Patterico's Pontifications


Is the 2012 campaign at a quiet turning point?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 7:39 am

[Posted by Karl]

At the NYT, Richard W. Stevenson claims that it is:

[T]he months between the end of the primary season and the formal start of the general election at the conventions are an especially perilous period for candidates in Mr. Romney’s position.

It is then that challengers to an incumbent are most susceptible to being defined on terms other than their own, because despite months on the campaign trail they are still not yet terribly well-known by many Americans. Unflattering characteristics, new elements of their record, gaffes and embarrassing biographical details – all can take on outsize importance as rival campaigns labor through the spring and summer to create perceptions that stick with voters through Election Day.


The risks of failing to win the spring-summer narrative battle are substantial. Just ask Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole or John Kerry, all of whom failed to establish strong positive images during this period and allowed their opponents to brand them in ways they never overcame.

Oddly enough, the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza recently noted that in elections with an incumbent since 1980, Mondale, Dole and Kerry all had high favorable ratings and lost, while Bill Clinton won with middling favorable ratings.  And unlike Stevenson, Cillizza actually shows you the numbers that back him up.  Stevenson is engaged in some zombie journalism about the effectiveness of negative campaigning.  At least Cillizza was good enough to state his premises openly, even if he tended to bury them, e.g.:

Political scientists would have you believe that the data is determinative. But the data is subject to how each side conducts their respective campaign.

Actually, political scientists who stress that campaigns tend to turn on the fundamentals almost always concede that campaigns matter.  Their argument is simply that they don’t matter as much as journalists who make their living covering them think.  Mondale, Dukakis, Dole and Kerry all ran against  incumbents (or a sitting Veep) who benefited from recovering or healthy economies.  The only winning candidate in those cycles who substantially outperformed what the economy would suggest was Clinton, who still failed to reach 50% of the vote.

BTW, this problem is not limited to political coverage.  Last week, the NYT magazine profiled Joe Weisenthal, the lead financial blogger for Business Insider, including this anecdote:

Last summer, amid rising concern that the economy would tip back into recession, Weisenthal repeatedly highlighted contrarian chunks of evidence suggesting that we were actually on the verge of stronger growth. It was a lonely view for a long time. It was also correct.

In a post last November titled “Everyone Is Wrong About What Is Driving the Market These Days,” Weisenthal reproduced a Google search showing a slew of articles describing the stock market as “headline-driven,” meaning that prices were responding to the latest news. Then he showed a chart he created illustrating the close relationship between movements in stock prices and a basic economic indicator.

“So it’s a ‘headline-driven market’?” he wrote. “Nah, not really. . . . The market is just moving with the fundamentals, week in and week out. The headlines are mostly a distraction.”

Most political journalists figured out that the rise in Obama’s approval rating had something to do with this.  However, they still seem trapped into pretending that when the real swing voters finally start paying attention to the campaign, the result will not largely converge with the fundamentals.  The history of head-to-head polling suggests that about half of what we see now is noise, that the curve mostly flattens out at this stage of an election and that polls don’t really start to suggest the outcome earlier than August.  The evidence for mid-May being a quiet turning point in the campaign is wafer-thin.


92 Responses to “Is the 2012 campaign at a quiet turning point?”

  1. Ding!

    Karl (f07e38)

  2. so far the narrative what is refreshingly not at all penetrating anyone’s awareness is the idea that Mr. Governor Romney is a clone of Bush

    on the other hand the idea that President Fruitless might could be a clone of Jimmy Carter is definitely something what people are mulling over

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  3. No, this is the Dukakis term, we were spared the last time, because people were smarter, so they decided to ‘enbiggen’ the problem.

    narciso (1c125b)

  4. Bush Senior lost because he did not kick Buchanan’s sitting place, the way he should have, the way Romney already has Gingrich’s. (The Rodney King riots did not help, either, and then there was the Clinton/Daley alliance.) I hope Romney will not allow Gingrich to speak at the convention. I think Santorum would still be an asset.

    nk (875f57)

  5. This election will heavily depend on swing voters and turnout. Swing voters won’t really be engagable until after summer as Karl states. However, as Romney is new, the effort to start defining him has begun…. Though again, what it achieves is questionable. The goal will be to focus on things that people who don’t pay much attention will easily accept, that is stereotypes and broad images (example: cold business man).

