Guest Post: Kiwi in America on the US elections results

November 19th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Kiwi in America:

As someone who helped run political campaigns at a national level in a previous life in New Zealand, I view the mechanics of political campaigns through the lens of some who once lived and breathed the nuts and bolts of getting your man elected daily. Because some on the centre right were shocked by the election result on Tuesday, here are some of my thoughts about what happened. Before I do so we need to be clear how VERY CLOSE this election was. Comparisons the 2004 election are most instructive:

  • Popular vote margin: Obama won by 2.4% and 3 million votes in 2012 – Bush won by an almost identical margin in 2004
  • Electoral College votes: Obama won the EC in 2012 by 126 votes versus Bush’s 34 EC votes in 2004 – this is because Obama spread his victory very thinly where it counted. Compare the 2012 winning margins in the 4 key swing states of OH, FL, VA and CO: Obama won these states by only 406,000 votes – it took Bush DOUBLE that margin to win the same key swing states in 2004 (by 861,000 votes). Had Romney won OH, FL, VA and CO he would’ve won EC vote 285 to 253!

Obama’s winning margin of  406,000 votes comprised less than 2% of votes cast in 4 states and 0.03% of all votes cast nationwide. Such is the electoral system that the Presidency hinges on such a tiny number of voters.

 Incumbents rarely lose

It’s true and so Romney had a much steeper hill to climb regardless of how favourable he thought the adverse economic conditions were to his candidacy. Since 1896 no incumbent President fighting in a normal two party race, under normal circumstance and not facing a primary challenger from his own party has lost. There have been 4 incumbents in that period who lost but each faced unique factors that Obama never faced. Hoover was in office when the Stock Market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression began. He had also been the Commerce Secretary of the previous Coolidge Administration so he was not new to the Executive branch like Obama. Ford was not an incumbent in the usual sense – he had not been elected and only assumed the Presidency after Nixon’s pre-impeachment resignation – Ford’s pardoning of Nixon also tarred him with the Watergate scandal. Carter faced a bruising Primary with Ted Kennedy (for a sitting President a rare event) and one that ate into his campaign costs and split the Democrat party. The unresolved Iranian hostage crisis was a weeping sore at the end of his presidency that cost Carter dearly. GHW Bush (41) had been Vice President for 8 years prior to his election as President AND faced a substantial third party candidate in Ross Perot who siphoned off a large number of right leaning votes. The US electorate usually gives an incumbent President 2 terms. Obama is in fact the first sitting President to NOT INCREASE his share of the vote in his second term.

 2012 was more like 2008 than 2010

Much has been written about the dueling views on polls – on the left was Nate Silver (whose baseball modeling skills he brought to political polling) whose model essentially aggregated and then weighted most of the public opinion polls – on the right was the view that most polls (except Rasmussen and Gallup) were too heavily weighting in favor of Democrats and if you realigned those polls to what they thought was a more realistic level, Romney was level pegging or ahead. Democrats were +7 of the overall national vote in 2008 and this swung dramatically to R +2 in the 2010 mid-terms. For a point of reference the split was D + 3 in 2004. The left claimed that Obama’s presence on the ticket in 2012 would see a result close to 2008 and thus it was – polls that had around D+6 were pretty accurate on the day or in other words a drop of only 1% since 2008. Republicans took solace in the massive turnaround in voter sentiment in 2010 that saw the largest reversal in an incumbent party’s House of Representative hold in 74 years. That, combined with a historic sweep of State legislatures and governorships, gave the right good reason to think that 2008 represented a high tide mark in voter support for the Democrats and that 2012, whilst nowhere near as dramatic as the 2010 mid-terms, would see a reasonable retreat from what they saw as a record turnout for Obama. Thus a turnout model close to 2004 (D+3) was seen by many on the right to be a more accurate assessment of the partisan split.

 The truth was that Obama’s winning coalition comprised a combination of groups that historically have had relatively low voter turnout – blacks, the young and Hispanics. Blacks have a higher representation amongst lower socio-economic groups who tend to lack the traditions and engagement with the electoral system. Young voters are fickle, easily distracted, feel they have little impact on politics and are so transient that they are hard to keep track of. Hispanics share some of the same turnout issues as blacks. Black turnout over the 3 elections prior to 2008 averaged 9% of the electorate – in 2008 it was 11% and Obama got 93% of that vote. He managed to get the exact same percentage turnout in 2012 AND he got the same percentage of blacks to vote for him. In the two crucial swing state of VA and OH he actually INCREASED the numbers of blacks voting as a percentage of voters and of course got the same very high percentage of them to vote for him. Ditto for the under 30 vote – historically the under 30 vote is usually 15% of the electorate but in 2008 Obama pushed this up to 18% and he managed to win 68% of that vote. In 2012 Obama stunningly managed to replicate this turnout amongst the young even managing to slightly increase the percentage of young voters to 19% and again scoring a huge margin over Romney – 60/27. But he saved the best for the Hispanic vote. It had been creeping up from 9% of the electorate in 2004 to 10% in 2008 and then 11% in 2012. In 2008 Obama won Hispanics by 67% (Bush has been the most successful Republican ever winning 44% in 2004) but in 2012 Obama managed to INCREASE his share of the Hispanic vote to 71%.


In the end most of the pollsters DID pick these trends figuring that having Obama at the top of the ticket mattered. It is very significant that Romney’s own pollsters fell into the same assumption trap (that of a likely 2004 type partisan split) and so the candidate and his entire campaign calibrated their actions (e.g. going into cruise mode for the 2nd and 3rd debates, not pressing the President hard on the Benghazi scandal in the final debate and the candidate’s wasted forays into places like MN and PA) on the assumption that they were further ahead than what they were. It lead to complacency in the Romney campaign that then fed to the conservative bloggers and thence into the mainstream conservative media like Fox News and let the more extreme outlier commentators like Dick Morris to talk in terms of a Romney landslide. Even the more cautious on the right assumed a narrow Romney victory. The polls mostly had it right so Nate Silver was bang on and the Obama campaign’s own polling, being more accurate, was able to more carefully calibrate their campaign on the basis that what their own internal polls told them was pretty close to what was happening on the ground. Romney made a whole series of tactical decisions on the assumption that he was doing better than he actually was. In such a close election, it proved to be the difference between victory and defeat.


To win you need a world class GOTV effort

The Obama campaign knew that a significant portion of their base comprised groups that are notoriously difficult to turn out – blacks, the youth vote and Hispanics. The Democrats could consistently rely on single women, college educated liberals and their west and east coast left leaning heartland to turnout – they had to maximize the hard to get groups in all the battleground states to win. They decided to spend very big on systems to identify, track, target and then get to the polls each of these groups. This meant opening a large network of field offices in swing states and using the unions as the baseline foot soldiers to help with these tasks and to recruit local amateurs to assist. The 2008 campaign heavily used texting, Facebook, Twitter and other social media to not only target these key demographics but to turn supporters into street level advocates. It meant a constant broad-based organic effort to enroll new voters and to find ways to keep in touch with these key groups. The campaign employed a veritable army of demographers, statisticians and behavioral scientists to examine a series of very specific hot button issues for each of these key groups. The campaign used a variety of ways to target these groups beginning with carefully crafted email messages as the database was broken down into a myriad of sub groups. Fundraising messages were also carefully shaped by focus group work to pander to each micro targeted set in the database. The campaign kept on its payroll a large number of people whose job it was to track this large group of new voters to keep them engaged with the President. It made it easier to turn them out to vote in 2012 because they were less likely to be lost to the system.


Part and parcel of the 2008 winning effort, replicated in 2012, was a heavy reliance on early voting. The Obama campaign deployed vast on-the-ground resources and personnel to use all means possible to get as many voters to request and return postal ballots or vote early (depending on each state’s peculiar voting laws) on the premise that the Republicans always got a better turnout on the day of the election. The winning margins in the swing states were banked early in the campaign to build up sufficiently large leads to withstand the GOP election day turnout. Whilst the lead the Democrats garnered from early voting in 2012 was down on 2008 (partly due to a better performance by the GOP in this area) it was still wide enough to again not be swamped on election day.


