The Navy needs more ships, Mitt Romney said in Monday's debate. It has fewer now than in 1916.
President Barack Obama pounced. "Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them ... "
In the spin room, some journalists laughed and applauded. Liberals imagine themselves to be intellectually and morally superior to conservatives. They love to put them down.
But "sarcasm and condescension only work if the speaker's presumption of lofty superior knowledge is borne out by his command of actual facts," said Pastor Donald Sensing, a retired Army colonel.
Mr. Obama was wrong on both the thrust of his argument, and on the examples he used. Aircraft carriers need smaller ships to protect them, lest they be sunk. The military has many more bayonets now than in 1916. Marines think so highly of them they've designed a new one, modeled on the famous KA-BAR fighting knife. Special Forces soldiers on horseback were critical to ousting the Taliban.
The facts matter little to liberals. Their assumption of intellectual superiority isn't based on actual knowledge. Journalists declared the president the winner of the debate.
But facts and civility do matter to most Americans. A CBS panel of undecided voters in Ohio chose Mr. Romney, 6-2. A video of the dismay of CBS "This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell when this was reported is zipping across the Internet.
The Navy and shipbuilding are very important in southeast Virginia. With his wisecrack, the president may have kissed the state goodbye.
It isn't just in Virginia where Mr. Obama's fortunes are plummeting. When Missouri isn't a swing state, but Minnesota is, Democrats are in big trouble. No challenger who's cracked 50 percent in Gallup's tracking poll has ever lost. Mr. Romney is polling better at this point in the campaign than did every victorious challenger from 1968 on.
It's hard to see how the president can mount a comeback. His strategy of demonizing Mitt Romney collapsed when Americans saw in the first debate the GOP candidate has neither horns nor hooves. In an NBC/WSJ poll Monday, 62 percent of respondents said they want "significant change" from Mr. Obama's policies, but he's offered little in the way of an agenda for a second term. Instead he makes excuses, and ever more petty attacks. Voters now think Mr. Romney is just as "likeable" as Mr. Obama.
So the question may not be whether Mr. Romney will win, but by how much. When this dawns on Ms. O'Donnell, the video will be priceless.
Our politics are now so polarized I doubt that any candidate in either party -- not even JFK or Ronald Reagan -- could win much more than 52 percent of the popular vote. But law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) thinks the odds of a preference cascade are rising.
Economist Timur Kuran coined the term to explain why totalitarian regimes usually collapse suddenly. A preference cascade happens when people discover millions of others share their doubts about the Great Leader. Massive media bias has made the term applicable here, Mr. Reynolds said. The Barack Obama that Americans saw in the debates bears little resemblance to the heroic figure portrayed by the news media.
The crowds have been enormous at Romney/Ryan events this past week. If this is the start of a preference cascade, many Democrats may drown in the undertow. The Obama campaign has vacuumed up so much Democratic money there's little left for other candidates.
In yet another fund-raising appeal on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said he and Michelle would be fine if he loses. If the president's friends are indeed buying him a $35 million mansion in Hawaii, as Chicago blogger Kevin Dujan (Hillbuzz) claims, that's certainly true. But public employee unions, crony capitalists and others who feed at the public trough have reason to panic.
Underlings must wonder if there will be legal consequences for the laws they've broken. I predict an orgy of document shredding Nov. 7.
The biggest losers could be "mainstream" journalists. Their blatant bias has dropped trust in the news media to an all-time low. It'll plunge further if more evidence of collusion with the administration emerges. Nobody trusts a liar. There will be bankruptcies.jackkelly
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (email@example.com, 412-262-1476).