Friday, September 21, 2012

The Game Is Not Over

Didn't think I'd be on the Romney implosion twice in a row. But I would like to address a particular line of retort from some of those who are sticking with him. There are a few places we could go for this sentiment, but for our purposes, let's use this Atlantic piece from Ron Fournier entitled '5 Reasons Not to Write Romney Off'.

All five reasons are variations on the theme of 'the campaign isn't over yet; something could still happen to close the gap'- namely, bad economic news, bad foreign-policy news, Obama stumbling in the debates, Obama making a big gaffe, or Romney just somehow turning it around for some reason. This last one was literally justified with the phrase "odds are they'll figure out a way out of this spiral".

This is the political equivalent of saying 'a wizard will do it'.

The thing here is that, with the four non-wizard scenarios, you are counting on something to happen that may not actually happen. You're buying a lottery ticket and hoping it pays off. And furthermore, none of those four are within Romney's direct sphere of influence; all but the debate are completely out of that sphere. He is, as you'd say in a playoff race, not in control of his own destiny.

And even the debates carry a unique lack of the kind of control Romney needs right now. The 47% video came in a moment where Romney was not aware a camera was present, and was speaking exclusively to people supporting him enough to give him $50,000. The debates have cameras present, and Romney knows people are watching who neither support him nor even so much as make $50,000 in an entire year. Or multiple years. Two. Three. More. The kind of trust Romney needs to rebuild is simply impossible to do in a prime-time simulcast moderated debate. The kind of trust he needs to rebuild- assuming that it can even be rebuilt at all- can only be done over a long period of retail campaigning, a period of time he doesn't really have at this point.

You ever watch Press Your Luck? I'll presume here that you have. (If you haven't, you'll want to watch an episode at this point to get familiar with the analogy that's about to ensue.) In Round 2, it would sometimes happen that one of the first two players to take their spins would end up hitting a Whammy on their last spin. Unless it was their fourth Whammy, Peter Tomarken would tell these people, 'X Whammies, no spins, no dollars, but the game is not over." Which it wasn't. After all, someone else still had spins to take. Maybe they could get passed to the player and they could keep going on those.

Here's a clip with an example of that happening. Embedding is disabled on this one, so it's a link.

In this case, the player is named Bob. He hits his third Whammy on his last spin at 4:15 in the clip, and Peter tells him the game's not over. But then keep watching, and see what the camera does. For a while, Bob still has a shot, because the player next to him quickly picked up his third and was at risk of going out. But then the remaining spins consolidated into one group. Passed spins get passed to the leading opponent (or the player's choice, if the two opponents are tied), and if you've got no money, there is virtually no chance that this is going to describe you. And when you hit your fourth Whammy, any spins you have left go away right along with you. Long story short, while Bob wasn't out of the game, there was no way he was going to get to spin again.

So eventually, the camera cut Bob out of the picture entirely.

The chances of coming back from that situation to win the game are so remote that the cameraman didn't bother to entertain them. Tomarken had to say something encouraging to players in such a predicament, since they were sitting right there. He couldn't tell them "X Whammies, no spins, no dollars, your chances of winning are about the same as Walter Mondale's." The cameraman didn't have to be quite so nice. As soon as they deemed a player as basically out of the running- and especially as soon as someone Whammied out- they got cropped out of the shot.

Romney cannot be cropped out of the shot here. You can't crop it down to one player. But with key campaign staffers beginning to abandon the campaign and downballot candidates distancing themselves from Romney and complaining that he's going to take them down with him, he has three Whammies, no spins, no dollars, and Obama's, oh, say, $50,000 up on him.

But the game is not over.

No comments: