100 Day Sprint: Obama’s firewall revisited

Mitt Romney is, at long last, doing everything just right.

He steamrolled the president in the first debate, managed to punch his way through a jobs report that probably would have been a coffin nail a couple of weeks ago, and is trying to regain the high ground on foreign policy.

This is also the moment when the conservative media barrage is peaking.  There are currently three right-of-center political films in major release, Super PACs are shoveling money into ad campaigns in the battleground states, and Fox News and Drudge are pulling out all the stops.

There are also signs that Republican excitement is also revved up again, after suffering through the Democratic convention, and through the heretofore lackluster Romney campaign.

So now the question:  Is Barack Obama’s “big blue wall” in jeopardy of crumbling?

Looking at the latest polls, I’d say the answer is a guarded Yes.  I think it’s clear that Obama’s astonishingly weak — and I think weak is the right word — performance in that debate placed him in serious peril.

The reason why is all about narratives.  For months, Republicans worked assiduously to characterize Obama as the second coming of Jimmy Carter.  Obama batted away those charges, in part by appearing fairly ruthless and energized on the campaign trail.

But during that debate, Obama’s demeanor fit neatly into all the worst stereotypes of Carter.  Dull, soft, muddled and again that painful word:  weak.

There are two unknowns now:  First, is Obama’s firewall high enough to hold off the Romney surge?  Second, can Obama recover?

The answer to the first question is, to borrow from the Magic 8 Ball, “try back later.”

We’ve seen the Republican flirt with substantial leads in Florida and Virginia, but Obama appears to be hanging on to his advantage in Ohio.  He also appears to be above water in Iowa and Wisconsin.

The big danger for Obama is that he may have deflated his margin sufficiently that superior conservative enthusiasm could give Romney surprise wins in places where the Democrat holds a narrow polling lead.

But as things stand now, even with the latest, Romney-friendly surveys, Obama ekes out a win.  We’ll see in the days ahead how this evolves.

Which leads us to the second question:  Can the president recover?  I think it’s safe to say that Obama is no Jimmy Carter.  I expect some serious slugging in the days ahead, beginning with the Biden-Ryan debate.  Obama also has plenty of campaign cash.

That might slow Romney’s momentum.

But the truth is that once a narrative is established, it’s tough to turn it around.  (That Romney pulled it off with that debate is a testament to just how great a performance he turned in.)

Right now, for the first time in the 2012 campaign, I’d say the overall dynamic of the race is even-steven, and maybe even favors Mitt Romney by a whisker.

So bottom line:  If in the next week the Republicans can “tip” Ohio and Wisconsin, the Democrats may be faced with an election that’s running away from them.

On the other hand, if those states settle back toward Obama, the debate bump may be remembered as Romney’s high water mark.

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72 Comments on “100 Day Sprint: Obama’s firewall revisited”

  1. Walker says:

    Come on Larry, you don’t have to hate Reagan to be willing to give Gorbachev credit. The paper you linked to, above, says “Here most historians would concede that without a reformer taking over in the Kremlin, not only would there have been nobody with whom Reagan could engage, but there would have been no end to the Cold War either. The United States could raise its own military expenditures as high as it liked; it could have lent even more support to so-called “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan, but without a very different kind of Soviet leader responding to some very real Soviet problems it is impossible to envisage 1989 ever happening.” (Good source, btw)

    In short, Reagan didn’t do it single-handed.

    And what, I think, many posters here object to most in Reagan has nothing to do with the Cold War, it is his introduction of many of the themes that became the Conservative movement of the present.

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  2. Larry says:

    This Cold War bad history is driving me crazy! Who was responsible for winning the Cold War? Truman? Pope John Paul II? Khrushchev? You might as well say that McDonalds was responsible. Once the commies got their first taste of Big Macs and fries (1990) the end was inevitable.

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  3. Larry says:

    You’re right Walker, it’s conservatism they hate. Ronald Reagan was the driving force in the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc. Sure, he had help from others, including Gorbachev, Thatcher and Kohl; that’s how history always works. It is beyond debate that he led that particular parade.

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  4. Larry: the dislike of Reagan, I suspect, has more to do with his domestic policy. As for the USSR, the hawks did always say that the Soviet system was unsustainable, inherently dysfunctional and would collapse under its own weight.

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  5. mervel says:


    I think he (Reagan) was VERY important , but he was not alone at all. A great book “The Pope, the Prime Minister and the President” details the coordination and importance of all of these actors in the West. Without a partner in Gorby it would not have played out as it did.

    Taking nothing away from Reagan on that, but there were huge forces at work. Poland was the first to break, it was the beginning of the end; this was largely led by support from John Paul II, there were many players involved.

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  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I don’t hate Reagan. I think he was a decent man and a great politician. I don’t believe he was a great President though. I believe history will judge Reagan as the leader who sent us down a national dead end in economic and environmental matters, and as a person who either did not have control of his Presidency or turned a blind eye to all kinds of monkey business in the White House.

    I think Reagan was warped to some degree by his time working as a shill for GE and coming in contact with too large a segment of the business world leadership, and his contact with J. Edgar Hoover. Here’s an interesting bit about that:

    I don’t know about other people but I find the whole Red Scare pretty distasteful and it appears that Reagan was an informant against his friends and peers.

    And Reagan gave us James Watt as Secretary of the Interior, a lovely man who once said, “If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used.” Watt was exactly the wrong kind of person for the job and a warning to anyone who cares about our nation’s public lands, about pollution, and about the use of science in setting public policy to be wary of voting for Mitt Romney.

