This blog post has nothing to do with smartphones, mobile phones, digital tech or social media. Feel free to skip the blog article. This is only some of my thoughts now, 20 days to the 2012 US Presidential Election. I have an intriguing conspiracy theory that we probably will never know, but just might be - and further, we might find out in some kiss-and-tell-book by some ex Obama campaign managers, sometime in 2017 after Hillary Clinton is safely sworn in as the next President, and these kinds of secrets might finally come out from the past Obama presidency. But yes, I have a conspiracy theory about what happened - I think the Obama campaign may be playing a pool hustler scam on the Romney campaign and the Republicans. If you like this kind of analysis and speculation, follow me after the divide
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So lets start with some clear statements of where we are, so
readers can evaluate am I seeing this like a sensible mainstream analyst or
some extremist from either party. A listless, unfocused, and bumbling Obama
clearly lost the first debate to a fired up, focused, sharp and commanding
Romney. Out of all televised presidential debates, it was the most lopsided I
can remember. Biden fought hard to win a narrow but clear win in the Vice
Presidential debate which threw a well-prepared but stiff Ryan off his game.
Now yesterday, Obama came back with a roar. The early debate was a bit of a
see-saw between both sides, with Romney playing strong especially on the
economic topics, but Obama took command about 20-30 minutes into the debate,
and then blasted Romney on several topics and ended with a massive closing to
decisive victory leaving Romney looking angry and confused, on a very weak
ending. The Democrats and neutrals rated it an Obama win while Republicans
would argue for a draw, blaming Candy Crowley the moderator.
I am not a US citizen, I can't vote obviously in these elections, and politically I would be a near-perfectly 'swing voter' as in the past I have almost perfectly been in support of either side. I think I can give a reasonably honest, neutral view to this debate, as much as anyone can legitimately be fair and unbiased.
My conspiracy theory, the Pool Hustler Gambit, is one not by
President Obama himself, alone, but rather, by the whole Campaign, its senior
management, ie 'Chicago'. But if this actually has happened, they have executed
it quite perfectly (so far, bearing in mind we are 20 days before the election,
and for this to pan out, they HAVE to win the election) - and they have
executed this cunning plan via their boss with his perfect and deliberate
participation, foreknowledge and delivery. Here is how I see it. This is more
than yesterday, my thinking only makes sense as we look back through this
campaign, and the starting point for this gambit is the Democratic convention
(and its planning).
THIS SHOULD NOT BE CLOSE
So. Lets start at the beginning. Last election, 2008, leading into the election in the primaries on both sides, was clearly, overwhelmingly a 'foreign policy' election. The USA was in two bloody wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, and some were speculating on a third against Iran, while North Korea was on its nuclear ambitions with still previous dictator Kim Yong Ill (and like David Letterman likes to joke, alongside his brother Menta Li Ill) in power. Meanwhile Osama Bin Laden was sending his videotaped messages from his hideout. Clearly a foreign policy election. The frontrunners who would obviously win their party nominations were John McCain and Hillary Clinton. McCain was a genuine war hero, Vietnam war navy pilot, tortured former prisoner of war, and since then long-serving Senator known for his military thinking, who had dared to stand up against his own party President George Bush 2 on some military matters. And Hillary Clinton had worked very hard to pick up foreign policy and military understanding credentials in her short history in the US Senate but also could claim foreign understanding from eight years in the White House as First Lady. Against these two came two challengers completely outclassed in foreign policy. Against Clinton came Obama, the law professor and social organizer first-term Senator; and against McCain came Romney the one-term Governor mostly known as affluent businessman.
Romney threw a lot of his own money and underperformed as second place runner in the Republican primary in 2008 and quit the race surprisingly early (leaving Mike Huckabee to hang on for many more contests and end up with more delegates in the end). McCain easily won the contest. Hillary, however met the astonishing candidate Obama, run by a brilliant Chicago campaign, and even with huge grassroots support, the Clinton campaign eventually lost in a very close contest. The guy with really no major foreign policy credentials, met up against the war hero in the final race. Well, McCain's campaign made its mistakes along the way, from selecting Sarah Palin to suspending his campaign, but that race should have been McCain's to win, or at least a very tight race till the end, if it had remained a foreign policy contest. It wasn't. The economy crashed, cratered to use McCain's word, and suddenly the whole race shifted. Neither politician had any meaningful economic background, neither was an MBA or had been a business leader, or run a business, neither had even been a Governor before, both being sitting Senators. These were two novices faced with the worst economic crisis of our lifetime.
