Mitt Romney, punch drunk

If this were a prizefight, the ref would step in and stop it. A landslide isn’t out of the question.

Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake pour some cold water on Democratic euphoria about the polls: since in many ways the current environment isn’t as favorable for Obama as 2008 was, his margin in 2008 puts a reasonable upper bound on his likely margin this year; indeed, this year is likely to be closer.

Yes, but.

First off, the Cillizza and Blake analysis ignores the secular demographic trends that make each cycle harder for what has become the National Capitalist White People’s Party: not only the changing ethnic mix, but also the strongly communal ethic of the Millenials.

It also ignores the dynamic of a blowout Presidential election: the decision by a slice of the voters who generally vote for one party that this year’s candidate simply isn’t up to the job of President. The victim is usually the challenger: Goldwater in ’64, McGovern in ’72, Mondale in ’84. But it can happen to the incumbent: Jimmy Carter after the failed hostage rescue mission in 1980.

That may be happening to Mitt Romney this year, not without some skilled help from the Obama team and the press, but mostly driven by Romney’s own rebarbative personality and transparent lack of principle, courage, judgment, and empathy, and the fact that the party he nominally leads is completely off the rails and hasn’t let him tack to the center.

Speaking of skilled help, here’s the ad Greg Sargent calls “brutal”: not, I take it, as a criticism, but merely as a tribute to its brutal effectiveness. Chris Lemos may be overstating, but not by much, when he calls it a “knockout punch”.

Here’s Romney’s attempt to get up off the floor:

And here’s the DNC, knocking him down again:

In an actual prizefight, any decent ref would step in at this point and stop it. But a Presidential election goes all 15 rounds. If it were happening to almost anyone but Romney, you’d start to feel a little sorry for him.

Note that I’m not predicting a landslide, though I’m hoping for one, and one big enough to carry the House despite all the gerrymanders. Of course the race could tighten if Romney manages to seem more or less human in the debates. But there’s no guarantee that Romney will do as well as McCain did.

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:

14 thoughts on “Mitt Romney, punch drunk”

  1. Of course the race could tighten if Romney manages to seem more or less human in the debates

    As I see it, Romney has a fundamental problem: as you say, he has to overcome his likability problem, to restore his humanity. But at the same time, he needs a game changer – he needs to launch a punch and have it hit home. I obviously hope that won’t happen, and think it shouldn’t happen on the available facts, but I assume Romney will be seeking it, and will be coming on strong, launching punch after metaphorical punch. But it would be hard for a politician more skilled than Romney to follow such a strategy while simultaneously portraying themselves in a manner likely to enhance their likability …

    1. I don’t think that he will be able to throw a punch. What hits me about the Romney ad and about his convention speech is Romney’s “sincere” face. He lets his facial muscles go soft. It is such a weak look. He is not going to fight for you, at best he is showing that he will not be able to fight against you.

    1. It’s more common in French. I’m not sure I’ve seen it in English before. Every little (or big) adjective helps, though.

  2. Q: How can the last ad end with Romney approving the message? Because it was based on his statements? Adding the word “half” in pencil was certainly not part of his message, and (IMO) there was/is no need to stoop to Rove’s level; Romney does himself enough damage.

    1. I’m pretty censorious about this stuff, but I’m willing to call that a joke, and a pretty funny one.

      I assume it really is Romney’s voice, clipped from some other ad. And Romney, who started the campaign by clipping Obama’s quote about a McCain adviser saying “If the election is about the economy, we lose” to make it appear that Obama had said that about himself, has no standing to complain.

      First rule of Karma Yoga: what goes around, comes around.

    2. I’m not a lawyer, but I think that legally the video can end with Romney approving the message because it’s not an ad. If they were to broadcast it anywhere, they’d need some kind of real message saying who paid for it (and I assume they couldn’t put anything in that suggested that someone else was paying for it). But you can probably post any old video on the web if that’s all you’re doing with it, especially because the satirical intent is clear. Unlike Romney’s repeated deceptive editing of Obama’s statements, no one would actually think that Romney had said he was sponsoring that particular ad.

      BTW, the “I approve this message” audio is from the same ad; play them back to back and you can hear how the DNC video’s “I approve this message” ends on a rising inflection, because it cuts off the “because yadda yadda boilerplate” that ends Romney’s own ad. (Not that this affects the substantive question at all, but Mark was semi-wondering where it came from.)

      Also, anyone else think that Romney’s ad is still super racist? Going after “food stamps” and “welfare,” hey-o.

  3. “National Capitalist White People’s Party” — more inspired political invective from Mark. I wonder who he will credit for this one–he doesn’t seem to want the glory that is rightly his. Although it might be worth noting that the Republicans are no more capitalist than the Nazis were socialist. However, “National Plutocratic White People’s Party” doesn’t have quite the proper ring to it.

    (But I do hope the invective ends on November 6. It’s tasty, but empty calories.)

    1. Yes indeed.
      Tis well to remember our old friend Redwave72…
      Doing his Romney gloaty goat dance back on August 23, 2012 at 6:38 am:

      Mark, I can only surmise that as you wrote this post, your tongue was planted firmly in your cheek, as was Mr. Williamson’s when he wrote his article. Nevertheless, in a long line of idiotic, partisan posts, this drivel ranks right up there with the dopiest. I smell panic in the air among the D’s. And we haven’t even had the conventions yet!

      Moral of the story: Let’s not count our gloats until we’ve eaten our oats…

  4. Agreed about premature gloating, but it’s still worth noting that when Cilizza and Blake say this they’re buggin’:

    “And if Obama comes up even slightly short of his margins four years ago, then Romney could well have a shot at winning the handful of swing states he needs to get to 270 electoral votes.”

    Using the electoral vote calculator, let’s flip NE-1 and IN back to Romney — those are gimmes — and NC as well. Then let’s flip the three swing states they were talking about, OH, FL, and VA. Romney’s still down 272-266. He needs to flip one more state.

    Under this scenario NH, NV, CO, and maybe IA would probably be quite attainable for Romney — no premature gloating, I’m not saying that Romney has no shot. But what this isn’t is a scenario where Obama has come up slightly short of his 2008 margins. If he’s losing five swing states plus one non-swing state, he’s running way behind his margins. Cilizza and Blake have some fantasy where Obama’s losses are microtargeted to the swingiest states, but there’s no reason to believe that would happen. Especially since OH may well be more favorable to Obama this year than in 2008 — in 2008 Obama hadn’t yet personally saved the state’s economy. (And if Romney loses OH, he needs NV, CO, and IA just to throw the election to the House.)

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