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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Crossroads GPS "News"

Reporters aren't happy when their work appears in political ads, but  Crossroads GPS makes use of a Scott Pelley lead-in to criticize the president's record on jobs.


Romney's Trip

Mitt Romney offended Brits by saying that they might not be ready to handle the Olympics.  In Israel, he pleased supporters of Netanyahu but angered Palestinians.  The Polish leg of the trip went best:  he got an endorsement of sorts from Lech Walesa.  Overall, though, it was not exactly a victory tour.  Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write:
It’s hard to imagine that Romney did himself any favors in answering lingering questions about his foreign policy acumen during this trip.
On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that nothing — literally, nothing — other than than the economy at home matters to undecided voters. And that goes double for foreign policy, which is a bottom-of-mind issue (is that a thing?) for most voters.
In a late May Washington Post-ABC News poll, 1 — yes, one — percent of people said that foreign policy was the most important issue of the 2012 campaign. One!
Moreover, the trip happened when Americans were focusing far more on the Olympics than politics.

Monday, July 30, 2012

TV and Republicans

Mediaite reports on CNN coverage of Sarah Palin, which began with the song "Mean Stupid Girls": 

CNN anchor Randi Kaye teased the segment by saying, “Sarah Palin is apparently hungry for chicken and controversy.” Palin stopped at Chick-fil-A to show her support in the midst of national attention on its founder’s anti-gay stance and the chain’s donations to anti-gay groups.
NewsBusters’ Noel Sheppard highlighted the musical choice earlier today, saying there would be “outrage” if a similar song was used to “introduce any female Democrat.” HotAir adds that the song selection is generally the job of the production staff, so if there was any “malice aforethought,” it was from one or more individuals on the crew, not Kaye herself.
UPDATE: A CNN spokesperson gives this statement to Mediaite.
“The music selection was a poor choice and was not intended to be linked to any news story. We regret any perception that they were planned together.

The Wrap reports:

The song choice comes eight months after "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" apologized for Fallon's house band, The Roots, playing Fishbone's "Lyin' Ass Bitch" as Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann walked onstage.
Also read: NBC Apologizes for Bachmann for Roots' Song

And in the "pure coincidence" department, note the text that CNN repeatedly ran during an interview with RNC communications director Sean Spicer on July 25:

The Public's Priorities

Gallup reports on voter priorities. If Romney's internals are showing the same results about corruption, expect to hear more about Solyndra.
Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for the next president to address. Americans assign much less importance to increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and dealing with environmental concerns.
The results are based on a July 19-22 USA Today/Gallup poll. Job creation's position at the top of the list is consistent with various measures of issue salience or importance Gallup has asked this year. Corruption in government usually ranks as an important issue when it is asked about specifically, though it is not as top-of-mind as jobs or the economy.
In addition to jobs, corruption, and the deficit, Americans also give relatively high priority to dealing with terrorism and other international threats, ensuring the long-term stability of Social Security and Medicare, and improving the nation's public schools.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fundamental Drags

At Purple Strategies, Doug usher writes:
There have been five incumbents who have faced re-election since 1980: Jimmy Carter,  Ronald Reagan, George H.W. BushBill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Barack Obama is the sixth.
Our direct polling data on the current campaign points to a very competitive race, with a slight advantage for Obama.
However, as the campaign moves toward the end of the summer, the Obama team faces a stark reality: compared to previous incumbents, the structural and opinion environment that Obama faces is perilous. Across 7 of 8 measures we track here, the current measure for President Obama ranks below the three successful incumbents. In some cases, he ranks dead last. 
The economic structural factors are the clearest drag on his re-election. Out of six incumbents, he ranks:

  • 5th on GDP growth
  • 6th on growth in personal disposable income
  • 6th on unemployment
  • 4th on monthly job creation.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012 Does Not Equal 2004

Some have compared 2012 to 2004.  At The New Republic, William Galston writes:
The basic structure of the 2004 campaign differed fundamentally from the one we’re now enduring. The available evidence suggests that even in the short-term, the attacks on Romney have been measurably less successful than were those on Kerry. And Obama’s supporters seem to have forgotten that the reason Bush prevailed was because enough Americans ended up approving of his record and leadership in the areas they cared about the most.
Michael Barone suggests two other differences between 2004 and 2012:
One is that the 2004 election occurred during a period of unusual stability in American voting behavior.
In the preceding four congressional elections, Republicans won between 48 and 51 percent of the popular vote for the House and Democrats won between 46 and 49 percent. In 2004 the parties' percentages in both the presidential and congressional popular vote were within the same narrow ranges.
Since then voting behavior has been much more volatile.

