We’ve been hearing pundits use the phrase “small ball” a lot to describe the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, and if you aren’t useful with the sports term you might not grasp how accurate the comparison is.
Small ball is a strategy used by baseball managers in an attempt to generate offense when they don’t have any heavy hitters in their lineup (notice how the analogy is coming together nicely already). Instead of relying on players that can knock the ball out of the park and hoping to generate a lot of runs, small ball managers encourage players to get on base by any means necessary, including taking a walk, a balk, or getting hit by a pitch. Once the team gets a player on based, they advance him any way they can, including hit-and-run, bunting, or stealing. The objective is to methodically move men around the bases, hope that over the course of a game, you can get one or two of them home. It will never produce a lot of runs, but it can generate enough if the other team can’t put runs on the board.
Small ball only works as an offensive strategy, however, if the manager has a strong defense that he can rely upon. If the pitchers on a small ball have a bad day—even a bad inning—or the defense commits errors, it’s game over. Once a small ball team is down by a couple of runs their strategy falls apart. The personnel on their team simply don’t have the capability of coming from behind to put points on the board and win.
In the political equivalent of small ball, an incumbent’s four years in office is supposed to provide them with a lead based upon their accomplishments, equal to a baseball team getting extra innings at bat. If the opponent is even moderately successful, he starts the next campaign several runs ahead.
Any reasonably honest fan will acknowledge that no matter how much they like Team Obama, it failed to put points on the board with its extra innings. It struck out on the economy all four years. Foreign policy has been fraught with unforced errors. At best, when they entered the 2012 campaign they were even when they should have been ahead, and there is good cause to claim that the massive increase to the national debt and the first two credit downgrades in our nation’s history actually cost them runs before the Republicans even formed their team.
When the Republicans did finally chose a team, they passed on “big inning” players that foundered in the primaries like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, and instead chose a more adaptable player in the form of Mitt Romney. Romney have proven he can “big inning ball” like when he saved the Salt Lake Olympics, and he is equally adept at small ball, which is how he governed the overwhelmingly Democratic state of Massachusetts.
President Obama and his allies in the media had spent most of the 2012 campaign perfecting the art of Presidential small ball. With no accomplishments in office except the killing of Osama bin Laden and the passing of Obamacare, the polimedia was hoping they would simply be able to put up enough defense to keep Romney from scoring the points he needed to win. They deflected criticism and occasionally made a few small offensive forays, including the weak-sauce Bain Capital attacks, and their argument that the Costco-shopping self-made millionaire couldn’t relate to the average Americans.
The plan seemed to be holding up well, until October rolled around and the game got serious.
The President entered the Denver Presidential debate with a slight lead, and then the worst possible thing happened. Small ball players have to play near-perfect error-free defense and Obama offered no defense at all. Seizing on this, the adaptable Romney used the debate to play big inning ball, and thundered in run after run as a stunned umpire Jim Lehrer stepped in just long enough to wipe of the plate every time Romney crossed home.
If there were a a Major League Baseball equivalent score to the Denver debate, Romney shelled Obama in a blowout 10-run inning. If it had been an Olympic game, it would have been stopped under the mercy rule.
The Denver debate saw Mitt Romney jump out to a six-run lead.
Obama did far better this past Tuesday in the Hofstra town hall debate, due in no small part to Candy Crowley tackling Romney as he was about to score another run on the Obama’s Benghazi scandal. He at least showed up, and his defenders in the media insist that he scored, even though post-debate polling seems to indicate that the primary result of the debate was to turn undecided voters who might have stayed home into Romney voters.
It will be a few more days to see the post-Hofstra effect on polling, but don’t be surprised to see that Romney has stretched his lead to seven or eight, or more as Obama and his polimedia supporters fall apart.
At noted earlier, teams employ small ball when they have little offensive production and good defense, but when that defense collapses, they simply don’t have the personnel to swing for the fences.
This late in the game they get desperate. They try to swing for the fences, but they simply aren’t long-ball hitters.
As a result, as we enter the final innings, you’ll see Team Obama swinging wildly at every pitch. Attempting to make Big Bird a scandal was their first fly out, and “Binders” is well on it’s way into the soft leather of a waiting infielder’s glove.
Obama has one more at bat on October 22 in a format like Denver’s that will once again favor Romney’s brand of smart ball. Barack Obama will swing for the fences.
Don’t be surprised in the slightest when he strikes out in his last at bat.