up with these zingers.

                  Tell ya what – throw in a few “ROFLMAOs,” maybe a “pwned!” or two.

                  Or you could just stop.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Joe, you have lost the argument and you can’t win just by being persistent. I’m sorry that my style does not please you.

                • But Anthony, how can you possibly know – I mean, really know – that I’ve lost the argument?

                  I mean, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

                • Antonio,

                  I’m going let you in on a little secret: while you’ve been getting yourself so wound up that you’ve been swearing and bracketing your very serious, insistent argument with zingers, I’ve been playing.

                  The actual argument we were having, about the value of real-world evidence from a politician’s record in understanding his motivations, ended over two hours ago.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Joe, I’m just playing your game. You win arguments around here by assertiveness and persistence, but I got lots of time. If you’re “playing”, you’re losing.

                  So huff off again.

                • Yes, Antonio, the playful, not-serious intent of your comments really comes through in the profanity and declarations of how well you are doing.

                  Shouting “I don’t care!” with a puffy red face is not convincing.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Gee, Joe, here I am killing time on a boring afternoon and now you’re telling me I’m all serious and angry.

                  What is the equation that assures you (and Scott) that we should all just throw out Obama’s flirtations with Simpson-Bowles? I do not claim to know what he will do, based on these statements and everything else, but you want me to be confident that he doesn’t really mean them. Why?

                • Gee, Joe, here I am killing time on a boring afternoon and now you’re telling me I’m all serious and angry.

                  Facts my ass.

                  Oh, for Christ’s sake.

                  If you think differently you are an idiot. But I give you credit for being a staunch idiot.

                  Joe, you’re full of shit.

                  But, you know, in a casual, non-angry way.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Some of us cuss more readily than others, I guess. Sorry to have triggered your sensors, Father Joe.

                • What is the equation that assures you (and Scott) that we should all just throw out Obama’s flirtations with Simpson-Bowles?

                  Because appointing a Blue Ribbon Panel is, and has always been, what politicians do when they want to look serious about an issue, but don’t want to actually do anything about it.

                  Because he, and his party, had a supermajority in Congress for two years – a period during which they could have used some deficit-cutting cred – as well as an opposition eager to cut Social Security, and they did nothing of the sort.

                  Because we have the example of the debt ceiling debacle, in which he also “flirted” with such cuts – where “flirted” means “expressed a willingness to consider them, while taking actions (demanding $1 trillion in tax hikes, and then upping that number) that made the passage of such a deal impossible.”

                  Because we also have the example of the debt ceiling deal triggers, in which the White House specifically singled out Social Security and Medicare benefits for protection from the sequester. Not “said something about wanting that,” but actually implemented such a policy, and got it passed into law through the Congress.

                  But those last three don’t matter, apparently, because they represent actual, substantive actions taken (or meaningfully abjured) in practice, and that’s no way to understand reality.

                • Oh, and you weren’t cussing at the beginning.

                  You just got more and more worked up as the thread went on.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Well, you finally made an actual argument, rather than just spewing insults and pompous rhetoric about facts and reality and empiricism and what not. It took a while to get it out of you, though.

                  You may even be right on this particular horserace, and I have never denied that possibility. It’s your cocksure assurance that I reject. If you laid odds rather than just assuring people that there’s NO CHANCE that he’ll damage Social Security, people would have more respect for you.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Jesus Christ, Joe, cussing really bothers you! I did not know that.

                  Flail away.

                • Oh, no, cussing doesn’t bother me. You’re clearly not familiar with my history here. There are plenty of people who can fill you in.

                  What cussing does, especially halfway through a contentious thread, is demonstrate that the speaker is becoming heated – which you insisted, rather implausibly, that you weren’t. “Heh heh heh, can’t you motherfuckers take a joke? Jesus! I’m fucking calm, all right?!?”

                  But you’re all Mr. Cool now, aren’t you?

                  Well, you finally made an actual argument, rather than just spewing insults and pompous rhetoric about facts and reality and empiricism and what not.

                  Um, no. It’s exactly the same argument I made at the very beginning of this exchange.

                • It’s your cocksure assurance that I reject. If you laid odds rather than just assuring people that there’s NO CHANCE that he’ll damage Social Security, people would have more respect for you.

                  I don’t care about your feelings.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  So what are the odds that Obama will consent to do something that impacts Social Security in a negative way? 0%? .1%? 1?

                  Democrats to the left of Joe Liebrman older than about 30 or so have lived through a long series of failures and betrayals by Democratic leaders, so we are a suspicious lot. To have Social Security on the block is really quite chilling, even if Obama doesn’t really mean it. It was actually theoretically possible that he could have permanently shut down speculation on that topic right at the beginning, but he refused to do that with his Simpson-Bowles hanky-panky.

                  My suspicions on this particular issue are motivated in considerable part by my awareness of the things that he has done and failed to do with regard to the whole financial crisis.

                • I’ve never been good at estimating values. I can’t tell a nine foot ceiling from an eleven foot ceiling, or a quarter mile walk from a three mile walk. I can’t put a number on it.

                  Democrats to the left of Joe Liebrman older than about 30 or so have lived through a long series of failures and betrayals by Democratic leaders, so we are a suspicious lot.

                  So, you don’t want to use Obama’s record as a predictor of the future, but you’re ok with using that of “Democrats” generally?

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  For Christ’s sake, Joe (begging your pardon) this whole argument is about your contempt for anyone who puts the chances higher than zero. If I said 1 chance in 3 and you said 1 chance in 50 we’d at least be on the same page. But you have expressed scorn for any speculations on this topic at all. As far as I can tell your position is that the number is zero and anyone who says otherwise is an anti-intellectual who hates science.

                  Yeah, I am much more likely to trust evidence that someone might be a bad guy than evidence that he is a good guy. The reason is that people rarely pretend to be bad guys.

                • this whole argument is about your contempt

                  That’s your problem right there. Stop having whole arguments about how I make you feel. You should have been having an argument about Barack Obama, his policies, his record, and his actions in his second term.

                  But you have expressed scorn for any speculations on this topic at all.

                  Yes, Tony, I disagreed with you. Need a hug?

                  As far as I can tell your position is that the number is zero and anyone who says otherwise is an anti-intellectual who hates science.

                  No, just you. Most people who disagree are doing their very best to draw rational conclusions from objective evidence, including Obama’s actions and words. Not you, though. You stand out in that regard.

                  And if you don’t want to be accused of anti-intellectualism, don’t write “You cannot predict a politican’s future acts based on either his past acts or on his past words. If you think differently you are an idiot.”

                  Yeah, I am much more likely to trust evidence that someone might be a bad guy than evidence that he is a good guy.

                  The record of Bill Clinton, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, and whatever other Democrats you had in mind when you made your “past 30 years” statement tells us nothing about what kind of guy Barack Obama is.

                  And basing your opinion of his future actions on your impression of whether he’s a “good guy” or a “bad guy” is juvenile.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Joe, what is your estimate of the chance that Obama’s flirtations with Simpson Bowles are real and that he will do harm to Social Security? A lot of us are worried about this. My guess is, somewhere between 1/10 and 1/3. Others think it is higher. What do you think? You seem to think that it is zero and nobody should even speculate about the topic. And yet you speak with absolute assurance.

                  And my feelings seem important to you in terms of your needing to tell me that you don’t care about them, but rest easy. I am aware of your feelings about my feelings.

                  I stand on “You cannot predict a politican’s future acts based on either his past acts or on his past words. If you think differently you are an idiot.” You can estimate, you can guess, you can use all the rules of thumb you want, but you cannot know and you cannot predict. There is no science that predicts that kind of human behavior. Politicians can surprise you.

                  You tell me with vast assurance that I should just ignore various things that Obama ha said and done because they don’t really mean anything and you know that they don’t. Why should I take you seriously?

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  And basing your opinion of his future actions on your impression of whether he’s a “good guy” or a “bad guy” is juvenile.

                  Missed this on before. What a prissy little whiner you are about proper diction. I would certainly flunk your PolSci 101 class at your junior college. Waaah.

                • TL;DR.

                  I’m not concerned.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  TL;DR.

                  I’m not concerned.

                  You should have thought of that earlier, you poor bastard. No one will believ you now.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  I now experience Joe’s withering contempt.

                  He doesn’t read my post but responds by reflex.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  When you poke Joe in a certain way he twitches in a certain way.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  For the record, this is Joe’s answer when I asked him to state numerically what the chances were that I was guessing right on the big issues here, compared to the chances that he was guessing right.(This after multiple assurances that he used Factual, Reality Based Empirical Investigion, whereas I was an anti-intellectual ignoramus):

                  I’ve never been good at estimating values. I can’t tell a nine foot ceiling from an eleven foot ceiling, or a quarter mile walk from a three mile walk. I can’t put a number on it.