There's another difference between 2004 and 2012 that is salient. In 2004 George W. Bush's Republican base was pretty much united on issues. Foreign policy realists and neocons were all on board.
Cultural conservatives supported the Bush tax cuts. Few economic conservatives had much problem with Bush's stands on abortion or embryonic stem cell research.
Barack Obama's Democratic base is more heterogeneous. ...
Blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada pleased gentry liberals who embrace every green cause. But private sector labor unions don't like it a bit.
Bashing Romney's record at Bain and Company may be helping him with some modest-income voters. But it risks antagonizing the affluent, which is a problem for a candidate who last time ran even, 49 to 49 percent, among those with incomes over $100,000.

Another Perfect Tie?

The slow growth reported for the second quarter is enough to allow President Barack Obama an edge in his re-election bid, according to a forecasting model based on the economy and polling data.
The U.S. economy grew at a 1.5 percent annual rate from April through June, in line with forecasts and slowing from a revised 2.0 percent rate during the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department reported today.
“It puts Obama just barely above the break-even point,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta and developer of the forecasting model. “Mainly it tells me we’re heading to a very close election and Obama is a slight favorite.”
Abramowitz said today his model projects Obama will receive 50.5 percent of the popular vote in November and has a two- thirds probability of winning. The model doesn’t project the Electoral College outcome, and it is possible to win the popular vote without an electoral-vote victory, as occurred in the 2000 contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush.
CNN reports:
Democrats say North Carolina is in the mix. Republicans insist the same is true for Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, where Romney has family roots.
Strategists inside both campaigns agree, for now, that the 2008 battlegrounds of Missouri and Indiana are all but certain to go red, while New Mexico is likely to stay blue.
So using those parameters, here's one plausible scenario in which no candidate wins an Electoral College majority in November:
Romney tears up Obama's 2008 map and wins New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Nevada.
Obama, meanwhile, keeps Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the Democratic column.
That combination of states adds up to 269 votes for each candidate -- and that's just one of several realistic scenarios yielding the same outcome.

CNN lays out eight plausible ways in which the electoral vote could end in a tie. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

House Democrats Are Blowing It

As previous posts have suggested, the fundamentals point to a continued GOP majority in the House.  To have a chance at regaining the chamber, the Democrats would have to be running flawless races.  At The Atlantic, Molly Ball explains that they aren't.
Take California's 21st district, a slightly Republican-leaning Central Valley seat newly created by redistricting. Democrats' first-choice recruit got cold feet; their second choice, a city councilman with the felicitous name Blong Xiong, didn't make it through the primary; and now they're stuck with their third, who does not live in the district and has never held office. Democrats could still win the seat, but it's far less likely. And any House hope for the party requires a major sweep in California.
A few more examples:
* In Illinois' 13th district, the candidate recruited by national Democrats didn't make it through the primary, and the winner in his stead is a perennial candidate who's lost his last three tries for Congress. (Illinois is another big, strongly Democratic state where the party must maximize its success in order to rack up big national gains.)
* In Connecticut, the speaker of the state House, Chris Donovan, is still favored to win the 5th District Democratic primary despite a federal investigation into illegal campaign contributions. ("We really don't know where the stuff came from," his campaign manager said a couple of weeks ago.)
* Democrats are even in danger of losing a House seat in Rhode Island -- Rhode Island! -- thanks to revelations about Rep. David Cicilline's mismanagement of Providence when he served as its mayor. Obama won the district by a more than 2-to-1 margin in 2008. (Josh Kraushaar points to two moresolidly Democratic seats that could go to the GOP because of Democratic candidates' vulnerabilities.)
* In Arkansas, Democrats' preferred candidate in the 4th District lost the primary to a state legislator who blamed opposition to health-care reform on racists who "don't want to pay for no more n----- babies."

Crossroads GPS Is Busy

Crossroads GPS continues to hammer on the economy:


 A tough ad in Nevada focuses on ethics:

In North Dakota, an ad uses the Supreme Court health care decision:


 In New Mexico, the stimulus is the gift that keeps on giving:


Another Bad Number for POTUS

Bloomberg reports that GDP growth in the second quarter was sluggish.  
The U.S. economy expanded at a slower pace in the second quarter as a softening job market prompted Americans to curb spending.
Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 1.5 percent annual rate after a revised 2 percent gain in the prior quarter, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 1.4 percent increase. Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy, grew at the slowest pace in a year.

With today’s release, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis also issued revisions dating back to the first quarter of 2009. The changes showed the first year of the recovery from the worst recession in the post-World War II era was even weaker than previously estimated.
GDP grew 2.5 percent in the 12 months after the contraction ended in June 2009, compared with the 3.3 percent gain previously reported, the Commerce Department said.
The final quarter of last year was revised up to a 4.1 percent gain, the best performance in almost six years, underscoring a more marked slowdown in the first half of 2012. The fourth quarter gain was previously reported as 3 percent.