We saw how Obama reacted, Mr No-Drama Obama collected calmly very clever economic dudes around him and seeked their councel and proposed sensible plans. It helped, that Obama had monitored the space before, and had issued some good statements about economic distress, so he could point out to them and claim 'look, I saw this problem coming' while McCain had of course been focused on the military side of the wars, where he thought this campaign would end up with him against Hillary for the final. If in October 2008 for example North Korea or Iran had exploded a nuclear device, you can be sure McCain would have won by landslide pointing to all his warnings over the years, and how he is definitely the better commander in chief to address USA's third war threat... But that was not to be. It was suddenly an economic crisis. And McCain showed his personality - which is to freak out and do his fighter pilot instant reaction, do something! He suspended his campaign, stormed to Washington DC, where he then achieved nothing. The nation mocked his panic and Obama looked Presidential against the spooked old crazy guy with the wacko VP candidate Palin by his side, who read all the newspapers and could see Russia from her front porch.
Obama won in 2008 in what was surprisingly an economy election, where Obama had no real economic credentials, but his opponent messed totally up that opportunity. Obama was lucky. But still today, Obama is no economic heavyweight. He is no MBA, he has never run a company nor has he been a Governor. And today the economy is still in a mess.
So, Romney? In 2008 he pulled out of the campaign very early. If he had stayed in, he would probably have seen the economic signs going sour, and should have been smart enough on the economic trends, that this migth be an economic election - and he might have won in 2008 against McCain, especially, as we can now see with hind-sight, because Mike Huckabee refused to quit and hung out till the end constantly needling McCain from the religious right.. With hindsight, Romney could have stayed in, in 2008, and been the smart guy in the middle, the moderate, between the militarist War Veteran and the Religious Nut, as the Sensible Businessman - as the economy gradually turned worse and worse. That could have been. And Romney in 2008 was still very well positioned as a moderate, and the Republican party was not hostage to the Tea Party wing, and thus much more moderate too. Imagine Romney 2008 running against Obama in 2008, and the economy crashes like it did? Romney would be President and Obama would be a college professor somewhere.
I am sure Romney sees that in his heart, and can easily convince this to his supporters and is part of why so much Republican support and money came to him early, even as he struggled to squash the candidacies of the political dwarfs who lined up against him this year in the primaries. Not one major legitimate established candidate bothered to enter the race, all knowing behind the scenes, that the money and big support was already locked up by Romney. So we had the Bachmann and Cain and Santorum and Gingrich and Governor Oops Perry parade, with the supporting cast of Palin, Trump etc playing in the margins pretending they'll jump in. All the serious candidates, Huckabee, Bobby Gindal, Jeb Bush, Chris Chistie, etc etc etc - stayed far away from the nomination fight. This was clearly going to be an economic fight, the economy itself was in ruin, Obama was out of his league, and Romney is the obvious Republican primary winner, no sense destroying your political brand in this race this year. Romney should have wiped out the feeble rivals in 2012. He couldn't. He just does not get the support he should be getting. But he is the candidate now.
AUGUST 2012 CONSPIRACY FORMS
So, what do we have? American political consensus theory is, that if the economy has the unemployment number over 8% in the summer of the election year, the incumbent president cannot win re-election. This has held true always in the past. That is the pain threshold apparently, for American voters. And the other alarming figure is 'right direction/wrong track' opinion - when the voters think the country is more on the wrong track than right direction, that means the incumbent President loses in his re-election bid, because the rival simply keeps asking the voters the question, like Reagan in 1980 against Carter or Clinton in 1992 against Bush 1, 'are you better off now than four years ago' and as the electorate is unhappy, they vote for the challenger.
We know how the situation was this summer. The economy was not good, the unemployemnt was stubbornly over 8% and the nation by a wide margin felt was headed in the wrong direction. By every sign of the conventional wisdom, this incumbent President will lose this election this year. That is one calculation.
Then there is the achievements, yes, Obama could point to a good record of what he promised, but nowhere near everything he promised; most of all, that promise of hope, of a post-partisan 'united' America was a failure. But many of his political promises from immigration reform to Guantanamo Bay were still unfulfilled. And Obama's signature achievement, 'Obamacare' had been vilified by the Republicans so badly, that Democrats were afraid to mention it, and most of the Senators and Members of Congress who had voted for it, were hiding from it. Worse, many of the effects - positive benefits - of Obamacare would not appear until in the future, so Americans did not really know what it did, this was a new law that desperately needed all of its supporters to embrace it, and celebrate what it achieves, not hide from it. So Obama's best achievement, was not only poorly known, what was perceived by the voting public, was the Republican poisoned view, that it was evil, with death panels etc. And the Supreme Court had just called it a tax, so the Republicans could also run it against Obama, that Obama had created a new huge tax on Americans. That is always bad for incumbent Presidents, to be labeled big tax-and-spenders.
