Posts Tagged ‘2012 Elections’

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.

The GOP’s War on Voting

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

As we get closer to the election and it remains a tight race between Obama and Romney, more attention is being paid to the obviously coordinated efforts of GOP legislatures and executive branch officials to suppress turnout by Democrats. These efforts range from the relatively innocuous sounding efforts to require voter ID, to an instance in Ohio where the Republican Secretary of State collaborated with local election officials to keep polls open later in Republican counties, while maintaining the same voting hours in Democratic counties.

One of the best summaries of these attempts was included in an Ari Berman article in Rolling Stone last year, which is worth quoting at length:

All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.

Since January, six states have introduced legislation to impose new restrictions on voter registration drives run by groups like Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters. In May, the GOP-controlled legislature in Florida passed a law requiring anyone who signs up new voters to hand in registration forms to the state board of elections within 48 hours of collecting them, and to comply with a barrage of onerous, bureaucratic requirements. Those found to have submitted late forms would face a $1,000 fine, as well as possible felony prosecution.

This portion of the Florida law led to the League of Women voters cancelling all voter registration drives in Florida. It was eventually overturned by the courts.

Berman’s article goes on to discuss early voting, which initially had bipartisan support until it was used to great effect by the Obama campaign in 2008.

Florida and Ohio – which now have conservative Republican governors – have dramatically curtailed early voting for 2012…. early voting will be cut from 14 to eight days in Florida and from 35 to 11 days in Ohio, with limited hours on weekends. In addition, both states banned voting on the Sunday before the election – a day when black churches historically mobilize their constituents. Once again, there appears to be nothing to justify the changes other than pure politics. “There is no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud,” reports the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College…

By far the most common change in voting laws were the passage of voter ID laws in multiple states.

The campaign was coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provided GOP legislators with draft legislation based on Indiana’s ID requirement. In five states that passed such laws in the past year – Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – the measures were sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC…

In Texas, under “emergency” legislation passed by the GOP-dominated legislature… signed by Gov. Rick Perry (and subsequently blocked by the Obama Administration) a concealed-weapon permit is considered an acceptable ID but a student ID is not. Republicans in Wisconsin, meanwhile, mandated that students can only vote if their IDs include a current address, birth date, signature and two-year expiration date – requirements that no college or university ID in the state currently meets.

The voter ID laws are great vehicles for the GOP, because on the surface they seem like relatively benign, good governance measures. But let’s be clear about what those laws mean. They mean that in many states this year, old ladies who have been voting for years will show up at the voting booth this year and be turned away. And even better for Republicans, studies have shown that people most likely to not possess ID are disproportionately black, Latino and young (groups that, not coincidentally, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats).

Berman again:

roughly half of all black and Hispanic residents in Wisconsin do not have a driver’s license, and the state staffs barely half as many DMVs as Indiana – a quarter of which are open less than one day a month. To make matters worse, Gov. Scott Walker tried to shut down 16 more DMVs – many of them located in Democratic-leaning areas. In one case, Walker planned to close a DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.

In Pennsylvania, where a new voter ID law just went into effect, the state department of transportation recently reported that over 750,000 registered voters (or 9%) do not possess photo ID cards issued by the department. While this law does allow other forms of ID such as student ID with expiration dates, military ID, government ID and passports to be presented, there is no doubt that many people will be disenfranchised. If you don’t believe that, just listen to the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, who was caught on tapeearlier this year bragging about his accomplishments including, “Voter ID, which will allow Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.”

But surely, cases of people impersonating other people in order to cast ballots for their candidates are widespread. After all, Fox News talks about this so much that they have a “Vote Fraud Unit” dedicated to reporting on these cases.

Well, not exactly: impersonating another person in order to vote would be a very inefficient way to affect an election and a recent study showed only 10 recorded cases of someone impersonating another voter in the last 12 years. This is 1 incident for every 15 million registered voters in the United States. 

I understand the political appeal of those voter ID laws, but we have to look at the consequences as well. Does disenfranchising large sections of the population in order to prevent something that almost never happens make sense? More importantly, it should be difficult for any fair minded person to look at the raft of legislation passed by Republican politicians since 2010 and not see this for what it is: a coordinated Republican attempt to rewrite the rules for their own benefit after a landslide election. 

This is what happens in emerging third world democracies. It shouldn’t be happening in what is supposed to be the beacon of democracy for the world.

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.

Romney’s New Aggressiveness

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Last week, Mitt Romney secured enough delegates to get the Republican nomination at the same time he was attending a high profile fund raiser with the race baiter and publicity whore Donald Trump. Earlier that day, Romney released his birth certificate for the first time, claiming that it was at the request of reporters and had nothing to do with his meeting with Trump. Pundits from across the spectrum were incredulous about Romney’s public embrace of Trump. George Will noted that the risks of appearing with what he called a “bloviating ignoramus” far outweighed any possible benefit, and Lawrence O’ Donnell said that the only explanation was Romney’s goal to “leave no racist behind” in his search for votes.

Byron York puts the decision to appear with Trump in context. As York notes, the Romney campaign strategy has to be viewed in the context of a Republican base that saw John McCain’s refusal to attack his opponents personal character or exploit American racial grievances in 2008 as a sign of weakness instead of a sign of patriotism, in Mitt Romney’s need to ingratiate himself with that base, and in the calculation that, while there may be a short term cost to the decision, the long term effects will be negligible.

