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Democratic National Convention Starts Today

Political reporters have memories almost as short as the voters'. A story in the New York Times today starts with: "Four years ago, Barack Obama accepted the presidential nomination of a Democratic Party that was as unified and energized as at any moment in its past ..." Huh? Doesn't the reporter, Adam Nagourney, remember all those PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) voters, the diehard supporters of Hillary Clinton who said they would never support Barack Obama because he wasn't Hillary? When Obama rubbed it in by not picking Hillary as his running mate, they really became angry. Now, the party is very unified. Some activists are unhappy because Obama gave in to the Republicans so often, but in the end, nearly all of will come home to stop the Republicans from winning. Among Republican voters, the opposite sentiment holds. It is not that they like Romney, but they hate Obama. So we have a situation in which many voters are not motivated to vote for their party but against the other one.

It is the task of the Democratic National Convention to try to fire up its base and maybe convince a few wavering independents to get on board. Here is a list of questions about the convention from The Week:

Not listed, but always an issue, is will there be a gaffe, like Clint Eastwood's rambling speech that got far more publicity than Mitt Romney's acceptance speech last week?

While the parties try to make their conventions as scripted as possible, there are a few factors they can't (fully) control. First, Obama is planning to give his acceptance speech in the 74,000-seat Bank of America stadium. The stadium does not have a roof so if it rains, the Republicans will say it is a sign from God that he doesn't like the Democrats (to which the Democrats will point out that He just sent them rain whereas He sent the GOP a full-blown hurricane).

Second, if the Democrats manage to find only 60,000 people, the Republicans will say: "See, nobody likes them." It would have been better to use a smaller stadium and fill it to overflowing and having people begging to get in than a larger stadium not entirely full, but one wasn't available. It's all about how it looks on television. To deal with the empty-seat problem, the Democrats are giving out free tickets to college students and members of black churches all over the region and providing buses to get them to the stadium.

Third, herding Democrats is like herding cats; they don't take direction from the top well. There could be protests somewhere in Charlotte. If some woman decides to take off her clothes in protest of something (as happened at the "Occupy" protest at Wall Street), it could draw all the reporters like bees to honey. Republicans are much more disciplined. Last week in Tampa, Ron Paul supporters thought they were going to nominate Paul because he had the support of five state delegations, as the rules require. But at the last minute, the rules committee changed the number to eight to prevent Paul from being nominated. The Paul supporters just moped. Had this happened with the Democrats, the insurgents would have torn the place apart.

Democrats Reject Large Contributions to Pay for the Convention

Political conventions are expensive. Very expensive. The Democratic National Convention is expected to cost $37 million, and this excludes the $50 million the government pays each party for security at its convention. Republicans raise most of their convention costs from a small number of big donors who then get the V.I.P treatment on expensive yachts where they can meet party bigwigs. The Democrats used to do the same thing, but this year are trying an experiment by limiting donations to a paltry $100,000 each. The consequence is that the Democratic convention has a big money problem that the Republican convention did not have.

Making it even worse for the Democrats is that the unions are not stepping up to help because they were wildly against having the convention in North Carolina from the start. North Carolina is the least unionized state in the nation, but Obama (barely) won North Carolina in 2008 and has hopes of winning it again, so he overrode the unions' wishes and picked Charlotte. There is little evidence that the site of the convention really matters much any more, if it ever did. The television audience is what everyone really cares about, not the locals.

Voters Say Obama's Job Performance Does Not Warrant Another Term

A poll sponsored by The Hill shows that 54% of likely voters do not think Obama's job performance warrants another term for him while 40% think he should get a second term. What's interesting about this poll is not so much the results, but the details. First it was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rasmussen Reports. Second, the wording of the main question is very interesting. The question was: "Based solely on job performance, does President Obama deserve to be reelected?" What an odd question. No doubt quite a few voters are unhappy with Obama's job performance and thus answer "no" but won't vote for Romney for a variety of reasons (no connection with the middle class, hiding his tax returns, Ryancare, etc.). The Hill is a business-oriented Republican-leaning publication and clearly does not like Obama, so it conducts a poll using a pollster with a known bias for the Republicans and then words the question in such a way as to elicit the results they want.

Another question in the poll was more straightforward: "Is the country in better/worse condition overall than it was four years ago?" The likely voters chose worse by 52% to 31%. The question here is neutral but the voters have very short memories. The economy was bleeding an average of 600,000 jobs a month during the last 6 months of the Bush administration and getting worse (800,000 jobs were lost in January 2009 alone). Since the stimulus bill, the economy has gained jobs for 29 consecutive months--not enough jobs to get anywhere near full employment, though. But to say that gaining 100,000 jobs a month is worse than losing 600,000 jobs a month is a bit pessimistic. The bottom line here is you have to look beyond the headlines on the polls.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Colorado 49% 46%   Aug 31 Sep 02 PPP
Michigan 51% 44%   Aug 31 Sep 02 PPP
North Carolina 43% 46%   Aug 26 Aug 30 SurveyUSA