    Of course, Reagan did many good things. For instance, Reagan thought it wasn’t fair that people who make all of their income through Capital Gains should be taxed at a rate lower than those who earned their income through wages.

    Let’s see the conservative commenters on this blog get behind that particular Reagan philosophy.

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  7. Larry says:

    “Reagan thought it wasn’t fair that people who make all of their income through Capital Gains should be taxed at a rate lower than those who earned their income through wages.

    Let’s see the conservative commenters on this blog get behind that particular Reagan philosophy.”

    You’ve been drinking the Obama kool-aid again. Read this:


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  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I haven’t had Kool -Aid in decades. Here is an NPR story from almost a year ago:

    “It took more than two years to produce that tax code overhaul. During that time, Reagan went on the road to plead his case for the plan. At a high school in Atlanta, Ga., in 1985, Reagan said they were going to “close the unproductive loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.”


    Here is a gem from the same story:

    “Getting the bill passed had required a rare trip by the 40th president to Capitol Hill to browbeat fellow Republicans who had earlier blocked the measure in the House.”

    Reagan signed a bill to RAISE capital gains taxes to 28%. Too bad Reagan wasn’t around today to browbeat Republicans some more. They seem to need it to get anything done, unless their objective is to expose CIA agents…

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  9. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Remember when the Republicans exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame?

    Well, they are at it again.

    “Through their outbursts, cryptic language and boneheaded questioning of State Department officials, the committee members left little doubt that one of the two compounds at which the Americans were killed, described by the administration as a “consulate” and a nearby “annex,” was a CIA base. They did this, helpfully, in a televised public hearing.”


    Why do Republicans hate America’s secret agents?

    And in case I am accused of drinking Kool-Aid again everyone here should remember that I posted on this blog only a day or so after the Benghazi incident that I didn’t believe the storming of the consulate was the result of out of control protests as the news media were portraying it at the time. Turns out I was correct.

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  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    And I can’t even say something nice about Reagan without Larry insulting me.

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  11. Larry says:

    You are partially correct about Reagan raising capital gains taxes in the sense that he taxed them at the same rate as ordinary income. Those rates, however, were substantially lowered. Must be nice to cherry-pick the parts that you like.

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  12. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    We must be reading a different blog, Larry, as I’m not picking up on this hate you’re reading. I certainly don’t hate the man, and in fact admire President Reagan and have a bit of a soft spot for him on some level. What I take issue with is Republican parties efforts for the past several years to make him out like he was some sort of anti tax, anti government, anti regulation crusader who was the sole person responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union. It just isn’t that simple. Even his own son is very outspoken about this deliberate attempt to recreate the image of his father. These are the things I take issue with and I wouldn’t characterize this disagreement as ‘hate.”

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  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    In the fact based world in which I live a simple statement that Reagan raised capital gains taxes to 28% is either factually correct or it is not factually correct. And let me check….yes, I am correct.

    Now for your homework parse this statement I made earlier:

    “Of course, Reagan did many good things. For instance, Reagan thought it wasn’t fair that people who make all of their income through Capital Gains should be taxed at a rate lower than those who earned their income through wages.”

    And, I admit when I say “Reagan did many good things” that doesn’t tell the whole story. So you’ve got me on that one!

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  14. Larry says:

    In 1981 Reagan signed legislation that lowered the top tax rate from 70% to 50% and lowered the Capital Gains tax from 28% to 20%. In 1986 the Capital Gains tax was returned to 28%.

    In the world that the rest of us live in things are usually looked at in context and “facts” are not cherry-picked to support one’s position.

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  15. Paul says:

    This discussion is millions of miles off on a tangent!

    Knuck, I agree that an election is about more than just who is fit for the job. My point was simply that they both appear to be capable of handling the job. I think that many reports have tried to focus on the idea that one or the other is not.

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  16. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    I think hatred is the wrong word, Larry. I certainly don’t hate President Reagan. I think what you’re reading is the disagreement with the image the Right has tried to recreate of President Reagan’s presidency. That being that he was a strictly ultra right wing, anti-tax, anti-government, and anti-regulation, politician. They also make him out like he was far more Hawkish than he actually way. I also take exception to the idea that his brilliance, insight, and leadership is what caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even his own son finds this years long attempt to remake his father’s legacy by the Right to be comical and disingenuous.

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  17. Mervel says:

    Reagan was the first step in the decline of the predominance of moderate Republicans. I don’t think he was as conservative as he has been portrayed today, what he was though was substantially more conservative than the mainstream Republicans he beat out for the nomination.

    I re-call at the time he was considered a real long shot by most pundits as he was considered far conservative to win a national election. He ushered in the acceptance of a more conservative ideology. If you look at Ford, Nixon, Dole, etc., you had a set of much more moderate Republicans, although at the time there were not considered moderate, but mainstream Republicans.

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  18. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    And then came the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered, GWB.

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  19. Paul says:

    Knuck, my youngest is reading the Harry Potter books there the bad guy is: “you know who”. Only a few people have the courage, or are foolish enough to say his name.

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  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    One of these days I’m going to sit down and read Harry Potter. Right after I finish watching all of the movies.

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  21. oa says:

    Reagan is going to win the election! He is our country’s Harry Potter, and has not really died.

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  22. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Harry Potter died!!!! Thanks for spoiling it for me OA.

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