                  In short, he argues hard but doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or, apparently, care.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  The reality-based community is made up of people who think that you can predict a politician’s future actions on the basis of his past actions and words?

                  There’s some evidence that politicians try to enact campaign promises:

                  Political scientists, however, have been studying this question for some time, and what they’ve found is that out-and-out high-profile broken pledges like George H. W. Bush’s are the exception, not the rule. That’s what two book-length studies from the 1980s found. Michael Krukones in Promises and Performance: Presidential Campaigns as Policy Predictors (1984) established that about 75 percent of the promises made by presidents from Woodrow Wilson through Jimmy Carter were kept. In Presidents and Promises: From Campaign Pledge to Presidential Performance (1985), Jeff Fishel looked at campaigns from John F. Kennedy through Ronald Reagan. What he found was that presidents invariably attempt to carry out their promises; the main reason some pledges are not redeemed is congressional opposition, not presidential flip-flopping. Similarly, Gerald Pomper studied party platforms, and discovered that the promises parties made were consistent with their postelection agendas. More recent and smaller-scale papers have confirmed the main point: presidents’ agendas are clearly telegraphed in their campaigns.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  So, the platform says:

                  We believe every American deserves a secure, healthy, and dignified retirement. America’s seniors have earned their Medicare and Social Security through a lifetime of hard work and personal responsibility. President Obama is committed to preserving that promise for this and future generations.During their working years, Americans contribute to Social Security in exchange for a promise that they will receive an income in retirement. Unlike those in the other party, we will find a solution to protect Social Security for future generations. We will block Republican efforts to subject Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the
                  stock market through privatization. We reject approaches that insist that cutting benefits is the only answer. President Obama will also make it easier for Americans to save on their own for retirement and prepare for unforeseen expenses by participating in retirement accounts at work.

                  Now, we’d have to factor in other factors (e.g., congress). But I feel pretty comfortable saying that the chances of major harm to SS as a program under obama is essentially 0% (ceteris paribus). I think the chances are pretty low during a Romney administration if there is Democratic control of the Senate. If republican have control of congress and the White House, then all bets are off. That’s their ACA moment.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  There’s some evidence that politicians try to enact campaign promises:

                  Michael Krukones in Promises and Performance: Presidential Campaigns as Policy Predictors (1984) established that about 75 percent of the promises made by presidents from Woodrow Wilson through Jimmy Carter were kept.

                  But I feel pretty comfortable saying that the chances of major harm to SS as a program under obama is essentially 0% (ceteris paribus).

                  “Some evidence”, “75%” “ceteris paribus”,”major harm”, “essentially”: yes, if you hedge enough, it is possible to reasonably say that Obama probably won’t harm Social Security. This isn’t Science, though, it’s history, and it leaves lots of room for someone to disagree with Joe. Joe’s supreme confidence is the problem. that and his claim of “empirical reality based factual analysis” Guys like Joe give science a bad name.

                  History also tells us that politicians spend their careers playing various groups of supporters off against one another; that’s more or less the definition of the job. Some play and some are played, and you never know until afterward which group you’re in.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  “Some evidence”, “75%” “ceteris paribus”,”major harm”, “essentially”: yes, if you hedge enough,

                  But if you don’t hedge, you will make silly claims that go beyond the evidence.

                  Are you really mocking this? Strange.

                  it is possible to reasonably say that Obama probably won’t harm Social Security.

                  Which was the point in question yes? I don’t think you can equally reasonably say the contrary. It doesn’t mean the contrary won’t happen, but if you are going to predict it happening, I’d like to seem some evidence to that effect. There is some, of course, but if your concern is generic (“politicians lie!”) then it seems you should be rather agnostic. Given that what politician say is, on your view, unreliable, why give credence to the ones you don’t like rather than the ones you do, or, better yet, to neither.

                  This isn’t Science,

                  Are you sure? It sure seems like science to me. There’s a fair bit of uncertainty involved, of course, but, so?

                  though, it’s history, and it leaves lots of room for someone to disagree with Joe.

                  Science generally leaves lots of room to disagree with anyone, much less Joe. But you don’t seem to be very internally coherent in your disagreement and your dismissal of the best available evidence and theories is not particularly encouraging.

                  Joe’s supreme confidence is the problem.

                  Well, you aren’t really doing so well either, are you? I mean, what IS your evidence? Or if there’s no evidence possible, why should I listen to your gut?

                  that and his claim of “empirical reality based factual analysis”

                  Well, I gave you some and you rather breezily dismissed it.

                  Guys like Joe give science a bad name.

                  I still don’t see he was wrong. He said, “Weigh the platform and other behaviors more highly than occasional bits of rhetoric.” That seems both intuitively right and well supported by our best theories and data.

                  Sure, he got grumpy, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals of your positions, afaict.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  I n fairness, I could hardly blame Joe for getting nasty.

                  Look, this is a strategic situation. Obama has put out trial balloons in both directions. His most recent trial balloon, during the debate, was overt and hardly subtle: he said he sort of agreed with Romney on Social Security. He has a track record, but politicians often change direction.

                  Joe claims to know that this was just a bluff, and he claims that he knows this by science, and he’s contemptuous of anyone who is bothered by statements like that.

                  I have never said that I know what Obama will do. I’ve said several times that I don’t know, and that Joe doesn’t know, and that even Obama doesn’t know. That is my whole issue with Joe, along with his scientistic huffing and puffing. This is a developing, strategic situation.

                  I tried twice to get Joe to lay odds, and he refused to. It may be that the best bet is that Obama will be do the right thing on this issue, but that’s far different than the kind of confidence Joe claims.

                  This has ended up being all about social security, and possibly only about the most massive changes (some here are OK with whittling away by raising the retirement age, etc.) It’s Obama’s relationship to finance and the things he has done and hasn’t done, has said and hasn’t said about the 2007 financial meltdown that make me mistrust him. (“Trust” here is an emotive word of a kind that Scientist Joe forbids, but in his objectified way that’s exactly what he’s asking us to do, trust Obama on Social Security, and along with a lot of people I don’t.)

                  I might add that what Obama ends up doing might be somewhat affected by the amount of noise he hears about the issue, and my mistrust of Obama is intended to be part of that noise. I’m not trying to poredict; if my dire suspicions of Obama turn out to have been self-refuting and wrong, that is the best outcome I could hope for. I am not a social scientist trying to come up with a predictive model, or a gambler trying to guess right and win a jackpot. I am a constituent trying in my feeble way to influence the outcome of the game.

                  I do not think that sitting back confidently is reasonable. Obama has sent out enough bad signals that I think suspicion is completely justified, and I’m suspicious. I am not saying that I know that Obama is going to do the wrong thing. I have never said that.

                  Incidentally, for me this argument has nothing to do with the question of whether I vote for Obama. The lesser evil argument is something entirely different. I’m not completely sure Joe has made the separation there.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  I know I’m trolling a dead horse, but one reason why I’m especially suspicious in this case is that Obama was not pandering to voters. There’s no big constituency supporting tampering with Social Security, and voters who understand what Romney wants to do about Social Security mostly oppose him. So the message he’s sending out is intended for his donors and for the Serious People, and if he does decide to screw with Social Security he now has a defense against accusations of betrayal.

              • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                And I might add, despite the heartwarming Harry Truman story or myth, politicians are more likely to start out good and end up bad than the other way around. Once you have credibility you cash in on it.

          • Jennifer says:

            Antonio and Joe,

            I have some news for both of you that may or may not help you to understand the other. Here is the deal: We all make our descions based on our feelings/intuition, and then we find the facts/evidence to support that intuition. Wheather or not you “trust” someone is very important to how you judge them. If you generally trust Obama then you will find the facts to support that effort. If you don’t then you will find the facts to support that effort. Both are available, so neither of you are right or wrong.

            • What you just described is a tendency to engage in a thought process which is unreliable.

              We are not inherently doomed to use facts merely to back up our what our guts tell us, and we should strive not to.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Hi Jennifer,

              I agree that confirmation bias is a quite strong cognitive bias, but that doesn’t quite mean that that’s the overall story. We can do a lot to correct for all sorts of bias (while acknowledging that they are still a threat to our reasoning. I’ve not looked at Antonio’s latest response to me, but I think that my hedges were reasonable. Obviously, I prefer for SS not to be ripped up, but I’ve no special feeling for what Obama will do per se, fwiw.

              • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                Neither do I, as I said in the response you didn’t read.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  And so? I hadn’t read it yet. But let’s go over your history:

                  He was presumably hoping I wouldn’t notice. He’s given many, many hints that he’s squishy on Social Security and Simpson-Bowles, and this is just one more.

