This blog entry is purely about US politics, there is no meaningful tech or mobile issues to this blog entry. There is nothing here about Nokia or the upcoming iPhone etc. So feel free to skip this blog entry. But some of my long-term readers and fans and friends know that I also have a passion about US Presidential politics and have followed the US Presidential elections since Nixon vs McGovern ie 1972. So this is only for those readers, who might be interested in Tomi Ahonen's view on how he sees the US 2012 elections now, right after the Conventions. If you are intersted, follow me past the fold here to the full blog
So welcome. And long-essay warning: this blog article is long by my standards, it runs over 16,000 words! Get your cup of coffee before you start. But yes, lets talk US politics. First very briefly about me and my passions. While I am a Finnish citizen and obviously cannot vote in US elections, I have had preferences and opinions and forecasts on each US election since 1972. My preference has been almost perfectly like a 'swing voter' evenly split Republican or Democrat in past elections, including changing my mind on an incumbent I initially did not prefer, to becoming disillusioned with an incumbent I had initially preferred. I lived in the USA for 12 years, from 1983 to 1995. Thus I became very deeply exposed to the full electoral system there while watching the full primaries-to-elections cycle three times (1984 Reagan-Mondale, 1988 Bush 1-Dukakis and 1992 Clinton-Bush 1). I becamse addicted to the US TV and media coverage of US elections and became very familiar with the mechanics of the elections ie the mechanism of the Electoral College and the concept of 'battleground states' where every election is won or lost. I soon learned the relative values of those states, why Florida and Ohio are so vital to any winning campaign, etc.
WHY OBAMA SHOULD BE RUNNING AWAY WITH THIS ELECTION
First a few issues. The US sitting President is almost always re-elected. Carter did not as did not Bush 1, but those are rare exceptions. In both cases the sitting president was seen as highly unpopular and the rival challenger (Reagan, Clinton) were seen in the campaign as highly popular. This time we have Obama as the highly popular incumbent and Romney a remarkably unpopular challenger.
Secondly, the US Presidential elections tend to go like clock-work, two cycles of Democrats, followed by two cycles of Republicans, then two cycles of Democrats, and then again two cycles of Republicans. Since the second world war, its been that way every set of 8 years, two presidential election cycles except Carter re-election 1984 which had Democrats only with 1 cycle the only time in recent history that one party only got 1 cycle; and Reagan's second term extending to Bush 1 first term, the only time in recent history that one party got 3 cycles. The current Obama cycle is the first of a two-cycle period, so if you just follow the 'clock-work' pattern, this is clearly a Democratic Presidential year.
If you look at Obama's major campaign promises, he has fulfilled most of what he promised, and there were several huge promises there, starting with healthcare and ending the war in Iraq, and even more so, the unlikely achievement (considered at the time, after Bush 2 had tried for 7 years to no avail) of killing Osama Bin Laden. So for those who judge a president by did he fulfill his promises, yes, Obama didn't do everything, like not closing Guantanamo Bay for example, but most of his promises he has kept, and truly there were giant achievements there.
Similarly many presidents face scandals and crisis in their governments. Obama's first four years has been truly 'No Drama Obama' - no scandals of any meaningful extent. Having to dig into Solyndra or the Guns to Mexico problem (which started under Bush 2) is really at the very very mild level of scandals, if we look at recent presidential scandals such as Iran-Contra or Abu Graib or Iran Hostages or Monica Lewinski.
Finally there is the ongoing war. Afghanistan is the longest war in US history. And a strange historical quirk is that no sitting US president has been voted out of office during wartime. One could say, that Bush 1 failed his re-election by ending the Gulf War 1 against Saddam Hussein 'too early' - if Bush 1 had kept the war going on until the election, likely he'd have won his re-election. Anyway, today we have still an ongoing war and Americans don't vote out 'Wartime Presidents' even in 2004 where Bush 2 was highly unpopular and the then-ongoing Iraq war was highly unpopular, but Americans just don't want to replace Presidents during wartime.
By these reasons, Obama should be clearly favored to win re-election in 2012 and these may have been part of the reason why so many strong Republican candidates did not enter the race this year (like Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee). To be a challenger in a Presidential Election in modern times is only a one-time prospect so most 'strong' candidates probably calculated a year ago this time that Obama was too well set to most likely win re-election and thus the strongest candidates stayed out, waiting for 2016. That gave us the weak field that faced Mitt Romney this election cycle on the Republican side. But Obama has not been able to break 50% favorability rating. What gives?
WHY OBAMA SHOULD BE LOSING
There are really two reasons why incumbents have lost. Either the economy is bad, or the country is 'on the wrong track' (or usually both). And no recent President has won re-election when the unemployment rate has been above 8%, which it has been stubbornly during Obama's whole Presidential period. And while Obama gets very high personal favorability ratings, the opinion polls have for the past three years or so, been saying consistently that the country is on the 'wrong track' by a wide margin. By these measures, Obama's ratings should be well below those of challenger Romney (while they've been tied or slightly above Romney for the past year).
Also there is the let-down of the over-hype. Obama's Hope campaign in 2008 promised a post-partisan era where the paralyzing partisan politics would be superceded. That is his single biggest failure, the politics in America have become only more polarized during his tenure as President. Who cares exactly what caused it (Republicans have tactically decided to poison all Obama initiatives of post-partisanship so he can't claim this achievement) this is something Obama promised to bring to change Washington, and he clearly has not delivered on that major promise, and perhaps the one he was most identified with. Now, in 2012, he can no longer claim to be an outsider, it is honestly Romney who is the outsider, so the promise of a hope to change Washington is done and dusted, Obama didn't deliver that, and isn't even promising to do that now. Much of the 'movement' that voted Obama in, was powered by this hope of a new political world, that now is found to be an illusion. The extra voters who showed up to vote in 2008 did not show up in the mid-term elections in 2010, and almost certainly this year 2012 will not see as many voters as 2008 saw. This is likely to hurt Obama much more than Romney.
SO WE ARE AT 50/50
Almost always the US Presidential elections are close. Last few years, Bush 2-Gore, Bush 2-Kerry have been 51/49 elections, roughly speaking. Obama-McCain was expected to be another 51/49 nail-biter at this time in the 2008 election cycle, until the Sarah Palin VP disaster unfolded and McCain decided to 'suspend his campaign' etc disasters that pushed Obama to what was called a 'landslide' election that only went of 53/47 for Obama. America is very close to a 50/50 nation, and where Obama had exceptional luck in 2008 with Palin, the 'suspension' and that the economy suddenly 'cratered' so McCain's strong military experience was no longer the deciding factor but suddenly Obama's frequent recent warnings about economic troubles indicated he was more in tune with the sudden economic crisis, the reality in 2008 was again, close to a 50/50 electorate.
That is where we found the election before the Conventions, Obama slightly ahead at about 47% vs Romney about 45%, ie a 51/49 situation, where one or two factors might tilt the election into either camp. But as Obama's job satisfaction level was not at 50%, he was imminently vulnerable and clearly, the US economy was not about to start to roar along, it was barely improving, so the economic argument and unemployment rate etc all serve as easy ammunition for Romney the businessman who 'understands the economy'.
ULTIMATE CHALLANGER FOR OBAMA IS ROMNEY 2008
In 2008 a non-businessman Obama, a lawyer, community organizer and one-term Senator, was able to argue he was better to fix USA's sudden disasterous economic crisis, that clearly McCain the war-hero but 'deer caught in headlights' lost in economic issues was not prepared for. Obama is no economist, but he assembled a good panel of economic advisers and convinced the US electorate he was better prepared to fix the damage. Now we are four years later, and the economy is not 'fixed'. Yes, its 'better' than it was in 2008, obviously, but not good enough. Enter Romney.
Romney version 2008 would be the ultimate perfect rival against Obama today. First of all, obviously Romney is a highly successful businessman. He has fixed broken companies through his investment company Bain, and thus he could claim he knows the economy in ways Obama doesn't, and can point to successful companies he has in his past, helped turn around. Then there is the Winter Olympics, which Romney turned around from disaster to success. And best of all, he was the past Governor of Massachussetts, and could point to the turn-around of that State. Now, all of these arguments certainly have their flaws, but on paper, compared to any other conceivable rival (Christie, Huckabee, Palin, Pawlenty, Jindal etc) Romney was 'Mr I-Know-How-To-Fix-The-Economy-Guy'. The perfect rival candidate to Obama right now, in 2012, as Obama's own medicine has not been able to fix the economic situation.
Romney version 2008 was a moderate Republican. He had run in Massachussetts (a strongly Democratic state) in the past calling himself more liberal than Ted Kennedy in fact. Romney had governed as a pro-choice (ie in American political langauge this means not being anti-abortion) candidate. Romney had a history of working across the aisle with Democrats in his State. He had been able to act (or at least claim he had acted) in fiscally repsonsible ways, and while its also debatable, he could claim he balanced the Massachussetts budget without raising taxes. Romney had supported the womens health organization Planned Parenthood and most importantly Romney's Massachussetts was the first state to provide state-wide healtcare, and his Romneycare was literally the blueprint by which Obama created his national healthcare called Obamacare.
Romney 2008 was a centrist pragmatist technocrat Republican, no threat to any undecided swing voters. He was not a fervent militarist or gay-hater or religious Pro-Lifer. He was a business guy. The right man for an economy in trouble. A pragmatist and centrist, fully willing to compromise. And one of the decisive winning elements that Obama had held over McCain in 2008 was a huge fund-raising advantage. Romney is so wealthy he could out of his own money outspend Obama, not to mention he knows so many wealthy donors who have all opened their purses, that the Romney campaign has been awash in money both directly in his campaign funds, and the independent support organizations called PACs (Political Action Committees).
