How do I know Obama is winning? Republicans are exhibiting all the symptoms of partisans trying to convince themselves that they’ve still got a shot when the election is all over but the voting. If you read between the lies, Republicans are acting like people about to lose.
Believe it or not, I sympathize. As a Democrat deep in the enlarged, sclerotic heart of Texas, I can diagnose the telltale signs of a losing campaign. It’s happened to me. A lot. I’ve slogged through many fall campaigns with no chance of winning, and while I’ve raged against the dying of the light, the night always came. Any clear-eyed observer could tell that my guy was losing by the fact that I was refusing to go gently.
As a public service, here are the seven things you say that indicate your campaign is losing:
1. You say the polls are wrong. Pity the Republicans on this one. They have to both deny that Obama got a convention bounce in the polls and point out that the bounce is receding at the same time. There is no worse position to be in to have to resort to the canard that the “only poll that matters is on Election Day.” No one has ever truly believed it, even those who’ve said it.
2. You blame the media. Of course, Republicans do this even when they are winning, but, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it takes some brass to blame the “liberal media” when they write down what your guy said and put it in the newspaper. (Democrats do this, too, but we attack the media for propagating a conventional wisdom that is neither conventional nor wise.)
3. You claim you’ll change turnout. Want to make a campaign operative laugh? Tell them your win scenario depends upon getting infrequent voters to vote. That’s like wearing an “I’m with stupid” hat with the arrow pointing down. I was on a radio show this week with a Republican who insisted that if you reduce the number of Democrats saying they are likely to vote, then Romney would be way ahead. And if I had athletic talent, I’d play third base for the Baltimore Orioles, but here we are.
4. You change your message after Labor Day. Sometimes you have to respond to changing events, but if you’ve got an unnamed “top aide” anonymously leaking, “No one in Boston thinks this can only be about the economy anymore,” then you’ve got a problem, and it’s not just that you need to fire a “top aide.” Only campaigns in panic mode change their message this close to Election Day.
5. You need to campaign at your base. James Carville said he knew Bill Clinton would win in 1992 when he saw George H.W. Bush pander to his base after Labor Day. If you leave your convention without closing that sale, then you have to stand on stage with Pat Robertson to oppose taking “In God We Trust” off our money in an attempt to turn this election into a culture war.
6. Your running mate wants to be “unleashed.” Paul Ryan, say anonymous Romney campaign sources, wants to be “unleashed” to make a stronger case for his Ayn Rand fantasy of turning Medicare into Groupon for Grandmas. This is what’s known as the “yell louder” tactic. Ryan’s insubordination makes me feel sorry for Romney, who infamously said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” Now he’s stuck with a pushy understudy who wants to turn up the volume on his party’s most-unpopular idea this side of privatizing Social Security.
7. You say you’re not firing your advisers. On Monday, the Romney campaign said that it was not replacing its top consultants—something only losing teams say about their coaches. Second-guessing is a partisan’s first instinct, but the infighting only comes out into the open when your side thinks you’ve already lost.
No one’s predicting a blowout, and voting hasn’t even started yet. But take it from a guy who’s been there all too often—Mitt Romney’s acting like a guy who’s about to lose.