                  I’m assuming that you, like me, oppose Simpson Bowles. If not, of course you feel good about Obama. But if you do, you and Cody below) are fooling yourself.

                  The hints have not exactly been subtle.

                  At this point, it’s clear that 1) you think there were hints and 2) you think they are of significant predictive utility. But perhaps you were overstating?

                  Based on what Obama has done and hasn’t done and what he’s said and hasn’t said, I am not at all confident that he will do the right thing.

                  Was this meant to suggest indifference rather that some positive inclination to think he’ll do the wrong thing?

                  In a strategic situation this is suicidal. Politicians deceive and politicians change direction according to the circumstances. Even Obama isn’t sure what he’ll do yet. Just you.

                  This seems too strong. While it is indeed the case that significant events might cause Obama, for example, to go along with some SS mucking, this is rather different than thinking he’d initiate or substantively push it? Or be a major driving force?

                  What I’m trying to do is figure out to interpret one salient fact: Obama’s statement that he probably mostly agrees with Romney on Social Security.

                  I think the right point here is not to overinterpret it. It’s not a great fact, obviously, but I think Joe is right that there are lots of other facts in play which have some reasonable theory and analysis to support them.

                  For example, the debate went Romney’s way right now. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact that no one has come back to win when they were this far behind at the first debate.

                  Now obviously, this latter fact isn’t an iron law of nature or anything. Indeed, we might be in a very different time. But without some indication that we are in such a time, it’s not hugely reasonable to go all Sullivan.

                  Similarly, things politicians say during campaigns are important (by the evidence). But this isn’t a campaign promise, nor is it a particularly prominent note, even. So it’s not really very reasonable to interpret it as a hint.

                  Look, this is a strategic situation. Obama has put out trial balloons in both directions. His most recent trial balloon, during the debate, was overt and hardly subtle: he said he sort of agreed with Romney on Social Security. He has a track record, but politicians often change direction.

                  But this is a muddle. Why would he float a trial balloon during a debate? That seems very high risk.

                  Remember that Obama is constrained. One reason not to take every statement with equal force is that not every statement is embedded in the web of commitment and negotiation that, say, a plank of the platform is.

                  I’ve said several times that I don’t know, and that Joe doesn’t know, and that even Obama doesn’t know.

                  I think I know. I gave my argument and you went all denially of science on me. Doesn’t mean I’m right, of course. But look. A big event (like the Republicans taking all of congress) might put pressure on Obama. With a few other bits, it might lead to something. But that he said something in the debate doesn’t show us that that event is going to happen. It doesn’t change the uncertainty at all.

                  What it might indicate is a change in the Democratic party or in Obama’s strategy. But then we need to look at the sum total of the statements made. And it’s really hard to imagine the Democratic party doing a big chunk of damage to SS.

                  That is my whole issue with Joe, along with his scientistic huffing and puffing.

                  I tried to unpuff it and you poo-pooed it. Not progress.

                  Sorry, have to catch an early taxi.

                  None of this is meant to encourage complacency, as I’m sure Joe would be the first to say. Obama can’t (and probably wouldn’t) futilely try to defend SS. So we need, as a group, to work to make it as non-futile as possible.

                  But I don’t see that overinterpreting statements on a blog does much :) YMMV.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  You do NOT know. You have an opinion, which might end up having been a correct opninion. But you don’t know. No one does.

                  Why treat an explicit statement in a public forum as something to ignore because it disagrees with your conclusion? I agree that he could be trying to flimflam the austerity crew, but he could be trying to flimflam us. When he ran in 2008 I assumed that his statements of bipartisanship were chaff, but they weren’t; he really meant them, with disastrous results.

                  To say that the mix of information you have makes you highly uncertain as to what is going on is not really to say that all of it has “predictive utility”. It is to say that the information you have is inadequate to decide, and that you thus are uncertain as to what is going on. And if I am uncertain as to what Obama will do, that means that I am suspicious of him in terms of my own feeling about what he should do.

                  I do not deny science. I deny the stuff you are pushing as science. I do know social scientists whose work I respect. You guys just seem to be faking it and puffing it up with rhetoric.

                  For the record, the whole Democratic Party does not have to sabotage Social Security. You need the President and a few Congressmen plus the Republicans. That’s how NAFTA went through.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  You do NOT know. You have an opinion, which might end up having been a correct opninion. But you don’t know. No one does.

                  I have a fairly well supported opinion which is in an area subject to lots of uncertainty. I’m pretty sure this is an ok use of the word “know” in ordinary contexts. In particular, in this case, and given all the caveats given, it’s being used to distinguish between things which we have pretty good reason to have high confidence in and things, like yours, which we don’t. Use whatever word you like for that.

                  Why treat an explicit statement in a public forum as something to ignore because it disagrees with your conclusion?

                  I’m not doing that. Our cases are not symmetric. You are overreading that comment. I (like Joe) am pointing out that there are a lot of other statements as well. I weighed the platform more heavily for the obvious reasons including those I detailed.

                  I agree that he could be trying to flimflam the austerity crew, but he could be trying to flimflam us.

                  I’m not making a psychological claim, primarily. I’m making a “presidents seem constrained by their campaign promises” claim. Obama’s second term could depart from that, of course.

                  When he ran in 2008 I assumed that his statements of bipartisanship were chaff, but they weren’t; he really meant them, with disastrous results.

                  I’m not sure why this is relevant, but ok. Wasn’t bipartisanship a central part of his 2008 campaign? I mean, really central? Hope and change and etc. So he tried to fulfil those promises exactly as the model predicted. He didn’t fulfil them due to other, relatively predictable, forces.

                  Similarly, we have some fairly standard campaign promises (as embodied by the platform) for which the standard forces in the Democratic party are strongly aligned with. Now, Obama might in his secret heart long to defy all that, but I think it’s pretty clear that his ability to do so is going to be fairly constrained.

                  To say that the mix of information you have makes you highly uncertain as to what is going on is not really to say that all of it has “predictive utility”.

                  You did back down some, but early on you spoke about hints and lots of them. C’mon. Own it!

                  It is to say that the information you have is inadequate to decide, and that you thus are uncertain as to what is going on. And if I am uncertain as to what Obama will do, that means that I am suspicious of him in terms of my own feeling about what he should do.

                  So…you’re suspicious about Obama and SS. Ok. But if he didn’t say anything would your suspicions be reasonably reduced? Why?

                  I do not deny science.

                  Perhaps you didn’t mean to, but you pretty much did in response to me. They “if you hedge, well sure” stuff was very odd since most science is about making claims with tons of hedges!

                  I deny the stuff you are pushing as science.

                  But I’m not sure why. This sort of empirical work is extremely limited esp. in external validity due to the lack of experimental data, the small baseline, and the singularity of the events, but it doesn’t make the observations meaningless. It also doesn’t put it at the same level as your anxiety driven speculations.

                  So, I think it’s right, for example, to say “Debates don’t matter” because they haven’t (based on past observations) and there’s no reason to think that anything significant has changed. That’s a prediction. It could be wrong for a variety of reasons. But that’s a lot different than wish filled “Debates don’t matter because I don’t watch them” or “This debate doesn’t matter because I though my guy did great”.

                  I do know social scientists whose work I respect. You guys just seem to be faking it and puffing it up with rhetoric.

                  ?? I cited a popular article by a political scientist summarizing the literature and tried to present it with appropriate caveats. That’s “puffing it up”? When I did that you poo pooed the hedging.

                  I’m not a political scientist, fwiw, I just try to use their results as understand them. I am a computer scientist, however, and feel that I have a pretty good basic grasp on basic social science methods (as I use them). That certainly doesn’t make me particularly able to interpret or assess more arcane stuff, but I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on several areas.

                  If you want to debate the particular results, then engage them. I’m happy to dive down into the original papers. But you didn’t do that, you just dismissed basically any sort of study of presidential elections. Fun!

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  Why would he float a trial balloon during a debate? That seems very high risk.

                  It baffles me too. I cannot think of any good reason for him to have said what he said. You do agree that he did say that, I hope.

              • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                I have a fairly well supported opinion which is in an area subject to lots of uncertainty. I’m pretty sure this is an ok use of the word “know” in ordinary contexts.

                It is not.

                And Joe originally claimed far more than that. Your estimate (i.e. guess) may or may not be better than mine, and it may or may not be better-supported, but it’s not knowledge. If either one of you had been willing to lay odds, this horrible thread never would have existed.

                I’m going to resign, because I’ve come to believe (not know) that in the next step of the argument whatever Obama ends up doing with regard to Social Security, no matter what it is, I will be told that it’s not really that bad and no one should get upset about it. It’s that kind of argument, I fear.