    But yeah, if you’re looking for polls to tell you anything of value from now through summer, youre prob tilting at windmills.

    Alex (b07679)

  6. “Re-elect me, because the other guy played some bad pranks in prep school, almost 50 years ago !” is a poker-tell about how Team Obama and their cheerleaders among the media see ‘the big picture’ at this point.

    Elephant Stone (0ae97d)

  7. 6: I would basically agree. They are trying to define a generalized/broad idea of Mitt at this point. They aren’t discussing issues or specifics, it’s just persinalility themes: he is cold, he is a bully, he is the detached boss you dont like, the guy who fired your dad, the spoiled rich kid, etc.

    None of that involves talking about policy much. I bet we don’t see policy talk out of team O until about say 2-4 weeks before the first debate.

    Alex (b07679)

  8. Today’s swing voter is tomorrow’s base, putana. Swing voter is a meaningless term in the first place. Campaign financing, organization, workers on the street, is what works. Get the f***** voters to f***** vote for you. Part-time cabdrivers have been made Congressmen.

    nk (875f57)

  9. 8: I disagree trash mouth. Swing voters generally don’t become active party members, generally. No get some manners.

    Alex (b07679)

  10. You will not get civility from me, chingada. We all gave you your chance. We now know what you is.

    nk (875f57)

  11. Stay Klassy trash man!

    Alex (b07679)

  12. You can consider this to be part of the look squirrel motif, that went horribly wrong;

    narciso (1c125b)

  13. Coming from a guy who recently advocated for the policies of Mao and justified genocide, I won’t loose sleep…. Lol

    Alex (b07679)

  14. Coming from a guy who keeps misrepresenting what others say, and how insulted DRJ, I won’t lose sleep either, Alex.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  15. I think the **** is one of several Lovies, who will hang around until the election.

    Who puts these troll teams together?

    nk (875f57)

  16. nk, good question but clearly we are getting the third string.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  17. Now I know the meaning of “concern troll”: thy name is Alex.

    PatAZ (032efa)

  18. 14: back up your accusation with some quotes of mine. I have done neither that you claim

    Alex (b07679)

  19. Yes sir, Alex sir, we will spend the week looking for your quotes. Putana.

    nk (875f57)

  20. Banning it won’t work. It will come back from a proxy in Nigeria.

    nk (875f57)

  21. Well, Alex, “Comment by Alex — 5/14/2012 @ 9:27 am” is the first. The second occurred when you accused DRJ of insulting you in the previous thread when she’d done no such thing. And in fact, DRJ is well known here for avoiding that very thing.

    Piss off, Alex. Cheap trolls like you have come and gone. Get gone.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  22. 22: can u link that? I can’t find it and think you are wrong.

    Alex (b07679)

  23. [raises hand] Can I spend the day linking Alex’s quotes from previous threads? It sounds like time well spent, if picking your nose was a favorite hobby!

    Tailface Warren (721840)

  24. Just let the c***s***** be a voice crying in the wilderness, Tailface.

    nk (875f57)

  25. Ahhh, making accusations without proof or willingness to provide proof. I strongly suspect that lawyers in the prosecution office of Zimmerman are all over this site. Or people are hypocrites. Lol 😀

    Alex (b07679)

  26. ?

    Tailface Warren (721840)

  27. 25: yes. Everyone should take advice from a Maoist 😀

    Alex (b07679)

  28. This thread is a turning point…it’s when we stopped talking about kicking Obama out of the White House, and started talking about…whether or not we’re going to vote for Alex !

    Elephant Stone (0ae97d)

  29. there is a persistence in her shamelessness, you have to give her that, or not.

    narciso (1c125b)

  30. Alex is one of those distractions we keep hearing about.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  31. How long before Ms Warren explains she’s a native American because she personally was born in the Americas?

    Dustin (330eed)

  32. Like the buzzing thalosians,

    narciso (1c125b)

  33. I think people are getting interested now in the campaign (people other than political junkies like us) and they see that Obama wants a government- centered life — even tho it’s not working now — and Romney criticizes the government-centered life.

    Pretty simple. Effective.

    I think we’re approaching an Insty preference cascade tipping point.

