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Modern presidencies, with a few exceptions, seem to be judged by one standard: Re-election. George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were failures. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were successes. Period. And from the point of view of those presidents, and their staff, I'm sure it felt like that. Packing up your boxes after being rejected by voters is a political failure. And you can still feel Carter, especially, trying to prove himself a success in his post-presidency.

But somehow that political failure has come to dominate our assessment of a...

November 12, 2012

The main reactions after a hard-fought campaign are pretty simple: Winning feels great, losing stinks. I cared about this election, and wanted the President to be re-elected, so I’m happy. I also remember, though, what it’s like to lose so I can empathize with how Republicans feel this week.

But there are a few things from this election that I think almost everyone can feel good about. Here are five:

1. Romney won an even larger percentage of white evangelicals than John McCain did in 2008. Why is that good news? Because it means...

November 09, 2012

It is human nature, apparently, to decide that the loser in any contest must have done nearly everything wrong. The football that Tom Brady threw near the end of the Super Bowl last year was about two feet away from being catchable, and with that little adjustment we'd have been celebrating all the Patriots did right, instead of indulging in post-mortems about how they lost to the Giants again. It demonstrates the faulty logic of our all-or-nothing assessments of winners and losers that the Patriots’ weaknesses were in the run game and defense...

November 08, 2012

For those not directly involved in getting out the vote, Election Day is like the eye of the political storm. After months of loud, bracing politics and before many more of fractious governing, today seems quiet. There is nothing left to say, as we wait for the votes to be cast and counted.

But it is a moment in which we can reflect on how we conduct our politics. I don’t mean “we” as a nation, but each of us as individuals. I don’t think we can ever regulate elections to remove the harsher aspects of campaigning. Contests for power have...

November 06, 2012

As of this writing, President Obama holds a small but consistent lead in most of the highly contested battleground states. Governor Romney seems to have a slight edge in at least two of them, Florida and North Carolina. But to get a sense of how incredibly close it is in those two states, look at the raw numbers. In North Carolina, Public Policy Polling (PPP) reports that Romney leads Obama 49.4 percent to 49.2 percent. In actual numbers, that means 457 of the people they called preferred Romney and 455 chose Obama. In Florida, PPP actually has...

November 05, 2012

The most iconic political ads are dramatic: Johnson’s daisy, Reagan’s bear, and the revolving door of Willie Horton’s prison. But my father, who split his working life between advertising and politics, used to remind me that the best commercials aren't always the most striking or creative -- they're the ones that sell the product. In political advertising, too, sometimes the smartest moments are among the least flashy.

One of the most effective touches in a campaign ad this year is in a spot that serves as President Obama’s “closing...

November 04, 2012

Both sides in the 2012 presidential election have their preferred storyline. They cite trends, polls and statistics, but it basically it comes down to “John Kerry or Jimmy Carter?”. Governor Romney’s strategists want to see President Obama as Jimmy Carter, while the White House casts Romney as John Kerry. Who’s right?

The Romney argument is that Obama has overseen a period of lackluster economic growth, he does not project strength, and that his cerebral style is out of touch with regular Americans. They point to Carter’s close race with...

November 02, 2012

There’s been a lot of argument for a long time about bias in journalism. Like many long-running disputes, both sides have some of the facts on their side. It seems clear that most reporters are socially liberal, but pridefully non-partisan in their work. They long to skewer those in power, distrust politicians of every flavor, and hate any hint that they are the tool of a party or power. The result is that they spend an enormous amount of energy trying to prove they are “balanced.” Sometimes that means hitting Democrats harder to demonstrate...

November 01, 2012

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