The Green Papers Commentary

Looking back at this whole "Month of Debates"
before looking ahead to Election Day itself

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

by Richard E. Berg-Andersson Staff

As I type this, it is now just about two weeks until General Election Day here in the United States of America-- and it can't come soon enough now!

I don't know about you, gentle reader, but I find that-once the final Presidential Debate has been held- there seems nothing left but the anticipation for what the result of the Election actually will be. I don't really feel this way about the Midterm Elections (The Green Papers has now covered three of these) or the Off-Year (in odd-numbered years) Elections (six so far during the online lifespan of this website)-- perhaps because there is a long enough gap between the last set of Primaries (even as regards the Midterms, where this "gap" is not much more than a month and a half in length) or, maybe, simply because the attention on all these non-Presidential Elections is divided between so many more local races (whereas- come Presidential Election years [this being the fourth now with which The Green Papers has dealt] and even with races for some State Governorships, one-third of the United States Senate seats and the entire Federal House of Representatives- the General Election campaign is so intensely focused on the race for the White House: perhaps, then, it is merely the sheer number of events related to the whole presidential nominating and electing process itself [week after week of Presidential Primaries and Caucuses, often on dates not directly connected to those re: later (the more usual) State Primaries; the Major Party National Conventions; the Presidential (and one Vice-Presidential) Debates] that causes one- once these events are, finally, all over and done with, but with Election Day yet to come- to think 'All right, enough already!')...

in any event, there comes a point- in the last weeks and days before the General Election per se of a U.S. Presidential Election year- when it seems that one, very much like a marathoner, "hits the wall" while we all wait to see just which of those actually running in this Presidential Election "marathon" itself crosses the Finish Line first!

Also, as I type this, we are just about three weeks removed from the First Presidential Debate that kicked off what I- back on that very day of 3 October- termed "This Month of Debates" and it might be wise to now take at least a little time to review just where we have come since I first typed out that piece.

I started off that piece with two quotes: one from then-future President Woodrow Wilson (from his own historical overview of Politics and Government, The State) discussing "the question: What are the proper objects of Government? This is one of those difficult questions upon which it is possible for many sharply opposed views to be held with almost equal weight of reason" (and we have certainly seen this throughout this "Month of Debates"-- even where Reason has been fairly thrown out the window by 'the Politics of Road Rage' on both sides!); the other from Karl Marx noting that "Men make their own history... under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past" (and it can be fairly argued we have also seen this very thing come into play during the course of these Debates!)

As with my handling of the National Conventions for this website, I came to all four of these Debates from the perspective of just one "John Q. Citizen" observing each Debate in light of what I have honestly perceived the average "bell curve" independently-minded voter of the "sensible Center" (the very kind of voter both the Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan campaigns have had to try and attract to their respective sides in order to, ultimately, win this Presidential Election)-- but I also tried my best to never ever lose sight of the most obvious reality that "winning" or "losing" a Debate is not, in and of itself, at all equivalent to winning or losing the Presidential Election itself.

Going into the First Presidential Debate, the Center was generally trending towards Obama/Biden. President Obama had managed to avoid a serious challenge from the Left for his re-nomination, while- as I've said elsewhere- Governor Romney had to tack more to the Right during his own campaign for the GOP nomination (and, indeed, chose- as his running mate- a person who has much conservative "street cred") before moving back towards appealing more to this Center. Doubtless, Romney so swinging from Right of Center to at least closer to the Center did not appeal all that much to the very voter I have described above (on the assumption that there was, indeed, much truth in that which Independent Governor of [and former Republican U.S. Senator from] Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee said during the first day of this year's Democratic National Convention)... in short: Mitt Romney had to show, during the First Presidential Debate, Chafee's "broad Center in which most Americans live" that he was still worth a listen by those within it (that is: Romney had to display that which allowed him to be elected Governor of an otherwise liberal State bordering Chafee's own Rhode Island while, at the same time, not much harming his own political relationship with a more conservative Republican base-- all while exuding a "presidential" air!).

Hence, that First Debate, in which Romney- indeed- did what he had to do: he stated his own case well (as he had during his Acceptance Speech before the Republican National Convention) and made clear where he thought the Obama Administration had gone wrong without being overly confrontational (thus, "presidential"). President Obama, too, stated his case well (as he himself had done at his own Party's National Convention)-- the problem seems to have been that he treated this Debate as something of a university lecture: he was more intent on making his points instead of engaging Romney whenever the GOP standard-bearer either criticized him or brought up negative statistics (something rather easy to do at the time when it came to Matters Economic); Romney was, thus, able to hammer Obama's record to which the President didn't begin to effectively respond until the end of that Debate (too little, too late: rather much like a Baseball team down 8-0 in the early innings, then scoring 7 runs in the late innings only to have ended up losing 9-7).

