Not a horse race, it’s a decathlon.


Before I start: I didn’t watch the debate live last night. I was out. Not out of hand, just out of the house. Watching them before this post, I can see that Romney did well in that he defended his candidacy with vigor and Obama wasn’t crisp or succinct about his successes or his plan for a potential Obama 2nd term. His closing statement itself was under inspiring. Romney’s was as up as he was earlier in the debate. Chalk it up as an “L” for the President. But that is if you judge a debate as a singular event. It’s not. But almost everyone in punditry is judging debates (as usual) sees them as a singular earth moving event.

Debate reaction In Liberal sky is falling on too professorial Obama land (pundits, pols and politics people)

I don’t think Obama even wants this! He is so weak. This is just like him, he always caves. It’s over. Obama/Biden are doing well right now. They are running the country and campaigning. They do more campaign stops than Romney. Romney was defined by Obama’s campaign and not by his own messaging. On top of this, this sounds like a whiny analog to John Sununu’s snide Obama is “lazy” slur. Say that sh*t and realize what you are really saying. It’s not a substantive criticism or even sensical. Has Obama caved on certain things? Taken advantage of some executive powers? Been hypocritical when push came to shove on some issue? Sure. Sometimes legislated against his base? Yes. So has [insert any fucking American president here]!

Let’s just go through some disappointments from the last few Democratic presidents: FDR and Japanese Internment and Social Security Act’s exclusion of minorities? JFK/LBJ and Vietnam? LBJ literally passed civil rights and threw up his hands. Jimmy Carter’s lasting domestic success was bring open religiosity to the oval office. Bill Clinton’s far right financial reform and welfare reform.

Yea. So I agree. Drone war and Drug War really, really suck. We need to get out of Afghanistan faster (even though he promised to prosecute that war in his 2008 campaign). I don’t like the “grand bargain” including social security. I don’t like that some stupid edited tape was enough to make one of his cabinet secretaries fire a hero like Shirley Sherrod. I think Dodd-Frank could have had more financial reform or established a more independent CFPB, I think medicare for all plus optional private supplemental insurance would be the best system. I also think he has done a lot. He has passed a surprising amount of legislation of considerable heft, nominated two liberal Democratic women to the US Supreme Court and he is an affirming executive of our federal government which means FEMA actually works. The EPA actually does things. No president was a saint. It’s not the job description. Stop expecting a liberal unicorn president. They didn’t exist on the West Wing or in real life.

If you want to vote for someone else, then just say the truth: I didn’t realize what the Democratic party was, I had an a-historical view of the modern American presidency and Democratic politics, I am a socialist/green/communist whatever and go do that. But also remember, that position is the position that you should also be cool with Romney f8cking up for 4 years and then seeing if we can pick up the pieces afterwards.

In Republican Obama is Secret [insert wild archetype here] dependent on teleprompter affirmative action Land (pundits, pols and political people)

Obama doesn’t want this! He is so weak. This is just like him, he is only here because of affirmative action. These people believe Obama failed his way to the head of Harvard Law Review. Obama has never been challenged to his face by anyone to his face! Nevermind campaign 2008: the longest campaign and primary in presidential history, “you lie”, Daily Caller reporter, Bill O’Reilly, nomination blocking, the health care summit with congressional Republicans, he’s isolated (even though he has been hitting the campaign much harder than Mitt Romney).

In the Magical guild of the Practitioners of Horse Racery

The horse won the Derby, now can they win the triple crown? The campaign get’s covered like the triple crown of horse racing. For all season they look at candidates like horses. They look at them as political specimens, not actual politicians. So instead of scoring policies, they would rather walk down to the stables look at a horses haunches, talk to the jockey to see how the horse has been practicing, and ask a horse analyst to determine the horses’ psychologies from afar (They look Presidential. Their campaign manager says we should think everything is great. You can just feel how confident he is debating, this is where this candidate belongs) A collection of three horse races that each matter and the biggest, most important race is smack dab in the middle. After a season of horse racing, it’s The Kentucky Derby! Then Preakness! Then Bellmont staaaaaakes! Then who is the winner? Each race has a winner that is always remembered. Each race is a big deal. Only rarely does a horse win all three! And they’re off! The pomp, the circumstance, the horse shit.

