Aftermath Analysis

November 10th, 2012

Jeesh, have I been busy. Have been putting in 10- to 13-hour days this week, only to get home needing to do another 2-3 hours before getting to bed. The weekend is for catch-up. However, I want to comment on some of the post-game analysis going on regarding the election.

Many on the left are saying now that all that Super PAC spending “didn’t matter,” and that attempts to suppress the Democratic vote failed. I am not so sure. I have serious trouble believing that, had the spending been equal on both sides, and had there been no attempts to suppress the vote, that the results would have been exactly the same, or almost so. It’s hard for me to accept the idea that Obama did not lose a fair amount of the popular vote, maybe as much as a few percent, as a result of the GOP’s more extreme efforts.

It’s possible that the electoral outcome would have been the same, because Romney had no close-call states. The closest margin Romney won by was 2.2%, in North Carolina; in all other states he won, he won by an 8% margin or higher. Obama might possibly have won North Carolina, but he could not have gone so far as to get Georgia.

On the other hand, Obama could have easily lost Florida, and perhaps Ohio and Virginia, had Republicans gone even further. If, say, the courts had not backed Democratic efforts to open polling places, or had they allowed voter ID laws to stay in effect.

What’s interesting—and what one could easily point to to suggest a mandate for Obama—is that in almost all other states, Obama also won by significant margins. While Florida might have been a squeaker, and Ohio & Virginia were around 2%, every other state he won by nearly 5% or better. Almost no amount of additional Republican election fraud (possibly not even including extreme hacking of computerized vote counts) would have pulled those states into Romney’s column.

Even if Obama had lost Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to Romney, he still would have had 272 electoral votes—still more than enough to win. In a fascinating turn of events, Ohio was, it turns out, not the key state—Colorado was. And Obama won it by 4.7%, meaning Romney would have had to push the dial that far back in the other direction in order to win the White House.

So, Obama did not just win by 2.6% of the popular vote, nor did he win by getting Ohio by a margin of 1.9%. Effectively, Obama won by a 4.7% margin. Nationwide, that represents 5.7 million votes, close to double the 3.2 million popular votes Obama received.

This election was not a squeaker, not by a long shot. Nor was Obama’s lead one that he could have easily lost. While not a landslide, it was a solid, insurmountable win for the president.

As a result, we can conclude that the GOP’s efforts failed not because they were ineffective, but because Obama simply had so much support that he won by a wide margin. Which is why Nate Silver’s forecast never had Obama drop below 280 electoral votes; no matter how “close” things seemed in the polls, Obama had a very strong electoral position from day one.


Now, Republicans are already trying to wring the numbers to make it look like Obama’s support is weak, or that their own policies were somehow affirmed. Mitch McConnell even suggested that voters did not “endorse” the president, but instead the mandate was to not raise taxes on the rich.

Let’s take a quick look back to 2004, shall we? Bush won 286 electoral votes, compared to 332 for Obama this year. Bush won by a 2.4% margin, compared to Obama’s 2.6% win. At that time, conservatives across the board proclaimed a Bush mandate, followed by Bush himself. Well, if Bush had a mandate with 2.4% and 286 electoral votes, how does Obama not have one with 2.6% and 332 electoral votes?

Republicans hang on to the thread that is their House majority, claiming it shows that Americans want them there, or at least that Americans don’t want change. However, along with picking up two seats in the Senate, Democrats won the House as well—or, they would have won the House, had Republicans not gerrymandered the hell out of more than half the states. Democrats, in fact, beat Republicans in House races in the popular vote by half a percent; that this led to a 35-or-so-seat margin of victory for Republicans, despite Republicans have deep support in limited places and not broad support overall, can only be explained by gerrymandering.

Think about it: Obama won by 2.6% to 4.7% in terms of actual people voting. Democrats picked up 2 extra seats in the Senate.

Why would people vote for Democrats at the presidential and Senate levels, but switch to Republican in local districts?

The answer: they didn’t. They voted Democratic. That was their choice. The only reason it is not reflected in the election results is because the Republicans engineered districts to allow them—in a more traditional, time-honored way—to steal votes.


