Archive for the ‘Mitt Romney’ Category

Debate Serves As Wake Up Call for Obama

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Like a lot of other Democrats, I spent Wednesday night yelling at the TV while watching President Obama debate Mitt Romney. Explanations for his performance abound, but I think it mostly comes down to complacency on the campaign and especially on Obama’s part. 

The President has been leading in enough swing states to win the election for over a year, got a very nice bump coming out of the convention, and the country has spent the past three months watching Mitt Romney self-immolate with a series of unforced errors.  When Jon Stewart recently did a bit on how Romney had seemed to get dumber as the election progressed, his audience cheered wildly. Stewart interrupted them to say “Really? Is that how you want to win this thing? The other guy tears his ACL?” That didn’t seem far from the truth, as a bruising Republican primary in which he sold himself out over and over, a brilliant negative Obama media campaign that destroyed his business record, and gaffe after gaffe, increasingly made Romney seem like an unviable alternative.

Given this set of circumstances, it’s understandable that the Obama campaign would have a conservative strategy in the debates, but that still doesn’t explain the many missed opportunities, the total lack of a strategy to tie the individual policy details they were arguing about into a coherent theme and the general lack of enthusiasm the President showed for being there. What it most reminded me of was George W. Bush’s first debate with John Kerry, when President Bush mostly seemed annoyed that he had to be there. His attitude was something like: I’ve been working my ass off here, making the tough decisions of governing this country while you’ve been running around doing nothing but complaining for a year and a half. I’m the president. Do I really need to explain myself to you? The answer, of course, is “yes.” No matter how lacking in credibility the challenger is, we still expect the President to defend his record voiciferously and with energy, like his job depends on it. Because it might.

To use a boxing analogy, Obama had Romney on the ropes before this debate and could have gone for the knockout punch. Instead, he danced around the ring, playing mostly defense, hoping to win on points. Meanwhile, Romney fought as if his political life depended on it, because it did. If the Obama team thought this was a viable strategy before, you can bet they don’t anymore.

Of course, one debate doesn’t erase an entire political campaign and Bush v. Kerry is proof that you can still lose the debates and win the election, but those debates also show the danger of that scenario. Kerry surged 8 points over the course of those debates and many thought he would win, even on election day.  This debate should serve as notice to the President and his team: this race is gonna be a dogfight. Playing defense and trying to win on points isn’t gonna cut it. If he wants to keep his job, he’s gotta fight for it.

Wonk in Chief Demolishes Romney-Ryan

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The Democrats wrapped up an amazing Convention last week, but the best speaker by far was former President Bill Clinton. In a speech that was remarkably full of wonky policy details (someone on Twitter refered to it as ”45 minutes of wonk porn” and Ezra Klein dubbed him the Wonk in Chief),  Clinton dismantled the case for a Romney-Ryan Presidency piece by piece.

He spoke about Democratic vs. Republican economic philosophies and economic records:

We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that “We’re all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “You’re on your own.”

So who’s right? Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private- sector jobs. So what’s the job score? Republicans: twenty-four million. Democrats: forty-two.

He put the economic and political situation in perspective:

In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re- election was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”…

I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better. Here it is. He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good, new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for innovators…

When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in freefall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month.

He compared the situation to when he was in office, intimating that the economy just hadn’t been given enough time to recover:

Here’s the challenge he faces and the challenge all of you who support him face. I get it. I know it. I’ve been there. A lot of Americans are still angry and frustrated about this economy. If you look at the numbers, you know employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend again, and in a lot of places, housing prices have even began to pick up.

But too many people do not feel it yet. I had this same thing happen in 1994 and early ‘95. We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing, but most people didn’t feel it yet. Thankfully, by 1996, the economy was roaring, everybody felt it, and we were halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in the history of the United States…. But the difference this time is purely in the circumstances. President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now. No president, no president — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.

The not so subtle message: You know how great I was for the economy, but even I couldn’t have got this economy moving. A very important message aimed directly at moderates who worry that the lack of a more robust economic recovery may be the result of Obama’s economic policies instead of the devastating effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

Clinton defended the Administration’s policy decisions on health care and the auto bailout and then demolished the Romney-Ryan argument on Medicare:

(B)oth Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion. That’s the same attack they leveled against the Congress in 2010, and they got a lot of votes on it. But it’s not true.