                Around this time of the year in 2008 I quit talking to Democrats for fear that their stupid bullying would force me to vote Green, and this is probably the right thing to do now.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  It is not.

                  Oh well, then, that settles everything.

                  Regardless of whether it means “know” or not, there’s a clear difference in the evidence supporting and thus reasonableness of the opinions.

                  And Joe originally claimed far more than that. Your estimate (i.e. guess) may or may not be better than mine, and it may or may not be better-supported, but it’s not knowledge.

                  I’m happy to downgrade my estimate from “know”, if that bothers you too much, but c’mon, it’s not a guess in the sense of a wild pick. It’s an estimate and I tried to indicate the parameters of the estimate. It’s not more a guess than the weather forecast is.

                  If either one of you had been willing to lay odds, this horrible thread never would have existed.

                  Isn’t my probabilities estimate enough? I’m not as comfortable with the odds version, and we don’t have a clear statement in question (e.g., are we estimating whether there’s a change to SS in general? whether there’s an attempt for a change? whether Obama initiates a change? What sort of change is there?)

                  I think that in the case of an Obama presidency at at least a Democratic senate that the chances of a change to SS that fundamentally degrades it is 0.1%, so 1 to 99.

                  I’m going to resign, because I’ve come to believe (not know) that in the next step of the argument whatever Obama ends up doing with regard to Social Security, no matter what it is, I will be told that it’s not really that bad and no one should get upset about it. It’s that kind of argument, I fear.

                  If he raises the retirement age that will be survivable but terrible and should be opposed and rolled back as soon as possible. If they are going to touch it at all, some adjustment on the cap on taxation etc. are the best moves. Other tweaks generally super suck.

                  Around this time of the year in 2008 I quit talking to Democrats for fear that their stupid bullying would force me to vote Green, and this is probably the right thing to do now.

                  Hmm. Interesting. So disputing your claims is “bullying” and “bullying” to a level that might force you to vote against your better judgement. Interesting! And an interesting contrast to your policing of “know”. Oh well.

                  In any case, I still think it’s worth weighing central claims of a campaign differently. If the SS claims become more central, then I think upping the level of concern is worth doing.

                  Given your misreading of the earlier campaign, you may want to recalibrate your current readings.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  If he raises the retirement age that will be survivable but terrible and should be opposed and rolled back as soon as possible.

                  This is what I think is most likely. I don’t think that it’s an unreasonable fear and in terms of my suspicions of Obama, this would count for me as justifying them, whether or not someone else thinks of it as a big deal or not.

                  Obama keeps talking about negotiations. What is there to negotiate about? The only good thing he want to do is lifting the cap, but what is he planning to offer as a bargaining chip?

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  For the record:

                  In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts

                  I came to the debate unprepared to document things that I thought were common knowledge.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          But are undecided voters fans of Simpson-Bowles and squishy on Social Security? I know that you and I were not the target last night, AC, but neither was Fred Hiatt.

          • Cody says:

            I think this is an important point. I agree with Antonio that it is impossible to know for sure who is getting fooled here.

            I will say: Obama’s debate was deflating. It offered nothing to make me want to vote for him, mostly the opposite. Of course I still will, because Romney would be far worse.

            I’m aware he’s courting the independents and mildly conservatives, so I accept that he is going to talk about balancing the budget a lot. I just keep faith he doesn’t mean anytime soon!

  2. c u n d gulag says:

    What I don’t think can be measured, is not only how disappointed we Liberals are that Obama didn’t mention women’s issues, unions, the 47% of us, and immigration, but how pissed-off some of us are about his lack of full-throated support for women and choice, SS, and Medicare/Medicaid.

    The Convention spent 3 feckin’ days talking about the Liberal/Progressive things that the party has accomplished in the last 8 decades, and that it still supports.
    Obama, last night, when he wasn’t napping, smiling, or nodding his head up and down as if he agreed with Mitt’s points, didn’t draw any “red lines” – hell, he didn’t even draw lines in flowing water, let alone shifting sands.

    Way to demotivate us, your base, President Obama!

    And the only people more pissed-off than your base, Mr. President, are down-ticket Democrats scrammbling for Senate and House seats.

    They were hoping you ride your coattails – now they’re hoping to catch some thread from the underwear Mitt used to give you a wedgie!

    Sure, I’ll go out and vote for him.
    The alternative is unthinkable.

    But whatever slim hope I had for him to turn more to the left after the election, got steamrolled like Jim Lehrer in front of Mitt’s verbal tsunami of bullsh*t and coke-crazed aggressiveness.

    WHAT A FUSTERCLUCK!!!

    • Obama’s base is already delivered.

      Are you going to stay home in November? Are you going to vote for Jill Stein?

      No? Of course not. As you said, the convention (and his stump speeches and ads) have done the job of shoring up his base.

      Obama’s execution last night was quite poor, but the strategy of parrying Romney’s attacks (which were meant to appeal to the center) was a solid one.

    • But whatever slim hope I had for him to turn more to the left after the election, got steamrolled like Jim Lehrer in front of Mitt’s verbal tsunami of bullsh*t and coke-crazed aggressiveness.

      So let me get this straight: you’re saying that a debate performance, and not the convention, not the campaign platform, not the public appearances, not the ads, is the sole criteria you are using to predict his second-term agenda.

      The value of that method is not obvious.

      • John says:

        Certainly the fact that Republicans always pretend to be pragmatic centrists during the debates, and always govern from the right, should put paid to the idea that debate rhetoric is a good way of predicting behavior in office.

        • When it comes to understanding a politician’s intentions, the only method more reliable than watching Presidential debates is to examine his record of appointing blue ribbon commissions.

          Those two are really where you see political figures lay it all on the table.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Right. Romney’s pretending to be a moderate should pretty clearly put the idea that debate performances should be evaluated as sincere policy commitments to bed. Anybody think he’ll take on the big banks?

          • JRoth says:

            Wait, are we now crediting both sides as having the same rhetorical tactics and approach to the importance of keeping public promises? Because I kind of thought that we agreed that Democrats approach these things differently than Republicans.

    • Antonio Conselheiro says:

      What Joe just told you is that you and I are fucked, and we are. He will now perform hi scalp dance.

      • Yes, Anthony, all you got was the convention, the ads, the stump speeches, and the platform.

        Clearly, not getting the convention, the ads, the stump speeches, the platform and the first debate means you’re fucked.

        eyeroll

        • Antonio Conselheiro says:

          Joe, I haven’t got anything yet. I have no idea what you’re trying to say.

          Obama has succeeded in offending centrist Democrats like DeLong and Krugman. That’s enough for me. (They’ll vote for him, but his policies and statements bother them). I have no idea where you are coming from. Perhaps you think those guys are leftists (“professional leftists”, as Obama says).

          But dance away! Dance, dance, dance!

          • I have no idea what you’re trying to say.

            I believe you. I’ll try to d…er, rephrase it:

            All of the nice things you wanted to hear, you’ve been hearing in the ads, in the convention, in his platform, and in his public appearances.

            Concluding that you’re “fucked” because you didn’t also hear them in the first of three debates is rather panicky an uncalled for.

            I hope this clears up your confusion about what I assumed was a rather straight-forward point. Carry on with your well-honed discontentment.

            • Antonio Conselheiro says:

              You act like I’m a kid who wants candy, and the convention gave me candy, so who cares whether Obama agrees with Romney on Social Security? Obviously Obama is trying to fool someone, but why should I assume he’s not trying to fool me?

              • why should I assume he’s not trying to fool me?

                You shouldn’t assume anything.

                You should carefully examine the objective facts – that is, his record.

                • Antonio Conselheiro says:

                  See above.

                • Yes, yes, I know – what us is looking at objective facts and evidence. Who really knows what’s true, man? We’re all just guessing.

                  What if c-a-t really spells dog? Did you ever think of that?

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  If you like Antonio’s logic, you’d love media coverage of the 2000 elections. “Records? Stated policy positions? The party being led? Who can say if that’s relevant? Let’s go with the more important question of who you’d rather have a beer with.”

        • Halloween Jack says:

          This. There’s a bit from a Wonkette commenter WRT Andrew Sullivan’s reaction that I like:

          A huge flaw in Sullivan’s ability as a political analyst has always been that he not only mistakes his immediate intuitive reaction as fact, but that he deludes himself that this “fact” is so self-evident that it is universally accepted as stipulated.

          I know that thirteen-dimensional chess is a cliche and all, but have any of the bedwetters considered that this may be the Feeding-Romney-Enough-Rope phase?

    • UserGoogol says:

      Jeez, calm down.

