CNN's GUT CHECK | for October 1, 2012 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
BREAKING: NEW POLL HAS OBAMA-ROMNEY WITHIN MARGIN OF ERROR; VOTERS SPLIT ON WHO WOULD BEST HANDLE ECONOMY: With the first presidential debate taking place Wednesday in Denver, a new CNN/ORC Poll shows that voters are split on who is best equipped to handle the economy: Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. And in the head-to-head match-up, Obama holds a 3% point lead on Romney - 50% to 47% - well within the poll’s margin of error.
INTRIGUING OPINION: CHRYSTIA FREELAND REPORTS FOR THE NEW YORKER ON WHAT SHE SEES AS THE IRONY OF THE SUPER-RICH BEING ANTI-OBAMA... “The growing antagonism of the super-wealthy toward Obama can seem mystifying, since Obama has served the rich quite well.. … The top 0.01 percent captured thirty-seven percent of the total recovery pie, with a rebound in their incomes of more than twenty percent, which amounted to an additional $4.2 million each. …America’s super-rich feel aggrieved in part because they believe themselves to be fundamentally different from a leisured, hereditary gentry. [Omega Advisors founder Leon] Cooperman’s pride in his work ethic is one source of his disdain for Obama. ‘When he ran for President, he’d never worked a day in his life. Never held a job,’ he said. Obama had, of course, worked — as a business researcher, a community organizer, a law professor, and an attorney at a law firm, not to mention an Illinois state legislator and a U.S. senator, before being elected President. But Cooperman was unimpressed. ‘He went into government service right out of Harvard,’ he said. ‘He never made payroll. He’s never built anything.’
Who is the only president to serve an entire term without nominating a Supreme Court Justice?
As we were preparing for the debate and the long flight to Denver, we finished devouring one of the best books on politics we have read in a long time, “The Victory Lab” by Sasha Issenberg. Politico described it as “ ‘Moneyball’ for politics,” and indeed it chronicles the science of campaigning in a profession filled with traditionalists. We interviewed Issenberg about the phase of the campaign that we are about to enter – the final stretch. It’s the period that the book most dramatically highlights, as it reveals a world of data analytics hiding in plain sight.
Gut Check: How has data mining and the science of campaigns changed in the last four years?
ISSENBERG: Probably the most revolutionary advances took place between 2002 and 2006, as political campaigns got access to all the intelligence that commercial marketers had collected about American adults – information collected in databases initially used to generate individual credit ratings – and link it to voter-registration records. Statistical algorithms could reduce the thousands of available data points on each voter to a series of predictions we can think of as political world’s version of credit scores: a person’s likelihood of turning out to vote, supporting a given candidate or holding a particular position. As a result, campaigns began to see the electorate not as the traditional set of geographic zones or demographic categories but as a collection of individuals who could be grouped together based on common political traits even if they seemed to have little else in common.
The biggest change since 2008 is that campaigns, largely through Web cookies, have been able to begin linking all that information about a voter’s offline identity (in elections, where you live matters) to your online presence. So if the Romney campaign wanted to send a get-out-the-vote reminder to Republican men in suburban Las Vegas who are predicted to be strong Romney supporters but unreliable voters, it would be possible to pull 50,000 of their names and just deliver Web and mobile ads to them.
Gut Check: The parties have a lot of power when it counts: in voter contact, and even in fall television ad rates. Do you think the influence of the super PACs was overcovered and the two parties undercovered?
ISSENBERG: Primarily because the media don’t pay much attention to field and voter contact – most stories just call lump it all together as “the ground game” and assume it needs no further exploration – I don’t think we appreciate how important that work can be in informing other aspects of a campaign strategy. Volunteers are basically data collectors for a campaign (that’s what all those phone banks and clipboards are doing) and national, state and county parties remain the structure in which most of that activity takes place – and the repository for all that human intelligence. At least from what we’ve seen thus far, no one volunteers for a super PAC, and few of them seem built for the type of permanence that justifies investments in data, analytics, research and testing. Super PACs may prove to have been influential in this election, but they’ve been largely one-dimensional advertisers in an electorate that doesn’t seem to have been too susceptible to persuasion.
Gut Check: We have heard often “no one can predict turnout” - is that now false?
ISSENBERG: Yes, although this is an area where there is a significant gap between the tools and data that exist within the campaign war room and what we (both journalists and the public) can see from the outside.
Traditional polls, which basically ask voters to choose their own turnout, are just about useless on this front: I’ve written about one polling firm that found 55% of the people it had kicked off the phone after saying they “will not vote” had ended up casting a ballot. Voting seems to be habitual, and the best predictor of one’s likelihood of turning out is past performance.
Gut Check: We couldn’t help but think that just like “Moneyball” did with baseball, “The Victory Lab” in some ways takes some of the fun out of politics. Does that make me a traditionalist or are you seeing that yourself? Is it nostalgia or ignorance to want to think that personalities and unforeseen events make more difference than they do?
