Latest election results

Reality-checking beats magical thinking. Logic talks, and bullsh*t walks.

Reality-checking beats magical thinking.

Yes, campaigning and governing are different in some fundamental ways. But Project Orca seems to have been to the data-driven Obama outreach and GOTV effort roughly as the handling of Hurricane Katrina was to the handling of Superstorm Sandy.

More broadly, the Red team preference for strong assertion over observation – its belief that noticing unpleasant facts gives them power over you, while displaying “toughness” allows you to overcome them – led to disaster for their party, as it led to disaster for the nation when the Red team was in power. It appears that Romney wrote a victory speech but not a concession speech not only because he had the delusional belief that victory was overwhelmingly likely but also because he superstitiously refused to plan for an event he hoped wouldn’t happen. Could there be any quality more dangerous in President than aversion to contingency planning?

And he could not have held that delusional belief had he not surrounded himself with people without the wit to see what was happening or without the courage to bring the boss bad news.

In other words, at campaign headquarters and in the Oval Office, logic talks and bullsh*t walks.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

78 thoughts on “Latest election results”

  1. The freaky part was that this guy got so close to the office.

    I don’t like to think this way about my Republican friends (and that is nto rhetorical. I have some.), but this is just dangerous. What sort of politician doesn’t plan for when things go pear-shaped? Good lord, I’m a humble software guy, and it seems like half my day is contingency-planning.

    It seems to me that anyone who considers themselves to be a Burkean conservative should be glad that a competent person they don’t like won.

  2. I think that the difference is more subtle than it first appears. In 2008, the Obama campaign had a similar system that they were going to employ named Houdini. It completely crashed within an hour of the polls opening and turned out to be next to useless on Election Day. Where the distinction is to be made is what the two campaigns did when their cherished real time database collapsed. This year the Romney campaign took eight hours to acknowledge that there was a problem and in the meantime just told its frustrated GOTV workers to act confident and pretend that nothing was wrong. In contrast, four years ago the Obama campaign took all of the people that were supposed to be using Houdini and remobilized them into traditional GOTV efforts or into doing the best job possible to assemble the missing information by hand and hand carry it to local campaign HQs so that it could be used.

    The positives to be said about the Obama operation is that they learned from their mistakes and got it right the next time and that they had a combination of backup plans and quick thinking on the ground to enable them to do *something* when disaster happened. So the Big Government operation was nimble and responsive while the guys who tell us that their private sector experience taught them how to run things ran around in a panic.

    1. Well, from what I can tell Houdini itself worked a lot better than Orca. This contemporary National Journal story says that the hot line that was used to call in who had voted crashed, but the rest of the program worked (using other phone numbers and a web site and even some sort of mysterious fruit-based reporting system, Blueberries or something). This day-after report from a volunteer at dKos describes the crash as “the data input lagged a little because of technical difficulties, [and] Chicago called the local office and helped them fashion a solution.” (Though I just noticed in the comments that in Iowa and maybe PA it happened how you described–Houdini crashed and they went to tearsheets.) It sounds very different from the beginning-to-end clusterhump that John E. describes. Though the reviews may be colored by the outcomes of the elections.

      And yes, this would not have boded well for a Romney administration. If he didn’t plan competently or have contingencies in place for something he really cared about, like getting elected, what would’ve happened to something he was willing to sell out for a cheap point in the primaries, like disaster relief?

      1. I can’t speak for 2012, but quite honestly in 2008 far more of the work was being managed in the field (and by the senior volunteers rather than the paid staff) than Chicago/Plouffe ever admitted or even knew. On election day we had to printouts from the office, to be sure, but we also worked extensively from our community maps and the records that had been kept in our shared Google spreadsheets. Heck, we even had to order yard signs printed ourselves (probably violating copyright) – having grown up in Chicagoland I know they aren’t a big thing there, but in the area where I live now they are and when we couldn’t convince regional HQ of that we just went to the printer and got some.

        2008 was truly a grassroots/swarm effort. It sounds as if 2012 may have been more structured, but the fact is a distributed organization is always more capable and resilient than a tightly centralized one.


        1. Thanks for the insight.

          One thing I find funny is this quote from one of the articles linked in Mark’s first link:

          One of the most basic tenets of conservatism is a loathing and mistrust of big government and bureaucracy. Project ORCA was the embodiment of big government, top-down management. Information was sent by volunteers in swing states across the country to Boston, and those in Boston were then tasked with assigning other volunteers in those same swing states to contact those who had not yet been to the polls.

