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Republican pundits’ tortured logic, and the horse they rode in on

First, let me get some disclosures of my own out of the way, so I can earn my seat at the high road table.

The vote fairy won’t be visiting Texas on Tuesday. There will not be a surprise winner in the U.S. Senate race here. There are no big upsets in store in any Texas state Senate race anywhere, except one – the only question mark is the Davis-Shelton race in Fort Worth. There are few state House races up for grabs – if you’re a Democrat who doesn’t live in the maybe 8-10 districts which are in play, your hopes and dreams will be shattered. Only two of Texas’ Congressional seats are in serious question – the ones in which Democrats Nick Lampson and Pete Gallego are running. And wish it as hard as you’d like, but of Texas’ 38 electoral votes, Barack Obama will be earning exactly zero of them on Tuesday.

If you don’t live within some of that prized real estate in Texas I just described and had hoped for a better outcome, sorry to disappoint you. Take solace that miracles – and accidents – do happen. Maybe your beloved candidate will be the recipient of one. Or maybe I’m just full of crap. But I doubt it, and now I’ve said what I honestly believe.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, now that I’ve demonstrated that I’m capable of acknowledging likelihoods even when they aren’t great news for my Party, what the hell is up with the national Republican pundits?

Over the last couple of days we’ve been treated to the most tortured logic I’ve seen in recent years out of them, all with the goal of them maintaining their ability to end their sentence with, “…and that’s why Mitt Romney will win.”

These pundits use “anecdotal evidence.” You know who uses evidence like that? Those who don’t have statistical evidence.

The statistical evidence they do use consists mainly of pulling outliers out of the pile of battleground state polling, using national polling to justify something – anything – specific about a given battleground state, or even isolating single crosstabs from some of the very same well-established polls those same pundits otherwise discount as “hopelessly skewed.” Today I even noticed one Republican using as “a promising trend” an isolated crosstab from a poll taken shortly after Obama’s first, disastrous, debate – when it’s clear from subsequent research that this “trend” reversed itself a week later.

To justify saying that which they already know is so utterly unlikely, they are hedging their bets by mentioning, “…well, but of course, the hurricane might have slowed Romney’s momentum.” Perfect target, that hurricane: it’s a factor beyond the control of any of the Republican pundits – some of whom raised and spent millions of dollars of rich peoples’ money and promised that for their investment they’d get a US Senate majority and the White House – which they can point to after Tuesday night and blame. Rove, late last week, was the first one I noticed using the storm as his big asterisk, but over the weekend I’ve noticed other pundits adopting this adorable little baby as their very own to love and hold as well.

Continuing to lie about what you really think is a lot easier than crediting the President’s team for having an effective message and sticking to it. It’s easier than admitting that the Democrats in targeted states are mopping the floor with Republicans on the ground game. It’s certainly easier than blaming Mitt Romney for embracing a far-right message, or blaming the Tea Party nutjobs who not only forced him there, but are also responsible for knocking more mainstream US Senate candidates off in the primaries, leaving the Republican Party with embarrassing losers.

What Democrats need to do – both in Texas and Nationally – is continue doing what you’re doing: get out the damn Democratic vote. What we should do is pretend we never heard the Republicans lie about what they think will happen, and pretend you never read how I responded. Because the GOTV activity – all of it – counts for something. In some areas of Texas, it counts for just about everything.

But don’t be fooled as the unintended recipient of the Republican pundit machine message – they’re just doing CYA duty for all the rich guys they pried money from. They’re creating the Wednesday morning narrative that starts with “Romney would have won, and we’d have a majority in the Senate, if only [fill in the blank with weather reports, or anything else not in the control of the SuperPAC you just gave millions to].” And their narrative ends with “and that’s why it’s not my fault.”

Democrats, continue to work your hearts out to win every one of these elections; you haven’t developed a narrative that ends that way. Your only remaining choice is to do everything doable to win whatever elections you’re working on.


