Do they even know what momentum means?

Ahhh, more reason to hate on Chris Cilizza.  He should just go work for Politico already.  There’s been plenty of nice pushback against the idea that Mitt Romney currently has momentum.  Cilizza defends the idea that Romney has momentum because he’s much better in the polls now than he was three weeks ago.  The fact that Romney got a nice bump after the first debate is not evidence at all that he is continuing to gain ground.  Which would be actual momentum.  Nate Silver had a nice piece on this, but Mark Blumenthal is a little more recent:

Collectively, the trends of the past week provide a reality check to two myths that have emerged in recent campaign coverage.

The first is that Romney has been “surging” since the first debate. While the debate certainly boosted Romney’s standing in the polls, trends over the past two weeks have been negligible, with the leader seesawing nationally within a range of roughly one percentage point. Over the same period, the standings within the key battleground states have also remained constant. Other poll tracking models have shown the same patterns.

All the evidence right now points to a stable race with Obama having a very narrow, but real, lead in 270+ E.V. worth of states.  That could change, but to suggest that there’s meaningful evidence that Romney continues to gain ground is to simply blind report the spin from Romney’s campaign.

Not entirely related, but also worth noting Blumenthal’s second point:

The second myth is that the national and battleground states polls have produced widely divergent results. If we use the state estimates produced by the Pollster tracking model in the nine key battlegrounds (Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina) to create a combined total vote based on the turnout in each state in 2008, we show Obama leading in across all nine states by a slim 0.6 percentage point margin (47.8 to 47.2 percent as of this writing; the estimated margin would be 47.9 to 47.2 percent if based on the 2004 turnout).

Romney does slightly better in the national popular vote estimate, of course, but his 0.2 percentage point advantage there is only slightly better. The net gap is less than a percentage point.

As the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman writes on Twitter, simply subtracting 4 percentage points from Obama’s 2008 margins in each state produces a similar result: “He’d lose Popular vote by 0.7% but still win w/ 272 EC votes.”


Chart of the day (asymmetry version)

Nice visualization of the polarization of Congress.   Pretty dramatically shows how current polarization is almost entirely about Republicans moving rapidly and substantially to the right:


Quick hits

1) Kevin Drum summarizes Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece on voter fraud fraudster, Hans Von Spakovsy.

Photo ID laws are a scam. Republicans loudly deny that their real purpose is to suppress the vote among blacks, students, and the poor — all of whom have lower than average rates of possessing photo ID — but what other motivation is left? They have no impact on voter fraud and everyone knows it.

2) I was looking at this same data myself recently, and Yglesias nicely captures it in his headline, “Democrats Are From Colleges and Tech Companies, Republicans Are From Wall Street.”

3) David Brooks is just as obsessive about polls as I am.  Rarely do I say, “I could have written that David Brooks column.”  In this case, I could have.

4) John Cassidy on Brooks’ poll obsession and Nate Silver’s forecasting models.

5) Well, let’s stick with a theme… Alternet on the Nate Silver truthers.  Needless to say, these truthers are not actually bright enough to understand what Silver is doing.

6) Great Andrew Sullivan, on race, religion, and double standards:

Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had never attended Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago and had decided to attend services, and proselytize for, a black separatist, nationalist church that refused to allow whites to participate in crucial religious services because white people had been condemned by God for their iniquity in the ancient past and had been for ever marked white so black Americans would know instantly to keep their distance. In fact, the definition of white in this black supremacist church was just one drop of white blood in a black person. It was Nazi-like in its racist precision and exclusion. Whites were denied the rites that made a person a full member of the church. Even blacks with a tiny strain of white DNA were kept from full participation.

Imagine further that backing this racist church was not a youthful folly on Obama’s part, but a profound commitment – that he went on a mission abroad to convert Christians to a new religion based on black racial supremacy, and has often said that the most important thing in his entire life to this day is a church whose sacred scripture declares white people to be cursed by God for their past sins – and the sign of this curse is their white skin.

A simple question: Do you think this issue would not come up in a general election or a primary? If Obama was subjected to news cycle after news cycle of clips of Obama’s actual former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, can you imagine the outrage if Obama had actually been a part of a black supremacist church – that denied whites equal access to the sacraments – for over a decade in his adult life?