          As if ORCA had anything to do with government. It was a privately run operation and a bureaucratic mess. I can only assume that the author of that piece has never had to use health care, because turning our health care over to the tender private-sector ministrations of Big Insurance has created every bit as much of an embodiment of top-down bureaucratic management as project ORCA was. (Example: All the insurance claims on my daughter’s birth and first checkup were getting denied for a while because some cog at the insurance company decided that her last name had to be the same as mine.) And you can say the same about Big Credit Card, and Big Telephone too, and Big U-Haul, and — doesn’t everyone have a horror story about dealing with some ridiculous bloated private sector bureaucracy?

  3. Also, from the linked ORCA story:

    Using mainly open-source software and the Amazon service, the Obama campaign could inexpensively write and tailor its own programs instead of using off-the-shelf commercial software.

    That’s not socialism, it’s utopian communism! Amazing that it works better than closed proprietary software sold by crony consultants.

    These people liked to think of themselves as killer whales, sleek and pitiless. They ended up looking like pathetic manatees.

    1. Perhaps the Romneytron took so much juice out of the system for its own upgrades that ORC-A just never got past the Siege of Gondor stage in its own execution?


    2. “These people liked to think of themselves as killer whales, sleek and pitiless. hey ended up looking like pathetic manatees.”

      I think it is important to “pile on” this. Mr. Private Sector Job Creator had absolutely no idea what he was doing. Let people infer whatever they will from that.

      1. Sure, it uses open source…

        Yes, and that is where the benefit comes from. In my sideline work developing software, I always use open source software and tools (usually a lamp stack), not so that I can modify the source to my needs (I’ve never needed to), but because the open nature of the development process insures easy configurability and interoperability between powerful tools that do all the heavy lifting allowing me to develop useful, reliable, custom-tailored software quickly with a few scripts and configuration settings. When I run into seemingly complex problems like I did recently storing and retrieving unicode characters properly from browser to webserver to scripting language to database server and back, a quick google search (another service built on open source software) will quickly point me in the right direction 99% of the time, saving me much time wading through the documentation on character set encodings and configuration settings.

  4. I liked Mitt’s concession speech. It sounded gracious and genuine. I think it was the highlight of his truth-challenged campaign.

    1. I thought it turned into a stump speech after the first few opening lines. Mind you, I’m not inclined to be generous to Romney, so perhaps I’m being unfair.

      But, then, press reports say that he wrote it very quickly, that he’d drafted nothing ahead of time. We can assume that for much of the hour that elapsed from when Fox News called the race Romney was doing something other than preparing his statement – discussing his chances with his advisors, or talking with his running mate and his family. It would hardly be surprising if Romney used chunks of text he had available and had experience with.

      1. I personally was afraid he was talking to lawyers about drumming up some challenges to the results, though once VA, CO, and NV went to Obama that would have been hopeless, assuming he was even considering it.

      2. I don’t for a minute believe that Romney’s speech wasn’t written ahead of time. Every campaign, no matter how confident–and these guys couldn’t have been that confident–has 2 speeches written. A Romney speechwriter undoubtedly had a concession speech ready. Just another bullshit lie from the Republican candidate and his campaign.

        1. I believe it.

          It’s the kind of thing big-shot big-head business types do, or rather don’t do, all the time. It’s partly ego, partly superstition, partly fear of “injecting negativity” – planning for the possibility that something might go wrong is questioning the wisdom of one’s vision. Remember, no staff member was going to go to Romney and suggest that a concession speech might be needed, and he was unlikely to admit that himself.

          1. Do you want to be the staff member who pipes up after defeat is clear and say “well, gee, I have a concession speech ready for just this occasion” – like you were the pessimist in the bunch, and were spending planning for defeat instead of working for victory? Would you want to be tasked ahead of time to prepare a concession speech, while everyone else is anticipating and working for victory?

            Actually: how old is this “concession speech” tradition, anyway? I’m not sure I remember it before about 2000, but I could easily not have noticed.

          2. a quick google search found stephen a. douglas’s concession to lincoln–“Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” so at least 152 years.

          3. Good find, Navarro.

            I’m not sure a fifteen-word press release is quite the same thing as appearing before a crowd of supporters with extended prepared remarks (what was Romney’s speech, about 650 words?). I’m just wondering when this custom came about. Clearly it’s been around a while now (and doing some quick Googling, it’s been a television staple for decades), but somehow it seems to attract more attention now, or maybe I pay more attention now.

