Inch By Inch By Inch

07.23.12

The State of the Race

The presidental race is going to shift gears for a bit. We have post-shooting Colorado matters to discuss. Then Romney goes abroad. Then the Olympics will open. Then it's August. With the exception of Romney choosing his running mate, I'd expect a bit of a lull until the conventions (famous last words!).

But the basic economic debate isn't going to shift gears. Bain and Romney's taxes and the state of the economy will still be issues. So it's worth noting, I think, that Glenn Kessler today addressed the controversy surrounding Romney's misuse of the Obama "you didn't build that" quote. He gave Romney's tactic three Pinocchios (out of four). I'm not sure why not four. He usually explains why, but he doesn't here, except to say, and I think fairly and correctly, that Obama needs to be more careful about how he phrases these things and could take some lessons along those lines from Elizabeth Warren.

This is worth noting because Kessler, for two weeks, has been lionized by the right because he said the Obama campaign was stretching things to say Romney himself (as opposed to Romney's firm) engaged in outsourcing, because the outsourcing supposedly didn't really start until after February 1999, when Romney "left."

But I remain confused on one point. I went back and re-read the news story that started this whole debate, which appeared in Kessler's newspaper, The Washington Post, on June 20. Written by Tom Hamburger, this piece clearly says that Bain outsourcing had its roots in a 1993 deal and startd in "the mid-1990s." Here's the money graf:

Bain’s foray into outsourcing began in 1993 when the private equity firm took a stake in Corporate Software Inc., or CSI, after helping to finance a $93 million buyout of the firm. CSI, which catered to technology companies like Microsoft, provided a range of services including outsourcing of customer support. Initially, CSI employed U.S. workers to provide these services but by the mid-1990s was setting up call centers outside the country.

So I don't get why 1999 is such a big deal.

Anyway, Romney has been running around saying things like Obama doesn't believe Steve Jobs built Apple. But here is what Obama said when Jobs died: “By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the Internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun.”

Kessler is an important figure in these debates, and his verdict means that the Obama camp can cite a neutral source in saying that Romney is lying. What power!

Meanwhile, there's no real sign yet that Romney's attacks changed anything. This morning, Nate Silver has Obama's win percentage slightly improved over last week. Potus is now at 68 percent.That's up one point since July 14.

I don't know that that means anything, though. This is pretty clearly a race in which what appear to be big, momentum-changing news events actually have little impact. We have two sides dug in, roughly 47 to 45 for Obama, leaving 8 percent who probably aren't going to make up their minds until very late, and even when they do, they're not going to swing one way or the other en masse; instead, one candidate or the other will have the momentum and be looking a little better come the last weekend of the race.

Remember in this context that the October jobs numbers will be released that last Friday before the election.