      It’s not exactly a secret that the Democratic National Convention is managed by the presidential campaign. Officially they’re distinct organizations with distinct motivations, but the fact that the convention spent three days talking about the liberal/progressive things the Democratic Party has accomplished in the last eight decades implies that the Obama campaign supported such talk at least to some extent. A single debate performance which skewed more towards the more moderate side of the Democratic Party doesn’t cancel that out.

    • actor212 says:

      You missed the point.

      Obama knew that the economy was the area he’d be most vulernable and also the one Romney would be the most feisty on.

      So he bored the general public to tears.

      I’m much more interested to see what the overnight TV ratings are than what pundits are shouting. If they dipped by 9:30, then the damage to Obama is so slight that it’s not even funny.

      If they stayed firm, then Romney will get a temporary lift, since he actually managed to appear on the same stage as a President. However, he was petulant, childish and in the end, arrogant where Obama was patient and more important, actually listening to what Romney was saying (which can’t be said the other way).

      • Sherm says:

        That’s a good point. I love this shit, and I was bored out of my mind last night. My wife was asleep on the couch within an hour.

      • Oh, come on.

        Yes, Obama clearly made the strategic decision to play defense last night – to deflect and scatter, to make Romney’s attacks less effective – instead of attacking and advancing his affirmative agenda.

        That doesn’t mean everything went according to plan.

      • Cody says:

        Well, this is very good spin. I agree with Joe above that he was definitely on defense and this wasn’t entirely intentional.

        I can buy into his “boring on purpose” plan, but am sure he didn’t expect for Romney to be so “good”. Projecting to the general public that you’re super-boring isn’t really the best idea anymore when the caricature against you is being a professor.

        • Sherm says:

          Yes. I wasn’t buying into the “boring on purpose” idea, but to the notion that the impact of the debate could be very minimal because it was so damn boring.

  3. Antonio Conselheiro says:

    I really think that the voters Obama is in danger of losing aren’t the political junkies who end up going Green or staying home. There’s a lot more danger of losing marginally interested weak Democrats and independents, first-time voters, etc., who end up not bothering. The rage against political junkies talking shit assumes that the trash-talk will affect these marginal voters, but I doubt that it will. These are people who don’t necessarily pay attention at all.

    I still think that Obama will win, and yes, in a well-functioning system the good cop can be expected to be nicer than the bad cop. But wht a depressing election.

    • Kurzleg says:

      AC –

      I was thinking of your point in slightly different terms: this middle-of-the-road path is what’s required to win an election in this country.

      • Antonio Conselheiro says:

        I expect Obama to win. But Democrats are fretting about the wrong voters. There aren’t that many left-liberal political junkies, and most will vote, and most will vote for Obama.

    • Janastas359 says:

      I don’t understand this – what do you think Obama could do to win over these voters? It seems that weak Democrats and independents might be turned off by a full-throated defense of liberalism.

      You make it sound like Obama has done something to make it less likely that these voters will turn out for him, but then go on to say “These are people who don’t necessarily pay attention at all.” If this is the case, then why does it matter at all what his performance was? It would stand to reason he couldn’t have done anything to affect these voters.

      • He could have looked tougher, like a fighter. He could have not let himself get pushed around. He could have accused Romney of lying, even showing a little emotion.

        Instead of being a gentleman with a big, giant brain.

        • Sherm says:

          Instead of being a gentleman with a big, giant brain.

          I thought he sounded like a stuttering, disinterested fool last night. A gentleman for sure, but not one with a “big, giant brain.”

        • Janastas359 says:

          I don’t disagree with this; I wish he had done these things too. I was responding to the post above where AC argues the contradictory points that “Obama really should have done better in order to appeal to independents,” and “Independents and moderates don’t actually listen to political news.”

  4. Karen says:

    I suggest you go examine Hullaballo. They note that the CNN snap poll showing a huge win for Romney only sampled white people over 50, which might very well explain those results.

    • thusbloggedanderson says:

      Because who else was wasting their evening watching a debate?

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      Maybe not:

      But the internals of the poll look really strange. If you look at the breakdown of the sample, it doesn’t appear to contain anyone (or doesn’t appear to contain any representative sample) under 50, anyone outside of the South or anyone who’s not white. (See page 8 of this pdf.)

      I doesn’t make sense to me that they’d do or release a poll like that. So really curious if anyone has an explanation.

      Late Update: We’ve dug in a little deeper on this, and there seems to be a straightforward non-nefarious explanation. It appears that where the subgroups within CNN’s representative sample of 430 voters were too small to yield statistically valid conclusions about the subgroups themselves, CNN declined to publish those results simply because they were not reliable on their own. We’re seeking confirmation from CNN, but this is the most likely explanation — one that is valid. —dk

      Later Update: CNN provided us with the internals of the poll, and the demographics of the poll respondents are very much line with normal standards for randomized sampling.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Yeah, with all due respect that was pretty much the left equivalent of winger poll trutherism. Did anyone really think that CNN exclusively polled Southern White males? Of that more than 20% SWM would think Obama won the debate on a night we’re it essentially impossible to find a liberal pundit who doesn’t think that Obama got his ass kicked?

    • rea says:

      Southern whites over 50, actually

  5. Steve M. says:

    TNR has a report on a Stan Greenberg focus group of undecideds that went from 31 leans Obama/27 leans Romney to 44 leans Romney/33 leans Obama. Obama held his people, Romney gained, and it suggests that there’s basically a 15-point swing among the, what 5% of undecideds? That doesn’t even quite add up to a 1% swing to Romney overall.

    I think polls showing that viewers thought Romney won are easy to misinterpret. I thought Romney won. Doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for him. Obama supporters, and even many leaners, saw their guy be basically the guy they want to vote for (if a bit maddeningly conservative on some issues). And they saw Romney be kind of a dick (if sometimes a faux-centrist dick). I think a lot of people will separate the debate performance from their sense of who the candidates are.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      John Sides’ quick estimate of a likely debate result was a +1.25% Romney move….

    • That doesn’t even quite add up to a 1% swing to Romney overall.

      Everyone has noticed that the polarization of the country has resulted in higher floors and lower ceilings for the candidates. Nobody can win more than 52 or 53%, and no one is going to win less than 47%.

      But I see very little commentary about the flip side of this coin: that means there are very few persuadable voters compared to elections past. Picking up four points is a lot harder than it used to be.

  6. Davis says:

    I dreaded going on line this morning to see all the handwringing. So, thanks for putting it into perspective.

  7. calling all toasters says:

    So what’s Obama’s plan here? Win the election by 1.3%, have 51 votes in the Senate and 190 in the House? All he needs to to is hire Dick Morris and the picture is complete.

    • Antonio Conselheiro says:

      Exactly.

    • mpowell says:

      Yeah. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Obama is a colossal dick. I don’t expect a Democratic president to govern as a liberal given the political makeup of the country and congress, but if he’s just going to play it safe and pass up the opportunity to get anything done by flipping the house, that’s really disappointing. He needs to be pushing his lead over Romney, not playing a prevent defense. Even if I don’t prefer his brand of warmed over pre-Reagen conservatism I at least want him to pursue it with fervor!

      • He needs to be pushing his lead over Romney, not playing a prevent defense.

        Before last night, I would have said that giving Mitt Romney enough rope was an excellent strategy for building his lead. I certainly expected at least one “Hi, I’m a massive dick” moment from Mittens in the debate – didn’t you? That’s a large part of how Obama has built up this lead over the past couple of months.

        But that didn’t happen. I was taken by surprise by how well Romney did, and I suspect the Obama team was, too.

        • mpowell says:

          Maybe it was just a tactical miscalculation on the part of Obama’s team. That’s certainly possible. I still think their preparation was fairly poor if so. They ought to have developed lines of attack against things like the phantom loopholes in Romney’s budget and other lies you knew Romney would be likely to bring up.

          But this isn’t the first time that Obama has appeared to have the plan of just being good enough to get re-elected, so I am wary. The debates are highly unlikely to swing the presidency especially as long as Obama plays conservative in them, but the 1-2 points that could be swung matter a lot for control of the house and senate.

          • The Lorax says:

            I was shocked at how brazenly Romney lied last night, and that was after years and years of bullshit from Mittens. I don’t know if Obama reasonably could have prepared for all the chaff he threw up (e.g. that he didn’t have a plan to cut taxes $5 trillion).

            But, as JFL said, he should have fought more. I know he’s trying to avoid the angry black man image, but Americans viscerally respond to strength in leaders. Obama didn’t show that last night.

        • he didnt build that says:

          I think the flaw in your analysis is with ‘the Obama built this lead.’ The lead was mainly a result of Romney being a prick and his 3 months of continuing mistakes. Team Obama has built on the Mitstakes but they have reacted to not driven the debate. The president was not even the highlight of his own convention.

