Quote of the Day: Should Obama and Democrats Now Freak Out?
Our political Quote of the Day comes from one of the most-level headed analysts in any media, Marc Ambinder, who now writes The Compass blog on the great news weekly The Week. In a column titled “Not an October Surprise” he contends the race was always expected to narrow and also points to polls in swing states suggesting that it should not be freak out time for the Democrats (yet).
He then gives us our Quote of the Day — which is actually the last part of his post:
(1) This race was always going to be tight. Independents were always going to be up for grabs. And even if Romney hadn’t closed the deal post-convention, he would need a single moment of good television, something not pre-rehearsed, to cross the plausibly presidential threshold.
(2) Obama still has an edge in the battleground states. His get-out-the-vote operation is significantly superior to the GOP’s, something that the GOP will admit.
(3) When something happens in the race, it is priced into the election almost immediately. American voters, as Bruce Feiler and others have noticed, seem to be much better at quickly processing information… the same information that, 10 years ago, might have taken a week to process. That’s why game-changing events don’t change the game very much — or why they don’t often change the game.
(4) A corollary to this is that both sides at this stage will try to use new information to bolster their beliefs or fears. So a second bad poll for Obama, or some bad news report, might actually exaggerate the valence.
We will know today whether Obama receives a bump from his debate performance.
So here’s a question for you: Why do Democratic elites freak out? Why is it that Democrats are always freaking out? And why would a similar situation not make Republican elites do the same thing?
So far it seems as if Obama has gotten little or no bounce from his debate performance but that could change as you read this (with Monday’s polls). It has been a bounce, it’s been a tepid bounce indeed. Obama may have stopped massive bleeding so he is now just bleeding.
It’s not just Democratic elites freaking out. It was a bit astounding to read the number of Dems who after Obama’s second, better debate said, well, by golly, now I will donate to the party. So, in other words, when things look bleak and they think their candidate might not win they won’t donate? This fits a historical political Democratic Party pattern (see below).
At key moments in the second part of the 20th century and early parts of the 21st centuries Democrats have a)decided to teach their party a lesson and stay home and not vote, or, b) been dispirited and not voted. The result? The Democratic party has since 1968 frittered away its power (build up by FDR, Harry Truman, JFK and LBJ) to get like minded people into the bureaucracy and courts. Then after they lose and Republicans make the perfectly legal, ethical, and logical moves to use the power that they have gained at the ballot box — partially because Democrats stayed home or didn’t donate to their party — Democrats complain about how ruthless the GOP is and how their party seems to be be on the losing end so much.
America’s current media culture encourages this kind of hyperactive thinking. Polls go down for Obama? Democratic hand wringing. You get a conservative writer saying as if he has a crystal ball or runs the world’s best polling company how now nothing can stop Romney momentum…Obama is finished…Obama is now a failed, defeated incumbent. The reality: NO ONE KNOWS and even astrologers and psychics differ. There’s a whole class of self-assured pundits who make big bucks acting as if they know what’s going to happen or stating for certainty what people are thinking when they probably have had about three minutes talking to people on the street (if that much). No one knows for sure — except Dick Morris, and he is certainly consistent (almost always wrong).
Independents are not monolithic and neither are moderates. Both parties are trying to win them over and the bases of both parties often show utter contempt for them (and then they wonder why independents remain independents and why many moderates consider being called a liberal or conservative an insult). The near contempt dripping from some on the right and left about those who don’t have political religion BEFORE election day won’t change this fact: yes, there is indeed a class of people who don’t feel they need to make up their minds until the day they cast their ballots and its not accurate to broadbrush to label all of them as uniformed, dumb or wishy washy. There are people who keep their options open and want to seriously weigh versus those who feel they must declare allegiance to a sports political team or recite the viewpoints of some well paid talk show host of the right or left without reading what the other side says or considering other arguments.
Get out the vote will be critical. So will a)voter suppression efforts and the efficacy of them, and, b)Democratic party success in anticipating and countering any voter suppression efforts.
A lot depends the next few weeks on which side better anticipates the next side’s move and is ready to respond to what occurs. Is Barack Obama ready to handle any charge or line or position switch by Romney? Is Romney ready to handle any planned response by Obama? Is Obama ready to handle any planned response by Romney to a planned response by Obama?
The bottom line in this election: Republicans know how much is at stake with the Supreme Court and they’ll get out to vote.
Do the Democrats?
Or will they become dispirited and sit home again – mentally done in by polls, analysts’ glum predictions, or what the blog that they go to that already says in advance what they believe says is going to happen?
If Democrats don’t fall into this traditional pattern, I’d say that would be the real October surprise….
Freaking out graphic via shutterstock.com