McCain steamrolled the GOP primary while Obama and Hillary had a classic knock down, no corner of every state and territory unturned primary. Hillary Clinton performed well in many of the debates vs. Obama. Do you remember how Obama got Iowa? GROUND. GAME. Wearing out shoes and pressing flesh. People fretted that maybe Hawaiian Barry or Inevitable Hillary would be too tired after such a long, tough race to compete against the war horse John Sydney. Nope. There is no jockey riding candidates beyond when they would normally stop so that they win a race. The campaign follows their lead and command. They are the competitor and the raw talent. A candidate has to build his campaign to use a primary to be able to play the way they want in the later rounds of the tourney.

In the Halls of the Association of Color Analysts of the Political Football League

Did the hail mary work? Don’t know! Now let’s toss out some superlatives no one deserves: Best debate since Reagan. Worst performance since ever. See you after commercial! Romney drops back on the debate stage, he’s running the old “trickle down government” trick play…touchdown, Romney is back in the game! He ain’t Eli Manning with a 9-7 marching into opposing stadiums while leading his team to a championship. Obama is not the Patriots, killing the rest of the league and then losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. No. The debate is not a Super Bowl. It’s not a Bowl Game.

None of these reactions or analogistic views really address a campaign’s dynamic.

The campaign is like a big, long tournament full of different events. Like the Olympic Decathlon or modern Pentathlon any “-athlon”, ok. Two Americans Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee dominated and finished Gold and Silver in London 2012. They literally ran the 1500m race at a pace finishing 8th and 11th respectively. Why? They already had enough points to win, they just had to finish strong.

You can’t win with one event, you have to run every event to win, but then you have to . Even with a dominating first events, they still gotta get the most points and compete. It’s best 270 out of 538. These two players (Romney and Obama) will be here until the end of the contest and the final score is after someone gets to best of 270.

The primaries are the early rounds of the tourney. It establishes your ranking, qualifies you for the big decathlon. Then you have to go through every state again. What we do know, Obama is winning blue states handily and is making Romney defend red states.

The “events” are:

  • Staged political speeches: announcement speech, concession and victory speeches and speeches in front of constituency interest groups (NAACP, NALEO, AARP, AFL-CIO, CPAC, etc)
  • Conventions
  • Staged social events: candidates on the view, a late night show, giving a video cameo at a conference
  • Political Service: previous political service as another game in a set: performance in office and your ability to present/defend your record.
  • Debates political public event set: debates (primary and general) and prime time interviews.
  • Running Mate choosing your running mate
  • Policy: policy and position papers
  • Message: political messaging, advertising and marketing
  • Cool in a Crisis: response to a real political crisis in real time
  • Off the Cuff/On Camera: off the cuff comment, surreptitiously recorded or transcribed comments and the response of the candidate
  • Organization: campaign ground game and organization as another
  • Surrogacy: surrogate quality
  • Cash Money: fundraising

These events all have different strategies and different winners, but they all matter together and as someone pulls ahead, it becomes to score one big event to change that trajectory. The debates aren’t a singular event that change that paradigm. They fit into that paradigm.

They are part of a continuum. A long thread affected by what happened before and after. It’s not a thing where everything after hinges only on the debate or Romney’s demeanor. Romney was aggressive because he is behind. Far behind. Overly so I would argue. His campaign staff surely has been telling him he has to run the table. Obama wasn’t aggressive because he has to see what the guy about to lose another event is going to do as a last ditch effort. The only problem is that he eased up too much. The problem for Mitt Romney is that history usually shows it’s too late too little.

John Kerry did very well in 2004, but they didn’t change the trajectory of the debate. Already defined as a flip flopper (by Rove) and defamed (by Swift Boat Vets PAC) he was just further arguing the flop. When Mitt Romney says: I’m going to cut funding for PBS and Big Bird and Jim Lehrer and everything PBS will both be fired, what does someone who works on a PBS show think? What does the auto or factory worker in OH or MI think about Romney after hearing him be so excited about cutting funding for Sesame Street and PBS programming? I don’t think that makes them think that Romney is excited about helping the middle class. I think they think about Romney cutting jobs. Ohio is key to Republican Presidential candidates and the current polls show Romney as a guy who people believe doesn’t worry about the working or middle class. “Let Detroit Bankrupt”, “I like to fire people”, pioneer of outsourcing, the 47%. In addition, there can be deductions for saying contradictory things in the debate. In ads, campaigning and subsequent debates, Romney has to defend some of these claims in front of 58m people. I would bet Obama will have a more pointed prepared strategy.

Scarborough and friends are on my TV now saying Obama lost every debate in primary 08 to Dodd, Biden and Clinton and yet he was still president in January 2009.