Monday, October 22, 2012

The Final Presidential Debate

   So very often political punditry suffers from "group think", which in turn leads viewers and voters into a group think mindset. Voters who have decided on their candidate are susceptible to this, as they are already part of a group. Undecided/swing voters by their very nature are disparate from this. The topic of "who won the debate" is a question that hinges upon this difference.
   In the last two debates, Ryan vs. Biden and Obama vs. Romney Part Deux, the contests were close. Both were close enough that fans of either side could claim a win for their guy. The pundits and useless score keepers could even break it down into a more useless point scoring system. "Biden won here, Ryan won there." This is mostly, if not completely, frivolous. Scoring a presidential debate like a college debate is asinine.  In principal, that is treating the debate as if it happened in a vacuum, which it most certainly does not. All of the news and cable channels are guilty of this fallacy. 

   The first Presidential debate was bound to the trappings of the months of previous campaigning and events, the Vice Presidential debate was captive to all of the preceding, as was the second Presidential debate, and so shall tonight's debate be shackled to the confines of the antecedent history. Additionally, the main concern for debate success must be voter persuasion, and not some puerile pundit points scored that make Chris Matthews or Sean Hannity happy. How did the debates in sum affect the opinion of the precious undecided voters? In all three previous debates that has been a resounding win for the Romney/Ryan ticket.

   The first Obama/Romney debate was an Obama trouncing. The Biden/Ryan debate was exactly what both sides needed. Biden rallied the base and Ryan showed that he was well informed and ready for the job, but it would be Ryan win. Why? Because Joe, despite being more lucid than at any point in recent history, completely alienated many of the swing voters. The laughing and interrupting was a huge turn off to the undecideds who wanted to hear both opinions, and it was especially a turn off to the female undecideds who saw it as rude, childish, insecure and not becoming of a statesman. So the net result was Biden winning the battle (rallying the base), but losing the war (turning off undecided voters). Tactically Vice President Biden committed two big errors: first, "I always say what I mean" and second "we did not know they wanted more security" in response to the death of the American ambassador to Libya. Biden makes so many gaffes, such as "for the last four years the middle class has been buried" that having the sound bite of, "I always say what I mean" is damning. The VP candidate must show that they are ready for the job and not completely out to lunch. In regards to Libya, that was a bold face lie, and the avalanche of facts is showing it. Eroding trust is never beneficial to a candidate, especially in this economic climate. Of course many of these pundits continue with, "however most voters don't vote for a president based on the VP candidate." True, the VP debate only factors in for about 18% of voters, but here is the catch: that segment heavily overlaps with undecided voters. This means that the group of voters who will decide this election have been exposed to a decisive Romney win in the first debate, and a polite, knowledgeable and capable Ryan versus a bombastic, belligerent and bad-mannered Biden. All before going into the second Obama/Romney debate.

   By last Tuesday when Obama walked into Hofstra Hall, he was already facing alarming deficiencies. President Obama had to assuage the damage from his first debate, rally his base on top of what Biden did, win back undecideds whom Joe alienated, and begin to add new voters to his count. He succeeded in only the first two measures. Directly after the debate, focus groups for MSNBC and Fox gave the win to Romney. Why? Because Romney showed up very well again. Voters just needed to see him again to show that the first time around was not a fluke. Most importantly is this aspect: very few if any voters make a decision on the entirety of a debate, or a series of debates. The vast majority of people making up their mind are waiting to hear an answer on one to five topics. With the economy in it's current condition, the two most imminent topics are jobs and taxes. When Mitt gave his answers on tax REFORM, in which he included job creation, he won the election. It's that simple. Currently that leaves the debate tonight, and 15 days until voters go to the poll. What must President Obama and Governor Romney do tonight?

   For Governor Romney it is simple. He must show up, show that is he the same guy from the last two debates, that he has a solid grip on basic diplomacy, and go after the middle east failures. There are many ways he can highlight the foreign policy failures of this election, and as long as he does not go full tilt Biden, most of them should work. The task for President Obama is much more difficult. Having already lost concerning the dialog of economy and jobs, he must, MUST make a huge statement concerning the United States' place in the world. Mitt will definitely bring up China and how they are manipulating currency. This will be the President's opportunity to make up ground in foreign policy and economics. There are a lot of opinions on China, but the fact remains that they mine 95% of the rare earth minerals (and possibly up to 97%) responsible for computers, smartphones, MRI machines and so many of the things Americans take for granted. Yes, mining can start here, but at what cost or benefit? Diplomacy is paramount in dealing with China and that is likely Mr. Obama's biggest opening. What will he do with it?