In 2012, anticipating a stronger and better funded GOP election day ground game (McCain’s was weak and poorly funded), the Obama campaign took the election day GOTV to the next level. In all the swing states in every single polling station they had well trained and resourced volunteers with effective voter tracking tools and these were augmented by ample voter ride assist to squeeze out the last few voters on the day. The GOP did indeed invest heavily in a proprietary election day GOTV system called ORCA designed to allow its much larger (than 2008) army of volunteers to track who had voted. It was a web based/cell phone linked voter strike off list that was downloaded to an assigned volunteer and its polling station. This huge and expensive system was not extensively beta tested prior to election day and on the day it crashed and faulted not allowing 10,000’s of volunteers to enter in voter information as they voted leaving their national campaign headquarters in the dark as to who had voted in many of the key swing states greatly hampering Romney’s GOTV effort on election day.


The mismatch of early voter GOTV and the deep, broad, well trained and tested election day ground effort by the Obama campaign easily outran the less sophisticated and technologically inferior (and poorly tested) Romney machine. The step up of the Obama campaign saw slight increases in election day turnout of blacks in key states like Ohio and Virginia, even above that of the superb effort in 2008.


Pandering to your base works

Close elections are base elections and Obama did whatever it took to turn out his base. Dovetailing hand in glove with the world beating GOTV effort, the Obama team knew that it was easier to get out their base to vote if the base was reminded why voting for Obama was important. President Obama made sure that his Administration used the power of incumbency, the bully pulpit and the regulatory power of the Executive to push policies designed to excite and motivate its core constituencies AND to scare any wavering voters in these groups tempted to punish Obama for the poor economy.

  • Under 30’s: Two policy changes were made to pander to this key demographic – Obama’s rather deliberate reversal of his at least publicly stated views on gay marriage, an issue more in tune with young voters was followed by the legislative push on Capitol Hill to extend the low interest rates on student loans in the midst of Romney and Ryan’s push for fiscal austerity. Obama relentlessly worked the media outlets most readily consumed by the youth – he appeared frequently with all the cool late night talk show hosts (Letterman, Conan, Stewart, Leno), he was a frequent brief visitor on random youth oriented radio stations. He concentrated many of his campaign visits on college campuses in the swing states. After each rally his campaign enrolled and/or pushed for early votes from thousands of hard to reach students.
  • African Americans: Obama knew he needed to not just match but actually exceed his record vote amongst blacks to counteract the large numbers of whites and independents he know he would lose. He managed to harness black fears of the racist past (where even the act of voting in the south was illegal or difficult) by accusing the Republicans of indulging in a campaign to suppress the black vote because so many newly GOP controlled legislatures enacted voter ID laws to protect against the comparative ease of committing voter fraud. Media obsession over black racism was fueled by the Trebon Martin case – a case that Obama surrogates made knowing precisely what they were doing – ginning up black voters.
  • Hispanics: This demographic as emerged as Obama’s second most important demographic firewall. Aside from a more aggressive Hispanic outreach that began early on and extended deep and wide into the Hispanic community, Obama’s comparatively hostile reception he got when interviewed on Telemundo underscored Hispanic disappointment that in his first term, Obama was unable to enact any immigration reform or pass the DREAM Act (the granting of in state college tuition fees to deserving illegal immigrant high school graduates). Obama used his executive power to create via regulation some of that which he knew Congress would never pass – an Executive order waiving ICE’s deportation orders for certain key categories of illegals. This controversial gesture, likely illegal in that it has circumvented the intention of Congress, was well received in the Hispanic community and was taken as a sign to them that Obama was on their side. Obama was handed a gift by the Romney campaign who, early in the Republican primary season, in an attempt to head off the challenge by Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, lurched to a more hardline brittle anti-immigration stance, harder than he needed to and hard enough for the Obama campaign to portray Romney to the Hispanic community as an enemy to their aspirations. The result was that Obama actually INCREASED his share of the Latino vote AND managed to get a higher percentage of Latinos to the polls. This was key to his narrow victory in Florida and in the end relatively easy victories in Nevada and Colorado – states with growing Hispanic populations.
  • Women (particularly single women): Rush Limbaugh inadvertently handed this issue on a plate to the Obama campaign and around all the brouhaha surrounding his intemperate comments about Sandra Fluck (the college graduate pushing for free contraception) was woven what came to be known as the Republican war on women. Any thoughtful commentator knew it was a bogus charge but they missed the wider purpose – to keep women, particularly single women (who form a key part of Obama’s base), engaged and motivated to vote for Obama. The campaign did things that seemed silly to conservatives – like the tasteless “first time” ad and the President appearing on The View (a show with a huge following amongst women) rather than meet world leaders at the UN – both were deliberate tactics to pander to women to turn out their vote.


Demonizing your opponent works

Obama carefully followed the Karl Rove playbook used against John Kerry in 2004. The Swift boat Vets campaign was devastating – it negated the whole ‘war hero’ theme that Kerry used in his campaign and Kerry never really recovered. The Obama campaign defined Romney through the summer as a heartless plutocrat by playing on class envy themes against his wealth and cherry picking the worse aspects of Romney’s time at Bain. Some of the ads were actually blatantly untruthful (alleging Bain had caused the death of a steel company worker’s wife after Bain closed the company) but the damage was done. Romney had many good stories to tell about his time in business but he seemed reluctant to even go there – and lacked a sufficient war chest at the time to fight due to the vagaries of the campaign finance laws that prevented Romney from spending any General Election fundraising until after the GOP convention. I believe Romney miscalculated his total spending needs for the primary as he had to fight longer and harder due to the resurgent Santorum campaign. Had Romney fought back hard and aggressively in the swing states in the summer with his own campaign’s aggressive rebuttals that still stressed the growth and jobs theme rather than relying on the GOP friendly super PACs to attack Obama in these states, Romney would’ve likely been polling close to Obama going into the conventions and the final straight.


Media bias was important in 5 key areas in assisting Obama

Republican candidates run knowing the main stream media is largely on the side of their opponents. In the 2012 campaign, Obama’s historic candidacy and victory resulted in a larger number of reporters feeling such an affinity to the President as to extend the bias further than is usual. This manifested itself in a number of crucial issues:

  • The economy – reporting of the very slow and elongated recovery was almost always done in terms favorable to the President. Contrast the endless media reporting of Bush’s jobless recovery post 9/11 when all economic indicators were significantly better than those that prevailed for all of Obama’s first term. The post 2007-2009 recession period has seen the slowest recovery of any recession since the Depression. Obama’s message that it was Bush’s fault and that he needed more time to fix the economy and this claim was reported with few dissenters. Small dips in the unemployment rate and an occasional good jobs report led to a chorus of recovery stories that rarely put the recovery in any kind of historical context. The exit polls in 2012 proved that whilst the economy was of concern, there were just enough people who thought that the recovery was good enough.
  • Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: the media under Bush were very quick to publish any and all bad news to do with these wars – endless body counts and the breathless reporting of the antics of the mother of an Iraq vet Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan demanded a new audience with Bush despite being present at a small private gathering of the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq including some one on one time. Her crusade and her subsequent involvement with radical anti-war group Code Pink and various other anti-war groups received constant and favourable media coverage at Bush’s expense. When the father of the former Navy SEAL killed trying to defend the US Consulate in Benghazi wanted to tell his history of his son’s heroism and the tone deafness of the President and Mrs. Clinton at his funeral, only Fox News would cover it. The anti-war left became more muted under Obama and were rarely reported on. Bush’s surge had laid the foundation for eventual success in Iraq but the media were far more anxious to credit Obama with him succeeding in ending the war even though the troop withdrawals were negotiated by Bush. Similarly as conditions deteriorated in Afghanistan, Obama was spared the intense scrutiny and endless stories of on-the-ground failure; rather Obama became the beneficiary of the decision to withdraw from there as well. Finally, Obama’s triumphalism over the killing of Osama bin Laden has never been questioned whereas had the Bush team got bid Laden and ‘spiked the football’ as frequently and incessantly as Obama has, the media would have called him out on it. Obama has been able to milk the OBL killing for as long and often as he wanted. 
  • Fast and Furious: Under Bush the media could make a minor event become major scandal – the Valarie Plame affair consumed Washington and eventually claimed the scalp of Scooter Libby, Dick Chaney’s Chief of Staff – all over an alleged leak as to this woman’s status as a spy when it was eventually revealed that the leaker was a senior State Department official. Contrast the reporting of the Fast and Furious scandal where the media reversed itself to make the major seem minor. The story of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms deliberately allowing automatic weapons to pass to the hands of the Mexican drug cartels as a misguided attempt to trace the drug lords that backfired resulting in 2000 weapons falling into the hands of the cartels without being traced, the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Mexico and a US Border Patrol Agent was explosive. A scandal this serious under a Republican President would quickly have risen to Watergate like intensity in the breadth and depth of reporting. The US MSM largely stayed away from this scandal preferring to believe Attorney General Eric Holder’s obfuscations that he ever knew and they have shown an indifference to the reporting of the refusal by the DOJ to co-operate with House subpoenas for internal communications that seem likely to link this botched operation all the way to the White House.
  • Libyan Consulate affair: The loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens and 4 security staff was a scandal that brewed right before the election and had the potential to derail Obama’s re-election…if the voters knew about it. With each passing week a new and damning piece of evidence would be revealed that pointed to an Administration trying hard to deflect attention from its core message, repeated endlessly at the DNC in Charlotte, that OBL was dead and al Qaida was on the run. Evidence that requests for better security were ignored, that the Administration knew all along it was a terrorist attack and not some spontaneous demonstration arising from an obscure You Tube clip from an anti-Muslim nut job in California and that requests for military intervention to rescue the staff were turned down was ignored by all but a few in the MSM. Had a situation like this erupted in the final month in the campaign for the re-election of Bush, the media would’ve swarmed all over every detail of this scandal pressing the President incessantly and forcing his campaign onto the back foot. That never happened to Obama.


