So, two days before Election Day what is there to yell about? Which group has the better ground game apparently. Now, obviously, starting on the day after Election Day, we'll be able to quantify the efficacy of each campaign's ground game. I do not understand why we have to televise an argument about it now. I mean, I'll tell you right now -- David Axelrod is going to say that the Obama ground game is great, the Romney ground game is terrible, and everything is coming up roses. Rich Beeson, the sucker from the Romney campaign that's been pressed into duty, will say that all of that is wrong, and actually everything Axelrod says applies in reverse.
I suppose one of these guys could come on and say, "Dude, no joke? The other campaign is working us like a speedbag. Jiminy Crickets, y'all, our operation is terrible. We are going down like a plane in flames. I'm pretty sure my boss is going to call for my head at the end of all of this. In fact, can you hide me? Bain Capital/The Chicago Machine has got leeches/eyes everywhere and they will find me and beat me senseless/give me season tickets to the Cubs." But I doubt it.
Anyway, then there will be a panel discussion where everyone's well-known biases will intrude once more upon our lives.
But first, we are going to talk to David Axelrod about the "ground game tactics." But first, Wallace wants to talk about Libya. "Did the President make a calculated decision to run out the clock and not answer questions about Libya?" Wallace asks. Axelrod says, "No." That's it. "No," and a pause. Wallace asks why he hasn't answered "a lot of the questions." Axelrod says that the President is working to get to the bottom of it and "get it right" and so there is a comprehensive review of what went wrong and how to fix it. Probably it's an impossible matter to get through as long as voracious President-defenders and voracious President-slaggers are working out their emo junk in the hot fog of an election year, and when all is said and done, this White Housecould have to come to terms with some pooch-screwing.
Here, Michael Hastings wrote a piece on the dumb politics of Benghazi titled "The Dumb Politics of Benghazi." It is about the dumb politics of Benghazi, and not about letting anyone off the hook.
Let's see if the politics of Benghazi get any smarter. Wallace wants to know more stuff, though. Did the President know about prior security concerns. Axelrod gives a obfuscatory answer of the highest order. "Obviously, any steps that we needed to take we would have wanted to take." What Bush did in Abu Ghraib to a stack of naked Iraqis, Axelrod did to a bunch of verb tenses an Fox News Sunday. Anyway, we are assured that Obama is "100% committed" to all kinds of junk, like Benghazi.
Wallace asks Axelrod again if the White House knew how dangerous the situation in Benghazi was. Axelrod says that Benghazi was obviously dangerous and so are a lot of places that U.S. diplomats hang out. So, you know, it's a living. Wallace asks why no assets were deployed between the first and second attack on the consulate. (They definitely should have just scrambled fighter planes to strafe everything that moved in the middle of the night, or something.) Axelrod says that the President convened military officials that evening, gave them the authority to act, and they acted, and now those actions are being reviewed.
Finally, Wallace asks the stock Fox News question, about why it was that after Hurricane Sandy killed a bunch of people and wrecked a lot of America he was willing to go to New Jersey and hang out with Governor Christie and hug a bunch of New Jerseyans, but when the U.S. consulate was attacked he went to a fundraiser instead of, I guess, heading to Libya and hanging out with the Mayor of Benghazi and hugging a lot of people, some of whom were probably shooting at Americans the night before. Axelrod says that the President met with national security officials before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip.
"Why did he feel he could go campaigning hours after the attack?" Wallace asks. The answer is, "Because if he didn't there was a good chance Romney would beat him in the election." Let's just be frank.
Anyway, that was fun! Time for some horse-race nonsense! Wallace points out the Romney is in Pennsylvania, expanding the map, and Axelrod says that if Romney is trying to win Pennsylvania, then he is in deep trouble, because it means he is losing Ohio. He goes on to note that Romney hasn't sealed the deal in Florida and Virginia yet, either. Wallace asks him about his mustache, which we said he would shave if the campaign lost Pennsylvania. "The next time we see each other, Chris," he says, "The mustache will be right where it is today."
Pretty cool that we can shift so seamlessly from the fates of dead Americans abroad to mustache bets, I guess!