Of course, that fact does not stop the Republicans from coming up with various excuses as to how Obama’s win was illicit, and the people really voted for them all the way. Fox’s favorite is now almost a cliché: to suggest that The Liberal Media bought Obama the election. The Liberal Media blamed Bush too much for the current state of things. The Liberal Media failed to report enough of “the numbers” that showed Obama to be a failure.The Liberal Media glossed over Obama’s scandals. The Liberal Media gave unfairly lopsided fact-checking against Romney. And The Liberal Media focused too much on little stuff like Chris Christie’s positive comments. As one conservative summed it up:

The media lauded Obama no matter how horrendous his record, and they savaged Obama’s Republican contenders as ridiculous pretenders.

Yeah, they never said anything bad about Obama, and never stopped bashing Romney unfairly. That was it.

What that really means is, the non-Fox media outlets didn’t go completely Fox on Obama. Which is equivalent to being in the tank for Obama and throwing the election his way.

Another Fox analysis was more in-depth, which is fun to pick apart:

The Media’s Biased Gaffe Patrol Hammered Romney: The media unfairly jumped on inconsequential mistakes — or even invented controversies — from Romney and hyped them in to multi-day media “earthquakes.”

Laughably, they equate Romney’s “47%” remarks with Obama’s “The private sector is doing fine,” as if these were equal gaffes that should have gotten equal criticism. In response, Andy Borowitz said it best: “BREAKING: Man Who Told Half the Nation to Fuck Themselves Somehow Loses Election.”

Number 2:

Pounding Romney With Partisan Fact Checking: There’s nothing wrong with holding politicians accountable for the honesty of their TV ads and stump speeches, but this year the self-appointed media fact-checkers attacked Republicans as liars for statements that were accurate.

Yeah, not really. I posted on that here, the upshot being that the fact-checkers drowned themselves in false equivalencies; Romney demonstrably lied 3 or 4 times more than Obama, but the “fact-checkers” worked hard to make the truth levels seem the same. As bad as that was, it wasn’t nearly enough for Fox & Family.

Number 3:

Those Biased Debate Moderators: Upset liberals scorned PBS’s Jim Lehrer for taking a hands-off approach in the first debate on October 3, with MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman slamming him as “practically useless” for not jumping into the debate on behalf of President Obama.

Yeah, how dare those other two moderators actually note Romney’s lies, right there in front of everyone. Moderators are not guardians of truth or fact, they’re supposed to sit still and shut up when a candidate spouts outrageous lies. How dare they.

Number 4:

The Benghazi Blackout: Right after the September 11 attack in Libya, the networks proclaimed that the events would bolster President Obama — “reminding voters of his power as commander-in-chief,” as NBC’s Peter Alexander stated on the September 14 edition of “Today.” But as a cascade of leaked information erased the portrait of Obama as a heroic commander, the broadcast networks shunted the Benghazi story to the sidelines.

Here we see classic conservative projection: as happened with 9/11 and other tragedies, right-wing media rush to politicize events as they claim their competition did for Obama. This is kind of similar to the anguished cry of the late 90′s right wing, Where’s the outrage that the president got a hummer and lied about it? Can’t you see that children are being traumatized by our endless splashing of lurid details in the media? Sometimes, manufactured outrage is so hard to generate and so often unappreciated.

Benghazi was, at most, a wash. That Obama did not transform the diplomatic bureaucracy into a fast-acting juggernaut of security-wielding effectiveness is not a valid criticism, nor is it really credible to suggest that withholding judgment for a few weeks till the facts were straight, and only indirectly noting the incident as terror-related was more than a PR bumble at worst. On the other hand, Romney’s instant and fact-poor attack before the facts were in were hardly a bright spot, and easily matched whatever mistakes Obama made. Citing poor security also paled in light of Ryan’s vote to defund diplomatic security. In the end, all Fox has is an opportunistic smear exploiting a tragedy neither candidate would have been able to avoid. The rest of the media not jumping on the partisan attack wagon is hardly proof that they engineered a whitewashing of the affair in Obama’s favor.

