I just wanted to jot down some random thoughts about this upcoming election.
Much media attention has been focused on Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's recent debate comment that pregnancies resulting from rape are God's will. Mourdock's statement was certainly foolish and ill-advised -- I think Republican candidates should completely avoid the topic of abortion resulting from rape and I'm not sure why it's so hard for them to do that. Abortions resulting from rape are less than 1% of all abortions performed nationwide and it is the one area of abortion policy in which public opinion is strongly against the pro-life position. Nevertheless, I think Mourdock was very clumsily expressing the belief, held by most Christians, that all human life is the creation and gift of God, which I don't think is an extreme or fringe belief at all. Perhaps he was also expressing the Calvinistic Christian belief that all things that happen, even bad things, are part of God's will.
By contrast, another Senate candidate, Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, recently expressed the opinion that human life begins at birth. In my opinion, this is a far more extreme opinion than the one expressed by Mourdock and is aggressively anti-science. The notion that a baby does not become human or alive until it comes through the birth canal is laughable. Yet, I'm sure most or all of my readers have never heard of this story, largely because the overwhelmingly pro-choice media buried it. Republicans are not the only ones who make stupid statements, but they are the only ones who are unable to get away with those stupid statements.
Even though I live in a state where there are no competitive statewide elections, I have been seeing and hearing a lot of Washington media market TV and radio campaign ads targeting Virginia voters in the president and Senate races. It is not an exaggeration to say that a clear majority of the Democratic ads I have heard are focused on abortion. Of course, they never mention the word "abortion," preferring to use euphemisms like "women's health care" and "women's rights to make their own choices about their bodies," but it is clear what they are really talking about. The same focus was clearly on display at the Democratic National Convention this year. With all the challenges our country faces domestically and on the world stage, the primary topic of conversation for the Democrats appears to be a celebration of abortion. I know -- or at least know of -- evangelical Christians who are planning to vote for Obama, and it is beyond me how they can rationalize voting for a candidate whose identity is completely wrapped up in abortion.
One of the things that frustrates me as well is that Republicans are such incredible wusses when it comes to the topic of abortion. There is no reason this issue should work to the Democrats' advantage, given the fact that more Americans actually identify as pro-life than as pro-choice and studies of past presidential elections have shown that a majority of single-issue abortion voters vote pro-life rather than pro-choice. I understand that Romney and congressional Republican candidates don't want to make abortion the centerpiece of their campaigns, given the preeminence of the economy in most voters' minds, but I don't think they should be afraid to fight back on the issue when they are attacked. For example, Obama attacked Romney for being against women because of his opposition to taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood several times in the second debate, and I think Romney should have responded to it at least once instead of letting the claim stand that he was against women. If Obama is going to hammer Romney on abortion, why shouldn't Romney respond with an ad pointing out how extreme Obama is on abortion, or at least asking why Obama is obsessed with the issue with unemployment at around 8%? If Obama is going to demand that Romney disassociate himself from Mourdock's comments, why shouldn't Romney demand that Obama disassociate himself from Murphy's comments about human life beginning at birth? I think the GOP is unwise to entirely cede this issue to the Democrats.
So, where does the presidential race stand? I think it's not looking so bad for Romney right now. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post encouraging conservatives to keep their chin up despite disappointing poll numbers. Since then, we have had three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate, all of which I think have worked to the advantage of the Romney/Ryan ticket. The first debate was most critical of course. The 65 million Americans across the country who were watching got to see Romney debate Obama on the issues directly without the media spin and realized that Romney was a smart, capable man with a deep understanding of the issues and an economic plan for the country. The Romney they saw on stage at the first debate in Denver, and in the other two subsequent debates, was nothing like the caricature of Romney that had been beaten into people's heads from months of vicious non-stop Obama attacks on Romney's character, background, and policies. Romney's debate performances demonstrated to independent and undecided voters that he is a legitimate alternative to Obama and managed to improve his personal likability as well.
I find the claims of some pundits, such as Nate Silver of the New York Times, that Obama is a 65% to 70% favorite to win reelection to be highly implausible and even ridiculous. Right now, Romney is four points ahead in the Gallup tracking poll and three points ahead in the Rasmussen tracking poll, and at or above 50% in both polls. Few if any recent national polls have shown Obama above 48%. Under normal circumstances, voters who are still undecided in the final week or two of the campaign generally break for the challenger, and incumbents rarely end up getting a larger share of the vote than their final poll number. The rationale for insisting that Obama is a clear favorite for reelection seems to be that poll numbers in several key swing states, especially Ohio, look more favorable to Obama and the electoral college rather than the popular vote will determine the election winner. However, the electoral college almost always lines up with the popular vote except in cases where the difference between the two candidates' popular vote is 1% or less. Furthermore, polling in swing states like Ohio has been less frequent, has used smaller samples, and has tended in many cases to significantly oversample Democrats. For example, in 2008 Democrats had an 8% advantage in turnout, and some recent Ohio polls have shown a 9% advantage in turnout. This is actually assuming an electorate that is more Democratic than 2008, which is an extremely unrealistic assumption and is belied by early voting statistics and trends.
I am far from certain that Romney will win, but I give him slightly better odds than Obama at this point. Obama has little time left to change the narrative, absent a major "October surprise" or gaffe on Romney's part. Overall, I feel like those of us who want to see Obama defeated have the best opportunity we could have asked for to do that. Romney is a candidate who appeals to the middle and is difficult to paint as an extreme "right-winger." His moral character appears to be blameless and his background and experience show him to be more than qualified to be president. He is an eloquent speaker and an excellent debater -- far better than most other recent Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates. He has had plenty of money to get his message out. And voters have every reason to reject Obama. He has clearly shown himself to be an extreme liberal over the course of his first term. He has utterly failed to solve the biggest problems facing our country, such as an awful economy, high unemployment, a ballooning national debt, a looming entitlement crisis, runaway federal spending, and soaring health care costs. He has offered no positive future vision for the country and run an extremely nasty and negative campaign. I don't know how the choice could be clearer for voters or how there could be any greater incentive for non-liberal voters to reject Obama. If we lose this election, it will be the clearest proof yet (to me at least) that our country is utterly beyond reason and beyond hope.
For those who are political junkies like me and are interested in reading political analysis from a conservative perspective, I recommend this website: http://battlegroundwatch.com/. In less than two weeks, this long campaign will be all over!
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Some Random Thoughts on the Election
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