            It may just be that I pay more attention since 2008, because of all the drama around Sarah Palin’s demands to give her own concession speech. I saw Kerry’s concession speech in person, and I don’t really remember it.

          4. Warren, I saw the first televised concession speech in 1952. I was nine, and it made such an impression on me that when I saw John McCain’s in 2008 I thought “that’s the best since Stevenson in ’52.” I found Stevenson’s and copied it on my hard drive, where I still have it to remind myself the way politics used to be, back in the day. I hope readers will enjoy reading how you do it the right way, or just skip over it:

            I have a statement I should like to make. If I may, I shall read it to you.

            My fellow citizens have made their choice and have selected General Eisenhower and the Republican party as the instruments of their will for the next four years.

            The people have rendered their verdict, and I gladly accept it.

            General Eisenhower has been a great leader in war. He has been a vigorous and valiant opponent in the campaign. These qualities will now be dedicated to leading us all through the next four years.

            It is traditionally American to fight hard before an election. It is equally traditional to close ranks as soon as the people have spoken.

            From the depths of my heart I thank all of my party and all of those independents and Republicans who supported Senator Sparkman and me.

            That which unites us as American citizens is far greater than that which divides us as political parties.

            I urge you all to give General Eisenhower the support he will need to carry out the great tasks that lie before him.

            I pledge him mine.

            We vote as many, but we pray as one. With a united people, with faith in democracy, with common concern for others less fortunate around the globe, we shall move forward with God’s guidance toward the time when his children shall grow in freedom and dignity in a world at peace.

            I have sent the following telegram to General Eisenhower at the Commodore Hotel in New York:‘The people have made their choice and I congratulate you. That you may be the servant and guardian of peace and make the vale of trouble a door of hope is my earnest prayer. Best wishes, Adlai E Stevenson.’

            Someone asked me, as I came in, down on the street, how I felt, and I was reminded of a story that a fellow townsman of ours used to tell – Abraham Lincoln. They asked him how he felt once after an unsuccessful election. He said he felt like a little boy who had stubbed his toe in the dark. He said that he was too old to cry, but it hurt too much to laugh.

  5. More broadly, the Red team preference for strong assertion over observation – its belief that noticing unpleasant facts gives them power over you, while displaying “toughness” allows you to overcome them – led to disaster for their party, as it led to disaster for the nation when the Red team was in power. It appears that Romney wrote a victory speech but not a concession speech not only because he had the delusional belief that victory was overwhelmingly likely but also because he superstitiously refused to plan for an event he hoped wouldn’t happen. Could there be any quality more dangerous in President than aversion to contingency planning?

    This strikes me as a milquetoast version of Cortez’s burning (or rather, scuttling) his fleet; milquetoast because the people running the campaign did not destroy their alternatives, just deny that they were necessary.

        1. It’s also something that Sun Zi advocates, and was put into practice on several occasions in China’s history.

          “On hemmed-in ground, I would block any way of retreat. On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness of saving their lives. For it is the soldier’s disposition to offer an obstinate resistance when surrounded, to fight hard when he cannot help himself, and to obey promptly when he has fallen into danger.”

          1. Or perhaps this passage better describes what happened:

            “We are not fit to lead an army on the march unles we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.”

            The failure of ORCA robbed Romney of his local guides.

            As an aside, I’ve seen a lot of references to The Art of War lately. I myself read it more or less on impulse because it’s a free Kindle download. Does that account for my observation, or is it something everyone else has read as a matter of course at some time?

          2. The Red Army used this approach on a number of occasions during World War II, to mixed results. Most famously, it worked perfectly at Stalingrad. However, at Kharkov it turned defeat into total catastrophe. Other exampls at both ends of the spectrum can be found.

  6. Sometime early in the campaign an interviewer asked Pres. Obama if he thought he could lose this race. Without equivocating or hesitating, he said “yes.”

    That has something to do with what happened here.

  7. What’s amazing about the ORCA business is that a candidate’s team is supposed to be learning through the primary season what works and what doesn’t, and testing various software/human solutions then. I don’t know, but don’t doubt that the O campaign learned a hell of a lot about strategy and tactics (and logistics, the sine qua non for all success) going up against Sec. Clinton’s campaign for 4 long months. The Romney campaign had the same learning opportunity, and seems not to have gotten much of anything from it.

  8. I always chuckle or madly grit my teeth when someone mentions that the military is planning to invade Mexico or Canada or Iran because there are contingency plans for this. I want to shout, “THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!!!” Having contingency plans doesn’t mean you intend to use them but just in case one of Rumsfield’s unknown unknowns happens you’ve got a plan.

