Mojo - November 2012

Did Team Romney Believe Its Own BS?

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 11:23 PM EST

Not that it matters much, but one of the questions lingering after President Obama's decisive victory on Tuesday is this: did Team Romney believe its own bullshit?

Dana Liebelson notes that there were several signs of profound denial emanating from the Romney camp in the waning hours. Which might explain declarations made by top Romneyites in the closing days. 

About forty-eight hours before the polls would open, Rich Beeson, the political director for Camp Romney, said the following on—where else?—Fox News:

There’s an intensity factor out there on the side of the Republicans, that is a significant gap and we see it out on the ground, we see it when people are knocking on the doors, we see it when people are making the phone calls and again, it gets back to the simple fact that Governor Romney is out there talking about big things and big change, not about small things and so I think as we start seeing returns coming in from New Hampshire, from southeastern Pennsylvania, from northern Virginia, from Cuyahoga County in Ohio, I think it is going to become pretty clear that there is going to be a widespread repudiation of the Obama administration, and, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan will be elected the next President and Vice President of the United States. And I don’t think we’ll have to wait very long to know that.

In case any reporters missed it, the Romney campaign rushed out the statement in a press release.

On the morning of Election Day, senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie went on—where else?—Fox News and said:

[Romney's] got momentum here on election day. And I think that's why he's going to win tonight, not just win, but win decisively. I don't think there’s going to be any doubt at the end of tonight who the next president is going to be.

And the campaign zapped out another press release.

It would be interesting to know—if Gillespie or Beeson would ever be so candid—whether these two top Romneyites (and their comrades) really bought this. Or were they merely putting out baseless spin because….well, because that's what they do? For weeks, the Romney campaign had peddled the myth of Mittmentum. Was that a cynical ploy or an act of self-delusion? Either answer is hardly flattering.

By the way, if you didn't see it, check out this list of pundit-predictions-gone-bad. One of the best—or worst—comes from Newt Gingrich. In late October, he said on—where else?—Fox News, "I believe the minimum result will be 53-47 [percent] Romney, over 300 electoral votes, and the Republicans will pick up the Senate. I base that just on years and years of experience.” Yes, years and years.

And a sad-and-funny account of excessive Romney GOTV fecklessness written after the election by a discouraged Romney volunteer may be useful in assessing whether Romney and his strategists (and their pundit backers) had any idea what was happening on the ground—that is, in the real world.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Obama Tears Up Thanking Staff and Volunteers

Thu Nov. 8, 2012 9:16 PM EST

A video posted today by the Obama campaign shows the president tearing up while thanking staff and volunteers. He tells the crowd of twenty-somethings: "You're smarter [than me], you're better organized, you're more effective. So I'm absolutely confident that all of you are going to do just amazing things in your lives." 

Watch here:

Romney Adviser: Not a Single Person on the Campaign Thought He Would Lose

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 6:45 PM EST

Romney advisers are telling CBS News that there wasn't one person on the Romney campaign who saw the loss coming, and the GOP presidential candidate was "shellshocked" by the results. Here's what they have to say: 

  • "We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory...I don't think there was one person who saw this coming."
  • "There's nothing worse than when you think you're going to win, and you don't...It was like a sucker punch."
  • Romney "was shellshocked." 

The CBS story indicates that the Romney team even bought into the "unskewed polls" theory, believing that the polls dramatically underestimated Republican turnout and overestimated Democratic enthusiasm. 

This report comes after other indications that the Romney campaign was disregarding polling data. On election night, the Romney campaign told the press it didn't have a concession speech prepared. Karl Rove went against Fox News and questioned whether Ohio was going to Obama, contradicting overwhelming electoral analysis. And Wednesday, Romney's website briefly displayed a page indicating he had won the presidency before it was taken down. 

Should the Romney campaign have listened to New York Times analyst Nate Silver instead of Fox News

 

 

Karl Rove Claims Obama 'Suppressed the Vote' by Running a Negative Campaign

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 6:44 PM EST

Karl Rove's meltdown over the battle for Ohio made for interesting television Tuesday evening, but in spite of his poor call on the election and despite the fact that Rove's two electioneering PACs spent $170 million almost entirely on losing candidates, the former Bush adviser isn't letting up. He's even got a whiteboard to argue his case! (See the above clip.)

His latest? Obama won the election "by suppressing the vote," Rove opined Thursday on Fox News, with a straight face. This doesn't mean armed thugs turning Republicans away from the polls, mind you. According to Rove, all one needs to do to suppress the vote is run some negative ads.