Slow economic growth is not good for the presidentWith this figure, the Abramowitz model reckons Obama's share of the two-party popular vote at about 50.5%

Early Voting

At RealClearPolitics, Alexis Simendinger writes that early voting helps explain why the race is already so intense -- and why the fall campaign will be different from those of the past.
The importance of early voting underscores why the Obama campaign told Floridians on July 12 how to request mail-in ballots, well in advance of an Oct. 31 deadline. And early voting proved enough of a missed opportunity for the GOP in 2008 that Republicans’ have revised their get-out-the-vote playbook. Romney’s team describes the importance of early voting and its strategies to lock up pre-Election Day ballots as “the chase.”
“It’s kind of changed the game,” Kirsten Kukowski, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, told RCP. “It’s changed the dynamics.”
Blending early-voting trends since 2004 with the GOP’s ambitions to compete with some of the Obama team’s innovations, the coordinated RNC and Romney teams compiled a list of states and expectations for early voting (as percentages of all votes cast). The following are forecasts Republicans are using, alongside comparisons from 2008. The early voting calculations from the last election come from state-reported data, as well as published figures compiled by George Mason University’s Professor Michael McDonald, who is an authority on the subject[vi]:
Colorado, 85 percent (78.9); Nevada, 75 percent (66.9); New Mexico, 72 percent (62.3); North Carolina, 70 percent (60.6); Florida, 70 percent (51.8); Ohio, 45 percent (30); Iowa, 41 percent (36); Michigan, 30 percent (20.4); Wisconsin, 30 percent (21.2); Virginia, 20 percent (13.5); and New Hampshire, 11 percent (10).
 “Florida, North Carolina, Nevada and Colorado – those four states, people argue, are going to be very, very important in the last couple weeks of the campaign,” Kukowski continued. “The fact that over 70 percent of their electorates will have already voted by the time October ends is critical.”
Asked to size up the GOP projections for early voting, an Obama campaign source said the forecasts were high but “not out of the question.” A surge in early voting in Ohio to 45 percent this year appeared large, for example, “but it’s feasible,” he said.
John Dickerson writes at Slate:
One of the benefits of all of these techniques is that it helps a campaign feel in control of its own destiny. A lot of campaign work can feel disconnected, but if you can measure your list against the number of people who have voted, you know you're getting somewhere. In some cases, this work could also be psychological make-work, wasting resources that could be used more productively. But campaigns have convinced themselves in the past few elections that they can squeeze enough new votes using certain techniques that it can make a difference. The Mitt Romney campaign worked the early vote so diligently ahead of the Florida Republican primary that it built the crucial firewall it needed against the advancing Newt Gingrich.

Banking votes early may change what used to be known as the October surprise—the late election phenomenon that favors one candidate. In the 2000 election, news broke just days before the election that George W. Bush had been arrested for driving while under the influence. His strategists say they saw a sharp drop-off in evangelical voters who would otherwise have been predisposed to voting for Bush. If those votes had been banked, the voters couldn't have jumped ship. This could be an argument for dishing your dirt on your opponent early, before he has his supporters locked in. Of course doing that gives your opponent time to recover, too.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Religion and the Candidates

The Pew Research Center reports:
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 28-July 9, 2012, among 2,973 adults, including 2,373 registered voters, finds that 60% of voters are aware that Romney is Mormon, virtually unchanged from four months ago, during the GOP primaries.
The vast majority of those who are aware of Romney’s faith say it doesn’t concern them. Fully eight-in-ten voters who know Romney is Mormon say they are either comfortable with his faith (60%) or that it doesn’t matter to them (21%).

Along religious lines, white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants, on the one hand, and atheists and agnostics on the other, are the most likely to say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s faith. Yet unease with Romney’s religion has little impact on voting preferences. Republicans and white evangelicals overwhelmingly back Romney irrespective of their views of his faith, and Democrats and seculars overwhelmingly oppose him regardless of their impression.
The new survey on religion and politics finds that nearly four years into his presidency the view that Barack Obama is Muslim persists. Currently, 17% of registered voters say that Obama is Muslim; 49% say he is Christian, while 31% say they do not know Obama’s religion.

The percentage of voters identifying Obama’s religion as Christian has increased since August 2010, from 38% to 49%, while there has been little change in the percentage saying he is Muslim (19% then, 17% today). Still, fewer say Obama is Christian – and more say he is Muslim – than did so in October 2008, near the end of the last presidential campaign. The increase since 2008 is particularly concentrated among conservative Republicans, about a third of whom (34%) describe the president as a Muslim.