I raise this because it is a fact that Mitt Romney belonged to a white supremacist church for 31 years of his life, went on a mission to convert Christians and Jews and others to this church, which retained white supremacy as a doctrine until 1978 – decades after Brown vs Board of Education, and a decade after the end of the anti-miscegenation laws.

Wow– good point.

7) Really enjoyed a talk this week by Hedrick Smith on his new book, Who Stole the American Dream.  Nice review by Dan Froomkin.

Abortion, rape, and God’s will

Really liked this Amy Sullivan take on Richard Mourdock (child from rape is what “God intended.”)

I was just shocked that anyone was shocked. Lots of Republican politicians oppose rape exceptions. Paul Ryan, for one, opposes abortion in the case of rape. Rarely does anyone bother to offer an explanation for why he holds that position. (Todd Akin famously did earlier this year, and that didn’t go so well for him.) I’m not sure what justifications people had imagined for opposing a rape exception that would be more acceptable than Mourdock’s.

Despite the assertions of many liberal writers I read and otherwise admire, I don’t think that politicians like Mourdock oppose rape exceptions because they hate women or want to control women. I think they’re totally oblivious and insensitive and can’t for a moment place themselves in the shoes of a woman who becomes pregnant from a rape. I think most don’t particularly care that their policy decisions can impact what control a woman does or doesn’t have over her own body. But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life and that to end a life created by God is murder, then all abortion is murder, regardless of the circumstances in which a pregnancy came about.

Take a look again at Mourdock’s words: “I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And…even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The key word here is “it.” I think it’s pretty clear that Mourdock is referring to a life that is conceived by a rape. He is not arguing that rape is the something that God intended to happen.

This is a fairly common theological belief, the understanding of God as an active, interventionist. It’s also not limited to conservative Christians. There are liberal Christians who also argue that things work out the way they’re supposed to. Some of them are in my own family, and I think they’re wrong. But it is one way of grappling with the problem of theodicy, trying to understand why God would allow bad things to happen.

Theodicy (all-powerful God allows lots of bad stuff), I think, is the ultimate problem with Christianity.  I remember listening to an interview with Bart Ehrman (agnostic Biblical scholar) who said that this was basically what caused him to lose his faith.  How exactly do you get around saying that God “intends” one sick child to die of his cancer and another to live.  Or heck, the Holocaust to happen.  It’s tough.  Anyway, Sullivan gets into it even more, but mostly I really appreciate her much more nuanced view on the whole matter.

Photo of the day

Andrew Filer has photographed every dot on the map in North Dakota.  In Focus compiles his best.  My favorite:

The Scandia Valley Church, in West Bonetraill, North Dakota, part of photographer Andrew Filer’s “Everydot” project. (© Andrew Filer)

Memo to my dad

So, instead of catching up on all the blogging I wanted to do, I just spent 45 minutes last night working on a memo to my dad to convince him that he really needs to be voting for Obama.  Not a good investment of my time, but I can at least share it here.  It’s very personalized to his particular concerns based on our recent conversations, but there’s plenty of general points.  As for the mentioned articles I’m sending him, they are most prominently Mann and Ornstein’s great piece on the modern GOP, David Frum’s great New York magazine piece, a couple other Op-Eds and various policy comparisons.  It’s long, but if you are curious…



To: Robert Greene

From: Steven Greene

Re: 2012 Presidential Vote



Okay, I prepared this especially for you because I think I have a pretty good idea of your political viewpoints after 1) being your son for 40 years; 2) our recent conversations.  I think if you honestly read the attached articles and reflect on them, you’ll see that you should vote for Obama because he comes much closer to representing the course that you think government should take.

1) Read the Mann and Ornstein piece.  The simple fact is that the Republican party has moved way right and Democratic party has moved only modestly left.  Ideologically, you are at most, a 1980’s Republican.  Ronald Reagan would literally be an apostate in today’s Republican party.  There is nothing truly conservative about today’s Republican Party.  In their efforts to dramatically change government, the budget, and the relationship between people and the budget, they are radical.  They have shown time and time again that their fundamental value is lower taxes for rich people.  There was no interest in shrinking government when Bush was in office, just lowering taxes.  With Obama in office, they want to eliminate programs Democrats like, i.e., Medicaid, social safety net, not actually shrink government.  Obama has tried time and time again to get a compromise to cut spending and raise taxes but the entire Republican party is completely committed to never raising any taxes ever.  You know that’s true and you know that’s absolutely unsustainable.