          • The lead was mainly a result of Romney being a prick and his 3 months of continuing mistakes.

            How is that any different from

            I certainly expected at least one “Hi, I’m a massive dick” moment from Mittens in the debate – didn’t you? That’s a large part of how Obama has built up this lead over the past couple of months.

    • So what’s Obama’s plan here?

      There are those who would argue that it would be wiser to answer this question by looking at his campaign messaging as a whole over the past year, as opposed to merely looking at 90 minutes last night.

      • Steve LaBonne says:

        They should have. He stated out as a management consultant- glib lying and bullshitting are quite literally his stock in trade.

        • I was actually writing about Obama, but you’re right – my comment applies equally well, if not better, to Romney’s performance.

          “I’ve been running on this plan that will do certain things for the past year or so, but I won’t actually support that plan, because I said so tonight.”

          • Cody says:

            Yes, all I did was go to Mitt Romney’s website during the debates to show my Fiancee that he did indeed support the things Obama was accusing him of. If only he had better ads, more people would’ve been aware of his plan to call bullshit.

            Mitt Romney: Failing Upwards, since conception.

          • Steve LaBonne says:

            Yeah, that was supposed to be a reply to your Romney comment just below (I wasn’t surprised that he did well- James Fallows predicted that based on performance in previous elections that.) But Obama is not a good debater so no surprise there either.

    • actor212 says:

      There’s two more debates (plus the Veep), neither of which Romney will do anywhere nearly as well in.

      If you need a sports analogy, Obama is the home team and lost a close first game of a three game playoff on the other guy’s field. But the next two are in his ballpark.

  8. gmack says:

    Meh. I just don’t get the hand-wringing. I would agree that on the “optics,” Obama didn’t come off terribly well. He certainly missed opportunities to drive home a compelling message. However, it seems to me that the memorable moments from this debate will be (a) Romney’s attack on public television and (b) the lying, which is being pretty widely reported, and I suspect will become part of the broader narrative (since it already fits into the broader narrative about Romney–that he has no center, and the like).

    Given the historical data we have about the effects of presidential debates, I have little doubt that Romney is going to gain some in the polls. But we should have expected that anyway (Nate Silver’s model, for instance, predicts it). Given the lack of any particularly dramatic moments, except for the ones I mentioned above (which I think will be a net negative for Romney), and given the distance Romney has to make up (along with the relatively few undecideds), I don’t see any reason whatever to panic about Obama blowing the elections or whatever.

    Granted, the whole experience was pretty depressing and substance-free, but in my view, no more depressing and substance-free than the electoral campaign as a whole.

    • Steve LaBonne says:

      This is basically what I’m gleaning (not having watched the thing) from the sum total of what I’m reading- “meh”. I’m not getting any sense that anything surprising happened, and big surprises are Rmoney’s only hope at this point.

  9. Leeds man says:

    I’d never heard of ‘words with friends’. Looked it up, and it’s a Scrabble rip-off. No law suits? Not that I care. Boggle is more suited to misanthropes.

    • spencer says:

      I think it was only invented after the owners of Scrabble (Milton Bradley?) objected to people playing it on Facebook, when there had been no royalty payments made.

      I imagine they consulted a lawyer during development, to make sure it was *juuuuuust* different enough to avoid a lawsuit.

      • Karate Bearfighter says:

        You can’t copyright a game concept, only the particular creative expression of that concept. When Scrabble sued Scrabulous, they lost on copyright and won on trademark infringement. Scrabulous was then re-launched as Lexulous. You can’t name your game “Scrabbletastic” or “Scrapple” or “Crabble”, and you can’t copy their board, point values and tile distributions, but you can design your own game board where people earn points by spelling out words.

  10. PSP says:

    Am I the only one who finds hearing “Don’t Worry” from all the liberal experts to be very worrying?

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      This.

      I actually suspect that Obama won’t lose in November absent (a still possible, but unlikely) exogenous crisis event.

      But complacency–and it’s apparent celebration–will reduce the President’s support at the polls and hurt downballot races.

      Yes, the importance of presidential debates is frequently exaggerated. But that was an unnecessarily shitty performance by Obama last night that will hurt his chances on the margin. Happy talk about it is not a very sensible response, though it does reflect the learned helplessness of “the left” in America today, which seems dominated by an almost metaphysical fatalism.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Aargh…its*

        (preview, please!)

      • Cody says:

        Well, I don’t think anything is “happy” about it. More “okay” with it. It was a bad performance, but no one thinks it alone will cause him to lose.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          Exactly. It was a loss. Losses are not good. We prefer wins.

          And it was, from what I’ve read, a kinda weird loss. Romney was much better and Obama much worse than one expected.

          OTOH, it’s not a loss like being behind going into the first debate.

          • I sort of don’t get the “Romney was better” line. Romney was better only in the sense that his strategy was clearly to respond to inconvenience by shamelessly lying. Not dissembling, or stretching the truth, or fudging, just flat out lying about anything and everything. It’s pretty freaking easy to project an easy going confidence if you’ve resolved to just say whatever the fuck you need to say, and I also think it clearly threw Obama for a loop early, and he spent the rest of the debate trying not to respond to every comment with “Mitt, you lying sack of shit.”

            That there’s a 0.0001% chance that Romney will get Gored by the media this week is a great example of why the internet emoprog criticisms of Democrats’ “messaging problems” are ultimately useless. Messaging is a nothing game when the refs are already in the tank.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              I sort of don’t get the “Romney was better” line. Romney was better only in the sense that his strategy was clearly to respond to inconvenience by shamelessly lying.

              He was much better in that he performed in such a way that produced a strong consensus that he won, indeed, dominated, the debate.

              I don’t mean anything more than that. That’s still a win. Not necessarily an important win.

              Not dissembling, or stretching the truth, or fudging, just flat out lying about anything and everything. It’s pretty freaking easy to project an easy going confidence if you’ve resolved to just say whatever the fuck you need to say, and I also think it clearly threw Obama for a loop early, and he spent the rest of the debate trying not to respond to every comment with “Mitt, you lying sack of shit.”

              It’s a strategy and it worked. From what I can tell, Mitt pulled it off. From what I’ve seen, Mitt pulling that off that well is not a given.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            Half agree with this. It was not, actually, a very surprising loss. Debates have never been Obama’s strong suit. Romney’s ok at them.

            What’s a little weird about the loss is the general nonchalance with which the Obama campaign (and the President) seemed to treat the event…but even that is in keeping with prior practice. For example: The GOP has been repeating the same lies about the ACA for over two years, and the President still hasn’t memorized snappy responses to them, nor constructed ways to highlight his opponent’s hypocrisy about Romneycare, let alone devised an elevator-speech defense of Obamacare. Yes it’s bizarre, but not at all unexpected. At this point it’s like the continuing refusal of football coaches to make rational decisions about going for it on 4th down: the President’s failure to speak effectively about the signature achievement of his administration is both entirely predictably and ultimately inexplicable.

            • A big chunk of that seems impossible though. The problem with preparing to take on right wing bullshit is that it’s bullshit, and there’s pretty much no end to it.

              That said, it would be sort of nice if Democrats could find a candidate with some semblance of being in touch with the real world to the extent that they don’t stand idly by while Republicans claim that “unelected boards” at private insurance companies don’t deny people coverage, or that you can just up and change insurance companies anytime you get denied coverage by one.

              • Sherm says:

                This amazes me. Surely, any person who has dealt with an insurance company understands that bureaucrats are not confined to the federal government and any person who has lost his or her job must know the consequences if he or she fails to pay for COBRA.

            • Cody says:

              I always identified the issue as being unable to call someone who is “respected” a liar. It would be “uncivilized” if at a debate Obama just told Romney “You’re full of shit” and he’d immediately be jumped all over.

              This doesn’t seem to apply to Republicans, because the media is liberally biased (obviously!).

              • Cody says:

                Oh, I didn’t really get to my point. Basically it all comes back to Fair And Balanced.

                You can’t call Romney a liar without calling Obama a liar. Just like in CNN’s “fact checking” after the debate. They could only fact check one thing – in Obama wasn’t even lying in it. It was just mildly misleading in the sense that it was true based on assumptions Romney won’t dispel.

  11. thusbloggedanderson says:

    I don’t think Obama can safely do this in two more debates. But hopefully he will be stung and pick up his game. The guy despises Romney and can’t feel good about having that smug prick wipe the floor with him.

    • Last night’s debate was about domestic policy – the only area in which Romney enjoys any sort of an advantage in any part. If Obama was going to play defense as a strategy, it would be in this debate.

      Next is a town meeting format, followed by a debate on foreign policy. Both are much friendlier territory for Obama.

