We should be leaving Romney in peace soon, but I’ve meaning to write this what he might have done differently post, and I’m interested in your thoughts.
David Axelrod shared some reflections on this with Mike Allen. Axelrod thinks the Romney message was “at war with itself” because there was, at the end, simultaneous playing to the base and trying to sound conciliatory, and it clashed. He also pointed to the Jeep ad, the late messaging on the auto bailout, as being pretty disastrous for Romney.
I’d agree with that. But what might he have done differently? Here are my thoughts:
1. He should have created a Sister Souljah moment of his own with the right sometime over the summer. Not sure on what. But he should have found some occasion and used it to give a speech that said to the nation broadly, “I’m not just in these people’s pocket.” I will lead, I won’t just follow.
Jane Mayer has an interesting take on the Petraeus matter that she posted yesterday at the New Yorker's site. Citing reporting over the weekend from the Times, she notes that one FBI agent, apparently freelancing, took the information the FBI had confirmed about the affair to two Republican members of Congress, one of whom was Eric Cantor, John Boehner's number two in the House.
Cantor evidently came to know about the affair on Halloween. And yet, he obviously did not leak it before the election (we don't know that he didn't try or think about it, but we obviously know that nothing appeared). He's not known as a wallflower, and you might think that in the week before the election, he'd want to try to put something out there that would inevitably be embarrassing to Obama.
If Cantor spoke with Mueller on Halloween, as the Times chronology suggests, what happened between then and November 6th, which is when the F.B.I. reportedly informed James Clapper Jr., the Director of National Intelligence, about Petraeus’s extra-marital affair? The internal pressure must have been enormous on Petraeus during this period. Perhaps he tried to outlast the election in order to shelter Obama from the fallout of his own personal foibles. Perhaps the F.B.I. director, Mueller, who has a reputation for integrity, tried to keep the scandal from political exploitation by keeping it under wraps until Election Day. Cantor, too, appears to have kept quiet, despite the political advantage his party might have gained from going public. Why? It is possible that, because the investigation had national-security implications, those in the know needed to tread carefully for legal reasons.
Bravo to the GOP for entertaining an amnesty program for undocumented immigrants. But it won’t make a difference at the ballot box until the party stops its race baiting.
Well, it’s all very touching now that Sean Hannity wants the Republicans to embrace immigration reform, isn’t it? And Charles Krauthammer, bless him, calling on the GOP to repeat the word “amnesty” as if it were some tantric mantra of salvation. Look, I think it would be great if Republicans would vote for a bill including a path to citizenship for people who came here illegally. But if they think they don’t have a long list of other problems, these people are just delusional. And the list of problems starts with the phrase made famous by Mitt Romney, a little phrase perfumed enough in racial code to have raised a wry smile on Jesse Helms’s face.
Sean Hannity: immigration reformer? (John Amis / AP)
Let’s travel back in time to Romney’s infamous NAACP speech, the one he gave (in my view) basically so that he could be booed by a black audience in order to impress his skeptical base. That was July 11. The next day, he spoke at a fundraiser in Hamilton, Mont.—I’m just guessing here, but it was probably a pretty melanin-deprived room. And he told them: “When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s OK, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy—more free stuff.”
The superstitious mind pondering any question latches on to the first answer that is both a) plausible and b) supportive of its darkest suspicions. And so, just as some in the olden days concluded that a woman was guilty of being a witch if she didn’t cry when she was accused, today’s conservatives took to Romney’s analysis like Donald Trump to styling mousse. Of course! It explained everything! These people—or, to put it in the usual way, “those people”—just want government to take care of them.
Obama just finished his remarks on the fiscal cliff, and he was direct and no-nonsense. Yes, I want to work with the other side, blah blah. But let's pass the middle-class tax cuts now. The Senate has passed a bill already protecting incomes under $250,000 from higher rates. The House just needs to do the same. I have a pen, and I'm ready to sign it [brandishes pen, even!].
The 2009 Obama would not have been that direct and confident. Not even the 2011 Obama. This is new. He's saying, "I am the president, I won. Deal with it, and deal with me." Too often in his first term, he let the Republicans set the basic terms of debate. Not this time. He just set them.
Now, Boehner and McConnell have to come back and explain why they're going to block a bill that would keep rates lower for 98 percent of taxpayers in order to protect the 2 percent. They'll carry on about job creators. That's a losing argument--I mean, it is precisely the argument that just got thumped in the election.
They may stand pat on it, but their standing will drop badly. Remember, 60 percent in exit polls said they back higher taxes on dollars above $250,000 (within that, 13 percent even supported higher taxes for everyone). Obama got just under 51 percent of the vote. That means that raising these taxes had the support of a few million Romney voters. Think about that.