    Patricia (e1d89d)

  34. The voters are awakening to the lying media. Poor obama, his arrogance is coming to an end.

    mg (44de53)

  35. Patricia, you’ll have to wait until “silly season” is over before people are actually engaged in the campaign.

    Tailface Warren (721840)

  36. Given the trend in Likely Voter polls, Obama may be the one who has a problem with his image, not Romney.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  37. Although its a stretch compare the recall situation in WI. The foremost GOP hero in Amerikkka leads 52% to 43% over a decent man, former Congressman.

    Only 5% undecided and turnout will approach 80%.

    Meantime, in a year, 57% nationally who will not vote for Steppin Init has become 58%.

    We are pretty much decided, 43% of the popular vote will win WH 2012, turnout shy of 50%.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  38. the main campaing issues for November will be the double digit unemployment and inflation that everyone knows exists but that the MFM and SCOAMF keep pretending doesn’t.

    and Alex is a mendoucheous twatwaffle of the first order.

    Thomas Payne (403dff)

  39. SPQR,

    Were you referring to this comment (where Alex said I was disgusting for censoring him by moderating his comments) or this comment (where Alex implied I’m unfair for not moderating elissa because of one comment)?

    Candidly, I don’t care what Alex says to me because the point to me isn’t to “win” but to learn something and/or be entertained, and to make it as pleasant an environment as possible for everyone. Thus, I welcome Alex and encourage him to comment in good faith, which to me means: provide links when possible and definitely when requested (preferably better than Wiki) and explain your point when someone asks a question. To refuse to answer questions or provide links suggests a commenter is playing games and not commenting in good faith.

    UPDATE: My first link didn’t work. Here it is, and thanks to Carlitos for pointing that out.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  40. Stay Klassy trash man!

    Who knew that nk was part of the Green Movement!

    AD-RtR/OS! (b8ab92)

  41. do any of the regular commenters here see the Wisconsin re-call votes as any sort of pre-November referendum on the brilliance that is the Obama/Biden regime, or is that more state centric based on the problems Wisconsin has internally?

    redc1c4 (403dff)

  42. DRJ, I think it was a different thread. At the moment, I’m bored with Alex. Maybe I’ll look later.

    And of course, you don’t care what Alex says to you. Certainly his opinions are of no value to anyone I can identify. However, some of us do care what people say to you.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  43. The WI recall will hang on the question of just how disgusted the average voter and taxpayer is with one of the cornerstones of the Progressive Movement:
    Public Employee Unions!

    AD-RtR/OS! (b8ab92)

  44. redc1c4, its fairly state centric although the Democrats will want to nationalize it if they perceive themselves as winning ( at the moment, polling suggests that Walker will not be recalled ).

    I think the only objective “referendum” aspects of it are a clue to the success of the Democrats in rallying core base this season. Which looks mediocre this early.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  45. 41: you did censor me inappropriately, and I don’t like that, not do I like censorship. I appologize that if you feel I went over board in my expression of that.

    Indeed, Elissa insulted me, and we I asked for the basis of her personal insult she blatantly refused to answer, say she would not. Which is EXACTLY why you said you were censoring me. So, um, not an insult nor meant as one, just a statement of fact.

    Alex (b07679)

  46. Alex,

    I can see your viewpoint and I wish you could see mine, but since you can’t then we might as well move on. Can you accept my request that you provide links and answer questions, or is that going to be a sticking point, too?

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  47. Okay, here is the important blog-based balance sheet, Part I:

    1. Useful information imparted by elissa.
    2. Useful information imparted by DRJ.
    3. Useful information imparted by Alex.

    No question on this topic: #1 and #2 >>>>>>>>> #3.

    1. Trouble caused by elissa.
    2. Trouble caused by DRJ.
    3. Trouble caused by Alex.

    Same conclusions.

    DRJ, you are civil to people who don’t merit your civility. And you can see the esteem in which you are held, by the number of people willing to defend you (even though you are quite capable of defending yourself, of course).

    Alex’s approach to all this is, um, unproductive.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  48. “Indeed, Elissa insulted me”

    Alex – By telling the truth. Cowboy up, cupcake.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  49. And, of course, in the second balance sheet, I am making the point (I messed with >>>>> with <<<<<) that Alex causes far, far more trouble than either elissa or DRJ.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  50. DRJ, one further thing, if I may:

    People like Alex are not posting for the reasons that you are posting. And that is not a snap judgement; it’s based on the history of postings of the both of you.