"They effectively denigrated Mitt Romney's character, business acumen, experience," he said. Of course, by these standards every presidential candidate since Thomas Jefferson hired a writer to smear John Adams as "mentally deranged" has "suppressed the vote." Indeed, Rove and his colleagues at Fox News and other conservative media have been "suppressing the vote" the entire time Obama has been in office. It's amazing Obama won in 2008 after all the Republican "vote suppression" that went on that year.

Don't Let the Door Hit You, Rep. Pete Stark

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 2:45 PM EST

In 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle sized up Rep. Pete Stark, a California Democrat then serving out his 16th term, thusly: "Only a politician who assumes he has a job for life could behave so badly on a semi-regular basis by spewing personalized invective that might get him punched in certain East Bay taverns." That was nine years ago. But Stark, comfortably situated in a deep-blue East Bay district, really did seem to have the seat for life, affording a level of job security that allowed him to comfortably do things like threaten to throw reporters out of windows and call a female Republican colleague a "whore."

In 2011, though, California introduced a new open primary system, in which the top two finishers advance to the general election regardless of their party—which meant that, for the first time in forever, Stark faced serious competition. The result: A six-point loss on Tuesday to Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell.

Stark, though, didn't go out quietly. In a desperate bid for a 21st term, he launched a campaign built on a series of totally unsubstantied claims about his opponent, the local media, and anyone who crossed him. Via the San Francisco Chronicle:

In the latest episode raising questions about the erratic behavior of California’s longest standing Congressman, a former California State Assembly Majority leader said Tuesday that East Bay Democratic Rep. Pete Stark erupted in an angry tirade—questioning his sanity, threatening his livelihood and even vowing to call social workers to check on his kids—after he informed Stark he would endorse his opponent in the November general election.

Elsewhere, he launched 100-percent false arguments at the Chronicle itself, sourcing the claims to his 16-year-old son:

In a Tuesday meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, [Stark] wrongfully accused Debra Saunders, a Republican who writes the paper's "Token Conservative" blog, of having donated to the campaign of his primary opponent, Eric Swalwell. When asked to provide evidence for his claim, Stark paged through a pile of research materials (which he oddly said had been prepared by "a 16-year-old investigative reporter"—his own son) before admitting he had incorrectly named Saunders. He then tried to point to former Dublin City Councilwoman Claudia McCormick and claimed she worked for the Chronicle, but that was wrong, too.

Also:

This week, Castro Valley real estate broker Otto Catrina said Stark made a false charge about him. Catrina contacted a lawyer.

Catrina said he was shocked when his phone started "ringing off the hook" this week after he was named in an attack mailer from Stark that claimed he was one of the "shady," big-money "developers" who have donated to Swalwell, a Dublin city councilman.

"I've never developed anything in my life," said Catrina, who is on the board of directors of the California Association of Realtors.

Despite the fact that allegations that Swalwell was being bribed by developers were unsubstantiated, Stark erupted at his opponent during an April debate:

Stark, still seated at the dais at the Hayward City Council chambers, reportedly called Swalwell a "fucking crook" as they shook hands.

When contacted later by phone, Swalwell confirmed the exchange with The Citizen while adding Stark also called him a "slimeball" and told him "you're going to jail."

That was in addition to calling his opponent a "pipsqueak" and a "junior leaguer."

Conservative Media Lie To Conservatives Because That's What Conservatives Want

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 1:50 PM EST

On Election Night, I tweeted that Republicans shocked about Mitt Romney's loss Tuesday should be angry at a conservative media that misled them about the former Massachusetts' governor's chances. 

In the waning days of the race, much of this manifested in raising doubts about the polls and comical exaggerations about the possibility of a Romney landslide. Rush Limbaugh told his millions of listeners that "everything except the polls points to a Romney landslide," but the problem went beyond mavens like Limbaugh to afflict more well-regarded political analysts like Michael Barone and George Will. The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost wrote, "I am not willing to take polls at face value anymore. I am more interested in connecting the polls to history and the long-run structure of American politics, and when I do that I see a Romney victory." Analysts like Karl Rove—who through his stewardship of outside spending groups had a clear financial interest in giving upbeat assessments of Romney's chances—were given prominent perches to hoodwink the viewers of Fox News and the readers of the Wall Street Journal. And as Media Matters' Simon Maloy documents, Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post's pro-Romney blogger, expressed a far less sanguine view of campaign events after the election than she did when she covered them in real time

The problem goes beyond the conservative media, however—even Republican-leaning pollsters like Rasmussen and Gravis Marketing proved poor predictors of the final outcome, while results from some Democratic-leaning firms like Public Policy Polling were actually closer to the final result than traditional powerhouses like Gallup.