Number 5:

Burying the Bad Economy: Pundits agreed that Obama’s weakness was the failure of the US economy to revive after his expensive stimulus and four years of $1 trillion deficits. But the major networks failed to offer the sustained, aggressive coverage of the economy that incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush faced in 1992, or even that George W. Bush faced in 2004 — both years when the national economy was in better shape than it is now.

“Pundits agreed”? Which ones? And why should we listen to “pundits”? Granted, you could classify it as a possible “weakness,” but only if you looked at facts from certain angles.

This analysis, for example, assumes that the stimulus failed, and it was Obama’s fault. However, one of the more cogent arguments Obama made, most pointedly put forth by Bill Clinton, was that Obama stepped in as the economy was collapsing, headed for a new Great Depression—and Obama quickly turned that around and brought us into job-creating territory, with 32 straight months of private sector job growth.

The stimulus didn’t fail, but it was too weak. Why? Because there were too many tax cuts, and not enough infrastructure spending—Obama tried to pass a better plan, but Republicans blocked him. We know that the stimulus brought an abrupt change for the better, and the amount it failed was minor—if critical—compared to the overall improvement. We also know that tax cuts are ineffective at stimulating job growth—meaning that it had to be the spending that improved the economy. Meaning that had Obama’s original plan passed, we’d have stronger growth. Meaning that the failure was more a Republican one—and although the media, especially Fox, did repeatedly bring up the economy and point out it was owned by Obama, nobody mentioned the dragging effect that Republicans had had, and during the six months leading up to the election, few even pointed out the game-playing the GOP did with the debt default, and very little was mentioned about the Republican obstructionism that prevented further reparative efforts on the part of the president.

As for the relatively “aggressive” economic criticism in the MSM in 2004, I somehow doubt that this Fox analyst actually relied on facts to support his claim. Nor, I think, would the claim hold water if a review of media attention of the 2000 election were to be included.


What Fox’s entire criticism boils down to is that the rest of the media did not follow Fox News’ partisan attacks.

Some are going a bit further, predictably:

Karl Rove told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Thursday that President Obama won re-election “by suppressing the vote” with negative campaign ads that “turned off” potential voters, citing a victory that carried a smaller percentage of the popular vote compared to that of the 2008 presidential race.

…Which is record-breaking irony, as Rove’s own Super PAC was responsible for the lion’s share of negative campaign ads.

As for Rove’s and other conservatives’ use of the specific expression “suppressing the vote,” it is a blatant attempt to smear the other side with the crime rather egregiously committed by themselves. Seriously, when you unilaterally target battleground states with initiatives to obstruct voting by requiring extra effort to obtain IDs, and shut down polling places at specific times, all orchestrated to hinder voting in ways that specifically target voters belonging to the other party… to go around saying the other side is “suppressing the vote” because they ran one negative ad to your four… that’s pretty damned egregious. You could even call it “breathtaking.” It is like a corporate raider who legally stole billions from seniors’ retirement funds whining that he was overcharged when he paid a buck and a half for a 12-ounce Diet Coke.

At least one guy on the right gets credit for not staying on the Kool-Aid IV drip, and that’s Dean Chambers, the guy who started the “Unskewed Polls” web site when Romney was closer to his actual popularity levels before Obama screwed up royally in Denver. Chambers, in face of facts, actually owns up honestly and makes no excuses:

I was wrong on that assumption and those who predicted a turnout model of five or six percent in favor of Democrats were right. Likewise, the polling numbers they produced going on that assumption turned out to be right and my “unskewed” numbers were off the mark.

He even went on to congratulate Nate Silver for getting the numbers right better than anyone else.

Now, in one sense, this is not a big thing, recognizing the facts. But in light of the fact that nearly every other right-winger in the “Liberal Media” is still in denial, it’s rather significant. As unreasonable as Chambers’ assumptions were during the campaign, he can at least face facts when they are incontrovertibly placed in front of him.

