Convention Bumps, Race-Baiting and those “Old, Lefty Professors” (Who, Moi?)

It’s been a busy day so far – and the night promises be even busier.  In addition to my post on Artur Davis, one of tonight’s convention speakers, I’ve got another piece just up at the Economist in which I argue that neither Obama nor Romney is likely to get a major polling bump coming out of their respective conventions, but that Romney’s is likely to be bigger than Obama’s by a couple of percentage points.  In a tight race, of course, a 2% net gain may be enough to push Mitt into the lead.  There are signs – so far ignored by most of the media as far as I can tell – that the race is beginning to tighten just a bit.   When I come up for air, I’ll try to post some of the latest poling data to show you what I mean.

Tonight, however, I’m going to be live blogging the Republican Convention.  In case you missed it, Republican delegates formally nominated Mitt as their candidate today. While the media tends to dismiss the convention as a scripted, made-for-television event, that misses its real significance.  As Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan argues in this piece conventions in fact serve as an important learning tool and informational source for voters who are just beginning to tune into the presidential race.  So we ought not to dismiss the event as mere pageantry.  Instead, view this as the opening volley in the general campaign.

There’s another reason to watch tonight, of course – it’s to see the speeches.  Several major figures, including House Speaker John Boehner, are on tap.  Of course, all eyes will be focused on my former student (Ok, my eyes will be!) Artur Davis, who continues to attract controversy for his decision to split from the Democratic Party.  In response to the broadside leveled at him by the Congressional Black caucus earlier today, Davis returned the favor, accusing them of “race baiting.” His comments come as both sides are trying to inject race into the campaign.  Conservatives have been circulating this NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing not a single African-American respondent supporting Mitt.  Obama supporters have fired back, pointing out that Romney’s recent comments at a Michigan campaign rally regarding his birth certificate is one of those “dog whistles” designed to stir up racial “resentment.”  Davis’ comments are sure to add fuel to the fire.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Olivier Knox’s Yahoo piece on my Davis post, you should take a look, focusing in particular on the readers’ comments.  As with most comments, they are decidedly partisan, and not for the faint of heart (or for those who value grammar, spelling or punctuation).  Thus:

“All of the southern dixie crats switched to the repug party after 1965 check it out. Now the repugs have all of the racest members from the south on their side.”

“Well at least Arthur we know what his academic record was at Harvard…..still waiting for Obama to release his school transcripts…you think the liberal news media could do a story about that!!”

And my favorite:  “That’s the Ticket . Attacking black conservatives in support of the candidate the liberal media sold us – Barack Obama . Great work yahoo once again. Digging up an old leftist college professor to call Davis a weasel. Very balanced .”

Imagine that!  I’m both “old” and a “leftist college professor”!  Who knew?

I’ll be live blogging beginning at 8 – unless Artur comes on earlier.   Hope you can join me – it’s been a while since we’ve done one, and the scotch bottle is full.

UPDATE:  According to the C-SPAN scroll, Davis is speaking at 9:46 – he’s the lead-in to Ann Romney’s speech.  Primetime!


  1. Jason,

    I think Obama’s approval is trending about 2-3% higher than what you cite, but your more general point that history suggests this is going to be a very close race is accurate, as far as I can tell based on most of the forecast models.

  2. hey thanks a lot. Yes, Gallup ran a lower number. I’ve seen a few other examples where O was as high as 47 percent. Certainly, that would have made my conclusion different. But I was using Gallup stats so I stayed with their numbers.

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