      • Janastas359 says:

        Especially because domestic policy was defined as “Economics and entitlements.”

        Here’s hoping the town hall format asks the candidates about their social positions. This is much stronger ground for the President, considering the extreme positions Romney has had to take.

  12. Manju says:

    So, Obama looked like Reagan in his first debate as President…gray hair notwithstanding.

    Everything’s on track. Don’t worry.

  13. If Obama does not pick up his game

    That’s a big “if.” Getting your ass kicked tends to be a big motivator, and we certainly didn’t see Obama performing up to his potential last night.

  14. njorl says:

    I’m more concerned that a poor debate performance could cost Democrats a few close House races. Re-taking the House is a small but real possibility.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      But…why?

      Is there any evidence that presidential debate performance has much effect on downstream races?

      It’s easy to imagine all sorts of scenarios either way:

      * Romney doing well in debate keeps the big money focused on the prez race and off downstream races.

      * The debate turns off people from Obama and thus his coat-tails.

      * The race looks tighter so turnout among Dems is higher (to the benefit of downstream races).

      * Romney wins undecideds and they vote against Dems.

      Etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        I would think that there is a miniscule effect, but a miniscule effect could be meaningful in the elections to control the house.

        A miniscule effect on the presidential race, or on the senatorial races is meaningless. Obama is going to win, and Dems will control the Senate.

  15. joe from Lowell says:

    *curls up in fetal position, grabs teddy bear*

    Find a happy place…find a happy place…think of a happy happy place….MY GOD DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN…think of the happy place happy place…

  16. One of the Blue says:

    The statisitcs about previous cycles are nice, but are just that: statistical. They describe accurately behavior in those cycles, but I’m very unsure of their predictive value for this time.

    What worries me even more is Obama’s fundraising machine has gone dark this morning. This means THEY are worried and re-tooling.

    • Cody says:

      They’re all working 24/7 rebuilding Romney’s entire campaign for him.

      Obama: No one told me he was a Liberal!

      Campaign Staff: We didn’t know. His whole campaign said he was going to lower taxes on the rich. We’ll beginning the Romney vs Romney Debate immediately, sir!

    • This means THEY are worried and re-tooling.

      Re-tooling, yes. Worried, not necessarily.

      When your enemy completely changes his strategy, you do, too, in order to counter him. You do this even if you are winning, and are quite confident.

      It looks to me like we’re going to see the “flip-flopper” charge come back.

      • One of the Blue says:

        Still it means they were caught a little flat-footed by Romney’s “pivot to the center.” It looks like they had no contingecy plan on him doing this. Doesn’t mean the President has lost yet or even has fallen behind, but the fact they hadn’t prepared fully for this event, particularly given Romney’s hisory as a serial flip-flopper (and flat our liar) is a bit disconcerting.

        Hope the Dems do go big as you suggest on the “flip-flopper,” “47%,” and all the other big juicy stuff the President did not seem to be able to slam home last night.

        • If it was so predictable that Romney was going to disown the heart of the economic platform that has been the center of his campaign for more than a year, then why didn’t anyone predict it?

          Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you wrote comments saying this might happen, or maybe there were some pundits who called this. If so, I’d love to see them! You know me – I’m someone who very much believes (for completely selfless reasons, of course) that people who get things right should get some notice.

          But I don’t remember seeing any of that.

          • mds says:

            Yeah, there was a little bit last week about how Republican bigwigs were getting desperate enough to encourage Romney to go back to taking credit for Romneycare, but that was a pretty recent shift, and only a fraction of the 180-degree turns Mitt screeched through last night. Not much advance warning there.

            On the other hand, the Obama campaign might have been able to discern that there was a flaw in “Candidates have to run towards the center for the general election, but the GOP base won’t permit Romney to do that.” Which is that (1) the GOP base is currently a pack of batshit deranged dumbfucks busily shrieking about the Kenyan atheist fundamentalist Muslim leftist who is on the verge of destroying America; and (2) the fundagelical GOP base has already jettisoned decades of virulent anti-Mormonism to declare Mitt Romney to be a Real True Christian with Jeebus in his heart, so consistency is not even remotely important to them, because goto (1).

            On the other other hand, unless Obama campaign staffers have family members like mine, it would be rather difficult to suss out this open total abandonment of principle by the GOP rank-and-file. Because holy shit, Mitt jettisoned everything last night. I’m surprised he didn’t declare that his running mate was Wayne Gilchrest.

            • On the other hand, the Obama campaign might have been able to discern that there was a flaw in “Candidates have to run towards the center for the general election, but the GOP base won’t permit Romney to do that.”

              The fact that Romney hadn’t run to the center during this campaign – last night was the only example – has to come into play here.

              • There have been a lot of campaign clarifications. Romney runs to the audience in front of him I suppose; he just hasn’t been in front of Democrats so much.

              • One of the Blue says:

                It’s the first of three examples where more than a mor-or-less select group of Repubs and swing voters in swing states will see him. R’s gambling that low-info, confused, middle-of-the-roaders will be fooled and that they will solidly outnimber those of us who are well-informed.

                I don’t think anyone here (including me) predicted this would happen, but then we are not the campaign professionals who are supposed to watch out for stuff like this.

                BTW this has to be the first day in the last three years when I haven’t had multiple emails from one or more Obama operations in my inbox. Unusual, and because unusual, very worrying.

                • Davis X. Machina says:

                  They don’t want to run day-to-day campaign stuff in the midst of a war — and the shit is about to hit the fan in the ME.

                  Turkey is a NATO member, and we are obligated to assist in their defense, as they did for us in 2001.

                • Steve LaBonne says:

                  There hadn’t been any sign until last night (well, just a wee bit oh health care) that Romney was going to try to execute the long-predicted move to the center. Since Romney finally appears to have changed his strategy, they have to retool once more from attacking Romney the extremist to attacking Romney the flip-flopper. It’s a very competent operation- they’ll be up to speed on that very quickly. Obama already made a good start with his stump speech today.

                  But whether JFL likes to hear it or not, Obama IS squishy on SS and Medicare (witness the shoutouts to B-S, and remember he’s the one who packed that panel with anti-”entitlement” Dems to begin with). That’s a worry both substantively and politically. Let’s hope the Republicans are still not in a dealing mood in the lame duck session.

                • One of the Blue,

                  It’s the first of three examples where more than a mor-or-less select group of Repubs and swing voters in swing states will see him. R’s gambling that low-info, confused, middle-of-the-roaders will be fooled and that they will solidly outnimber those of us who are well-informed.

                  This seems quite plausible as an analysis of what happened last night. I’m just not buying the claim that everyone should have seen this coming.

                • Turkey is a NATO member, and we are obligated to assist in their defense, as they did for us in 2001.

                  And an ally that we value and respect, and want to maintain good relations with – as they did with us in the Libya operation.

                • But whether JFL likes to hear it or not, Obama IS squishy on SS and Medicare

                  Social Security cuts : left wing :: gun confiscation : right wing

                  His flawless substantive record is meaningless – it’s actually just a scheme to lull us into a false sense of security. He expressed his support for what the audience wanted to hear at the Urban League, fer chrissakes! Wake up, sheeple!

                • Steve LaBonne says:

                  He does not have a “flawless substantive record”, Joe. He created BS in the first place by executive order, appointed its members, and has repeatedly (including last night) pointed to the non-report put out by the co-chairs as a good template. He’s been prevented from doing actual damage to SS only by the unwillingness of Congressional Republicans to deal. If being prevented from doing what he’s on the record as wanting to do is a “flawless substantive record”, Humpty Dumpty clearly is alive and well.

                • And if there’s one thing that Bud Selig has taught us, it’s that nothing screams “I’m extremely interested in doing this” like appointing a blue ribbon panel on the matter.

                • BS is the perfect term for the appointment of a Blue Ribbon Panel.

                  I love it.

                  What actual, substantive acts can you point to as evidence? Why, there’s his BS commission.

                  He’s been prevented from doing actual damage to SS only by the unwillingness of Congressional Republicans to deal.

                  This is called “defining your conclusion,” and it’s taught in freshman logic courses as a fallacy. In order to conclude that Obama actually wanted to cut Social Security, you have to adopt as a proposition the notion that he really wanted to cut Social Security.

                • And if there’s one thing that Bud Selig has taught us, it’s that nothing screams “I’m extremely interested in doing this” like appointing a blue ribbon panel on the matter.

                  Geez, Brien, you make it sound like the Republican Congress’s appointment of the Iraq Study Group – cochair Alan K. Simpson – isn’t iron-clad evidence of their desire to withdraw from Iraq in 2006 and pursue peace treaties with Iran and Syria.

                • No, Steve, nobody has forgotten Obama’s posturing during the debt ceiling deal.