    It’s pretty typical.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  51. Simon,

    I appreciate how encouraging, kind and protective everyone is and I hope you realize I’m not discounting your advice or opinions. However, I’d like to help Patterico broaden his readership and commenters. He likes that and he’s been very nice to me, so I want to help him in this small way.

    In addition, I think Alex claims he is a Republican so it interests me why he’s often at odds with the many conservative commenters here.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  52. It all depends on whether or not the person is civil, and not a “concern troll.” Definitions may differ. But Alex has a bit of a history, no?

    I understand about letting many different types of people post. Patterico needs to balance the impact, and make his own best judgement. As for people like Ehrenstein, I have no interest in participating in any forum than allows his bile and hatred (and that is not exaggeration or personal issues, as anyway who has read the man’s scurrilous lies about others—not just the late Andrew Breitbart—know).

    Alex? Good luck. I think you will see what he brings to the discussion soon enough.

    Finally, I hope you accept the “protectiveness” of others toward you as the sign of long term respect and appreciation that it is.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  53. With Wisconsin running in the black, maybe mittens should do a campaign spot with Gov. Walker. This country needs 57 Gov. Walker’s.

    mg (44de53)

  54. Isn’t the concern troll the Alex/Ryan combo? Or was that someone else?

    Gazzer (152137)

  55. Stashiu3 is the one that figures things like that out, Gazzer, and I haven’t seen him in awhile so my guess is he’s been busy with other things.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  56. Were you referring to this comment

    Hi DRJ – your first link above isn’t a link for me.

    carlitos (49ef9f)

  57. DRJ, I think it was a thread back in April when Ryan suddenly became Alex in mid-thread much to the amusement of all. Multi-trolling is tough!

    Gazzer (152137)

  58. Carlitos,

    I’m sorry I blew that link. (How ironic for me to berate Alex over his links and then blow one myself. That will teach me!) Here it is, and thanks for telling me.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  59. Gazzer,

    I’m sure Stashiu3 can figure it out when he has time, and thanks.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  60. From James Taranto’s “Best of the Web” published by the Wall Street Journal

    May 14, 2012 — 4:26 p.m. EDT

    Bye-Ku for Ron Paul

    Latest word from the
    Ron Paul Survival Report
    Is that he didn’t

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)


    By Michael Finnegan

    May 14, 2012, 12:29 p.m. (PST, I assume)

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  62. 47. “Elissa insulted me.”

    Hermaphrodites serve no other purpose than to take exception to their reflected image.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  63. Hmm, my comment got eaten.

    Gazzer (152137)

  64. Oops, no it didn’t. (Slinks away with head low.)

    Gazzer (152137)

  65. Re: Turning Point:

    Greece will default once again tomorrow. Elections will follow in a few days time without a government. EU exit within weeks.

    JPMorgan today says the cost will be a $400 Billion cascade of debt failures. Spain is doomed when the smoke clears.

    So don’t sweat Obumble.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  66. Greece defaulted in 1974. And in 1967. And in 1829. And every time before that. It has never been a sustainable economy past subsistence, not ever. Not f-word ever. Let them starve.

    nk (875f57)

  67. 68. Doubtless. The Keynesian model is meeting the depleted uranium pie with the kisser and Obumble is so totally hosed he won’t make it to 43%.

    May not make it to 40%. We’ll have to see who emerges from the earthenworks to run.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  68. I’m glad that the greeks were kind enough to export gyros (and the greeks to cook them) before they turn out the lights. Yassou!

    carlitos (49ef9f)

  69. Then there is ouzo, carlitos. And I like retsina, but few people do.

    Simon Jester (552af6)

  70. Save the olives.

    mg (44de53)

  71. I thought Alex was a girl.

    SarahW (b0e533)

  72. I thought Alex was a girl.

    “On the Internet, no one can tell you’re a dog.”