Hurricane Sandy’s impact

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the east coast of NY and NJ, Romney had been enjoying rising poll ratings since the 1st debate and these had held up (although their upward trajectory had slowed) despite Obama’s strong comeback in the 2nd two debates. Obama was also facing a slow drip feed of negative media reports on the Libyan consulate fiasco. Whilst it was never a breakthrough, headline grabbing issue for the mainstream media, it was starting to gain traction and the Administration’s stonewalling on the key unanswered questions was starting to be noticed. Sandy wiped all of that off the news headlines thus killing any momentum Romney had prior to Sandy. Furthermore the storm gave Obama a chance to look Presidential and in charge. Much of the grunt work with natural disasters is done at the state and local level and any shortcomings with FEMA (like Bush with Katrina) would take days even weeks to become apparent and that would take Obama well past the election. Obama’s chemistry with NJ Governor Chris Christie (a vocal opponent of the President) and the bi partisan way they seem to attack the unfolding disaster at hand gave Obama priceless media footage that the Romney campaign was powerless to counter. The CBS exit polls show that a remarkable 44% of late deciding voters (about 4% of the electorate) said that the President’s handling of the storm played a very important part in their decision to vote for him. It appeared that a larger number of voters than normal waited until the day of the election before deciding who to vote for and of that group, Obama was overwhelmingly favoured due to his perceived handling of the hurricane. Historically the late deciders usually break for the challenger the exception being the Bush DUI revelations in 2000 that caused a number of evangelicals to stay at home. The truth is we’ll never know what the election outcome would’ve been without a hurricane but we do know that if it favoured anyone, it definitely favoured Obama.


The cumulative weight of all these factors ensured a narrow Obama victory.”


53 Responses to “Guest Post: Kiwi in America on the US elections results”

  1. iMP (2,665 comments) says:

    FANTASTIC summary for a politics groupie like mois. I agree with his early point, “we need to be clear how VERY CLOSE this election was. Obama won by 2.4%” ie a tiny margin. This was no slam dunk and Obama’s subsequent victory laps are nauseating. He has no mandate to be heavy with the Repub.s who control the Congress with a bigger “mandate.”

    Having won with less than George Bush, Obama is now challenged to build an accord approaching what GWBush was able to do across the house. He was good at that.

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  2. scrubone (3,791 comments) says:

    Yes, a good summary.

    The Libyan Consulate affair is going to be interestin though. From what I’ve seen, the Republicians in the Senate are fired up over that one – they won’t be letting it go anytime soon.

    It will also be interesting to see what comes out from these stories of electoral fraud.

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  3. Scott (2,743 comments) says:

    Great post Kiwi in America, summarises all of the points brilliantly. For my part I would say that the American election has just become over the top. Pres Obama spent two years governing as Pres and passed major left-wing legislation such as Obama Care and the huge fiscal stimulus. For the next two years he did nothing much except campaign. The whole election process which now covers years means that the Pres doesn’t actually do much governing. For my part I would acknowledge that Obama is a brilliant campaigner for president of the United States. I would also say that he is a terrible Pres. Apparently the United States people owe something like $50,000 in overseas debt for every man woman and child. Obama has done nothing about that and will do nothing. He will be presidential and charismatic and cool. Meanwhile the country goes broke.

    The other point is that Romney had a failure of nerve. Sometimes you have to be all in. He did a brilliant first debate. Then he went Conservative and tried to protect the lead that he never had. If you want it you have to be all in. We can talk about media bias which there certainly was. But the media can rightfully say why should they call the Pres on Benghazi when Romney his opponent didn’t call the Pres on it during the third debate, which was about foreign policy. Romney should have hammered him all day long and thereby make the media cover it.

    Romney was a very good candidate but he never quite captured the heart of the American people. The sad thing in my opinion is that he would have been a much better Pres. The Pres of the United States is a leader in world opinion and shaping events. Sadly we are stuck with Obama.

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  4. wat dabney (4,135 comments) says:

    Romney was a very good candidate


    He stood for absolutely nothing except getting himself elected. The Republicans are no different from the Democrats: worshippers and beneficiaries of unbridled state power.

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  5. AG (1,949 comments) says:

    Anyone wanting to judge kiwi in america’s trustworthiness as a commentator on US political issues might perhaps wish to revisit his predictions for the Presidential election, which commences with “First off the popular vote – I’m picking Romney by 5” and gets wronger from there (see the very first comment at

    Sure, his after-the-fact analysis may be a little more reality based than his forecasting was … but let’s just say that perhaps kiwi in america would be a bit more believable if he included himself in all those “conservatives” and people “on the right” who clearly didn’t have a clue about how the election was actually playing out.

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  6. Mark (1,611 comments) says:

    55% of women voted for Obama, 96% of black women and 76% of Latino women voted for Obama. Do you think the GOP may need to rethink their messaging to women a wee bit? Obama’s dreams came true in the form of Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin. These two were a gift from the gods for the Obama campaign.

    You also have to give a great deal of credit to the Obama campaign recovering from a near disastrous first debate. Romney’s high point however is campaign slowly unravelled from that point

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  7. AG (1,949 comments) says:

    “Obama won by 2.4%” ie a tiny margin. This was no slam dunk and Obama’s subsequent victory laps are nauseating. He has no mandate to be heavy with the Repub.s who control the Congress with a bigger “mandate.””

    (1) Obama won a greater share of the popular vote than George Bush did in either of his election victories – or Richard Nixon did in 1968.

    (2) Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives got more total votes than did Republicans: Democrats got 54,301,095 votes while Republicans got 53,822,442. But because of gerrymandering – which DPF has posted on before – the Republicans got more seats in the House. Hardly a ringing “mandate”, is it?

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  8. tvb (5,512 comments) says:

    The republicans have a House majority on LESS votes than the democrats and on gerrymadered boundaries. So they certainly do not have a mandate to set the terms of the agenda. And Obama does have support from the country at large. The Republicans are right to cause spending to be reigned in and cutting entitlements will have less impact on the economy at large than tax increases which will go through the whole economy. But it will be a balance even though the Republicans are trying to talk up their role. The US is not governed through the House of representatives. The US does not have a parliamentary system of Government with the House Speaker as Prime Minister.

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  9. AG (1,949 comments) says:

    Oh … and while we are at it … here’s kiwi in america’s predictive effort back in 2008: (

    “Its afternoon on Tuesday November 4th. Yesterday I posted this on another Kiwiblog thread. THis is my prediction for the Presidential Elections today.

    Latest battleground state polls have the candidates either tied or within the margin of error. Assuming the usual reliable red and blue states go to McCain and Obama respectively – with regards to the battleground states, I believe McCain will win PA, OH, FL, NH and VA (and maybe CO and NV) and Obama will likely win IA, NM, MI and MN (and maybe CO &NV) because of the following effects that the polls and pundits are not really focusing on …”

    I think we can posit a new theory of truth – if kiwi in america says something about US politics, then the diametric opposite to kiwi in america’s statement is true.

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  10. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    Romney deciding to cruise after the first debate was as much a function of the campaign’s faulting polling as the candidate’s innate conservatism. They believed Romney was sitting on a larger lead than he really had. This influenced the tone and type of ads they ran and where they ran, the states Romney visited, the messages of campaign surrogates and of course the tenor Romney took at the 2nd and 3rd debates. Had the Romney campaign’s polls been accurate it is far more conceivable that Romney would’ve gone after Obama on Benghazi in the final foreign policy debate.

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  11. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    In my post I make it pretty clear why so many on the right got the polls wrong including me – Obama’s turnout of the key demographic groups made all the difference. In the previous 5 Presidential elections the Gallup and Rasmussen huge party identification polls taken a week before each election came very close to the actual vote on Election Day – except in 2012. That analysis lay behind Michael Barone’s prediction which I essentially said was my prediction. Barone, up until this cycle, had a very good track record (much more so that Dick Morris) and so he adjusted the state level polls to be a little closer to the Gallup/Rasmussen party ID results because up until then they had been so accurate.

    As a person who used to be in charge of Election Day turnout being part of a team that managed some victories against the odds in some key electorates back in the day, I can only marvel at the machine the Obama campaign created.

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  12. AG (1,949 comments) says:


    And the reason why you got it wrong in 2008 was … ? One might be tempted to suggest that for all your claimed expertise in running campaigns, your analysis of them is based more on what you want to see happen than on what actually is taking place.

    For example, you say: “As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the east coast of NY and NJ, Romney had been enjoying rising poll ratings since the 1st debate and these had held up (although their upward trajectory had slowed) despite Obama’s strong comeback in the 2nd two debates.” That simply is not true, as Nate Silver (remember him – the guy whose reputation was going to be “in tatters” after this election?) has shown:

    And when you say “Republican candidates run knowing the main stream media is largely on the side of their opponents. In the 2012 campaign, Obama’s historic candidacy and victory resulted in a larger number of reporters feeling such an affinity to the President as to extend the bias further than is usual”, this is at odds with empirical studies of actual media coverage of the candidates:

    In short, this post is a great analysis of what you feel about the election. But, like your track record of describing what will happen in US politics, it isn’t a very good reflection of what actually took place.

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  13. Danny-boy (103 comments) says:

    Post-justification by someone who got it so very wrong. The lady doth protest too much.

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  14. PaulL (6,059 comments) says:

    AG: easy to be negative. Write a guest post from the left. Explain what you think happened. We’ll judge the quality and thoughtfulness of your writing.

    KIA: good post. I think you have the key trends right, I think in some areas you aren’t quite picking the causes with clear eyes. If the Republicans stick to conservative (RedBaiter style) policies, they won’t win next time either. I think their economics are broadly correct, they need to find a way to let go of some of the social policies that women, Hispanics and Blacks don’t like.

    Imagine a candidate Christie who went into the primaries and told it like it is.

    On social policy:
    – The war on drugs isn’t working, we’re going to decriminalise most drugs and aim to reduce the dreadful incarceration rate of blacks.
    – Illegal immigrants don’t really take people’s jobs, they mostly help America’s economy – and realistically lots of people have yard guys or nannies who are illegal, so we’re dropping the hypocrisy and normalising what we’re doing. Not a full amnesty, but the first steps to a sensible policy.
    – Abortion and contraception is a matter for the individual or at worst the states, we won’t have the government fund abortions or contraception, we won’t force anyone (such as church hospitals) to perform abortions or fund contraception if they don’t want to, but we’re giving up on the campaign to make them illegal. Perhaps make third trimester illegal as a trade-off – most people agree with that.

    The reality is that these policies don’t lose that much vote – people who oppose these things have few other places to go. Sure, some of them might not vote, but most considered studies find that the religious right is much smaller than commonly believed.

    Then combine that with straight talking on the economy:
    – The USA cannot afford the current spending trajectory, it must change
    – The USA cannot afford to have a military that is so much larger than other large countries combined. Reducing it somewhat also means reducing aspirations – fewer invasions
    – Health is a mess not because of lack of govt funding – there is plenty of govt funding. The combination of tax breaks and regulations is what makes it a mess, sort that out properly, and make it a state responsibility again
    – The tax system is untidy, the middle pays much of the tax, the top and the bottom pay less. The tax system needs rebalancing, with closing of loopholes and subsidies that support special interests, and in return a flattening of the broad-based tax rates
    – Bruce Springstein is a great singer, doesn’t mean he knows jack about the economy – start taking your advice from economists, not from celebrities

    I reckon a guy like Christie could pull this off. He’s very genuine, and unlikely to swing left or right – he’ll do what he believes and damn the consequences. Problem is that he might choose not to stand at all. And he needs to lose a bit of weight.

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  15. aitkenmike (99 comments) says:

    PaulL, you are right, a candidate like that would likely do well in the general in 2016. Do you think that anyone could get through the republican primary advocating these positions though?

    AG, agree with you completely.

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  16. PaulL (6,059 comments) says:

    @aitkenmike: that’s my point. You have to hold those positions through the primary and still win. That’s the challenge for the Republican party, to work out how that’s possible.

    Two things:
    1. The current rules make it hard for people who hold positions like this. Initiatives like open primaries weaken the push to the extremes. For Senate, the equivalent is removing the gerrymandering of districts so that candidates that cannot hold the centre cannot win (i.e. you need independent or bipartisan votes to win).

    2. A strong candidate can weather this and still come through. Chris Christie potentially has the ability to sell a story like this – he’s a guy who doesn’t change his position just because it’s unpopular. Who knows what he’d do in a primary campaign, but I see him as more likely to hold to his true beliefs than Romney ever was

    Bottom line is that you cannot play a contest like this by the “rules”. Romney religiously followed the “rules” and got nowhere. You have to have the courage to play outside the rules, and then force people to like you anyway. To some extent Obama did a bit of that – he was charismatic enough that he didn’t have to play too far to the left, even against Hilary in the primaries.

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  17. Scott1 (1,001 comments) says:

    Yes Obama’s turnout of the key demographic groups made all the difference. But some of us would have indicated that that was always going to happen – it was not a surprise. or shall i say – if it was a surprise then nate would have been wrong in his preduictions – but he wasn’t.

    What nate does as I understand it is apply baysian logic to the results of polls in order to determine thier accuracy. in the end he has already factored in thier inacuracy and you dont need to again adjust his results to say that that many of his polls were systematically under rating republicans.

    but of course nates analysis has to be done fairly close to the election – to me romney just had a few to many negitives to beat an encumbant president. barring some massive scandal, i predicted an Obama win from a long way out.

    I think very few elections are particularly close horse races.

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  18. Scott1 (1,001 comments) says:

    Good point Paul,
    the ability to do that would be the key thing to look for in a candidate.

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  19. PaulL (6,059 comments) says:

    @Scott1: like many, I thought early on that Obama was going to win comfortably, Romney clearly started behind, and was always a relatively weak candidate. Obama, whilst a weak president, is a great candidate as he campaigns very effectively.

    In the middle, particularly after the first debate, it suddenly looked close. I usually thought that Obama would still take it, but I had a few days in there where I thought Romney might get home. The day before the election my prediction was something close to hung – it would go into recounts and judicial reviews. I was very surprised at the clarity of the result, notwithstanding, as KIA says, that it was a handful of votes in a handful of states that swung it. I guess what I wonder is how Romney’s campaign couldn’t have known that – it is always the swing states that count, and never all that many votes in those swing states. It felt like he played for the popular vote rather than the electoral college – and he should know better than that. Maybe the reality is a matter of degree – that Obama played the swing states harder, rather than that Romney didn’t play them at all.