Obama did turn out to be a fine foreign-policy President,
one of the best in recent history. He got the USA out of the quagmire of Iraq
with hardly any pain, ran a surve in Afghanistan before he starts his departure
from that war, dealt very astutely with the Arabic Spring, creating a coalition
of Nato support for Libya without committing US troops for any dangerous
mission there, and obviously found Bin Laden and had him killed. This Libya
Ambassador being killed not in the embassy in Tripoli but at the Consulate in
Benghazi was an act of militants and a tragedy, the new Libyan government was
aghast and is helping find the murderers. For the Republican party and Romney
to now try to push political advantage of this tragedy is particularly
despicable as it was the Republicans who cut hundreds of millions of dollars
from the budget requested by the Obama government earlier explicitly to boost
the security of the US embassies abroad. So this Libya situation is not in any
way a failure of the Obama Presidency
but only drummed up by the right wing desperate to find some opening to cut
into Obama's strong foreign policy record (in the past it has been Republicans
who were famous for being strong in foreign policy and especially military
With all that, what is the Obama personality doing about it? It is not in his nature to spike the ball, to take victory laps about for example him capturing Bin Laden. Understand how unsual this is. Remember candidate Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City? In the 2008 campaign, Giuliani would squeeze into every single comment he'd make in any press interview question, or any debate situation, the phrase 'September 11' Imagine Giuliani as President when Bin Laden was killed? He's have Bin Laden's head stuffed and mounted on a plaque in the Oval Office. He's have Bin Laden pins with the word 'USA' stamped on it, and that would be his official re-election pin. President Giuliani would now be starting every sentence with 'Bin Laden is dead..' Or look at George Bush 2? He had that huge banner at the aircraft carrier 'Mission Accomplished' while the fighting was still going on in Iraq... Any other President would be celebrating Bin Laden's death more than Obama is. Even his own VP, Joe Biden mentions Bin Laden more than Obama. On a typical stump speech of 30 minutes, Obama mentions Bin Laden once. Just once. That is all he needs, the nation knows, that is all, this is 'No-Drama Obama.'
So the one area that the US President has the most control over, and the one in which Obama apparently was very well suited to be President, and where his administration has been near perfect, under VERY challenging times - Obama finds that the race he entered all those years ago - to be the President under war time, who brings America to Peacetime - he has suddenly been removed from that 'foreign policy' Presidency, into emergency economic overseer, where the President has very little he can actually do, about unemployment or the price of a gallon of gasoline, etc.
Obama is not getting credit for his signature achievement. He is not prone to crow about his most popular achievement. The electorate is no longer interested in foreign policy parts of the Presidency, and the one area he is least able to influence, the economy is where all focus is - and the situation is bad. Obama sits in that unfortunate situation, where he genuinely should be losing to any 'generic' Republican rival at this stage. This, before we consider his rival.
Romney is the perfect antidote. Obama is the law professor and Chicago social organizer and former Senator. He is nothing like a solver of unemployemnt or the economy. Romney is the most perfectly prepared candidate ever, to address these issues. He set up a company that specialized in solving problems of companies in distress. His own success as a businessman is exceptional. He came and saved the Olympics. He was a highly successful Republican Governor or Massachussetts, a state very deeply Democratic. A perfect practising centrist and technocrat, Romney can point to a history of bipartisanship, and he's the grandfather of Obamacare. This is the perfect guy to come solve the mess... on paper.
Romney built a huge highly profitable giant investment firm,
Bain Capital, from scratch. He knows what it takes to build a successful business
from scratch - and to run one profitably. That business, coincidentially,
invests in companies often in trouble - thus Romney can claim long-standing
experience in how to turn around businesses, some yes, have failed, that is
inevitable in business, but very importantly, far more than those, have
succeeded and Romney can point to a record of creating jobs that way. What
better antidote to a US national economy with deep unemployment, than replace
the bad dude in charge, and get this guy in, the turn-around specialist who
saved companies? And then - the crowning proof in that - is the turnaround at
the Olympics. What more can you want, this is the ultimate major party
candidate to ever run with a record of turning around a messed business ie
economy. And then, a record he could proudly celebrate as a successful
bipartisan centrist moderate Governor of a major industrialized state. Add to
that, he's also the son of a popular Governor in a 'battleground' state
(Michigan) so Romney should also be able to bring this Democratic-leaning state
to the Republican side in the election. And by all logic, he should be able to
win the state where he once was Governor, stealing Massachussetts from the
Democrats too (neither will vote for Romney this year, however). Romney should
- in this economic climate of the worst recession in our lifetimes and
unemployment persistently above 8% (we are talking August, remember, not
October) - be such a strong candidate, he should be ahead of ANY recent sitting
president, if they were in this bad an economic mess, regardless of it being
Obama, the non-economist.