The House Republicans Have Hand

At The New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer writes that House Republicans seem to have the upper hand at the moment:
The overall dynamic favors Republicans, who look poised to maintain their hold on the House. More Democrats than Republicans have retired in districts where they were endangered, and more Republicans benefited from the decennial redistricting, leaving the Democrats with too small a cushion of Teflon incumbents as they try to regain a majority in the House.
Of the 80 races viewed as most competitive by The New York Times, based on polls and interviews with independent analysts, 32 are leaning Republican, 23 are leaning Democratic and 25 are tossups.
Although lawmakers’ approval ratings have hit historical lows, it appears that many voters want their representatives to continue to take the fight to the opposing party.
“There is no doubt that voters believe Washington is broken,” said David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report. “But most believe it is broken because the other side broke it.”
A congressional party can be the majority or minority, president's party or out-party.  The most frustrating combination is minority/president's party:
Unlike in 2006, when Democrats ran in unison against the Bush administration and dethroned the Republican majority, the Democrats now have no cohesive plan. Some will link themselves to President Obama; others will treat him and his policies like bedbugs.

Occupations and Presidential Approval

Gallup reports:
U.S. business owners' approval of President Barack Obama fell in the second quarter of 2012 to 35%, essentially tying farmers and fishers for the lowest approval among major occupational groups. Overall, professional workers remain the most approving, at 52%.

The findings are based on 25,464 interviews conducted with working U.S. adults in Gallup Daily tracking during the second quarter of 2012. Gallup asks employed adults to describe the work they do and then codes each respondent into one of 11 job categories.
Obama's job approval ratings by occupational group clearly relate to election preferences. Gallup previously found that Obama does best compared with likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among voters who are professionals and service workers. Romney does best among voters who work in farming and fishing or construction, or are business owners.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"You Didn't Build That" -- Still Building

Apparently, a DNC ad didn't do the trick. President Obama directly responds to the "You Didn't Build That" attacks:


 American Crossroads has a rejoinder:


And RNC is happy to supply context:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Romney's Journey

By going overseas, Mitt Romney is trying to build up his credibility on foreign policy. The trip does draw attention away from the Bain issue, but that isn’t the motive, since it has been in the works for a long time. 

The visit to the United Kingdom will remind people of Romney’s leadership of the 2002 Winter Olympics.  That was his highest-profile involvement in international affairs to date, but not his only one.  He did his Mormon mission in France, and became conversant in French.  And during his business career, he did extensive work overseas.

It is natural for Romney to go to Israel. He has been friends with Prime Minister Netanyahu for 36 years. Although Netanyahu is nominally impartial in American elections, he has close ties to Republicans, and a frosty relationship with the incumbent. President Obama will surely carry a majority of the Jewish vote in November, but if Romney can just slightly improve the GOP percentage in this segment of the electorate, he might have a better chance of carrying Florida.

The trip to Poland has electoral significance. There are large clusters of Polish Americans in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two large states that Romney might be able to carry in November. 

There was talk of a German leg to the trip, but its absence will not hurt Romney.  True, more non-Hispanic Americans trace their ancestry to Germany than to any other country.  But in most cases, these German roots go back more than a century, and the two world wars led many German Americans to downplay their heritage. Therefore there is no longer any significant “German American” vote.

Monday, July 23, 2012

"You Didn't Build That" -- Massachusetts ed.

MASSACHUSETTS SNEAK PEEK – BROWN HITTING WARREN ON “YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT”: Scott Brown has prepared a powerful 2.5-minute web video that will give goose bumps to anyone offended by Obama’s “you didn’t build it” riff. It juxtaposes the clip of the president saying “somebody else made that happen” as it relates to success in the private sector against exhortations of free enterprise from John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. Then it shows a clip of an angry-looking Elizabeth Warren saying, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody!” It ends with a still photo of two adorable blonde girls selling glasses of lemonade for 25 cents. The tagline: “Let America be America again.” 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Carl Forti, American Crossroads, and Coordination

