Oh no . . . Obama is doooooomed!!!!!!!!!!! (Don’t worry, it’s just Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen talking)

by Andrew Gelman on November 16, 2012 · 10 comments

in Campaigns and elections

Political strategists Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen report that Romney has a 12-point lead in Missouri and a 4-point lead in North Carolina. Is it even possible for Obama to win in the Electoral College without Missouri and North Carolina? Probably not. And Obama is only leading by 1 point in Florida. Sure, that’s better than trailing by 1 point in Florida, but still, it’s cause for worry!

Caddell and Schoen have the secret:

What voters are looking for—and particularly what swing voters, independents, and disillusioned Obama voters are looking for—is a new direction for America based on fiscal discipline, a balanced budget, and economic growth and leadership.

What about polls that show voters are much more concerned with employment and the economy than with fiscal discipline and a balanced budget? Caddell and Schoen don’t care about those particular polls. After all, they report:

More than anyone else in this race, Paul Ryan has spoken of the need for fiscal discipline and economic growth—two themes that have been largely absent from the Obama-Biden campaign—which explains a large part of the Ryan-inspired Romney bump.

Good point, and good catch on their part. Ryanmania.

Also this bit:

Poll after poll has shown that while voters embrace the idea of higher taxes on the rich, it does not translate into votes. . . . nothing would appeal to independents and swing voters more than if the president were to embrace the findings of the 2010 Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission . . .

Jeez . . . it almost makes you wonder why Bowles and Simpson didn’t just run for president and vice-president themselves.

Caddell and Schoen have the ticket:

The only way Mr. Obama can capitalize on Mr. Clinton’s endorsement is if he channels President Clinton and outlines a balanced-budget plan of his own that speaks directly about the need to reduce spending and to introduce entitlement reform in a humane and rational way. That would appeal to swing voters, and maybe just win the election.

“Entitlement reform” . . . yeah, that’s right. Tell the voters you’ll cut their Social Security benefits, that’ll win election after election, every time.

And Caddell and Schoen are Democratic pollsters, too. This really is scary news for the O-man.

Seriously, though, I haven’t seen advice this bad since the Democrats were told that they lost the House in 1994 because they weren’t liberal enough.

P.S. Also this delightful bit from Caddell’s wikipedia entry:

According to researchers, Caddell had wide influence in the Carter White House, and was the chief advocate of what later became known as Carter’s “malaise speech.”

Sounds like a political expert to me. As for Doug Schoen, see here and here.

Look. If you think entitlement reform is a good idea, fine, go for it. Praise the courage of politicians who support cutting social security, reforming private pensions and state obligations, talk about the long-term benefits of having a sustainable long-term path. But to claim it’s a vote-winner . . . give me a break. Even Mitt Romney didn’t go for that one.

P.P.S. Let me put it another way. I respect that qualitative insights are important and that there’s a role for pundits who know the politicians, who know the voters, and who can do more than simply crunch the numbers. But Caddell and Schoen are supposed to be pollsters. That’s their professional life, and here they are just making stuff up. What’s the point of that? Are they adding any value at all? I don’t think so. The WSJ would be better off running old Art Buchwald and William F. Buckley columns.

P.P.P.S. Yes, I realize that the Caddell and Schoen article actually ran a couple months ago. I just thought it would be more amusing to write this post in the present tense.

{ 10 comments }

Rob Robinson November 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

Open the dictionary for a definition of “concern troll” and you will find a picture of Pat Caddell there.

LFC November 16, 2012 at 11:42 am

I dislike the term “concern troll,” but I agree that Caddell (on the basis of the column criticized here and some other things) is, well, probably less than a towering intellect.

Brandon November 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Nobody outside of the DC political class seems to be all that concerned with deficits. Those inside the DC political class really just cannot comprehend this and insist that S-B is a wildly popular plan across the nation. It is pretty bizarre to see.

Ben November 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

P.P.P.P.S. Thanks for the Friday pick-me-up. This got me smiling for the first time today.

Larry Bartels November 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm

It is easy to ridicule Caddell and Schoen; but I agree with them on two important counts. First, general sentiment in favor of taxing the rich has mostly not translated into effective support for specific policies that would do that (see, for example, http://today.yougov.com/news/2010/10/26/taxes-energized-minority/ and http://billmoyers.com/2012/01/18/has-the-occupy-movement-altered-public-opinion/; that may have changed in this election, and I am waiting on October data). And second, concerns about the budget deficit do seem to be politically consequential (for example, http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/08/11/the-fiscal-facts-of-life-do-americans-understand-where-budget-deficits-come-from/, paragraph six)–though, of course, actually doing something about it would, as Andrew suggests, have its own political costs.

Kevin Hill November 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for the laugh.

FOX News “Democrats” are always hilarious.

Helen Bedd November 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm

As far as I can tell Caddell and Schoen simply poll among themselves ….

Brian Silver November 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Andrew: Have you considered the counter-factual, viz., that Obama lost the election? Obviously these sages know something that nobody else knows — that Obama was then and remained doomed. And they have stated their reasons.

Andrew Gelman November 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Brian:

They would have been fine, had they simply read their own poll results. Romney indeed won Missouri and North Carolina, and Obama narrowly won Florida, just as they said would happen. They just seem to have made some mistakes with some of the other states, or else they just can’t count.

Peter Principle November 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm

“Are they adding any value at all? ”

Well, Roger Ailes and Fox News seem to THINK they’re adding value — for them.

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