In which we live blog the debate

Greetings, all of you Cranachers of every political persuasion.  In this experiment in real-time online interaction and discussion, I will post comments on the first presidential candidate debate as it unfolds and invite you to do the same.  Or you can just read what we are all saying.

To follow the discussion you’ll need to hit “refresh” frequently so as to see the latest comments.

What will happen if we have several hundred people trying to comment at once?  I have no idea.  That’s why we call it an experiment.  I doubt that we’ll crash the whole internet, so don’t worry about it.

It’s fine to interact with other people’s comments, but do that briefly and not as long arguments or digressions.  Try to keep the thread in synch with what is happening on television.

If this works, we might try other real-time Cranach get-togethers.

(After the debate, sleep on it, and we’ll discuss our overall impressions–including our views of “who won”–tomorrow.)

In the meantime, as the candidates take their places, let’s begin. . . .

 

Report from a battleground state

We live in Virginia, which has been named a battleground state, a crucial source of lots of electoral votes that could go either way.  So we denizens of that state–sorry, Commonwealth–are being subject to lots of campaigning.

Every time we turn on the television, say, to watch a ballgame, virtually every commercial break includes an ad for Barack Obama.  These are just hammering Mitt Romney and are effectively made.  To be sure, some of them are ludicrous, repeating long-refuted charges that even liberal fact-checkers have debunked, such as Mitt Romney being responsible for businesses outsourcing jobs to China.  One Obama commercial is all about how Romney will raise your taxes!  Not on the basis of anything Romney has proposed but simply because Democrats are saying that “he would have to” raise middle class taxes to pay for his economic plan.  Obama attacking Romney for raising taxes!  But we don’t see any Romney commercials answering those charges or refuting those claims or taking the Democrats to task for their bogus ads.  There are actually relatively few Romney ads at all, and they are mostly bland and unmemorable.  The one that sticks out the most is a super-Pac spot that consists mainly of elderly small business owners carping about President Obama in a crotchety but not particularly inspirational way.

What the Romney campaign is doing in Virginia is robo-calls.  Last weekend, I got four in one hour.  Recorded calls featuring Mike Huckabee or someone else exhorting me to vote for Romney.  I hate robo-calls.  Even when they are on behalf of someone I might support.  They are an intrusion, an interruption of whatever I am doing, an annoyance.  Let me ask you:  Do you or anyone you know appreciate getting robo-calls?  Do any of you bother to so much as listen to them completely?  Don’t you hang-up as soon as you realize the call is a recording?  Do they make you more likely to vote for the candidate who is subjecting you to these things?  I have the sense that every time the robo-calls for Romney go out, thousands and thousands of Virginia voters are turning against him.   Which triggers more and more robo-calls for Romney.

An Obama volunteer knocked on our door.  He was an elderly gentleman, actually, but quite enthusiastic.  He said that he had a grandson who was going to college and that President Obama was making it possible.  He said that Obama started the Pell grants.  Uh, no, my wife explained.  Pell grants started in 1965.  We, nearly as old as he was, got Pell grants.  But that didn’t phase him.  He said Romney would ruin America, and we’ve really got to re-elect Obama.

No Romney volunteer has knocked on our door.  Does he even have volunteers?  Or just paid workers and party loyalists?  I haven’t come across any.

I live in a battleground state, but it seems like only one side is battling.

The coming Obama landslide

It looks bad for Romney.  Very, very bad.  More than likely, it’s not even going to be close.

The RealClear Politics site posts an average of the latest polls, the idea being that taking an average has the effect of leveling out the discrepancies.  If the election were held today, Obama has 247 electoral votes sewn up, with Romney having 191.  The winner needs 270.

But Obama is ahead in all of the battleground states except for Missouri.  If we go by all of the states Obama is leading in, he has 347!

I know, I know, Republicans are saying the polls have sampling bias.  The debates haven’t happened yet.  And there is supposedly plenty of time.

But does anyone really think that Romney will be a better debater than Obama?

Do those who believe “it’s the economy, stupid,” expect the economy to get even worse than it is today?  It is already terrible, but that’s apparently not enough to turn voters against Obama.

Yes, Obama is unpopular (favorability rating +6.8).  But Romney is even more unpopular (favorability rating -.4).

Is there realistically any hope for Romney to defeat Obama?  How could Republicans blow this opportunity?

 

via RealClearPolitics – Opinion, News, Analysis, Videos and Polls.

UPDATE:  If you want a more optimistic take for the Republicans, see this, in which Dick Morris, in a rather tortuous interpretation that depends on one poll and one sampling method, thinks Romney is actually pulling ahead!  I hope he is right and I am wrong.

Romney’s taxes

Democrats have been accusing Romney of not paying any income taxes or of hiding something in his finances.  So the Republican presidential nominee has released his 2011 returns.  It turns out, he paid 14.1% of his income to the government.  And he paid 30% to charity.   He didn’t even claim all of the charitable deductions he could have!

He also submitted a letter from his tax accountants, PriceCooperWaterhouse, saying that between 1990 and 2009, his average taxrate was 20.2% and that he never paid less than 13.66%.

So much for the Democrats’ tactic of trying to demonize the guy over his taxes, though the Washington Post article giving the details takes a strangely negative tone (saying how his taxes “would have been” only 10% if he took all of his deductions, that he could amend his return at any time, that we still don’t know the flow of his investment income, and other irrelevant attempts to put the worst construction on facts that are all to Romney’s credit).

via Mitt Romney releases tax return for 2011, showing he paid 14.1 percent tax rate – The Washington Post.

The 47%

As you have probably heard, Mitt Romney was secretly recorded at a fundraiser saying this:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

via Fact-checking Romney’s “47 percent” comment – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.

It is, in fact, true that around 47% of Americans don’t pay income taxes, though they do pay payroll and sales taxes, among others.  I pose to you two possible reactions:

(1)  This is terrible!  Everyone should pay something, if only a little, to make them full stakeholders in America.  These people who pay nothing are the constituency for raising taxes on everyone else!

(2)  This is good!  The government takes too much of people’s income in taxes as it is.  We should increase the number of people who pay nothing, to the point of eliminating the income tax altogether.

Which is the more conservative reaction?

Of course, it’s another matter to say that this same 47% is also dependent, entitled, irresponsible, and the rest of Romney’s insinuations.  I know quite a few of these folks who aren’t that way.  Many of them are staunch conservatives.

Does this statement show that Romney feels contempt for almost half of the nation that he aspires to lead?  Does this statement–another example of his proclivity for undiplomatic, undisciplined, and careless statements–show him to be undiplomatic, undisciplined, and careless?  Do this make you think he is less than presidential material?

The Empathy Gap

Why does Obama still lead Romney in the polls, despite the dismal state of the economy?  Charles Krauthammer says it’s because of the “empathy gap.”  People think Obama seems to have more empathy–more feeling for people, a greater ability to identify with others, especially when they are hurting–than Romney does.  That, in fact, was a major theme of the Democratic Convention, the high point of which was the speech by Bill Clinton, the maestro of empathy.

Obama and the Empathy Gap – Charles Krauthammer – National Review Online.

So is that any way to choose a president?  But isn’t empathy a good quality to have in a ruler?


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