Economy in trouble, President should be a few points under during the summer. Country on the wrong track, maybe a point more. That he has no shining achievements to point to - or that he would strongly be advocating (Bin Laden), means nothing to balance against that. So the polls should reasonably be at something like 52-48 or 54-46 against Obama in the summer. They could easily be as bad as 60-40 in some polls at that time. Yet, according to the average of polls by RealClearPolitics, Obama held a steady 1%-2% lead over Romney all summer and never once did Romney even get past Obama. This should not be happening.
What do we know? We know that Romney is stiff and unattractive as a candidate, even his own party had a very hard time accepting him, after two tries. There is his Mormonism and his elitism and his tendency to stick his foot in his mouth (I like to fire people, Corporations are people, My wife drives a couple of Cadillacs, The trees are the right height, Some of my friends own Nascar teams..). The guy with the Dressage Horse and who builds elevators for his cars.. Even the rich peoples' party, the Republicans, this year, against Bachmann and Santorum and 999-Cain and Governor Oops and Captain Moonbase, did not easily accept Mr Wanna Bet 10,000 Dollars?
Ok, but there have been other less than perfectly appealing candidates, similarly stiff and awkward John Kerry and Al Gore and Michael Dukakis, and George Bush 1. That doesn't mean you can't be competitive. We also know that Romney's campaign ('Boston') has been incredibly inept, bordering on incompetent. Probably not due to the talent in the team, much of the staff come from the pool that delivered George Bush 2's unlikely come-from-behind victory - but more likely as they have an unruly uncontrollable candidate who wants to micromanage the campaign (remember the White Board press conference this summer?). Nonetheless, the campaign that has a candidate known for flipflops, who then manages to admit on TV camera that their intention is to 'Etch-a-Sketch' all old positions away and replace them with new; and whose candidate is known for stretching the truth to the point of lies, dares to say in public that they wont' be dictated to by the fact-checkers - this is the worst-run Presidential Campaign I've ever seen by a major party in my lifetime.
CHICAGO CALCULATES IN AUGUST
So what might have been the calculation by Obama's top team
in early August, before they knew who the Romney running mate would be. They
had seen Romney campaign in unprecedented detail with YouTube videos, with
Tweets and Facebook commentary from live events, with the most debates ever in
any primary season (I think it was about 20 if I recall). They had the total
Romney playbook perfectly constructed. They knew everything of what the best
that Romney could do. This, while they were not expecting gifts of Campaign
mistakes, like the selection of Paul Ryan as VP, or the biggest single gaffe I
can remember, the 47% statement caught live on camera from a private
Chicago knew in November 2008 that Obama would run again in
2012. Chicago has had four years to prepare for this. They have had playbooks
against all potential rivals, and deep analysis of the actual field of the
Republican primaries, and of course the most complete study of a rival candidate
ever, in modern times, with Google and YouTube etc, about Romney the moment it
became clear he would take this nomination this year. Chicago knows perfectly
well that it is in Romney's nature to run over the debate moderator, to hog the
microphone, to break the debate rules, to insist on more time, and to be
obnoxiously rude to all. That was his modus operandi all through the primaries
this year - the nastiest primary season ever. The Obama campaign could sit
back, facing no challenger, no pressure, just study and learn. They knew how
Romney would act. It was no surprise what came at them in Debate 1 two weeks
But yeah, lets go back to August. Chicago was considering the play to how to run the final stretch of this year's campaign. Which states to focus on, what arguments to use, where to spend TV money, what kind of ads to run, what would be the messaging, the speakers to the conventions, etc etc etc. And this is how I see it, if I imagine being there in the same room.
