GUY RAZ, HOST:
It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
MITT ROMNEY: In the last four years, we've seen that promise fade away. Hispanics are hurting.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: But Mitt Romney would break that promise, replace your benefits with a voucher.
RAZ: Some of the latest political ads coming out of the Romney and Obama campaigns. James Fallows of The Atlantic joins me now, as he does most Saturdays, for a look behind the headlines. Jim, welcome.
JAMES FALLOWS: Hello, Guy.
RAZ: OK, we've had a chance now to kind of soak up both party conventions. And while there is sort of an element of theater to all of it, there does seem a difference between the party in power and the one trying to get into power.
FALLOWS: There is, and I think it's something that many people don't pay enough attention to. When you're the party that's in power - in this case, the Democrats - you know for the previous four years who you're going to be nominating. You can coordinate your message. When you're the out party, you know only a couple of months in advance who your actual nominee is going to be - in this case, Mitt Romney - you have to find some way to appease the people he was running against and who lost and find ways to build them into the convention.
And so if there was more cognitive dissonance in the Republican convention than the Democrats this year, that's partly about these two parties at this stage of their history but also just the way things are when you have the ins versus the outs.
RAZ: You wrote in your blog this week that some folks at the GOP convention who spoke, like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio and even, to some extent, Paul Ryan, you argue would be objectively better off if Romney loses.
FALLOWS: Yes. This is one other difference and probably the main one I should have mentioned that at the Democratic convention, for all the rivalries that have existed over the years among the Clintons and the Obamas and the Bidens and everybody else, they all are better off with the same goal if Obama is re-elected. That helps everybody there.
For the Republicans, on the other hand, the striking thing about speeches by especially Chris Christie but also Marco Rubio was their implied message I'm the guy you should be looking at next time. And, of course, the next time argument, if applied for 2016, depends on this time's nominee, Mitt Romney, losing. So there was that just built-in straddle for the Republicans.
RAZ: One of the campaign ads that we just heard above in that clip for Mitt Romney is targeting Latino voters. And a lot of his message, Jim, now seems to be veering, you know, away from, let's say, the party base and more towards a kind of broad middle.
FALLOWS: It is true. And just by the sheer demographics of the presidential race this year, the Republicans have recognized, number one, that Mitt Romney has been behind in almost all the tracking polls so far this year; and number two, the demographics where they are at the greatest disadvantage are among women, blacks and Latinos.
Anybody running Mitt Romney's campaign for the next months would want to concentrate very hard on appealing to Latinos, especially in Southwestern states and probably starting with Colorado.
RAZ: Jim, there was and is a lot of talk about outside money and how it will have an immeasurable impact on this election. But, you know, judging by certainly the latest Gallup poll, I mean, President Obama is doing quite well against Mitt Romney despite the fact that Republicans have a big money advantage with outside groups, superPACs and so on. So I wonder if in some ways, this issue of outside money has been overstated.
FALLOWS: Perhaps it has been, but I think there's an aspect to this, which may be even more important. The presidential race has been surprisingly stable over the past year or so - the popularity polls. We don't know what's going to happen two months from now, but so far, it's been surprisingly stable despite this huge influx of money.
Where it could make a huge difference is at the congressional level, both in the House, which Republicans will probably still hold, and in the Senate, where control is up for grabs, and at state legislatures, too, which have such an important ripple effect. So that may be where we see the real impact of money.
RAZ: In other words, if congressional Republicans hold onto the House and then retake the Senate, President Obama, if he wins, his second term could look similar to the last two years of George W. Bush's presidential term when he had to contend with congressional Democrats.
FALLOWS: Indeed. And as that seems more likely over the next two months, the Democrats' natural argument would be let's at least make sure that we have a Democrat in the White House because we'll do better than if the Republicans hold all the branches of government at once.
The Republicans' case will be if it looks as if the presidential race is getting harder for Mitt Romney to pull off, to say, well, if Barack Obama is going back for another four years, let's make sure that we have the Congress so that we can block things we really don't like in his agenda and get more of our own plans put into action.
RAZ: That's James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic. You can find his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Jim, thank you so much again.
FALLOWS: My pleasure, Guy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.