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Presidential debate #3: Romney called – he wants his debate win from 3 weeks ago back

I had feared going into tonight’s debate on foreign policy that the President might fare as poorly as a draw, because even as he was winning in the second debate last week, he didn’t do a particularly great job explaining himself when the topic turned to foreign policy then. It was mostly because of Governor Romney’s blunder on precisely when Obama first termed the attack in Libya “terrorism,” and moderator Candy Crowley’s assist on that question, that people weren’t talking about it later. Instead, they were talking about Romney being wrong. Again.

But my fears of a draw were for nothing, because Obama came loaded for bear, hitting Romney again and again on Romney’s incoherent positions, leaving Romney reeling on his heels for the first full 30 minutes of the 90 minute debate. Obama was not only more in command, but he had the lion’s share of the memorable dingers certain to be re-played over the next few days.

Obama was also first out of the chute to turn a debate slated to be 100 percent foreign policy into a discussion about domestic policy, which was admittedly just fine with Romney. But on that front as well, Obama edged out Romney with his command of the issues and the agressiveness of his attacks on Romney’s ever-varying positions.

The most puzzling thing about the debate is why the exact same Mitt Romney showed up this week as the Mitt Romney who showed up last week. Romney lost that debate, and this week’s performance should have been an opportunity for course corrections.

It would be difficult to over-state the importance of Obama winning this last debate. Obama losing the first of the three proved how damaging it is for an incumbent President to be caught napping – nobody was ever even talking about this being a serious race until Romney bested him their first time out. But Democrats breathed a sigh of relief when the Obama who showed up tonight was the same Obama who showed up last week. He was eager to very forcefully defend his policies, and equally eager to define Romney’s lack of consistency before Romney could innoculate himself against the charge.

More local to Texas, guess who else is breathing a little easier now? Democrats on the same ballot running in tough real estate. Wendy Davis in the Senate. State House members like Craig Eiland in Galveston, Joe Moody in El Paso, or Donna Howard in Austin. Congressional candidates like Pete Gallego or Nick Lampson. Those Dems don’t need Obama to win in their districts, and in some of those examples, Obama certainly won’t. But what those down-ballot Democrats can’t have is Obama getting creamed in their districts, creating such a drag on their own races that voters don’t even consider the individual Democrats running down-ballot. That’s what happened across the state two years ago, which was key to creating the Republican supermajority in the state House. And Obama besting Romney in the last two of their three debates probably swings hundreds of state legislative districts across the country, including some in Texas.

Tonight’s debate moderator Bob Schieffer is probably breathing easier as well, since he may have become the only moderator in the 2012 debate season who is all-but-unassailable in his performance tonight. He kept complete command of the event, and neither played it safe nor strayed into territory which partisans on either side could credibly criticize as rationale for why their little perfect angel of a candidate “would have” won.

There’s no doubt that it was the Obama’s night, and the President very much needed another one, like the one he had last week. Even after Romney’s first debate win created a Romney bump, the electoral map still looked daunting for the Republicans – but at least they could see a glimmer of hope.

But since this debate was the last opportunity for Romney to fuel a surge for his campaign (barring breaking news neither campaign can control), things may start returning to the bleakness Republicans were beginning to feel before the debate season.

All-in-all, it was a bad night for Romney, at the worst possible timing. Looking forward, watch out of wild-ass charges coming from Republicans aimed at Obama. It may well be the only play they have left to make.

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Presidential debate #2: Romney hits Obama right in the fist with his nose

I have to hand it to Mitt Romney – he had a very spirited first half of a debate tonight. Unfortunately for him, he had it with moderator Candy Crowley.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama ran the table, seemingly without Romney noticing.

Obama showed up to tonight’s town hall-style debate clear about what he needed to accomplish. He was determined to not let pass any moment during which Romney misrepresented either his own or Obama’s positions or record. On this front alone, Obama would have won the debate.

But, especially in the first half, Obama didn’t just win, he mopped the floor with Romney. He showed all the spirit he was lacking in the first debate. He held Romney’s feet to the fire in all the ways his campaign wished he had in the first debate. And he dominated, without seeming domineering, like he should have in the first debate.

