TPM Reader DS wonders whether we’re still underestimating the impact of “the 47%” …
Looking at TPM’s really nice “state of the race” chart, it seems to me that it is Romney’s numbers that are falling fast rather than additional gains by Obama (although there may be some of that too). Running the cursor on the chart seems to suggest so, as it appears that Obama’s numbers had come down slightly after peaking on Sept 13 and Romney’s had flattened out around the same time, until David Corn’s Mother Jones piece came out on Sept 17, and then Romney’s numbers started to go down fast.
Is it possible that the conventional wisdom has not quite fully grasped the damage — perhaps irreparable, barring a huge event — that Romney’s “47%” comment did to his campaign? The internals of the latest WaPO/ABC and QPAC/NYT/CBS polls paint a picture that should be dispiriting to the Romney camp, which is already in denial, about how the candidate is now being perceived, even among his strongest group of supporters — the seniors. Could it be that The Comment has finally crystallized in the voters’ minds what they had suspected all along about Romney but simply could not put their finger on?
As I noted in my personal response to DS, I think this is basically right.
My take is that Romney came out of the conventions reeling. He then seriously hurt himself with his rash response to the Libya attacks. An unforced error of immense magnitude. Then 47% basically sent him down for the count. So, bad convention, self-inflicted wound, devastating revelation — in a rapid-fire three weeks, right when people were really starting to pay attention.
As I said when the story first broke (peeling aside all my teeth-gnashing and immense publisher envy), I thought the story was “devastating” and probably that rare story where the press actually understates the magnitude of the damage. I still do.
You can read into the totality of the last 18 months and the poll numbers that have tracked them that the general public had real doubts about Mitt Romney, what his priorities were, what he really believed and so forth. These of course were counter-balanced by deep discontent with the state of the economy. Against this kindling of doubt, Democrats painted a picture of Romney as an out-of-touch centi-millionaire, who played every rigged angle of the current system and had some mix of contempt and indifference for the lives of ordinary working and middle class families. Then those 47% comments came along and it turned out that cartoon caricature Mitt Romney was actually real Mitt Romney.
I suspect that’s when he definitively lost the race.
There are six weeks to go, lots of money still being spent, debates to be held and unpredictable events to unfold. We can’t know the outcome. But at some point it becomes dishonest to pretend the outcome isn’t becoming pretty clear simply because of our instinctive fear of getting egg on our faces. For reasons bigwig reporters probably are not entirely able to grasp, I think 47% was devastating, a blow that sent Romney down for the count.
I suspect this will be obvious when we look back in eight weeks.