Obama should be severely under water. He is not. Romney should be far above in the race, he isn't. Obama hasn't started to seriously campaign, he's mostly only been raising money so far and been President. Romney has been campaigning for the past 5 years. Romney's primary season produced the biggest treasure-trove of negative comments about Romney, by senior Republicans, both Primary opponents and some of their surrogates, than ever seen, and they all are on YouTube. Romney himself, was forced to this year, thanks to the Tea Party, move so far to the right, that from his initial centrist bipartisan positions, he has made the biggest swing ever, and that is all caught on tape. And then, Chicago calculates, that Romney did win the nomination, but cannot win the general election, so Romney is going to have to move back to the center for the Autumn campaign. They will have a whole library of tape, of 'I was for it before I was against it' types of comments that doomed Senator Kerry's campaign in 2004. Except not just more of them, in Romney's case if often is Flip-Flop-Flip as he 'was for it, then against it, and now again for it' types of comments as we've seen almost daily on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
They see, that because they should be behind and it might still be winnable, but they are ahead, without even trying, this is their race to lose. They should win this, if Chicago plays smart, doesn't make mistakes, and the world doesn't serve them any nasty October Surprise like an Iranian nuclear bomb or Greece crashing the Eurozone. Chicago further calculates, that this campaign will turn out only worse for Romney, because of all his gaffes, his flipflops and the fact, that on most major issues, Romney is now on the record for being on the wrong side of history, from abortion to immigration to taxes for the richest to gay rights to Detroit. Chicago sees that Romney would resort to overwhelming TV bombardment to crush his primary rivals, but Chicago knows they will be able to raise enough funds to prevent that from happening. Obama was expected at that time to end with less money than Romney, but not by a big margin (currently Obama is actually raising more money than Romney).
Obama is a long-term thinker, a strategy thinker. He plans carefully, meticulously, and will take his time to decide. So too is his campaign, Chicago, like their man. Long term. They were not worried about this week's poll. They have often saved ammunition for better use in the future, and for pre-ordering attacks such as prebooking TV spots well in advance (when they are cheaper) than Boston which plays very last-minute, changes all the time, re-launches its campaign almost every week it seems, etc. This use of the 47% in this Debate 2 was perfect proof of that approach. It was going to be devastating whenever they ran it, but not running it the first time gave the press reason to talk about the 47% as a missed opportunity - keeping it alive. Then of course Biden brought it up in the VP debate where Romney could not be present to defend it, so the 47% stayed in the discussion. Now, it came up in Debate 2, but at Obama's closing, so Romney could not respond. It will be forever included when whoever shows Obama's closing statement, one of the highlights of the whole debate so it will get a lot of airplay, and best of all, the next debate will be about foreign policy, it will be hard for Romney to get a good chance to defend it in that debate. This was perfect use of their most powerful weapon - bearing in mind, many of the undecided and less-actively-engaged voters left today, will not have seen the original 47% video, but now are curious about it.
If Obama had brought up the 47% in Debate 1, Romney would have had his chance to give his best response to it, and greatly diffuse its damaging effect - and if necessary, still added to that defense now in Debate 2. The overall effect of teh 47% argument would be far diminshed on Obama's side. But rather, now, the chance for Romney to respond is stripped from Boston, they can at best go on Fox News to try to diminish its impact but the 60 million viewer audience in prime time is gone. Perfectly played, Chicago, the right call by the coach! Perfectly timed, Mr Obama, that was a slam dunk, perfectly executed.
If we look at Debate 1 in isolation, that Obama had several openings to bring his biggest gun to bear, the 47%, and didn't, looks like weakness. If we view the three debates as a series, the optimal time for Obama to talk about it, assuming the moderator didn't bring it up in an explicit question (to Romney), was for Obama to wait until his closing in Debate 2 (it would be very contrived at the end of Debate 3, the Foreign Policy debate). That was definitely the 'Jedi move' for Obama. And just to show how obviously this was tested and game-played at both camps, that Romney brought it up - only in his closing in Debate 2, was that Boston knew, that Obama will do so in his closing, and they had to say something to pre-empt that damaging closing. That is why Romney went into his 100% that seemed at first, to be self-destructive in his closing. But for Romney not to do that, knowing Obama will do it anyway, would have been devastatating (only Romney dropped the ball on it, he was quite rattled by Obama's strong performance and Romney doesn't debate well when he is angry).
That is what had me now thinking of the Convention Speech and gave rise to this Conspiracy Theory of mine. So lets go back to August still once again.
WHAT IF OBAMA CRUSHED ROMNEY
Its pretty clear to see now, that Romney is in reality a feeble candidate, very vulnerable and worse, he also has a very badly run campaign. And worst, he was caught in an election-ruining admission, the 47% tape, caught live saying he doesn't care about half of the country, who he thinks are just leetches who live off welfare. Its not a big gamble today to say Romney is going to lose this election and it won't be close (remember, I said so immediately after the 47% tape story appeared). But last summer? Last summer Chicago had their internal polling. They did their calculations. They saw Romney was underperforming, they saw that their internal polling of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin meant that the Detroit bailout would prevent Romney from winning those states. They also saw from internal polling that Romney's positions on Hispanics were so poisonous, he'd lose Nevada because of that, and likely Colorado too, and it would help swing Florida. Finally, they saw that the Republican war on women, and Romney's anti-women positions would swing Virginia safely to the Democratic side. Chicago calculated that they had such as strong lead in so many of the vital swing states, that even if one of those strategies somehow failed, the others would guarantee them the victory in November.