It’s not that the second half of tonight’s town hall was much better for Romney. It was, however, more scary for Obama supporters. Obama got a bit wild-eyed toward the end, and Obama voters could be forgiven for being tempted to want to reach through the TV and push him back just a bit. But he always pulled himself back just in time.

Incidentally, I read the memorandum of understanding between the two campaigns earlier today, and everybody involved – including Crowley – broke the agreed-to rules, big-time. But it was already clear before tonight that debate rules were meant to be broken, and it didn’t detract from this information flow. Mostly it was amusing.

Crowley, for her part, showed up determined not to be Lehrer’ed, and she succeeded. On the other hand, calling on a voter to ask a question about guns, before you had ever called on anybody to ask about public education, when you’re running out of time? Seriously?

What tonight’s debate set could have looked like

I was in the studio at YNN Austin, watching the debate on the set with Republican frequent partner-in-crime Ted Delisi, and Ted had an interesting observation I completely agree with: the Presidential Debate Commission never picks Texas as a debate site. I think Ted’s onto something, especially watching the white people-fest that passes for “a diverse group of undecided voters” in New York. Let’s face it: those yankees were annoying the crap out of me. What about a town hall debate in San Antonio next time, Commissioners? We’ll show you diverse, and we promise that not all the questions will be about taking our guns away.

What now? I think the President gets his solid momentum back, that’s what now. I think the big gender gap in which an overwhelming majority of women support Obama is reinforced. I think serious doubts about Mitt Romney among a lot of swing voters in key states returns. And I think in the few days we’ll begin to see the polling swing back Obama’s way, with him gaining back a lot of ground lost two weeks ago after his weak debate performance then.

And I think Democrats can afford exactly one-half of a sigh of relief. Because the bottom line is, this will still be a very close race and Democrats have a lot of work left to do to win it.

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Presidential debate #2 preview: can Obama get back in the groove?

Tonight is Barack Obama’s big chance.

Two weeks ago, Mitt Romney was able to reverse much of weeks, if not months, of a Bataan death march of a campaign because of the President’s lackluster debate performance. It showed in a reversal of the national polls, most of which showed Romney in the lead after the first debate, and in key state polls which showed at least a bump for the Massachusetts Governor. There’s little doubt that the first debate, for the first time in months, made Mitt Romney at contender.

Last week, Vice President Biden stopped the bleeding, in his own debate performance against Paul Ryan. Biden didn’t hit a home run, but he got a solid base hit and fired up the team. (again with the sports analogies)

But ultimately, incumbent Presidents have to make a case for themselves to win re-election. It helps when a former President like Bill Clinton makes a strong case for Obama, as Clinton did at the Democrats’ national convention. It helps when Joe Biden makes a strong case for Obama, as he did last week.  Now it’s time for the President to make a strong case for himself.

If the President can do it tonight, he’ll be back in a commanding position in the election. And if he can’t, we’ll have a real race on our hands. No pressure there, huh?

Complicating Obama’s job is the format. Town hall meetings mean the candidates are talking to real live undecided voters, in person. In order to connect with the voters across the country who count the most – undecided voters in the swing states – Obama must first connect with the undecided voter in the room tonight asking the question. He can’t just score points in skirmishes with his opponent, or moderator Candy Crowley.

Crowley herself is another factor. Arguably, she’ll be the moderator this election most inclined toward sharp challenges to a questionable claim either candidate makes. This is certainly something that Mr. Romney will have to take into account, since Crowley is unlikely to let slide Romney’s ever-shifting policy positions. But Crowley is certain not to fail to take the President to the woodshed any time she thinks he’s weaseling on.

This is the second time the two candidates have met, and second debates are always about course corrections for the loser of the first debate. It is a certainty that we will see a very different Barack Obama tonight than we saw two weeks ago. The real question is, will the Obama we see tonight perform more effectively than the one we saw two weeks ago? My guess is that he’ll get his groove back tonight, if only because he’s shown himself to be at his best when his back is against the wall.

