But wait a minute .. aren't there still 43 days until election day? Well yes, but half the states have begun collecting absentee ballots and a few have begun in-person voting.
Though I'm plenty busy with the campaign I'm working on, I quickly scan a lot of campaign journalism and punditry, looking for choice observations. As the polls have swung toward President Obama, lots of people have lots of ideas about what's going on, some insightful, many merely amusing. What follows are a few I'd like to either highlight or comment on.
As we all know, Mitt Romney has been beating the bushes for more money, hoping to find enough cash to bury Obama with nasty TV ads. And when he goes out to beg, he gets an earful.
This describes one of the afflictions of fundraising in all campaigns. People who can give money expect to be able to tell the professionals how to win -- and they are probably even more likely to have wacky ideas about how to do that than the average voter on the street. By definition, the donor class lives in a different world than the average voter, but the average, disinterested voter is the person the campaign needs to connect with.
The conventional wisdom has been that the Koch brothers and a bevy of self-interested conservative billionaires will ensure that Romney has a considerable financial advantage over Obama. Well, yes, all those Citizens United Super PACs are cleaning up, but a remaining fragment of campaign finance regulation still helps level the playing field. Candidates themselves are legally assured "the lowest unit charge" for their ads, while all those outside guys have to pay whatever jacked up prices a crowded market makes inevitable. Capitalism at work makes Karl Rove's millions stretch less far than the aggregated sum of the President's small donors. Read all about it from Walter Shapiro in the Columbia Journalism Review.
So in the end, all the fluff and furor will come down to the opinions and whims of actual voters. As most people know, Republicans have little confidence they can sell their version of lonely individual self-sufficiency to a majority, so they've set about trying to alter the composition of the electorate in their favor by excluding people who might have other ideas.
Drew has covered politics for a generation, usually as a moderate voice of reason, so this is strong stuff.
Political scientists have been studying undecided voters and learning that there aren't very many of them, really. Anyone who actually talks with voters could tell you that. In fact, when phoning for a candidate or initiative, it rapidly becomes clear in which direction most people you talk with will jump, even if they don't know yet themselves. You have to listen to them. I suspect I annoy my co-workers when I get off a call and say "she'll vote with us …" or "that one will never change." It comes of doing this for a long time.
These researchers discovered that 94 percent of us knew how we would vote in the presidential election in December 2011. The parties are fighting over the remaining tiny fraction who happen to live in contested states:
So, when the underlying division in the electorate is quite even, our elections are decided by the least engaged segment of the population.
Or, just maybe they needn't stay disengaged, at least in local contests. A report from San Antonia points out that, on a small scale, the conventional wisdom can be changed by direct invitations to vote.
He made sure his candidate canvassed young Latinos and their votes elected him. More of that, all over the country, does change the electorate and hence results.
What every candidate and initiative is up against in the contemporary United States is that there are no universally trusted sources of information. None. Gallup has recently documented that overall distrust of the mainstream media has hit a new high.
This creates a terrible challenge to those of us who are trying to convey messages based on facts that are not easily intuited. And then we also have one political party that has responded to public distrust by concluding it has no obligation to stick to generally agreed facts in its assertions. Steve Benen describes what he sees coming from the Republicans in horror:
Not so, apparently for Mitt Romney's media advisers.
Yet barring some unexpected turnaround, all the intentional distortions of both facts and the electorate are not working for the Republicans. Mitt Romney hasn't found a way to run a plausible campaign. I'll leave the last word about that to the wise Ed Kilgore.