Spinning Jimmy Carter

“He’s history’s greatest monster!”

I’ve expressed my confusion over the bizarre conservative strategy of constantly invoking Jimmy Carter throughout this campaign despite the fact that huge swaths of the electorate don’t remember the Carter administration and he is a popular former President, but I just need to stop being surprised.

In addition to trying to make the false equivalence between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter — and therefore implying that Mitt Romney is Ronald Reagan — conservatives have taken to comparing the internal numbers of the race to those of 1980.

Undecideds break to the challenger just like in 1980. Even if they don’t.

Jimmy Carter had an 8-point lead over Reagan coming out of the conventions and it was the first debate that turned it all around. But Carter had no such lead.

And now Jeffrey Lord writes a detailed explanation of how the media is hyping Obama’s chances just like they hyped Jimmy Carter!

Lord walks through a number of 1980 “swing states” and revealed that polling showed Jimmy Carter close or leading in these states almost a month before the election. The point of the article is to comfort conservatives with hope that the 2012 polls will falter exactly as the 1980 polls faltered. It also reinforces the “liberal media bias” meme somewhat disingenuously by suggesting that the numbers themselves — rather than the spin around them — are biased. But closer examination reveals that Lord’s argument is not only faulty, but should actually be more depressing for conservatives.

Quick recap, Lord cites polling from early- to mid-October for 7 swing states that Reagan eventually won, specifically:

Texas — Carter +1
Pennsylvania — Reagan +2
Illinois — Reagan +1
Ohio — Reagan +2
Florida — Reagan +2
New York — Carter +9
Michigan — Carter +1

The problem for Lord is that other than New York, these states mostly showed Reagan leading. Perhaps the weirdest number there to the modern observer is Texas, but remember that in 1980 Texas had only elected 3 Republicans in HISTORY up until that point meaning polling assumptions weren’t well-established and diminished reliability. Far from showing that the media spun the polls to show Carter leading, Lord demonstrates that Reagan had momentum in most of these states.

And this is where the article should turn depressing for conservatives. Take a look at the toss-up states in RCP’s average of polls. Remind you of anything? Like maybe Reagan’s thin but consistent lead in most of the swing states? How did that turn out?

Yeah. Take another shot right-wingers.

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