Romney 2008 could have entered this race and say, look, if you like Obamacare, I created it as Romneycare. If you like womens' choice, I've governed that way. If you think the economy is bad, I know how to fix it. If you think Washington is broken with political partisan gridlock, I know how to fix that, etc. But then being a Wall Street dude, Romney would draw most of the big dollars that Obama got from Wall Street 'back' to the Republican side (as has happened) and Romney would enter the race with more money than Obama.
I am 100% certain, that when the Obama campaign looked at the actual field of Republican candidates in late 2011 and considering the weak economy, they felt Romney was THE most dangerous candidate. In other words, compared to Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry etc - the Obama 'Chicago' campaign felt Romney (ie 'Boston') was their most dangerous rival. I would even suggest, that privately, before the full field was set, in late 2011, Chicago probably rated Romney THE most dangerous rival against even un-announced rivals like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.
Conventional wisdom says that US elections are won 'at the middle' among undecided 'swing voters' such as Democrat-leaning independents who went for Reagan, or Republican-leaning independents who went for Clinton. Romney 2008 was not an extremist by any means and thus as a moderate, very 'winnable' in a general election. On paper, the 2008 Romney was just about everything you would 'NOT' want if you were the sitting Democratic President during economic distress. Meanwhile for Romney, this election cycle was tailor-made for him. No strong rivals on the Republican field, and an economy which stubbornly refuses to improve, and conveniently no world military crisis etc to draw attention to Romney's weak foreign policy background.
BUT 2012 ROMNEY IS BROKEN GOODS
Romney 2008 seemed a formidable rival. The 2012 Romney is bizarrely anything-but. Romney felt he had to shift to ever more extreme right-wing positions during the prolonged nomination fight, where he simply could not put away his truly meek rivals. Romney was playing 'whack-a-mole' against rivals who would pop up right after another had been beaten down. We had never seen such a bizarre battle. Before the first votes, Romney found himself behind imaginary opponents like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump; then in progression from the Ames Straw Poll with Michelle Bachman, and then we saw the latest temporary leaders of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich again, with even some Ron Paul thrown in for the fun.
The Republican party had changed the rules for 2012 to be prolonged, so more states could have their say, in deciding who wins. Then the Cable TV stations wanted more debates. So Romney was facing a totally unprecedented media attention and a collection of extemists where the sensible voices jumped out fast (Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman) and suddenly the extremist views of Rick Santorum had to be taken serious in debates, or those of Captain Moonbase Newt Gingrich. Every debate and every week of further prolonging of the campaign pushed the moderate Romney further to the right. He took positions of repealing Obamacare and being totally pro-life and fiercely conservative and saying the USA should not have left Iraq and especially hostile positions against immigration which anger the Latino voters.
The Romney that arrived to the Republican convention in Tampa two weeks ago, had transformed from a moderate to a very extreme right-wing candidate, arguably the most right-wing Republican in recent memory, yes more right wing than Reagan or Nixon, and far far more right wing than either of the Bushes. That is now how elections are won. Romney now has managed to anger women, Latinos, students, labor union members etc. Being a Mormon, he is also viewed with suspicion by some evangelical voters, who have also warmed to Obama actually not being a Muslim after all, and being quite a nice Christian values President on balance.. And quite bizarrely again, the 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' editorial he wrote for the Wall Street Journal. And the even more bizarre refusal to release his tax returns for more than a single year (so far, and incomplete; with a second year to be released in October apparently)
Romney has known for the past 4 years that he will be running in 2012. He could have / indeed he should have prepared fully for this battle. Yet he seems to have gone out of his way to make himself less electable in the interim. So then lets look at his primary campaign. Obama faced the test of steel when he faced the best-ever campaign, the Clinton-machne in the primaries of 2008. After that true gruelling test, when Chicago went against McCain, that was the easy race. Beating Hillary Clinton's campaign was the true test for the Obama team and it was bloody till the end. In that process, Obama learned to do retail politics, fine-tuned his message, he learned to debate and think faster on his feet. He learned to work the press and stay on message. He built a strong ground game and built his fund-raising. He also mastered social media and mobile tech especially SMS text messaging and the Blackberry. And the race with Hillary was very close and could have gone either way.
Romney also faced strong headwinds in 2012 but his opponents were weak, often self-imploded ('Oops') and Mr Nine-Nine-Nine woman-lover, or pretty well un-electable crazy like Michelle Bachman and Captain Moonbase. Yet Romney could not defeat these rivals using traditional methods of argument, position, debate, speeches, support and passion. Rather, the only way Romney could defeat his rivals was to 'carpet bomb' them on TV ads, often with lies or distortions, and definitley with extremely negative ads, both by his campaign, and the independent PACs supporting him. In 2008 Obama learned all aspects of how to win a campaign, against the strongest political machine ever seen. In 2012 Romney learned only to outspend his rivals in TV ads and eventually wear them out when the rivals ran out of money. The 2008 campaign made Obama a well-rounded complete candidate. The 2012 campaign taught Romney to forget everything else, that his money could crush the competition.
Usually when a candidate faces his rivals in the primaries, the candidate needs to 'move to the base' ie Republican candidates take positions that are more right-wing, and Democrats ones that are more left-wing. Then when they have won their nomination, they move more to the center. Romney's campaign manager actually talked about this as their 'Etch-a-Sketch' strategy that after the nomination, Romney would erase some of his extreme positions and adopt more centrist ones, to help him win the election. And so, while Romney does have a reputation of a Flip-Flopper on many positions, all pundits including Republican pundits did expect Romney to start to take more centrist positions. Yet he has not. He has often doubled down on his positions, reaffirming that he is indeed intending to be as extreme a conservative as he had campaigned as, in the primaries.
So after securing the nomination, a US presidential candidate has three major controlled moments to try to change the electoral situation into his/her own favor. First is the selection of the Vice Presidential candidate. The second is the Convention. And the third is the Debates. Beyond those three, the rest of the campaign is more reacting to the daily environment and what the other side is doing and trying to build their own campaign and message.
When McCain selected Sarah Palin, he had also considered Mitt Romney. But McCain saw his campaign in trouble and needed a boost and took a risk, in particular to help with the perceived gap in womens vote - with Hillary Clinton's campaign having activated a strong womens' movement for the Democrats. McCain took a risk with Palin and initially, he was rewarded, as Palin excited the Republican base and helped McCain get a big boost from his Convention. It was not until Palin self-destructed in press interviews, that it became clear that Palin would not help, and eventually became a liability where Palin's presence on the ticket created more anti-McCain votes than pro-McCain votes, as we could see from the 2008 exit polls. But in the summer when Sarah Palin was selected, it was a bold, brave choice that could energize the party and get McCain a big boost. As it did (at first).
Romney was considering several prominent Republicans including several Governors but ended up selecting Congressman Paul Ryan. In terms of 'political weight' Governors usually rank higher than Senators, and Senators well above Congressmen. But Paul Ryan was known for creating the current Repblican budget and was seen as very smart, up-and-coming young bright mind of the Republican party. He was (and is) very highly admired by the base of the Republican party. He was seen a far more safe bet than Palin, who was a virtual unknown first-term Governor of a state with a tiny population (Alaska). Ryan has spent more than a decade in Congress out of the battlefield state of Wisconsin.
So here is my first beef with this choice - even before we consider the reality of Paul Ryan, what Romney needed was a move to the CENTER, not more to the extreme right wing. Paul Ryan is one of the consistently most extreme right wing Republicans of the party. Yes, of course the base of the party would love Paul Ryan but Romney was going to get their votes anyway. What Romney needed was to win votes in the middle, with women (Ryan authored a law redefining rape to be only protected in case of 'extreme rape'), with students (Ryan's budget cuts student aid in half), etc etc etc. And Ryan's previous budget turned Medicare into vouchercare, plus cutting social security and Medicaid. All this while providing tax breaks for the most affluent so, that Romney's own tax rate, which he only paid 13% in 2010, would be cut to under 1% under the Ryan budget. Now, yes, Romney could claim that Ryan's budget is not the Romney budget, except that Romney had already said he'd sign the Ryan budget into law.
Romney could have selected a powerful woman - especially as Obama did not have Hillary Clinton as his Vice President. Bring some of those women to his side. With who? Like nominating past Secretary of State Condi Rice as his Vice President (also get some black votes with that, though probably not much) or for example New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. Or Romney could have selected a strong Latino like Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Or a more moderate centrist like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Yet Romney calculated that as he started off as an acceptable moderate, he then shifted to become a more extreme Conservative, in fact THE most conservative Republican in modern times, more conservative than Reagan or Nixon, he now added as his VP pick, an even more extreme right wing Conservative? What kind of election logic is this?
It says a lot, that when Ryan was announced and the right wing blogs were thrilled, so too were the left-wing blogs. Certainly, of all names that were suggested, Chicago definitely hoped that the perfect choice would be Paul Ryan, the ultra-conservative right-wing republican who is only a Congressman, who can be always labeled as 'Congressman' - where the US Congress reputation is at an all-time low, and then all the baggage that this candidate brings to the table. Suddenly Romney is tied to Bush-era tax cuts (that Ryan voted for) and the wars (that Ryan voted for) etc etc etc.
Ryan's selection did not bring his home state of Wisconsin 'into play' where arguably a Governor from another swing state like Ohio's Bob Portman or Virginia's Bob Mitchell or Rubio in Florida or Ayotte in New Hampshire could have delivered at least one vital swing state to Romney. The VP pick could have brought a vital constituency, like women (Rice, Ayotte) or Latinos (Rubio) or the military (General David Petraeus) etc. But no. Ryan brings nothing concrete in any state or constituency, but he does bring enthusiasm to the base of Republican voters. So would have any of the other above candidates as well! But Ryan opens Romney to a vast array of new attacks and problems from Ryan's problematic votes in the past, to his budgets, to even his laws he has written and sponsored such as the one redefining rape that infuriates many women voters. Those are problems Romney knew of, when he made his choice and apparently Boston calculated they somehow had benefits from the Ryan selection that would exceed those costs.
