What I really think about Super Tuesday

Alright, you already saw this in English, but I just cannot resist posting the Slovakian here, too:

V hodnotení Romneyho budúcnosti s ním súhlasí aj politológ Steve Greene zo Severokarolínskej univerzity. “Vzhľadom na počet delegátov, ktorých už získal, finančnú, organizačnú prevahu a podporu elít, ťažko vidieť ako víťaza niekoho iného,” myslí si Greene. “Cesta k víťazstvu však bude tŕnistá, pretože sa od svojich súperov nedokáže odpútať, zvlášť v kľúčových súbojoch,” povedal pre Pravdu.

Podľa odborníka na americkú politiku je Romneyho jediným šťastím, že jeho súperi sú ešte slabší ako on. “Superutorok bol dňom, v ktorom skôr Romney unikol veľkej katastrofe, ako jeho veľkým triumfom,” tvrdí Greene. “Vyhral síce väčšinu štátov, no jeho neschopnosť spraviť tak presvedčivo je vnímaná ako slabosť. Do Ohia investoval omnoho viac peňazí ako Santorum a jeho štáb organizačne jasne prekonal Santorumov, no napokon zvíťazil o jediný percentuálny bod. Má šťastie, že má slabých súperov. Santorum i Gingrich majú svoje veľké nedostatky, a preto im nikto nedával šance. To, že dokážu uspieť proti Romneymu, svedčí o jeho slabosti,” povedal pre Pravdu.

I do like how the Google translate feature gives us some insight into idioms in Slovak, e.g.,

“The road to victory, however, is thorny because of your opponents can not let go, especially in key battles,” he told the truth.

I assume, that originated with my statement: ” it seems quite likely that Romney will continue to have a bumpy ride throughout the primary process.”

Anyway, I do certainly like that “he told the truth” translation which appears repeatedly.

Photo of the day

Wow– talk about an awesome set of photos.  So hard to choose just one from this amazing series from our solar system (courtesy Alan Taylor), but this one below is extraordinary:

A swirling cloud formation and the lights of the Aurora Borealis, seen from the International Space Station, high above the Gulf of Alaska, on February 10, 2012. (NASA)

(Romney) Don’t know much about history

Had lunch with a friend who is a national security and foreign policy scholar earlier this week on the day Romney’s Op-Ed about Iran appeared in the Post.  Needless to say, he did not think very highly of what Romney had to say.  Most prominently, he noted that Romney got the history completely wrong.  Kevin Drum knows him some national security history, too, apparently (or, unlike, Romney, he can at least be bothered to study up on a subject), and nicely lays out much the same case my colleague made:

Did the Iranians release their American hostages on the day of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural because they were scared shitless of what the Gipper would do to them if they held out? In a word, no. Probably just the opposite. They weren’t especially afraid of Reagan, but they werepissed off at Jimmy Carter and wanted to deny him the satisfaction of being able to announce the hostages’ release. What’s more, by 1981 Iran was in a war with Iraq and really, really needed the money that had been frozen while the hostages were being held.

But not everyone is aware of all this

Including Romney, of course.  The difference is that Romney took his ignorance to the pages of the Post and got these facts completely wrong.  Drum concludes quite rightly:

We can’t expect presidential candidates to know everything.

But here’s the thing: if you don’t know about this history, you probably shouldn’t write op-eds in the Washington Post about it. Or if you do, you should spend a minute or two on the internet checking things out…

If Romney is clueless about this episode in American history, fine. He’s had other things on his mind for the past 30 years. But if he doesn’t know anything, he shouldn’t be mouthing off about it either. Deal?

No deal, apparently.

Keeping it real about the General Election

Is Romney a weak Republican nominee for president?  You bet.  But that doesn’t change the fact that Obama is also a very weak incumbent running for re-election.  Not that it’s impossible, but running for reelection when you’ve got under 50% approval and a bad economy is not a good thing.  I think odds are Obama will win as the economy is moving in the right direction (which matters a lot) and because, close as things may be, it is to Obama’s advantage that Romney strikes me as a weaker than average challenger.  It’s easy to focus on the flaws of the Republican field during the primary season, but like most elections, when you get down to it– it’s the economy, stupid.  Of course, it’s not 100% the economy, which is why the fact that Romney is a weak candidate is a good thing for Obama.  Ezra had some nice thoughts on all this yesterday:

What kind of nominee will he [Romney] be?

At the moment, I’m going to put my money on “a stronger one than seems apparent right now,” for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there’s too much extrapolation from current trends. Yes, the economy has gotten better, and President Obama’s numbers have improved, over the last few months. But there’s no guarantee the same will hold in the summer. Remember that in 2011, the beginning of the year brought four straight months of strong job growth — as strong or stronger than what we’ve seen so far in 2012 — which then sputtered out. If the same happens later this year, Romney will suddenly look a lot stronger, and Obama a lot weaker, than many have come to expect.

Second, it’s possible that the GOP primary plays to Romney’s weaknesses, while the general will play more to his strengths. He’s got a big, top-heavy campaign that has been forced into asymmetrical warfare with smaller, lighter opponents. The dynamics of the primary are forcing Romney to unconvincingly adopt unpopular opinions that contradict what he’s done and said in the past in order to persuade an electorate that’s unusually concerned with purity. But in the general election, he’ll be facing another big, top-heavy campaign, and he’ll be able to run towards the center. Perhaps he’ll perform better under those conditions.

Third, Romney’s coalition might end up being broader than it appears. As Ron Brownsteinnotes, “Romney carried most voters who did not identify as evangelical Christians in each state except Oklahoma.” He’s struggling against evangelical Christians and voters who self-identify as “very conservative.” But will these constituencies really stay home against Obama? And, if they do come out, there’s the prospect that the very qualities that turn them off of Romney — at least, if you assume their issue is ideological rather than religious — could help him make inroads with the more moderate voters who will ultimately decide the election. Again, for the exact reason he’s weak in the primary, he could be stronger in the general.

Of course, Romney has significant weaknesses as well, which we are all quite familiar with.  Ezra’s conclusion cuts to the chase:

Even so, though Romney has the worst poll numbers of any presidential nominee in recent history, Obama has the worst poll numbers of any incumbent president running for reelection in recent history. And we remain a closely divided country with a very fragile economy. Right now, Obama is leading Romney by more than five points in the Real Clear Politics polling average. But I would be very surprised if, in November, the final margin between the two candidates is more than three points in either direction.

I could see a scenario where the economy continues to improve at an increasingly rapid pace where Obama exceeds a 3 point margin or one where we ground to a halt (hello, Europe) where Romney wins by more than three.  But, in all likelihood we are looking at a close election.  If current trends continue apace, I expect Obama to be on the winning side of that small margin (something like 50-48), but that’s a mighty big “if.”

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