"The key now, is turnout," says genius adult, Chris Wallace. The Romney campaign says that the Denmocrats are sucking big time canal water in Ohio, and there will be lots more Romney voters. Axelrod says, "We'll know in two days who is bluffing and who is not bluffing." He points out that they are ahead in just about every poll being conducted in the state. Axelrod says that Romney's mistake is that they are comparing their effort to 2008, and the Obama camp has always ackknowledged that the Romney effort was significantly better than McCain's. (And it is!)
Wallace asks, "When will we know who the next President is?" Axelrod soothsays that the race will probably go past midnight, but by the next morning there will be a known victor. He will be looking at "rolling data about turnout" and studying "sample precincts" -- many in Ohio. He predicts that Obama will win Virginia.
One sort of unknown, to my mind, is how well Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode will do in Virginia. There was a time he really worried the Romney campaign -- enough to try to get him off the ballot in Virginia, Goode's home state -- but it seems to me like Goode peaked over the summer and is headed toward being a non-factor, instead of a Ross Perot like spoiler. But, suffice it to say, if Romney does not win Virginia, he really is in trouble. (I think Romney will win Virginia, for what it's worth.)
Axelrod says that these last days of campaigning with Obama are a very emotional period of time for him, "But we think Tuesday is going to be a great day."
Wallace invites Obama to come on Fox News. "It's a generous offer and I appreciate you extending it." Wallace: "But I didn't get a yes." Axelrod: "I've learned a few things on your show."
Yeah, no one is giving any interviews now. Romney hasn't talked to the traveling press since September 28. Everyone knows better than to say anything, out loud, in public, that could be written down, beyond what's been tightly scripted. But, hey! No harm in trying!
And now it's time for Rich Beeson to tell us that his campaign is the one that is awesome. Beeson says that it's fun to imagine what Axelrod will look like without his mustache. So, they are predicting a win in Pennsylvania.
So, does Beeson think that the Romney campaign is in terrible shape? No, he doesn't. Stop everything. The presses, hold them. Hold them in your loving arms. CRADLE THE PRESSES. Fondle them, if need be. Beeson says that four years ago Obama was competing in Indiana and so what's the big deal about competing in states you haven't won in a long time. (I think the point of competing in Indiana was that they were withing spitting distance of winning, and, indeed, they won.) "The map is starting to expand drastically in our direction," he says.
Wallace points out that Romney is going to Florida and Virginia, so doesn't that mean that Romney should have "locked up those states a long time ago." Beeson gives a complicated answer about absentee ballots that doesn't address the question, and then finally says that he doesn't "understand why the Obama campaign is spending money in Florida" but Romney is going to go himself to Florida to ensure they win. (He concedes Virginia will be close.)
Wallace points out that the Romney campaign is down in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Ohio, and essentially tied in Virginia. (The Romney campaign is down in Nevada, too.) So, what's the deal? Are the state polls wrong? Are they right but Romney has a better GOTV effort? Beeson says that the polls are "all over the place" (this isn't true, actually) but Romney has the strongest message, and Obama is "stuck below 50% in all of these polls" (true in many cases, but not all).
Now they will talk about early voting. I confess that I don't know how to evaluate this metric. There is a finite potential on either side to turn out votes. If you vote early, you don't vote on Election Day. The argument will be, "you are cannibalizing your vote." At the same time, it takes X amount of effort to move the entirety of your finite voter potential, so if you get 20% of your potential voters to the polls a week ahead of time and the other guy only gets 5% of his, then your ground game has the easier task.
Now, it seems to me that each candidate enjoys early voter advantages in different places, so everything is possibly a wash, who knows? I predict that Obama will win Ohio, but if I'm wrong about that it will likely be because I have all this early voting stuff mis-kajiggered. Beeson, for what it's worth, thinks Romney is doing better in early voting, and better in Ohio, and better with "independents" -- but it's important to remember that lots of people stopped identifying themselves as "Republicans" and started calling themselves "independents" because that became a voguish thing to do during the Tea Party era. So, yes, Romney is going to win the lion's share of "independents" -- because the size of their pie has become swollen with "super-conservative former Republicans."
