Last night, my sister and I watched one of our favorite shows, Key & Peele. In our favorite sketch of the episode, which lampoons increasingly ridiculous athlete names, one of Key’s characters says he goes to California University of Pennsylvania. It’s a real school, but it’s still chuckle fuel.
She and I are both into politics, though her pedigree has far surpassed mine (I’m a 32-year-old amateur pundit; she’s a 22-year-old veteran of Capitol Hill). Also, she’s a Republican. Yeah. See? Indoctrination my buttock.
What we share is a passion for intelligent political conversation (though my mom would argue as to how intelligent it remains at times). The slightest reference will get us going. And last night, that reference was Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania’s a swing state,” she said.
“What? I don’t think so,” I replied.
“Romney’s ahead in the polls there right now.”
“I haven’t seen any polls suggesting that, but I’ll look.”
Normally I don’t pay attention to polls. (I do keep an eye on long-term electoral analysis, but even scientific polls are generally too subjective for my taste.) But I had to see for myself if she was right. If she was, that’s pretty big news. To my understanding, Pennsylvania is a solid blue state. According to Nate Silver, it still is. But Nate’s latest blog entry gave me an extra chill — that Obama’s post-convention bounce has erased in recent days.
I didn’t expect Obama to pull away from Romney as decisively as he did following the conventions, nor did I expect that divide to last. In a way, it’s impressive that it happened and that it lasted as long as it did. (Also, I realize the media needs a horse race.) Still, I went to bed troubled.
“What killed such a huge lead so fast?” I wondered. “Was Romney THAT on the ball at the debate? No way.” That train of thought led to, “Who are all these people suddenly latching onto Romney? What about this man is suddenly attractive to people?”
Then I drifted off to sleep, dreaming that I had to move cross-country on my bicycle.
This morning, another writer I know and respect, who leans center-right, posted an endorsement on Facebook. He said that Obama, despite criticism, is one of the most decent men ever to hold the presidency. He added that he dislikes Romney. But he’s going to vote for Romney. Because though Obama nabbed Osama bin Laden, he’s been ineffective across the board and is a Carter-esque bust. Which to me is like saying Lincoln was a terrible president, except for keeping the nation together. The cognitive dissonance blew my mind.
But it (and some of the comments that followed) also sort of answered my question.
I see more and more people I know coming out in favor of Romney, especially since the first debate. They’re expressing enthusiastic support, putting signs in their yards, bumper stickers on their cars and sharing the campaign’s status updates on social networks. In 100 percent of cases where these previously undecided voters planted their flag on Mount Mitt, I have never been surprised. I always felt like they could vote for Romney, but for whatever reason they weren’t comfortable with saying so. I’ve written before that I have yet to hear a decisively liberal voter (even the annoying contrarian ones) jump to Romney, and that’s still true.
So I think that this newfound Romney momentum is due, at least in part, to conservative voters making it official. Republicans previously embarrassed by an opportunist and/or insufficiently extreme candidate are getting on board as November nears, emboldened perhaps by a debate performance that gave Glimmer One of hope. Naturally, the polls would reflect that sentiment as more people commit to Romney. That’s not great news, but neither is it a referendum on Obama’s viability. It’s the GOP falling in line.
I still think Romney has a long, uphill climb. I think he’s a terrible candidate who exhibits none of the integrity that the presidency requires. And I still think the race won’t be as close as the pundits predict. But it’s not decided until the ballots are in. And this uptick for Romney is a reminder of that.
We needed it.