Don’t Panic, People!

A lot of my liberal friends have been moaning and groaning over the last few days after President Obama’s lackluster debate performance last week. However, I’ve been telling them not to worry, at least not yet. In the last few decades, incumbant presidents have more times than not lost the first debate. Ronald Reagan had a poor performance against Walter Mondale in 1984. George Bush Sr. lost the first debate to Clinton. George Bush Jr. lost the first round to John Kerry in 2004. All of those candidates, other than Bush Sr., went on to win re-election.

Furthermore, the president was never a good debtor. He lost several of the debates to Hillary Clinton in 2008, and he lost the first debate to John McCain after securing the Democratic nomination. He is better at giving speeches, especially when he hasn’t debated in four years and his opponent went through a long, drawn-out primary season with a record number of debates.

Sure, Mitt Romney got a bit of a bounce from the first debate. However, President Obama is still ahead in the electoral count, and that’s what matters most.  Just about every electoral map has Obama ahead. Here is a sampling of the Huff Post’s map and The New York Times map, as two examples.

It was probably likely the race was going to tighten after the debate anyways. The president enjoyed a post-convention bounce and was pulling ahead. Romney is enjoying a slight post-debate bounce, but bounces fade after a week or two.

Meanwhile, if you want to get involved in the election, for either candidate, the offices always need help. I continually tell my friends that instead of posting political rants on Facebook, they should do phonebanking, canvassing, or voter registration.

Romney Gambles His Political Future on Paul Ryan

Late Friday night, word broke that Mitt Romney was going to pick Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan for join him on the ticket as VP. The decision was formally announced Saturday morning in Virgina, aboard the USS Wisconsin, which is a bit ironic since neither men have military experience.

Ryan should galvanize progressives to get out and vote for a number of reasons. The Congressman believes in a total Ayn Rand philosophy of the individual versus the collective and extreme limited government. Several articles about him point out that he used to make his staff read Rand.  He wants to turn Social Security and Medicare into a voucher system, basically privatizing it and ending it as we know it.His budget plan was even called “too radical” by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said it would lead to  “right-wing social engineering.” However, later Gingrich walked back those comments.  Ryan also draws the ire of the left because he’s had the support of the Koch-brothers for years in WI, and they helped him make his name by pumping money into his campaigns.

On the other side, Ryan will galvanize the fringe Tea Party wing of the GOP, though perhaps they’re not the fringe anymore, if Ryan is now sitting on the Romney ticket. The right has won, but in the end, it may sink the GOP’s chances to win the White House. Democrats and their SuperPACS have salavated at the chance to go after the Ryan budget in attack ads. Now they’ll have the chance, and the country will have a serious debate about the Ryan budget that nearly every Republican voted for in the House earlier this year.

For more about Ryan, I suggest reading this article that appeared recently in the New Yorker. To paraphrase the article’s author, Ryan Lizza, putting Ryan on the ticket is the riskiest move Romney could have made.

Yes, Obama Could Lose

In the most recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Maher offered an apt metaphor for the possibility that yes, Obama can lose the election. He admitted that the GOP has been ruining its brand as of late, due to the long primary battle and the fight over birth control and women’s reproductive rights, but Maher compared the GOP to a horror movie slasher that won’t die. First, the hand starts moving, and then the whole corpse  comes back to life. As Maher pointed out, the GOP will eventually ends its primary season, probably quite soon if Romney wins a majority of the states this Tuesday (a Super Tuesday race). Then, the party will coalesce around the nominee and work on defeating Obama. The Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires will pour millions into Super PACS to unseat the president.

Maher’s comments reminded me of friends who believe Obama will definitely win re-election.  As an Obama supporter and someone currently working with his campaign in Luzerene County, I have told friends time and time again that the president can indeed lose re-election. The GOP may be in disarray now, but they will unite to defeat him.

Even Paul Begala, a major Democratic strategist, wrote in his column in the new issue of Newsweek that this election may very well be a toss up. Begala points out that there are a few foreign policy factors that can upend the election. He cites the Iran nuclear issue and skyrocketing oil prices as two major factors, as well as uncertainty and possible conflict in Pakistan. He also envisions the GOP uniting once the primary season is over. He writes, “The GOP will unify. Where once their central organizing principle was opposing communism, now it is opposing Barack Obama. As long as he is on the ballot, the Republicans will be able to reunite. There is not much the White House can do about that. The reality is the GOP demolition derby will end soon enough, and the president will be in a neck-and-neck race all year.”

The Election is still about 8 months away, and in a lot of ways, it feels much more important than it did in 2008, due to all of the problems facing this country, including growing income inequality, high unemployment, and impending foreign policy issues. Months ago, Obama started laying the groundwork for his campaign. Even here in NEPA, an office has already opened in Scranton and one is set to open soon in Wilkes-Barre. The White House must know that the landscape this time will be different than it was in 2008 and nothing is certain, especially since the economy is still fragile and serious foreign policy challenges loom.

It makes the canvassing and voter registration drives all that more important.