I was chatting with a friend of mine last night who works in Democratic politics, and looking ahead, he was feeling pretty optimistic about the 2012 elections. As he sees it, the pieces are largely in place -- President Obama has weathered the attacks and remains in the lead; Mitt Romney is not well liked; and Paul Ryan's radicalism only further tips the scales.
The recent economic data is pointing in the right direction; the post-Ryan bump was even smaller than expected; and Medicare is suddenly topic #1. Why shouldn't Dems be happy?
What my friend couldn't explain is how Democrats expect to succeed if Republicans rig the electoral process. Did everyone see Rachel's lead story last night on Pennsylvania?
We talked a bit about the state court ruling on voter-ID yesterday, but Rachel's explanation is worth keeping in mind:
"Seriously, the judge's reasoning was that hundreds of thousands of people in Pennsylvania who do not have this kind of ID will be provided it by the state of Pennsylvania before the election. This of course requires that the state can handle that influx of work, requires that all of those hundreds of thousands of people in Pennsylvania are going to have the documentation they need in order to get the new IDs. It requires that all of those hundreds of thousands of people are going to have transportation and access to the Department of Transportation offices in Philadelphia where you can get these new IDs.
"I should perhaps note here that Pennsylvania has the lowest proportion of government workers to state population of any state in the country. I should note that 13 of the state's transportation offices where you can get these IDs are open only one day a week. Nine Pennsylvania counties don't even have one of these offices at all.
"And perhaps most pressingly, this whole rationale for the judge keeping the law in place requires that the hundreds of thousands of legal voter Pennsylvania residents will know in advance that they have to do all of this in time to get it done before the election. They've got to complete the paperwork, have their ID issued to them in time to vote."
There is a voter-education effort underway in Pennsylvania, but it's been contracted out to a private lobbying firm run by the former executive director of the state Republican Party -- who also happens to be a generous Romney donor.
And the developments go well beyond Pennsylvania.
In Ohio, the Republican Secretary of State is still making it easier for residents to vote in Republican counties than Democratic counties; in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott's (R) pre-election voter purge appears poised to intensify; and there are additional new reports of GOP voter-suppression tactics in Iowa and New Mexico.
I understand why Democrats may feel some optimism about the larger trajectory, but even if President Obama can overcome the lies, the public discontent over the economy, and the extremely well-funded smear campaigns, his re-election task remains incredibly challenging if many of his supporters in key swing state are blocked from casting ballots.
Of course, it also raises a related question: if Obama has been such an awful failure, why do so many Republicans feel the need to rig the elections process in the GOP's favor? Shouldn't they consider it easy to defeat the president in a fair fight?