  9. I’m as happy as the next guy on this comment board that BO won a second term. (Unless the next guy’s name is Brett…) I’m also enjoying all the GOP hand-wringing about demographic shifts and the decline of the old white male as the dominant power in electoral politics. (Even while being one.)

    But all the gloating about the ways in which the Dems’ approach annihilated the “delusional” GOP seems to me a bit delusional. This was a very close election. Before Tuesday we had confidence, but hardly certainty. The vote tally was 51/49. Scale that to a football-ish score and you’ve got a game decided by a single extra-point kick. That’s no rout, and hardly the basis for claiming that the other team was incompetent.

    I would love to see this election move the GOP back towards moderation, perhaps leaving behind their fundamentalists, their xenophobes and the neocons. But there’s still a lot of all of those, and given how quickly they recovered from 2008 – when we really did have grounds for thinking they were a discredited force – I think we’ll be seeing more of those angry white guys.

    Also, numerous mainly midwestern states have been redistricted to dramatically tilt the electoral playing field to give the GOP a near lock on the house. Undoing that will not happen anytime soon.

    Sorry to rain on the parade, but I’m not sure it’s entirely reality-based.

    1. This is actually a better argument than Frank Rich made not so long ago:

      The Tea Party Will Win in the End

      I notice TPM is running an article on Ruy Teixeira’s demographics…
      And there does seem to be some inevitability to the numbers: 4 years from now a new cohort of 18-22s will vote and some more old people will die.

      But, but, but…
      We are talking zombies empowered with zombie lies here.
      To recast Yogi Berra: With zombies it ain’t ever over.
      That’s why I want a way to start putting money in Hillary’s kitty right now.

      As motivation consider this quote from the PLOS One blog:

      Although we’d like to believe that people determine how to vote based on relevant political issues, research has shown that countless subtle elements beyond just the candidate and party platform are at play in influencing voter decisions. In light of the upcoming election, let’s revisit some of this research published by PLOS ONE over the years that address some of these influences.

      Impressions based on candidate age and gender, as well as subconscious judgments of competency, approachability and attractiveness, are likely to have played a role in informing voters’ choices as long as democracy has been practiced. Several studies have explored these notions. Among them, an investigation into the effects of voter and candidate gender on voting behavior, exploring voter biases toward older candidates in times of conflict and whether Democrats and Republicans can be identified as such by their facial appearance alone!

      More recent developments in the media’s coverage of debates have incorporated social elements in broadcasting and may be biasing audiences in new ways. The “worm”, seen above, is one such innovation; this continuous response measure presents real time data from undecided voters in a streaming line presented during live coverage of a debate. The research of Davis et al. demonstrates how easily these innovations can sway the opinions of viewers and urges more investigation into the impacts of this and other social media additions to coverage of debates.

      There are lots of links that don’t show in my quote.
      You can grab the full story with the links here:

      What Influences Voter Behavior? | EveryONE

  10. There may be more of a core belief behind Romney’s assumption that victory was assured than is generally known. People who should know tell me that part of the Mormon apocalyptic narrative is that a Mormon will become President and “save the Constitution,” helping usher in the “last days”. There’s more about what will happen with Israel etc., etc. but as I hear it that Mormon POTUS is a key factor.

    Scared the crap out of me when I heard that because it would explain all too well why so much of Romney’s platform seemed to be “once I’m elected it will just get better”. If you’ll recall, the stock market was going to be much better just because of confidence in Romney and foreign policy would suddenly be easy because he would speak and everyone would kowtow because they would know America was strong and resolute. I don’t know that Mr. Romney personally holds those beliefs but again, it sure seems to fit how he approached things.

    It’s one thing not to have a concession speech ready but what if you are completely not ready to govern because you don’t think it will be necessary? If the Apocalypse is upon us, FEMA is irrelevant and so is a whole lot of everything else. Takes the standard Bush Republican lack of interest in governing to a whole new level.

  11. Dennis G. at Balloon Juice: “And why was Team Mittens so certain that they would win? Easy: magical thinking. And that’s what makes Mitt Romney a true conservative.”

    They will double and triple down on the denial of reality because they are not emotionally capable of doing anything else.

  12. While I find it astonishing that Romney didn’t know he was losing, ‘planning’ to lose was not a life-or-death matter. Romney probably figured he could do a concession speech on the fly if he had to — and in fact it was the only good speech he gave in the campaign, the only one not chock-full of poisonous lies. Let’s hope he would plan for a negative contingency if the stakes were higher.
    It’s also possible that the whole ‘never thought I could lose’ story line is bullshit — the last bullshit in a campaign that was all bullshit.

