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Obama vs. Romney: Pick the result

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The conventions are over. The battle is joined. And Loop Fans know what that means. Yes, it’s time for In the Loop’s quadrennial Pick the President contest.

Some pundits were confident Mitt Romney would get a healthy bounce in the polls from the Republican convention. On Aug. 26, our old pal Dick Morris, the former Bill Clinton adviser, predicted a six-point bounce that the GOP nominee was “not going to relinquish” — and no post-convention bounce for President Obama. (It’s worth watching.)

Romney maybe got a fast-disappearing one or two points; Obama appears to have done better in some early polls. But key Obama adviser David Axelrod cautioned Monday that the race “was close before and it’s close now.”

Loop Fans can help figure this out.

Simply predict:

●The winning candidate.

●The number of electoral votes he’ll receive.

●His percentage of the popular vote.

Up to 20 entries choosing the correct candidate will win — the 10 closest to the electoral-vote total and the 10 closest to the popular-vote percentage (please specify to the tenth of a point). Ties go to entries that arrived earlier.

Winners get one of our highly coveted Loop T-shirts and, of course, the bragging rights that accrue after their political prowess is publicized.

As always, congressional and administration aides may enter “on background.”

Send entries — only one set of predictions per person — to intheloop@washpost.com. Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner.

You must include a phone number — home, work or cell — to be eligible.

Deadline for entries is midnight Friday, Sept. 21.

Good luck!

No bounce = good bounce

There may be a bit of good news amid the generally bad post-convention poll numbers for Romney: Preliminary indications are that neither party managed to stir up much enthusiasm among the key Latino voting bloc.

In fact, despite all the attention in both conventions to appeal to Latinos, a tracking poll released Monday by Latino Decisions found there had actually been a small decrease in enthusiasm from polls taken before the conventions.

This is based on early data, we’re told, and a more complete review, which will better reflect the impact of the Democratic convention, will be released next Monday.

Still, any significant decline in voter turnout among Latinos could spell trouble for Obama, especially in states like Colorado, Nevada, Florida and Virginia, according to Latino Decisions.

Obama continues to hold a large lead over Romney among Latinos after the conventions — 66 percent to 29 percent, pretty much where he was before them.

Romney has to boost his percentage — a lot. Sen. John McCain got an estimated 31 percent of the Latino vote in 2008. While there’s some dispute on the numbers, George W. Bush got an estimated 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and around 40 percent of that vote in 2004.

A Romney strategist has said he will need to pick up 38 percent of the Latino vote on Nov. 6 in order to win. Not going to be easy.

The undiplomatic press

Forget China or North Korea. The State Department’s biggest diplomatic challenge might be with the reporters who cover it.

The latest volley came Tuesday, after State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a question-and-answer session with reporters that she didn’t think it was helpful to engage in diplomacy with Israel, or anyone else, for that matter, “in public.”

But, wait, the Associated Press’s Matthew Lee interjected. “What are you doing up here every day then?”

Nuland insisted that briefing (a.k.a. spinning) the media isn’t an act of diplomacy.

“I’m explaining our national policies. . . . ,” she countered. “I’m not doing diplomacy with you. I’m explaining our diplomacy.”

But Lee maintained that Nuland was, in fact, engaging in diplomacy, and then there was a bit of back-and-forth. It ended with Nuland asking Lee if their conversation, by his logic, made him a diplomat.

Lee shot back that he wasn’t so “duplicitous.”

There was laughter among the reporters, and, it seems, this particular crossfire ended in detente — for now.

The Baghdad beat

Speaking of news on the international front, the White House has nominated career Foreign Service officer Robert Stephen Beecroft — who’s now deputy chief of mission in Iraq and was formerly ambassador to Jordan — to become ambassador to Baghdad. Beecroft was selected after Obama’s first pick for the job, Brett McGurk, withdrew his nomination amid Senate GOP concerns over some racy e-mails between him and a Wall Street Journal reporter covering him. (They eventually got married, by the way.)

Rose Gottemoeller, who’s been acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security , was nominated to be undersecretary, replacing former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who resigned this year for health reasons.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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