Here’s what I said about it on Fox News in Austin last night. Frequent Republican partner-in-crime Ted Delisi and I will be on the pre-game show, and post-game analysis, on YNN Austin this evening, beginning at 7:45 Central.

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Presidential debate #1: America’s eyes glaze over

Remember what I said earlier this week, in the piece below this one, about what President Obama and Governor Romney needed to do, and needed to avoid tonight? None of that happened.

When I wrote the piece below, about how Romney could win tonight’s debate, it undoubtedly wasn’t what my favorite Democratic friends wanted to hear. Neither will this piece.

I said in the debate preview that Romney needed to change the game, since he’s the guy who’s behind. Romney failed to do it.

I also said in the preview that Obama needed to avoid getting to explainy, and he failed to avoid it spectacularly. I also said he needed to connect with voters at an emotional level, and he didn’t do that either.

Luckily for the President, Romney matched Obama explainy-for-explainy, and together, arm-in-arm, both candidates happily dove, over the decomposing corpse of moderator Jim Lehrer, right off the explanation cliff.

I’ll be blunt: this was the most boring, and least effectively moderated, Presidential debate ever.

Ted Delisi, Harvey Kronberg, and me on the set at YNN Austin, watching the debate and waiting for the post-debate show, in our desperate fight to stay awake

Obama’s objective was clearly to put Romney on the defensive, and Obama succeeded – the entire night was essentially about Romney. But Romney comported himself well enough, and in hindsight his ability to do so was entirely predictable. Obama’s strategy put Romney right into Romney’s comfort zone, where he has the most experience: debating on defense. He got that experience during the approximately 1,348,499 debates held during the Republican nominating process. Since he was the perceived frontrunner during most of those debates, he got accustomed to debates being a referrendum on Romney’s proposals.

To be fair, Obama’s strategy might have been more effective if Lehrer, the moderator, had managed not to doze off along with the rest of America. From Obama supporters’ perspective, whoppers were being hooked, but not reeled in. One need look no farther than the first excruciating 15 minutes of the debate, in which an extended discussion of Romney’s tax plan was batted around. It became more apparent than ever that the answer to the core question – does Romney’s tax plan balance, or not – is dependent on the component of the plan Romney has steadfastly declined to clarify: which tax deductions will he eliminate?

This would have been a perfect time for Mr. Lehrer to return from the restroom where he was taking a leak and simply press Romney for an answer about which tax deductions would get axed. If Romney had declined to answer, that would have been big news. If Romney had finally given a straight answer, that would have been even bigger news, and a pretty neat thing for Americans to know, I’m guessing. Or so you’d think. Lehrer also let Romney run away from his own tax plan without significant challenge.

You’d also think that in a 90 minute debate exclusively about domestic issues, Lehrer might have encouraged the candidates to devote a good 10-15 seconds or so on women. But if there was any discussion whatsoever on the issues associated with the largest gender gap for Republicans in recent political memory, I must have missed it…which would have been understandable since it was a challenge to stay awake.

I will say this for the President: he did lay out a clear-eyed, sober, level-headed case for himself, while Governor Romney was busy defending his proposals. But because both men said way too little and took way too much time saying it, the message was lost to television viewership which was undoubtedly plummeting by the minute as the boredom set in.

Make no mistake – I don’t believe this debate changed the game, so on that score Obama won, because he’s the man in the lead. But a man as gifted as Obama should have connected better, and wonked less. A journalist with the stature of Jim Lehrer shouldn’t have let both candidates muck around in the weeds without either of them covering any significant new ground. And on points that probably don’t change a thing, Romney did well tonight.

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Presidential debate preview: how Romney can win it

This is the week journalists will be asking everybody in sight how Romney can change the game by winning the debate Wednesday (spoiler alert – they already are). And the mere fact that they’re asking how Romney can change the game is the clearest indication yet that Romney is losing.

Fact is, my Democratic friends who claim this election is over – Obama’s already won it – are engaged in wishful thinking. Debates can change the election mood. So can 36 remaining days worth of world events, economic reports, and potential gaffes by one candidate or another, even aside from debates.

