The deli restaurant in Miami Beach where I busboyed one college summer was Dubrow's, on the south side of Lincoln Road. Our competitor, Wolfie's, across the street leapt into the lead. About the only customers we ever got were when Wolfie's was full.
One night the boss came in and caught Jimmy, the counterman, putting the pies away 45 minutes before closing time. I thought the boss was going to kill Jimmy. "That's why Wolfie's is so damned full," the boss screamed. "They don't quit until quitting time!" We couldn't wait for the boss to leave so we could concentrate on our bad morale.
I suspect the White House has a lot in common with Dubrow's these days. Take a deep breath, then a broad step backwards. Forget all about who's leading in which swing states among likely voters. People suppose politics is a solid and psychology is a gas. The reverse is more like it. The psychology of this election is like a glacier which, after a season of stationary shimmering, is now moving toward Romney-Ryan. And accelerating.
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The White House denies Hillary Clinton was offered Joe Biden's slot on the ticket. In Washington you never believe anything until it's officially denied. How must that riptide of a rumor affect the campaign algae? I can almost see Jimmy putting the pies away early.
Consider: In mid-August Obama was pummeling a virtually inert Romney, whose head and shoulders were through the ropes dangling outside of the ring. Then came Romney's one-and-only bold move: Ryan! And suddenly a move long considered suicidal paid off, and keeps on paying. And Medicare, supposedly the issue Republicans had to flee, was replaced on the pedestal of political infamy by – guess what? – Obamacare! Romney now has his whole body back in the ring; ducking, dancing and throwing mean punches of his own. And gaining in the polls.
Why is it nobody kisses the ground after getting off a plane in Moscow? And why does nobody hop into un-seaworthy craft and try to "escape" from Florida to Cuba? This is where psychology really hurts today's Democrats. It would be terminally naïve to claim, "Republicans are good guys. Democrats are scum-bums." However, right now, whose Senate leader is accusing the other party's candidate of not paying taxes for 10 whole years, based on anonymous hearsay? And who refuses to reveal the name of the hear-sayer? How comfortable can Democrats be, accusing Romney of murder in a negative ad that's one stomp-down lie denounced in bipartisan rage.
There are millions of good Democrats who can no longer deny to themselves that their party has fallen through the moral floorboards that used to be there.
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Large numbers of empty seats at rallies and headlines about "Iowa Crowds Shunning Obama!" are symptoms of dire political disease. Birth certificates aside, Iowa is Obama's political birthplace, the place where he upset Hillary in the primary in 2008. A lot of Democratic elected officials refuse to appear with, endorse or even say they will vote for Obama. It gets worse. Former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, Democrat, African-American and a major weapon in Obama's victory, now announces his support of Mitt Romney and says he'll concentrate his efforts on Obama's broken promises.
OK, all those upscuddles can happen to any candidate, but it seems to take an Obama to cause a Corey Booker. Corey Booker is the African-American mayor of Newark, N.J., who "broke" early in the cavalcade of Democratic misdeeds and loudly spilled that the negative ads on Romney "nauseated" him. Booker is one of the most appealing politicians in America. I emceed a banquet of ultra-orthodox Jews in Newark where Booker was the main speaker, and you rarely see that kind of spark between speaker and audience. After Booker's "misbehavior" to the party he was forced to make a "hostage video" (saying what he obviously didn't feel; like a hostage with a gun against his spine) taking back his negative remarks about the Democratic advertising machine. Last week, in a fit of intensified anti-Democratic rage, Corey Booker repudiated his hostage video. "I reinforce my original remarks," he said. That's worse than getting bitten by your own dog. That's like getting bitten by your own dog and needing treatment.
When things turn badly, especially after they'd been going so well, and good people find themselves wedded to an unholy cause, psychology crumbles. Why do you think Italian soldiers surrendered by the division during World War II? Are Italians cowards? No way. They just lacked any motivation to fight for their leader, Mussolini, who was allied to the late Adolf Hitler. Gallup, Rasmussen, Zogby and their like may find other language, but Obama's forces are threatened with massive "Mussolini-syndrome" defectors. And who can blame them?
The hordes of Jewish grandchildren headed for Florida to persuade grandparents Obama is best for Israel have been replaced with an e-book suggesting worse trouble in Obamaland and a fresh Newsweek with a cover story urging Obama to pack up and get out.
No wonder they're putting the pies away early.