ARE YOU BUYIN' THAT LYIN' RYAN
The campaign runs two months from now. The candidates face extreme scrutiny. Obama and Biden are known quantities, almost all conveivable dirt on them has been uncovered. Romney has been running for office for at least the past 6 years, he is well known already. Ryan was mostly hidden as a Wisconsin Congressman. He has never seen the level of scrutiny he is getting now. And the first impressions are being formed right now, and there is nearly no time to fix them once the conventional wisdom view is formed - look at the parody of Sarah Palin how quickly it formed and how consistent it became. What Romney could not have known, was that Ryan has had a loose relationship with the truth. Now we learn of blatant exaggertations and downright lies, like his Marathon running time. Ryan has been exceptionally prone to stretch the truth, and now he runs a huge risk of being known as a serial liar. Lyin-Ryan. He has also apparently made false statements about climbing some mountains etc. And then when his Convention speech was rated by the fact-checkers, it emerged his speech was most untruthful of any convention speech this cycle. Suddenly Mr Etch-a-Sketch has the perfect side-kick, Mr Lyin-Ryan. For a party that tries to fight Obama on the issues, on a very legitimate criticism of poorly performing economy, Romney has not focused on his strengths, and lost one of his biggest chances to change to story, by nominating a serial liar. What Ryan will be saying, will soon be ignored and ridiculed. And definitely the next few weeks any press Ryan will get, will always dig into his recent statements and various claims.
And the press can smell blood in the water. They know now, that Ryan has a history of not being truthful, they will dig into all sorts of minor speeches and obscure press interviews etc, and then go fact-check him. Romney could have had a strong partner who fights against Obama, now instead, Romney has to be defening his VP choice and his perennial lies.
The Vice Presidential choice was a big opportunity for Romney to make a change to the election situation. He did not improve his position. It now looks like Ryan will be more a millstone like Palin was in 2008, dragging the Romney-Ryan ticket down, rather than helping boost the ticket. A Condi Rice / Chris Christie / Jeb Bush / Marco Rubio / etc choice could have moved Romney up several points in the general election and either given a state for Romney or a major (vital) constituency. Ryan delivered none of that. Now it appears, Ryan is actually damaged goods and Romney is actually hurt by Ryan. And this is still early September and the Democratic campaign hasn't even gotten to full swing with their unanticipated Christmas Present. And judging by the early lies, and the long history of his voting record, Ryan is likely going to the the gift that keeps on giving for the Democrats this season. Expect more bad news for Republicans when Ryan's full history is uncovered.
Now, Vice President Joe Biden is not the perfect candidate by any means. He is particularly prone to say dumb things that he needs to walk back or things that embarrass the President. Yes, we know Joe Biden is like that, but he is a powerful speaker, powerful campaigner and very seasoned politician. If anyone in the electorate feels that Romney isn't experienced in matters of running the country, in particular its foreign policy and military, and that Ryan is even weaker in all that, Biden is fully qualified, nobody will doubt that. And Biden has a particuarly strong regional appeal in the Northeastern industrialized part of America, his story works in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, that part of the nation, areas where Obama didn't do well against Hillary Clinton.
(Incidentially I had a Machiavellian fantasy that Obama would swap Biden for Hillary now for this year, that would have been a bombshell but obviously it didn't happen.) Biden knows how to do national campaign speeches and can fire up the base of the party in particular in the industrialized battleground states. He is also an excellent attack-dog who can attack Romney with credibility (vs Ryan whose attacks against Obama will now suffer specifically in credibility as Ryan is exposed as serially untruthful).
The Romney camp was talking of an 11 point bounce. The numbers are in, his bounce was about 2 points. Meanwhile Obama's bounce has not yet been fully measured but is already over 5 points. Why? There is a clear difference in the two Conventions. The Republican Party Convention was not an enthusiastic event, the speakers were not eager to support Romney and some even seemed to be campaigning for themselves for 2016 rather than supporting Romney. The Democratic Convention was a party, a strongly united and energized event, that went from one highlight to the next, constantly and consistently celebrating their leader, President Obama.
In terms of the big speeches, there are only 2 big speeches per day that are shown on major TV in prime time. The Republicans had wanted to run a 4 day Convention, but because the Democrats cut theirs to 3 days, the TV networks wouldn't show the intended first day. Then with a hurricane, the Republicans cancelled their first day. That meant that they had to reorganize their speakers and ended up with some unfortunate sequence.
The Convention is the biggest 'infomercial' one-sided propaganda show of (three days) only featuring one party, not the other. Its where the best speakers are invited to speak and all of the tricks are used, to fully sell the candidate. So yes, we had Ann Romney, the wife of the candidate tell the US voters how great a man her husband is, and that Ann Romney undestands American women and the Romneys have gone through difficult times etc. That was a good, well-received speech by a potential first lady. Not the best, but definitley good. And it definitely helped. Now after we've seen the Democratic Convention, Michelle Obama's speech was one of the all-time greatest Convention speeches ever. Not 'by a first lady' but truly, compared to the greatest orators, ever. The pundits came out after Michelle's speech and said it was better than Obama's best Convention speeches even. In terms of who won the First Ladies battle, it was a knock-out by Obama.
Then there is the keynote speech. Romney selected well a known quantity, fiery speaker, Chris Christie the Governor of New Jersey, who would be guaranteed to deliver a rousing exciting speech. Except that he didn't. Christie's speech was all about his own aspirations to run for President in 2016 when he clearly expects Romney to have failed, and it took forever for Christie to even get to mention Romney. While Christie's speech was well received by the room, it was not the success on TV as expected. In hindsight, the Christie speech helped deflate the emotions of the Ann Romney speech just before, and bizarrely - as Romney's Campaign had of course read both speeches - Ann Romney talked about America needing Love, Chris Christie followed immediately next, with the direct contradiction, what America doesn't need is love, there has been too much love. How bizarre is that, that you are delivering the keynote which argues against the wife of the party's candidate, who has just spoken before you? The Christie keynote was a dud.
Meanwhile the Obama campaign offered its keynote to San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, a young, mostly unknown local politician from Texas. A rising star Latino, half of a pair of Democratic twin politicians. Castro has an overpowering smile and delivered a fiery and uplifting speech strongly aiming for Latinos. A total 100% hit and set himself up for immediate speculation of a future run for President. The keynote contest was a clear win for the Democrats.
Then there is the nomination speech, which usually is given by the Vice Presidential candidate. Ryan is not known for electrifying speeches, but he is known for dealing in the facts and numbers and policies and getting very specific. He was forced to give a speech almost devoid of any facts, numbers or policies, and being very vague. And worse, his speech was plagued with factual errors. This was the highlight of Day 2, and the Republican party laid another egg in prime time.
For that, we get the grand master TV speaker politician, Bill Clinton. Republicans did not have their surviving past Presidents highlighted at their Convention, almost no speakers ever mentioned George Bush 2. But the Democrats celebrated their past Presidents and gave Bill Clinton the biggest speech of Day 2, the nomination speech. If I think of the three great American Presidents as speakers of my lifetime Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, knew how to bring big concepts down to simple ideas, into 'bumber stickers' but was prone to oversimplification and definitely always kept things vague, not too specific. Obama can be a great speaker but in a long structured speech to address a major theme, in detail and thoroughly. He has a hard time simplifying things to bumper-sticker level and he often keeps matters in the abstract level, Obama has difficulty in making his speeches relevant to the common person. Bill Clinton, however, is out of the three, the speaker who could most change peoples' minds. He is able to express complex matters simply, make compelling arguments, discuss the facts and details, all while keeping it personal and relevant. And his speeches are made for sound-bites, bumper-stickers and Twitter-sized clippings. This grand master was not allowed to deliver a big speech in 2008. Now the Big Dog was allowed onto the biggest stage to do the big speech, once again. And Bill Clinton loved it, and delivered. I do think, in terms of a political speech, it was his most powerful, ever. When Convention speeches will be considered years to come, I believe this Clinton speech in 2012 will tower over others, in how much it truly mattered, how he took apart the competitors while supporting his side, and doing it with style, humor and a barrage of facts and arguments.
That Bill Clinton spoke in prime time, begs the question, where was George Bush 2 from the Republican Convention. In fact, Clinton said more positive things about Bush 2 in his one speech, than the whole 3 day convention of the Republicans. And as Clinton addressed specific issues with the Romney-Ryan campaign, his speech was particularly effective in convincing undecided voters in the middle. A past President is seen particularly credible as an arbitrator on petty political squabbling about what point Ryan said was true or not, or whether Obama could or could not have fixed the US economy by now, etc. Remember, when he himself ran, Clinton specifically won over those Republican-leaning undecideds, he speaks to the middle of the electorate. Of course loyal Republicans hate Clinton speeches, they would never vote for Obama in any case. But Clinton knew exactly who he was talking to, he was talking to the undecided, or even more importantly, for those who might be dissuaded still to change their minds - like many seniors with issues about Medicare and Medicaid etc. The nomination speech was not even close, Ryan pretty much failed and Clinton delivered perhaps the greatest single Convention speech of the TV era.
