Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - Volume 3, Number 16

© Copyright 2012, The Ultrapolis Project.  All Rights Reserved.

3rd Debate Close to the Wire

Forecast “Originally” Closer to Actual Debate,

Except for Benghazi


The Internet’s Orwellian Effect on News Reporting


We said yesterday this last debate would feature the smallest perceived differences between the two, and that polls would “reveal only slight majorities favoring one or the other as the victor of the last debate.”  Initially, we heard David Brooks on PBS say he gave Governor Mitt Romney a win over President Barack Obama by a tiny margin.  Later a reported CNN/ORC poll appeared to reinforce the notion of a draw.  Around 11 PM it said:


A CNN/ORC International Poll following Monday's presidential debate found those who watched the third and final head-to-head matchup of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did not identify a clear winner.   Debate viewers split 48% for Obama and 40% for Romney in the poll, a margin within the sampling error of plus or minus 4.5%.

Originally, the report headlined the debate watchers as “split,” and pointed out that the spread was within the margin of error (in a moment we will note why we say “originally”).  To keep this in context, The CNN poll conducted after the first debate found Governor Romney was a clear winner by 67% to 25% for President Obama (again, we believe social media influenced the polls by producing a herding effect).  After the second debate, the split was 46% for President Obama and 39% for Governor Romney.  Last night, reading the report on the third debate poll numbers, not two hours after we first accessed the report, the report on the very same poll numbers on the very same link was re-written to say this:

Thanks to an aggressive performance and a couple of zingers, a plurality of debate watchers questioned in a national survey say that the president won his final faceoff with Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

But a CNN/ORC International poll conducted right after Monday night's faceoff here at Lynn University in south Florida also indicates that the debate may be a draw when it comes to whether it will affect the choice of voters who watched the showdown, and Romney held his own with the president on the commander-in-chief test. And according to the survey, unlike previous debates, there was a big gender gap, with women responding much more favorably to Obama's performance and men giving a small advantage to Romney. 


The headline was changed to now refer to a victory for Barack Obama, and references to a statistical draw in the poll disappeared, replaced by a reference to a draw as to whether votes will be changed.  To see what it says now (no telling what that will be) visit CNN.com reported.  A visitor to this page would not have known that the original angle of the story was different than what was later deemed a more, shall we say ‘concurring’ perspective.  We suspect that the release and coverage of a CBS ‘insta-poll’ of only uncommitted voters that gave a clear win to the president may have influenced the reporting.  (In George Orwell’s 1948 sci-fi novel 1984, past newstories were continuously re-edited and re-written to constantly agree with “the Party,” which controlled every aspect of political thought.)


This morning PBS stuck with its moderate approach to the story, merely posting its post-debate broadcast, while NPR headlinedLittle Daylight Between Obama, Romney,” and reported that “commentary on Twitter and television networks suggested that partisans in both camps believed their own champion got the better of most exchanges during the debate.” In the latest Pew Research poll, party identification is at 48% for Democrats and 43% Republican, which mirrors closely with the CNN/ORC post-debate poll.


For our part, UWFR gives the nod to the president in coming across as more formidable on the topic, if just a tad ungracious (granted, in politics when you are losing momentum, grace can be costly).  Nevertheless, when it comes to foreign policy, sitting presidents always have an advantage because they have access to so much more information, not to mention the practice.  It would appear Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign opted to play it safe, and adopted a strategy focused on not stepping on any policy or rhetorical land mines that could disturb his current momentum, or give the president an opening for a strike that could put him off balance and accomplish the same.  This may be the reason there was no hard attack on the Benghazi issue. 


Other commentators had speculated that the Governor would avoid arguing over the Benghazi fiasco because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took responsibility over the security failures; and given that she is a woman and (incredibly) one of the most popular politicians in the U.S. today, the fear was American women voters would not take kindly to an assault that took on the woman secretary – particularly in view that Benghazi is just not a priority for most Americans, female or not.  We at UWFR do not agree with that view of American women.  If a clear case could be made that the administration knowingly misled the public, we think American women would be disturbed by that, regardless of whether a popular woman was responsible.  On the other hand, maybe a clear case could not be made.


In any case, we don’t expect the votes to sway either way due to this debate, and preliminary instant polls seem to be bearing this out.


The Difficult Truth About Telling the Truth


One example of how difficult it can be to make a clear case, even if the facts are on your side:  During the debate, the president made much ado about Governor Romney’s position on keeping troops in Iraq after 2011, while the President claimed credit for overseeing their complete departure.  The governor tried to point out that the president himself had also (very responsibly, we might add) favored keeping U.S. troops in Iraq past 2011, and only oversaw their complete departure because of his administration’s inability to get Iraq to sign off on a new Status of Forces (SOF) Agreement (a.k.a. SOFA).  A previous SOF agreement had governed the rules by which American troops could operate and stay in Iraq.  Most Iraqi government officials also wanted to get a new SOF agreement, because they wanted to keep the Americans longer, fearing a resurgence of violence and instability.  But negotiations failed, and the last SOF agreement expired on December 31, 2011. In other words, it was an Obama administration policy failure, not a planned strategy or policy, which led to the total withdrawal of U.S. ground troops.  The real policy disagreement was that Governor Romney favored keeping more troops because he felt fewer would be too weak and subject to attack, and was criticizing the administration for failing to successfully renegotiate a new SOF agreement at all.  But, we are certain that fine point got lost in the interruptions, and what stuck in people’s minds was that Governor Romney favored keeping troops in Iraq, while President Obama withdrew them, and most Americans wanted them withdrawn.  The governor dropped the subject, wisely realizing it was a lost cause.




Comments may be directed to contactproject@ultrapolisproject.com, or if you receive the newsletter email, also via a reply to the email address from which you receive it.



October’s UWFR Cartoon

The Party Wars of the PosesBafo's World_Poses_War_Edit.JPG


Main Index of the Ultrapolis World Forecast & Review


© Copyright 2012, The Ultrapolis Project – All Rights Reserved.