Look, here’s what really happened. You be the judge… There were no cuts to benefits at all, none. What the president did was to save money by taking the recommendations of a commission of professionals to cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service. And instead of raiding Medicare, he used the savings to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program. And — you all got to listen carefully to this. This is really important — and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare trust fund so it is solvent until 2024.

So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare. They strengthened Medicare.

With his signature, folksy grin, Bill Clinton savaged Ryan:

Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, “the biggest, coldest power play,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry… because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget!

And then the coup de gras:

You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.

And then a pivot from Ryan to Romney:

Now, at least on this issue, on this one issue, Governor Romney has been consistent. He attacked President Obama, too, but he actually wants to repeal those savings and give the money back to the insurance company. He wants to go back to the old system, which means we’ll reopen the donut hole and force seniors to pay more for drugs, and we’ll reduce the life of the Medicare trust fund by eight full years. So if he’s elected, and if he does what he promised to do, Medicare will now go broke in 2016. Think about that. That means after all we won’t have to wait until their voucher program kicks in, in 2023, to see the end of Medicare as we know it. They’re going to do it to us sooner than we thought.

Clinton also hit Romney and Ryan on Medicaid cuts, which is a topic that has mostly been avoided by Democrats, since programs for the poor have shown consistently less support than universal programs such as Medicare. Clinton pointed out that all the Romney-Ryan talk about preserving benefits for current seniors is just that: talk.

They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years. Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids. But that’s not all. A lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors who are eligible for Medicaid. It’s going to end Medicare as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including… a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down’s syndrome or autism or other severe conditions.

Again, subtext: we’re not just talking about poor people here, we’re talking about good, middle-class people like you…

Similarly, Clinton took apart Romney and Ryan’s claim to be the guys making the tough calls on the budget: 

(T)he Romney plan fails the first test of fiscal responsibility: The numbers just don’t add up.

I mean, consider this. What would you do if you had this problem? Somebody says, “Oh, we’ve got a big debt problem. We’ve got to reduce the debt.” So what’s the first thing he says we’re going to do? “Well, to reduce the debt, we’re going to have another $5 trillion in tax cuts, heavily weighted to upper-income people. So we’ll make the debt hole bigger before we start to get out of it.”

Now, when you say, “What are you going to do about this $5 trillion you just added on?” They say, “Oh, we’ll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code.” So then you ask, “Well, which loopholes? And how much?” You know what they say? “See me about that after the election.”

I’m not making it up. That’s their position. “See me about that after the election.”

Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic…

If they stay with this $5 trillion tax cut plan in a debt reduction plan, the arithmetic tells us, no matter what they say, one of three things is about to happen. One, assuming they try to do what they say they’ll do — get rid of — cover it by deductions, cutting those deductions — one, they’ll have to eliminate so many deductions, like the ones for home mortgages and charitable giving, that middle- class families will see their tax bills go up an average of $2,000, while anybody who makes $3 million or more will see their tax bill go down $250,000.

Or, two, they’ll have to cut so much spending that they’ll obliterate the budget for the national parks, for ensuring clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air travel. They’ll cut way back on Pell grants, college loans, early childhood education, child nutrition programs, all the programs that help to empower middle-class families and help poor kids. Oh, they’ll cut back on investments in roads and bridges and science and technology and biomedical research. That’s what they’ll do. They’ll hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold to give tax cuts to upper-income people who’ve been getting it all along.

Or, three, in spite of all the rhetoric, they’ll just do what they’ve been doing for more than 30 years. They’ll go and cut the taxes way more than they cut spending, especially with that big defense increase, and they’ll just explode the debt and weaken the economy, and they’ll destroy the federal government’s ability to help you by letting interest gobble up all your tax payments.

To summarize: the three possible outcomes from the Romney plan: 1) huge tax cuts for the rich and increases for the midele class 2) drastic cuts in services that huge majorities of middle class voters support (all to give tax cuts to the rich) or 3) gigantic deficits (with yet another reminder of how abysmal the Republican record on deficits has been since the 1980′s).