Buzz Feed’s McKay Coppins takes the analysis further, highlighting Mitt Romney’s new attempt to appeal to the Republican base, not by tacking to the right along policy lines (which Romney can’t afford to do anymore), but on the basis of campaign tactics. According to Coppins, Romney’s bizarre embrace of Trump, his surprise speech at Republican solar energy boogeyman Solyndra’s shuttered corporate office and the team Romney’s heckling of  David Axelrod’s attack on Romney’s jobs record in Massachussets, are all part of a new aggressiveness that has conservatives cheering.

The conventional wisdom of the chattering class has been that Romney is captive to the Republican Party’s conservative base, desperate and anxious to maintain their tepid support. But his new appeal to the right marks a recognition that he can court conservatives without, in any traditional sense, “tacking right.”

The theory is that conservatives “can live with Romney’s moderate record – as long as he’s a fighting moderate.”

This is probably good strategy on Romney’s part and it goes a long way toward explaining his more questionable moves in the last few weeks. As I pointed out previously, the Republican race often resembled a contest to see who can say the most outrageous things about Obama, and the Romney campaign was always destined to lose that contest. Now that he has the nomination, Romney can’t afford to tack any further right on policy, but he has been effectively signaling that his campaign won’t hesitate to take the fight to the President… and that’s one way to rally the conservative base around him.

Axelrod Hopes 2012 Mirrors 2004

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Over the past year, I’ve often thought of the 2004 presidential election as a model for Obama. In 2004 Bush’s approval rating hovered below 50% for most of the year, hitting 50% only in the days leading up to the election. A few weeks ago, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd made the comparison and articles written last week by Howard Fineman and Thomas Schaller delve further into the parallels between the two elections.

As Fineman notes:

Starting with Richard Nixon in 1972, and moving on to Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George W. Bush in 2004, Republican incumbents assembled a strategic doctrine that includes the following basic plays: Stress culture, and exploit cultural and regional divisions, especially if doing so helps detract attention from a so-so (or worse) economic record. Declare one’s own strength as commander in chief and the opponent’s ignorance or weakness (or both) in military and foreign affairs. Paint the foe as out of the mainstream and/or elitist in terms of money, education or both. Highlight wedge issues to expand fissures in the other party. Where possible, speak in sweeping historical terms about the greatness and uniqueness of the country. And evoke symbols of manly recreational endeavor.

In one way or another, Barack Obama already has used all of those, and it is only May.

As Schaller notes, the comparisons to 2004 are even more apt when you consider the parallels between John Kerry and Mitt Romney. Both men are rich Massachussets blue-bloods from prominent families who have tried to run away from their past political history. Both have a penchant for squandering political advantage by sticking their foot in their mouth at inopportune moments and both have struggled to connect with everyday people.

As Thomas Friedman noted earlier this year, both Obama and Romney can be seen as running on the theme of “I’m not Mitt Romney.” While Obama is implicitly making the “You may not like me, but at least I’m not him” argument that Bush made, Romney is running away from his own Massachusetts legacy as fast as he can. Friedman bemoans the strategy from both sides as one that fails to deal with the serious issues we face as a country, but the experience of 2004 shows how effective it can be as an electoral strategy.

Laughable Republican Outrage About Defense Policy and Politics

Monday, May 14th, 2012

So, the Republicans win the award for chutspa this month for their implausible outrage over the politicization of the death of Osama bin Laden. To be sure, I thought that the president’s world tour to celebrate the death of bin Laden was a little overdone, but it paled in comparison to Bush and Karl Rove’s eight year politicization of the Commander in Chief position. As Jon Stewart hilariously pointed out, this is the same president who landed on an aircraft carrier wearing a giant stuffed jockstrap to early kickoff his campaign and declare victory in a war that would go on for another 8 years. 

As bad as I thought Karl Rove and Co. were for the country, I had to admire how good they were at playing the dirty game of politics. They took a decorated Vietnam war veteran, running against a draft dodger whose only previous military experience was defending the coast of Texas from the Red Menace, and made the war veteran into the guy who was afraid to defend America. They kept an entire nation in a constant state of fear so that they could maintain their power. The terror alerts were ubiquitous, and even the Secretary of Homeland Security said that he felt politically pressured to issue them at points that would increase the president’s chance at re-election. 

Their entire campaign in 2004 was based on “if you elect John Kerry, you and your family will die a horrible death from terrorism” During that campaign, the Vice President himself said “If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again — that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”

I believe the next thing he said was “HWAAAAH…

Republicans have said that it’s allright to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, but that suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have made the same decision is out of bounds. A close look at the record shows that Mitt Romney’s position on this has been nuanced (he attacked Obama for saying that he would violate Pakistan’s sovereignty to go after Osama bin Laden and other high-value targets, but under questioning clarified that he would “maintain that option”), but it’s certainly within bounds to ask whether the more cautious Mitt Romney would have gone against the counsel of his top defense aides to launch the raid.  More importantly, to hear the same people who attacked Vietnam War Veteran John Kerry as soft on defense in 2004 complain about this political line of attack is laughable.

Is it good for the country for the president to be using his record of defending the country as a way to score cheap political opponents on his opponents? Probably not.

But politics ain’t bean bag and the Republicans been doing it for years. I’m just happy to see that the Democrats stopped fighting for the most important position in the world with one hand tied behind their back.