Post debate

Must admit to not paying as much attention to this one as I tried to catch up on 200 emails or so piled up while I had the debate on livestream.  Insofar as moments matter, “horses and bayonets” is certainly a good one.   Most importantly, CBS gives Obama a big 30 point winning margin in their post-debate instapoll.  A margin that size will really shape the nature of the coverage in the next few days.  Though, does not look like winning debate #2 really helped Obama at all– though it’s certainly possible it prevented him from sliding further.  I think the following pretty much summarizes it all:

Given the topic and the current state of the race, it’s truly unrealistic to expect this debate to make much difference.  Insofar as this race may truly be balanced on a knife edge (it may be, but I’m still inclined to think it’s more a plastic spoon edge with Obama having a very slight advantage), then even a very small difference can be very important.  That said, this has to be considered a good night for the president.

Okay, edited version.  When Nate Silver has a tweet that is basically the same as what you just posted (first), you gotta include it:

[p.s.  I’m thinking I need some cool little icon for my twitter account]


I’ll be honest, I’m just not that into foreign policy.  The only reason I’ll be watching the debate tonight is out of professional responsibility (otherwise I’d watch the DVR of last night’s “Walking Dead”).  Of course, Ezra explains why I’m all wrong about this and that foreign policy and domestic policy is ultimately a false distinction.  But the way we treat it, I just am not all that interested in the foreign side.  I think part of my malaise on the matter is reflected in what Bill Ayres (not to be confused with the “domestic terrorist”) has to say:

A large part of this is because both candidates will be forced, of political necessity, to repeat the American Exceptionalism mantra. There was an excellent article about this inSunday’s New York Times, which is well worth reading. The author focuses more on domestic policy and our foolish tendency to think that America is better than everywhere else at everything (to the point that some folks simply make stuff up to support that contention).

Nowhere is the disease of American Exceptionalism worse than in the arena of foreign policy. Without argument, discussion, or debate our politics over the last 10+ years have shifted to a new consensus in foreign policy:

• That the United States is the most powerful nation on the planet (true, at least militarily), possibly in all of history (arguable, but largely beside the point – like trying to decide whether the Babe Ruth Yankees were better than the A Rod version of recent years).

• That the existence of terrorism means that the US should involve itself in anything that smells of terrorism or Al Qaeda, wherever in the world it may be.

• That when bad things happen in other places, it’s the US’s responsibility to make them better (e.g. Libya, Syria), unless it’s in an area so obscure that we really don’t care (eastern Congo?) This is closely aligned with the ever-popular Peter Parker Principle(“With great power comes great responsibility.”)

This isn’t a strategy, it’s a recipe for blind imperial overstretch (to borrow Jack Snyder‘s term). Particularly galling is that we’ve arrived at this position without the slightest scintilla of public debate. Foreign policy is decided by a small elite in Washington, without significant comment from outside. We have fallen into the trap that Eisenhower warned of some 50 years ago.

Yowza.  Quite the indictment.  Not sure I fully agree with all of it, but it’s a provocative case and Bill certainly knows more about this stuff than me.  On a practical level, I really enjoyed Tomasky’s take:

 Romney is going to lie like crazy, like he did in the first debate, trying to Etch a Sketch away 18 months’ worth of war-mongering neocon statements and positions.

What’s that, Bob? Like George Bush? Moi? No way. I hate war. I’ve seen war. Well, I hate war. I don’t want the United States to spread democracy. My campaign’s advisors? No, 90 percent of my foreign policy advisors aren’t Bush administration veterans. John Bolton, secretary of state? No, we’ve never said that, never floated that, I have no idea where you’re getting that.

If Romney is half as successful at lying about his his previous positions tonight as he was Oct. 3, and if Obama doesn’t challenge him aggressively, then Mittens will come out of tonight with some new momentum.

Romney will say things that are completely incompatible with each other… A straightforward task for Obama tonight, but a big one and possibly a tricky one, is to point out these contradictions.

Ed Kilgore makes similar points at greater length.  More after the debate (and probably during via Twitter).


Photo of the day

It’s not easy doing things with all 6 Greene’s– that’s a lot of people, especially when one has special needs and the other is a toddler.  Thanks to the handy assistance of Kim’s sister and her husband we decided we’d all tackle the state fair yesterday.  A great time was had by all.  Here’s an N&O photo of yesterday at the fair:

(Takaaki Iwabu)

And here’s my favorite of the day: Kim and Alex on the Monster Truck ride which he absolutely loved:

The race in NC

If the past is any indication, I should be fielding calls this week asking if NC is still really in play.  I’ll answer their questions because, I do like to be quoted in the news.  What I really should do, though is just sent them to Nate Cohn’s latest blog post on NC:

How could Obama lose 7 points nationally, yet remain close in a state that he won by just 14,000 votes in a historic election? The answer lies in the resilience of Obama’s diverse coalition and the changing composition of North Carolina’s electorate.