Wallace asks about the ad the Romney campaign is running that is basically a hilarious bag of dumb lies, and asks Beeson if it was a mistake to run the ad. Beeson disagrees and says, well, President Obama ran an ad that says Romney said "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" when that was actually the headline the newspaper slapped on the editorial and he's never personally endorsed it...oh, wait--
Okay but Obama talked about "voting for revenge" and "Big bird" and Michigan and Pennsylvania are now a tie and other stuff so there.
Wallace is sort of not convinced about the whole "Pennsylvania is tied" thing. Beeson is totally sure, though, that Obama is underperforming and Romney is overperforming and "you see it when people make phone calls." He predicts a "big big win" for Romney, over 300 electoral votes. Hey, something that everyone has to deal with is that it's totally possible that the polls are wrong, and it is WAY WAY POSSIBLE that the collective conventional wisdom of political pundits and reporters is wrong. I still believe in the possibility that a Presidential candidate can defy odds and critics to win. And I bet a lot of you do too. At least I hope you do, because those are the sorts of hopes that kind of define what it's like to be American! The thing you have to ask yourself is this: when you imagined that odds-defying politician, did it look like Mitt Romney? Hey, maybe it did, I don't know!
Okay, so, I really took my time with this first campaign spokesperson-on-campaign spokesperson discussion because it is going to repeat itself on the next two shows, and now we can relax and speed through the rest of this noting only those occasions where the respective campaign spokespeople deviate from the talking points they all left their homes with today.
First, however, a panel discussion with Brit Hume and Joe Trippi and Karl Rove and Jeff Zeleny.
Rove and Trippi show their map, which overrates the toss-up-ness of many states, and so, whatever. Rove now says that it's going to be a long night, with "many surprises." He correctly points out that the Obama-Romney race is much tighter than the Obama-McCain race was, which is not news to anyone.
Trippi is pretty sure that Minnesota and Michigan are in play. He doesn't think the Pennsylvania can be in play, with Florida simultaneously a toss-up. If Pennsylvania was in play for Romney, then he'd have Florida in the bag. He says that Romney is making a mistake by going to Florida.
Brit Hume is persisting in his embarrassing need to make the case for innumeracy, saying that "we are under an avalanche of polling" and this "prevents us from constructing a plausible scenario." I am sorry that every statistician has to live on the same planet as Brit Hume. Hume should find some other planet -- one in which MORE DATA makes things LESS PLAUSIBLE and LARGER SAMPLE SIZES makes conclusions HARDER TO MAKE. There may be a planet out there where all of this is true, where people breathe coconut milk and bathe in battery acid and tend herds of crotcheted Amigurumi hippos. But it is not this planet.
He also makes the case that polls conducted by older people are more reliable than polls conducted by younger people, not that he can say with any certainty what the ages of any pollsters are. He does hedge his bets, however, saying that the "conventional wisdom" is "trending" in the direction of an Obama win. Yeah, you know, throw out all that data, calling the sheer plentitude of it a weakness, and definitely assert the primacy of dumb Washington elites licking the fingers and lifting them into the wind.
There is more discussion about polls, it is not interesting. Rove says that in a close race, a candidate can turn things around with a superior ground game. Also, the state polls say one thing and the national polls say another, so who knows?
Trippi says that both campaigns think they can win, and one of them is "going to be right" while the other is "going to be wrong," and I'm so glad that somebody had the foresight to put this on television this morning.
Wallace shifts the discussion to the jobs report. Hume says that the economy, no matter what the jobs report says, is "cutting against the President" but it "doesn't mean he won't win," which is all perfectly fair, because it is cutting against the President and it still might not matter enough. Imagine if someone other than Romney was running against Obama right now!
Zeleny points out that Nevada is still in the throes of a terrible foreclosure crisis, but the good economic performance in the Ohio is propping Obama up. (Also, Obama is currently defying gravity in Nevada, too, despite the foreclosure crisis.)