Alltogether, Clinton’s argument was a tour de force. He gave Barack Obama the imprimatur of the most popular politician in America, he explained the extraordinary situation that we find ourselves in the during the Great Recession, and he demolished the credibility of the Romney-Ryan budget as well as their criticisms of Obama on Medicare. He did it making a speech that spoke to Americans as adults and didn’t shy away from policy details. But perhaps most impressive: he did it all with a smile on his face and you could tell he was having fun.

This one may resonate for a while.

The Whitewash Convention

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Bill Maher on the Republican Convention Whitewash of the Bush years.

No Bush, no Cheney, no Rumsfeld, no Bachman, John McCain relegated to a short speech out of prime time and Sarah Palin was not only not invited to the convention, but her scheduled appearances on Fox were cancelled as well, leaving her sitting in Alaska whining to the country on Facebook.  

 

 

Fact Checking Ryan

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

 

Well, you gotta give it up to Paul Ryan for a great convention speech. Veteran political reporter Howard Fineman said it was the best speech he has seen at any party convention and that’s a lot of conventions. But if Ryan gets an A for delivery, he gets an F for truthfulness.

Johathan Cohn has a good summary of the 5 major misrepresentations in the speech.

1) The plant that he argued Obama was responsible for letting close was shuttered during the last months of the Bush Administration. Not to mention the fact that (whatever you think about the auto bailout) it’s hard to argue that things would have been better for auto workers across the Rust Belt without it.   

2) Ryan attacked Obama on cuts to Medicare in order to fund Obamacare, but neglected to mention that under the two budgets he authored in the House, he maintains Obama’s cuts in Medicare while simultaneously cutting the benefits that were part of the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, if you’re a real budget hawk, keeping Obama’s cuts to Medicare can be seen as the right thing to do, but (contrary to their rhetoric that it’s responsible) Mitt Romney’s fairytale budget restores the cuts while simultaneously giving more tax cuts to the rich and providing no details on the imaginary deductions that he will eliminate in order to pay for all of these budget busters. 

To be sure, Obama and the Congressional Democrats left themselves wide open to this attack by making those cuts, but they were part of a larger deal expanding benefits under Obama:

Obamacare’s cut to Medicare was a reduction in what the plan pays hospitals and insurance companies. And the hospitals said they could live with those cuts, because Obamacare was simultaneously giving more people health insurance, alleviating the financial burden of charity care.

But that paragraph won’t fit on a bumper sticker, so you can see why Romney’s pollster stated that they “won’t let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers

3) Ryan blamed Obama for the downgrade of the US credit rating, but this ignores that there wouldn’t have been a downgrade if the Republican House of Representatives hadn’t politicized the debate about the debt ceiling in an unprecedented way.

4) Ryan blames Obama for the increase in debt, but the short lived stimulus is a paltry addition to our deficit over the next decade while the Bush budgets are a huge part of this problem if they’re allowed to stand. And guess who voted for those budget’s: Paul Ryan.

Still, Ryan should boost his grade with some extra credit for the giant brass balls he displayed last night with his statement that

We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.

Cohen again:

The rhetoric is stirring—and positively galling. Analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 62 percent of the cuts in Ryan budget would come from programs that serve low-income people. And that’s assuming he keeps the Obamacare Medicare cuts. If he’s serious about putting that money back into Medicare, the cuts to these programs would have to be even bigger.

Paul Ryan’s a slick guy, and he delivered a good speech. But the Democrats get their rebuttal next week, and they’d be foolish not to point out the many falsehoods in Ryan’s speech and the hypocrisy of this candidacy.

The Campaign of Hate

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Couldn’t resist a comment on Mitt Romney’s “Campaign of Hate” statement.

I get where Romnney’s coming from: He’s been outmatched and run around by Alexrod throughout this campaign, who has consistently taken advantage of every gaffe and misstatement, and hasn’t missed an opportunity to go after Republican nutjob surrogates throughout the campaign. I also get the whole division thing. Obama’s campaign is based on the George Bush and Karl Rove’s 2004 model that drove me crazy as I watched them use all the Guns, God, and Gay’s tricks they had up their sleeves against John Kerry.

But a Campaign of Hate? That’s taking things a little too far.

