Have Obama's numbers peaked out?

obama4.jpgI suspect they have or are about to. Intrade, the onling trading market, puts the chances of the president's re-election at almost 76 percent and Nate Silver at the NYT gives Obama an 85 percent probability of winning. Those numbers just seem too high, given that the race remains tight in crucial states like Florida, Virginia, and Colorado. Besides, the media loves a contest. Writing in the LAT, Neal Gabler says much of the turnaround will be encouraged by media spin:

The idea of a media bounce has very little to do with either Romney or Obama. In fact, it has very little to do with any candidate. It has to do with certain proclivities within the American media. As political scientist Thomas Patterson described it in his 1994 study of campaign coverage, "Out of Order, " the media really have only four stories to tell: a candidate is winning or losing, gaining ground or losing ground. And he adds, "The press have a distinct narrative for each situation," which is why the coverage of one presidential election pretty much mirrors the coverage of every other election. In the media, every campaign is basically a sequel.

But, as Patterson also shows, these stories are not static. They are dynamic, and they are serial. They provide a narrative arc for the entire campaign, replete with twists and turns. When a candidate is riding high, the media magnify his success, creating a bandwagon effect. They tout his campaigning prowess, his human touch, his political instincts -- while, of course, telling us how his opponent founders. And then something strange happens. Suddenly, with the slightest misstep, the aforementioned perfect candidate finds journalists saying that his prowess is faltering, his touch failing. The "losing ground" narrative kicks in, and guess what? Just as suddenly the once-trailing candidate is gaining ground.

Peggy Noonan picks up on this notion in the WSJ:

There are some institutional and personal elements surrounding the Wednesday debate that may well work in Mr. Romney's favor. From a canny journalist with a counterintuitive head: "The media will be rooting for Romney." Two reasons. First, they don't want the story to end. They're in show biz: A boring end means lower ratings. Careers are involved! Second, the mainstream media is suddenly realizing that more than half the country (and some of their colleagues) think they are at least operationally in the tank for the president, or the Democrats in general. It is hurting the media's standing. A midcourse correction is in order, and Wednesday will offer an opportunity: I think it's fair to say Gov. Romney more than held his own this evening, and a consensus seems to be forming that the president underperformed.

The question, of course, is what happens after that. On Friday the government reports September employment numbers and if they're only so-so (a pretty good bet based on data over the last several months), and if the stock market begins to falter again (it's up sharply this morning), the anti-incumbent drumbeat might intensify. That weekend, new post-debate polls could show a further erosion in Obama's lead. I'm not saying any of this will impact the final outcome because Romney is... well, Romney. From Politico:

Slowly and reluctantly, Republicans who love and work for Romney are concluding that for all his gifts as a leader, businessman and role model, he's just not a good political candidate in this era. It kills his admirers to say it because they know him to be a far more generous and approachable man than people realize -- far from the caricature of him being awkward or distant -- and they feel certain he would be a very good president. "Lousy candidate; highly qualified to be president," said a top Romney official. "The candidate suit fits him unnaturally. He is naturally an executive."

Weirdly, portions of the Politico piece might be used by commentators in changing the election pictures and in some ways, it's a flattering portrait.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent Campaign 2012 stories:
Cost of Berman-Sherman campaign: $16.3 million
Now that's close: Measure J falls 0.56 percent short
Santa Monica mayor resigns, heads to Sacramento
Measure J edges closer to (but not over) 2/3
Richard Bloom's lead grows in Westside Assembly race

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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