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  20. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    Chris Christie on Saturday Night Live.

    Read the comments.

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  21. PaulL (6,059 comments) says:

    Redbaiter: my point exactly. He’s electable, and the nutjob right hate him for that. Cause they’d rather be “pure” and out of power, than capture the centre. The fact I also disagree with many of the things that you think make people “pure” is just bonus.

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  22. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:


    There are many problems that beset the Republicans, but the heart of the matter is cowardice.

    You don’t fight, you lose.

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  23. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:

    Thanks for the laugh Red.

    Christie a “fat bastard” a “fatso” a “fat turncoat”, “fat lowdown f**k” a “jelly belly”, “The Kristi Kreme showoff”, “Circus-fat Christie” etc etc.

    The US – proudly irony-free free since 1776.

    [Interestingly, research reveals UK voters actually prefer their politicians rotund – but only if they’re male].

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  24. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    “Thanks for the laugh Red.”

    Ha, yeah I thought the comment about him taking the close down of the cake factory well was pretty good.

    “Sounds like he’s taking the Hostess shutdown rather well.”

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  25. BigFish (132 comments) says:

    The problem for Republicans is that Democrats are already fairly right wing.
    The only place left for Republicans to go is extreme right wing, pandering to evangelical religious groups, eccentric war mongers and xenophobes. These groups are looked at with disdain by core right wing voters who seek fiscal responsibility and self-sufficiency over religious law, expensive wars and isolationism.
    The Republicans ignored the thinking conservative voters.

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  26. AG (1,949 comments) says:

    PaulL: “AG: easy to be negative. Write a guest post from the left. Explain what you think happened. We’ll judge the quality and thoughtfulness of your writing.”

    There’s a difference between “being negative” and pointing out that a commentator’s terrible, terrible track record of analysing and explaining political developments in the USA warrants a degree of caution in accepting his claim to now understand what is going on. Especially when, as I gave evidence for, that commentator is continuing to make false claims in his analysis of why his previously wrong analysis was false.

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  27. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    “The problem for Republicans is that Democrats are already fairly right wing.”

    Yep so right wing they elected a closet communist and Saul Alinsky protege to their leadership.

    If only so called right wing politicians would clue themselves up on Marx and Engels and Alinsky and Gramsci they would see the whole thing unfolding as plain as day.

    If you really want to understand Obama/Democrat strategy, go here and download and listen to Mark Levin of 11/14.

    Its so true and it so clearly identifies the Republican problems its painful to listen to.

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  28. aitkenmike (99 comments) says:

    I know red is extreme PaulL, but he is giving a prime example of the type of issues that a candidate like you propose will face in making it through the primary.

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  29. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    The missing link-


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  30. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    “I know red is extreme PaulL,”

    So merely wanting the National Party to live up to its founding principles and for the Republican Party to live up to theirs, and be guided by the Constitution, qualifies one as “extreme” these days?

    What Alinsky style crap.

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  31. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    All I said about Hurricane Sandy was that if it benefitted anyone it benefitted Obama not that it necessary influenced the outcome of the election as some on the right allege. I also acknowledged that Romney’s poll increase had leveled off before Sandy. You cherry picked one of the minor aspects of my analysis and then used your interpretation of what I said to cast aspersions on the entire analysis. Just because I backed Michael Barone’s prediction and it turned out to be wrong doesn’t invalidate the analysis. My analysis in 2008 was influenced by helping out the McCain campaign in Colorado and being too much in that bubble. Critique the whole analysis or proffer your own explanation as Paul L invites you to do. I predicted the 2008 and 2011 NZ elections accurately and the 2010 US mid terms so I’m 3-2 which isn’t quite so bad. What were your predictions – that Clark or Goff would win?

    I don’t think it would’ve mattered who the nominee was on the GOP side with the possible exception of Rubio who would’ve carried FL. Romney, despite all his flaws, was the best of the bunch that ran. Obama’s opposition research had far more damaging material on Gingrich, Cain, Bachmann and Santorum and possibly even Rubio. Christie would’ve been more combative than Romney but that wouldnt have changed Obama getting out his base, the GOP not having enough $ after the primary to rebut attack ads through the pre convention summer; the Orca failure would’ve happened even under Christie and Obama’s pandering to his key demographic groups and the media bias would’ve been the same if Christie was the candidate. I also believe the flawed poll assumption was not endemic to Romney.

    There is a another dimension to Obama’s candidacy that is hard to describe and that is the visceral loyal he engendered almost regardless of how abysmal his record was. I have a black friend here – he’s college educated (good school) and self employed and doing ok, he didn’t come from a ghetto welfare dependent black family AND he’s Mormon but he loved Obama and believed all Obama’s stuff about Romney. On a policy and ideology level he was very much the type of black voter you’d see maybe voting for a Republican but yet it was almost as if Obama could do no wrong. He’s intelligent and articulate and you could have a rational discussion with him about economics and politics and yet when it came to Obama he was totally blinded.

    It’s unusual for Gallup to get the partisan mix so wrong – they’ve been polling since 1948 and this was by far their biggest fail. I read an interview with the head of PPP – the pollsters that got it the most correct in 2012. His comments about the partisan split in their polls staying pretty close to the 2008 turnout despite the huge GOP wave in 2010 were fascinating – he basically said it wasn’t scientific it was a gut feeling that Obama being on the ticket made a difference. The Obama campaign’s elaborate and highly detailed sociological research on voter intentions, patterns and motivations especially of their 2008 coalition meant they knew all along. Jim Messina and David Axlerod were pretty upfront in describing their view of the electorate and maybe that confident assumption backed by all their internal science gave the green light to the media pollsters to follow PPP (known Democratic leaning pollsters).

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  32. chrisw76 (98 comments) says:

    Seriously, what is the actual supposedly impeachable scandal with the Libyan Consulate affair?

    Sure the media could have made more of it, but I don’t get what the specific complaint is. As far as I can tell the main complaint is that there was insufficient security in hindsight at the consulate. There also seems to be a secondary one that the administration could have been more definitive about it being a “terrorist attack” earlier rather than the waters being muddied by the video protests going on at the same time elsewhere.

    For the supposed lack of security at a consulate, what level would have been appropriate? In the event 30 people were rescued out the consulate while it was under attack by a reported 120 people. Of the 4 who died, 3 were shot and 1 (the Ambassador) died of smoke inhalation in the supposedly safe room after the terrorists set the place alight. Probably main oversight here was the lack of breathing apparatus in the safe room as fire should have been considered.

    For the second, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that the administration had a stronger story if it wasn’t a terrorist attack. Surely nothing gets people fired up like an American President saying, “we have been attacked and we’re going to get the people responsible”. If anything I would have expected in the heat of an election for a minor event to be overplayed as a terrorist incident just for this reason.

    Cheers, Chris W.

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  33. PaulL (6,059 comments) says:

    ChrisW: I think there’s a bit where the Ambassador’s staff called for support, and the CIA team on the ground who could have supported him (and wanted to support him) were told to stay put.

    Not many Americans are in favour of inaction in that situation – all the movies they watch encourage them to roll in against overwhelming odds, because Americans inevitably win. And actually, in this situation, they might have, seeing as they were trained and the attackers weren’t so much.

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  34. AG (1,949 comments) says:

    kia: “Just because I backed Michael Barone’s prediction and it turned out to be wrong doesn’t invalidate the analysis.”

    But you didn’t just “back Michael Barone’s prediction”, did you? Here, in it’s glorious entirety, is what you said was going to happen before the election results were known (purely so readers can compare that analysis with what actually happened, and then use that comparison to decide whether or not your current claims to understand electoral matters are worthy of respect).