Rove thinks the economy will be a drag on the President's numbers, Trippi says that the President is doing much better on the right-track/wrong-track numbers. Wallace says Trippi is wrong. Hume disses state polls again, saying that it is "hard to imagine that all these polls are off but the discrepancy [between national and state polls] is obvious" and, I guess, impossible to reconcile or explain. I'm guessing that no one has even tried to do this because you would have to be some sort of magical wizard from Atlantis or Mars or something.
Zeleny says that he does not think we'll have an early result, because of the vagaries of vote counting. His bellwether county is Hamilton County, Ohio. Rove agrees, and adds Claremont, Warren, and the Columbus ring counties.
Trippi says "I think whoever wins Ohio will win this thing...and that's what I'll be watching." Thanks, genius.
Rove says he will be watching Virginia. "Virginia is going to be very important." I feel bad for everyone who wants to climb out on the lowest tree limbs today, because Hume and Trippi have already claimed them.
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
George Stephanpoulos says this is a "special election edition" of the show, which is wrong because all of their shows have been special election editions for the entire year. However, he did show up for work today, so, SPECIAL!
Also, in my inbox today I got emails with the transcripts of their conversation with David Plouffe that was "OMG EMBARGOED" until nine this morning, and I laughed and said, "No worries! I will keep this precious embargo! Wouldn't want people to learn too soon that the guy who is helping to run Obama's campaign thinks that the campaign he is helping to run is doing awesome!" We definitely best hold off and give everyone who writed about politics time to wrap their heads around this and decide what parts of the transcript are worth CTRL-Cing and CTRL-Ving and dropping in a post for the internet.
So for fun, we are going to have Plouffe and Ed Gillespie discuss who has the better campaign. If you haven't read the embargoed transcripts, of course, you have NO IDEA what either man is going to say. This is like the second-series finale of SHERLOCK. It is a CUMBERBATCH of ball-clenching suspense. I will try to walk you through it so your sensibilities aren't shocked so badly that you end up with locked-in syndrome.
Plouffe opens. He says that Obama is doing well in the battleground states, and in early voting, and is sure that Obama will win re-election, but they are working on getting out the vote. His response to Rudy Giuliani's criticism of Obama is that the former mayor is "running around the country popping off." He says that all the relevant people in charge of Sandy-type recovery stuff are working happily with the President, so Giuliani can pound sand. He says that he is not worried about the politics of Sandy, though. He says that Karl Rove is "going to be at a crossroads" of his own when he has to explain to donors why his efforts came up short.
Plouffe says that the Obama campaign has an awesome organization in Pennsylvania, and it's much better than Romney's and Romney is making "desperate ploys" while Obama is the one "playing offense" and forcing Romney to compete in Florida and Virginia. "It is going to be close but Romney is in a weak position," he says. He says that the Obama campaign has amazing volunteers.
Will a smaller margin of victory mean a smaller mandate? Plouffe says that as soon as the election is done, the President has to work on a bunch of things and with enough "compromise and balance" they will "make substantial progress" and Romney represents a return to the failed policies of the past and "we can't have that" and blah blah.
That's Plouffe. We shift now to Ed Gillespie, and his expert arguments. Gillespie says that Romney will make an awesome President and the Obama campaign has failed "and we can't have four more years of this we need real change." Romney has a "five point plan," he says, as well as "a strong agenda," and he will win on Tuesday.
Gillespie says that competing in Pennsylvania is actually "remarkable" when you think about it. He is in Philadelphia! Obama was once in Indiana! And going to Pennsylvania is not an opportunity cost at all. In fact, Romney is just going to Pennsylvania because he wants to and thinks it wilk be fun. He says that Romney has the better ground game and more committed voters.
Do the state polls have a bias? Gillespie explains that it depends on which ones you are talking about -- the ones that favor Romney clearly do not. When Gillespie looks at the data, he sees Obama "in deep trouble." When he looks at "intensity levels" and "the crowds" and "the undecideds" he is sure that Romney is doing great and will win. Also, Romney has asked his supporters to donate to the Sandy relief efforts, and he is pretty sure that their efforts are the best efforts going, because ground game or whatever.