   In the end will it even matter? Every candidate that has been at 50% or higher in the Gallup likely voter poll in mid October has won the race for President, every time. Mitt has been at or over 50% since the 10/9-15 rolling average Gallup poll. Furthermore, President Obama has not broken the 50% barrier at any time, and in the last few days he has held steady at 45%. What's more, the undecideds always break heavily for the challenger.

   At this point every last one of the lifeboats has departed, and it is all over except for the crying.

For debate analysis this evening, follow The Edwards Analysis on twitter tonight,

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Obama and Romney Second Debate

The Edwards Analysis will have live commentary during the debate tonight on twitter, you can follow here: for the raw feed of insight.

The format tonight will be much different from two weeks ago. This is a town hall meeting where citizens will ask questions and the candidates will get two minutes each to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town hall citizens will be undecided voters chosen by the Gallup organization.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Post Biden/Ryan Debate Ads Have Started

The boring debate last night will be analyzed later, for now, enjoy these examples of post debate ads. Whose do you prefer?

Pro Ryan

Pro Biden

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday Notes 10/11/2012

Happy Thursday, it is the vice presidential debate night. You can catch it on your channel of choice at 6PM (PST) / 9PM (EST). The Edwards Analysis will have live commentary during the debate tonight on twitter, you can follow here: for the raw feed of insight.

A few articles for you today:

#1. Jack Welch wrote a great article about the unemployment numbers released Friday 10/05/2012. In it he mentions the "Labor Force Participation Rate" which is the closest thing to a "Total Number of Working People" mentioned in the Edwards Analysis: Campaign Finance Terms post. He also points out that the numbers are just a survey and not a full accounting.

#2. If you are wondering about California gas prices, and other economic issues in the Golden State, Victor Davis Hanson has something to say here:

#3. This is probably one of, if not the, most accurate polls out there:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Obama Romney First Debate Recap or Obama's Concession Stand

   Since the world needs one more article about the Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, away we go.

   The consensus among everybody is that Mitt Romney won, handily. Chris Matthews freaked out, Ed Schultz was in shock, and even Bill Maher, who donated $1 million to the President's campaign, flat out said Mitt won. Of course Bill hedged that by saying that Obama had the facts on his side, and that Lehrer sucked.  Let's address this directly. 

   Jim Lehrer did a good job. Interrupting would have been contrary to the idea, people are not there to hear him talk they are there to hear the two candidates. Additionally, if you need a moderator to save you, you should not be the President. There is no moderator when talking to heads of state from China, Russia, etc... He's being used as a scapegoat by Obama supporters for the President's anemic performance. The only people complaining about Lehrer are Obama supporters. No Republicans or moderates are complaining. Complaining about the moderator is like complaining about referees, it doesn't matter what you think, only the scoreboard. The scoreboard in this case is the undecided voters. Not one single TRUE undecided is worried about the moderator. The truth of the matter is, if people don't like what someone is saying, the person talking about it more will not help the matter, it will only exacerbate it. What they are upset about is Mitt won. He beat Barack and he beat the system in a sense. One more note on Jim Lehrer, the negative attitude towards him shifted into nasty commentary on his appearance in the twitterverse. How weak is that? If you are attacking a 78 year old man on his appearance after a career that goes back to when he covered the John F. Kennedy assassination, you lose. That shows that you clearly have no substance to stand on at all, and you are one step away from yo' mama jokes in what is supposed to be a battle of ideas. 

   Stephanie Cutter, Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager, kept tweeting negatively about Mitt commenting on his demeanor? Steph, were you watching the same debate? She kept on with the hash tag #testymitt. As a candidate, Barack should be furious that that is the best she can come up with to defend her boss in the debate. It is weak, and Jen Psaki, Obama's traveling press secretary was worse than Cutter. On a talk show after the debate she said Romney looked like the attacker-in-chief, and that Obama was calm and steady? Yeah, because he was slooooooow in speech, and he was grasping for words. He used more "uhs" and "ums" than a junior high boy talking to the senior prom queen. But, what was really jaw dropping was when Jen proclaimed "If you are a senior on medicaid, if you are a senior in Florida, then you come away with that Mitt wants to voucherize medicare." The problem here is that even Obama said that if you are 54 or older you aren't going on the program that supposedly "voucherizes" medicare. This was an enormous concession, just like when Obama admitted that he and Mitt had a similar position on social security. Which is probably the first time a democrat has ever said that in a debate. It's like a southern republican saying that a west coast liberal is "solid on national defense." 