    “First off the popular vote – I’m picking Romney by 5. Rasmussen was the most accurate in 2008 getting the PV 100% accurate. The partisan mix is in their last poll is D +2. However a week ago they published their two yearly huge partisan survey (9,000 + respondents) and they have the partisan split at R+6 – the biggest in their polling history. Gallup did the same and came up with R + 1. If I go with the lowest of these two it means Rasmussen’s PV poll, whilst more accurate than almost all the other polls, is still overweighting in favour of the Dems by about 3. My prediction of the PV margin is the current Rasmussen lead (matched by Gallup) of 1 plus the over identification factor of 3 and an allowance of 1 due to the dissipation of Obama’s Sandy bounce. Rasmussen daily tracking uses a 3 day rolling average and Gallup a 5 day and so on Monday both were still factoring the tail end of Obama’s modest post Sandy bounce that is now almost dissipated especially with it turning ugly on the ground in parts of NYC and NJ.

    Romney is a lock on 187 Electoral College votes (this includes 2 of
    the 3 in Nebraska and 1 of the 3 in Maine) then add:
    * Indiana (11) – an outlier result for Obama in 08 it will return to its GOP home.
    * North Carolina (15) – Ditto IN
    * Florida (20) – Seniors will break more heavily for Romney as Mediscare didn’t work and Obama’s Jewish vote will also be well down on 08
    * Virginia (13) – will be close due to the northern VA – DC exburbs being one of the few communities to benefit from the stimulus BUT Obama dissing Romney over the navy numbers in the 3rd debate will have knocked a few swaying voters to Romney.
    * Colorado (9) – party ID in CO has swung back to the GOP, the DNC in Denver in 08 helped to swing votes to Obama.
    * Iowa (6) – Des Moines Register and 3 other papers switching endorsements (the DMR first Republican endorsement since Eisenhower) will have turned a few voters.
    * New Hampshire (4) – has more Independents than almost any other state and all polls (even the ones with silly +D splits) have Romney leading Independents.
    * Wisconsin (10) – GOP ground game is at a peak after going 3 for 3 (2010 midterms, Gov Scott Walker’s July 2012 recall and the May 2012 State Supreme Court fight).
    * Ohio (18) – will be the squeaker of the night. GOP ground game will at least match Obama’s so there will be no reversal of the historical trend where the GOP gets more votes on the day than the Dems and Romney election night lead won’t be offset by Obama’s early vote lead that is significantly down on 08.
    * Pennsylvania (20) – this will be Romney’s outer reach. Being considered a lock for Obama almost all of the campaign means the PA voters were not exhausted by all the ads like they are in Ohio and other swing states. Romney and various GOP Super PACs’ ads have been running heavily over the last week and will reach a much more fertile audience than in OH. High turnout in coal country for Romney (amongst traditional blue collar unionized Dem voters) and swinging the suburban Philly soccer mum vote will just (only just) compensate for the huge metro Philly Dem machine that will suffer a small downturn in turn out due to being caught napping by the very late incursion by the Romney campaign.

    So: Romney 313 Obama 225!


    1. Poll sampling errors: So many polls are overweighting the partisan splits in favour of Democrats. For example the last CNN poll has O and R tied but assumes a turnout for Dems IN EXCESS of what they got in 2008 (D+7 in 08 nationally vs D+11 in this poll). These flawed assumptions are repeated in the majority of the national and battleground polls heavily skewering the RCP averages to Obama. These are the polls all the pundits are relying upon as evidence of an Obama win.
    2. Independents: They were the winning edge for Obama in 08 – he won them nationally by 8%. Poll after poll (even the ones skewered way too far in favour of the Dems) show Romney leading by high single figure to mid teen margins representing a massive swing of Independents. No President has ever won if he’s losing Independents by these margins.
    3. Electorate more Republican now: Partisan makeup of the electorate is now slightly in favour of the GOP versus strongly in favour of the Dems in 08 according to both the Gallup and Rasmussen partisan ID polls (huge sample sizes) and both polls
    historically have been close to the final actual partisan split in each election cycle as this 2 yearly poll is held usually only a week before the elections.
    4. Voter enthusiasm: All polls that measure this show this favouring the GOP markedly in 12 whereas the same polls had Democrat enthusiasm up in 08. Enthusiasm is down the most amongst Millennials and first time voters – a key demograph that turned out in record numbers for O in 08.
    5. On the ground reporting: Overwhelmingly people are reporting the near ubiquitous presence of Romney signs in battleground states and few Obama signs – a complete reversal of the case in 08.
    6. Rallies: Romney’s rallies have been significantly larger than Obama’s and also significantly larger than McCain’s – in 08 Obama was the one with the large and overflowing audiences. The Romney campaign has used larger venues and all have been full to overflowing with thousands outside. Team Obama have been half filling their smaller venues. In Madison WI yesterday 18,000
    showed up for Obama’s Bruce Springsteen free outdoor concert/rally. Same location on the last Monday before the 2004 election with the same singer 75,000 showed up for Kerry’s rally. The atmosphere at the rallies are markedly different – Romney’s are raucus, electric and energised whereas Obama’s are more subdued – again a reversal of the situation in 08.
    7. Early voting: As at Monday Dem early votes were down 152,000 from 08 in Ohio and GOP was up 108,000 wiping out Obama’s 261,000 statewide margin of victory in 08. This trend is repeated across the battleground states – Obama is winning the early vote but by reduced margins. Remember that in many swing states McCain out performed Obama on election day only to lose once Obama’s huge early vote tallies were included. Romney’s margin will be bigger for those voting today and Obama’s early vote offset will be smaller. Obama is also cannibalizing his election day vote to a greater extent than in 08.
    8. Ground game: Obama had a massive ground game in 08 compared to McCain. This time it’s pretty even particularly in the swing states.
    9. Ads: Obama outspent McCain 7:1 in the last 2 weeks as McCain was out of cash. Romney kept his powder dry and HE is outspending Obama 2:1 in the key states in the campaign’s closing weeks.
    10. Crossover voting: The CNN poll released yesterday showing that 5% of Democrats say they will support Romney whereas only 1% of Republicans say they’ll vote for Obama. This is the reverse of 08.
    11. Turnout reports: I’ve checked hundreds of anecdotal reports of turnout since the polls opened today. Almost all report big increases in queues compared to 08 and earlier elections in GOP strongholds and significantly quieter turnout in
    Democrat precincts – again the reverse of what was reported in 08.”

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  35. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    The death of Ambassador Stevens was the first death of an American diplomat since the disastrous Iranian invasion of the US Embassy in 1979 so it was very big news here. The truth of what happened has taken a while to trickle out and we still don’t know the full story. The scandal has three distinct parts to it:
    1 – The pre Benghazi invasion communications: It is clear that Ambassador Stevens and his staff were concerned about the level of security at the Benghazi Consulate and had repeatedly asked for an upgrade to a more normal secure unit status. State Department officials have testified to Congress that they felt the level sufficient and so the requests were denied. Part and parcel of this was the wisdom of even having a Consulate in such a dangerous part of Libya. Given that the British, French and Russians had all pulled out their staff and representation from that part of Libya merely adds to the pou pouri of poor decisions on the ground. It turns out that there was even warnings about the activities of al Qaida in Libya in and around the consulate in the weeks prior to the invasion. Finally the fact that the Ambassodor himself expressed written private fears for his own safety because requests for beefed up security were turned down sets a backdrop of bureaucratic incompetence behind the events of September 11, 2012.