The odds are overwhelming that the President will emerge from this and the other two Presidential debates just fine. After all, it is, indeed, Mitt Romney who must change the game, not Barack Obama. Obama must only prevent Romney from presenting such a compelling case that voters change their minds and decide to fire the President.

But lest we forget: Ronald Reagan was still trailing Jimmy Carter until after a strong debate showing. Rick Perry was still considered a formidable candidate until the debates. George H.W. Bush was still solidly in “incumbent advantage” mode until he impatiently and ineptly kept glancing at his watch to see how many more minutes he had left to endure the pipsqueak Bill Clinton, until the debates. Some Texans were still under the impression that Kinky Friedman was something more than a second rate jokester until a gubernatorial debate clearly showed that he was actually a third rate one. Debates can, indeed, change the tone.

Here are five ways the election can be re-set to Mitt Romney’ advantage this Wednesday night:

1. Obama, who can get very explainy, can be inordinately explainy this Wednesday. The only politician alive who can get away with explaining government to people is Bill Clinton. The efforts of everybody else to do so is the fastest way known to man to make voters’ eyes glaze over. Obama needs to communicate values and priorities – not assault voters’ ear drums with facts and figures, which in an incumbent protection election sound like excuses. If Obama gets stuck in those weeds, Romney will win the debate.

2. The President must connect to people at an emotional level. Letting his personal annoyance with Romney show through isn’t a good way to do it – it’s more of a way to give voters the impression that Obama is arrogant. The “I deeply care about the future of this country” message Obama needs to convey could well be interrupted by the competing “Mitt, you really annoy the crap out of me and I’d like to squash you like the mosquito you are” negative message Obama will convey if he’s not careful.

3. Mr. Romney could, at long last, focus on the economy in such a compelling way that it captures voters’ attention. Yes, we got to #3 before even approaching a possibility that Romney can control – one of the big problems with the Romney campaign – but the possibility exists. Romney’s camp has said all year that he wants the election to be about the economy, and all year long Romney has instead been veering off chasing pretty butterflies instead. If Romney makes this Wednesday’s debate about the economy, and treats it like the beginning of a continuing process lasting for the duration of the election, instead of treating it like a sound byte he visits from time to time, in between pointless Obama-dinging on other issues, Romney could change the game.

4. Romney could surprise everybody by getting specific about what a Romney administration would look like; he could answer the nagging questions that have been holding back his candidacy. Does his tax plan balance – without doing away with the most popular deductions? Can he actually answer the health care reform question in a way in which he doesn’t appear to be on all sides of the issue? Can he explain why, if he’s blaming Obama on not fixing the economy in 3 years, why he insists it will take him two terms to fix it if he’s elected? Can he explain Medicare and Social Security such that it doesn’t scare the bejesus out of seniors? Personally I think the answer to all these questions is “no, he can’t,” but if he somehow finds a way to do so, it would change the game.

5. Obama could just flat-out screw something up. Obama is not gaffe-free, which is a factor people tend to forget since Romney is a gaffe machine.

But now, after the above five factors are giving Obama voters nightmares, here is the good news: none of the above is likely to happen.

The President knows what’s at stake, and he’s unlikely to seriously misstep. But even if he does, Mr. Romney has had week after week of bad news, and it may well be the case that voters no longer consider him a credible messenger, to the extent that no matter what he says and does, voters could respond with “that makes sense – too bad that guy is full of crap.”

Mitt Romney has invested the last eight years showing voters that he’s still not quite ready for prime time. His history shows that he probably doesn’t have the sheer talent to press the reset button on all those years with one good night this Wednesday.

And that assumption by voters makes it a little more likely that he’ll be able to do it. But only a little.

Here’s the TV schedule this week: I’ll be on Fox News in Austin tomorrow night at 9 pm with a debate preview. Then on Austin’s YNN Wednesday, I’ll be on both before and after the debate with predictions and analysis. And, as always, I’ll be on YNN’s Capital Tonight Thursday night at 7 pm with the whole wrap-up, plus discussion about Jay Root’s new book about Rick Perry.