Then there is the big day, the last day, the day of the balloons. This day has the following pattern in prime time. First is the prepared introductory video about the candidate. This is THE most compelling prime-time extended TV advertisement, ever made, and ever seen, that either party will ever be able to run. The best highly-produced video about the candidate, directed by a famous director, narrated by a super actor (Obama's was narrated by George Clooney!). Then comes the speech to introduce the candiate, and then the big speech, the candidate's acceptance speech.
This is like the Superbowl ads, except that there are no other ads by anyone else, and you have the whole Superbowl half-time to run just your ad. This is the single longest TV ad in prime time. And it is designed to maximize that time. So yeah, of course Romney had that video made. Except we then did not see the video in prime time. Because of Clint Eastwood.
I totally appreciate it, that Romney loves Clint Eastwood (as does Obama). I appreciate it, that when the Hollywood icon offered to do a speech to criticize the Obama Presidency in prime time, in a monolog/play, that Romney loved the idea and said yes. As far as I understood from all the analysis afterwards, this was not scripted and not rehearsed. That they didn't even know what the chair was for, when Eastwood came to the stage. That honestly, the Romney campaign had no idea what was about to happen. No matter how much the Candidate would want this Hollywood superstar to speak on the final day in prime time, no Campaign Manager worth his salt would ever - EVER - let the actor on stage without screening his exact intended speech beforehand and ok'ing it. Or in this case of a monolog/act, of previewing the act itself, in total, many days in advance!
With all honesty, the concept was clever, and based on apparently some famous play, and it partially worked. Clint Eastwood had a debate with a chair, pretending Obama was sitting in the chair. Unfortunately that monolog was not well written or designed (and apparently, Clint Eastwood had not memorized the speech, he was winging it) and included some crude/rude references etc. It fell totally flat and was instantly ridiculed and entered American Political legend as a total flop, rather than brilliant satire. The first immediate casualty of this choice, was that Romney's highly-produced video was not shown in prime time. The second, lasting damage was that this spectacle was what people remembered of the day, rather than Romney's speech. And the degree of how horrid its results are, is that in the official Romney campaign summary of the 3-day Convention Highlighs, the Clint Eastwood prime time speech is not included.
What did we get? Romney delivered a mediocre speech. It is utterly forgotten and on Monday people were still talking of Dirty Harry talking to an empty chair. In contrast, Obama's Day 3 went flawlessly starting with the pitch-perfect video, but Obama's own speech was seen as flat or even failing. It had none of the expected inspiration or hope, there was no audience participation 'Yes We Can'. The speech was definitely one of the worst speeches Obama has delivered in prime time, but that is only compared to Obama's very high standard, and set in the context of Michelle Obama's and Bill Clinton's speeches the two nights before. Compared to Romney's speech, Obama's acceptance speech was still miles above. And Obama's speech was very specific and provided far more than usual, useful sound-bytes and Twitter-sized quotes. It was not a policy-wonk speech but it had far more detail than for example Paul Ryan's speech that was supposed to be filled with facts and data. Chicago won 3 days to zero the Convention race against Boston. Every day the victory was not even close, every day Chicago beat Boston by landslide.
Romney's campaign had 3 moments to change the narrative. He failed with his VP choice and he failed with his Convention. We have seen that the total Convention bounce for Romney was 2 points, not 11. Obama's Convention bounce is not yet fully able to be measured but is already more than 5 points. Where the two campaigns were in a virtual tie before the Conventions, Obama has now moved to a small lead of about 3 points and growing. These are huge wasted moments by Romney.
A HORRID CAMPAIGN
I mentioned that Romney 2008 was (at least on paper) a formidable candidate, and that his 2012 version is far weakened by abandoning the center and moving to the extreme right. Meanwhile Obama was a formidable candidate in 2008 who has not been seriously campaigning until now, when the real battle has started. We have kind of seen the best of Romney 2012, and its not too pretty. But we have not seen anywhere near the full-stride Obama yet. That is only now starting. And while Romney seems to hate to campaign, Obama loves to campaign. While Romney has a weak/vulnerable Vice President, Obama has a seasoned VP who can safely be sent to campaign by himself. Romney's wife, Ann Romney is often seen as elitist and condescending in her tone, Michelle Obama is a highly beloved First Lady. Romney cannot imagine using George Bush 2 in any campaign events, while Obama will love every day that Bill Clinton will be willing to go onto the trail for him. The candidates and their surrogates are in a different league. But how of the campaigns. How is Chicago vs Boston?
I don't undestand Boston. Forget the Candidate himself. The Romney Campaign is one of the worst-run campaigns I have ever witnessed on the Presidential level. They are a serial mistake-machine. The fail to capitalize on the most basic opportunities presented to them, and they regularly make self-induced errors. Take this Convention bounce. The standard action by ANY campaign immediately after their Convention, is to go to the battleground states and use the enthusiasm of the just-ended Convention, to get volunteers to join, to get press attention, to raise funds, to get their message out, and to make speeches and do TV interviews. That is what every sensible campaign did after their Convention, and obviously it is what Obama and Biden did immediately after the Democratic Convention ended now.
What did Romney do after the Republican Convention? He went boating. He and Ryan did no events, went to no rallies and no speeches and did no TV interviews and had nothing in public? Wot? How is this possible? Romney decided this is the time he is doing debate prep. The first debate was 4 weeks in the future but that weekend - extended weekend as Monday was a holiday - was his only 'exclusive' window to speak his message before the Democratic Convention would start and tear down his message. But no activites? This is surrendering a major opportunity!
Boston is full of these kinds of unenforced errors. It is a most inept and bumbling campaign. Contrast that with Chicago, Obama's campaign. This is a highly organized, disciplined and robust campaign, which rarely makes a mis-step. Even where it is blamed for mistakes ("You didn't build that") it is more a case of the Republicans distorting what Obama had said for example, than a real mistake. The Obama campaign massively outperformed the McCain campaign in 2008 in the get-out-the-vote part, and in contacting voters personally. The Obama campaign has been spending much of its money so far in building its ground organization and local election offices, etc, where most of Romney's money has gone to TV ads. We are going to see probably the best-run campaign ever (Chicago) which is less bruised (no Hillary campaign) and more united (no Hillary defections) which has the power of the incumbency (Air Force 1) and has had 4 years of time to plan for how to do it even better; against one of the most inept and weak campaigns, which only knows how to carpet-bomb the other side with negative ads, but when that fails, has nothing else in their arsenal.
This part of the campaign is something that wont' really be seen until the last week or literally last days of the campaign, but to get there, the work is done for months or even years before. Most pundits admit that Chicago is far better at the ground-game than Boston. Now, what about this year? Apart from Romney's campaign trying this the first time and not focusing strongly on it, and Obama's doing it from experience and focusing very strongly on it, where are the troops? The traditional conventional wisdom of elections was that the Republicans had the money but the Democrats had the volunteers. This was traditionally already a Democratic advantage. On the Republican side the strong volunteers are primarily the evangelical Christians, ie the Mike Huckabee voters. Those who believe in the Right to Life, ie anti-Abortion voters. There also are some constituents who are also supportive like NRA supporters (National Rifle Association) ie hunters etc, and often military families who tend to prefer Republicans. On the Democratic side there are many big grouping such as the labor union members across most unions, students/youth, women's groups, blacks, Latinos, the gays, etc. The youth/student vote is a big block but usually unreliable and doesn't vote anywhere near their actual numbers. Latinos also traditionally didn't vote reliably by their numbers. These all are good sources to get volunteers to support your side.
How activated and enthusiastic are the Republican supporters? The polls suggest the Republicans are very enthusiastic, but often more out of their hatered of Obama than their support of Romney. Among Evangelicals, Romney faces plenty of doubters who don't like his religion of Mormonism (some consider it a cult, not a real Christian religion). Meanwhile those rumors that Obama was a Muslim should mostly have gone by the wayside and especially with the repeated Christian family values messages coming from both Barack and Michelle Obama and their nice loving family, make it easier for some traditionally Evangelical Christians to now slip over to the Democratic side. The fact of those Nuns on a Bus who were featured at the Democratic Convention and the fact that the US Bishops said the Ryan budget was against teachings in the Bible, should also help a bit to suppress some eagerness of the primary Republican support in the ground game. Mike Huckabee seems lukewarm to the Romney campaign and the religious right never really has joined in the crusade this time. Then, imagine if the campaign goes badly. If the ground game workers are motivated out of hatered of Obama rather than support of Romney, if Obama is set to win, many of these could become disheartened and stay home. The army might not even turn up, if they don't believe in their leader. If their candidate had been Mike Huckabee (or say Rick Santorum) they would show up under the worst weather and fiercest odds.
Of the gun-owners, the fear last time was that Obama would take the guns. He didn't. Some will still fall for the NRA propaganda that in his second term Obama 'WILL' take your guns, but many will feel far less worried about this now, in 2012. And of those military members, last time McCain was a war hero and Palin a serious hunter. Now we have Romney (draft-dodger) and Ryan who have no military background or foreign policy experience. Romney messed up his foreign tour some weeks ago. And meanwhile Obama caught Osama Bin Laden, and the wives of Obama and Biden have made their top priority to support the families and veterans of the military. This may be the first time for ages, that Democrats take the majority of the military vote and almost definitely most of the foreign policy vote.
On the Democratic core supporters side, the story could not be more different. Obama has actively taken actions to support those constituencies, and simultaneously Romney(Ryan) seems to have gone out of his way to upset and anger those same people. So, Women? The first law Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter law for equal pay for women. Romney and Ryan and the Republicans have been waging a war against Women, even writing nasty anti-abortion language into their party platform. The women have both the carrot and the stick, Obama is good for them and simultaneously Romney is bad for them - thus they should be extra energized to support the Obama ticket and all Democrats. Where Ann Romney talked in prime time that she loves the women, Obama brought previously-stiffled Sandra Fluke to speak in prime time about younger womens' issues in probably the most fiery single speech in prime time of either party. While probably elderly women felt that was a bit too much, my vibe as a man, is that Sandra's tone spoke very deeply to younger women and her chance to speak was again a sign Obama is on the womens' side whereas Republicans in Congress refused to let her speak and right-wing radio talkshow host Rush Limbaugh called her a slut.