In summation: "Governor Romney is very strong" and is going to give some "big speeches" that will be better than Obama's stupid old terrible speeches that doesn't "resonate as strongly with undecideds" as Romney's does.
So, we are sorry to say that we cannot report that for the first time, a campaign flack has come on Sunday morning television to say that their efforts are all for nought and that their guy is screwed utterly, with despair mounting and everyone dressing in black and singing Depeche Mode's "Fly On The Windscreen" a capella.
Glad all of that was ERMAHRGERD EMBARGOED.
Okay, settle in for forty minutes of paneling now with George Will and Cokie Roberts and Ron Brownstein and Matt Dowd and Donna Brazile, here today to repeat their previously stated insights into the election, and perhaps update them with brand new insight-lettes and mni-bit-thought-ettes that may or may not be surprising.
George Will says that the hurricane may have slowed Romney's momentum but he isn't sure that anyone is paying much attention. Dowd says that the most interesting thing about the race is it's stability -- the rises and falls, the end-stage "momentum," all ultimately receded and returned the race to its prevailing fundamentals. He does allow that Sandy may be the only thing to have put a bit of topspin on the race that could continue into election day -- Obama handled it well, got a slight change in approvals and it could make just enough difference. Other than that, stable stable stable.
Roberts says that the "air went out of the Romney campaign" this week. Stephanopoulos says this is reflected in the state polls. Brownstein says that the Romney campaign's hopes simply reside in the possibility that an entirely different electorate comes to their polling places than the one that's been reflected in the polls.
Brazile agrees that Obama regained the "altitude" he lost after the first debate. And now one of my cats is meowing crazy loud and it's far more interesting than the discussion. See, what he wants me to do is come into the bedroom and spin the little mirror on my wife's vanity so that it catches and reflects the sunbeams and projects little shiny lights on the wall, which he will then run after and chase and try to catch with his paws. In this way, my cat is very much like CNN, only actually fun to watch.
But, sorry, Declan, I cannot come play with you. Unless you guys want me to! Send me emails if you like, with the subject line "JUST GO AND PLAY WITH YOUR CAT" and I'll happily do that.
Dowd says that losing campaigns say three things pretty consistently: "The first thing happens is, 'don't believe [the public polls] -- the public polls are wrong.' That's the first sign of a campaign that's about to lose. The second thing, 'we're going to change the nature of the electorate, and you're not seeing it reflected in the polls.' And the third thing is, 'the only poll that counts is Election Day.' When you hear those things, you know you're about to lose."
Will insists the "polls are all over the map." The entire panel basically LOLs and tells him that he is wrong and dumb.
Dowd's got some interesting data points, in terms of the evolution of our elections:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ron, I want to bring -- I want to bring that question to Matthew Dowd, because I wonder when you look at it, and you see how sophisticated each side is, how much money they both had, are we into an era now where almost every presidential election is going to be this close, kind of like grandmaster chess? You almost always play to a draw? DOWD: Well, if you take a look at the -- three of the last four, they've been within two or three points a race, which is unprecedented in modern times. The other thing that's happened is, 35 years ago, 80 percent of the people lived in the target states that people concentrate on in these campaigns, 80 percent of the voters lived in the target states. California was a target state; Texas was a target state; New York was a target sate...Today, less than 20 percent of people now live in the target states.
It is manifestly insane that the presidential candidates essentially get to dodge most of the country in a two-year long campaign.
Will thinks that going to New Jersey to hang out with Chris Christie probably helped Obama or at the very least didn't hurt. Roberts notes that if the sights of bipartisan cooperation are what the public craves, there is a cognitive dissonance, because the electorate is otherwise polarized.
We run through the battleground states and their prospects. Will Ohio slip away from Obama, as it did Kerry? Brazile thinks not -- he is polling well with working-class whites, a unique phenomenon for Obama in Ohio. Will says that "Ohio is ground zero for suffering in the age of globalization," but is now participating very heavily in the recovery "because of policies touted by the Obama administration." Dowd says that the economics of Ohio are decidedly moving in the "direction of a Pennsylvania" and thus "not a reliable Republican state" anymore.
