Bain. Solyndra. Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping. The possibility that the Supreme Court will toss out the health law based on broccoli mandates.
The ups and downs of the weeks, or who wins which news cycle, or the short-term ebb and flow of partisan exchanges, are almost completely irrelevant to how anyone will vote in November. No swing voters — zero, out of all those millions of voters — will ultimately care at all what Cory Booker said about the rollout of Obama’s attacks on Bain.
First of all, virtually none of them are paying attention now; only the most intense political junkies even heard about that particular flap. Second, even those who might be paying attention will have long forgotten the “rollout” of the attacks soon enough, while it’s quite possible the attacks themselves could continue on for several months. But most importantly: people don’t vote based on their critique of electioneering skill or aesthetics. They just don’t.
Keep this in mind when you hear that the Obama campaign has gotten off to a terrible start, an idea that seems to be gaining currency among pundits.
See, for example, what New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny said on Fox News Sunday this weekend. It’s a mess. On the one hand, Zeleny slammed the mechanics of the Obama reelection effort. He said that “the rollout of Bain Capital was really nothing short of a disaster for them,” and that “it looks like they are not quite up to speed on the campaign.” On the other hand, he also said “the ups and downs of the weeks are not as important as how these voters are internalizing these messages.”
It’s that last point that’s the correct one.
Partisans heavily discount any negative information they learn about candidates from their own party. Most true independents are low-information voters who pay only minimal attention to any of this stuff.
Mostly, people vote on two things: their party leanings, and a general sense of how the incumbent has been doing (that is, how the nation is going, not whether his ads and TV surrogate appearances are well co-ordinated). Other things may, on the margins, push voters a little: specific issues, evaluation of the candidates’ personalities and abilities and ideology, group affiliation beyond partisanship.
Regardless of whether or not the aesthetics of last week’s Bain attacks played well with reporters who mistakenly focus on such things, if what we care about is how things effect voters in November, then it’s silly to say that the Obama campaign is off to a bad start — whether on Bain or in general. As far as we can tell from the polling, in which Obama still leads Romney nationally by a point or two, there’s been no effect so far from any alleged missteps. Regardless, the polling we really care about won’t show up for several months, anyway. If Bain does or doesn’t turn out to be a good issue for the Obama campaign, that’s when we’ll know about it. So ignore all the heckling from pundits. It’s meaningless.