The Labor movement has been involved in recent elections but not very militant, and I think it was Clinton's centrist positions which brought the labor involvement down from the far more enthusiastic support in say the Mondale election (loss to Reagan in 1984). Now there have been many states where union collective bargaining rights have been threatened by the Republicans, very relevantly in battleground states like Ohio and Wisconsin. Obama has stood with labor especially the Detroit rescue and Romney has been union-busting both in his Bain career and as Governor in Massachussetts.
The support of blacks is obvious but perhaps the peak hysteria support level will not be quite that strong this year, but Romney isn't even attempting to get any black votes. But Hispanics? Obama won the Latino vote by about 30 points against McCain and McCain was seen as a moderate on Latino issues. Since then the Republican party has supported extreme positions such as Arizona's Papers Please laws - writing that into their party platform. Romney himself has taken extreme positions on immigration like wanting self-deportation. After the Republicans blocked the Dream Act in Congress, Obama issued an executive order to let young undocumented aliens to stay under his Dreamers order. Hispanics were already in Obama's corner, but Romney has pushed them even more there, and with this polarization, Latinos are likely more motivated to vote this time than before. Obama has named the first Hispanic Supreme Court Judge and invited the first-ever Convention Keynote speech by a Hispanic. If the youth/student vote is down this time, I am pretty sure the Hispanic vote will be up to a record level - and by a massive margin will go Democratic.
If Romney is winning the 'air war' on TV, Obama is well poised to devastatingly win the ground game. Romney has nothing outperforming this time, but Obama has several areas outperforming. Romney has not invested in this area which needs time and effort, Obama has. This is a core Democratic competence and Chicago is the master of it. This is traditionally weak at Republicans and amongs those, Romney was never their favorite child. This ground game will 'break' (likely) in Obama's favor only in the last week or less, and mostly will not be captured by the polls, so this should be worth a couple of points in the final vote.
Then there is Don't Ask Don't Tell and other gay issues, what Obama has supported and the Republican position rather consistently is against. Romney isn't really anti-gay but has been on that side of the issues.
AIR WAR - TV ADS
In 2008 Obama had more money than Hillary Clinton and partly it was the money that won it for Obama in the very tight race. He was the first non-incumbent Democrat to have more money than the Republican in the TV era of elections and he easily outspent McCain on TV ads, which partly helped him win (but he would have won anyway). Romney massively outspent McCain in 2008 and couldn't win. Romney pulled out and horribly underfunded Mike Huckabee hang on for many more weeks to battle it out with McCain until he was defeated. Now in 2012 Romney even more massively outspent his field that was far weaker than McCain, and Romney only one-by-one, by running negative ads to destroy his opponents and crush them, was Romney able to force his rivals out of the race. Romney, together with his Super PAC money, was able to win with TV ads, but it wasn't pretty. He got a reputation of running a very negative campaign, and his rivals fought back, a little via TV but more through all other ways, from speeches to TV interviews, always critical of Romney's nasty tactics. His carpet-bombing negative TV ad campaign made the Romney name notorious for nasty campaigns. His own reputation was not helped, it was hurt in this prolonged nasty process and in the TV debates, Romney was regularly accused of making nasty and baseless accusations in his negative TV ads.
None of Romney's rivals in 2012 could match the TV ad budget. So Romney would typically outspend his target rival in that given state where the next primary was happening, by anything from 2 to 1 to as much a 5 to 1 or more. With several candidates, it was enough that Romney only needed to suppress the votes of his primary rival at that time, for Romney to win in the long run. Except for his home field advantage states, Romney would not get the majority of the votes, he would get barely a plurality, win with 25%-30% for example, with the remaining five or six rivals taking some percent each. Or Romney might finish second, but as the winner was never the same rival, Romney finishing second would still build his lead in the longer run. You can win rather 'easily' with a purely negative TV ad smear campaign, if the opponents are underfunded and there is a large collection of them.
Now contrast Obama. He isn't as well funded now as Romney is, but Obama has a powerful fund-raising unit and excellent contacts, plus he's the incumbent which usually gives a big boost to fund-raising. Obama is likely to be outspent but he won't be outspent at ranges of 3x or 4x or more. Its likely that Obama will not even be outspent by 2 to 1 in TV ads. And if Obama can put up one TV ad for every 2 ads Romney puts up, with well-designed ads on essentially a more appealing platform and record, Obama doesn't 'need' to match exactly 1 to 1. As Romney is the challenger and more unpopular, with unpopular positions, Romney has to outspend Obama to some degree in any case, just to draw even in TV ad effectiveness. That is before we count social media and YouTube, where Obama has a strong lead.
Yes, Romney will outspend Obama in TV ads, but the advantage is marginal not decisive, and where he was able to destroy rivals in the primaries, that won't happen in this general election. The early data suggest that for all the early negative TV adds Romney has run, Obama has been nearly untouched in particular in the battleground Swing States.
TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL MEDIA
This is another area Obama held a strong lead in 2008 and has only grown stronger in 2012. The advantages are everywhere from collected mobile phone numbers (for SMS reminders on election day) to Twitter followers and Facebook friends, who help drive the dialogue and buzz in the social media. These in turn help influence the tone of the coverage in the mainstream media. Romney is not as weak as McCain was in social media; and Ryan brings some youthful enthusiasm but most of Ryan support is of the extreme Tea-party style, not mainstream mid-electorate type. Those people likely would have voted Republican anyway.
One more group I want to talk about which is the elderly. In 2008 Obama won the younger age groups but only tied the eldest age group, with McCain. He is also now been lagging in polls against Romney specifically with the elderly populations. Here is where Romney-Ryan have shot themselves in the foot, I do think fatally.
There is a 'third rail' of elections in the USA which is the benefits to the retired. Thats Social Security and Medicare. Romney has been accusing Obama of raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare (proven to be a lie but he keeps repeating it). The original Ryan budget which Romney had supported, would have made severe cuts to Social Security, to Medicare and to Medicaid (also helping the elderly). And Romney and Ryan say they want to repeal Obamacare - which also helps the elderly with free screenings etc. The Democratic party and the Obama campaign has not yet fully engaged in this debate, President Clinton's speech was the clearest articulation of this argument so far. But Obama has a solid position to argue that Romney and Ryan both through Ryan's budgets and through Romney's supportive statements are threatening each of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, all of which would damage severely the elderly or cause them to pay thousands of dollars annually out-of-pocket. This would go primarily to pay for tax cuts for the millionaires and to pay more for the military which the military itself has not asked for.
The early debate about who harms Medicare was muddled, rather effectively by Romney and Ryan. But since then, the AARP has issued its neutral review of both sides and what their positions would cause. The AARP is highly trusted by retired people and it was very clear that the Ryan plan harms Medicare and Obama had in fact strengthened and prolonged Medicare. There is the issue of labeling Medicare to become Vouchercare, a term which is toxic amongst the elderly, nobody wants vouchercare and the Romney-Ryan plan is easy to call Vouchercare whether is precisely is that or not.
I do think this is a battle that will tilt decisively in favor of Democrats, because of several reasons. First, it is true that both Ryan and in his support of it, Romney, have suggested changes or cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare. Equally Democrats have traditionally advocated for these and are seen as their defenders. It is going to be a strong rallying-cry for all Democrats to join with the President to run on the same theme - and tellingly - many Republican Senators and Congressmen (and Governors) have already come out against the Ryan-Romney plans about Medicare, Social Security etc. No matter how much early Republican pundits felt they can fight this to a draw, that now seems a forlorn hope as many Republicans have deserted the position already. And that was before Bill Clinton used the national TV platform to deliver broadsides against the Republicans on this issue - and that they lie about it in their positions.
Retired people have plenty of time to study the facts, they are very active reliable voters who take their voting very seriously. So a short TV ad won't change their minds that easily as it might other voters. And they often live in communities where one misguided view can't survive as easily. And they have the one independent arbitrator - the AARP which has issued its clearly damning opinion on Ryan's budget. This is a losing position to the Republicans, the question only is, how badly will it damage them. And the Democrats will sense the victory out of this and will rally around these themes and repeat Bill Clinton's words in various down-ticket elections for Congress, Senate, Governor, Mayor and local elections.
Florida was slightly leaning to the Romney side before the Conventions but close to tied. I am pretty sure that (excepting for some unforseen external event like a terrorist act, or Iran nuclear test or Eurozone melt-down etc) the combination of Hispanic enthusiasm for Obama and the elderly vote against the Republicans will deliver Florida rather safely to Obama. That is nearly the whole election right there. But the elderly vote will also energize all Democrats to rally around the President and even bring the occasional Republican to break with their ticket (ie a Republican taking positions against Romney and Ryan). The effect of this elderly vote matter - Social Security, Medicare (and Medicaid and a little bit also of Obamacare) will spread the 'coat tails' of an Obama victory - so that down-ballot Democrats will see a good year too, holding onto the Senate and perhaps even taking back the Congress.