    1. It’s also possible that the whole ‘never thought I could lose’ story line is bullshit …

      Quite so. But then there was that floated video of Romney talking about his religion recently.
      From that it was apparent that Romney really really really really believes Jesus will return to earth and spend at least half his time in Utah.

      If Romney can believe that with compete sincerity…
      Believing he will win is an easy leap of faith.

    2. Romney is the kind of guy who only shines the front of his shoes– if he didn’t make the sale, he doesn’t give a shit what you think of him as he leaves the room.

      1. You could be right: certainly there was that weird move with the campaign credit cards – saving at most a few thousand bucks in a campaign that cost hundreds of millions, and unnecessarily insulting a bunch of aides who will actually be on the payroll until the end of the month and who need to clean up their offices and ideally (for the Republican party, not for my preferred outcomes) handle the data well in trust for the next nominee. A bunch of aides whose friendship might come in handy ten or fifteen years down the line for the inevitable political career of one or more of Romney’s five sons. And, speaking as a former resident of Massachusetts, I can say that Romney burned his bridges there with an appalling thoroughness.

        (still, your metaphor, though vivid, doesn’t quite work – even if he makes the sale, they’re still going to see the back of his shoes!)

        1. Well, the other side of it is, if he HAS made the sale, he doesn’t give a shit what you think either, as long as he made the sale.

    1. Funny, but you are of course aware that his assets are estate-planned to a fare-thee-well, for maximal tax advantage.

        1. Um, I think the joke is that if Romney didn’t think he could lose, maybe he similarly thinks he can’t die. It might not be the wittiest comment ever made (sorry John G) but no, it wouldn’t translate to Obama.

          That’s because we can assume Obama knows he isn’t invincible: for two small examples, he’d indicated he considered the possibility that he could lose the election (see Ed Whitney’s comment above) and he didn’t boast that he didn’t write a concession speech.

          I’ll add that I’ve laughed at any number of Obama satires. The first one was probably that MAD magazine bit about sneaking cigarettes. That was spot-on.

  13. The BS meter pegged high when Romney said that he prayed that Obama “will” begin to lead the country. Even in defeat the man is a slimy slinky snake who is not even a shadow of the man his father was.

  14. Interesting numbers:

    2012: (Note, this may look different a few weeks from now.)
    Obama 61,857, 999
    Romney 58,591,534

    Obama 69,499, 428
    McCain 59,950,323

    Bush 62,040,610
    Kerry 59,028,439

    Bush 50,460,110
    Gore 51,003,926

    Clinton 47,400,125
    Dole 39,198,755

    Clinton 44,909,806
    Bush 39,104,550

    Reagan 54,455,472
    Mondale 37,577,352

    Reagan 43,903,230
    Carter 35,480,115

    Nixon 47,168,710
    McGovern 29,173,222

    Nixon 31,783,783
    Humphrey 31,271,839

    Every President to win reelection since I was born, (And I’m no spring chicken!) managed to get appreciably more votes the second time around, and a better margin. Except Obama. Honestly, this doesn’t look to me like a successful President being given a second term by the people, let alone a masterful GOTV drive. Looks to me like a President widely viewed by the voters as lousy, lucking out by getting an even lousier opponent.

    Standard disclaimer applies: “N” is absurdly small, and every election differs in numerous relevant respects. But it is still clear that Obama is NOT better liked now that people have a taste of him.

    1. I can’t disagree that Obama is less popular now than in 2008.

      Still, I think there are some special aspects here. You may call Romney a lousy candidate, but he’s FDR compared to McCain. And Paul Ryan, for whom I have little regard, is Solomon compared to Palin. Remeber that the 2008 election looked fairly close until the financial crisis hit, and then McCain essentially made a very public fool of himself by trying to rush to Washington and take charge of matters he had neither understanding of nor control over.

      Also in every case listed except 2012 the winner won his first term against a sitting President or VP. That alone accounts for some of the improvement the second time.

      I guess I also disagree with the “Romney was a lousy candidate” idea, fro two reasons.

      First, which GOP contender would have done better? You want to see Obama beat his first-term margin? Nominate Santorum, or Bachmann and you get the biggest landslide since George Washington.

      Second, there is no ideal candidate. You have to nominate someone, and every candidate has flaws. It’s easy, in hindsight, to criticize Romney, but there are no perfect campaigns, and you can always look back at mistakes.

