Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Two Different Worlds: The 47% Remarks Day 2

We will have to wait a couple of weeks to see if the 47% gaffe cost Romney any polling points, but one thing is certain: it's eating media cycles and has a substantial opportunity cost coming on the day that Romney was attempting to re-brand himself (coincidence? I'd said "no" but the story on how it came out makes it seem like it could be ... so was Isaac). Every major news outlet except for Fox has a 47% story at or near the top of the page.

We saw the first attack-ad based on the 47% comments hit the airwaves--from Obama's Super PAC:

It's a fairly canny one: allegedly the people filmed are not actors. The Obama camp takes an iPad and shows passersby the taped comments and records their reactions. Watch it with the sound turned off and see their reactions.

The Republicans unearthed Obama supporting redistribution and have done their best to make that the topic of conversation. It's a legitimate counter-strike but ... good luck with that, guys--the media is going to be screaming 47% as long as their lungs hold out.

The betting market aggregator PredictWise published an article saying they thought the ads moved Obama 2.5% closer to a win:
The video will play in advertisments, dominate the debate over the next few days and weeks, and may play a major part in debates. Even if it does not move polls tomorrow, it will, likely, make a difference on Election Day.
Erick Erickson, of Red State went on NPR and defended Romney (I think he officially endorsed a world-ending meteor strike in the Republican Primary). His story is this: Romney simply confused two numbers that are the same (47% of people who are paying no income tax and 47% of the people who'll vote for Obama). He pivoted from one to the other, leaving out the transition which made it seem like he was saying all the Obama voters were entitlement junkies who paid no income tax. Not so.
There are, in fact, as Barack Obama said on David Letterman about his situation, there are 47 percent of people in the nation who will vote for Barack Obama, 47 percent who will vote for Mitt Romney. And Mitt Romney was trying to say that he's got to focus on the people in between in the gap to get to them.
The problem was he pivoted immediately and started talking about there's also 47 percent of people in the nation who don't pay income taxes. And he merged the two of them together. I really don't think he intended to merge them together. But I don't think it hurts him as much as a lot of people say.
Indeed, Erickson would like to hear more about this whole entitlement thing.

On the other hand, Romney is facing pressure from various conservatives to "shake things up." Peggy Noonan wrote of his 47% comments:
This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. They’re usually young enough and dumb enough that nobody holds it against them, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know much about America.
Everyone agrees there's still time for Romney to win because, hey, the election ain't over--but the campaign is caught in the grips of a media narrative about it being in a death spiral. The Week offers several strategies to overcome the problem:

  1. Ride out the storm (remember bitter clingers?)
  2. Change the conversation (redistribution)
  3. Shake up his campaign (fire everyone)
  4. Give a big speech (but his op-ed in USA Today today is probably not it)

What Does It Mean?
This drama will play out in two different "universes" and it will play out differently in each one. In the Republican universe this is a media hit-job and Romney's defense is to (a) point out that it's true (and, since the basic allegation is not actually true, clarify it to make it a statement about government dependence) and (b) get a counter-narrative going about Obama embracing wealth distribution.

In the Democrat's universe this is the "real Romney"--a wealthy plutocrat who considers half the country hopelessly, degenerately lazy. Having the "smoking gun" they want to blow that smoke in everybody's face as early and as often as possible.

Two universes? Don't doubt it. Here is an article about how the left and right used Yahoo search during the conventions:
I was told by NPR there would be wild searches for hookers at BOTH conventions ... WHERE'S THAT!?
Nate Silver echoes this when he looks at the most recent polling:
These polls almost seem to inhabit different universes. As I’ll describe in a separate article, the methodological choices made by pollsters may have something to do with it; Mr. Obama’s bounce has been much more noticeable in polls that use live interviewers and that call cellphones.
But it does not do any good to pretend there is a consensus in the polls when there isn’t. Sometimes there is simply no alternative to remaining patient until one emerges. The downward trend for Mr. Obama in the Gallup and Rasmussen trackers is closest thing we have to a theme in the polls for the time being.
Indeed: anyone who follows the polls knows that Rasmussen is either the only accurate pollster or is a Republican shill (or has a strong Republican "house effect"). Obama is either ahead in most of the swing states or losing badly and only being propped up by the media ... there are either 47% takers and 54% makers or the 1% are exploiting the 99% (or else it's a lot more complex than that).

As a result, both sides are going to be somewhat confused when they try to figure out how people not strongly inhabiting either universe respond to this. Time will tell.

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