Brownstein notes what I just mentioned -- Obama's Ohio performance among the white working class is a photonegative of how he's faring with those voters nationally. (Will correctly points out, though, that in the parts of Ohio where "coal matters," this is not happening.) There is some discussion, about whether coal country has the population and the concentration to toss this election in one direction or another.
Brazile is pretty sure Pennsylvania is going to not shower Romney with favor, Roberts agrees and says that women are going to be behind driving that state away from Romney. Will compares Pennsylvania to "Lucy and the football," but nevertheless reminds everyone that the GOP did well in the state in 2010. Dowd essentially says this is balderdash: "If Mitt Romney was ahead in Ohio, there'd be no play that they're doing in Pennsylvania. I will take the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl this year sooner than I will take Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania." Will says that we'll know where Pennsylvania is going when Bucks County reports.
The discussion turns to early voting. Will says that both sides appear to be mobilizing the electorate in different places and that probably it's a wash. There is a bunch of crosstalk. Brazile and Dowd reminisce about how different the ground game operations were back when they running campaigns.
Dowd, on independent voters: "There's only about 5 percent or 6 percent of people that are really independent that are truly independent. They've already sort of picked their tribe or picked their team on it, and I think the theory that -- every time that the Romney folks say this, they say look at the independents in that poll, oh, we're winning them. But don't look at the overall number in the poll, because we're losing."
Brownstein and Dowd discuss the GOP's demographic cul-de-sac:
BROWNSTEIN: You know, look, that is also -- we have to say -- you know, indicative of something else here. I mean, we're talking about this enormous racial polarization. Democrats clearly have a problem with whites. The incumbent president struggling to get 40 percent of the white votes. But Republicans are looking at losing, again, 80 percent or more of this growing non-white population. Mitt Romney, a candidate in a country that is now almost 40 percent non-white, is basically relying on whites for 90 percent of his vote. (CROSSTALK) DOWD: ... biggest problem facing the country... BROWNSTEIN: And in the long run, that is not a... (CROSSTALK) DOWD: ... divides at every level that exist.
And what does this mean, after Election Day?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what does that mean, George Will? And this gets us to the next part of the conversation. What does mean for whoever wins coming in the day after, almost certain to face kind of a very similar lineup in Washington than one they have right now, Republicans in control of the House, maybe a few fewer states, Democrats probably in control of the Senate, maybe by a seat or few -- seat or two fewer. What does this mean for the next president and the prospects of getting done what he needs to get done? WILL: Well, you've just answered the question in posing it. The country is supposedly seething with fury at the status quo and seem to be poised to replicate it. That is, Washington, on the morning after, may very well -- particularly if Obama wins and the Democrats hold the Senate -- it will be Washington as it is today, only more so.
And is the political system hopelessly broken?
DOWD: The dysfunction (inaudible) the dysfunctional that is going to be even more exacerbated, which I didn't think was possible, is going to be more exasperated because we're going to have a president elected with no mandate, no real vision, and no real majority. And everything that you just laid out on this is that the system -- the political system is broken. People feel no ability to sort of -- they feel like they have to choose between two alternatives that they don't really like in the course of this. That's why we have close election after close election. (CROSSTALK) WILL: Matt, I disagree. I don't think the political system's broken. I think it's working beautifully. It's a representative system. (CROSSTALK) DOWD: It is absolutely broken.
And is the blah-blah the blah-blah or is it the "blah blah?"
What is everyone going to be watcing on election night? Dowd is going to be watching for signs of the "historic divide" he was just talking about. Brazile is going to focus on voter intimidation. Will is going to be watching Proposition 30 in California. Stephanopoulos is going to be watching Gary Johnson's returns. Will agrees that he could have an impact in Colorado, because of potheads. Brownstein will also be watching the white share of the vote versus other demographics. Roberts will be watching the women's vote.