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Democratic National Convention day 3 recap: getting the job done

I loved Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night. I thought it was among the best of his life, and it came at the exact right time to stop the minor bleeding of the Democratic convention’s only mistake all week, the platform dust-up.

But I loved his speech so much that I worried then that he might over-shadow President Obama’s speech last night. I also loved Clinton’s speech so much that I wished he’d written it for Obama.

Obama’s performance last night indicated that I should have worried, because it was a close call. But I think Obama’s speech ultimately delivered what it needed to, when it needed to do it, and I think the convention ultimately did the job.

But let’s define “the job.”

The Democratic convention as a whole presented a well-rounded portrait of a Presidential man. The Republican convention presented a man who is certainly competent, but no presidential-level superstar – which only echoes the concerns Republican primary voters have had all year. For a major American political party to present a Presidential nominee  with little mention of foreign policy, with little respect for America’s military, and with scant appreciation for the country’s veterans, borders on political malfeasance.

The Romney camp is so desperate to have an election in which the sole issue is the economy that they forgot that, for any President, there’s a whole country to lead.

The contrast between the two conventions is especially stark for various key voting blocs.

For military veterans, they will not quickly forget that in the same time slot in which the Democrats opted to air their very moving tribute to them this week, the Republicans were cracking jokes about empty chairs last week.

For women, speaker after speaker this week pounded on the Republicans’ lack of respect for their rights. Certainly the Republicans excited the pro-life crowd, but did little to gain back any support which would begin to ease the gender gap of which Romney and Ryan appear very likely to be victims.

For seniors, I don’t think the Democrats ever let a full half-hour pass all week without somebody on the podium reminding Americans that the Romney camp is misleading voters on Obama’s Medicare proposals, and returning to the message that the Romney-Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. The biggest problem for Republicans on this front? Romney-Ryan ending Medicare as we know it isn’t a message originated by the Democrats – it’s a message presented by the Wall Street Journal.

For voters watching both conventions, the Democrats were clearly more persuasive than the Republicans. No honest analyst of any ilk could credibly dispute that. The Republicans’ convention was competent – even very competent – but nothing more. The Democrats’ convention was enthusiastic, inspiring, and took the fight to the Republicans – and nothing less. To be fair, however, I bet only a small percentage of voters watched both conventions.

But at its heart, what’s the definition of “getting the job done” at a convention? These days it is solidifying the support among your own party’s voters, while attracting more than your share of undecided voters. The reason I believe the Democrats had the only convention that did that job is because the Republicans quit after the first step.

Having Ann Romney give a good speech will not get women voters back, especially when a week later Michelle Obama gives a speech worthy of blasting off into space – articulating policies which resonate with women will. The Democrats did that, and the Republicans didn’t.

Highlighting Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will not give you a leg up among Latino voters – sharing values and priorities of interest to Latinos will. That the Republicans failed to give more than a passing mention to the military and to veterans probably put them behind the 8-ball on that, and Latinos just glancing at the Republican crowd shots undoubtedly made eyes roll nation-wide. And that’s before one even gets to the policy proposals.

Women and Latinos were the two most likely groups from which the Republicans could have cherry-picked additional support, and when the post-convention polling results are announced in the coming days, I believe they will show that their token attempts to do so failed.

But the Democrats’ passion and spunk showed that they mean it – among an electorate undoubtedly wondering if Obama and the Democrats really mean it. Vice President Biden was Republicans’ last best hope to have something to seize upon, but his stem-winder was unassailable too. And, where did THAT John Kerry come from – I never met that guy before last night?

Some conventions do not result in a significant momentum shift for a nominee or a party. Neither Obama nor McCain left their 2008 conventions with a significant bump. John Kerry even left his nominating convention with a negative bump. Ronald Reagan had a big bump, as did Bill Clinton in ’92.

The Democratic National Convention felt more like 1992 to me, so it wouldn’t surprise me if polling in the coming days shows a significant momentum advantage for Obama.