Winning American Presidential Elections is not done by getting most votes by popular vote, it is won by the Electoral College. There are 538 total EC votes and you need 270 EC votes to win the Presidency. So the vote is 'winner-takes-all' by state. It doesn't matter if you win Florida by 5 million votes or 50 votes, Florida has 29 Electoral College votes to deliver, and whover wins Florida gets always all 29. The Electoral College votes are dependent on the size of the population in that state, so a tiny state like North Dakota or Delaware has only 3 Electoral College votes and the biggest states are California with 55 and Texas with 38. California is safely Democratic, those 55 EC votes will go to Obama and Texas is safely Republican, Romney is sure to get those 38. There are 23 safely Republican states, that have a total of 191 EC votes, that will go to Romney unless it is a catastrophic collapse of his campaign. The states such as Alaska, Kansas, Georgia, Alabama etc are pretty definitely going to vote Republican and Romney can count on those votes. Its so certain, that Obama's campaign isn't bothering to advertise in those 23 states! They know they are going to lose there. Similarly there are 17 states and the District of Colombia (ie the capital city of Washington DC) which are safely Democratic and have 221 EC votes.
So unless a total catastrophic failure of one campaign happens between now and November 6, you can be sure Romney cannot lose by more than 347-191 in EC votes, and Obama cannot lose worse than 317-221. Even if he were to lose, Romney will still win at least 23 out of 50 states. And even if Obama were to lose, he will still win at least 17 states and the District of Colombia. That means, that the real victory for this presidential election will be fought in ten states and ten states only. The states are
New Hampshire (4)
North Carolina (15)
These ten states account for 126 Electoral College votes and they are the 'battleground states'. The US Presidential Election in 2012 will be decided in these 10 states. These are not exactly the same states as before (for example Missouri (10) was a battleground last time and North Carolina wasn't until the very end). These are the ten states where the two sides will place their advertising and run most of their events and will do the local TV and newpaper interviews etc. The candidates will also visit other states, but mostly only to get money or sometimes to use a neighboring state visit to help get votes - in these battleground states (like Boston area newspapers are read in southern New Hampshire for example).
Obama needs 49 EC votes from this list of 10 states. If Obama wins only Florida and Ohio and any one of the remaining 8 states, he is re-elected President. Romney has a harder climb. He has to win 79 EC votes to become President, so the easiest way to 79 would be for Romney to win Florida, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina - and still one more of the remaining 6 states. The path to 270 is far more steep for Romney in this year, than for Obama. And that is before we take the recent polls.
Before the Conventions, the latest polls had President Obama ahead in 9 out of the 10 battleground states! While the national polls had the election nearly tied at 47/45, the Electoral College was massively lop-sided in Obama's favor of 332/206. Now, remember, the Conventions have produced a big bounce in favor of Obama, so as these in-state polls are now updated in the next few weeks, the lead Obama has, is almost certain to improve, not worsen.
So lets look at a couple of states. Michigan (16) to me is an Obama state by now. The Conventions pushed so many issues, the labor unions, the powerful speech by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and most of all Romney's 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' - I am sure when the polls come out, Michigan has moved from toss-up to 'Leans Democratic' and already now, Romney's campaign is ending its advertising in the state. They seem to be conceding the state that they can't win there (Romney has tons of money as do his backers, they may well be back). So I think Michigan should not even be counted a battleground state anymore and be counted as a safe Obama state, briging Obama's total to 237 out of 270. Obama would need only 33 more EC votes to be re-elected. Just Florida and Colorado is enough. Or Florida and Nevada, etc. Or if not Florida, then Ohio, Virginia and any one more state. Or Ohio, North Carolina and just one more state.
Nevada (6) is another state I can't see Obama losing now (except for some unforseen outside event). Nevada is heavily Hispanic. It was already trending strongly Democratic. There are issues with the ecology where Obama is on the right side and Romney-Ryan on the wrong side. Senate Chairman Harry Reed is from Nevada and fiercely campaigning for Obama. The strong push for Latino issues and many Latino speakers will energize this underperforming voter segment and should easily deliver Nevada to Obama. That brings the Obama's total to 243, he only needs 27 EC votes. Yes, if Obama also holds Nevada, he only needs Florida alone of the remaining 8 battleground states to win re-election. Or lose Florida but win Ohio and Colorado; or Virginia and North Carolina..
The rest of the 8 states I do think are somewhat, more-or-less battlegrounds for now, and some will evolve as the campaign reaches its climax. But if we say Michigan and Nevada will go Obama, and now after the Conventions the real battleground is down to 8 states, then Romney has to win 79 out of only 104 EC votes left. Romney could win each of Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin - yes 7 out of the 8 remaning states, and lose the Presidency by 2 EC Votes, as Obama would have taken just Florida out of these last 8, and still won. You see how vital Florida becomes?
Florida (29) is the classic swing state and often razor-tight decisions, remember the Bush-Gore recounts happening in Florida in 2000 when the Supreme Court stopped the recount and declared Bush the winner? The recent polling in Florida has been very close flipping on both sides and before the Conventions Obama had the slightest lead. Florida was the place where Romney and Ryan rushed to fight their defensive battle right after Ryan was named, to defend their position on Medicare and making claims against Obama. And it helped initially but the Florida press and coverage of Ryan the VP choice was a lot about Medicare. That battle is not decided. The elderly in Florida don't quite trust young whippersnappers of the ages of Obama or Romney (far less Ryan). They prefer to listen to far more elderly statesmen - like John McCain last time, or indeed Bill Clinton and Joe Biden now. The AARP endorsement is very damaging to Romney and the local Florida state politics will play a big part, as was former Republican Governor Charlie Christ's endorsement of Obama. My gut says this is a tilting ship which has just started to tilt now, but it is inevitable that the Democrats will win this battle, overwhelmingly and Obama will take Florida on this point alone. That was before we add in the strong Hispanic vote. And there is also a military part to Florida, which went strongly to McCain last time but now is likely to go for Obama by a slight margin. And yes, you read the math, if Obama takes Michigan, Nevada and Florida, he is President for also the next four years.
Romney will of course fight hard for Florida, carpet-bombing the state with his TV ads and touring it with his entourage including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Hispanic, who spoke in prime time for the Republican Convention. Romney cannot afford to lose Florida. But Obama, while ahead in Florida, has so many ways to victory, he does not need this state to win.
Ohio (18) is the next pain-point for Romney. In Ohio the Republican party was trying to rig the election rules, early voting, late voting hours etc, to try to suppress votes that typically go to Democrats (Black votes, labor votes etc). The Ohio battle was very close early in the year, then it started to split and go Democratic. Ohio has seen a lot of well-paid factory work, especially car-industry related, return to the state. The Detroit bail-out by Obama is hugely popular and Romney's Let Detroit go Bankrupt equally hated. The labor unions are strong in the state and were only lukewarm to Obama in 2008 but now are up in arms against the Republicans. Ohio should be razor-thin swing-state that already before the Conventions was several points in Obama's favor. That was before the court rulings about voter suppression, the Convention speeches, and powerful endorsements both by union speakers and laid-off workers of factories Romney's Bain had shut down. I think Ohio won't be close this year, the Republican brand and Romney in person are very toxic for the electorate. I don't see a landslide in Ohio (nor in Florida) but a win by several points easily. They won't be counting the votes deep into the night.
Virginia (13) was barely seen as a possible pick-up by the Democrats last time in 2008, now it is a battleground state with a tilt towards the Democrats. It has a lot of youth ie students, its a modern 'Northern-like' state of the South, so its not typical Southern state anymore, and it has a large military presense. There is plenty of religious conservatism in the state but not enough to tilt the state and as I said, I expect the Evangelical vote to go slightly more to Obama in 2012 than it did in 2008 as he is, after all, not a nasty Muslim and meanwhile Mr Romney is one of those suspicious possibly-cultist Mormons.. The youth vote is unpredictable and is likely going to be down from 2008 levels, but the military vote will shift considerably into Obama's favor compared to 2008. There is another local issue that will be in play - women's vote. The Virginia Governor wanted to pass a law with intrusive ultrasound tests as pre-requisites for abortions. It strongly energized the Virginia female activists and actually tarnished the Governor so badly that it probably is the reason he was not a finalist for VP choice by Romney. Virginia is likely to have a big over-emphasis of female votes and that will be massively anti-Republican and pro-Obama. It will be well served by Sandra Fluke's prime-time address at the Convention. Virginia has plenty of conservatives and the state was genuinely split last time, it could again be close but for now, I'd say Virginia leans also Obama.
North Carolina (15) is the most Republican-friendly of these ten (or eight) battleground states and the only one before the Conventions that leaned a little bit towards Romney. It will be very much a battleground all the way to November 6, expect plenty of visits by both sides and big TV ad blitzes. North Carolina has some good high tech industry and some growing university and youth voters, but its part of the South and traditionally has voted Republican. In 2008 it went razor-thin to Obama, the least-likely pick-up that Obama managed to win. Recent polls had suggested the state was not as supportive of Obama now as it was in 2008. But the Obama campaign arranged its convention in North Carolina's largest city, Charlotte. The visibility of Charlotte and North Carolina local politics should be a boost to the Democrats in the state and the Obama campaign used the Convention to register volunteers in the state to help with the ground game, so some of the gains to Obama's campaign may not be seen until late in the game. Still, winning the Tar Heel State would be an uphill climb for Chicago and if North Carolina goes to Obama in November, then we're looking likely at a landslide, not a narrow win.
Wisconsin (10) has had an attempt by the Democrats to recall their Republican Governor but they lost. Paul Ryan the VP choice is from Wisconsin. The state is traditionally only mildly Democratic, the Romney campaign will pour money in ads and plenty of visits to the state to convert it to vote Republican. It will be close.
New Hampshire (4) is a state next to Massachussetts where Romney was Governor and in NH Romney has one of his many homes. The state is regularly a swing-state and the state will be a battleground to the end. It was not strongly in Obama's camp and with plenty of advertising money, Romney could steal this state.