Predictions? Will figures the Romney will win Minnesota, for strange reasons that involve Walter Mondale. Roberts says Obama gets 294 electoral votes and wins Virginia. Brownstein says Obama will win the narrowest share of the popular vote of any re-elected president ever and that his electoral vote total could be 303 or 271, but he has it at 288. Dowd says Obama takes 303 electoral votes, and a tiny popular vote margin -- 0.6%. Roberts says that Sandy-stricken areas may under vote. Brazile gives Obama 313 electoral votes.
GOP takes the Senate? Roberts says no. Dowd says that the 2016 campaign begins Wednesday. Roberts assures us that it's already started.
MEET THE PRESS
Seeing as this is the last weekend before the election I suppose I have to schedule one last dance with the will-sapping succubus name MEET THE PRESS. Today there will be campaign surrogates discussing how their campaign is winning and the other campaign is losing and also there will be a panel discussion and probably David Gregory will shout OMG TWITTER!
Oh, good heavens they are doing this from Rockefeller Center, which they are calling "Democracy Plaza" for the next three days because gah.
Anyway, we shall begin with David Plouffe, again, and Eric Cantor, to do the whole, "but our campaign is awesome and their's is not thing." We have already seen two versions of this. But you know what? Howard Dean says that the best way to watch a debate is turn the sound off and look for body language. So, I am going to turn the sound off and press the first fast forward setting, and we'll evaluate the ground games of the respective candidates that way.
Okay, first up is Plouffe. They are showing scenes from Obama's visit to New Jersey. Plouffe waves his right hand a little bit, and emphasizes things with his eyebrows. He looks pretty certain of himself, almost as if he's said much of this before. He is getting a little more agitated now, using both hands for additional emphasis. It seems pretty clear, though, that he enjoys talking about this, and looks for all the world like a guy who thinks that Obama campaign is doing pretty good, because he works for the Obama campaign. Gregory shows a clips of Romney's speech, and Plouffe moves both hands up in front of him, like he wants to choke something -- perhaps the notion that the Romney campaign is good. He looks for all the world like a guy who doesn't think the Romney campaign is any good, because of the important reason that he works for the campaign that is trying to beat the Romney campaign. Now they are talking about Libya, and I can tell by Plouffe's firm emphasis that he does not think that President Barack Obama is a terrible incompetent -- but, again, I have this funny feeling that one of the big reasons that Plouffe seems pretty sure, in his body language, that Obama is not a terrible incompetent could have a lot to do with the fact that Plouffe works for the Obama campaign.
Oh, hey, and for some reason the panel is here. Today we have Cory Booker, Joe Scarborough, Mike Murphy, Savannah Guthrie, and Tom Brokaw.
Booker says that there is a "tremendous amount of suffering going on in New Jersey" and a "difficult road ahead" for the state.
Scarborough says there could be an impact on the race because of the hurricane, but there also might not be an impact on the race because of the hurricane. He thinks that this could still be a Reagan-Carter style election where Romney makes a late break to win, unless it isn't. And maybe the hurricane may or may not have something to do with it, depending on whether there is a political impact from it, which, again, Scarborough thinks mayve be happening, unless it is not.
Guthrie agrees that hurricanes can move the needle, unless they don't, and apparently "unmarried women voters" in particular really love it when the President goes to New Jersey to hang out with Christ Christie.
Mike Murphy says that he "would rather have enthusiasm on his side" than not. I mean, this breaks with everything I know about how it's best to have a candidate that attracts a bunch of sad, disaffected goths and shut-ins, but I'll allow that Murphy probably has a point. Murphy goes on to say that the election could turn out one way, unless it turns out the other way. There is no third way it could turn out. There is, however a fourth and fifth way it could turn out. No sixth way though.
Now Eric Cantor is here, to talk about how the Romney campaign is doing.
He says, "If folks want to see a better future with more jobs, Mitt Romney's got a plan. And that's why I see here on the ground, David, in Virginia, there is a lot of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."
He continues, "Mitt Romney is offering solutions, an answer to folks that are asking, the millions of Virginians and Americans that are asking right now, "How are we going to turn this thing around? How can I make my life work again?" Mitt Romney has a plan. The president doesn't. The president is full of negativity, character assassinations and attacks."
