Posted by: mutantpoodle | November 2, 2012

Why the confidence?

Atrios noted yesterday that late in 2004, those of us on the left thought John Kerry might win, but we weren’t thumping our chests. Or, as he put it:

In ’04 many of us online liberals were cautiously optimistic that Kerry would win. And there was good reason for that! He came pretty damn close, and given the circumstances at that time that was actually pretty remarkable. I certainly didn’t think Kerry was the perfect candidate (who is) or that they ran a perfect campaign (they didn’t) but it was still pretty impressive how close he came to winning.

But right now the conservative line is “ROMNEY’S GOING TO WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

He might. But there isn’t any reason to be confident of that.

So why are they (if they are, really)?  (For what it’s worth, Ohio looked better for Kerry that year, slightly, than it does for Romney this year. I’d note, too, that the late Real Clear Politics Ohio poll average in 2004 hit the final margin on the head.)

I think there are two possibilities. The first is that they’re not really that confident, but much better at faking it than battered liberals (who, you may recall, were having their patriotism questioned for opposing perhaps the stupidest war this country ever entered, although that title isn’t undisputed). This feeds into the “people vote for a winner” theory of politics (and undecided voters), and any notion that Obama is likely to win has to be beaten back with extreme prejudice.

My guess is that a lot of GOP political pros fall into this camp, because I may not agree with them, but they’re not that stupid.

But there’s a second group, and I sympathize with them, because I imagine their thought process is the mirror image of my qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) take on this election.

Which is, essentially, who in their right mind would vote for that guy?

That guy, for me, is Romney, for any number of reasons, but I’ll outsource to Jonathan Chait to save time:

…the reality remains that a vote for Romney is a vote for his party — a party that, by almost universal acclimation, utterly failed when last entrusted with governing. Romney may be brainier, more competent, and more mentally nimble than George W. Bush. But his party has, unbelievably, grown far more extreme in the years since Bush departed. Unbelievable though it may sound to those outside the conservative movement, conservative introspection into the Bush years has yielded the conclusion that the party erred only in its excessive compassion — it permitted too much social spending and, perhaps, cut taxes too much on the poor. Barely any points of contact remain between party doctrine and the consensus views of economists and other experts. The party has almost no capacity to respond to the conditions and problems that actually exist in the world.

Economists have coalesced around aggressive monetary easing in order to pump liquidity into a shocked market; Republicans have instead embraced the gold standard and warned incessantly of imminent inflation, undaunted by their total wrongness. In the face of a consensus for short-term fiscal stimulus, they have turned back to ancient Austrian doctrines and urged immediate spending cuts. In the face of rising global temperatures and a hardening scientific consensus on the role of carbon emissions, their energy plan is to dig up and burn every last molecule of coal and oil as rapidly as possible. Confronted by skyrocketing income inequality, they insist on cutting the top tax rate and slashing — to levels of around half — programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and children’s health insurance. They refuse to allow any tax increase to soften the depth of such cuts and the catastrophic social impact they would unleash.

The rest is good, as is his positive case for Obama.

But I digress.

That said, as fervently as I believe that anyone paying attention over the last twelve years, and certainly over the 18 months of Republican primaries, straw polls, and other assorted embarrassments wouldn’t trust Mitt Romney to pick up a quart of milk from the corner store, much less stewardship of a giant (if hobbled) economy, the chance to pick several new Supreme Court Justices, and control of a massive amount of military might which seems unencumbered by what people truly enamored of “original intent” might consider a minimum of a check or a balance, many Romney partisans live in a world where Barack Obama has turned us into a socialist, dependent, apologizing for America nation with death panels, and we’re 2 1/2 years away from turning into Cuba, fer chrissakes, or maybe Russia or Venezuela. It’s hard to keep track.

There are people who truly believe this, assisted, of course, by Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and a gaggle of right-wing talk radio back-benchers who serve the same meal up virtually every day. To them, the notion that any good American who has been paying attention could conceivably vote for the Kenyan Muslim who is soiling the White House is inconceivable, and while they know that there are a small cadre of elitist liberals who are beyond hope, a majority of regular, God-fearing Americans must be on to the Obama con.

So polls that show the opposite can’t be right.

These are the same people who think Obama monkeyed with the BLS statistics, because things can’t be getting better, and they’re the people who will be sure, should Obama get re-elected, that if only they’d cracked down on the millions of illegals who voted, Romney would have won this thing.

They are, in short, living in right-wing fantasyland.

In 2004, I thought that anyone who had been paying attention would vote Bush out, even against a mediocre opponent. But I knew that a) most people weren’t really paying attention, and b) quite a few of them had been scared by a none-too-subtle “vote for Kerry is a vote for al qaeda” campaign.

My counterparts, this year, must assume that everyone watches Fox News.

I mean, if you get your information from Dick Morris and this guy, Romney’s got it in the bag.

[Graphs via Five Thirty Eight.]

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