It is cute the way we’re all having a good laugh at Sully’s expense… though I have to admit I think some of the commentary has a bit of an ugly subtext to it, namely that he’s just a hysterical old queen or something. But be that as it may….
I don’t think Obama lost the election last week. But the simply truth is, he got trounced. What looked to be an easy victory is now very, very close, and no amount of spinning the daily trackers — “yeah, the news is bad, but if you slice the numbers just right, you can spot an Obama bounce” — or silly blame the pundits rhetoric — “Obama didn’t lose, it was just the pundits who declare him the loser” — is gonna fly.
Now, why did he get trounced? And why is it so hard for us to acknowledge it? Well, answering the second question first, we don’t realize it because we’re largely high-information voters here. We know Romney was being deceitful. We know he was evasive. We know he was, basically, lying his ass off. So he came off looking bad… to us.
But most of the 70 million people who watched the debate don’t know Dodd-Frank from Frank and Beans. To them, he came off good, really good. He denied Obama’s claims, accused Obama of all sorts of stuff, and Obama just basically shrugged and said, “ok, ok, whatever dude.” He didn’t engage. He didn’t rebut. I am saying it would have been easy to do so and remain presidential, but regardless, it is what it is, and the polls are clear. This was a game changer, easily the most important turning point in the race thus far. Obama is still ahead, and is likely to rebound some, but it does us no good to deny the damage or seek to spin polls or blame pundits for the result. If we want to claim we’re the “reality based community,” let’s live it. And being in the reality based community means we recognize that Romney made tremendous gains based on his performance.
Now, as to why Obama got trounced. It finally occurred to me that we’ve finally seen what Romney is good at. Romney is not real smart. He’s not well organized. He’s not particularly disciplined or capable of solid personnel choices. But he’s a world-class salesman. Other folks have noted that, but I want to explore it further.
I know a few salesman from various contexts. And here is what they have going for them: They have an unshakeable self-confidence. And they are a weird blend of seducers and bulliers that is at once repugnant and yet hard to resist. Salesman are the sources of our worst regrets. That stupid time share in Orlando. That office affair when hubby wasn’t being attentive enough. The extra warranty. They undercoating.
People hate salesmen, and yet, there is something about their oily charm, their persistence, their willingness to say anything to “make the sale” that makes them very effective. It is a mistake to pretend otherwise, to assume that Romney’s obvious smarminess will catch up with him. It may indeed, but it may not until the nation is well into the buyer’s remorse phase of Romney’s first term.
That’s what we’re up against folks, and pretending that nothing bad happened isn’t gonna help. And I know this isn’t what Obama likes to do, but he’s gonna need to unleash his inner salesman over the next few weeks. Otherwise, the momentum shift we saw this past week is going to go from annoying to dangerous in hurry. I’d like to say that if we just give enough and knock on enough doors, we can win it, but we’re going to need a little more help from the big cheese himself to make this work. In the final analysis, I’m not sure Obama can win if his supporters want it more than he does (or seems to).