At The New York Times, Nicholas Confessore profiles Carl Forti, political director of American Crossroads, founding partner in the Black Rock Group and founder of the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future.
In those roles, his work embodies the coordinated punch brought by like-minded groups to the effort to oust President Obama and give Republicans full control of Congress.
And as a veteran of Mr. Romney’s inner circle, he brings to the effort a keen understanding of the Romney campaign’s needs even as he is barred by campaign finance law from working directly with it.
Now, with Mr. Romney prohibited from spending much of the cash he is raising until after the Republican convention in August, Mr. Forti and his clients are filling in the breach: Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, Restore Our Future and other Forti-linked groups have spent at least $35 million on advertising in 17 states against Mr. Obama since early April, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Most of the advertising has been placed through a company called Crossroads Media, founded by one of Mr. Forti’s Black Rock partners and housed in the same office suite. So far this cycle, Crossroads and Restore Our Future have broadcast ads in about 40 Senate and House races as well as the presidential race, officials at the groups said, a breadth unmatched in the world of independent spending.
“We came up through the party infrastructure, where you are forced to look at the entire national battlefield,” said Brian O. Walsh, a friend and former colleague of Mr. Forti’s who directs the American Action Network, a tax-exempt group closely allied with Crossroads.
American Crossroads and its tax-exempt affiliate, Crossroads GPS, are expected to spend $300 million on the presidential campaign and Senate races; Restore Our Future is planning to raise at least $100 million and possibly more. Americans for Job Security, a tax-exempt trade association that spent $9 million in 2010 but is not required to release the names of its donors, shares office space with Black Rock and retains one of Mr. Forti’s partners as a consultant.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"You Didn't Build That" -- Building

American Crossroads put a short clip of the “You didn’t build that” line on an iPad, showed it to small business owners and others, and videotaped the reactions. Crossroads says its Facebook posts on this subject have gotten 10 times more engagement than any other topic -- including Obamacare. A Crossroads poobah tells us: “It confirmed what people had always suspected.” 

Paul Conner writes at The Daily Caller:
President Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment last Friday at a campaign stop didn’t set any Internet records for speed — it took almost four days for the phrase to spread. But none of that matters now to the Obama campaign who, through establishment media outlets, have been attempting damage control by peddling the idea that the remark was taken out of context.
Conservatives, however, have seized upon the phrase — some in creative ways.
Three Little Pigs

The Heritage Foundation's Facebook page

Friday, July 20, 2012

"You Didn't Build That" -- a Gaffe with Legs

An ill-chosen phrase -- not to mention a bad decision to defend it -- is a gift to Mitt Romney. ABC reports:
After two weeks of volleys from both sides on tax returns and Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, the former Massachusetts governor and his allies have been finally been able to move onto offense and capitalize on President Obama's "you didn't build it" comment.
The Romney campaign's latest television ad, released this morning, features the owner of a metal fabricating company who asks: "My father's hands didn't build this company? My hands didn't build this company? Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business. Why are you demonizing us for it? It's time we had somebody who believes in us, someone who believes that achievement should be rewarded, not punished." 

Peggy Noonan writes:
The president seemed to me to be confusing a poor argument—he implied we owe our wealth and growth as a nation to government programs—with a good one, that nobody achieves success alone. This is true: Nobody proceeds unhelped through life, everyone who's achieved something got some encouragement from a neighbor or a teacher or a coach.
But Mr. Obama makes this point mischievously. He aims his argument at his political opponents—Republicans, Romney supporters. Yet many of them—most, probably—are involved one way or another with churches, synagogues, civic groups and professional organizations whose sole purpose is to provide assistance and encouragement to those who are ignored and disadvantaged. Conservatism doesn't mean "do it alone." God made us as social animals and asks us to help each other.
Mr. Obama was trying to conflate a nice thought—we must help each other—with a partisan and ideological one, that government has and needs more of a role in creating personal success. He did not do it well because his approach was, as it often is, accusatory and vaguely manipulative. Which makes people lean away from him, not toward him.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Democrats Botch Ads

The Hill reports:
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) said Thursday that it would refrain from using the Romney's dressage horse, Rafalca, in future advertisements after suggestions the ad could be offensive to the Republican challenger's wife, Ann.
The horse, which will be competing later this month in London's Summer Olympics, is one of a number of animals that Ann Romney owns and rides as part of her treatment for multiple sclerosis.
In a series of Web ads, the DNC used the horse to knock Romney for refusing to release his tax records — joking he was "dancing around the issue." Dressage, a highly technical — and expensive — equestrian sport, is sometimes referred to as "horse ballet.
 But on Wednesday, the DNC apologized for offending Ann Romney, who has cited horse riding as a crucial part of her MS treatment.

The Weekly Standard cites an even more bizarre ad, which attacks Romney for quoting Obama's "You didn't build that" line:
"Mitt Romney is launching a false attack," the ad's text states. But the weird thing is: The Obama campaign is purposefully trying to make it sound like Romney is misquoting the president, when the official White House transcript backs up Romney's quotation.

In the ad, Romney says that Obama revealed his thoughts on business when he said this, "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."
And, in fact, according to official White House transcript that's precisely what Obama said on July 13, 2012 in Roanoke, Virginia.
Arguably, the president meant to say something different, but drawing attention to the gaffe is not going to work to his advantage.

American Crossroads v. Obama Attacks

American Crossroads has a new ad attacking the attacks on Romney.  The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Crossroads ad marks a departure for it and most other outside political groups. Until now, they have spent most of their money on such themes as criticizing Mr. Obama for the rising federal deficit. But the new ad is the first from Crossroads to mention Mr. Romney explicitly, and in defending him it serves a role that candidates traditionally have filled themselves.
The ad underscores an important feature of how the race is being financed. Outside GOP committees, along with Mr. Romney's campaign, are raising more money than their opponent, and plan to outspend Democrats this week on TV by about 2.5-to-1, according to figures provided by Democratic and Republican media-tracking sources.
But in spending by the campaigns themselves, Mr. Obama is putting more money into TV ads currently. Mr. Obama will spend more than $9.4 million on ads in the coming week, compared with $6.6 million by Mr. Romney. Since the unofficial start of the general election in mid-April, Mr. Obama has outspent Mr. Romney by about 3 to 1.
Campaign officials have suggested that, in part, the disparity is due to the fact that much of Mr. Romney's money was raised under rules that limit its use to the general election, once he becomes the nominee. Mr. Obama is bound by the same restriction, but only Mr. Romney faced an expensive primary campaign that ate into money he was raising.
The campaign won't say what fraction of Mr. Romney's cash is so encumbered.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bad Economic Poll Numbers for POTUS

Thirty-four percent say Mr. Obama's policies contributed significantly to the downturn, and another 30 percent say they contributed to some degree. Thirty-five percent say the president's policies contributed little or not at all to the downturn.

While a majority of voters say Mr. Obama has at least some ownership of the recession, far more blame his predecessor, President George W. Bush. The downturn began before Mr. Obama took office.

Nearly half say Mr. Bush's policies played a significant role in creating the nation's current economic problems. Another 33 percent say they played some role. Only 18 percent say Mr. Bush's policies had little to no impact.

Forty-six percent of registered voters - including more than half of independents - say Mr. Obama's economic policies will never improve the economy. Thirty-four percent, including 31 percent of independents, say his policies will improve the economy if given more time. Just 17 percent believe his policies are currently improving the economy.

When it comes to their personal financial situation, more voters believe the president's policies will make their economic situation worse (39 percent) than improve it (26 percent). Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney fares better: While 25 percent say his policies will make their economic situation worse, a higher percentage - 32 percent - say his policies will improve their economic standing.

Romney Draws on Obama, Who Draws on Brown

In the primaries, Romney’s advisers had little confidence that there was much logic at all behind his rivals’ moves, and the two-time candidate outmaneuvered analytically amateurish opponents with well-plotted discipline and attention to detail. Now forced to play catch-up against a savvy incumbent, Romney’s team acknowledges they are not aiming to match what Obama has built in Chicago: A unique, in-house analytical empire that has developed an unrivaled capacity to churn through voter data and translate insights into tactics. Because of this capacity, Romney advisers assume that what they see the president doing in public must have a good deal of sense behind it. "The Obama team had the luxury of knowing exactly what they'd be doing on July 1, 2012 because they've been planning for six years—definitely three-and-a-half years,” says Zac Moffatt, Romney’s digital director. So instead of devoting their analytical energies to out-strategizing the president, Romney’s advisers are trying to hack Obama’s code and turn it against him.

As the dataset of Obama activity expands over the course of the campaign, the burden of finding those patterns will shift from the eyes of advisers huddled in weekly meetings to the statistical models they’ve written. Algorithms will test the association between vote goals and the candidates’ travel and ad placement, staring through Obama’s visible tactics to reveal a latent strategy beneath.
At the Los Angeles Times, David Lauter analyzes the Bain attacks as a way for Obama to turn white working-class voters away from Romney:
Obama aides have pointed to a couple of models, including the way California Gov. Jerry Brown defeated Meg Whitman, another wealthy corporate executive and a friend of Romney's, in 2010. Another is the way President George W. Bush's campaign portrayed Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry in 2004 as a rich elite who was out of touch with average Americans.
The Bain attacks further that strategy on two levels. The Obama campaign has been saying at least since January that companies Bain Capital took over had eliminated thousands of jobs. The Romney campaign's answer has been that Bain invested in those companies after 1999, when Romney left active management to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
That's where last week's attacks began. After the Boston Globe published an article that showed Romney had remained Bain's chief executive for three years after the Olympics, an argument over Bain's record quickly shifted to focus on Romney's truthfulness.
Romney's defense as it evolved over the weekend — that he had remained chief executive but hadn't taken an active role in management and had "retroactively resigned," as one advisor said, in 2002 — may only have reinforced in some voters' minds that his life and his concerns are far distant from theirs.