    2 – Explanations for the attack: The Obama administration had just come off a relatively successful national convention in Charlotte NC where the killing of OBL and the decimation of al Qaida were a recurring theme to demonstrate the foreign policy success of Obama. The Administration had made a virtue of its very light handed approach to the deposing of Ghadaffi – dubbed so-called leading from behind. Very little heed was paid to the enormous vaccum left after the death of Ghadaffi and the sudden influx of extremist Islamist activity in the country driven by al Qaida. The fact that al Qaida terrorists might have been responsible for the death of a US ambassador so cut across the image that had been crafted at the DNC that the Admiinstration choose to describe the causes of the attack as being largely the fault of fomented Muslim sentiment and spontaneous protests arising out of the discovery of an inflammatory anti Mulim video posted on You Tube by an obscure Christian extremist home movie maker. Whilst protests of this nature HAD happened in Egypt it is now clear that the CIA at least knew within hours that the attack was premeditated and was perpetrated by terrorists. Obama himself in his first public pronouncement at the Rose Garden the day after the attack only mentioned terrorism in passing as a general condemnation of terrorism and not in reference to the deaths in Libya. Susan Rice the US Ambassador to the UN was sent to represent the Administration on all 5 of the Sunday news shows where she explictly peddled the video protest line. Obama repeated the assertion a few days later on David Letterman’s show and again concentrated his specifc condemnation of the inflammatory video at his UN speech and finally both he and Hillary Clinton made specific refence to the video as opposed to terrorists in their discussions with the parents of the deceased security staff at their memorial service. For 2 weeks the Administration maintained the fiction of the video being the cause of the invasion when it has now become clear that they knew all along it was a terrorist attack. But admitting that truth in the midst of a tight election campaign could’ve jeopardized Obama’s re-election. The administration eventually had to admit the real cause but had a variety of reasons for its prior narrative. Obama, in his first post election press conference, defended Ambassador Rice’s blatant distortions being the fault of the talking points the CIA gave her. Former CIA Director David Patraeus apparently has testified only a few days ago to the House and Senate relevant committees that his initial assessment about the attack written soon after described it as a terrorist incident but that the talking points were changed higher up the Administratin food chain. Various current lower level CIA staffers are saying they were not the ones who altered the Petraeus document. WHO ordered or altered that report that led to a 2 weeks of distortion of the true facts on the ground is a scandal all on is own. Like Watergate the question we don’t yet know the answer to is “what did the Presient know and when did he know it”. If, like Watergate, Obama knew right from the outset the true cause of the attack and he ordered that truth to be covered up THAT is a scandal to rival Watergate – remember no one died in Watergate.

    3 – Who ordered the back up force to stand down: The third scandal revolves at around the lack of military support sent to rescue the beleaguered security staff. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta puts the lack of action due to the fog of war. CIA operatives on the ground have told news media sources that 3 requests for military intervention were turned down in that units that were ready and willing to go to the aid of the consulate staff were told to stand down. One of the former Navy Seals killed at the site allegedly disobeyed the third “stand down” order and went anyway and was eventually killed by mortar fire after assisting 20 odd staff to escape.

    The trouble is two fold. Most of the MSM were uninterested in challenging Obama on this unfolding scandal and Obama did all he could to avoid questions before the elections and thenfew times he was questioned he hid behind a ‘review’. Had this drama unfolded in the dying days of the re-election campaign of a Republican President you can GUARANTEE the media would’ve been swarming all over this story.

    This story is not over – indeed the political fallout is only just beginning! Hopefully that gives you a good summary of why this story is so big and why the failure to adequately cover the story before the election is yet more proof of the easy ride Obama got from most mainstream media outlets.

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  36. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    I’m referring to the post election analysis. Clearly the pre-election analysis that took Michael Barone as its starting point was wrong. My guest post was about WHY me and other conservatives were wrong pre-election. Tell us – what’s your strike rate on NZ elections?

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  37. chrisw76 (98 comments) says:

    @ KIA:
    Thanks for that.

    From reading through it though, the only thing likely to involve the White House is number 2. Number 1 is the most likely a State Department SNAFU and number 3 is most likely Defence Department SNAFU (basing on the fact that support staff did come in from Tripoli – that’s when 2 of the people died – not sure where the Navy Seal fits into this from some Googling).

    For number 2, the whole thing rests on the assumptions that it was both politically advantageous for it not to be a terrorist attack and that there was deliberate political interference to remove references to the possibility of a terrorist attack from the initial talking points. For the former, I do not necessarily agree that it was advantageous and for the second, I guess we’ll have to wait for the results of the investigation by the House and Senate committees (which should be interesting though as with all of these investigations won’t be satisfactory to those who have already reached a conclusion).

    Finally, even if the President himself directed his staff to play down the terrorism angle because he thought it would play better in the weeks before the election (and that is a pretty big if), it still isn’t the level of Watergate where the President actually authorised crimes to be committed. Sure Nixon lied as well, (hence the “…when did he know it”), but the question of what he knew was always around the commission of the crime. The Benghazi incident mostly seems to be incompetence at some level of the chain. Whether or not the buck stops at the White House is a different story though.

    BTW: I get your point about it being the first time an Ambassador has died since 1979, but these are my questions (which I hope will be answered in time by the House & Senate reports):
    a) If the Ambassador was concerned about security at the consulate, what was he doing there instead of at the heavily fortified embassy in Tripoli?
    b) Why wasn’t the so-called safe room better designed and the security of the consulate better thought out (noting Patreaus’ comments on its security versus the CIA Annex)?

    Cheers, Chris W.

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  38. Fletch (9,012 comments) says:

    I still think Obama cheated. Sorry, can’t help but think that, especially keeping the results of Allan West’s recount in Lucie County, Florida in mind which turned out to be so wrong from the looks of things.

    There are 15 states with photo ID requirements for voting. Obama lost in all of them. In places with the weakest controls, specifically counties in Florida, Ohio, Colorado, and Pennsylvania (where GOP inspectors were illegally turfed out), he generally drew turnouts in the 90% or greater range and won by better than 95% of the vote (and 100% in some places!)

    In 59 Philadelphia districts, Romney failed to get even one vote. Final Obama-Romney tally: 19,605 to 0.

    You can’t tell me no cheating went on there…

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  39. BlairM (2,755 comments) says:

    LOL, so PaulL basically wants the GOP to run Jon Huntsman next time. Ignoring completely that Huntsman ran this time and went nowhere. Also ignoring that you can’t run on a centrist platform in a US election any more – there is no such thing as fired up activist moderates. You need an army of activists and voters, and if you don’t espouse conservative ideas, none of those people are going to help you, or show up to vote. Just look at how many voters Bush got out, as opposed to McCain or Romney. It is much easier to be a staunch conservative candidate trying to sway swinging voters with your campaign’s momentum than it is to be a moderate trying to convince conservatives to turn out for you.

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  40. mikenmild (23,591 comments) says:

    No cheating went on there. Are the birthers still live with any law suits?
    Except that the segment of the US population likely to be excited by the Tea Party-style ideas is declining fast.

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  41. Fletch (9,012 comments) says:

    mm, those percentages only usually happen in countries with tinpot dictators.

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  42. mikenmild (23,591 comments) says:

    Although, funnily enough, there is ample evidence that precincts can vote in such a way without fraud. It is fairly easily explained by psephologist, and perhaps is somewhat easier in the US than in some democracies because of the peculiar way that electoral districts are drawn.

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  43. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    Obama lost only 2 states that he won in 08 – NC and IN – both traditionally Republican states that represented the high tide mark of his wave election. This election was a base turnout election because of the millions of white and independent voters that he shed. I don’t doubt that some voter fraud was still going on but the margins of victory in the 4 swing states, whilst still narrow in the big picture overall Presidential election scheme of things, were still nowhere near big enough to be caused by voter fraud. Even the PA precincts example you site, assuming its true, we are talking maybe 15,000 additional votes for Obama in an overall majority of just under 300,000. Voter fraud on a scale necessary to produce a reasonable 6 figure majority is just not possible without many people noticing and going to court over it. Even the 73,000 vote margin in FL comes into the same category. I think conservatives need to take our licks on this defeat and not fall into the trap progressives do who often allege skulduggery at the drop of a hat (the Diebold voting machines that some onnthe left alleged gave Bush the winning margin in OH in 04 for example).

    Agree 100% re Huntsman – it’s pathetic the number of moderates and independents I know who still tout him as the perfect centrist answer. I say how did that work out for him in a real primary – answer a peak of 2% support.

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  44. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    Finally a public thank you to David for letting me post. I thought I was on safe ground going with Michael Barone’s prediction which I fleshed out with what I thought were sound reasons for the prediction being accurate. It wasn’t and the post was a synthesis of what I believed were the more rational conservative musings over the defeat.