All this has reopened the debate about "epistemic closure," the term libertarian writer Julian Sanchez used* to describe the closed universe from which conservatives receive their information, in which those who deviate from the official party line are deemed apostates who are to be excommunicated. Erik Kain, writing at Mother Jones, says this is in part a business model: "There's big money in controversy, and controversy is what the Glenn Becks of the world do best."

Ideology can place blinders on everyone, of course—I don't know how many liberal friends I've tried to talk out of their affinity for rent control—but the incentives for misleading one's audience are not evenly distributed across the left-leaning and right-leaning media. The Romney surge after the first debate didn't translate to a widespread liberal belief about systemic bias among polling firms, for example. Much of the conservative media is simply far more cozy with the Republican Party than its Democratic counterparts (as exemplified by the numerous Fox hosts and contributors who moonlight as Republican fundraisers), which makes necessary detachment difficult. Having an opinion isn't an obstacle to good journalism or analysis, but no one wants to derail their own gravy train. Departing from the party line, particularly if one does so in a manner that seems favorable to Obama, would be to reveal one as an apostate, a tool of liberalism. There were independent-minded conservative analysts who diverged from this trend, but few were listening to them.

I think the business model theory works, but I would suggest that the problem lies not just with outlets like Fox but also with their audiences. That is, I think my original tweet, blaming the conservative media for misleading the readers who depend on them, doesn't capture the fullness of the problem. Conservative media lies to its audience because much of its audience wants to be lied to. Those lies actually have far more drastic consequences for governance (think birthers and death panels) than for elections, where the results can't be, for lack of a better word, "skewed." 

Perhaps that will change. Dean Chambers, the gay-baiting proprietor of Unskewedpolls.com, one of the alternate universes conservatives retreated to in order to reassure themselves of a Romney victory, told Business Insider that Scott Rasmussen, the owner of a Republican leaning polling firm "had a lot of explaining to do." He's not the only one. 

*Correction: Sanchez didn't coin the term; he was the first to use it in this context. 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 8, 2012

Thu Nov. 8, 2012 1:37 PM EST

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and soldiers of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force during a field training exercise on Oct. 31. US Army photo.

Why John Boehner Has Gerrymandering to Thank for His Majority

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 7:03 AM EST

In November 2010, I reported that GOP control of all elements of state government in key swing states—including but not limited to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania—could ensure a "Republican decade" in control of the House of Representatives. The Democrats' massive 2010 losses couldn't have come at a worse time for the party. Because the census was taken in 2010, GOP control of state legislatures and governors mansions around the country gave Republicans the power to draw congressional district lines largely as they chose. They seized that chance, aggressively gerrymandering so as to protect Republican incumbents and endanger any remaining Democrats. The Dems would have done the same thing, of course, had they won control of these crucial states in 2010. But they didn't.

On Tuesday, the GOP cartographers' hard work paid off. Despite sweeping wins for Democrats in US Senate races and a broad Electoral College victory for President Barack Obama, it was clear early in the night that Republicans would hold on to the House. As Slate's Dave Weigel noted, "ridiculous gerrymanders saved the House Republican majority." In many states the president won convincingly, Democrats elected a minority of the House delegation. Here are the numbers for states that Obama won or came close and where Republicans drew the congressional map:

  • North Carolina, which Obama lost by around 2 percentage points: 9-4 GOP
  • Florida, which Obama won by around half a percentage point: 17-10 GOP
  • Ohio, which Obama won by nearly 2 percentage points: 12-4 GOP
  • Virginia, which Obama won by around 3 percentage points: 8-3 GOP
  • Pennsylvania, which Obama won by more than 5 percentage points: 13-5 GOP*
  • Wisconsin, which Obama won by 6 percentage points: 5-3 GOP
  • Michigan, which Obama won by 8 percentage points: 9-5 GOP

It goes to show that when you get to choose the ground on which electoral battles are fought, you're very likely to win them.

*Correction: This post originally said that Pennsylvania was 8-5 GOP. It's actually 13-5 GOP.

Maryland Dreamers Score Latest Immigrant Victory

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 7:03 AM EST

With the passage of Tuesday's Question 4 ballot initiative, Maryland became the latest state—and the first by popular vote—to pass a so-called state Dream Act, allowing undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition rates for public college and universities there. Fourteen states* now have such laws on the books:

It might not have been the most controversial initiative on Maryland ballots this year—that'd be Question 6, the same-sex-marriage measure, which also passed—but the Dream Act still generated a heated debate in the Old Line State. The bill originally was approved by the General Assembly and was signed by Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in 2011, but opponents, led by the group Help Save Maryland, collected well over the nearly 56,000 signatures required to force a referendum on the issue.

