Behind the Magic Trick

Once you know the secret behind a magic trick, it loses its appeal.

No matter how carefully crafted, no matter how spectacular the effect, no matter how much skill goes into its design, once you see the wires, or know where the secret compartment is, the trick stops being magic and becomes nothing more than engineering.

The trick the Obama campaign has executed beautifully this month is to demoralize and dismay the GOP base. A combination of a very, very, very heavy TV buy in swing states (pay attention, because this is a rabbit they can’t pull out every week), a fierce assault on Romney at every turn (abetted by a cooperative press that loves the taste of blood) and a series of public polls that have played into a self-reinforcing narrative that Obama is inevitable.

The trick is a good one, and to judge from the wailing and lamentations on our side, it’s been working.

But it’s just a trick.

Let’s pull back the curtain, shall we?

The polling-validity battle has gone on for weeks now, and I’ll skip recounting the arguments on both sides. Yes, they’re playing 2008+ model games. No, it isn’t a just a conspiracy by the liberal media. Yes, the race is closer than the public polls show – on either side. The poll coverage looks the way it does because the media monster is always hungry, confirmation bias is like slipping into a warm bath and the herd runs the same direction, despite the facts.

The polls are what they are and September polls are never, ever wrong… except of course in 1948, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004. (h/t the amazing Jay Cost for that one).

See? You just saw one of the wires that make the trick work.

The polling is presented superficially, with typically only the toplines and a degree of analysis that is facile at best. There’s no context, history or depth. I’ve covered this problem a bit here and here.

So the polls became part of the message of chest-beating triumphalism by Team Obama. The drumbeat of Obama’s glorious, inexorable ascension to another four years in the Oval Office is something Chicago feeds to the media, but doesn’t for a second believe themselves.

The entire purpose of the last two weeks on their side is to game early voting. That’s it. It’s not about the end game, but rather an attempt to roll up some numbers in key states before the debates start and the campaign joins in earnest. They’re desperate to have you demoralized, depressed and sitting home in your living room, grumbling at Fox instead of voting early.

The Democrats know very well this race will tighten even further toward the end, and that the Potemkin Village of polls showing Barack Obama with a double-digit lead is just that.

They know that all the balls Obama is juggling now are, statistically and politically, impossible to keep airborne. They know the run of Obama-is-God stories will collide with reality, whether economic, diplomatic or political. They know that Romney’s spending is catching up, fast, and will peak in the last week of October in a furious orgy of television ads and a get-out-the-vote program like nothing the GOP has done before.

Their air of serene confidence is another part of the trick they didn’t want you to see. They want you to view the campaign as a static object, fixed in the moment, not as the barfight we’re about to experience.

They even know that their very cooperative friends in the media may be liberal, but they’re driven by watching the Big Show, up close and personal. They want a contest, and a good number of the more professional of them (and no, kids, they’re not a single, unified liberal cabal…more like an online Bieber fan club) admit that they’ve been soft on him. They want some sport. They want to see the fight last until the end. They’re about to get it.

Now, you’ve not only seen what the magician is doing, but you know why. Now, you know who the mark is in this particular con game.

It’s you.

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  1. Lucy Pevensie

    If the goal is to bring out early voters, as member Ningrim has been pointing out over and over, it’s  really not working.

  2. Fake John Galt

    Well absentee / early voting is where a fair amount of the cheating is done so it would be in their interest to get out as many as possible.

  3. Skip London

    I have a somewhat different question.  The polls that show Obama is going to win have been put out by the msm.  Conservatives, broadly speaking, do not trust the msm to tell the truth.  The left, on the other hand believes what they read.  Will these polls discourage Romney voters, or will they instead make Obama voters complacent?   After all, why bother to vote if your guy is a shoe in.  On the other hand, why not get out and vote and prove the msm is as wrong as you know it is?  Has anyone ever tried to measure which way the impact goes?

  4. ljt

    I joined the Team Demoralized 2 weeks ago- the polls and that Egyptian being led away by the police with the rest of the country not (seemingly ) caring.  Then I spent some time analyzing my gut.  I realized that I still planned to crawl through broken glass (as some ricocheter once put it) to get to the polls. However  – my desire to contribute financially had dropped.

    So I snapped out of it and sent Romney and  the RNSC a check. And relaxed. What has changed since the DNC?

    Obama has proved he is as worthless in foreign policy as he is in domestic.

    Thats it. Right?

  5. Rick Wilson
    C

    shhhhhh

    Lucy Pevensie: If the goal is to bring out early voters, as member Ningrim has been pointing out over and over, it’s  really not working. · 47 minutes ago

  6. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Amen, Rick, amen.

  7. ljt

    PS does this have a counter effect? Do -  say -  college student who think Obama has it in the bag – do they bother to go out and vote? Especially when  when it’s no longer a fashion statement?

  8. Andrew Barrett

    Thanks for the pick-me-up.  It has been hard to remain optimistic recently, especially with all the conservative talking heads going “Eeyore” lately.

  9. Mitch Noyes

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. This country is farther gone than we on the right have suspected and we have not done our jobs in educating the public as to the rightness of our thinking and policies. We’ve segregated ourselves from the culture, media, and education system, and spend our days listening to talk radio and Fox News, oblivious to how toxic the conservative brand has become and what the nature of our society truly has become. 

