Election Fundamentals Still Suggest Close Election With Modest Tilt to Obama

The best antidote I've seen to handwringing among Obama supporters, and outright hysteria from buffoons like Chris Matthews is James Fallows's thoughtful analysis of the current state of the election campaign, and the first presidential debate of the season in context. Fallows notes:

  • The polls are indeed tightening, but many more of them show Obama ahead than behind.
  • We're about to have another debate. While Fallows doesn't know whether Joe Biden or Paul Ryan will "win" the battle of the VPs, he is 100% certain that Biden will put up a better fight than Obama did.
  • Then we'll have two more presidential debates. Unless Obama is in fact being paid by the Kochs to throw the election, these should go better for him. The reasons include:
    • Obama has seemed "on" in several post-debate speeches and rallies. This suggests that he still can do better.
    • Romney has now gotten Obama's attention, by humiliating him. This suggests that, as one of the world's most competitive people, he will want to do better.
    • The political media's iron law that "the story always changes" will give natural momentum to an "Obama comeback" theme.
    • The next debate's format, the town hall, is better terrain for Obama than for Romney. The topics and pattern of discussion are less predictable, and meet-and-greet average-person small talk is not a Romney strength.
    • The final debate is about foreign policy, where Obama knows the big picture and the fine points, and Romney knows neither.

On the last point, Fallows cites, in particular Fred Kaplan's "Mitt Romney's Most Dishonest Speech" in Slate, and Conor Friersdorf's "Mitt Romney's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Foreign-Policy Speech".

Calling the speech "the worst of its kind in a very long time," Fallows quotes Kaplan:

[I]t was astonishing to watch Romney spin a daydream of himself as some latter-day George Marshall, bringing peace, prosperity, and hope to a chaotic world--this from a man who couldn't drop in on the London Olympics without alienating our closest ally and turning himself into a transcontinental laughingstock.

Against the handicaps of a sluggish economy, closet racism, disappointed supporters, and Republican voter suppression efforts, Obama has the advantages of incumbency, Electoral College math, demographic trends that favor Democrats, an often bumbling opponent and opposing campaign, and a divided opposition party.

Fallows reminds us "None of that has changed."



The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reiterates some of James Fallows's argument in "Chill, Obama supporters, chill". In particular he notes that the Obama campaign has always assumed the race would be close until the end, Obama would hold a two or three point lead in key states, and not enough undecideds would break to Romney. This, as Sargent notes, "is still eminently doable."