This was obviously before Ryan was selected, bringing Medicare and Medicaid into play, plus Social Security, giving Florida almost certainly to Obama as well.
I am sure, that when the strategy team for Obama did their scenario modelling this summer, they saw that they held all the cards and would be safe to win the election, while it might be tight. The fundamentals in those swing states, especially Ohio and Virginia were so strong. And the calculus was, that Romney would have to win 2 out of the three big swing states, Florida, Ohio and Virginia. By Chicago locking two of those, Ohio and Virginia, they guarantee victory. If you look at where Obama (and Romney) have spent most of their time and money, it is those three states, for that very reason. Romney has stopped advertising in Michigan for example, he knows its good money thrown after bad money, he can't win that state anymore.
So, in the summer, Chicago sees, that Romney is likely going to lose this campaign, his best has not been enough to even the race, and Obama hasn't even started to get serious, and they have plenty of their own big guns still to even bring into the game, like Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama. Now comes the coach and thinking long term. How do you play this out?
Remember, in the summer, the world's best campaigning team, Chicago, the one that beat the then-champion Clinton machine in 2008, has not even seriously warmed up. And their top dog, Obama, in't even in full form. And they are running ahead. What will happen, once Obama is in full swing, Chicago brings all its weapons to bear, they unleash all the nasty ads at Romney showing how other Republicans hate him and how he flip-flops on everything. And this all is echoed by the strongest support team ever, including the Big Dog himself, the previous best speaker the current electorate has seen, Bill Clinton? All this while Romney can't even be seen with previous president Bush 2.. Chicago knows, once Obama gets real, the gap between these two will grow, from 2% or 3% now, to 5%, 7%, 9%, 12% in the following few weeks.
And then what happens? If the election starts to look like 55%-45% blowout by Obama, the money going to Romney will vanish. As will the political support. It will be every man for himself, and suddenly the big money supporting Republicans, like big oil, Wall Street, and the military manufacturers, etc, will suddenly flock to.. Republican Senators and Congress Members. Remember, in the summer, the consensus view was that the Democrats were going to lose many seats in the Senate, and very likely would lose their majority, and that the Republican majority in the Congress was safe. What would happen to Obama's second term, if Republicans add control of the Senate and its Tea Partiers all over, refusing to play with Obama.
What Chicago no doubt calculated, was that they must defend the Senate, and try to get the House back. They knew they can fight to win re-election, 'almost come what may'. But they needed to keep the Senate, and Obama would greatly love to have a more friendly Congress to deal with, ideally back with Nancy Polosi in charge with a Democratic majority, however unlikely that looked still, in August. And most definitely, if the political pundits decided in September that Romney is losing this race badly, then the money would run to Republican Senate and Congress races. So what Obama really needed, then, from the Convention, was a huge bounce for the Democratic party, but not really a bounce for himself, personally... Isn't that an interesting conundrum, if you think about what then happened? That when we evaluate the Democratic convention after it ended, we are reminded how weak Obama's own speech was, but how successful the Convention was. And then, suddenly, to think that yes, on Day 2 keynote, it was not Biden, the ultimate partisan, delivering a fiery partisan speech (as he did do to introduce Obama on Day 3) but rather, it was the Big Dog on Day 2. Never before an ex-President delivered the nominating speech. And what a speech! The best speech in any convention I have ever heard in my lifetime. It was funny, entertaining, very factual, still respectful of the Republicans, so it has a good taste of 'bipartisanship' while being totally partisan, ripping apart Romney and all the while praising Obama. A perfect persuasive speech, that will be studied as a textbook example of how to deliver a political speech that tears down your rivals, politely and with humor, while supporting your own side, and your own candidate.
Now look back - Clinton's speech? Yes, it debunked Romney math nonsense, but it also attacked Medicare and Medicaid. And it defended Obamacare. And who would be most enthused by that Clinton speech that was not a speech by Obama about himself? It would be the other Democrats, running for office, and their staff and supporters. I think the single biggest reason that the Democrats emerged from the convenion so energized, was Clinton's speech. Yes, it helped Obama (and produced a convention bounce) but more importantly, it helped the Democrats running down-ticket.
