Monthly Archives: September 2012

Live Blogging Clinton’s speech

Ok, the Big Dog is on, but running late.  Let’s see him work his magic – and stick to the schedule!

Hard to believe he left office more than a decade ago, and under a cloud of suspicion for his last minute pardons.

Ouch!  Bill praising Obama’s choice of a wife – has that ever mattered to Bill before?

It didn’t take long for Bill to switch the focus to him.

Notice that he’s strayed from the script.  No teleprompter for most of this.  The question is whether he can wrap up in time for the evening news casts.

It’s worth remembering that Bill was crucified for “cooperating” with Republicans.

Uh, Bill  – don’t forget you aren’t running – Obama is.

Timing is becoming an issue here – he needs to wrap up in order to meet the evening news deadline.

Rumor has it that Obama will join him on stage.  If so, it is a reminder that Obama is worried about whether he can get the votes of the so-called “Reagan democrats” – middle and lower-income white working class voters.

Keep in mind that in 1988, Clinton’s convention speech went way over the time limit, and when he announced “In conclusion”, the crowd – relieved that it was finally over – broke out in huge applause.  How long will the audience stay with him tonight?  He’s only about half way through the speech, but the audience is still with him…

I’m shocked – shocked! – that Clinton has run over his time limit. He’s already 5 minutes past the 11 p.m. deadline, and only slightly half way through the speech.  Someone is going to have to drag him off the stage. He’s in his element now.

“This is personal to me” – Clinton touts his own welfare record.  I’m not surprised.

I think he’s gone longer than he did in 1988.  Is he losing the crowd?

This is veering toward self parody – hard to tell whether this is a validation of Clinton’s presidency – or a plea for Obama’s.

And – finally – he ends.  How long did this go?

As expected, Obama makes an appearance on stage – neither of them look particularly pleased to see the other guy!

And now – about 1/2 hour after bedtime – the Democrats will finally hold the roll call to confirm Obama’s nomination as the Democratic standard bearer. I hope you forgive me if I don’t stay up to describe the roll call vote.  I’m sure all the “great states” will, in the end, nominate the incumbent president.

I’ll be on tomorrow to see if Obama can secure the nomination!

 

Lies, Damn Lies and Nail Polish

In what is likely the peak for his post-convention polling bump, Mitt Romney yesterday edged ahead of Barack Obama in the composite polling at the Pollster.com website by a scant half a percentage point, at 46.6% to 46.1%.  This is the first time Romney has led in Pollster’s aggregate poll against Obama dating back to June 2011 and the start of the election cycle.  While perhaps symbolically important to some, however, Romney’s “lead” does not represent much if any real change in the election polling – the race continues to be close to a dead heat.  It is also further evidence that Romney received a smaller than historically average polling bump from the Republican Convention.  The RealClearPolitics composite poll, where Obama’s “lead” has shrunk to .1%, tells a similar story.

Romney’s Pollster.com “lead” may prove short lived, however, as President Obama is likely to get his own small bump from the Democratic Convention, which began yesterday with a night of speechifying headlined by Michelle Obama.  For what it’s worth, I thought the First Lady gave a very impressive performance.  Most of today’s punditry, however, focused more on her dress and her nail polish.  These are, evidently, issues of national importance.

Tonight we get to see the Big Dog himself, as former President Bill Clinton takes the stage.  I don’t expect him to be given a very long leash by the Obama team – they will want to make sure he sticks to the convention schedule (always a worry with Bill), and doesn’t talk to any chairs.  There has to be some trepidation among the Obama people that Bill is going to steal some of the convention thunder.  It is a sign of just how close this race is that despite these worries, Team Obama is asking Clinton to help out.  Frankly, they need him, and his ability to rally working class Democrats back into the fold.

One thing I am interested in seeing is how carefully his, and other convention speeches, are “fact-checked” by the denizens of the twitterverse and national media.  It is clear to me that the partisan pundits are now using twitter to conduct an initial fact-check of speeches in real time.  In so doing, they are establishing a first-take news narrative that the mainstream media, including the various fact-checking sites, feels obliged to respond to. Several of you, in your comments to a previous blog, argued that this instant “crowd sourcing” is a useful check on politicians’ tendency to stretch the truth both by embellishing their own record and distorting their opponents’.  This is a point that bloggers are making as well.

I confess that I remain skeptical.  As I noted in my discussion of the media reaction to the Ryan speech, it would be one thing if the ‘fact checkers” limited themselves to catching obvious errors of fact.  But in Ryan’s case they went beyond that to correct “misimpressions” created by his speech.  This is a worrisome trend, I think, because it presumes there is a “truth” out there that the often partisan fact-checkers can unambiguously identify.   So, many of my colleagues were up in arms when Ryan, in his convention speech, criticized the President for not actively supporting the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson bipartisan deficit reduction commission.   As they correctly pointed out, Ryan was a member of that commission, and he voted along with the other Republican members against its recommendations.   My fact-checking colleagues think Ryan should have pointed this out in his speech.  But while what Ryan said may have been hypocritical and self-serving, it wasn’t factually wrong.  “Fine,” you respond, “but it is important that we identify self-serving and hypocritical statements.”  It seems to me, however, that fact-checkers are stepping onto a slippery slope when they go from identifying clear falsehoods to taking on this additional interpretive task.  Last night Ted Strickland gave a rousing speech defending Obama’s decision to bail out the auto companies. He also noted that “Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed entitled, ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’  If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the nation. Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down. “  It is true that Romney wrote an editorial opposing the auto bailout.  But I suspect he would argue it is misleading to claim that “if he had had his way”, economic calamity would have resulted.  Should someone correct the misleading impression created by Strickland’s assertion?   Or should we chalk it up to the usual rhetorical excesses of convention speeches?