                  In a debate about the purpose of a politician’s words, citing the mere existence of those words is not, in fact, proof one way or the other.

                  We all know that – psshhe, Miller Time! – Obama offered, or purported to offer, entitlement cuts in the debt ceiling deal. This conversation is about the bolded part.

                • Perhaps, Steve, the problem is that you don’t understand the difference between “substantive record” and “public statements the result in no actual policy.”

                  If so, you must have found Mitt Romney’s statements about his tax policy very reassuring.

                  As someone who believes that high elected officials sometimes say things they don’t actually mean, in order to produce a political effect, I don’t.

                • Steve LaBonne says:

                  The someone who doesn’t understand the meaning of words is you, Joe. Obama tried to make a deal- a bad deal. That’s on the record. Trying and failing to make a bad deal is not somehow being substantively good.

                • Seriously, the illogic of this really speaks for itself. We know that Obama “tried to make a deal” only in the sense that the two sides never got close because they couldn’t compromise on taxes. Namely, Obama wanted larger taxes on upper income earners and Republicans wanted no taxes. So saying he “tried to make a deal” would be like saying that the Yankees were trying to trade Derek Jeter is they offered him to Anaheim in exchange for Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Jered Weaver.

                • Obama tried to make a deal- a bad deal.

                  Bald assertion, without evidence.

                  Saying it louder is not an argument. We already know your position – that he was absolutely dead serious, and was trying very hard to get the policy he mad contingent on Republicans agreeing to a $trillion, then $1.4 trillion, in tax cuts.

                  Trying and failing to make a bad deal is not somehow being substantively good.

                  The problem is, you’ve provided no evidence or logic to support your position that he genuinely tried and failed, beyond repeating it over and over.

                • I could, perhaps, have been talked into your position if he’d “only” insisted that the Tea Party Republicans sign off on $1 trillion in tax hikes.

                  But then, when Boehner indicated that he might actually try to get his caucus to accept such a deal, Obama responded by upping his demand to $1.4 trillion.

                  That is how a very serious Barack Obama tries to get Republicans to agree to a deal? Right, sure it is.

                • Steve LaBonne says:

                  Luckily there are plenty of Democrats, in and out of Congress- mainstream Democrats, not straw “leftists”- who are not as naive as Joe and Brien and will be watching Obama very closely on these issues during the lame duck and next year.

                • Barack Obama, who had just agreed to extend the George Bush upper-income tax cuts for two years in order to get some other items on his policy agenda, wouldn’t budge – actually, he went further – on his insistence on tax cuts, in his very serious effort to get Republicans to agree to a deal that cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

                  Sure he did.

                • I remember when I was naive for thinking Obama intended to get the troops out of Iraq and pass DADT repeal.

                  Good thing we had Steve LaBonne to keep an eye on things.

                • Well to be sure, nothing says “I’m a real liberal and you’re not” better than directing homophobic taunts at people you don’t agree with!

                • Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine – heck, even upstate New York: it just doesn’t matter.

                  Maple syrup is maple syrup.

                • ‘Shorter JFL, every single comment: OBAMA IS JUST PLAYING ELEVEN DIMENSIONAL CHESS!”

                  Not that I fully agree with Joe per se, but this seems backwards. Joe is pointing to actual things that have been done, while his detractors are trying to suss out “what Obama really wants!”

                  Also, the idea that “making someone an offer they won’t take” is equivalent to 11 dimensional chess is really weird. Have you never played fantasy sports?

                • Yeah, the poison pill isn’t “11-dimensional chess.”

                  It’s Politics 101.

                  For someone to treat a poison pill as some kind of complicated wheels-within-wheels strategery, far too complicated to be true, does not speak well of their understanding of politics.

                • while his detractors are trying to suss out “what Obama really wants!”

                  Worse, they’re arguing “But he made public statements!” as irrefutable proof of a politician’s intent, and then – this is the best part – accusing those who argue that it is better to look at a politician’s actual record of being “naive.”

                • ya boy says:

                  you rarely see a successful jock ride on the jock ride well done gentlemen

    • dave brockington says:

      “The statisitcs about previous cycles are nice, but are just that: statistical. They describe accurately behavior in those cycles, but I’m very unsure of their predictive value for this time.”

      Two points. First, going back to 1976 is quite a bit of history, and the distribution of the shift has only tightened since 1996.

      Second, if you throw out all the historical data we have, you have to really throw it all out, including the empirical evidence we have that the vast majority of viewers watch debates to watch ‘their guy’ and to reinforce their existing decision, which means Romney voters could be in play to shift to Obama. Furthermore, you’d have to accept that any deviation beyond historical distributions could go in either direction. Meaning, Obama’s numbers might strengthen instead of weaken, because a bunch of viewers got pissed off over the homicide (avicide?) of Big Bird and flip to Obama.

      Uncertainty about the predictive value of past cycles does not only mean that Obama is screwed.

      • One of the Blue says:

        As I’ve said above, the silence from Obama’s fundraising machine is what has me most worried. This is the first time in at least three years my inbox does not have a single email form one or more of his operations, or from any other Democratic candidates on whose lists I’ve landed.

        You’re correct. Predictive uncertainty does not mean Obama now is headed for defeat. However if the campaign does not turn this around pretty quickly (like in the next 24 hours), and he does not raise his game in the next two debates,this election could start to go badly.

        One thing about Romney. He may well be the nasty man many of us think he is, but he’s frighteningly competent, and he has a proven instinct for the jugular, and a pretty consistent track record of getting what he wants. The Obama people really have to get back on their game if they want to beat him.

        The other thing. You probably are not seeing this for the first time, but expect, no count on a Super PAC blitz, the last four to five days of the campaign.

        • Steve LaBonne says:

          Take a pill. Last night was about the first time in the whole campaign that Romney didn’t step on his dick. “Frighteningly competent” my ass.

          • Ed says:

            But whether JFL likes to hear it or not, Obama IS squishy on SS and Medicare (witness the shoutouts to B-S, and remember he’s the one who packed that panel with anti-”entitlement” Dems to begin with).

            His remarks on Social Security last night were particularly unsettling, tactically because that was a real “gimme” from Romney just crying for Obama to jump on, and as a matter of policy. Plainly a full-throated defense of the program wasn’t on his agenda. On the other hand he and his people got a bad fright last night and perhaps they’ll learn from it.

        • I don’t understand why “retooling” has to mean “panic.”

          Yes, the Obama campaign is changing its strategy in response to the Romney campaign changing theirs. Why does this mean Doom Doom Dooooooooommmmm?

        • Cody says:

          No doubt things went badly, but from what I saw both sides are probably retooling.

          Romney brought a lot of interesting points for Obama’s campaign to mull over. Should they ask him about how he won’t cut taxes on the wealthy?

          Should they question his desire to give Romneycare to every state? I thought he opposed this?

          He isn’t cutting $5 trillion in revenue over 10 years from the tax code, so is he not even following the plan on his own website?

          He doesn’t want to repeal all of Dodd-Frank because banks need regulation, but he just said he was going to repeal ALL of it!

          There’s tons of these. I imagine they’re making a whole new comprehensive strategy to help paint him as (even more of) a flip-flopper, RINO, and shill to the rich.

        • Steve LaBonne says:

          They’ve already got their first Romney-lied ad out, and there’s ample material for plenty more. You’ll feel better soon, One of the Blue.

  17. NBarnes says:

    I think rope-a-dope is a reasonable strategy here, too. Nobody is going to care about this debate if Romney manages to put his foot (back) in it in the foreign policy debate or if the MittBot’s ReplicateHumanSocialCues() function goes wonky again at the town hall debate.

  18. actor212 says:

    2004 — John Kerry wiped the floor with Bush (“He forgot Poland!”). Kerry was actually *ahead* in the polls, 49-48 coming out of that debate.

    Romney made get a bounce (not a bump) of up to five points but that still puts him down a point or two

  19. Steve S. says:

    I had RCP averages handy

    Bush led by 6.0 on the day of his first debate. He eventually won by 2.4.

    If you subtract 3.6 from current RCP state averages Obama wins Ohio by 1.9% and gets to 271 EVs. He also wins Iowa by 0.1%. But that’s pretty damned tight.

    Seems unlikely, though, that Romney could sustain that much of a bounce with this electorate.

  20. Ruthie says:

    People often remember weird things about debates. One of the most vivid comments for me was Romney essentially admitting that his 5 sons were liars. Wonder where they picked THAT up from?

  21. Manju says:

    New meme: Mitt Romney is Walter Mondale.

  22. Steve LaBonne says:

    At this point I’m starting to think Big Bird may hurt Romney more than anything else in the debate helped him. So I’m even less concerned (if that were possible).

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