   So now that it is clear that the Obama campaign has problems, it's time to look at the President's problems. Why did he stumble when telling Michelle happy anniversary? He looked down, a lot. He wouldn't look Mitt in the eyes. Every defense of his policies seemed barely there. He complained about things that are current, like loopholes in the taxes. Barack, you have been the President for 3-1/4 years, you cannot, you MUST NOT complain about anything current. He attacked Donald Trump? Trump is not running, attacking him only shows that he has gotten under your skin, big time. Making it even worse, you KNOW that Trump, LOVED that. He loves attention right after money. Sliding down even more, he called him a small business. That may work for some misguided tax point he wanted to make, but to the average listener, that makes him sound detached. If you are calling a billionaire a small business, how on earth could you possibly relate to the family dentist employing a couple people and keeping their smiles pretty? Yeah, you really stick up for the little guy and the middle class. A few people have commented that it was like he was asleep and they were waiting for him to wake up. That is pretty fair since he has been living in a dream world the last four years. Unfortunately, the problems America has are in the real world and it needs somebody will real solutions.

   Governor Romney offered real solutions to many of the country's problems. This column has commented before that Romney needed to offer more specifics about "how" he was going to do things. Finally, at this debate he did that in as solid of a way as possible. Left pundits are knocking Romney for not being specific, glossing over how they let Obama say whatever he wanted with no details in 2008 AND NOW, but they are wrong. He was extremely specific, all things considered. You can see it like this: Imagine you are in a group, even just a family of 4 or 5, and you have to decide where to eat. Think about where the conversation starts and where it goes. Think of how off center it can get. NOW, imagine 100 senate toddlers, and 435 house of representative babies (some of these people are great public servants, this sweeping comment is for emphasis) all fighting over different nitpick details. Some of these details are based on what the people who elected them want. To ask him to be any more specific than he has been is unreasonable, and shows ignorance towards the process of governing.

   Not only was Mitt specific, he did everything else very well. One of the easiest ways to tell how a debate is going is to watch it on mute, body language will tell you almost everything you need to know. Mitt was calm, comfortable and confident. He looked presidential.  At one point when they tried to take the debate off entitlements, Mitt forced them to stay on it, and won. Republicans do not do this and they definitely do not win at it. Every time Barack attacked him with one point, he offered three points to answer. What this tells the undecided voters, is that he already has answers to big problems, and will continue to find solutions. He had command of the issues, and total command of the debate. Wes Welker, maybe the hardest working athlete in pro sports, said it best. "Romney sounds like he is using his own words. Obama sounds like he is using someone else's" The only caveat here is that it was not a sound, it was the truth.

   So now everybody has blamed the bad debate on everything you can imagine. Al Gore even blamed the high altitude. The question is, can Obama recover. The answer is: Not likely. His problem was not preparation, his problem was not Jim Lehrer, and it was not the Bogeyman. Barack's problem is much more systemic than any of this. The real issue here is the President's fundamental lack of substance of policy. He is trying to defend a gas station burrito against an Emeril Lagasse Kobe beef steak, you just cannot do it. Making it worse, it's like the cost of the two are reversed. Obama has said that other policies have failed, "we tried it their way", when the reality is HIS policies have failed. Exacerbating the issue, he clearly has a new problem with self effacing humor. He used to seem okay about it, but now that there is real criticism, the former facade of confidence is falling. Subconsciously, everyone sees it, and the press is partly to blame. Since Obama's entrance onto the national stage, the main stream press has been deeply in love with the guy. To keep the love alive, they have treated him with kid gloves, further insulated the ever present presidential bubble, and not forced him to stay on his toes.

   Competition is very important, it brings out the best and worst in people and teams. Mitt has been forced to be hyper competitive in defending and refining his position over the last two years, while Barack's biggest questions have come from Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Most importantly, and maybe the most damning of all things, is that President Obama has never had to debate his record. He coasted through the Illinois state senate to the U.S. Senate and into the democratic presidential primaries in 2008. At that point the debates were either large groups where he could coast more. When it finally got serious, Hillary had decades of political baggage, he had ideas. He was able to debate on "if's" and "maybe's." Here in 2012 he has almost 4 years of abject failure. Yes Mr. President, the democrats in congress may not like Obamacare being repealed, but the people want it.

   The trappings of success have set President Obama up for an almost certain failure. What matters now is, is he a winner at heart? Even Michael Jordan stumbled at times, he didn't even make his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore. A real champion will overcome, but then again, a real champion has put in copious amounts of time and hard work. A champion is responsible, and responsibility looks forward, while blame looks backwards.

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