      1. “You may call Romney a lousy candidate, but he’s FDR compared to McCain.”

        That would be why he got fewer Republican votes than McCain? Because he was a better candidate than McCain? The difference between them sure wasn’t going to Obama, with Obama’s vote total being down.

        You’re right in a sense; He was FDR compared to McCain. And FDR was a Democrat. The problem is that the Republican base didn’t want to vote for a Democrat. The very things which make you think more highly of Romney than McCain are what hurt him.

        But you’re also right, that who else would they have run? The Republican establishment has put a lot of work into killing the careers of promising conservatives over the years, the pool of potential conservative Republican nominees is pretty small.

        But I’d still maintain that’s what they need, if they’re going to win: A candidate who didn’t make a name for himself opposing what his party stands for through most of the country. A candidate Republicans want to vote for.

        Their lack of such a candidate doesn’t mean it isn’t what they need. It just means they lose.

        1. Romney got more electoral votes than McCain. The drop in popular votes is mostly accounted for by a falloff in blue states. Between CA and NY Romney got about 1 million fewer votes – the biggest chunk of the difference – than McCain. That may be a byproduct of campaign strategy and lower general turnout as much as anything. The electoral college influences strategy, remember.

        2. Your wet dream of a candidate–some sort of Ayn Rand nightmare cyborg modeled to look like Paul Ryan–would be destroyed in an American election.

          The hard right thinks, “if only we preached our real values.” Your real values poll pretty close to bubonic plague. The GOP candidates who actually spoke their conservative minds in this election (Akin, Mourdock, West, Walsh, et al.) got pummelled. And in conservative districts where they’d been winning! An honest conservative is more often than not a losing conservative.

    2. Let’s put this in perspective, Brett. Only four presidents in the last century have gotten 51% of the vote twice. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Obama.

      Who would most people rank as the greatest three presidents of the last century? Likely Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan. You see where I’m going with this?

      Stop trying to downplay Obama’s enormous win. I know it’s a lie you tell yourself to make yourself feel better as a Republican (to quote Megyn Kelly.) But the dude just demolished your party, the Republicans, and their brand. I think a few years (or a century) in the wilderness will be good for the GOP. Humility. Compromise. Giving in. These are the words the GOP should be whispering to itself right now.

      1. Likely to be only a few years if the economy doesn’t improve and there are a lot of tummy aches from people taking their ObamaCare medicine.

        1. What are the odds of either? The economic CW is that a slow recovery will continue. The healthcare CW is that taken individually the components of Obamacare are popular, like the prexisting conditions ban, except for the individual mandate, now helpfully relabelled a small tax by the Supremes. In 2016, and probably 2014, people will wonder what all the fuss was about.

          Universal healthcare is popular everywhere ex post, however it was reached. There would be enormous resistance in Britain, France, Germany. Swede, Japan, to radical change – even adopting the system of any of the others.

    3. i think it’s also interesting that romney doesn’t show as many votes as mccain.

      i’d be interested in seeing some polling about why those 7.5 million voters did not vote this time. i’m absolutely guessing, but i would speculate that more of them stayed home because of drone strikes, kill lists, and the failure to pursue a single-payer health care system or gain a public option than stayed home because of the passage of obamacare or the auto company bailouts. again, i am totally guessing but i feel comfortable with that guess.

      1. I feel comfortable with the guess that the number of voters who stayed home because of drone strikes and kill lists is vanishingly small — like, 100k or less nationwide. Not that I don’t think they’re bad, I just think that it’s wrong to think that any significant number of Americans shares this concern to the extent of staying home for the election.

        1. @matt w–

          i completely agree with your guess but that wasn’t what i was getting at with my comment. i was strictly comparing the numbers of those turned off by the one compared to the number turned off by the other.

      2. Once all the votes are in, Romney’s vote total will be about as big as McCain’s – at the least, it will go from being a million-and-a-half less to less-than-a-million less. There are hundreds of thousands of votes remaining to be counted in Arizona alone, apparently.

        More generally, all this hand-wringing about how Romney was a terrible candidate is laughable. Romney is the Ken doll of candidates: ruggedly handsome and almost infinitely flexible. He didn’t inspire a movement of volunteers like Obama did (twice), but no Republican has done that in decades, if ever.

