Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Obama's team: Spinning the path to winning

By Richard K. Barry

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post has a fascinating piece listing the reasons the Obama campaign is cautiously optimistic about its chances in November.

At the top of the list is this:

Romney cannot win over true undecided voters in the lopsided numbers he needs if he remains two to three points behind in the key battleground states.

People who pay close attention to politics understand that the numbers that really matter in presidential elections are the state-by-state numbers, and this is where Obama's team is feeling pretty good:

According to Nate Silver's projections, Obama has at least a three point lead in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and Wisconsin, and nearly as big a lead in Virginia. The Obama team believes it holds leads in these battlegrounds; Dems think Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota are out of Romney's reach.

Beside being ahead in these key battleground states, the Obama team seems convinced they know who the undecided voters are and what motivates them and don't think they will go to Romney in sufficient numbers to overcome the two or three point deficit in key battleground states.

Sargent recounts this exchange with David Plouffe, senior Obama advisor:

"The question is, Is Romney going to get enough of the undecided vote to overcome a two or three point deficit in the battle ground states?" Plouffe told me. "Most assuredly not."

A related point that the Obama campaign is making is that there are fewer than three million undecided voters in battleground states who will decide the outcome:

Dems think they are disproportionately made up of independent women and college educated men under 40 who are also independents — two groups that simply won't break towards Romney in overwhelming numbers, given the Dem campaign's emphasis on women's issues, and core differences between the two candidates over issues that matter to college educated voters.

Another point is that Democrats think they have neutralized the attacks based on the lie that Obama wants to do away with the work requirement for welfare. Basically, their argument is that they don't think voters will ultimately believe it. I'm afraid I have to say that's a pretty weak argument.

On that point, Steve Benen has noted that the welfare attack ads and references in Republican campaign speeches have virtually disappeared. He postulates that, given the fact that they are based on a lie and are clearly racially charged, the Romney campaign may have decided they were too dangerous to continue. We'll see about that.

Finally, on the Sargent piece, he closes by drawing attention to a few other factors that may aid the Democratic cause:

This is only a partial list: Dems believe Romney will fail to significantly narrow the gender gap or reverse his historic deficit among Latinos, particularly with a Dem convention focused so heavily on those groups. Dems also believe Romney failed at his convention to articulate a clear case for what he would do for the middle class — a major error.

Many of these arguments seem plausible enough, though I do wonder why they are laying this out for reporters. They wouldn't be talking like this unless they thought it helped them in some way. Could it be that they are trying to appeal to the reasonableness of independent voters in these swing states, who they are hoping will swoop in at the last moment and save the day?

Whatever the reason, this is not chit-chat on the part of Obama's team just to pass the time.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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