"You Didn't Build That"

President Obama spoke at a campaign event in Roanoke on July 13, 2012 . This passage has gotten attention:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
Liz Marlantes writes at The Christian Science Monitor:
Examined in context, it’s pretty clear what the president was trying to say. As numerous media outlets have noted, it’s really a flubbed version of the famous Elizabeth Warren “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own” speech that went viral last fall. Like Ms. Warren, Obama was making the argument that “wealthy, successful Americans” should pay a higher tax rate because they didn’t get to where they are without a lot of help from society. The line right before “you didn’t build that” was about roads and bridges – making it pretty clear that it was infrastructure the president was referring to, not businesses.
But the way it came out, it played right into the Romney campaign’s overall narrative about the president’s failure to understand how business and private enterprise work. .
And of course, that’s really what makes a gaffe a gaffe. If Romney’s primary point of attack against the president were something different – say, on cultural issues or foreign affairs – then the line may well have passed by unnoticed.
But when a candidate says something that seems to amplify the main argument against them, then it’s gold for the opposition.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Another Bad Datum for POTUS

Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index averaged -27 for the week ending July 15, down four points from -23 each of the prior two weeks. This extends a gradual decline in confidence that has been underway since late May, when the index was at a four-year best of -16. The index was nearly this low a month ago -- at -26 in mid-June -- and now stands at the lowest weekly average since late January of this year.
In March, Gallup reported:
Americans' economic confidence has in general been improving over the past six months, likely caused by a decrease in unemployment and a rise in the stock market. Gallup's analysis indicates that relatively small gains in economic confidence from this point forward should be associated with enough gain in Obama's job approval rating to push it to the 50% level -- the threshold above which previous incumbent presidents have all been re-elected.
Of course, the current connection between economic confidence and presidential job approval also makes Obama especially vulnerable to any decrease in consumer optimism. It is also possible that another issue will emerge in the coming months, displacing the economy as uppermost in Americans' minds. However, barring such changes, Obama's fate now appears more closely linked with the economy than at any other time in his presidency.

GDP Clouds

Alan Abramowitz has developed conditional forecasts of President Obama’s share of the national popular vote depending on the growth rate of real GDP. 
The results show that not only is the election likely to be very close, but the winner of the popular vote may very well depend on the performance of the economy in the second quarter.

A growth rate of zero or less predicts a narrow popular vote win for Republican challenger Mitt Romney, while a growth rate of 1% or greater predicts a popular vote win for President Obama. The consensus prediction of economic forecasters for real GDP growth in the second quarter is currently about 2.0%. This growth rate would predict a narrow reelection win for President Obama with slightly less than 51% of the major party vote.
 This morning, Ben Bernanke testified [emphasis added]:
The U.S. economy has continued to recover, but economic activity appears to have decelerated somewhat during the first half of this year. After rising at an annual rate of 2-1/2 percent in the second half of 2011, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at a 2 percent pace in the first quarter of 2012, and available indicators point to a still-smaller gain in the second quarter.
Conditions in the labor market improved during the latter part of 2011 and early this year, with the unemployment rate falling about a percentage point over that period. However, after running at nearly 200,000 per month during the fourth and first quarters, the average increase in payroll employment shrank to 75,000 per month during the second quarter. Issues related to seasonal adjustment and the unusually warm weather this past winter can account for a part, but only a part, of this loss of momentum in job creation. At the same time, the jobless rate has recently leveled out at just over 8 percent.
Household spending has continued to advance, but recent data indicate a somewhat slower rate of growth in the second quarter. Although declines in energy prices are now providing some support to consumers' purchasing power, households remain concerned about their employment and income prospects and their overall level of confidence remains relatively low.

House GOP Fundraising Lead

As of midsummer, it appears that Republicans are in a good position to hold the HouseOpen Secrets reports that House Republicans have built some substantial advantages in fundraising:
With control of the U.S. House of Representatives up for grabs this November, both parties have moved their fundraising efforts into high gear. At stake is the majority in a chamber that has shifted between Democratic and Republican leadership twice since 2007.
In the race for campaign cash, though, the Republicans have a solid lead.
The Hill reports that a memo released Sunday by House Speaker Rep. John Boehner's office reported that his fundraising efforts have brought in around $80 million for House Republicans since 2011, including $8.3 million in the second quarter of 2012. The number includes all of Boehner's fundraising arms, including his campaign committee and leadership PAC. About $20 million has been siphoned off to the National Republican Congressional Committee to help Republicans win House races across the country, according to Politico.
Overall fundraising numbers for the 2012 House races further suggest a success story for House Republicans. Combined, GOP candidates for Congress have raised $120 million more and spent $65 million more than their Democratic opponents.
Politico also reports that there are bright spots for the Dems, though. In the second quarter of 2012 House Majority PAC, which raises money to support Democratic congressional candidates, reported a fundraising haul of $4.3 Million, while Democratic groups American Bridge 21st Century and the American Bridge 21st Century Foundation raised a combined $4.1 Million, most of which it is expected to use attacking Republican candidates.

