Post-Spring Break Catch Up

All kinds of news to catch up on in these chilly early spring days.  Here are a few links to follow and think about:

  • It’s the tenth anniversary of the start of Iraq War. The political folks at NBC look at the profound impact the war has had on American political sensibilities.  Do you agree?
  • The last few days have brought into public view two faces of the Republican Party: the more radical base, as evidenced by those in attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and the “establishment,” in the form of the Republican National Committee (RNC) who produced an autopsy on what went wrong for the party in the last election.  Pay attention as the party continues to grapple with the question of whether their problem is one of substance or style — what answers to that do you hear in the coverage of CPAC and the RNC report?
  • The Senate edges closer to a bipartisan plan for immigration reform that is close to what the president has proposed.  We are still a long way from an actual bill, however. Does the RNC report (above) make reform more or less likely?
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Post-Election Stuff

We’ve had nearly a week to digest the election.  What we know is that President Obama won handily, having only lost Indiana and North Carolina from the states he had won in 2008. The popular vote was narrower, as most predicted, but his lead is still at nearly 3 percent of the vote. Overall, he is just about where the fundamentals said he would be.  Nate Silver pretty much nailed this one.

The Democrats also gained a couple of Senate seats, for a 55-45 majority — not the Republican gains that had been anticipated at the start of the election season, but pretty much what we expected once the Todd Akin/Richard Mourdock show got underway.  Red state Indiana actually elected a Democratic senator in what would undoubtedly have been a safe seat for Dick Lugar had he not been primaried by Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock.

Still, we have learned some new things in the last week.

One is how surprised the Romney campaign was by what transpired.  Apparently they believed and in fact encouraged the “unskewing of the polls” that supposedly showed a false Democratic advantage.

A second thing we have learned was how very uneven the campaigns and their ground games were.  The Obama folks had been preparing for a long time for a tough campaign where every vote counted, and they did a good job getting those votes out.  Despite touting a get out the vote strategy of their own, the Romney campaign was stuck with an untried system called “Orca” that crashed on Election Day.

And a third thing we learned is that it will be a while before the Republican Party settles on an explanation for what happened in this election. Currently they are divided by those who think the problem was that Romney was not conservative enough, and those who think the whole party has moved too far to the right. The smart analysis points to the closed information loop many conservatives live in and the need for a reality check.  David Frum has some interesting thoughts about how his party should react.

Up in the Air

That’s where we are. We’ve got the third and final debate tonight on foreign policy but unless one of the candidates really makes an error, I’d doubt that we’ll see much fallout.  We are tied now and likely to be tied tomorrow.  As always, Nate Silver has the best piece on the “state of the race,” which is, in a word, uncertain.  Of course, something could still happen which pushes this thing one way or another, but if this is a status quo debate, it’s hard to think of what that might be.

What to say about that debate…?

Well we are still awaiting all the fallout from the debate to settle. (If you didn’t watch it, here you go.)

Substance-wise it was a heavy duty discussion of tax policy that even bored Ezra Klein (it’s a wonky article — recommended but not required.) Style-wise it was a pretty clear win for Romney, a judgment that gathered steam over time so that by Friday it was the general consensus, echoed in the polls.  But Friday also brought good unemployment numbers (they dropped under the symbolic 8% number) which was perceived as a boost to Obama.

This morning it looked like Romney’s bounce in the polls had peaked Friday and started to subside by Sunday, which looked like a pretty good Obama day.  The daily trackers today showed distinct signs of an Obama recovery.  BUT, this afternoon a Pew poll, usually favorable to Obama, showed a 4 point Romney lead (though to be clear, most of the interviews were done Thurs.-Sat.) and a PPP poll (done Thurs.-Fri.) will come out tomorrow with another Romney lead.  We know Thursday and Friday were good days for Romney with lots of enthusiastic Republican poll respondents — what we don’t know is whether his bounce has subsided, though we have some reason to think it is doing so.  On the other hand, Sunday’s numbers may be the fluke.

Prof. Barbour’s advice — sit back and enjoy the ride.  This piece on the polls by Nate Silver is kind of heavy going, but I think it is basically right.

Meanwhile, to give some context to Obama’s surprisingly laid back performance, here is a good article on why incumbents usually lose their first debates.  Most of them do lose it — some go on to lose the presidency too and some hang on to win.  As I said, sit back and enjoy.