For the most part, Obama’s biggest losses have come from predominantly white states where Obama won plenty of moderate, former Bush voters—like Wisconsin, Montana, and Indiana. North Carolina is relatively insulated from Obama’s losses, since most of Obama’s gains came from young voters, college educated whites, and African Americans, three groups where Obama’s support has remained relatively resilient. Indeed, nearly half of Obama’s ’08 voters in North Carolina were non-white—more than any other battleground state. From this perspective, North Carolina has not moved toward the Democrats, but the rest of the country, where white working class voters play a more central role in the Democratic coalition, has just moved away from Obama at a faster pace…

However, the changing composition of North Carolina’s electorate allows Obama to compensate for at least some of Obama’s losses since 2008, even if it only leaves the president with a narrow path to victory. According to the most recent voter registration data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, the white share of registered voters has declined to 71.5 percent, from 73.4 percent on Election Day 2008 and 74.2 percent at this time four years ago.

And here’s the key:

In 2008, Obama’s North Carolina victory was more dependent on turnout from young or black than any other battleground state. Any meaningful reduction in turnout among either group, and perhaps especially among young voters who appear far less enthusiastic than they were in ’08, would quickly cause much of Obama’s newfound 2.5 point lead to vanish. Romney could then take the lead as old Obama ’08 supporters switch back to their Republican habits. After all, Obama’s ’08 performance was also bolstered by largely uncontested advertisements that allowed Obama to perform relatively well in rural North Carolina. And this doesn’t even account for surging Republican enthusiasm or a far more prepared GOP ground operation.

The polls suggest that this might be Obama’s fate in the Tar Heel state. The increasing non-white share of registered voters will allow Obama to compensate for a slight decline in Democratic enthusiasm or slight losses among swing voters, but it probably can’t overcome both—let alone if “slight” becomes “modest.” Whether Obama can overcome his deficit in the polls hinges on the possibility that Obama’s strong ground operation and same-day voting combine to defy predictions of lower turnout.

So, certainly an advantage for Romney at this point, but far from a done deal by any means.  Of course, when I’ve relied extensively on Cohn in the past, I’ve actually cited him in my interviews.  It is interesting that it is completely within journalistic norms to cite a professor citing a reporter/blogger for his analysis, but one would never simply cite the reporter/blogger.  Then again, I suppose in some way my PhD validates Cohn’s analysis.  Anyway, I don’t think you’ll find a better explanation of why NC has remained so close and why Obama still has a decent shot to take the state.

The incredible shrinking electoral battleground

Love this National Journal piece on the incredibly shrinking electoral college map.  I especially appreciate the historical perspective in this (and the implicit criticism of the electoral college):

And other than on a debate stage, it’s certainly not being waged in New York, the nation’s third most populous state. Or in California or Texas, the two biggest states. That’s 82.8 million Americans who are just bystanders in the most hotly contested presidential election in a decade…

Much has been written about the hardy band of “battleground states.” But little has been written about why the American electoral map has shrunk so dramatically, what it tells us about the nation and what it means for future elections.

That shrinkage has been historic. Not since 1980 has any election seen more than 10 states with winning margins under 3 percent. Not since 1992 has any election seen more than 11 states finish with margins under 5 percent. In 2008, only six states were as close as 5 percent. Contrast that to 1960. Seventeen states that year were decided by less than 3 percent; 20 were less than 5 percent; 34 were under 10 percent. And it showed in the candidates’ travel itinerary. Richard Nixon campaigned in all 50 states; John F. Kennedy campaigned in 45.

No chance of that with Obama and Romney. Since June 5, the last big day of primaries, each candidate has campaigned in only 10 states…

If you doubt the change after 1988, look at the big states and their electoral behavior in the last 15 presidential elections. California went Republican in nine of 10 elections from 1952 to 1988. It has gone Democratic in all five since. New York was a competitive state, splitting 5-5 from 1952 to 1988, but then Democratic in all five since. Pennsylvania went 6-4 Republican through 1988, then 0-5 since.Illinois was the same: 6-4 Republican through 1988, then 0-5. Ohio was even more lopsided Republican, going 8-2 Republican through the first 10 elections, but splitting 2-3 from 1992 to 2008.

Plenty more good stuff if you read the whole link.  And, seriously, just stop and think about how incredibly absurd it is that our national election should come down to an election basically being contested in only 8 states.  It is an affront to the vast majority of Americans outside of these states.  It makes for fun political watching, but the electoral college is an anachronism that has completely outlives its time and is now simply a massive insult to the ideas of democracy, fundamental fairness, and one person- one vote.

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