    I didn’t get much into the candidate’s flaws concentrating more on the mechanics of the election. Would another candidate be more suspicious of their internal polling or have managed to bring on board a better polling team – doubtful. So many of Romney’s poor campaign decisions stemmed from the decisions they made based on where they thought their candidate was polling. I supported Rick Perry initially and the switched to Romney. Perry proved to be a poor debater and, as we found out, debating became Romney’s strong point. The GOP primary, for all its flaws, produced in my opinion the best candidate of the bunch that ran. How would other notable Republicans who didn’t run have fared against the Obama machine is the question a lot of conservatives have asked. First off they needed to be able to raise boatloads of cash because Obama did indeed reach his stated goal of raising $1 billion. Romney was the only Republican that could’ve (and did) come close. But consider this- the Republicans outspent their opponents for all the Senate races and still came up net 2 seats short. Poor candidate selection (selecting men with poorly vetted extreme views on abortion), poor retail campaigning skills and the Democrats using Obama’s targeting tactics in the key Senate races resulted in a Senate debacle for the GOP. Romney’s fund raising skills merely kept his campaign in the hunt – others cited as likely to beat Obama would never have been able to match Romney. So here’s my take on who didn’t run and their prospects

    Chris Christie
    It’s doubtful whether he could’ve ever won the GOP primary because he is really quite moderate and the sad but true fact is that moderates struggle in GOP primaries. Candidates on both sides have to pander to their more ideologically extreme bases and then tack frantically to the centre come the General Election. Obama did it n 08 and so did Romney in 12. Assuming Christie made it through against more reliably conservative candidates, his undoing would’ve been his temper. What flies in a bruising rough and tumble state like NJ might not work at the national level where, in order to beat an incumbent, you need to look Presidential. Romney met that test – much as I love Christie’s bovver boy persona he would’ve turned off woman and swing voters. Obama would’ve needled him into a legendary tantrum that the MSM would’ve endlessly replayed.

    Marco Rubio
    He would’ve been good BUT he’s young, raw and untried on the national stage and we’ve already saw how that worked out with Sarah Palin. Romney had the advantage of a previous run in 08 and the learning curve from a previous run helps. There were rumours of ethics violations in some of his earlier state races in Florida that the media would’ve played up and who knows what other skeletons lay in the closet that even the Romney team found. At least with Romney his squeaky clean Mormon background meant no GW Bush like late October surprises from his past. Rubio would’ve carried FL and possibly helped negate the Latino turnout that enabled Obama to win NV and CO. But FL, NV and CO still wouldn’t have gotten Rubio over the top. Rubio is a fantastic retail politician with a great back story. He needs more seasoning and some time for campaign experts to work through every possible negative and craft rebuttals.

    Rob Portman
    Former OH senator and Bush era Budget Office Manager. He played Obama in Romney’s debate prep. A very safe pair of hands but a bland bookish retail politician and easy for Obama to tag as ‘part of the problem from the Bush era that caused this mess’. Might’ve have carried OH but faced all the same hurdles Romney faced in the other states

    Bobby Jindal
    Indian American Gov of Louisiana. Jindal is a superb conservative and has done a great job in a messy and corrupt state. Like Rubio, he’s too unseasoned on the national stage. He has a similar great back story and will be a powerful contender in 2016 should he continue to do well in LA. He would’ve been overwhelmed on the big stage and easily portrayed as inexperienced and out of his depth.

    Mitch Daniels
    Very successful Gov of Indiana. He’s a great conservative and a fantastic innovator and has achieved a number of crucial conservative breakthroughs in rolling back unions and education reform in IN. He’s in the same mode as Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman – earnest but bland white guy in his 50s except unlike the two Ps, Daniels is balding and paunchy. Romney at least had the looks from casting central and having met him close up at a smaller campaign event in AZ, Romney did have real presence – the electricity and energy at his rallies in the last month showed that.

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  45. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    Correction – Rob Portman is a sitting Ohio senator

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  46. mikenmild (23,591 comments) says:

    And your assessment of likely Democratic candidates in 2016?

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  47. Scott1 (1,001 comments) says:

    thanks for that KIA,
    a good answer to the question a lot of us have been asking.

    maybe the time over that one can be ‘presidential/priministerial’ in a Muldoon/churchill/thatcher,’bush/cheney’ sense rather than a John key/romney/obama sense?

    or is it still possible to have a ‘pitbull candidate/president’ who doesn’t flip flop to the centre (for better or worse)….

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  48. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:


    I’m not following this as closely but obviously at this VERY early stage you’d have to say:

    Hillary Clinton
    Major star power – still has a huge power base courtesy of Bill still being so popular. Her Sec State gig has been fair to middleing but that could change if she takes some of the rap for the mistakes at Benghazi – that scandal is still playing out as we speak and who knows how far it will reach. She says she doesn’t want to run but I’d put my money on her throwing her hat in the ring. She will be able to raise big bucks and try and get as much of the Obama election machinery to move over.

    Joe Biden
    He’s been in my opinion a useless VP – he’s a gaffe machine and had two previous failed attempts as gaffes and issues of plagarism still linger. There will be some VP coattails but a lot will depend on how Obama is faring at the end of his second term as 2nd terms can be notoriously difficult. He will be 74 and that’s getting at the upper end of acceptability. His vaulting ambition means he’s certain to run but his baggage means he’s certain to fail.

    Duval Patrick
    Obama Mark 2 – a rising light in the Democrat party – a more technocratic and media savvy Gov of Massachusetts. He’s definitely an Obama accolyte and is one of the few pols very close to Obama. Will excite the African American base …again and will have 2 full terms as Governor by 2016 – one more than Romney managed in MA.

    Andrew Cuomo
    NY Governor – a good centrist who seems to be breaking with tradition and tllting against some sacred cows on the left by fighting the union power base in NY. He can also work across the aisle. Comes from a good Dem pedigree (father also NY Gov and likely Dem candidate for Pres in the 80’s).

    Martin O’Malley
    Maryland Gov – it seems clear he will run based on the usual signals. Mixed record in MD – seems to be a typical high tax and high spend liberal so he will likely appeal to the big government base of the Democrats.

    Rising stars a little lower down that might surprise
    LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – high profile Latino and trying hard to reform a city with very difficult and entrenched problems. Hard to see him going from mayor to President without the 9/11 cred that Guiliani got but he is very articulate and media savvy.

    Ditto Corey Booker Mayor of Newark NJ. A centrist business friendly savvy young black mayor unafraid to step on lefty sacred cows and propose new solutions.

    Despite the 2012 results, the GOP have a wider and deeper bench for 2016 because they have other stars in the wings outside the usual names mentioned as being possibles during the 2012 cycle.

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  49. mikenmild (23,591 comments) says:

    Seems to me that there is an very fair chance that the Democrats will take momentum from this year’s results. Deadlock is not such an attractive prospect for the Republicans with the ‘fiscal cliff’ approaching. So much of the landscape for 2016 depends on how both parties resolve the budgetary impasse in a way that positions them favourably for 2014. It’s certainly too early to be sure who might or might not be presidential contenders after that.

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  50. ricknz (16 comments) says:

    What I want to know is Kiwi in America reporting his New Zealand bank accounts to the United States Government as required by law with a penalty of $10,000/USD per year per account and that’s if he didn’t know the law.

    big cash rewards—Informant-Award

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  51. mikenmild (23,591 comments) says:

    What does that have to do with KIA’s views on US politics?

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  52. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    Way too early to tell – the Presidential race was v close vote wise in the key battleground states. The massive swing to the GOP in 2010 and yet Obama hanging on to his 2008 coalition seems to point to Obama’s presence at the top of the ticket making a difference. Economic conditions and legislative outcomes will determine the 2014 mid terms – if Obama veers too far left and the economy stays stagnant or declines the Democrats could face further losses. 2016 is light years away politically – Gore was unable to capitalize on Clinton’s relative popularity and strong economic conditions when he ran in an open race in 2000. Wide open Presidential races (non incumbents on either side) are less predictable. The smart money for much of 2007 was on Hillary Clinton until Obama proved he could win caucus states and racked up delegates for the Democratic nomination. The list of who will run then will change – leading lights maybe dimmed by events and a new star may arise on the Dem’s side. The GOP seems to have a younger more vibrant bench of non traditional (ie older white man) candidates who may be able to bridge some of the race and age divide that has so strongly favoured Obama. It will be a fascinating race.

    Your point is?

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  53. Scott1 (1,001 comments) says:

    At this stage i guess I’d go with Hilary. its way out but I’m guessing she can also win the election.
    obviously not enough information yet – but I have a fantastic record on picking elections so I’m getting overconfident.

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