But even if I’m wrong about that, two things are clear. First, we already know that Mr. Romney’s support was flat after the conclusion of his convention – the poll results are already in. And second, it’s clear, at least to me, that Mr. Obama will leave this convention, at the very least, with a momentum surpassing Romney’s – having succeeded in reminding Americans that he’s serious about it, passionate about it, and razor-focused on it.

And that’s a pretty good deal.

Here’s what I said about all this on Fox TV in Austin last night immediately following the President’s remarks.

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Republican National Convention wrap-up

The good news for Republicans: nothing happened at the convention that will deal a big blow to them by November.

The bad news for Republicans: it wasn’t a game-changer, and since Romney’s the guy challenging from behind, it would have been better for him if it had been.

There were some shameful, racist, moments, not the least of which was the peanut-throwing/CNN camera operator incident. But voters will chalk that up to the fact that out of thousands of people in the room, there will always be some bad ones. They lost few votes over that incident, if only because the votes they would have lost, they’ve never had.

There were bizarre moments. OK, let’s be frank: there was THAT bizarre moment. The Clint Eastwood/empty chair thing. Personally, I tried hard to join into the “let’s laugh at him” revelry on social media last night, but I just couldn’t make it, and laughed with him instead. I actually kind of liked it, for two reasons. First, because I thought it was kind of cute, in that “oh look, a doddering lovable old fool – how cute” kind of way. And second, because since Eastwood’s remarks preceded Romney’s keynote, I knew the followup morning-after chatter would be a lot about Eastwood’s chair and less about Romney, and I can’t help but have a better day any time a Republican manages to step on his own story. So, it’s hard to imagine the Republicans’ cost-benefit analysis on Eastwood, and I bet somebody somewhere in the Romney camp is getting a government-inspected Grade-A ass-chewing today about it.

The Eastwood thing will probably reduce Romney’s convention polling bump by a percentage point or two, but I don’t believe it matters – Romney’s convention bump is irrelevant, since the Democrats are going second, next week. So whatever bump we see in the overnight tracking polls in the next couple of days will be erased by next Friday, when we see the Democratic bump counteracting it. By then, we’ll probably be back to having a Presidential election that looked exactly like the election two weeks prior – one in which the President is ahead, and Romney is the challenger coming from behind…as if neither convention had happened, and neither convention mattered at all. Which, frankly, may well be the case, depending on how Democrats do next week.

One of the most notable things I noticed about the Republicans’ convention is the continuing political freudian slippage related to Romney’s chances this year, both from convention speakers and television network analysts. Speaker after speaker came to the podium to make their case – but not particularly highlighting their nominee’s case. Chris Christie was the most blatant, but there were signs of it from Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and even Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan. The second string of Republican leadership is clearly marking their territory for 2016 – a sure-fire indicator that they believe Romney probably won’t win in 2012. They may look back on their convention performances and wish they hadn’t so obviously peed on the fire hydrant, lest Republican activists point some blame their way in the event Romney loses in November.

What would a game-changing Republican convention have looked like? One which cut into the gender gap and encouraged women to come back. Or one which began to reverse the alienation of Latino or African-American voters. On these fronts, the convention was not a success. Their polling bump will be modest, and will probably be populated mostly by establishment Republicans who have lived in the “maybe” column for months, disgusted by a Republican primary process dominated by tea party blathering. But there’s still plenty of time for Obama and the Democrats to persuade them, and there is still plenty of election math to point to an Obama win even without them.

Stay tuned – the Democrats are set to dominate your airwaves all of next week.

Here was my reaction to Mitt Romney’s speech, and the convention as a whole, last night on Fox in Austin.


