Beltway Confidential

UPDATED! Romney will win because it's 1984 all over again

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Beltway Confidential,Mark Tapscott

(Author's Note: The following has been revised from the original version of this post, which was based on my mistaken reading of the Reston quote as referring to the Carter-Reagan race of 1980 instead of the Reagan-Mondale contest of 1984. As it happens, I think the 1984 election is at least as relevant to the 2012 race as that of 1980. True, Obama has not had to deal with continuous criticism from the major mainstream media outlets as did Reagan in 1984, but Reston's essential point about an electorate ignoring such critics stands as equally apt. My apologies for the mis-reading of the original quote.)

Can you guess which highly esteemed member of the Fourth Branch wrote the following quote and to which president he was referring?

"Among the losers in this presidential election campaign you will have to include the nosy scribblers of the press. Not since the days of H. L. Mencken have so many reporters written so much or so well about the shortcomings of the president and influenced so few voters. [Mr. X] beat the newspapers by ignoring them. From his nomination ... to election weekend, he has not held a single national news conference. He gave one or two interviews to sympathetic writers and allowed a few small-time high school and college audiences to toss him some questions, but he dismissed the White House press corps with a wave and a smile."

If you know who wrote those words and who he was talking about, you probably won't have much difficulty understanding my prediction about Tuesday: Romney wins 53-47, thanks mainly to his Rope-A-Dope strategy and an immense enthusiam advantage.

The author above was James Reston of the New York Times. He was talking about how Ronald Reagan's landslide victory against former Vice-President Walter Mondale came about in 1984.  Credit for remembering that Reston gem today goes to Michael Ledeen, writing on PJ Media. He wonders who will be the Reston confessor of the 2012 presidential campaign.

I see another landslide coming tomorrow for two reasons. First, it has been mystifying to watch as pollster after pollster has assumed a 2008 turnout model, or variations thereof, with a result that their weighting has assumed Democrat advantages of seven or more points throughout the post-Labor Day campaign.

But 2008 was virtually a perfect-storm election for the Democrats, energized by disgust with a politically exhausted Republican incumbent and momentum from the 2006 congressional wave election combining with a presidential nominee who captured much of the nation's imagination and generated a turnout to match.

But in a mere two years, Obama threw those advantages away and lost the House (and some would argue very nearly lost the Senate, too) as the Tea Party movement fueled a massive upsurge in conservative and GOP motivation and enthusiasm.

Nothing has happened to prevent that 2010 turnout model from being vastly more relevant to the 2012 election than the 2008 turnout model. Yet the pollsters insist on using 2008. Yes, presidential and congressional elections are different, but where's the evidence that the electorate has reverted to a 2008 mindset?

That means the polls have been underestimating Romney for months. But so did the Obama campaign. Romney knew going into the 2012 campaign that whoever was the GOP nominee, he or she would be the target of an unceasingly intense negative Chicago Way campaign.

And that's exactly what the Obama campaign did, spending hundreds of millions of dollars throwing an endless barrage of negative advertising punches over the summer months and into September trying to define Romney in the worst possible terms.

By the time the first debate rolled around, Obama had succeeded in creating an image of Romney as the out-of-touch rich guy whose only goal was to cut taxes to make himself and his wealthy friends even richer.

But Romney's sterling performance blew that image away on the debate stage in Denver, helped by the diffident Obama who appeared exhausted and distracted. That's what happens when you're being Rope-A-Doped.

The Denver debate restored the enthusiasm and energy of the 2010 Tea Party electorate. And just as the Democrats surged into power by riding the wave in 2006 and 2008, it appears today that the Republicans are going to do something very similar tomorrow.

For the record, I won't be surprised if come Wednesday the Senate is 51-49 Democrat or 50-50. But I also won't be surprised if it is 52-48 Republican. The House will remain essentially as it is, with perhaps a 2-3 seat GOP gain.

If I am proved wrong, just remember, I'm an amatuer when it comes to politics. The good news is that whether Obama or Romney is chosen by voters tomorrow, I can guarantee you Washington will continue to be a target-rich environment for enterprising reporters and editors. I can't wait for Wednesday to get here!

UPDATE: When the number-crunching stops, the reporting begins

That headline is an old saw among data journalists. You can crunch numbers all day, every day, for weeks on end, and you will find lots of angles and leads for stories.

But at some point, you have to go do the reporting. And sometimes what turns up in the course of the reporting makes you doubt the numbers in front of you.

Peggy Noonan makes a similar point today in her Wall Street Journal column about the presidential race, asking "is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re not really noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us? Maybe that’s the real distortion of the polls this year: They left us discounting the world around us."

Even if you don't agree with her, take the time to read Noonan's column. She's at her best when describing tone and temper, and the vignettes she offers from the last several days of the Romney campaign are telling.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

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