This was Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to the bad poll numbers that came in yesterday:
Sullivan is a self confessed drama queen, but this really is taking it too far. He writes:
Look: I’m trying to rally some morale, but I’ve never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week – throw away almost every single advantage he had with voters and manage to enable his opponent to seem as if he cares about the middle class as much as Obama does. How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement?……Maybe if Romney can turn this whole campaign around in 90 minutes, Obama can now do the same. But I doubt it. A sitting president does not recover from being obliterated on substance, style and likability in the first debate and get much of a chance to come back. He has, at a critical moment, deeply depressed his base and his supporters and independents are flocking to Romney in droves.
I’m not sure whether Sullivan really does think Obama has blown the entire election because he looked bored at the debate, or he’s sending a plea for help directly to Obama to get his act together. The President is known to read Andrew Sullivan’s blog, so there’s a good chance Sullivan is being over dramatic in order to get his attention.
However, I don’t think this type of public panic from Sullivan is helpful. Sure, Obama looked pretty bad in the debate and Romney looked pretty good, but so what? It was one debate on one night with one week of decent polling numbers for Romney. It’s way too early to assess the long term effect of the debate, the good jobs numbers that came out on Monday and Romney’s brand new persona he’s rolled out 4 weeks before voters go to the booths.
The more panic that is spread the more excited the Republicans get and the better the chance they have of winning. Sullivan may think he’s being helpful here, but he’s only adding to the chaos of an enormously complicated process that requires level headedness and strategy rather than wild swinging instinctiveness.
I certainly think that the poll numbers should alarm the Obama campaign, and a strong performance from Joe Biden in his debate against Paul Ryan this Thursday is an absolute necessity. But Obama has most certainly not thrown ‘the entire election away’ as Sullivan believes he may have.
Nate Silver, who is generally regard as the authority on polls and how to interpret them warns against taking one or two polls from a specific day too seriously:
It’s one thing to give a poll a lot of weight, and another to become so enthralled with it that you dismiss all other evidence. If you can trust yourself to take the polls in stride, then I would encourage you to do so. If your impression of the race is changing radically every few minutes, however, then you’re best off looking at the forecasts and projections that we and ourcompetitors publish, along with Vegas betting lines and prediction markets.
I worked as a boxing journalist for several years so understand exactly how accurate Vegas betting lines are when it comes to picking fights. To correctly pick a fight, you have to be able to match intricate styles, have a detailed understanding of the history of the fighter, the trainer he has, the type of training camp he’s had, who he has been sparring with, what weight the fight is taking place at, the size and brand of the glove, the size of the ring, the location etc etc. It is an intricate art that requires an understanding of many different and seemingly unrelated events that can often interplay and change the odds of a fight. It is sometimes incredibly difficult task, but Vegas odds are almost entirely correct. And if they can accurately assess odds in a sport as unpredictable as boxing, a Presidential election is pretty easy to figure out. The information available to Vegas bookies is astonishing – they have multiple national and local polls, decades of history, inside info on candidates, their team, their strategy, detailed demographics by age, race, gender etc etc. And as it stands, Obama is still the favorite.
Maybe it’s time for Andrew to take a break from the 24/7 Presidential election blogging cycle. It looks like it’s getting a bit much for him.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.