Posts Tagged ‘obama’

“One of the most regular and predictable behaviors on the part of political candidates and their handlers is the ritual of denying the importance of polls,” writes the estimable Frank Newport for USA Today’s GallupGuru in a post titled Romney and Obama campaign handlers: Ignore the polls!

That’s particularly true, of course, when the candidate is down in the polls.  I wait each year for candidates to cry out on the stump:  “The only poll that matters is on Election Day!”, as they warn supporters not to believe or not to pay attention to what the pollsters find.

We have a couple of these predictable examples in the last several days.

A strategy memorandum from Alex Gage of the Romney for President campaign found its way onto the Internet.  The purpose of the memorandum appears to be an attempt to keep supporters’ spirits up in the face of pretty sour national poll numbers.  (As Gallup Guru loyalists will know, Romney is lagging now in 4th place among Republican candidates, behind Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain, and just a few points ahead of Mike Huckabee).

Gage says:  “We also know there will be an endless stream of state and national polling and many in the media will also obsess over Gov. Romney’s standing in them.”  And “…we will not be measuring ourselves through the lens of national polls and we do not expect to be competitive in them”.  And “We should not expect him (Romney) to be competitive in national polls with better-known celebrity candidates like Giuliani, Thompson, or McCain until after Iowa and New Hampshire”more

We commented on Gage’s desperate attempts to keep the few Romney supporters there are from breaking ranks and fleeing into the warm embrace of more viable, and less ethically questionable, candidates:

death by internal memo: how the Romneys assuage themselves for their massive and accumulating losses

Back to Newport:

… It is of course true that the candidates’ standings in the polls can (and most probably will) change as the campaign progresses.  Changing voters’ minds is the whole purpose of presidential campaigns, and the reason why candidates raise and spend millions of dollars on advertising and are now spending most of their waking lives making speeches in front of small crowds in rural towns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

So we have to grant Romney and Obama’s campaign strategists the point that their candidates’ relatively poor showing in the current national polling is not necessarily permanent.  It can change.  These two candidates can charge from behind to win.

But the national polls raise important questions for the Romney and Obama campaigns.  It’s not as if these two have not been campaigning already.  They are both in essentially full time campaign mode.  And while most of their efforts have been spent in the early primary states, there has been intense and continuing national media news coverage of their efforts.  Both have been all over national television, in newspaper coverage, and both have appeared on the cover of national news magazines.

Yet through all of this, they have barely moved the numbers among members of their party.

The national numbers must be particularly disappointing to the Romney campaign team.  While Romney strategist Gage dismisses Giuliani, McCain and Thompson as “celebrity candidates”, it’s important to note that in fact Romney is at this point still better known that is Thompson nationwide, and Thompson’s name ID among Republicans is just 4 points higher than Romney.  Yet Thompson gets 22% of the Republican vote in our latest survey compared to 7% for Romney.

A second disappointment for the Romney campaign that is difficult to dismiss is the fact that Romney has the most negative image at this point of any of the major candidates for president.  Our mid-September poll shows him with a 27% favorable and 35% unfavorable rating.  That makes Romney the only candidate we tested (including Hillary Clinton) who has a higher unfavorable than favorable rating. Among Republicans, while Giuliani’s favorable to unfavorable net difference is +54, and McCain’s is +47 and Thompson’s is +45, Romney’s is +19.  In other words, Romney is much less well liked among Republicans nationally than any of his three chief competitors.

Plus, as my colleague Jeff Jones has pointed out, Romney has a significant problem among highly religious Protestant Republicans – who will form a not insignificant block of voters in some early primary states.

So while the national polls may change, particularly if – as Romney strategists hope – he does well in Iowa and New Hampshire, there are substantial enough problems now with his standing nationally to cause significant concern more [Emphases ours]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“For two years, I worked as an adviser to George Bush. Now I work as an occasional, unpaid adviser to Mitt Romney,” writes Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw in an hysterically funny and risibly transparent attempt to ward off the richly deserved stigma of associating with Willard Milton Romney, preposterously titled On the Ethics of Advising.

To my constant surprise, some letter writers and some commenters on this blog presume that I must agree with, or be responsible for, every position they take. That is a deeply silly assumption. [emphasis ours]

Note the nearly impossible standard that Mankiw sets. Question: Must one presume that Mankiw agrees with everything, or is responsible for every position that an advisee takes, to question Mankiw’s judgment for issuing advice to a figure as morally or ethically questionable as e.g. Willard Milton Romney?—answer: no, certainly not.

Back to Mankiw’s apologia:

Presidents and candidates have to make decisions on a multitude of issues. It is unreasonable to expect any adviser to agree on every single issue. Indeed, politicians listen to many advisers with different points of view. An adviser cannot resign in protest every time a decision fails to go the way he advised. The system could not function if people acted in such a self-centered way.

Consider: Should an economist who believes abortion is murder refuse to advise Barack Obama on tax reform? If this economist chooses to become an Obama adviser and Obama wins, is she then complicit in all the abortions that result from President Obama’s pro-choice policies? If her advice on tax reform is only partially followed, should she resign her position as adviser? If she continues as an Obama adviser, is she then responsible for all policy positions that Obama takes? Is she even responsible for Obama’s tax-reform proposal?

My answers are NO, NO, NO, NO, and NO. In my book, the adviser is responsible for the advice she gives, and Obama is responsible for the positions he takes.

Maybe I am being too easy on economic advisers, like Milton Friedman, myself, and my hypothetical Obama adviser. But I worry about what happens when sanctimony leads people to put too high of a moral “tax” on advisers from academia. Most academics avoid politics altogether, preferring the relative comfort and better compensation of life in the ivory tower. The uglier the world of politics becomes, the fewer academics will venture forth with their input, and the poorer everyone will be as a resultmore

Comment: We certainly understand the good professor’s discomfort with being associated with Willard Milton Romney. But it is overwrought to compare himself to Milton Friedman, or to argue that to not advise a figure like Romney would somehow mean that fewer academics would “venture forth with their input.” (Please, professor; simply take responsibility for your actions—however ill-advised—and carry on. Allow dignity to be your standard.) That the professor has any misgivings at all speaks volumes—please note the all-caps NO, NO, NO, NO

yours &c.
dr. g.d.