Yes, President Obama "lost" that Debate-- but I didn't think he "lost" it as badly as was generally said in the popular media the morning after! Still, this does mean that (as I myself had scored it) Governor Romney did "win" that First Debate and with definite ramifications for the remaining course of Debates.

I'm not the biggest fan of polls... or, perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that I am not a big fan of the ways polls all too often seem to be (mis)used during the course of an election campaign. Polls do have their place: we at The Green Papers use polling data in order to determine which races we will be dealing with come Election Night might, more likely, be easier to "call" than others (where not even "no-brainers", such as where, say, a Republican incumbent Congressman is running for re-election in a Congressional District which the Democrats had not won in more than a generation) which, in turn, saves us much time- considering the sheer volume of election results with which we are so dealing... but this is the application of polling data to specific purpose!

But I very much dislike the notion that polls are "snapshots of the electorate" (if so, they are snapshots with a rather long 'exposure time' [and will I now have to explain this analogy to those reading this who might not remember a time without digital photography?]) almost as much as I positively disdain the very phrase "If the election were held today,..." (well, guess what!-- the election isn't being held today, is it?). Nonetheless, my own reading of the various and sundry polls showing the race for President "tightening up" in the wake of that First Debate showed me that- whereas the "broad Center" seemed to be more for President Obama in the immediate aftermath of the National Conventions- it was now giving Governor Romney his due... more 'maybe Mitt Romney ain't al that bad a choice after all' than an outright commitment to actually vote for Romney, however!

The Vice-Presidential Debate showed where there might well be "holes" in this notion- though more in the realm of Foreign Policy than on the Economy, to be sure (and the Economy, of course, remained the dominant Issue of the Day), yet "holes" enough to well foreshadow Mitt Romney's own particularly poor handling of the one question on Foreign Policy during the Second Presidential Debate (on the Obama Administration's handling of the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya and its aftermath)...

but there were also "holes" in how Romney dealt with the overriding Economic Issues in that Second Debate as well: for example, when dealing with a question on how Romney intended to handle reductions in the number of allowable tax deductions (what I jokingly called Romney's "Bucket O' Deductions"- the humorous "play" on something out of a chain of fast-food chicken restaurants was my own, but the analogy itself was Romney's [for it was he who talked about "filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions"!]), he- during his explanation of it- said "in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be, say, everybody gets- I'll pick a number- $25,000 of deductions and credits and you can decide which ones to use"... "I'll pick a number"-- meaning that the Republican candidate was presenting a tax deduction without any specific number in mind!... likewise, Romney did not all that well respond to a question asking him to differentiate himself from President George W. Bush (something that concerns many within the "broad Center").

Thus, coming out of this Second Debate (which President Obama "won"- but, then again, Obama almost certainly had to win it, despite Vice President Biden having "run interference" for him in his own Debate with Congressman Ryan the week before), Governor Romney had been unable to really build upon that which he had gained within the "sensible Center" as a result of his good showing in the First Debate... no, the Republican standard-bearer hadn't lost the Center's ear- the Center was still willing to listen (which suggested that President Obama was certainly having his own problems with the Center!), just not enough to begin more trending towards Romney in the same manner in which it had been more trending towards Obama before the First Debate itself.

So we now had the Third (and Final) Presidential Debate:

For his part, President Obama did what he had to do (indeed, did the best that he could have done, per my own Scoring) and, thereby, "won" this Debate. As for Governor Romney, he- seemingly strangely as I watched this Debate unfold- held back, more often agreeing with the President's Foreign Policy (where the Republican standard-bearer did disagree- that is, until the Final of the 6 'Rounds' [the one Round I had him "winning"]- he was most platitudinous: telling people what he wanted to achieve without saying very much at all as to just how he would go about it, thereby playing into the Obama/Biden charge that Romney/Ryan would not do anything differently should that National Ticket be elected).

This happened to have been the sixteenth Presidential or Vice-Presidential Debate I have scored for The Green Papers (yes, indeed, count 'em-- 16!) and- in all cases (going back to 2000)- I always turn off the TV once the Debate is over so as not to be at all influenced by what the Punditry "out there"- whatever the ideological or political bias or other interest of the individuals therein- might be saying about the Debate in question...

indeed, I watch no televised news feeds and read nothing at all- either in print or on the Internet- until I have already done up my own write-up of a given Debate and have then sent it along for posting on The Green Papers: in this way, you- the reader- can be most assured that my own opinions (for that's all they really are- opinions [no better, but no worse, than anyone else's]: scoring these Debates being, rather obviously, ever a subjective endeavor!) as to who might have "won" and who might have "lost" (and by just how much!) each 'Round'- as well as each Debate as a whole- are solely my own: to here, once again, quote that which I wrote back on 1 September of this year (in between the two Major Party National Conventions): I'm my own man! Sometimes, in my writings for (or even my posting of rather dreary data on) this website, I- indeed- march to Henry David Thoreau's proverbial "beat of a different drummer"; at other times, however, I might well be found marching in step with the "crowd" (whatever the crowd of moment might be)... but know this, dear reader: it is always my drum!