Sorry for the delay this morning, I was on Bill Press's radio show. Last night, I was on with Ed Schulz, and he mentioned this piece to me, which I had not seen, from CBS.com about the Romneys' reaction to the results:
But it wasn't until the polls closed that concern turned into alarm. They expected North Carolina to be called early. It wasn't. They expected Pennsylvania to be up in the air all night; it went early for the President.
After Ohio went for Mr. Obama, it was over, but senior advisers say no one could process it.
"We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory," said one senior adviser. "I don't think there was one person who saw this coming."
If I weren't married to this infernal line of work, boy, do I have good ideas from time to time for badly needed nonprofit outfits. Here's one of my better ones, which just struck me yesterday.
Some rich liberals need to fund a public-education group that will work full-time to make sure the liberal blocs and constituencies come out and vote in off-year elections. Think about this. Turnout was sky high in 2008. It wasn't as high this time, but by the time they count all the provisionals and absentees, and accoutning for the somewhat lower turnout in the storm-ravages areas, it won't really be off by that much. In general, presidential-year turnout is now near 60 percent.
And off-year turnout is down around 40 percent. The 20 percent who leave the system are almost entirely Democrats. This has been true all my life. It's basically because old people always vote, and I guess old white people vote more than other old people, and old white people tend to be Republican. So even when white American isn't enraged as it was in 2010, midterms often benefit Republicans.
Yes, there are exceptions...2006, most notably, and 1998, although that was sui generis, because swing voters were mad about impeachment. And when the economy is bad, the incumbent president gets it in the nose, whichever party he is. But in general, the off-year electorate is far more Republican-leaning than the presidential electorate.
Washington is a predictable place. The establishment in this town is so desperate for any signs of bipartisanship. i go to all these functions around town, panels about the fiscal cliff. The moderator says to the old Washington hand, are you really confident about their ability to deal? And the old Washington hand knows very well that it's a near impossibility, but he or she says yes, I am an optimist, and I believe that surely they'll all see the stakes and finally come reason together. These are the kinds of more or less benign official lies by which an establishment holds itself together.
This brings me to John Boehner's speech yesterday. I saw The Washington Post's front page this morning, something about Boehner opening the door to a deal. To my ear, he did no such thing. He softened the rhetoric here and there, but if you decode his substantive words, he said nothing new.
He said he could support new revenues. But not higher tax rates. Explicitly not. So, if you're explicitly not going to raise tax rates, you might ask, how are you going to get higher revenues? Well, Puff the Magic Dragon and Little Jackie Paper are going to venture off to the Land of Honalee and by golly gumdrops, they're just not going to come back until they've found those cursed new revenues.
What I'm saying is, Boehner's proposal is that new revenues will emerge from the "growth" that's going to happen after taxes are cut. So his message to Obama yesterday was: Okay, you spare the Pentagon those drastic cuts, and you give us something on entitlements, and in return, we'll agree to give you lower tax rates! How's that for a deal?
How capable is the GOP of winning over some of the Latino vote? I think not very, for now.
The GOP will make the shallow and cynical symbolic gestures. The Republicans are great at cynical gestures. They'll have mariachi bands at Lincoln Day dinners. They'll shove every Latino state legislator they have out in front of the national cameras to make it look like they have more than five Latinos in the party.
They might even find a Latino to be the next RNC chair. They're really good at that sort of thing. The new Miguel Steelio. The thing about gestures like these is, while everyone playing at home sees right through them, the stupid media always play along: "As a symbol of their renewed commitment to Latino outreach, Republicans today named..."
Then they'll try the told "Latinos are natural Republicans because they care about God and family" thing. That can get them from 27 percent to 37 percent. Tops, actually.
This really is a new country we're living in. Reuters:
Under the recreational marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington, personal possession of up to an ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana would be legal for anyone at least 21 years of age. They also will permit cannabis to be legally sold and taxed at state-licensed stores in a system modeled after a regime many states have in place for alcohol sales.
Can you imagine? "Hon, I'm nipping down to the Safeway. Might stop at the weed store. Want a little 5-0?"
My friends and I used to call Hawaiian 5-0, for obvious reasons. That was 30 years ago, when I was something of an enthusiast. I have no idea whether anyone still says that, although the Googles suggest that some people do.
Forget a nickel; I'd a sixpence for every piece of conservative crapola spin I heard in the last two months. In retrospect, it's very revealing about they try to game the system to get places like Politico and other mainstream outfits to assume they're correct and accept their assumptions.
There was no way on Earth, for example, that young people were going to turn out this time. They were a higher percentage this time than last. Higher! Gallup, for one, bought into this in a huge way.
There was also no way Obama voters were as enthusiastic as Romney voters. Just no way. The enthusiasm gap. Everyone bought it. Again, the opposite was true.
Americans were going to be outraged by Benghazi. Chicago made up jobs numbers. Florida was a done deal. Romney had momentum until Sandy. And on and on.