    I’m not saying that all is lost, only that our job is even harder than we thought.We underestimated people’s receptiveness to conservatism and overestimated their dissatisfaction with Obama and their ability to see through his BS.

    This is happy talk and rationalization Mr. Wilson.

  10. Rick Wilson
    C

    Snort…exactly.

    DocJay: Hey look, Obama just made our credit rating disappear.  It’s magic. · 7 hours ago

  11. Dave

    What do you make of the advertising side of the trick?

    I live in Central Florida, and it’s all Obama commercials, with barely a peep from Romney.  Actually, the only Romney ads I’ve seen are from a PAC.

    Furthermore, my fiancee is Hispanic and watches a lot of Univision; she reports that it is also all Obama and no Romney.

    Of course, a couple people’s t.v. viewing habits are idiosyncratic and certainly not representative. Maybe Romney is advertising on other channels.  But it certainly seems like the Obama story is going unchallenged.

    The same goes for the other candidates: plenty of Bill Nelson, no Connie Mack (though some signs have sprouted up this week).

    The contemptible Alan Grayson is back on the air, too–accusing his opponent of wanting to kill seniors by raising the Social Security age. Haven’t seen any push back here, either.

    So, what’s really going on? If it’s a trick, it seems to be working…

  12. wmartin
    Dave: What do you make of the advertising side of the trick?

    I live in Central Florida, and it’s all Obama commercials, with barely a peep from Romney.  Actually, the only Romney ads I’ve seen are from a PAC.

    Furthermore, my fiancee is Hispanic and watches a lot of Univision; she reports that it is also all Obama and no Romney.

    Of course, a couple people’s t.v. viewing habits are idiosyncratic and certainly not representative. Maybe Romney is advertising on other channels.  But it certainly seems like the Obama story is going unchallenged.

    The same goes for the other candidates: plenty of Bill Nelson, no Connie Mack (though some signs have sprouted up this week).

    The contemptible Alan Grayson is back on the air, too–accusing his opponent of wanting to kill seniors by raising the Social Security age. Haven’t seen any push back here, either.

    So, what’s really going on? If it’s a trick, it seems to be working… · 20 minutes ago

    And Obama does have the money to keep doing this..he is swimming in cash with less than six weeks to go.

  13. smp16

    Thanks for this post. It was needed and it confirms much of what I’ve been suspecting.

  14. cbc
    Barbara Kidder: I believe that you are right in what you say, but…

    . . . The 2012 election will be ‘won’ through massive voter fraud!

    Why are people not writing about this aspect of the ‘bar fight’? · 11 hours ago

    They are writing about Voting Fraud.  Look at all the attacks on True the Vote which is cleaning up the lists and enrolling observers in 27 states.  

    Check out True the Vote on-line.  It is a wonderful way for computer savy people to help attack voter fraud. 

  15. Barbara Kidder

    I believe that you are right in what you say, but…

    unless  Mit Romney wins in a ‘landslide’, Obama and the Democrats will lie, cheat and steal  to take this election.

    The 2012 election will be ‘won’ through massive voter fraud!

    Why are people not writing about this aspect of the ‘bar fight’?

  16. oldbaritone

    Any racing enthusiast will tell you, the only thing that really counts is who’s in the lead on the last lap.

    Everything before that is “just racing.”

    The “last lap” is on November 6.  Everything  before that may make someone “feel good”, but it doesn’t count.

    Here’s hoping overconfidence that “it’s a done deal” will lead to apathy for Obama voters, and will motivate others that “no, it’s not.”

    We’ll find out in a month.

  17. FloppyDisk90
    Mitch Noyes: Sorry, I don’t buy it. This country is farther gone than we on the right have suspected and we have not done our jobs in educating the public as to the rightness of our thinking and policies. We’ve segregated ourselves from the culture, media, and education system, and spend our days listening to talk radio and Fox News, oblivious to how toxic the conservative brand has become and what the nature of our society truly has become. 

    I’m not saying that all is lost, only that our job is even harder than we thought.We underestimated people’s receptiveness to conservatism and overestimated their dissatisfaction with Obama and their ability to see through his BS.

    This is happy talk and rationalization Mr. Wilson. · 2 hours ago

    +1  The only thing I would take issue with is I don’t think this country’s inexorable slide into statist socialism is a problem with communication.  I don’t have the answer but I think it’s deeper then our side’s (in)ability to sell a product.

  18. David Williamson

    Sadly, Peter and Rob appeared to have succumbed to the magic trick (I am only part way through the podcast that we now pay for). Credit is due to Mr Lileks for being the lone voice of fortitude in the trio (I haven’t yet gotten to where the guests arrive).

    May I suggest that Peter and Rob print out this post and stick it to their computer screens prior to the next podcast?

    Congrats, Rick, on making it to Hotair!

  19. Strategoist

    Good stuff!  Reads like the prologue to Henry V.  Ready, set, go!

  20. Mister D

    As a fan of magic I disagree with your premise. Knowing the trick often gives me both greater appreciation for its design, and the ability to marvel at the actual (rather than the misdirected) performance.

    Otherwise, spot on.

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