Thursday, November 8, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Election

I am stuck in Atlanta. Shockingly this is not the fault of Delta but Greyhound. Since I'll be sitting here a while (until 4am) it seemed like a good time to write. The last few days have been despairing and there has been an albatross question hanging on the conservative community, "How did this happen?" I thought it would be like chicken soup for the soul to chronicle the recent happenings from my perspective.

In the primaries Romney did not energize me, but, neither did the other candidates. Then a couple months passed and he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. That started to get me excited. Having seen Paul Ryan speak a couple times he struck me as articulate and principled. The Ryan selection gave me a reason to believe this could be a supportable ticket.

But, the conventions did not really provide much boost in the polls and Mitt did not seem comfortable giving stump speeches and marshaling campaign rallies. Then the awkwardness was replaced with a dynamite performance in the first debate where he caught President Obama flat-footed. After the first debate, liberal commentator Chris Matthews was asked for his thoughts, "I don't know what [Obama] was doing out there. . .What was Romney doing tonight? He was winning! If he does five more of these nights, forget it! That's my thought". In that hour-and-a-half I started thinking of him as a real candidate with a shot at winning. He brought up his business acumen. He seemed committed to casting off regulatory burdens for businesses and working towards a solution for the mounting debt. These were good signs. A bunch of other people must have seen things in a similar light. The buzz vaulted him passed Obama in the Real Clear Politics average. That was the first time in the election cycle the Republican candidate outperformed President Obama in the poll averages

From the graph you can see the average reflects, more-or-less, a momentum in favor of Romney throughout the debates; however, towards the end of October this momentum waned. What happened? I'm sure you are aware of the banter:

  1. Romney seemed to coast and there was no final burst to the finish line.
  2. Obama had a great "ground game" to help Democratic voter turnout
  3. Obama appeared bipartisan when photographed with Chris Christie
  4. Romney did not hammer home on the Benghazi incident
  5. ETC. 

All of those things probably had some impact. Large numbers of Democrats are citing negative spillovers on the Republican Party from their Tea Party segment. In a similar vein some pundits are telling the Republican party there are branding problems and the country wants their message to be more moderate. While I do not agree with every plank in the traditional Republican platform (most notable immigration and death penalty) I do not believe this is the real problem.

Romney ran on the economy and did not touch other issues. Hammering home the poor economic performance was the best strategy available. See the graph below. But, notice, this does not account for the 3rd quarter growth of 2%. Not that 2% is something special but it represented an improvement over 1.3% in the 2nd quarter:

The recent economic conditions, however dismal, were showing an improving trend. While unemployment numbers were not fantastic ---increasing from 7.8% in September to 7.9% in October it was not an egregious increase. I am arguing that these numbers sowed thoughts of, "Give it time," in the electorate. The folks over at Monkey Cage were writing that the incumbent advantage combined with improved growth numbers did enough to push Obama over-the-top.  

In fact, it is possible that we are starting into recovery. Macroeconomists think that business cycles last about 7.5 years. Given that the United States started into the bust part of the cycle in late 2007 we should see recovery with some good policies. Will this be a U-shaped recovery or a W-shaped recovery? Not sure. I'm hoping that Tyler Cowen provides some insight on the topic at the Southern Economic Meetings. Of course, there is also the prospect that things will get worse. We do not know how negotiations with the fiscal cliff will work out. That will be a game-changer with big consequences for well-being in the United States.

So the conversation does not end here but keeps going . . .

One thing is clear: Life is still wonderful. God is still constant, unchanging, and good. I am thankful for the grace offered through Jesus Christ. I am excited about the spirit working in me, pushing me in the process of sanctification. I am thankful for my wife, family, and friends. I'm certain that God can use us to advance His kingdom. So there is still purpose, meaning, and loving relationships. These things will never depend on what political party wins the election.        

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