He adds, "He has a demonstrated track record and has provided an actual plan whereas all you're getting from are president in these closing days of his campaign is more negativity, more attacks."
He concludes: "And I just think that, again, Americans are looking to see how they can make their lives work again. Barack Obama's not providing any answers. And if you like the way things are now with nearly 8% unemployment, that's what you're going to get if you reelect the president."
And so I think Eric Cantor is voting for Mitt Romney.
Back to the panel. Mike Murphy says that Obama has done a "good job" in the "metal bending states." He doesn't like the Romney ad, that lies, but he claims that everything that Obama has said about the auto bailout is also a lie.
Booker says that the 2012 level of enthusiasm for Obama is actually HIGHER then the 2008 level of enthusiasm, based on some stray anecdotes. Scarborough says that there are other, more dominate anecdotes that say otherwise. In Scarborough's opinion, the Obama enthusiasm is much less. Brokaw just thinks that nobody likes any of the candidates, at all, and "fear has taken over the campaign" and now everything is about "keeping the other guy out of office."
Can a president overcome a down economy? Savannah Guthrie basically takes four minutes to say, "Sure I guess, why not? Because: reasons, or something."
Murphy says that Obama's campaign tactics may beat Romney but it will suck for him afterwards because he won't have rallied the country around him for some specific mission or reason. I think that's a good point! Cory Booker does not -- he figures that people will remember how bad things were before Obama came to office, and people will want to passionately defend the gains that have been made. Scarborough rejects the notion that anyone is hopeful about the future. He and Booker fight about it. It's pretty pointless, because Booker and Scarborous DEFINITELY can look forward to the future because they will always be stupidly rich even if they never contribute a single scintilla of positive ANYTHING to America after they piss off from Rockefeller Center today.
Chuck Todd spends the next five minutes explains how the electoral college works. Romney basically has to put Pennsylvania in play to...also put Wisconsin in play? SIGH. Look, you have to win Ohio.
Murphy says that "one reason the Romney guys like Pennsylvania" is because there has been very little campaigning there, and so there's a chance to make a first impression.
Now they are reading David Brooks columns out loud to one another. Guthrie says that Obama is counting on the election to litigate the issue of the Bush tax cuts, insisting that the "fever will break."
Brokaw says that nothing will change even if Romney wins, because he seems to think that Romney's ambitions will be thwarted by the Tea Party. Brokaw does not understand how contemporary politics works. Romney doesn't have to worry about having ambitions. Whatever the GOP House can get through the Senate is what he will sign into law, the end.
Scarborough says that the cover of PARADE that has he and Mika Brzezinski on it is "good for America." This does not seem to be all that pressing an issue right now.
David Gregory says "he has been thinking about the moments that matter to him from the campaign." Basically, the moments that mattered to Gregory were all the shiny shiny stupid gaffes and nonsense moments like Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair.
"So there it is," says Gregory. What about the rest of the panel. Booker thought the Clinton speech was awesome, and thought that the GOP were a bunch of crazy people who wouldn't take a $10 to $1 ratio of spending cuts to revenues.
Murphy thought that the GOP primary was "stupid" and did not help the Republican Party, the Obama campaign was "timid and cynical," and Romney's first debate which may allow him to win.
Scarborough is a Republican, looking at the Republican party...and shucks man, but he's got some finger waggin' to do! The primary process was "horrifying." The Republican convention was "terrible." But, okay, that first debate was AMAZING and political scientists will study it forever and we should probably put it on laser disc and blast it into space, so that alien cultures might learn of its wonder.
Guthrie says that Obama sucked at that first debate. Brokaw says that the first debate was "like nothing he's ever seen in his lifetime." He also says the "47%" comments and Romney not thanking the troops from the stage of the GOP convention were also things that he noticed had happened.
And I think that is it? Hooray. We are done, done, done with this last dumb weekend of Sunday shows. Next week, I promise you, will be much better, because there will be a big, ol' dumb loser and that loser and all the people who lost with him will have to step forward and submit themselves to the circular firing squad and there will be tears and remonstrations.