If more conservatives were able to do this, we’d be much better off.

  1. Tim Kane
    November 11th, 2012 at 00:08 | #1

    I think the reckoning is just beginning with the Republicans.

    They can’t hold on to their cherished “beliefs”, “principles”, and positions and hold power. In the future, they can’t hate AND rule.

    Likewise, some of the money is going to dry up.

    Bush was given, by the 1% about $150 million, and in turn he gave back to the 1% about $10 trillion. He taught the rich that investing in politics offered great return on investment and the money flowed into the party.

    Now, alot of that money is going to go off seeking other, better, ROI.

    This was a huge election. I predicted that the Movement Conservatives would continue to dominate the party for several more election cycles, but now I’m not so sure. They may begin to re-tool their party after 2014.

    Now that the hate machine looks to be a perennial loser, I kind of hate to see them retool.

  2. Troy
    November 11th, 2012 at 00:44 | #2

    The idea that even 60% victory margins like what Reagan, Nixon, and LBJ got are “mandates” troubles me.

    The difference between 50% and 60% is just 1 out of 10 people changing their mind.

    + + + + + o o o o o = close election
    + + + + + + o o o o = mandate!

    The larger rule here is that we need to have a maturer polity where we understand that we have a representative democratic government that is seated in the House.

    Aside from the gerrymandering thing, which is real and pernicious, Boehner is quasi-constitutionally a co-leader of the country (I say quasi- since parties aren’t in the constitution and party government sucks but is apparently unavoidable).

    Mitch McConnell even suggested that voters did not “endorse” the president, but instead the mandate was to not raise taxes on the rich.

    gah. We’ve got four choices: raise taxes, cut spending, eventual hard default, or soft default through printing enough money to inflate away the $16T accumulated debt since little of that is in inflation-protected issues.

    “The private sector is doing fine”

    it IS doing fine!

    http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CP

    “Pundits agreed that Obama’s weakness was the failure of the US economy to revive after his expensive stimulus and four years of $1 trillion deficits”

    Pundit is an euphemism for ‘bullshit artist’ — propagandist. Pundits also agreed that Romney was going to win the election!

    The stimulus didn’t fail, but it was too weak. Why? Because there were too many tax cuts, and not enough infrastructure spending

    I kinda disagree with this. Our economy is weak because it is fundamentally imbalanced.

    Our per-capita health care cost is $5000 more than Japan’s! Our defense budget is $3000 per capita vs. $400 for Japan. We burn gasoline like we’re made of the stuff when the reality is that we’ve got a $300B/yr trade deficit with our oil providers. And we’ve got another $300B/yr trade deficit with our goods providers, since we’ve offshored a lot of our industry:

    http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MANEMP

    Aside from that, we’ve got a housing system extracting a trillion or so from the masses, all that is flowing up the pyramid to the “1%” and not coming back down.

    We borrowed $8T between 1999 and 2008:

    http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CMDEBT

    to try to mitigate these massive imbalances. When we could no longer do so after our bubble economy popped in 2008, we turned to government borrow & spend to keep the system from collapsing completely.

    Stimulus can’t fix things, only inject new money into a crooked system. It’s just like giving the losers another $1000 in end-game Monopoly, it’s only going to prolong things and not actually rebalance the game.

    The core problem here is that one side has been living by bullshitting the people for 30-plus years. This strategy worked most of the time, and it sure worked in that first debate.

    Jon Stewart calling Fox “Bullshit Mountain” is encouraging, like he’s copying my bit.

  3. Troy
    November 11th, 2012 at 02:03 | #3

    oh, btw, I was totally wrong about the Dems not being able to retake the House this year.

    As you say, they did get more votes! OH’s gerrymandering gave 12 seats to the Republicans and 4 to the Dems, when democratically it should be 8-8. That’s a 4 vote swing right there, 25% towards a Pelosi majority.

    We’ve got a kinda screwy constitutional system still. Founders had a fetish for balance of power, LOL. Maybe a good thing in the long run . . .

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