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Mitt Romney’s craptacular July leads to Ryan-tastic August

Let’s face it: whether you detest Mitt Romney or like Mitt Romney (or are pretending to), odds are that you agree with me that he had an absolutely craptacular July. Only on the fundraising front did he do well. He fared poorly on all other fronts, and it showed in the polling. Here’s what I said about it last week, the day before he picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate:

It is especially in that context why you might be able to imagine that Romney’s VP pick of “the Medicare-killing dude,” as he is known in Florida, would be seen as a gloriously Jesus-blessed wondrous game-changer by the lunatic fringe Romney still hadn’t closed the deal with. Ryan’s pick is clear indication that Mittens still hadn’t closed the deal with base voters, and was obviously desperate to do so prior to the Republican National Convention. That’s when the Republican base all gets in the same room, with way too many witnesses with cameras, to behave badly.

I listened to Maddow last night on satelite radio while driving through a vast expanse of West Texas wasteland yesterday, and I think she was quoting one of the writers on her blog when she got it just right: there are three kinds of Vice Presidential running mate picks: August picks, November picks, and January picks. The January picks are the Vice Presidents who can help you run the country once you’re elected, and are the best kind. The November picks are the ones who can help you win the election, and those are the most common kind. But the August picks are the ones who can only help you get through your miserable party National Convention with your ass still intact, and without excessive bite marks.

Paul Ryan is an August pick. In fact, Paul Ryan is an “August, and I’m sick of explaining why I’m not releasing my tax returns” pick.

But speaking of tax returns, Mr. Ryan undoubtedly had to turn in years worth of ’em to the Romney campaign for vetting purposes. I wonder if the Romney campaign will release them. Awkward moment alert.


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Republican health care fight a spectacular failure [updated]

After today’s Supreme Court decision affirming the Constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, Republicans are the proud owners of every inch of obstructing affordable health care, from opposing the original legislation, to fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court. Every step of the way, they lost, and every American who could not previously afford quality health care should take note.

Here’s the extent to which they opposed your affordable health care:

The so-called “individual mandate” most in legal question was originally a Republican plan in the first place. In fact, the concept was so Republican that it was the mechanism then-Governor Mitt Romney utilized in Massachusetts. He called it the “personal responsibility mandate” in 2006, which is mighty good spin. Here’s a newly-uncovered video that proves it, despite his assurances to Republican primary voters all year that his plan is somehow magically different:

Perhaps over-simplified a bit, the individual mandate is essentially the funding mechanism for the benefits of the health care plan. Without the funding mechanism, health plan premiums would have gone up for everybody else, and fewer people would have health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office quantified it: they estimate that without the individual mandate, 16 million fewer Americans will have insurance, and the insurance premiums for the rest will quickly rise 15 percent.

That, my friends, is the net effect of what Republican partisans were trying to accomplish with their Supreme Court case: 16 million fewer Americans would have have health care insurance, and costs for everybody else would have been 15 percent higher. 

The lawsuit’s result this morning started in the first place when the Republican Attorneys General from 14 states (including Texas A.G. Greg Abbott), sued immediately after President Obama signed the act into law, in an attempt to overturn the law.

So to review: the Supreme Court concluded that health care reform is constitutional, including the individual mandate (although SCOTUS apparently characterized it as a tax). The Republicans will try to spin the hell out of the “tax” part, even though it’s only a tax for those Americans who fail to do what is required under Mitt Romney’s health care plan.

The individual mandate only exists because it was the mechanism Republicans said they liked, and the mechanism their own Presidential nominee said is essential. Then the Republicans immediately decided that their own plan was terrible, evil, and unconstitutional, because it happens to be signature legislation of a President they hate, and Republicans sued to have it overturned.

So remind me again – what aspect of affordable health care to Americans can Republicans take credit for? Zero. Less than zero. They even fought like hell against their own funding mechanism to ensure its failure. Fortunately, they have apparently failed.

Those 14 original Republican Attorneys General who sued to overturn the plan? They’ll spend the rest of the day complaining, and rename “Obamacare” to “the Obamacare Tax,” all without presenting a new idea of how they would have made health care affordable.

Because we know how they would have done it, because it was their idea in the first place – they would have created the same individual mandate that Obama signed into law, and which the Supreme Court ruled constitutional today.

Even to the extent that they would fight against their own ideas, they gambled away your health care for the sake of politics, and they lost.

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