And it is no less "my drum" in my own Commentaries about these Debates!

But, yes, once my own piece had been posted, I then (as I pretty much always do "the morning after") took the time to "channel-surf" across the range of news and information systems available to me via my wired television provider (no, I do not have a satellite dish)- both national and worldwide, as well as local here in the Metro New York/Tri-State area in which I live (and even some foreign sources of TV news in English) and- in so doing- came across all sorts of speculation as to just why Governor Romney handled this Final Debate in the way that he did:

there was, for instance, talk that- perhaps anticipating arguments (not necessarily those made by the President himself during this Debate but, certainly, by many a voter and pundit "out there") that the Romney/Ryan ticket had been engaged in warmongering or at least that 'Jingoism' I myself touched upon in my own "Preview" (as it were) of this Final Debate- Romney tried his utmost to present himself as the proverbial "man of peace"... this may, in fact, well explain Romney's own pushing of a solution to Islamic Jihadism put forth by a United Nations-organized confab of Arab scholars (when this very United Nations, as such, does not have all that many "fans" amongst the conservative Republican base which- by very definition- must form the very core of Romney's support going into the upcoming Presidential Election [indeed, in the immediately following 'Round' of this same Debate, Governor Romney- re: the civil war in Syria- decried "the President saying 'well, we'll let the UN deal with it' "! Such a thing only seems to put the proverbial 'exclamation point' to President Obama's own charge that Governor Romney's Foreign Policy positions are, indeed, "all over the map".])...

other opinions included the notion that, somehow, Romney was all 'Deer in the Headlights' as a result of his colossal tactical blunder in dealing with the only Foreign Policy-related question during the Second Presidential Debate and, as a result, hung back quite a bit; still more opinions I either saw or read suggested that this was, indeed, Romney's last chance to appear "presidential" while sharing the stage - one last time- with an incumbent President and nothing more.

I myself have- and so obviously- no idea why Governor Romney approached this Final Presidential Debate in the manner in which he did... nor, frankly, do I really all that much care!

I merely try and score these Debates on what the candidates said - not on how they said them or how they might have otherwise performed (and- by the way [an e-mailer recently asked me about this]- I score each Round of the Debate in real time: as the next question signalling the beginning of a new Round is being asked by the moderator {or an ordinary voter in the course of the "Town Meeting" style Debate), I immediately write down my score re: the just concluded Round [which is then "locked in", never ever to be changed] along with some quick "bullet points" as to just why I so scored it [throughout the wee hours of the morning in my own Time Zone, I "fill out" my reasoning as well as make sure my edited transcription of the proceedings is as accurate as possible]-- in fact, I don't even add up the Round-by-Round scores in order to get the so-called "Final Score" until I have completed my write-ups of all Rounds [though, during the course of the Third and Final Presidential Debate, it was already all too apparent I had President Obama "winning" late]).

And, again, I am also well aware that "winning" Debates has nothing directly to do with winning the Election itself!

For there is one other thing I do not all that much like about polls: they usually cannot tell you what the next poll will indicate (again: "past performance is no guarantee of future results" and, once more, this cuts both ways [positively as well as negatively]) and, most importantly, they cannot ever tell you precisely how many votes in which State will- in the case of a Presidential Election- go to whom as a result of what is, in reality, 51 separate "presidential elections" determining just what the total Electoral Vote for each National Ticket running for President and Vice-President will ultimately be!

Therefore, we all- those of us here in the United States of America, as well as the interested non-American living abroad- will simply have to wait and see what the election returns coming in during the evening of Tuesday 6 November 2012- and on into the wee hours of Wednesday the 7th (and- please!- let's hope such counting doesn't have to go much beyond that before a winner of this Presidential Election is determined: one 'Florida: 2000 Election' is, frankly, quite enough for the lifespan of this website- thank you very much!)- may yet tell us.

Finally: I will close this piece by- as strongly as I possibly can- urging everyone out there who might be eligible to do so to vote in the upcoming 2012 General Elections (regardless of just which presidential- or other- candidate[s] you might [or might not!] support, even Independent or Third Party candidates... and, should you not like any of the choices for elective office presented to you this November, get out and "vote" anyway- that is: actually get off your behind and go to the polls, close the curtains and simply cast a 'blank' [the ultimate "undervote"! ;-)]... if you stay home, you will not show up in any of the election statistics I might see in the wake of this Election; but, if you do as I have just suggested instead, you will [for total votes cast (which will include those of you who might actually so "undervote") minus total votes for specific candidates does, in fact, equal "not voting"!]).

All good luck to all candidates running in the 2012 General Election- from the top of the ballot (for the American Presidency itself this time round) to the lowest "down-ballot" elective office in a given election precinct or equivalent jurisdiction- and, to all of you who might come across these very words whilst online, thank you very much for your interest in The Green Papers!



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