Today’s WaPo/ABC national tracking poll shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama, 50 percent to 47 percent (a “statistically insignificant” margin as WaPo makes sure to note at the top of its story). Still, it’s the first time Romney hit the 50-percent mark in this poll, and a sign Romney’s momentum isn’t fading:
As Romney hits 50, the president stands at 47 percent, his lowest tally in Post-ABC polling since before the national party conventions. A three-point edge gives Romney his first apparent advantage in the national popular vote, but it is not one that is statistically significant with a conventional level of 95 percent confidence.
However, Romney does now boast a statistically — and substantively — important lead on the economy, which has long been the central issue of the race. When it comes to handling the nation’s struggling economy, 52 percent of likely voters say they trust Romney more, while 43 percent say they have more faith in the president.
For those following the polls, the evidence of the last few weeks has been pretty obvious. Following the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney began to eat into the lead that President Obama had amassed. In the last week, he has caught and passed the president in most national polls, especially those without samples that are not overestimating the number of Democrats who will turn out to vote. The race remains very close, and the president is still ahead or tied in a number of the important swing states. Evidence that the Obama campaign thinks it is trailing is everywhere, as the president swings away at his rival as if he were the challenger not the incumbent. Even more telling is, as I wrote yesterday, the first evidence that some influential people within the president’s re-election team are starting to plant stories in the media alleging that an impending defeat isn’t their fault.
And yet despite all these signs of trouble for the president, the most popular story line for liberal pundits and analysts today seems to be an attempt to deny that Romney has momentum or to brand it a media creation. That was the conceit of a much talked about piece in the New Republic by Alec MacGillis. His thesis is that the media — including publications and broadcast outlets that tend to favor the Democrats — are trying to foist a misleading story line about Romney moving ahead in order to make the election a better story. Even most liberals aren’t buying that idea but other voices, including polling analysts like the New York Times Nate Silver and Mark Blumenthal at the Huffington Post, are on slightly firmer ground when they claim that their reading of the polls tells them that Romney’s momentum is over. In a race this close, one has to admit the possibility that they might turn out to be right. But these frantic denials of a Romney surge not only contradict the clear trend of the polls. They smack of the sort of desperation that is often in evidence as candidates who were once thought in a commanding position start slipping. After months of liberals telling themselves that Romney was a fake or a fraud that no one could possibly take seriously, they are having a hard time coming to grips with the possibility that he might be elected president in 10 days. If denial is the first of five stages of grief, liberal mourning about the possible end of the Obama presidency can be said to have begun.
A Massachusetts judge agreed to unseal Mitt Romney’s testimony in his friend Tom Stemberg’s 1991 divorce hearing today. But the judge rejected Gloria Allred’s request to lift a gag order against her client, Stemberg’s ex-wife:
Things didn’t fare so well for Gloria Allred — her request to ungag her client was shut down by the hot judge … because Gloria never submitted an official motion to the court.
Gloria was grasping at straws in a last ditch effort to get the judge to cut her a break — but she was shot down, hard. …
8:20 AM PT — During a news conference, Gloria accused the Boston Globe of pulling a “double-cross” because she says the paper abandoned its motion to have the gag order against Maureen Sullivan Stemberg lifted.
Allred and others have been hinting at bombshell revelations in Romney’s testimony, but I doubt it. The testimony was unsealed earlier today, and the only details out so far are these nothingburgers written up by Buzzfeed. Romney was apparently sought as an expert witness, and his testimony seems to consist of dry answers about the state of the venture capital industry 20-something years ago. Plus, his campaign already said it had no problem with the testimony going public.
The Natan Fund is a Jewish philanthropy that has as its mission the creation of new entrepreneurial and innovative projects intended to shape the future. To that end, it has set out to help nurture the creation of something that goes to the heart of the Jewish experience — books. The Natan Book Award will seek to support and help promote a book on Jewish themes that is intended for mainstream audiences.
The idea is to take an English-language book on a Jewish theme that is already under contract to a publisher but not yet in print, and to help it via grants to the author and customized support for the marketing and publicity. Each recipient of the award will get a maximum of $50,000. Natan will work with experts in the literary, publishing, and publicity worlds to customize a digital and in-person marketing and publicity strategy, and will actively connect the author and the book with the multiple, nontraditional Jewish and philanthropic networks of which Natan is a part. The goal will be to both expand the audience for such books and to create a lively discourse on Jewish ideas.
The Times of Israel is reporting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party will merge with Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu party in advance of the January Knesset elections. There are four reasons for this.
First, as I wrote recently, in the 2009 elections Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party won the election by a single seat, but was unable to form a governing coalition, thereby enabling Netanyahu’s Likud, the runner-up, to form the current coalition. Polls have shown that such an outcome could repeat itself in January. However, if the Labor party continues its revival in the polls, it’s possible there would be enough seats to Likud’s left for Kadima to put together a governing coalition, especially if Aryeh Deri’s return to the Orthodox Shas party enables it to drain some votes from Likud, as polls have suggested it might.
Netanyahu wants to avoid any chance of this outcome, and the only way to do that is to win the election outright. Likud and Israel Beiteinu currently have 42 Knesset seats between them.
According to a new poll conducted the AP, Romney has closed the gender gap, with Obama’s wide 16-point margin almost erased. We’ll have to see, though, how the menstrual cycles of America’s women line up on November 6 to know for certain how they’ll be voting. Wait, what? Yesterday CNN reported on the results of a new “study” done at the University of Texas, San Antonio that concluded that women’s voting patterns are determined by, you guessed it, their hormones. Not surprisingly, the post was taken down after CNN determined that “some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN.” That’s quite the understatement.