Remember, Romney’s a guy who has been running for president for 6 years, but has run such a negative campaign to get to this place that he has failed to offer a credible positive case for his candidacy. This is a guy who demolished Perry, Gingrich and Santorum with avalanches of negative ads anytime offered a serious challenge to him. It’s a guy who has spent more than a year traveling around the country bashing the president, who has made common cause with the worst demagogues of his party in order to boost his candidacy and who belongs to a party that has attacked this president with an unprecedented amount of partisanship, obstructionism and vitriol, regularly resorting to racist accusations that he wasn’t born in the United States and was a “secret Muslim” Manchurian candidate.

As I’ve said before about Mitt Romney, this guy has brass balls.

Of course, there was an easy counter for this: the president himself, who appeared his usual relaxed self with the First Lady on Entertainment Tonight from Iowa. Juxtaposing the clip of Romney with Barack and Michelle makes Romney’s speech laughable.    

No secret what’s going on here. Romney has realized that his normal “the economy is bad” attacks aren’t working and that his negative image probably isn’t going anywhere. Barring an ability to get his image out of the muck, Romney wants to bring the president down to his level.

Good luck to Romney on that one. The American people have had almost four years to see this president in action. He doesn’t bear any resemblance to the caricature that Republicans have tried to make out of him.

Ryan Pick Is Turning Point for The Campaign

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Mitt Romney’s surprise pick of Paul Ryan to be his running mate may prove to be a significant turning point in the presidential campaign. While many Democrats (including myself) are looking forward to a debate on the plan to gut Medicare that Newt Gingrich called “Right Wing Social Engineering,” fiscal conservatives are excited to have an opportunity for a referendum election that would open up the possibility of a real mandate for their plans to dramatically cut the social safety net and re-distribute the tax burden in this country. Aside from the political consequences, it is clear that Ryan’s nomination offers an opportunity to refocus the country on a debate about the fundamental values that we want America to embody in the decades to come.

Steve Benen commented on Saturday that Democrats are practically giddy over the choice of Ryan. As I wrote previously, the key to Obama’s re-election was to shift the campaign away from a referendum on Barack Obama to a choice between two competing alternatives. The Bain attacks were the first part of this strategy, and with the softening up of Romney complete, Obama had already turned away from the focus on Romney’s business career and towards attacking his fiscal plans for the country. While “Romney Hood’s” own plans provided ample targets for Obama, a significant part of the campaign was to eventually be focused on tying Romney to the Republican Congress and Paul Ryan’s Plan to end the guaranteed health care provided by Medicare and transform the program to a voucher program. With the pick of Ryan, Romney has effectively done the Obama campaign’s work for them.

In the meantime, the Romney camp’s original assumption was that the economy was the number one issue and that a stalled (or slowly growing) economy would effectively turn the country against Barack Obama, and voters would then turn to Romney as a viable alternative just as they turned to Reagan in the last days of the 1980 race. In recent months it has apparently come to the Obama campaign’s attention that Barack Obama is no Jimmy Carter and Mitt Romney is no Reagan: while Mitt Romney’s negatives continued to climb against the backdrop of the unrelenting attacks on his business experience and refusal to release his taxes, Obama largely maintained his standing and seemed to be widening his lead in a number of polls over the last week.

The fact that the usually conservative Mitt Romney campaign made the decision to go with such a high-risk pick  is in itself a tacit admission that their original strategy wasn’t working. As Ezra Klein notes “You don’t make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals favor your candidate. You make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals don’t favor your candidate.”

More importantly,

Ryan upends Romney’s whole strategy. Until now, Romney’s play has been very simple: Don’t get specific. In picking Ryan, he has yoked himself to each and every one of Ryan’s specifics….

It’s not just that Romney now has to defend Ryan’s budget. To some degree, that was always going to be true. What he will now have to defend is everything else Ryan has proposed. Ryan was, for instance, the key House backer of Social Security privatization. His bill, The Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005, was so aggressive that it was rejected by the Bush administration. Now it’s Romney’s bill to defend. In Florida.