        And if Romney was so terrible, whose fault is that? Obama was obviously vulnerable in 2008, in a way clearly visible in early 2011: the economy was going to remain weak at best, no more legislation could pass the House, and the Arab Spring that started in December 2010 was always going to be muddled and would inevitably bring the Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk to power. Any Republican with ambition could see that all they had to do was look handsome and sternly mouth empty platitudes, and they’d have a shot at the oval office. And yet, look who ran: Romney, of course; one bland nonentity of a former Governor from Minnesota who lost his nerve the moment people didn’t fall at his feet; one personable but profoundly lazy sitting Governor of Texas who couldn’t be bothered to join the race and ran at the first sign of trouble; Obama’s former ambassador to China, who was clearly the best man in the race and as clearly had no hope; and a ludicrous peanut gallery of freaks, nuts, grifters, and jokes, each of whom was – incredibly – taken seriously by the Republican establishment, even though Vermin Supreme would have fit in just fine among them. All Romney had going for him was money, an above-median IQ, an actual desire for the job, and a strong jawline – and that combination easily sufficed to get the nomination.

        In 2008,by comparison, the Democrats had at least five candidates who were entirely plausible (allowing for the possible exclusion of Chris Dodd, who was perhaps of lesser stature, or of John Edwards, who was not yet publicly exposed for what he was, however phony he seemed). Even in 2008, a much less promising year for the Republicans, the R’s had at least three serious contenders, four if you count Giuliani. But in 2012 only one non-joke candidate made a serious effort, despite the structural advantages of 2012 to the Republicans. If you want to claim Romney was unusually weak, you have to look at the rot in the Republican party.

        1. Warren, I’m not sure why you think you, a loyal Democrat who’d never for a moment consider voting for anybody the Republicans would plausibly nominate, are in any way qualified to say who is a plausible Republican nominee. They’re ALL going to fall short of the mark for you, simply by virtue of being Republicans, and if they do anything to appeal to Republicans you’ll positively loath them.

          If in 2007 you had asked any Republican whether Barack Obama was a plausible Presidential candidate, they would have laughed… After looking him up. Jr Senator with abbreviated political career, no executive branch experience, no notable accomplishments, habit of voting “present”, poisonously radical associates… The idea that he would make a good candidate for President was laughable! Heck, we still think the idea that he’s a good President is a bad joke, for all that we must admit he’s very gifted at campaigning.

          You know who *I* thought was a plausible nominee for you guys in 2007? Brian Schweitzer. Incredibly popular Governor with legislative experience, would have completely defused the gun issue, knows how to win over the other side. I thought he rocked.

          We don’t have enough understanding of each other, to spot the other side’s rising stars. The very fact that I, from a hugely different ideological position, think somebody in the Democratic party make make good Presidential material almost certainly means they’re doing something Democrats would regard as disqualifying. The same goes for you in regards to the Republicans. Anybody you’d like on the Republican side would be dead meat.

          There WAS a shortage of great Republican candidates last year. This is a function of a Republican establishment at odds with it’s own base, strangling in the cradle anybody they think might grow to be another Reagan. But there were several the party would have come together behind better than Romney. They just couldn’t get past the establishment. Especially with them dividing the “Anybody but Romney” vote.

          I see several likely prospects for 2016, such as Rand Paul. With the Tea party around, the establishment’s ability to kill off rising conservative stars is in the decline. Yes, 2016 looks plausible, especially if the Republicans make gains in 2014.

          1. Brett, I agree completely. Democrats don’t have a great sense of who will appeal to conservatives.

            However, I think the Democrats have a far better sense of who can win the general election. After all, we’ve won the popular vote five of the last six times. And I guarantee you that anyone that true conservatives nominate for the Republican presidential candidate WILL NOT WIN.

            Rand Paul could never win the presidency–not in a million years. Nor could any of the Romney alternatives, with the exception of Jon Huntsman, who polled very low in GOP circles. Bachmann? Gingrich? Santorum? Ron Paul? These people would have been minus 40% in a general election.

            Until your party moderates and figures out how to abandon its crazies, you’re in the wilderness.

          2. And, I should add, the people who conservatives see as just normal aw-shucks folks (Bachmann, Santorum, even Ron Paul) the majority of Americans see literally as unhinged crazies.

            You can fool yourself that this isn’t true, but think about it for five minutes and you’ll realize I’m right. And what does that say about the GOP that so many conservatives see their best hope with completely unelectable radicals outside of the mainstream?

