Cold water

    Thank you, Karl Rove, for bringing some welcome clarity to the presidential horse race.That sentence was not a misprint. George W. Bush’s bare-knuckled Swami obviously relishes the prospect of using his Super PAC money to drive Barack Obama into early retirement, but, the thing is, Rove also knows how to read a map. And the map he released the other day vividly depicts the president’s huge electoral vote advantage.To borrow a phrase from the poet William Wordsworth, the polls are too much with us. We get so immersed in the incessant national tracking surveys that we often forget about the electoral votes – which is too bad, because those are the votes that decide who wins the presidency. As Rove well knows, having authored Bush’s ’04 re-election squeaker (won in the wee hours when Ohio finally came in), the race is won or lost state by state. Which is why his current electoral college map is so noteworthy. If nothing else, it throws cold water into the faces of Republican partisans, particularly those whose moods are perpetually buoyed by the GOP-tilted Rasmussen poll.Using the 30-day averages of all state-by-state surveys, Rove discovered a daunting map for Mitt Romney. Here’s the breakdown: 220 solid electoral votes for Obama, with another 64 leaning his way; 93 solid EVs for Romney, with another 79 leaning his way. Rove rates the remaining 83 – including Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia – as tossups. In other words, if the election were held today, Obama would have multiple paths to the winning hurdle of 270, whereas Romney would be compelled to run the table. By Rove’s own measure, Obama could lose Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia – and still win the race with 14 EVs to spare if he merely holds his solid and leaning states. Indeed, one of those Obama-leaning states is Ohio. As we history geeks well know, nary a single Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.Granted, there are a few quirky features in the Rove map. He lists South Carolina in the toss-up category, based on Romney’s soft poll numbers there, but there’s no way Obama wins that state in November. Conversely, Rove lists Arizona as leaning for Romney, but a flurry of recent state polls suggest that Obama could be very competitive there, thanks to the Hispanic voter backlash against the “paper’s please” law. If Romney is compelled to spend a lot of time, money, and resources just to hold Arizona, that alone could benefit Obama elsewhere on the map.All told, what matters most is Rove’s track record. In 2008, he posted a series of EV maps that were right on the money all the way to election day. He’ll naturally recalibrate as this election season proceeds – the ever-sluggish economic recovery could be a drag on Obama’s numbers; the autumn debates could shape or reshape voter perceptions – but, for now at least, he has used basic math to dispel the delusion, virulent among Obama haters, that the incumbent is destined to be toast.And, frankly, if Rove really thinks that attacking Obama as a cool celebrity is going to aid Romney on the EV map (see the new ad sponsored by his group), particularly when the Obama-as-cool-celebrity theme failed so spectacularly for McCain in 2008, then he is deluded as well.——-Thank you, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, for refusing to play the game of false equivalence.Mann and Ornstein are two of the most respected political scholars in Washington – Mann is headquartered at the Brookings Institution; Ornstein works at the American Enterprise Institute – and it was so refreshing this weekend to read their new piece about the unprecedented dysfunction on Capitol Hill. They didn’t indulge in the usual phony artifice of “objective” journalism, by which both sides of a dispute are automatically ascribed equal blame. Instead, they simply looked at factual reality and wrote the truth:We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.There it is, a pailful of cold water thrown into the faces of those in the press corps who play the false equivalence game, otherwise known as “on the one hand/on the other hand.” As Mann and Ornstein point out, the reality is that, while bipartisan cooperation typically takes place between the proverbial 40-yard lines, one party has become far less cooperative than the other (as evidenced by their abundant examples): “While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.”And that observation prompted more cold water:We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.In a way, Mann and Ornstein merely stated the obvious. But, given the pervasive use of false equivalence, a journalistic default mechanism, sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.——-Another game is pervasive these days – the Romney running-mate parlor game – and I tried to hold off as long as possible. But alas, I surrendered in my Sunday newspaper column. Regrettably, only one sentence was devoted to the buzziest of all the possibilities, Condoleezza Rice. She’s reportedly a big favorite among a lot of state GOP chairmen (at least according to the nonpartisan National Journal), and a black female running mate would certainly suck up the media oxygen in the early autumn. But she’d be attacked from the left for her complicity in the Bush administration’s foreign policy failures (most notably Iraq, even though Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were bigger culprits); and she’d be attacked from the right for her opposition to the Arizona immigration law and to immigrant-bashing in general.But if Rove’s map looks bad for Romney in late August, who knows? And, hey, for what it’s worth, Juan Williams thinks she would be great.——-I did another Live Chat today.

    ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.