Klein also argues that “the Romney campaign’s decision to pick Ryan (as opposed to Rob Portman of Ohio) is evidence that they feel they need to change the national dynamic, not just pick off a battleground state.” I agree with this sentiment, but there is still the possibility that the electoral college strategy was part of the calculation for Romney. A Romney win in Wisconsin would make Ohio or Virginia must wins for Obama, and a combination of Wisconsin and smaller states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and/or Colorado could become a winning strategy for the Romney campaign. Still, as Chuck Todd pointed out on Meet the Press today, while the Ryan pick moves Wisconsin from lean Democrat to the pure tossup category, it also opens other opportunities for Obama in states with aging populations like Pennsylvania, Florida and Iowa as the campaign turns to a more traditional Democratic fight to save Medicare from (now very real) Republican assaults.

Like Ryan or not, one thing most people seem to agree on is that this is a ballsy pick for Romney. Ryan Lizza wrote that “Romney has made the most daring decision of his political career” and Alex Castellanos’ article on the pick was entitled “Romney mans up”: 

Sometimes… the smartest political thing to do is not the smartest political thing. It is, simply, the right thing for the country. A lot of Republicans and swing voters, as surprised by the Ryan choice as I was, will be energized that Mitt Romney manned-up, got serious, took a political risk for a purpose higher than himself, and chose a VP, not to help him win an election, but to renew our troubled country.

For that reason Ryan may also be brilliant politics. He is a serious, grown up choice when this country, in crisis, needs one.

This too is part of a re-branding strategy: after a campaign in which Romney was (and continues to be) pushed around by the right, his choice to turn into the Obama camp’s line of fire is an attempt to show political courage for one of the first times in his political life and to change the public’s image of him as weak and ineffectual.

Re-branding aside, the Ryan pick offers an important turning point for this campaign.  Mika Brezinski has called this cycle the Seinfeld election: an election campaign about nothing. Despite the high stakes for the country, we have been more focused on Mitt Romney’s taxes, whether he outsourced jobs at Bain, whether contraception should be covered by health insurance plans and whether Obama thinks business owners didn’t build their own business. These issues have their place, but they are peripheral to the debate about what kind of country we are going to have for decades to come.

The Ryan plan is a serious shift in the way our country percieves its responsibilities to the elderly and the less fortunate among us as well as who bears the tax burden in the country. It rightly deserves to be the focus of a debate. Politically speaking, the good news for Mitt Romney is that we’re not talking about his taxes anymore. The bad news is that we’ll now be talking about whether it makes sense to throw Medicare out the window in order to give more tax cuts to the top 2%. But there are political perils for President Obama as well. As the Ryan Budget increasingly occupies the debate, the President will face pressure to offer a realistic plan of his own (not to mention questions about why he hasn’t so far), which could alienate others in the electorate. Ryan provides risks for both sides, but also a potential upside for Americans hungering for a real debate on where we are headed as a country.

So Far So Good for Obama’s 2004 Model

Monday, August 6th, 2012

A few months ago, I wrote about how I thought that David Axelxrod’s model for this election was George W. Bush’s 2004 victory against John Kerry.

If that’s true (which I think it is), then so far so good.

In 2004 Bush ran a mostly negative campaign against John Kerry, the theme of which was basically: you may not be crazy about me, but this guy is much worse. In the period after Kerry was the inevitable nominee, but before the convention, Bush surrogates absolutely hammered Kerry with their disgraceful “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ads.  They went after Kerry’s biggest biographical strength (his military service), and tried to denigrate it, suggesting that Kerry may not have earned the accolades he received in the military and therefore could not be trusted.

Similarly, Mitt Romney has staked the positive rationale for his candidacy on being the economy’s “Mr Fix it.” According to this biographical thread, his experience at Bain Capital makes him uniquely qualified to diagnose the issues with the US economy and provide the necessary fixes. But over the past month and a half, Obama and his surrogates have hit Romney hard on the Bain issue, effectively making the argument that Bain’s profits came mostly at the expense of outsourcing jobs in the United States and demolishing his claim to be a job creator. Romney’s rejection of calls to release his taxes have added to the negative perceptions of his business record, leading to suspicions that the Cayman Island and Swiss Bank Accounts detailed in his past two years of returns may be just the tip of the iceberg for Romney.

