Friday, October 12, 2012

2012 Vice Presidential Debate Results, Predictions for Tuesday & November

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I threw a lot of good links up on the Facebook page tonight, but here is my wrap up of tonight’s debate.

First of all, I think the most overlooked moment of the debate, so far, was when Paul Ryan responded to the question about what he would say to a war vet dismayed by the ugly nature of the political attack ads this year by launching into a four minute bash on everything he saw as flawed about the Obama administration. 

Secondly, Bill Maher won the interwebs tonight with the tweet on the right here…

As for who won and who lost, shortly after the debate, I posted the following…

Overall, I think Biden gave a lot for people to talk about.

While they may say he was too intense, I think he did a good job of waving the bullsh... er, "malarky" flag when Ryan started confusing talking points with facts and I think this will serve the campaign well.

I think this was the only real mistake in the first debate. Team Obama figured the press would do their job and call out Romney on his factual errors and flip flops but, instead, the press got so hot and bothered at the idea that the race might end up narrowing that the facts and flip flops never really received much attention at all.

Watching the ABC coverage tonight, though, I was left thinking... If the infamous "eye roll" Gore/Bush debate was held this year, I think Gore's performance would have gone over much better than it did in 2000. Our views of what behavior is considered "Presidential" seems to have changed a bit in 12 years.


I haven’t seen anyone other than the one CNN poll and Fox declaring this a victory for Paul Ryan, and even Fox only gives it to Ryan on a technicality, saying that Biden was mean and scary.  A few networks and publications are calling this a draw, but most seem to be leaning towards or declaring this a Biden victory.

I think that Biden winning will be the consensus by tomorrow morning, and for the late night comics, and as I wrote the other day, they are the ones who really count. I know the Democrats on FB are pumped up. Much more noise and chest thumping than after the first debate.

Hell, even I was getting burned out on all the Muppets.  And I freaking love pissed off Muppets!

If a Biden victory is the consensus, it really doesn’t matter much what actually happened in the debate, people will be hearing that Biden won, which is good for the Obama campaign.

Of course there will be discussions on whether or not Biden was too over the top, but like I wrote earlier, I this this will just serve to draw more attention the Ryan’s factual inaccuracies and to the Romney / Ryan campaign flip flopping on issues, which is a plus for Obama.

So what does this victory mean in the long run? 

While Vice Presidential debates have, arguably, never changed the course of a Presidential campaign, I do see the final battle lines being drawn out tonight, the laying out of the strategies the two campaigns will be following into Election Day, and those are pretty revealing.

The first thing I really notice is that the Romney / Ryan campaign is spending a lot of time and treasure on their big foreign policy “October Surprise.” 

The GOP’s big theme heading into the final stretch is using the Libyan incident as a centerpiece to focus on what they are calling Obama’s Unraveling Foreign Policy.  Ryan was all over this tonight.  And it seemed to lack traction.  This really seems like a losing attack for them.

One area I feel that most people are pretty happy with Obama is his foreign policy, and for all the noise Ryan made tonight, the few little pieces he had to back up his rhetoric with seemed small and nit picky.  I think one area where Biden had a clear win tonight was leveling him on these attacks.

Continuing to attack the President, who got Osama bin Laden and who is ending two unpopular wars, on his foreign policy feels like a losing strategy to me. 

On each attack point tonight, the result was Ryan essentially conceding that Romney wouldn’t be handling the situations any differently.  And when Ryan went after Obama’s relationship with Israel, well, again, he was flattened.  Badly. 

In the end, I do not think anyone except for some, not even all, Fox News viewers feel like American foreign policy is in any way “unraveling” right now.  This whole argument, let alone making it a centerpiece of the campaign in October, makes me feel like the Romney campaign is very out of touch with the public right now.

So, that probably leaves them running back to the economy, the deficit and tax reform, and “Obamacare.”

The economy is still tough for them, which is why they gave the foreign policy attacks a whirl in the first place.  People are willing to listen to their ideas on the economy, hell, I want to hear them.  But other than slogans and their vague “Five Point Plan,” they offer no real details.  Until they offer details, Obama wins on the economy.

Even tonight, Ryan was spending more time talking about how Obama promised a stronger recovery and let people down, but not denying that there has been recovery.  Until the GOP offers something more than vague tax breaks as a strategy for putting more people to work, Obama wins the issue.  Barely.

As far as deficit reduction and tax reform goes…  Well, vagueness is again killing Romney and Ryan.  When asked specific questions, they shuffle, weave and dart.  Without specifics, Obama wins again, though, again, barely.  And after the 47% comment, I don’t think there’s much trust out there for Romney on his promises not to raise taxes on low and middle income families.