Coming just months after President Obama's deferred-action directive, the result was another bit of good news for advocates of immigrants' rights, who in the past couple of years have fought both the Obama administration over its deportation of more than 1 million undocumented immigrants and various statehouses over the bevy of self-deportation-related state immigration laws like Arizona's SB 1070.

Now, with Obama's reelection secured thanks in no small part to the overwhelming support of Latino voters, they will try to hold him to his campaign promise to push through comprehensive immigration reform. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's post-election comments were any indication, immigration could follow the fiscal cliff as 2013's biggest legislative battle.

*Note: According to the National Immigration Law Center's Tanya Broder, Minnesota, while not marked on the above map, offers a flat tuition rate to students, regardless of immigration status. Also, Rhode Island's state measure was passed by its higher education board, not the Legislature.

The Republican Rape Caucus Crumbles

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 8:50 PM EST

Foot-in-mouth rape commentary by Republican candidates was one of the most disturbing mini-trends of the 2012 election. And as the returns began rolling in last night, it quickly became clear that this bounty of apologies for sexual assault had paved the way for some big GOP losses. Here's a breakdown of the candidates who said absurd things about rape and paid for it at the polls.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette/ZUMAPressPittsburgh Post Gazette/ZUMAPressWho: Tom Smith, Pennsylvania Senate candidate

Comments: In a TV interview, Smith compared a pregnancy from rape to "having a baby out of wedlock."

Outcome: Defeated by Democrat Bob Casey, who got nearly 54 percent of the vote.

 

 

Globe Photos/ ZUMAPressGlobe Photos/ ZUMAPressWho: Linda McMahon, Connecticut Senate candidate

Comments: During a debate, McMahon clarified that no Catholic hospital should be required to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, except in cases of "emergency rape."

Outcome: Defeated by Democrat Chris Murphy, who got 55 percent of the vote.

 

 

 

Harry E. Walker/MCT/ZUMAPressHarry E. Walker/MCT/ZUMAPressWho: Rick Berg, North Dakota Senate candidate

Comments: When asked in a TV interview whether he'd support abortion in cases of rape, Berg awkwardly evaded the question, then gave a flat-out no. 

Outcome: Berg conceded to Heidi Heitkamp, who beat him by less than 3,000 votes.

 

 

 

Wisconsin State LegislatureWisconsin State LegislatureWho: State Rep. Roger Rivard, running for reelection to the Wisconsin legislature

Comments: Last December, Rivard got into a discussion with a local newspaper about a case in which a 17-year old was accused of forcing sex on a 14-year-old girl. Expressing his thoughts on the case, Rivard cited a motto he'd learned from his dad: "Some girls rape easy." Or in other words, girls agree to sex and then call it rape, because that's convenient.

Outcome: Rivard lost to Democratic challenger Stephen Smith by 582 votes.

 

Christian Gooden/ZUMAPressChristian Gooden/ZUMAPressWho: Todd Akin, Missouri Senate candidate

Comments: During a now-infamous TV interview in August, Akin responded to a question about his beliefs on abortion in cases of rape by saying that pregnancy from "legitimate rape" is unlikely because "the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down." In October, a 2008 video surfaced showing Akin explaining how women who aren't actually pregnant get abortions anyway.

Outcome: Lost to Democrat Claire McCaskill, who got nearly 55 percent of the vote.

 

Chris Bergin/MCT/ZUMAPressChris Bergin/MCT/ZUMAPressWho: Richard Mourdock, Indiana Senate candidate

Comments: When asked at an October debate whether abortion should be permitted in cases of rape, Mourdock said it shouldn't, because the rape and subsequent pregnancy are "something God intended."

Outcome: Defeated by Democrat Joe Donnelly by nearly 150,000 votes.

 

Andrew Shurtleff/ZUMAPressAndrew Shurtleff/ZUMAPressWho: Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate and incumbent representative in Wisconsin

Comments: Where to begin? Ryan has called rape just another "method of conception," has said he's "very proud" of the forcible rape bill he cosponsored with Todd Akin, and has cast 59 votes on abortion in his career, all of them anti-choice.

Outcome: Ryan won't be heading to the White House as Mitt Romney's VP, but he did keep his House seat.