Romney allies initially gloated the the Bain attacks had not been successful, pointing to the fact that Obama’s margins have been steady throughout this period, while his campaign coffers were drained. But Mitt Romney’s increasingly negative ratings and Obama’s consistent lead in the swing states where these ads have been airing belies that assertion.  The 45% that Romney has been garnering in polls represents a kind of low-water mark for the Republican candidate since it is close to John McCain’s 2008 totals, so don’t expect him to go much lower. The question is whether he can get a large majority of the undecided voters given their negative feelings about him. For an alternate measure of how effective the Obama campaign has neutralized Bain as a positive issue for Romney, look how infrequently Romney mentions his job creating record at Bain during his campaign events.

A few weeks ago, at the height of the Bain controversy, Republican strategist Mark Murray pointed out that the sheer volume of negative campaign ads makes running on biography impossible in modern presidential campaigns and that — the Bain experience effectively demolished — Romney should shift a campaign about the issues. The problem with that advice is that Romney’s not positioned well for that strategy either. While President Obama spent the last four years positioning himself in the center of the electorate in order to win the general election, Romney has spent the last nine positioning himself to win the Republican nomination against people like Texas gun enthusiast and mental midget Rick Perry, paranoid social conservative Rick Santorum and all around demagogue, Newt Gingrich. Independent analysts have determined that Romney’s economic plan which is intended to lower taxes on the rich, will either need to be funded by exploding the national debt, or by eliminating tax breaks that the vast majority if the middle class depend on. The “Right-Wing Social Engineering” of The Ryan Plan has become almost a Republican litmus test and it relies on cutting the second most popular government program in order to (surprise!) lower taxes on the rich.   

Meanwhile, Obama continues to outperform Romney where it matters: in the swing states. Nate Silver, the EF Hutton of election prediction, now gives Obama a 71% chance of winning the Electoral College and Dan Balz points out that, 

nationally and in the battleground states, the consistency of Obama’s lead is striking. More than two dozen national polls have been conducted since the beginning of June. Obama has led in the overwhelming number of them.

Polls in the most contested states show a similar pattern. In three of the most important — Ohio, Florida and Virginia — there have been roughly three dozen polls total since April, about the time that Romney’s GOP rivals were exiting the nomination race. In Ohio and Virginia, Obama has led in all but a few. In Florida, Romney has done better, but overall, Obama has led about twice as often.

If Mitt Romney can’t make inroads in all three of these states, the election is basically over.

In summary, the 2004 model is looking good for the Obama camp. Obama’s job approval still lingers just below 50%, but the attacks on Romney have gone a long way towards diminishing him as a viable alternative. Last weeks jobs report was anemic by any standards, but it dashed Republican hopes to be able to claim that the economy has completely sputtered. The private sector has now had positive job creation for twenty nine consecutive months. Republicans counter that the economy should be bouncing back much more robustly, but this ignores the fact that this is an unprecedented global recession and that the United States’ economy is growing more than any other industrial country in the world. President Obama’s approval ratings by themselves show some evidence that Americans understand the extraordinary situation that the president was handed in 2008 and don’t hold him as responsible for economic conditions as the Republicans would like. 

To be sure, there is still an opportunity for Romney to turn things around, but he faces a limited number of opportunities to do this: namely,  the VP pick, the conventions and the debates. So far, Romney has provided the public a lot of reasons to vote against Barack Obama, but not very many to vote for Mitt Romney. The Romney camp hopes to start filling those details in with the upcoming convention…but has to be worried that Obama’s campaign has already started doing that for them.

Boom.

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Devastating Ad.

If Obama wins re-election this one will be the one they talk about.

Putting “Mr. Fix It” to Rest Is Key to Obama’s Re-Election

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Doyle McMannus’s piece in the LA Times last week had a crucial insight into the results of the presidential election: the outcome will depend largely on whether voters view it as a referendum or a choice election.

If voters think their job is to pass judgment on Obama’s performance during his first four years, the president is in trouble. Polls show his job approval rating stuck at a notch below 50%, and for good reason. Unemployment is still high, the economy is struggling and Congress remains gridlocked.

But if voters view the election instead as a choice between two sharply different strategies for fixing the economy, the president has a better chance of being reelected.