          3. Brett,
            Obama’s resume in 2008 was a bit thin (though not as thin as was suggested by the Right; Hilzoy did a great job on this back in 2007/2008). But he was running as a serious person, not a crank or a grifter. I described the Republican field in 2012 above; do you really think my characterizations were unfair? Do you dispute that in 2008 – in a year the economy and world events meant Republicans were almost sure to lose, unlike 2012 – the Republican field contained a handful of serious, non-crazy, non-discredited people capable of getting a decent result in November?

            I’m not going to support the Republicans. You and I would disagree about policies, etcetera. But I suspect we can agree at least to some extent about where the political center lies and the elements of seriousness, and I suspect we can agree that Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum could never be the nominee of a major party (in 2012; Gingrich before he divorced a second time and spent fifteen years talking utter rot might have, or Santorum before the voters of PA walloped him), and any of these would be a disaster in the general election.

    4. Brett,it’s certainly true that “Obama is NOT better liked now that people have a taste of him.” But you have to remember this–before we saw him actually trying to herd the stampede of cats, lots of folks had the romantic notion that he could “rise above it all and bring us together.” That notion, unfortunately, may have also infused President Obama himself, and caused many delays and false starts in implementing any agenda at all.

      Now we have to judge him on what he’s accomplished, and on the strength of the opposition to his programs. So I don’t know how he rates, but obviously it’s way ahead of W and Carter, and behind Reagan and LBJ.

      BTW, Brett, I was surprised to see you really are a spring chicken–not yet born when Ike won his 1956 landslide!

      1. God, or whatever controls our destiny, preserve us all from another Reagan, the US admiration for whom baffles the rest of the world – he lied better than Romney, but his administration was sleazy, dishonest, and economically horrible.

  15. Apparently here was no fall-off in turnout in the battleground states. So the falloff in overall turnout may relate to only having an actual campaign in nine states this time.

    Or maybe Romney’s pathological lying, Romney’s evident lack of any core beliefs except in his own destiny and the wealth of the wealthy, and (for some) Romney’s religion just turned off a bunch of otherwise Republican voters. Even in Ohio, rural turnout was down.

  16. Lack of core beliefs? I’d say that’s not quite the concern conservatives had. After all, were he totally pragmatic, he might govern in a way to make the base happy, to ensure their support for reelection.

    No, the fear was that he was lying about his core beliefs, and would revert to being the liberal Republican Governor of Massachusetts as soon as the election was past. Kind of like the first Bush? Conservatives have had a belly full of electing people, only to watch them “grow” in office.

    His religion? Weird, to be sure, but everybody agrees that while Mormons believe some weird stuff, they’re aside from that fairly nice people. His religion sure beat the Reverend Wright all hollow.

      1. Well, maybe you can explain what you saw, so I can determine if you saw what I intended.

        1. as i have no desire to get involved in a protracted discussion to no conclusion i hesitate to say.

          simply put, sir, it is the gratuitous reference to reverend wright.

          1. And how is a reference to Obama’s religion gratuitous immediately following a reference to Romney’s religion?

          2. A reference to Rev. Wright is not intended as an honest description of Obama’s religion. Obama speaks of his coming to religion in his book about his father. Rev. Wright was one person he listened to. The reason that Rev Wright got under some people’s skin is his comment that 9/11 was ‘American’s chickens coming home to roost’. Probably 90% of the world outside the US thought that American policies abroad had a lot to do with Osama Bin Laden’s hatred and the criminal actions of his followers. Very few thought that they *justified* 9/11, and I don’t think even Rev. Wright in his most passionate anti-racist-American moments said that, but there is a connection, not a complete unfathomable mystery.

            So: speak to Obama’s basic Protestant brand of Christianity, but linking it necessarily to Rev Wright is a different matter than mentioning mainstream Mormonism and Mr Romney.

          3. thanks to john g. for hitting those notes before i had a chance. i also have the feeling that the only reason mr. bellmore brought up romney’s religion was so he could bring up reverend wright.

    1. Again, conservative values don’t have a lot of support in US general elections. But the insanity of the GOP is that a candidate has to cater to the crazies in order to get the nomination, then whiplash back to the center just in time for November.

      The lunatics Romney was up against in the primary would likely have seem numbers closer to 60%-40% Obama if they’d been elected. For the sake of the nation, though, I hope the GOP nominates more candidates from the far right in the future. They will ensure a nice long term seat in the Presidency for Democrats.

  17. No, the fear was that he was lying about his core beliefs,..

    Reasonable enough. I mean, we can be quite certain that he was lying about his core beliefs a fair percentage of the time. We just don’t know when.

    1. I think we can agree on that. Republicans and Democrats worried he was lying at different moments, but both worried he was lying.

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