Or, consider the question “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”  I can think of multiple, factually correct but quite different answers to that question.  For instance, do you think – as many economists assert – that the Obama-backed stimulus bill averted a worse economic calamity?  If I’m Obama, I’m going to argue yes.   But is that the “truth” – or a self-serving claim?  Or both?  I don’t see how the fact-checkers can expect to rule on this one.

My point is that I’m not sure I want a bevy of partisan-motivated tweeters telling me what is the “correct” answer to this, or other,  political questions.  But that’s exactly what we invite when we fall prey to the notion that there is an undeniable ‘truth” out there, and that it is the fact-checkers job to tell us what it is.  Perhaps the one undeniable fact is that when it comes to political claims, one person’s “truth” is often another’s self-serving assertion.

By the way, that was a Tracy Reese dress the First Lady wore last night, and it worked perfectly with her bluish-grey nail polish.   And that’s a fact.

Go Ahead, Make My Convention

In my most recent post for the Economist, I argued that both Mitt Romney and President Obama were likely to fall short of the 5% average convention-driven polling bounce received by presidential candidates in prior years, although I expected Romney to get a very slightly bigger bump than the President. This was for two reasons.  First, neither candidate is polling much lower than one might expect, given the fundamentals.  So there’s not a lot of room to grow polling support based on the convention alone. Second, because the Democratic convention, which starts tomorrow, follows so closely on the heels of the Republican convention, which ended last Thursday, the two  events are likely to cut into each other’s bump somewhat.  However, because Obama is the better known of  the two,  I  thought Romney had slightly more polling upside because some people would use the convention as their first opportunity to assess his candidacy.

So far, the post-convention polls – and there haven’t been very many as yet – are consistent with the first part of my argument: Romney has received a smaller than average polling bump.  In Rasmussen’s three-day tracking poll,  Romney appears to have gained 6% from its pre-convention figures.  However, that is based on a starting poll that probably was something of an outlier among Rasmussen’s recent tracking results, since it showed Obama leading Romney by 2%.  For most of the last few weeks, however, Rasmussen has had the race tied or Romney slightly ahead.  If we adjust the  starting point to the more typical Rasmussen tracking poll results showing the race a dead heat, it appears that Romney gained perhaps a 2-3% polling bounce, rather than 6%. That’s pretty much what I expected.

Meanwhile, in its seven-day tracking poll, Gallup is showing no polling bump for Romney; the race remains essentially  a dead heat, with Obama up 47-46%, about where it has been for a couple of weeks  now.  Of course, the 7-day average only includes two days of polling for the period after the RNC ended, so it may not be picking up the full convention impact.   Gallup may have a better gauge tomorrow, when a full four days of post-convention polling is available.

In the RealClearPolitics composite polling average, Obama’s lead has shrunk from 1.4% on the day before the convention to .3% today.  At Pollster.com, Obama pre-convention polling lead has barely budged, from .7% before the convention to .1% today. Of course, both composite polls include the Rasmussen tracking poll in their composite results, and not much else, so I wouldn’t read very much into either one.

Inevitably, some pundits are going to blame the lack of a polling bump on Dirty Harry’s – er, Clint Eastwood’s unscripted and sometimes rambling 10-minute address during the Convention’s last night, a speech that culminated with the crowd repeating one of Clint’s more iconic lines:

Not surprisingly, reactions to Clint’s speech broke down neatly along partisan lines.  Obama supporter Steven Benen pointed out that Clint’s speech mocked Obama’s decision to first increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan before drawing down American forces, rather than withdrawing troops at the start of his presidency. Unfortunately, a troop  drawdown is not Romney’s position either.  The National Review’s Mark Steyn, on the other hand, thought Clint’s chair-talking effectively targeted undecided voters who might have tuned into the RNC event.  Steyn concludes, “Incidentally, I’m not generally in favor of what Rob Long would call “working blue,” but, if you’re going to do it, doing anatomically impossible sex-act cross-talk with an invisible presidential straight-man in front of the Republican Convention is definitely the way to go.”

I’m not sure Clint’s performance moved the needle in either direction, but it surely got people talking about the convention, which is typically an eminently forgettable event.  For that alone, I think Clint’s speech was a hit.  Still, given what was at stake for Romney, more than one critic is wondering why he allowed Romney to appear on stage without first vetting Clint’s speech.  I think the answer to that one is pretty obvious:

You got that, punk?