Obamacare?  This is a bad issue for the GOP since it is based on Romneycare.  People’s eyes glaze over when Romney darts back with, well, it’s great for states, just not at the federal level.  And, overall, most people like most of it.  For all the talk of panels, I think most people do just hear the old, silly, losing rhetoric of Death Panels from 2008.  We’re going to keep everything that most people like except for the parts that the tea party doesn’t like seems to be Romney’s alternative to the current reforms.  I don’t think people want to rebuild the wheel if it is going to look pretty much the same as before.  So, Obama wins the issue.  Again.

So where does this leave us.

Right now, Obama is still looking pretty strong in the electoral vote.  National popular vote polls can bite me, they mean nothing. 

There are some indicators coming out over the last 48 hours that Romney’s bump in the polls from the first debate may be fading.  And being continually fact checked by his own campaign is going to start killing him again.  The only thing that saved his tail on that this week was the fact that most of the news coverage was breathlessly heaving about the fact that the race seemed to be heating up and wondering if they could get away with awarding Romney the front runner status (Answer? No, due to that pesky, state by state way we elect our presidents).  His continued battle with foot-in-the-mouth-syndrome was largely overlooked, but it won’t be for much longer.

Another thing to consider is that the polls for the last week were all over the place.  It is tough to form a clear view from them, because there was a lot of noise and chaos last week mucking up the machinery.

Momentum is also a word being used a lot.  Too much right now.  Momentum is built over time.  One win, even if the first debate was a big win for Romney, does not really change momentum. 

A disastrous September, one debate win, and then a likely debate loss tonight leading, four day later, into a debate that Obama is almost certain to win (if only for the same reasons that Romney was certain to win the first one)… Well, this time next week it may be very difficult to talk about momentum in the Romney campaign with a straight face, let alone without a snicker.

The fact that the next debate is only four days away is also a win for Obama, and I do predict that he will win this one with about the same confidence that I predicted that Romney would win the last one.  The pummeling that the President received after the first debate has lowered the expectations on him to the point where he will likely win if he just stays awake through the whole thing.

But this time, my prediction is not just based on expectations going in.  Expectations are only the first key. 

The second key to the next debate is its format: Town Hall.  Romney has never been good with the one on one sessions with regular folks and now he is bringing the 47% comment into the room with him. 

The third key is two debates worth of shaky truths and flip flops from the previous debates.  Now I do not expect Obama to go after Romney like Biden went after Ryan tonight, but I do expect to see him using the next two debates as his platform to address some of these issues.  Probably more gently on Tuesday and, unless the race has broken out one way or the other by the third debate, slightly more aggressively in the final debate, away from the town hall audience. 

However, unless Romney is pulling away in the key states by the third debate, I would not expect to see Obama throwing up a hail mary and really bashing on Mitt.  I still think the plan will be, for the most part, to let the Romney campaign hang itself by flip flopping everywhichway on every issue, under the national spotlights of the debate platforms, until the last remaining undecided voters are just sick of it.

Still, I do expect to see more engagement from the president on Tuesday.  From the beginning I think the strategy was to stand back and to let Romney have the night the first time around and to just not make many mistakes while looking presidential and above it all.  He may have missed the mark by a bit on that, but I am sure that was the plan. 

Obama is playing rochambeau with Romney and he let Mitt kick first.  Tuesday is Obama’s turn. He will step it up. And I think it will go well for him.

Finally, predictions for November... 

Obama should have this one barring a real collapse in either of the final two debates.  I think he takes it even if he does in the next two what he did in the first.  Because even if he does exactly what he did in the first debate in the next debate, he will get better press.  Victory in November might be by exactly the margins we are seeing right now, and he may even lose the popular vote, but he should win the electoral college and a second term.

Slight improvement in at least one of the next two debates?  Then I think he wins solidly.  It won’t be a landslide, it won’t even be by the margins he was running up a couple weeks ago, but we shouldn’t be having that late of a night on Election Day.

On a side note, I wanted to throw this up here… 

On CNN’s poll results ("CNN/ORC poll: 48% of registered voters watching debate say Ryan won. 44% say Biden won. Sampling error is +/- 5%." – CNN), I posted this in response to a comment that the poll results reflected CNN’s viewers these days:

Over the last few years, I don't think CNN is drifting to the right, I think it is drifting to the stupid.

I used to rely on them as being somewhat centrist and fairly well balanced between MSNBC and FOX, but still "Mainstream" enough to rely on as a reasonable sample of what "typical" Americans were watching.

These days I get most of my news from NPR and, watching CNN's post debate "analysis" after the first debate, well, my head hurt a lot. Not because I disagreed with what they were saying, but because what they were saying was just meaningless drivel that really didn't have much to do with anything.

On the first debate, CNN went from draw, to Romney might have had an edge, to Romney destroyed Obama, to Romney has regained the edge and the front runner status in about five minutes and then built the rest of their analyses around this headline without any facts to support it, since it takes days for the poll numbers to roll in.

Unfortunately, most of the major news outlets did this, so people who did not actually watch the debate ended up with a pretty skewered version of what happened during the first debate.

And I will head to bed on this…

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