Would you plan this speech, this speaker, with these topics, on this day, with this unusual set-up, if you knew Obama would deliver the most astonishing uplifting and mesmerising speech of his life, the immediate next day? Or... If you knew you had to ask Obama to take it on his chin, for the team, and tank it in his acceptance speech, and thus you wanted this Clinton speech to be remembered as the highlight instead? I think there is a chance, this was planned, not an accident. A chance, yes, not by any means certain. Alone, it doesn't make much sense but in context of Debate 2..
So then, Obama's Acceptance Speech. This is the most gifted orator we've seen. His stump speeches make people cry and laugh. He is the sitting president. His wife has deliered the greatest speech by a First Lady ever only two days before, and is proudly in the audience. Your two teenage daughters sit in that auditorium with thousands of your most dedicated supporters, and you lay an egg on that stage? This doesn't happen to great speakers, not the way he did it. If you remember Reagan in his later years, he started to show signs of old age, dementia, his speeches got stumbled and lost in thought sometimes. That would be his pattern. If you remember Clinton, he would go on and on and on and on, so the power of his speeches often like his State of the Union speeches, were tediously long, and his oratory skills were wasted in that way. Obama? He knows how to play a live audience, and he adores the stage. He knows what lines get laughs from his supporters, and he can milk the applause. That acceptance speech was not only delivered with an uncharacteristic lack of enthusiasm and charm, it was written to be dull - dull in the context of Obama speeches. This same speech delivered by Kerry in 2004 or Gore in 2000 would have set the room on fire. But for Obama we knew to expect far more, and even his stump speeches the weeks before and after had more than that. Just think of his lines that were missing, like 'Its like reverse Robin Hood, its Romney Hood'.
Obama cannot write a 'bad' speech. He also cannot have such a bad day, that he would deliver a speech 'badly'. But he is that gifted, like a pool shark a hustler in a billiards hall, capable of delivering just enough to make it seem he is trying, when he really isn't. And don't even suggest 'pressure'. Remember the day when Obama released his long-form birth certificate, and then went to speak at the Correspondents Dinner to tell his jokes? Mr funny and relaxed President? We found later, that it was at that time that the Seal Team 6 was already on its way to Pakistan, and from that dinner, Obama would go to the White House to watch the final capture and death of Bin Laden. Obama, Mr let me joke about my birth certificate, under the pressure knowing a similar campaign in the region destroyed Jimmy Carter's presidency as helicopters crashed in the deserts of the Middle East on a secret mission. And yes, this time too, there was a helicopter accident. But Mr Cool tells jokes and laughs, while that mission is already under way, to capture America's Public Enemy Number 1. Obama doesn't feel pressure. He doesn't know pressure.
I think, now with hindsight, looking also at Debate 2, that
in August, Chicago decided, they would have Obama do a mediocre speech, that
would be covered as a flop. That would stunt any bounce Obama could have that
could sink Romney. But the Convention would then be seen most of all, as having
helped all other Democratic candidates - while helping Romney seem competitive,
and keep his money and his supporters on his race. For that, to really work,
bring in Clinton to do the real top speech, in prime time, on Day 2, to ensure
it gets max coverage. Wow, if this was truly planned, and Obama played his role
just right on Day 3, wouldn't that be amazing?
SO DEBATE 1
Which then brings us to Debate 1. Romney won, clearly. Romney was about the level we saw on his peak against Newt Gingrich for example in the Primaries. Aggressive, assertive, dominating, and yes, hogging the microphone, insisting on more time, and totally running over the outclassed moderator, Jim Lehrer. Romney did absolutely everything he needed, without stepping over the line, and clearly won the debate. But.. Obama didn't show up? If the real Obama had shown up, we would have had a fight, and likely a draw. We didn't. Obama tanked it. Obama was sleepy, disinterested, long-winded, and he pulled his punches! He didn't go after Romney on many obvious lines of attack.
Its definitely possible that Romney was crisp, prepared (as he was) and that Obama was out of practise and not up to it. But Obama was on the stump all the time, he gets questions from the audiences and press all the time. He is fast on his feet, we saw it in Debate 2, that is Obama unshackled, the normal Obama. In Debate 1, it seemed almost like Obama was on sleeping pills or jetlagged. He was there, he went through the motions, but he was dropping the ball constantly. Missing the easy shots.
Could it be that Chicago was not prepared for Romney's tactic of claiming he never said that? No, I can't see that as possible. Chicago had poured over every inch of the videotape they had of the 20 Republican primary debates, and Romney does this all the time. He makes astonishing claims in the debates (or in interviews) utterly claiming, with a straight face, that he hasn't said something he has clearly said, quite recently in fact. And when you look at Obama's demeanor and body language, he was angry at Romney but he seemed to be biting his tongue. He was seething inside (similar to how Romney was at the end of Debate 2) because Obama knew he couldn't say what was on his mind.