ISSENBERG: I love the spectacle and sport of campaigns, and I feel after spending a couple of years reporting on the technical side that I actually see more levels of the game. I think a lot of us - and this is particularly evident in weeks like this one - are frustrated drama critics and debate coaches. We relish great moments, when a candidate makes an impressive performance or betrays a glimpse into his or her character, because it gives us a lot to discuss. But we lazily make claims that these moments will have electoral impact, even though we have little evidence for such claims and a lot of reasons to be suspicious of them. I’ve spent many hours talking about the Clint Eastwood convention appearance, and never had to assert that the chair stunt would shape who gets elected president to enjoy them. But we know the ways in which door knocks and targeted mailers do affect election outcomes in small but measurable ways - some of them calculated, “Moneyball”-style, as cost-per-net-additional-vote - and we’ve been irresponsible not to take them seriously. I plan to spend the next month trying to understand the science of door knocks and enjoying the spectacle of debates and rallies.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Romney memo outlines 'big choice'
Two days out from 2012's first presidential debate, Mitt Romney's campaign is characterizing the election as "The Big Choice." In a campaign memo obtained by CNN, the Romney camp outlines to staff and surrogates what it says is a clear choice for two different futures - one under Romney and the other under President Barack Obama.
Leading Drudge: October 1: Obama Approve At 47%
Leading HuffPo: Don't Do The Math
After a contentious back-and-forth with Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday," GOP vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) explained the standoff on Monday by saying that he declined to discuss the math behind the Romney-Ryan tax plan because viewers would be bored by it. "I like Chris; I didn't want to get into all of the math on this because everyone would start changing the channel," he told Milwaukee talk radio host Charlie Sykes. – Luke Johnson
Leading Politico: Mitt, be nimble
Mitt Romney needs to be nimble, and go on offense in order to win his first debate on Wednesday night with President Barack Obama. After weeks of rehearsing, Romney is unquestionably well-studied for a debate on which his campaign knows a great deal rides. But it’s more than just facts and figures that will produce a winning performance in front of at least 50 million TV viewers, it’s a heretofore rare ability to be agile when spontaneous moments surface. – Darren Samuelsohn
Leading The New York Times: Whistle-Blower Lawyers Throw Support Behind Obama
As the Obama administration has cracked down on corporate fraud, lawyers representing whistle-blowers have reaped multimillion-dollar rewards. Now, as they seek to sustain these historic payouts, they are serving as generous donors to the president’s re-election campaign. – Eric Lipton
The political bites of the day
- Ryan acknowledges struggles in developing clear message -
PAUL RYAN IN AN INTERVIEW ON THE CHARLIE SYKES RADIO SHOW: “When you are offering specific, bold solutions, confusion can be your enemy's best weapon. And that’s our challenge right now.”
- Barbour puts the onus on Romney -
GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR ON A RESURGENT REPUBLIC CONFERENCE CALL: “I think in the month of October and the first week of November, that Romney has time, both through the debates and in other ways to make the sale. I do think that, I think the burden on him. It’s his election to win. It has been the whole time. He has to do it.”
- The endorsement Obama didn’t want -
VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ IN AN INTERVIEW WITH STATE TELEVISION: “In the point of view of his politics, if I were voting, I would vote for Obama and I believe that if Obama was from Caracas, he would vote for Chavez. … I am positive, Obama is a good guy.”
- Victim’s families want a debate question about gun violence -
A LETTER TO PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE MODERATOR JIM LEHRER FROM THE FAMILIES OF THE AURORA SHOOTING VICTIMS: “We, members of the families who lost loved ones in the Aurora Theater shooting on July 20th, believe that the problem of gun violence in America must be addressed. Therefore, Mr. Lehrer, we are joining with tens of thousands of Americans and the Brady Campaign in urging you to ask the next leader of our country about this vital issue. To ignore the problem of gun violence in a state where two of the worst shootings in U.S. history took place - Aurora and Columbine - would not only be noticeable by its absence but would slight the memories of our loved ones killed.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
President Jimmy Carter is the only president who served an entire term without nominating someone to the highest court in the land. William Henry Harrison (who died 32 days into office), Zachary Taylor and Andrew Johnson - all of whom served abbreviated terms - also never nominated someone to the Supreme Court.
Just because Carter never got to nominate someone to the court, that doesn’t mean he didn’t talk about it. According to a 2005 book, Carter would have liked to nominate Shirley Hufstedler, secretary of education and a former judge. Hufstedler, if confirmed, would have been the first woman on the court (a title that Sandra Day O’Connor earned when President Ronald Reagan nominated her).
The court’s term begins today and though it is a nonpolitical entity, the 2012 election looms large over the future make up of the decisive body. It is expected that the person sitting in the Oval Office in 2016 will be able to nominate at least one and as many as three new Supreme Court justices.
CNN’s Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears has two fascinating looks at who those people could be – for President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
For Obama: Kamala Harris, California attorney general; Judge Paul Watford, 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, San Francisco; Judge Jacqueline Hong-Ngoc Nguyen, 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, San Francisco; and Kathryn Ruemmler, White House counsel.
For Romney: Paul Clement, former U.S. Solicitor General; Judge Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit; Judge Diane Sykes, 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Milwaukee; and Sen. Mike Lee, Republican from Utah.
GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)
The professor, Peter Ubertaccio (@ProfessorU), brings home the win in today’s Gut Check Trivia question. Kudos to Scott Keyes (@smkeyes), Jonathan Kappler (@jonathankappler) and Jorge Bonilla (@BonillaJL) for also correctly answering today’s Gut Check trivia question.
Our inbox awaits: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone can sign up for Gut Check by emailing email@example.com
Tips or comments? Send them to Michelle; send complaints to Preston, because he is already in a bad mood. We also want to give a shout out to Dan Merica, who runs our Twitter account @gutCheckCNN and enriches this product every single day.