which side are you on?

A new post by Nate Silver raises an interesting question: are both candidates in the presidential election being forced to run out of their comfort zones?

The key part:

Over the past several days, there have been 15 national polls released. It looks like everybody has been trying to get numbers out as a baseline before the party conventions. And they tell a pretty consistent story.

Nine of the 15 polls have President Obama ahead by either one or two percentage points. Three have Mr. Obama ahead by a slightly larger margin, between four and six percentage points. Another three have Mr. Romney ahead, each by a single percentage point.

I read that as President Obama having to protect his lead, (Silver has pointed out that Obama’s margin over Romney is small, but persistent) while Romney is forced to play an aggressive offense.

If so, neither man is naturally suited to the roles the polls seem to dictate; Obama is a fierce competitor, and would be more comfortable if he didn’t have to worry so much about disrupting his lead by offending a constituency or two. Romney, on the other hand, is the corporate manager, better suited to seeing a one or two point lead as a profit margin to be nurtured.

The obvious objection to the above is: anyone would prefer to be ahead, especially if – as I believe – most people who will vote have already made up their minds. True, but that doesn’t change my underlying theory about where each man is most comfortable. A better objection would be – who cares? My guess is whatever effect such discomfort causes will be overwhelmed by the team nature of presidential politics. Mitt Romney may not be comfortable running from behind, but he’s smart enough to hire people who are.  Still, whenever you see mixed messaging or cognitive dissonance in the next 80+ days, consider whether you’re seeing a campaign that doesn’t want to be where it is.


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