That new Pew Research poll, showing a massive 12-point swing in favor of Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate, caused Andrew Sullivan to unleash a torrent of liberal angst on his blog. In a post titled, "Did Obama Just Throw The Entire Election Away?, Sullivan is aghast at the idea that the president could squander such a tremendous advantage with one awful debate performance. It was so awful, in fact, that he seems convinced that the President isn't even trying anymore.
Seriously: has that kind of swing ever happened this late in a campaign? Has any candidate lost 18 points among women voters in one night ever? And we are told that when Obama left the stage that night, he was feeling good. That's terrifying.
Sullivan's main complaint (shared by many other liberals, of course) is that Romney is a liar, but that the president just stood there and took it. The solution is obviously to adopt a vague economic proposal that few people understand or care about.
Too arrogant to take a core campaign responsibility seriously. Too arrogant to give his supporters what they deserve. If he now came out and said he supports Simpson-Bowles in its entirety, it would look desperate, but now that Romney has junked every proposal he ever told his base, and we're in mid-October, it's Obama's only chance on the economy.
After briefly speculating some more about the President's chance for recovery, Sullivan finally admits that he doesn't have one.
A sitting president does not recover from being obliterated on substance, style and likability in the first debate and get much of a chance to come back. ....
I've never seen a candidate self-destruct for no external reason this late in a campaign before. Gore was better in his first debate - and he threw a solid lead into the trash that night. Even Bush was better in 2004 than Obama last week. Even Reagan's meandering mess in 1984 was better - and he had approaching Alzheimer's to blame.
Geez. Sullivan claims he's "trying to see a silver lining" and "he's not giving up", but the despair is overwhelming. (He followed up with another post later to say that "Obama just essentially forfeited the election" and is probably already looking for his next job.) It's rare to see a single poll induce such an epic freakout—one see a blog post earn its own fake Twitter feed—but it is certainly channeling a particular strain of worry infecting the president's fans.
Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight even tries to talk him and the other sad Democrats off the ledge, but we're not sure his rather sedate interpretation of the Pew poll can do the trick. Terms like "consensus of the evidence" and the "fundamentals of the race" sound smart, but don't exactly inspire tons of confidence, even if the suggestion is that all is not yet lost.
It’s one thing to give a poll a lot of weight, and another to become so enthralled with it that you dismiss all other evidence. If you can trust yourself to take the polls in stride, then I would encourage you to do so. If your impression of the race is changing radically every few minutes, however, then you’re best off looking at the forecasts and projections that we and our competitors publish .... who have systematic ways to weigh the evidence rather than doing so on an ad hoc basis.
In other words: Breathe, Andrew. Breathe.