Colorado (9) is slightly trending Democratic but is a swing state and both sides will fight hard for it. There is a pretty large Hispanic minority in the state but not enough to be decisive such as in New Mexico or Florida.
Iowa (6) is a state of 'retail politics' where campaigns usually start during the primaries to try to meet many at door-to-door level and the relationships built here tend to last long. Obama won his Iowa primary as a big upset over highly favored Hillary Clinton, but Romney lost both times his Iowa primaries, so Obama's ground game and popularity should be strong here. And Obama is from neighboring Illinois State. Yet the state is not strongly in Obama's camp. There are issues with farmer support and ethanol that should help Obama but the state polls have been stubbornly tight. Iowa is likely going to be close till the end.
If you look at the battleground states, the situation is near-desperate for Romney, and this was before we get the Convention Bounces measured in these battelground states. Remember, Romney has zero chance (unless some unforseen dramatic outside event happens) of winning say states like Oregon or Pennsylvania or Massachussets.. And he is likely to win those traditional Republican states like Utah and South Dakota and Louisiana and South Carolina. But those 10 states (or really only 8), only in one state was Romney ahead, and that was before the Conventions. Romney had two big chances to make a big change in the game, the VP choice and the Convention, and he failed in both. Now the situation is probably going to be exposed, in the next two weeks or so, that in the battleground states the Romney situation is worse than it had been. Romney was behind in 9 battleground states out of 10. After the Conventions, his situation will have worsened.
WHAT IF IT GOES HORRIBLY WRONG
I am puzzled by a couple of states and am curious as we get more state-wide polling. So first, there are two states that usually are battlegrounds but currently are not: Indiana and Missouri. Both are yes, perhaps Republican-leaning but Obama won Indiana last time and lost Missouri by a tiny margin of the vote. If the overall big picture electorate shifts now, after the Conventions by say 4 or 5 points, that should bring Missouri and Indiana 'into play' for Obama similarly in how I see that Michigan and Nevada are now out of reach for Romney. What the Obama campaign might do, is to do mild TV advertising, a light campaign, and test the waters, to which Romney would need to run 'defensive' TV ad campaigns of far bigger campaigns at considerable cost, in states he currently counts as 'safe to win'.
I think the demographics of the current situation bring Arizona possibly also into play. Arizona has a very high percentage of Hispanics and also a very high percentage of the elderly. If the Latino vote is energized and the Medicare/Social Security etc argument starts to work, then I would imagine Chicago puts some resources into Arizona to try to bring it into play. Last time Arizona was nearly safe for McCain because McCain was the senator from Arizona, it was his home state. But that meant there was a McCain distortion in the Arizona vote, boosting the Republican vote in 2008. That won't be there now. If the election starts to tilt, I would see also Arizona come into play. It would be sheer disaster at the Republicans if they have to spend money to defend a safe, conservative Republican 'red state' like Arizona.
IF MONEY IS ALL YOU HAVE
So then it comes down to this. Romney has been able to defeat his Republican rivals only by outspending them and carpet-bombing them with negative TV ads until the rival ran out of money. Romney's campaign was easily the biggest by budget, perhaps as big (when adding independent supporters) as all other Republican rivals, combined. The others were simply crushed under and avalanche of negative ads. Now with Obama it isn't working, at least nowhere as well. Obama has enough money - not as much as Romney, but enough - to fight back. And Obama is well known, its not easy to smear him where the US electorate mostly know what Obama has actually done or not done. And the reality is, that on many points, Romney is literally on the unpopular side of the issues, whether its tax breaks for the rich or getting out of Afghanistan or womens' right to choose.
So my view is, that Obama is a better political candidate than Romney (not necessarily a better politician as in governing, I mean as campaigining, giving speeches, kissing babies, giving interviews etc). Obama enjoys the elections politics more than Romney. Obama has a stronger VP candidate and stronger surrogates (Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton) than Romney. Obama is a discplined politician staying on message, Romney is not. The Chicago Obama campaign is the gold standard probably best US presidential campaign of all time. Romney's Boston campaign is a clown show. The Obama ground game is far superior to Romney's as is his social media and telecoms/mobile tech campaign. In fund-raising the advantage is with Romney but not a decisive advantage. In TV ads Romney has more air time but Obama is good at utilizing social media, YouTube and earned media ie free visibility of his ads, partly neutralizing that advantage.
On the issues, almost on any issue, Romney-Ryan is vulnerable and subject to defensive positions (why have you not relased your tax returns, etc) while Obama-Biden can be in control of the message. Obama's positions tend to be populist and popular (tax the millionaires, get out of Afghanistan, support gay marriage etc) while Romney-Ryan have positions popular to the Tea Party and extreme wing of the Republicans but not with majority support (Abortion, vouchercare, cuts to student aid, etc). If you think of what can Romney count on, the only real advantage he now holds, is the money advantage.
What if. What if that won't hold? Most of Romney's support is not grass-roots support, it is money from millionaires and billionaires (especially when including independent PACs). Those are often very money-oriented people who count their cost-benefits very precisely. What if they see the writing on the wall, that Romney can't win. Why would such millionaries or billionaires bother to throw ANY of their own money down a sinkhole where it cannot win? I think there is some level and some moment in time (if the election starts to go very lopsided) where suddenly Romney's support disappers. Remember how it happened with Captain Moonbase Newt Gingrich, whose money vanished almost overnight. If Romney's sugar daddies decide he is a lost cause, of course they pull all their money, instantly, and completely. If Obama were to see a disasterous situation, his support - mostly small donations, grass-roots level - would diminish but not instantly disappear, in proportion to how bad the situation would appear, but not vanish overnight. So Obama might survive a 'disaster' where his support takes a severe downturn but then Obama could work to get it back. If Romney's supporters walk way, they are out of politics in 2012 and start to plot which candidate they want to buy for 2016. If they go, they are gone forever. I do think Romney is particularly vulnerable to sudden vanishing of his support, if the calculation becomes that he can't win.
And some fat cat millionaires would have no problem switching sides, to be on the side of the winner and thus Obama and the Democrats would get some 'turncoat' money that used to go to Republicans, suddenly switching to Democrats. While this would be an obvious sign that Obama is then cruising for victory, it would be devastating for Republicans down-ticket the Senator, Congress, Governor and other tickets, to see the projected/planned/budgeted last weeks' money suddenly vanish. That would turn many close races into losses for Republicans.
LAST CHANCE: DEBATES
I can't see the major situation shifting so much to allow a drastic recalculation of the race. Romney cannot suddenly abandon Ryan or embrace Obama's position on gay rights or leaving Afghanstan or supporting Obamacare etc. The game is kind of set, the die is cast, the pack of cards has been shuffled and the cards have been dealt. Romney in 2008 would have been a formidable opponent to Obama, as the global economy imploded. But Romney in 2012 has been dealt a particularly weak hand, partly of his own doing (tax returns..) and partly unknown to him (Lyin' Ryan). His campaign has made a long series of errors and the game is well set now. But there is one major moment still coming, the debates.
Romney has done well in some debates against the weak field of Republican rivals, which did however, include Newt Gingrich who on a good day could be a formidable debate opponent. Rick Santorum learned to be less hostile in his debate style and kept improving but mostly Romney saw nothing of the debate skill that Obama faced in Hillary Clinton in 2008, not even that of the lesser debate oppounent in McCain that year. But still, Romney can take it, and he can dish it out. Its four years since Obama last debated, only half a year since Romney last debated. So it is a big opportunity for Romney to alter the game. However, the expectation and situation now is dramatically tilted against Romney in the debates too. Becasue he is behind, Romney needs a clear victory, a clear win, in the first debate. Obama has to stumble, he has to lose. If they come out roughly tied from the first debate, that is not good enough for Romney. Usually the challenger 'wins' with a tie, because the challenger is seen as 'presidential'. In this case, that is not enough. Romney has to achieve a 'debate bump' which rarely happens. It does happen (Reagan) but it is rare. And Obama is very gifted and all Obama needs to do is not be rattled - No Drama Obama - and stick to his talking points, on almost all of Romney's positions he has stretched the truth on Obama or else provided an unpopular position. Its difficult to win a debate if you argue that you want to increase taxes on the poor to give tax cuts to the rich, or that you wanted Detroit to go bankrupt, or you said it was not worth going after Osama Bin Laden.
Romney is under enormous pressure as he has to win the debate. Obama only needs to tie Romney to deny that victory from Romney and then give no bump to Romney. I am certain Chicago knows this too, and is working in Obama's debate prep to ensure Obama comes across as in control and unruffled. Romney often in his debates came off as hostile and rude and arrogant. In the Republican debates there were many on the stage, so mostly Romney was not having that much time and he could 'calm down' if he was agitated, but now it will only be the two of them Obama and Romney. And Obama definitely knew how to use debate skills to get his opponents upset with Hillary Clinton and McCain. Romney may well be seen to be rattled or too aggressive or disrespectful, all that would prevent his victory. I'd handicap the debate preview as its Obama's strong advantage but Romney could steal it.
WHY IS BOSTON SO INEPT
So finally, why? Romney is wooden as a speaker yes, and clearly is reluctant to speak about many aspects of his life, his religion, his taxes, etc. But why is the Romney campaign, Boston, so weak? This is one of the two most powerful parties on the planet and he is their leader now. How is it possible that Romney's campaign is so so weak. I mean, looking back at Carl Rowe and ways the Republicans so often eked out tight victories even out of hopeless situations etc. But no, this campaign seems minor league in its class.