A long string of post-election observations:
Let me start by saying that Mitt Romney’s concession speech was gracious. More strikingly, the audience was gracious when he mentioned Obama. I was ready for the big boo, but they were pretty impressive, actually applauding when Romney said they should all pray for Obama and the country (this surely has to do with the fact that it was in Massachusetts rather than Texas or someplace). I’m really glad he lost, obviously, but I’m a human being, and on a human level, a small part of me feels sorry for him, his family, and his staff. Working as hard as they’ve worked for this long and meeting that result has to be soul-crushing. Better them than the other side, but even so. As I’ve said, I thought there were ways in which they ran a pretty smart campaign, so I think people should lay off Stu Stevens and Matt Rhoades.
The two Davids. Axelrod and Plouffe. I’ve been critical of both during the first term on various points. But there sure know how to run a campaign. Obama is now the first Democrat since FDR to win two elections with more than 50 percent of the vote. Barack Hussein Obama!
The biggest fact of the race: The final vote, say exit polls, was D+6. In other words, the polls were right. If I had a penny for all the tweets I read just mocking, just howling about the polls that had party ID’s of D+6. In honesty, I admit to some surprise at this myself. I thought it would be D+3 or 4; hence, my lowball prediction of 294 EV’s. But what D+6 means is, well, just what I said before the voting it meant: The percentage of Americans who are willing to identify themselves as Republicans is very low indeed, and if I were an R, I’d be very worried about that.
First, in 2008, back at the Guardian, you told me what an inexperienced loser Obama was, in addition to all the more nefarious things, and how there was no chance on earth he'd ever beat Hillary.
Then he did, and you said well, those Democrats are insane anyway, but now it's a general, and that man will never be elected president.
After he won, you said that was a fluke and aberration, and he was doomed to be a failure and a one-termer, and I was in dreamland if I even began to think otherwise.
And now here we are, the morning after quite frankly an easy reelection. The race wasn't always easy, of course, but the margin was. Eight of nine battleground states. Won the popular vote by nearly two percent. Won. Going. Away.
This was a thrashing. I don’t yet know the full electoral college total, but it’s looking like at least a 100-vote margin. That’s a thrashing. Over at 11:13? And the truth is, it wasn’t even that dramatic. It was over around 9:00. The next two hours were just waiting around for it to be official.
You can believe, if you want, that Ohio is still up for grabs. That Karl Rove business on Fox was priceless. It’s an astonishing thing, that the numbers specialists at Fox called Ohio for Obama, and the on-air talent questioned it. And not just an anchor—an on-air commentator who has also raised and spent many millions of dollars on behalf of Romney. It’s as banana republic as anything that happens in a real banana republican.
But as I write, Florida is leaning Obama, and maybe even Virginia. This thing is over. Without Ohio, it’s likely still 300-plus electoral votes. And after they count the votes in California, Obama is projected to win the popular vote too.
Mitt Romney's 2012 concession speech.
These voting problems and lines and so forth are just embarrassing. People are going to be in line until 10 or later? In line?? They ran out of ballots in Racine?
This is humiliating. Why does this happen? Underfunding. Some innocent error. And some not so innocent error. Some elections boards simply don't send enough machines to poor areas.
Ever heard of people waiting on line til 11 o'clock at night or standing on line for six or seven hours in Grosse Point or Shaker Heights or Boca Raton? Didn't think so. And that is intentional. By Republicans.
Americans want to vote, and they are enduring extraordinary hardships to do so. This is like that footage we see from developing countries, poor people walking seven miles to vote. We think of it as exotic when we see that footage, and alient. The same crap happens here in essence. And the worst part: The GOP is going to spend the next four years making it harder still for poor people to vote.
CNN says the youth vote is at the same levels as 2008, constituting 18 percent of the total vote. Obviously, that would favor Obama.
Early signs are more encouraging than not but mixed. The exit polls are mostly favorable, but they've been bullshit the past couple of elections, especially the first wave, so I'm not going to publish them or put much stock in them. You can find them if you want them.
As for the rest of the night, I'll be doing some live blogging tonight, although at an admittedly saturnine pace compared to others such as Brother Sullivan. Within 30 or 40 minutes of a winner being declared, I'll have something hopefully informative and coherent up.
Tomorrow morning I'm already committed to writing a Newsweek feature fast off the results for next week's mag, and I'm taping a video mid-morning, but I'll throw up a couple of posts as time permits.
On Wednesday's 'Daily Show,' Jon Stewart asked Bill O'Reilly what type of joy he feels when there's a legitimate reason to criticize President Obama. O'Reilly didn't give, but he did say that Stewart pulls his material 'out of your butt.'
How the military tried to get more control over drone targeting decisions—and lost. By Daniel Klaidman.