The 'Pre-Delegitimization' Watch: It Begins

In previous items here, here, and here, I've mentioned the deeply conflicting versions of reality about how the vote will go three days from now:

  • Most state polls and polling aggregators show Barack Obama with a substantial lead. Here's another example;
  • Many Republicans say that Mitt Romney is on the verge of winning, and probably winning big. Latest example in this category: Michael Barone, once known as a king-of-the-pre-quant-savants with the Almanac of American Politics, is now predicting an easy Romney victory, with 315 electoral votes to Obama's 233. This involves Barone's calling the following states all for Romney: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida.

There are a variety of explanations for such fundamentally opposing views: wishful thinking on either side; media interest in a "down to the wire" race; morale-boosting on either side; and so on, including the residual explanation allowed by FiveThirtyEight today, that there may be some deep and systematic bias in all the state polls. But a reader yesterday suggested this explanation:

I, personally, absolutely believe [that the "Romney will win!" theme] is a de-legitimizing strategy...One can expect legal challenges if the vote is close.  I think this push to portray Obama as having zero chance is laying the groundwork.  At minimum it works to keep constituents of Republicans in Congress from tolerating any compromises in the event of an Obama re-election because they will have a reinforced sense of being robbed (which they have had about Mr. Kenya his whole presidency)....

Are we seeing any signs of this pre-delegitimizing approach? Surprisingly enough, one has appeared on Fox News:


The story says:
Imagine going to vote for your presidential candidate and pushing the button on a touch-screen voting machine -- but the "X" marks his opponent instead.

That is what some voters in Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio have reported.
Fox News has received several complaints from voters who say they voted on touch-screen voting machines -- only when they tried to select Mitt Romney, the machine indicated they had chosen President Obama. The voters in question realized the error and were able to cast ballots for their actual choice.

"I don't know if it happened to anybody else or not, but this is the first time in all the years that we voted that this has ever happened to me," said Marion, Ohio, voter Joan Stevens.
Stevens said that when she voted, it took her three tries before the machine accepted her choice to vote for Romney ....

Multiple voters from several states wrote Fox News to report problems similar to what Stevens reported.

One voter asked: "I wonder how many voters just hit the 'Cast Ballot' without reading the machine?"

"How can we be sure our votes are not being stolen electronically?" asked another. [Emphasis added.]
It's a natural question, especially if the information sources you rely on have convinced you that, were it not for fraud or cheating, Romney would be winning in a walk. It is worth starting to save up these reports -- and of course accounts of voter-suppression efforts. Side note: that the world's most powerful democracy has such shoddy machinery of democracy is really embarrassing, or should be.

Extra Saturday political notes:
  1. If you haven't read Mike Lofgren's argument against "liberal despair," please do. He's known to the world now as author of The Party Is Over. He has been known in D.C. for a long time as an influential Senate staffer -- mainly working for Republicans. 
  2. Well, I was going to write here why I think that political prognosticators should put their money behind their predictions -- even though Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight was recently chastised for doing so at the NYT. But I'll save that for later today. In the meantime, I'll see what odds Barone will offer on his 315-233 electoral vote forecast. If he really believes it, presumably he should be willing to take even money.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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