Why? Again, the big picture. What happened just before Debate 1? The swing states had been safely in Obama's camp all season. The only state that was in any way regularly in Romney's camp was North Carolina, all other 8 swing states were almost any day listed as latest polls suggesting Obama wins. Even NC was about 50/50 of the time going Obama's way. Florida, maybe 20% of the time trending Romney but mostly Obama since the Convention, and just about all other swing states going Obama. But the week before Debate 1, suddenly Romney's support collapses. As the 47% tape damage spreads, the gap to Obama grows to 5% and above, some national polls even suggest 7% or worse, and the Republican camp is panicking and suggesting the sky is falling. Who needs to help Romney at this catastrophy? It is Obama who has to give a helping hand, take it on his chin again, pretend to lose the first debate, so that Romney can get off the mat, to fight another day - why? Because Chicago knows Obama's gonna win this anyway, but they want to keep the Senate and try to take the House. They can't have Romney's money now quitting and rushing to rescue some drowning Republican Senators or Congressmen.
In the second debate we saw the normal candidate Obama, thinking on his feet, knowing all the facts, and standing for his positions. This is the regular candidate we saw in 2008, this is also the President Obama we see regularly, if someone in the press corps asks some dumb question, you don't get to stump Obama, he will take you to task. This is the Obama we all know and see regularly in his normal press interviews and talk show chatter, and with spontaneous questions from audiences in his visits around the country. This does not go away, suddenly, for one debate. Yes, there is some comfort level and some rhythm, like in Debate 2, Obama was not comfortable right in the start but soon became very relaxed, and just ever more confident towards the end when he owned the room and owned Romney. But yes, this doesn't disappear. Obama turned it off in Debate 1. Why would they release those stories that Obama is not taking debate prep seriously, and was even avoiding some of his scheduled debate prep sessions? You really think he'd do that? Seriously? And if he did, that he'd then let it leak? No. This was to fuel the narrative, that Obama was clearly outclassed, ill-prepared for the first debate, to ensure Romney is seen by all as the clear winner.
Debate 1 was about economic and domestic issues, this is where Romney was supposed to be strongest and Obama weakest. If Obama really showed up and gave that debate his best effort, it might have been a tie, Obama might have won - but Romney's campaign would have been sunk. That was the debate Romney had to win, if he was to return to being viable. His campaign was sinking at the time. It did exactly what Romney needed, and Romney actually surged to a tiny lead in the national polls - while still never taking a lead in the swing states. And now that short-lived bounce is over, Obama is back. But now its three weeks left, and the last debate is on foreign policy, where Obama is strong and Romney is the weakest foreign policy candidate we've ever seen. That debate is not going to be pretty. Romney has to restore his appearance of a campaign that can win, so he will be desperate, on topic matter that he is uncomfortable with, against topic matter Obama mastered already when he debated Hillary Clinton in 2008. This is the debate Obama has wanted all along, to celebrate his mastery of the one area in the Presidency he really does control.
At that time it will be two weeks left, most of the TV advertising will be spent and it wont' matter if Romney's campaign collapses or not. At that time Obama will unleash the most devastating TV ads ever seen, with Romney flip-flops, and with Republicans saying nasty things about Romney. These will demoralize Republican supporters, and they will be particularly strong in convincing undecided swing voters to abandon thoughts of Romney and go with the safe Obama. The Obama campaign has a huge war chest and those are the videos we all have been wondering, why if the Daily Show can do these in parody, isn't the Obama campaign doing them for real. They are coming. They will sink whats left of Romney's campaign. But the brilliance is, that Chicago saw this in August, and played Boston like a sucker. Sorry, I lost this round, here is your $20, would you like to give me a rematch, for double, $40? Or should we make it $60... And so the pool hustler, the shark in the billiard hall steals the candy from the random visitor.
Did this happen, or was the Convetion Speech 2012 a true flop, and Obama's Debate 1 a real disaster, we may never know. But it may be, that this was actually a clever ploy, planned by Chicago, and we may read about it some day in a book, maybe year 2017, after Hillary Clinton is the next President, and Obama's team has retired and the first book comes out... For that possibility, I just wanted to post my blog. I do think this may be why we've seen two Obama's this season. The real Obama did show up yesterday, and that Obama will easily walk over Romney to win this election.
What do you think of my little conspiracy theory?