I have a theory. I think its Mitt Romney. There is gossip that he micromanages the campaign. Normally all US major politicians, definitely Presidential candidates have campaign managers who run the campaign. They decide what is today's message, which TV interviews we do, which state to we go visit next, which campaign donations event we attend, etc. Romney seems to be very hands-on. But he is NOT the best campaign manager in the Republican party, else he would have run several campaigns for George Bush 2 and John McCain etc. Romney was perhaps one of the best investment bankers but he's not the best campaign manager ever. He probably doesn't think that. He probably thinks he can out-think this. That it comes down to analysis and he's simply the smartest and with good advice, he will do as good a job in the worst case, and a better case in the best case, than any professional political players. Its as silly as to think that just because you are smart, you would make a great brain surgeon.
Romney is too powerful as a person, the richest person ever to run for President, to take 'advice' easily. Not from people he doesn't respect. And it seems he doesn't much respect anyone who isn't about as rich as he himself is, meaning he doesn't trust anyone in the Republican establishment who went against him in 2008. And kind of, he did build his empire from scratch (while having tons of money as savings provided by rich parents, but Bain Capital was set up from zero). Its one of the biggest treasures built by one man and we don't even know exactly how big it is, as Romney has obviously hidden much of his weath in foreign investments and offshore bank accounts etc.
Romney's campaign is symptomatic of errors of the campaign refusing to listen to its experts. So anything from releasing only 1 year of tax-returns to selecting Paul Ryan as VP to not being prepared for obvious questions about Ryan when he was introduced to allowing Clint Eastwood to go unscripted on prime time to not campaigining after the Convention and on and on and on and on, this is a lame campaign. Romney doesn't understand what it takes to win. If his campaign was run by Carl Rove or by Mary Matalin or someone of that calibre, there would be discipline and a clear focus. The campaign would be on message and there wouldn't be those ridiculous moments like when Romney took the white board to show the matrix of Obama-Bad, Romney-Good. His campaign managers are wimps who can't keep their candidate in check and on message and on the plan. What is the saying about the defendant who represents himself in court, that the person has a fool for a client or something like that. Yes, Romney may be smart but this is a very specialized skill and talent and experience and Romney as Campaign Manager has been comprehensively outclassed.
I do think some Republicans know this and see this, and will start to leak this position to the only people Romney will listen to and respect - the Billionaire supporters. Some of them may start to now say, after the Conventions, that Romney has to change his Campaign Management Team. But I do think its way too late, even the most brilliant campaign manager can't save this sinking ship now, and Romney isn't going to start suddenly to 'take orders' from some political lackey.
And then there is Ann Romney. The body language to me, tells me that Ann Romney has very much power over Mitt Romney, that she is the boss in that family, quite really. Much what Hillary Clinton became later in the Clinton marriage, and something Michelle Obama is not to Barack Obama. She (Michelle) is an equal partner in that marriage yes, but you don't get the feeling when they are together, that he fears her, or he is afraid to say the wrong thing in front of her, etc. But that is the feeling you get with Mitt Romney. It is Ann who runs the family and its Ann who wanted Mitt to become President and its been Ann who has made the big decisions for him about running for Governor and taking the Olympics job etc, all on her long-term plan, she wanted to be come First Lady. Some of that comes through when she speaks, she speaks a bit like the Queen of her little imaginary Romneystan. When she gave those interviews where she insisted there were to be no more tax returns, etc, and that she actually cries when they give their donations to the Mormon Church etc, she sounds like she's the boss in control and Romney does seem (slightly) subserviant to Ann, in that submissive way as some men are.
Regardless of what my utterly non-professional and un-scientific observations might be true or not, what at least is said, is that Mitt Romney listens very closely to his wife and she is very central to any decisions including the VP choice. (It was important, according to the pundits, that the VP's family was acceptable in a social sense, to attend tea parties, that kind of mutual comfort, like the very wealthy might consider meeting a new neighbor and thinking should they invite this new couple to play Bridge on Saturday etc. Imagine how utterly pointless that would be to winning an election, but also, think how relevant that would be to CEO Mitt Romney and his wife, if they were considering promoting a junior Bain executive to be a Vice President who would, indeed, be invited to the big parties at the house. This is totally different and any sane Campaign Manager would have cut it all out as utterly meaningless. The Romneys were not auctioning a family of BFFs, they needed a boost by selecting a winning partner as VP).
There are those occasional very untrue comments that come through. Like when Mitt Romney said that he didn't even know which day Ann's horse was competing in the Olympics. So Mitt and Ann travel to the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics where Ann's horse, Rafalca, that Mitt counts as a tax deduction, is entered in Dressage ie horse ballet, and Ann was going to of course stay in London until the finals? Romney and Ann travel to the Olympics and he doesn't know? And Romney was waiting to announce his VP choice until Ann comes back from London. And yet he has to claim he doesn't know what day their horse is competing? This to me sounded like the man who in reality has had to memorize those dates months ago, and promise his wife she can be in London even as Mitt is in the middle of the biggest personal contest on the planet, with that promise, he then claims in public, no, I don't even know what date it is.
Sounds 100% patently false, but sounds like something that a person would do, who is often accused by close friends, of being under the thumb of his wife.. I do think Ann Romney has an unusually strong influence on Mitt Romney the candidate, nearest person to that in my recollection would be Nancy Reagan (the real power behind Ronald, while Ronald the actor played his part very well mostly not to let it show). But Ann is even more in total control of Mitt than Nancy of was or Ronnie. Again, I am no psychologist haha, this is purely conjecture by a layman observer.
Compare to Barack Obama. His most famous line is that 'Yes We Can'. Did Obama write it? No. Did Obama want to say it? No. Did Obama believe initially that it would work and get his people to be energized? No. That was all his campaign manager, David Axelrod who insisted to run that line and create the rhythm to get the audience response. Axelrod knew what he was doing. Obama, the young politician still, felt it was beneath him and populist. Axelrod the political pro, convinced Obama to try. He did, and it worked. But soon Obama was sick of the line and towards the end of hte 2008 campaign he'd run long speeches without one Yes We Can, and the audience would still yell it at him. If you remember his victory speech, it was the last time he said it and instantly retired the phrase. But that is the relationship between Campaign Manager and Candidate.
The Candidate knows and trusts his professional Campaign Manager knows what works 'politically' while the Candidate gets to make the big policy decisions. It has to be that way, the Candidate cannot be the best Campaign Manager simultaneously. They are both gruelling jobs with nearly totally diverging needs in a hectic time. Romney needs a real Campaign Manager. But do you think he'd not instantly fire the Campaign Manager who suggested for example to release the tax returns now... And which truly top-notch capable Republican Campaign Manager would even step into this losing proposition now, to sink with this ship?
If you have a great candidate and a bad campaign manager but a great message, you can win. If you have a bad candidate but a great manager and great message, you can win. If you yave a great candiate and bad message but great campaign manger, you can win. If you have a bad candidate, and a bad campaign manager, and a bad message, you can't win. Meanwhile, Obama is a great candidate, and has an excellent campaign (manager) and a good message. Yes, the economy is bad, but even that Obama has rather effectively neutralized, as being the cause of Republicans and George Bush 2.
My gut says all US Presidential elections become more tight towards election day. The wider split will tighten, and it will be close. But this is an unusually weak opponent to the President, who has bizarrely run away from the center and taken extremist positions. That is the only way we get real landslides (Mondale 41%, Dole 42%). These true landslides tend to happen only in elections of incumbents where the challenger fails spectacularly, and when the challenger abandons the center of the electorate and in the final weeks the total campaign collapses. This year's election has all the signs of a landslide going against Romney and for Obama. If so, I think because Romney is exceptionally dependent on the money and TV ads, and his millionaire-supporters that money will suddenly collapse when they see the obvious result. And that will seal the fate of the Republican party in Senate and House races.
So here is my guess. Obama wins all states he carried in 2008 (including Indiana not on battleground map now) plus he adds Missouri & Arizona for a total of 379 Electoral College votes vs 159 for Romney. I guess the Presidential Election public vote goes 54% for Obama and 45% for Romney. The Democrats keep the Senate and add a couple of seats but dont' get to a filibuster-proof 60 seat supermajority. And they retake the house with a tiny 2 or 3 seat majority in the Congress bringing Nancy Pelosi back to chair the House. Ryan will be ruined as a politician but will land a lucrative career in TV. The Republicans go 'into the wilderness' to regroup and for the midterms 2014 they return rejecting the Tea Party and the Religious Right, they embrace science, Latinos, Womens's Rights, and state openly that increased taxes are necessary. That new Republican party will make modest gains in the mid-terms and might take back the House. That new Republican party will be known as particularly cooperative and willing to compromise.
The disgruntled Tea Party will split from the Republicans and set up as a formal splinter party with Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman among their leaders. They won't take any seats in Congress.
In 2016 Ryan may consider a run but won't become the Presidential nominee. Mike Huckabee may entertain a run, won't be it either, the religious right is no longer the winning formula. It won't be anyone of the losers of the 2012 field either. The Republican candidate will be a moderate Governor, Bobby Jindal, Rob Portman, Chris Christie, that kind of person, and the candidate will pick a rising star senator as VP, like Marco Rubio or Kelly Ayotte. The revitalized and re-energized and far more centrist Republican ticket will lose to Hillary Clinton with VP pick million-dollar-smile Julian Castro. Meanwhile, as Barack Obama retires from public office into very similar post-Presidential career as Bill Clinton, becoming ever closer friends, and as the Obama daughters go to college, Michelle Obama runs for Senate in a safe Democratic state like Illinois, aiming to eventually run for President herself..
Only one person will be more bitter about the 2012 campaign than Mitt Romney, and that will be Ann Romney..
If you stayed with me to the end of this 16,000 word essay, thanks. Let me know what you think, lets talk US politics here, nothign about Nokia or smartphones or SMS or social media... :-)