Greg Sargent took a deeper look into this idea last month in the Washington Post, pointing out that “sizable majorities agree with key aspects of Obama’s vision of the economy and what ails it.” Sargent points to the few issues such as bank regulation and income inequality that the Washington Post’s Poll surveyed in May, but his analysis can be expanded to a number of issues. Americans have overwhelmingly supported Obama’s position that the wealthy should have to pay higher taxes (and his insistence that rates stay low for middle income earners) as well as his position that budget balancing should include both tax increases and cuts in programs. And while there is skepticism about the effectiveness of the stimulus bill, Americans are broadly supportive of the type of government intervention and investment in the economy that was in the President’s 2011 jobs bill (which was (surprise!) blocked by the Republican Congress).

Despite the fact that voters strongly believe that Obama is “on their side” when it comes to issues that affect them, most voters still give Romney higher ratings on whether he would do “a better job at handling the economy,” which most people agree will be the defining issue of the race.  Sargent notes that breaking Romney’s “Mr. Fix It” spell

gets at the heart of Obama’s challenge: Persuading swing voters that they shouldn’t be seduced by whatever impressions they have of Romney’s economic wizardry, or his “understanding of the private sector,” as his supporters put it. Obama needs to convince people who find Romney’s vow to fix the economy alluring to take a harder look at the actual policies Romney is proposing to get this done, as well as at the larger economic worldview and diagnosis of what’s really gone wrong that has led Romney to offer them.

This is exactly what the Obama campaign has begun to do in recent weeks. The Bain attacks are one prong in this strategy: by pointing out that Romney’s goal at Bain was not creation of jobs, but maximization of profits and pointing out that this goal often came at the expense of working people whose jobs were outsourced, Obama borrows a page from Karl Rove’s playbook, attempting to take the candidate’s greatest strength and turn it into a vulnerability.

But more importantly, Obama has been increasingly focused on pointing out that, despite his so called “knowledge of the private sector,” Mitt Romney effectively is offering the same policies that Republicans have offered for decades and that helped get us where we are today. This was shown most pointedly earlier this month when both Obama and Romney gave competing speeches in Ohio. Obama basically gave a Democratic version of the history of the past 12 years.  After laying out the failures of the Bush Administration and the trickle down economic theories that are at the heart of these policies, the President stated: 

If you agree with the approach I just described, if you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney…You should vote for his allies in Congress. You should take them for their word and they will take America down this path…. 

I believe their approach is wrong. And I’m not alone. I have not seen a single independent analysis that says my opponent’s economic plan would actually reduce the deficit. Not one. Even analysts who may agree with parts of his economic theory don’t believe that his plan would create more jobs in the short term… That’s not my spin. That’s not my opinion. That’s what independent economic analysis says.

Given the public aversion to the majority of the policies that Romney and Republican legislators are pushing, this has the potential to be a winning argument. Whether it will be drown out by a raft of economic news over the next few months remains to be seen.  

Can Romney Swing Iowa?

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

John Dickerson’s profiles  Iowa in Salon.com.

Iowa was the emotional center of the 2008 Obama campaign. The state launched him when he beat Hillary Clinton in the caucuses. Obama went on to win the general election in Iowa by 10 percentage points, but that margin of victory was out of character for the state. President Bush narrowly won Iowa by 10,000 votes in 2004 after having lost it by less than 5,000 votes in 2000. Now, like the rest of the country, Iowa is reverting back to its normal condition—a 50/50 state with narrow electoral margins.

In the most recent NBC Electoral College analysis, they have Iowa as Lean Republican, which may be a stretch, but they feel that the avalanche of negative attacks on Obama in the months leading up to the Republican Caucuses and Republican takeovers of the Iowa legislature and Governorship in 2010 gives an edge to the Romney in a tight contest. Also, Dickerson cites the importance of the debt to Iowan’s and the fact that Romney has a significant advantage when asked who would do a better job on the issue. Among Obama’s advantages in Iowa are his ground game (which could be decisive in a close swing state) as well as (surprisingly) the economy. Unemployment is 5.2% in Iowa, which is well below the national average  (an advantage that Obama has in Virginia and New Hampshire as well). 

Current polls show a tossup in Iowa, and the stakes are high for the president. He can win without Iowa, but a loss in the state would mean that he would need to carry states like Virginia or Ohio, both of which went to Obama by smaller margins than Iowa in 2008.