Quick hits

1) Creationists hate dinosaurs with feathers.

2) Absolutely terrific David Brooks on the intellectual decline of the Republican party (damn, the man is on a roll).

3) Turns out if you do statistical adjustment to dramatically under-represent Democrats in polls, Romney does much better.  Republicans find themselves assuaged.

4) Nate Cohn: the polls are usually right.  (As I tell my classes, a lot of polls are complete junk, but when it comes to assessing who people will vote for, they are usually quite accurate).

5) Fascinating story of two young women who bonded by being young women cancer patients.  It’s on the long side, but keep reading for an amazing ending.  Seriously

We are the 96%

Great piece from Suzanne Metzler and John Sides:

We have unique data from a 2008 national survey by the Cornell Survey Research Institute that asked Americans whether they had ever taken advantage of any of 21 social policies provided by the federal government, from student loans to Medicare…

What the data reveal is striking: nearly all Americans — 96 percent — have relied on the federal government to assist them. Young adults, who are not yet eligible for many policies, account for most of the remaining 4 percent.

On average, people reported that they had used five social policies at some point in their lives. An individual typically had received two direct social benefits in the form of checks, goods or services paid for by government, like Social Security or unemployment insurance. Most had also benefited from three policies in which government’s role was “submerged,” meaning that it was channeled through the tax code or private organizations, like the homemortgage-interest deduction and the tax-free status of the employer contribution to employees’ health insurance…

here Americans actually differ is in how they think about government’s role in their lives. A major driving factor here is ideology: conservatives were less likely than liberals to respond affirmatively when asked if they had ever used a “government social program,” even when both subsequently acknowledged using the same number of specific policies.

Short version: conservatives are so used to hating “big government” that they are willfully delusional when it plays a positive role in their lives.

Photo of the day

What a cool idea– 50 photos from 50 states!  Who would’ve guessed Alabama would be my favorite (via In Focus):

Beach visitors watch the sunset in Dauphin Island, Alabama, on August 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

But, I’ve got to go with two today, because the NC photo features two of my favorite things: sea turtles and NC State (not to mention dropping the ball on a photo of the day yesterday):

Bethany Walters, a veterinary student at North Carolina State University, examines Holden III before surgery in Raleigh, North Carolina, on July 19, 2012. The endangered juvenile green sea turtle underwent experimental surgery to repair a deep skull wound.(AP Photo/Allen Breed)

Chart of the day

Obama does not have a problem with working class whites.  He has a problem with Southern working class whites.  Via Drum:

Kind of amazing.  I also liked Drum’s comments:

This is a worthwhile corrective almost anytime you see a national result for any class of voters or any trend over the past 40 years. The massive shift of the Southern vote from Democratic to Republican is, by far, the biggest electoral change in the past few decades, and it often overwhelms national survey results. It’s something you should always at least think about when you read an article about big changes in the electorate: is this really a national change, or is it mostly driven by changes in the South? This is important not just academically, but because if it turns out to be primarily a Southern problem, the solution is going to be a lot different than if it’s truly a broad demographic shift.

There’s a reason political scientists still often throw in a “South” variable in many of our statistical models.  When it comes to politics, there’s the South and there’s everywhere else.

Stop blaming Mitt

As I’ve said before, Mitt is clearly a sub-optimal candidate and he’s surely made more than his share of mistakes, but I feel like what’s going on now is conservatives trying to pre-emptively blame Mitt for impeding loss so that they won’t have to look in the mirror and admit that it’s the Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party that has doomed it.  I love the way John Sides frames this:

The only way to answer the question in the title of this post [Is Mitt Romney a bad candidate?] is to ask a second question: “Compared to what?”  I see a lot of people piling on Romney, but fewer people thinking this through.

First, you can ask about Romney compared to some other specific Republican.  If that’s the question, it’s hard to say that Romney is definitively worse.  Than the other candidates who ran in the primary?  Gingrich, Santorum, etc.?  Than candidates who didn’t run, like Christie or Daniels or Thune or whoever?   I caution against assuming that there was some savior waiting in the wings.  Remember when that savior was going to be Rick Perry or, back in 2008, Fred Thompson?  The fact is, once any candidate gets in the race, the bloom comes off the rose and we quickly discover their shortcomings as well.  Maybe one of these candidates would have been slightly “better” than Romney as of September 2012, but that’s not a slam-dunk case…

I’m not suggesting that we can definitively settle this now.  But I don’t think we can say with confidence that Romney is significantly  worse than a generic GOP candidate.  We’ll have a better sense in November, obviously.

Not settled, but I think the problem is with what a generic Republican candidate had to be to win the 2012 nomination.  Richard Cohen kind of starts off on the right foot on a similar note, but then ends up just blaming all the Republicans in Iowa– as if Iowa was somehow uniquely conservative compared to the rest of the GOP (it’s not).

Meanwhile, William Galton has a litany of reasons Mitt really is a bad candidate.  I’m not convinced, but it is an interesting case:

Romney squandered his chance.  He failed to develop either a consistent line of attack against the president’s economic management or a persuasive alternative to it.  Rather than sustaining a consistent theme, he lurched from issue to issue in response to the events of the day.  He failed to counter the entirely predictable attacks on his leadership at Bain.  He allowed the controversy of his tax returns to linger.  He compounded these felonies with a seemingly endless series of gaffes, capped by a pratfall-filled foreign trip.  His convention was by a considerable margin the least effective in decades.  His selection of Paul Ryan shifted attention from his greatest potential strength—the economy—to the House Republicans’ politically toxic budget.  And for a man whose supposed calling-card was managerial competence, Romney has run his own campaign very poorly indeed.  If the plausible and thus far unrebutted stories about the chaotic composition of his acceptance speech are true, something has gone badly awry.  He has no one to blame but himself, because every presidential candidate gets the campaign he deserves.

If Mitt loses– and I do think he will– a big part of this is Obama running a near perfect campaign, but on the Republican side, I’m going to say the fault would be 75% Republican party, 25% Mitt.

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