Squeaky bum time

October 16, 2012

On the eve of the second debate, and with at least one poll (Gallup’s) showing Romney up to 50 per cent (when did that happen?! Oh yeah, then…) the ever excellent Nate Silver has this balanced and evidence-based analysis of the typical/variable impact of debates on polls and final election results. Nate closes by reminding us that round two is just as crucial as round one. Given Obama’s dreary showing on first go it’s possible to view this as both a blessing and a curse. Personally I’m tempted to turn my ‘phone off and hide under the duvet.

There is no evidence, incidentally, that the second presidential debate is any less important than the first one. On average, it has moved the polls by 2.3 percentage points in one direction or another — almost exactly the same as after the first debate, which moved them by 2.4 percentage points on average.


Romney’s best hope of debate victory: go underdog?

October 3, 2012

Interesting this: the Huffington Post has been combing the archives, analysing Mitt Romney’s performance in the series of five debates in 2002 that acted as (or perhaps more accurately coincided with) a turnaround in his fortunes in the battle with Shannon O’Brien for the Massachusetts governorship. Here’s O’Brien herself on the deciding factor; worth watching out for whether Romney attempts a similar underdog strategy in the debates starting today, and whether Obama can avoid falling into the same kind of ‘aggressor’ trap.

Romney, she said, had adopted a rope-a-dope strategy, playing tentative through much of the debates before finally punching back at a critical moment. “They wanted me to be tough,” she said. “That was a strategy to get me into a conflict. I took the bait. I kept going at him. I don’t think that helped me.”

It was a bit of political skill from her opponent that neither she or her advisers had expected. “I think [Obama] has to be careful being too negative, too nasty,” she said. “He has to be very matter of fact.”


You snooze you lose?

September 26, 2012

The vast majority of people writing about US politics – any politics, arguably – have little or no clue as to what’s really going on ‘behind the scenes’, but that doesn’t stop them putting pen to paper. And at times of apparently momentous change, for example the recent and seemingly stubborn shift towards the Dems, the bollocks multiplies. Levels of interest rise, insight doesn’t.

A case in point: Arianna Huffington’s blog post last week entitled Is Sleep Deprivation the Reason the Romney Campaign is Blowing It? It’s hard to know where to begin: this isn’t a light, humorous piece, but a fairly detailed analysis of Romney’s mis-steps, arriving at the coup de grace…

So what is behind all these bad decisions? Here’s my theory: not enough sleep. And I have evidence (at least one piece)! While I was at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, a well-sourced journalist told me that senior Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom sleeps only three or four hours with his devices beside him, then wakes and checks his email, sends out replies, and then gets another hour of sleep. Or not. If Fehrnstrom’s habits are at all indicative of the Romney campaign operation at large, then voila — mystery solved!

And what, Obama’s senior people are taking regular catnaps? Sleep deprivation and politics go hand-in-hand, and whilst today’s neverending news cycle means things may’ve gotten worse, at some level it was ever thus. In his biography of LBJ Robert Dallek recounts how Johnson would work such long hours on the campaign trail he would have to be literally propped up at parties in the evening, able to barely raise a hand to greet wellwishers.

Little sleep is one thing, no sleep another matter entirely, however. One man with real access to a presidential campaign – unlike Arianna – is Jay Root, who this weekend revealed that Romney’s onetime challenger Governor Rick Perry did, in fact, have lack of sleep at least partially to blame for his botched showing. Following a couple of truly disastrous debates, the medics were called in…

After conducting overnight tests on Perry, they produced a rather startling diagnosis: He had sleep apnea, and it had gone undetected for years, probably decades. The ailment, which affects one in 10 men worldwide and becomes more common as people age, causes loud snoring and temporary lapses in breathing that disrupt normal sleep.

So when truth can be stranger than fiction, the problem we seem to be left with is which bollocks to believe?


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