2) You are concerned about our long term fiscal health.  So am I!  As a an expert in American public policy, I can tell you that far and away the key driver of these concerns is health care spending and Medicare.  Obamacare attempts to reign in these costs!  It is predicted to save billions and billions in it’s second decade.  Romney has promised to repeal it, which non-partisan experts agree will increase the deficit.  If we get health spending under control, we are probably 80% of the way to solving our long-term problems (that and modest tax increases).  Obamacare is far from perfect, but it is a solid first step.  And any serious health policy expert will tell you that there’s no evidence that Romney/Ryan proposals will successfully contain health costs.  Market-based solutions are great when they work.  They simply don’t in health care.  The evidence from advanced democracies around the world, though, is incontrovertible that more government involvement is what brings down health costs.  Kathleen and Mitt Romney can deny this all they want, but the evidence is beyond a doubt.

3) Many pundits have said the US Government is basically a health insurer for old people and a giant military.  Other major source for cuts is defense.  Yet here Mitt Romney wants to increase dramatically.  While the US Military already spends more than the next 10 countries combined!  Enough said.

4) So, how to do all this while cutting taxes all around?  Cut non-defense domestic discretionary spending (i.e., everything but Medicare and Social Security) from 12% of the budget to 3% of the budget.  That’s nuts.  That means food inspections, highways, air traffic control, the FBI, national parks.  Everything.

4a) And it certainly means dramatically less government resources to help people such as your own son and grandson.  Yes, this is personal.  A vote for Romney is truly choosing to embrace an extreme individualistic ideology that says that the families of people like Robbie and Alex are in this on their own and should not really expect much help from government.  I choose to believe that, ultimately, we’re all in this together.  And I think you do, too.

5) Environment.  You admitted that the best way towards energy independence is conservation.  Not even part of Romney’s agenda.  Sure we need more exploitation of domestic resources.  But ask yourself who you genuinely trust to do this in a responsible way?

6) Foreign policy.  Any honest foreign policy expert will tell you that Romney’s foreign policy is basically Obama’s with meaner words.  That’s just not serious.  If you watched the debate, you know he basically admitted as much.  “Meaner words” is not actually a foreign policy that works in the real world.  I know you understand that the world is a lot more complicated than that.

7) Back to the first point.  You want to vote for Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts.  Being a governor of a state that is 80% Democratic means that you actually have to be moderate and pragmatic to get things done.  And to look much more like a 1980’s Republican.  As a political science professor, I can tell you that there is absolutely no reason to believe he would govern a country with a Tea Party-dominated Congress in the same way he governed in Massachusetts.  none!  Mitt Romney has shown that he will adopt politically expedience ideological positions.  Fine, but you have to understand that when you are a Republican president facing a Republican Congress who’s agenda has already been driven by the Tea Party for the past two years that this means the politically expedient thing to do is to go along with the Tea Party agenda.  There’s really no other choice.  You may not want it to be true– in fact I can tell that you don’t want it to be true– but any Republican president right now, due to the structural nature of American politics, would essentially have to govern as a Tea Party president.  If you don’t think that’s so, ask yourself why he spent the whole primary season bowing to Tea Party ideology and not once breaking ranks with the far right of the Republican party on any single issue.

8) I gave you a lot to read.  Please consider that I spent a lot of time compiling and highlighting this material because it’s important to me.  And to you.  And to your grandkids.  At least make sure you read the highlights.

9) Yes, plenty of other people close to you will be telling you that you should vote for Romney.  But only one person close to you is telling you who to vote for based on both 1) an extensive series of discussion about your own political beliefs (plus a life-time of observing them); and 2) the truly specialized knowledge that comes with working as a Political Science professor for over a decade.  A few years answering constituent mail for a Congresswoman is not exactly equivalent.  I’d like to think that you believe my many years of education and the fact that understanding politics is my full-time job are worth something.

Okay, I’m done.  The simple fact is that if you read these articles and honestly reflect on their implications and your own political beliefs, you will come to see that you should be voting to re-elect President Obama.


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