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  73. Wow, the anger, insults and childishness exhibited are quite thorough. Klassy bunch…

    Alex (f98166)

  74. We were rich, according to Sergeant York standards. Rocky land for wine, figs, and olives; good bottom land for wheat and oats; good pasture for sheep and goats. But no market for our produce or livestock. No way to ship them out, for cash.

    nk (875f57)

  75. Ouzo is just a type of gin, grain alcohol flavored with anise instead of juniper. What you want is tsipouro made out of the grape squeezings left after making wine. Down south, where I was, we left it alone. Up north, they add a little anise.

    Retsina is a long story. Wine does not travel well in a 100 foot rowed ship in the waters of the Aegean. It turns into vinegar. It was found that resin, from a pine tree, would preserve it. It came to be an acquired taste even for stay at home wines.

    My mother did not use it, she had her own special formula for red or white wine. People would visit and offer to do chores for a glass of her wine.

    nk (875f57)

  76. nk- With all that coastline, is their much of a fishing industry?

    mg (44de53)

  77. Yes, there is, and for deep sea diving, too, for sponges, pearls, and sea amber. The young men took to the sea. My grandfather was one. But again, no market. They came to America and built New Smyrna, Tarpon Springs, and Ypsilanti.

    nk (875f57)

  78. *sea amber* = “coral” (I learned it “giusel”)

    nk (875f57)

  79. With respect to fishing, due to geography , the Mediteranean is surprisingly barren as a fishery.

    SPQR (57d652)

  80. Alex:

    Wow, the anger, insults and childishness exhibited are quite thorough. Klassy bunch…

    Let’s take a walk down memory lane, Alex:

    138 what got Trayvon killed was a bullet, not attitude. And sorry, I’m not a wuss. If you are, good for you, good luck with it

    So we got NK saying showing up for trial is proof your innocent, and Jay calling for people to flee rather than go to court. Nice, same crowd. Perhaps I better take NK’s advice and shut up so y’all can hear the voices in your heads….. Lord a mighty!

    144 jay: I’ll thank you not to make assumptions, just makes you look like an ass. I don’t watch tv, don’t have cable, and I am a registered republican. Go take a long long walk down a short pier for me, ok?

    145. Spoken like a wuss. Bye now

    Sarah gives a a bat country trifecta! Really Sarah, you are so knowledgeable and sure of the facts you would shoot Teayvon too. You must have been there huh?

    You types are as bad as Al Sharpton and company.

    All right guys, I’m out…. Bat country got stale!

    Those were your comments left on just one post over a mere 24 hours. Imagine what else we could find in the comments if we decide to look.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  81. Too bad Greece didn’t industrialize better.
    Tuna from the Mediterranean is so good.

    mg (44de53)

  82. this is all so meta

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  83. Greece is a remnant of the Ottoman Empire, like Turkey. I don’t know why the EU allowed her in, when it does not allow Turkey in. Sentiment, I guess.

    nk (875f57)

  84. Well Greece was at the periphery, whilr Turkey was at the Center, in retrospect, though how smart a move was that?

    narciso (1c125b)

  85. Pretty sure the response to Obama’s ad against Bain can be found here.

    In the case of Delphi, the administration simply broke salaried pensioners’ legs and left them by the side of the road.

    While all Delphi pensions were transferred to the Federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. (PBGC) and slashed by 25-60 percent, UAW contracts were “topped off” by the administration. Though the money technically came from GM, it was ultimately government financed. As a result, some 20,000 salaried workers saw their nest eggs crack while blue-collars were made whole by U.S. taxpayers.

    It may be possible to cast aspersions on Bain’s treatment of labor as they sought higher profits for their institutional investors, but they did not out-and-out steal from their employees the way that the Obama folks did to Delphi’s white-collar workers.

    But I guess — as Nixon put it — it’s legal if the President does it.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  86. ding, again

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  87. Not suggesting anyone read this:

    Instead it’s presented to warn off those with human sympathy. They might recoil at a grown man mewling and pissing all over hisself.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  88. Some years it just doesn’t pay to slide off the couch:

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  89. I’m getting the feeling that Obama has given up on re-election. He is starting to dole out favors to political cronies a little more blatantly than usual as if he doesn’t care about the consequences. The $5.9 million dollar grant to Eric Whitaker, for example.

    I think he doesn’t want a second term or has resigned himself to losing.

    crosspatch (6adcc9)

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