The Daily Kos has the full piece available on their website, but the gist is this: Women’s preferences for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are governed by their ovulation cycles. The author of the piece for CNN took to Twitter in self-defense after the piece was pulled and more or less said, “But… but… it’s SCIENCE!” The study, conducted over the internet with less than 300 participants, draws some pretty outrageous conclusions given the study’s size and methodology. They conclude:
Remember that Obama campaign memo a few weeks back that insisted the president was having no problems with women voters? About that:
Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama’s 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney’s edge among men.
Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll’s margin of sampling error, the survey shows.
Fortunately for Democrats, Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s controversial comments about abortion gave Obama an opportunity to rehash his favorite “war on women” arguments on Jay Leno last night:
Yesterday in Cleveland, Paul Ryan gave easily one of the most important and substantive speeches of this entire election cycle. The fact that it was substantive alone draws a contrast with President Obama’s reelection focus on Big Bird and binders. But it also outlined with frankness and sophistication the distinction between the worldviews of the two tickets.
Ryan spoke about poverty and education, individualism and dependency. But he also focused on the enduring necessity of civil society and the role that local communities play in the typical American life. Though Ryan credited his mentor Jack Kemp, the true unnamed force behind his speech was the late Robert Nisbet. Here is what Ryan said yesterday:
Via Ed Morrissey: The Obama campaign couldn’t be happy to wake up to this front page of the Des Moines Register today:
I wrote yesterday about the Obama campaign’s tussle with the DMR over an editorial board interview the president initially demanded be off the record. After the Register’s editor blogged about the unusual stipulation, the campaign relented and released the transcript of the interview without comment or explanation. I’m not sure that has anything to do with today’s front page, but it can’t be a good idea to ding the Iowa media days before election day in a highly competitive state.
Officials have already speculated that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was involved in the Benghazi attack, but CNN reports al-Qaeda in Iraq may be linked as well. AQI has been regaining strength since U.S. troops withdrew last year:
U.S. intelligence believes that assailants connected to al Qaeda in Iraq were among the core group that attacked the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a U.S. government official told CNN.
That would represent the second al Qaeda affiliate associated with the deadly September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. …
The latest intelligence suggests the core group of suspects from the first wave of the attack on the Benghazi mission numbered between 35 to 40. Around a dozen of the attackers are believed to be connected to either al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the government official said.
The attack had two waves: The first targeted the main compound where Stevens and another diplomatic official were believed killed. A second stage a few hours later involved an annex building approximately a mile away.
Why do reporters bother to write formal news stories? The best, most illuminating accounts I read are those in which the reporter dispenses with the conventions of “objective” journalism and writes in the first person, telling readers what he or she saw. Exhibit A is this blog post by New York Times Kabul bureau chief Alyssa Rubin. Rubin had earlier published a news story attempting to get to the bottom of what happened recently when American and Afghan soldiers exchanged fire with one another, killing six men. She could not figure out the real story–were the Americans simply jumpy or were the Afghans actually trying to kill them?–and so the story was inherently unsatisfying. But her blog post on how she reported the story is the best single snapshot I have seen of real security conditions in Kabul and its environs.
She begins by noting that living in Kabul, as she does, can give a misleading impression because, “despite the blast walls and checkpoints and rubble, there’s still some normalcy there,” with “restaurants that cater to us [Westerners], clothing shops, grocers — even a couple of neighborhoods where you might run into each other on the street.” But if you drive just 35 miles out of the capital into Wardak Province, an area that has never been truly pacified, the scene changes alarmingly: “The road empties out, and the few trucks and minibuses bounce over the scars of I.E.D. blasts every mile or two. ” Further, she writes:
Yesterday, I explained at length why Efraim Halevy’s oddly partisan op-ed in the New York Times alleging that only Republicans have strong-armed Israel was as absurd as it was irrelevant to the question of whether President Obama should be re-elected. Nevertheless, some liberals have continued to circulate Halevy’s piece as if it was conclusive proof that Democrats are always good and Republicans are bad. As I pointed out, presidents from both parties have been pressuring the Jewish state since it was born. Even if we were to accept the former Mossad chief’s lame attempt to summarize the history of U.S.-Israel relations so as to focus only on episodes of tension when the GOP had the White House, it does nothing to answer the justified criticisms of President Obama’s undeniable record of pressure.
But there is one aspect of Halevy’s piece that is relevant this morning: his discussion of the way the George W. Bush administration hammered Israel into accepting the “road map” for Middle East peace in 2003 prior to the Iraq War. The prime mover behind that policy went unnamed in Halevy’s piece, but he is very much in the news today: former Secretary of State Colin Powell. To no one’s surprise, Powell endorsed President Obama for re-election. The former general had a number of reasons for backing the president, but by all accounts the most important one was distrust of the “neoconservatives” who advise Mitt Romney on foreign policy. Those who think criticism of the Bush administration’s attitude to Israel should inform the 2012 election need to understand that Powell — the most prominent critic of Israel on Bush’s team — is weighing in on the election largely because he doesn’t like the pro-Israel tone of the Romney campaign and endorses Obama’s policy of pressure. That puts Halevy’s “bad Republican” argument in a perspective that renders it useless to those supporting the president’s re-election.
On Wednesday, Mullah Omar, the elusive leader of the Taliban, released a message for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which this year falls on October 26. Omar’s message is well worth reading, especially against the backdrop of Obama administration efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.
As Ahmad Majidyar—probably the most astute Afghanistan analyst in the United States—points out, Mullah Omar used his address to redouble his commitment to a complete military victory. “We will continue to wage Jihad against the invaders who have invaded our country until the occupation ends completely,” he declared. Obama and Governor Romney might both have reaffirmed the 2014 pullout date during their most recent debate, but let us hope that they did so fully cognizant that no amount of spin will convince Afghans and Afghanistan’s neighbors that the withdrawal is anything but a Taliban victory.