Monday, July 16, 2012

More Bad Numbers for POTUS, 7-16 Edition

Bain, schmain, this is what will really drive the election. Reuters reports:
U.S. retail sales fell for a third straight month in June as demand slumped for everything from cars and electronics to building materials, a sign the economic recovery is flagging.
Retail sales slipped 0.5 percent, the Commerce Department said on Monday.
It was the first time sales had dropped in three consecutive months since late 2008, when the economy was still mired in a deep recession. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected retail sales to rise 0.2 percent.
"Evidence is increasingly clear that the U.S. economy is slowing," said Jim Baird, an investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The report adds to a spate of weak economic data that is raising pressure on President Barack Obama ahead of his November reelection bid. Republican challenger Mitt Romney is focusing his campaign on the weak economy that has plagued Obama's presidency.

Romney's Role at Bain

Indeed, no evidence has yet emerged that Mr. Romney exercised his powers at Bain after February 1999 or directed the funds’ investments after he left, although his campaign has declined to say if he attended any meetings or had any other contact with Bain during the period. And financial disclosures filed with the Massachusetts ethics commission show that he drew at least $100,000 in 2001 from Bain Capital Inc. — effectively his own till — as a “former executive” and from other Bain entities as a passive general partner.
An offering memorandum to investors in Bain’s seventh private equity fund that was circulated in June 2000 also suggests that Mr. Romney was no longer actively involved in managing firm investments at the time. The memorandum, first published by Fortune, provides background on the “senior private equity investment professionals of Bain Capital.” Eighteen managers are listed; Mr. Romney is not among them.
On another filing with Massachusetts officials, Bain Capital listed all of Bain’s directors and officers for 2001. The form lists Michael F. Goss as “president, managing director and chief financial officer,” along with seventeen other managing directors. Mr. Romney is not among them, suggesting that while he still owned Bain’s management company, he was not an officer of the company.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 80

Presidents typically don't get this far into the weeds with oppo against their challengers.

Thuman - What about Bain Capital? It's a big issue for the past 24 hours right now, and Mitt Romney's campaign says he left in '99, Yours says it's 2001. There's a significant difference. Is he being dishonest with the American public?
 Obama -Well, here's what I know: we were just talking about responsibility and as president of the United States it's pretty clear to me that I'm responsible for folks who are working in the federal government, and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with my understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC multiple times that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital. And I think most Americans figure if you're the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does. Ultimately Mr. Romney is going to have to answer those questions because if he aspires to be president, one of the things you learn is you're ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations. But again, that's probably a question that he's going to have to answer and I think that's a legitimate part of the campaign.

Mitt Romney Sings!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Oppo Week

USA Today reports:
President Obama is keeping up a drumbeat of skepticism over Mitt Romney's insistence — displayed in a blitz of TV interviews — that he stepped down from his private equity firm years earlier than federal records indicate.
Obama planned another day of campaigning in Virginia on Saturday, a state he won in 2008 but before that last supported a Democratic presidential nominee in 1964. Advisers said he would remind voters of the discrepancies between Securities and Exchange Commission filings and Romney's recollection of his role at the Boston-based firm.
The strategy follows calls by Democrats — and some Republicans — for Romney to release tax returns going back several years. Romney has said anew that he won't go beyond releasing his 2010 tax records and, before the election, his 2011 taxes.
"You can never satisfy the opposition research team of the Obama organization," Romney told CBS on Friday. In the same round of interviews in which he defended his account of his role at Bain, Romney said Obama owed him an apology for a top aide's suggestion that the SEC filings, if false, could bring a felony charge.
ABC reports:
In a non-descript Washington, DC office building within sight of the United States Capitol, a team of more than a dozen Democratic researchers have spent the last few months examining every nook and cranny of the records of several GOP vice presidential contenders.
The researchers work for the super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, which is unveiling a new website on Friday called The site features more than 1,300 pages of opposition research and scores of video clips.
Political prognosticators can only speculate who is on Romney’s short-list, but now we know who the Democrats are preparing to target. The super PAC is shining their spotlight on three of the mostly likely contenders: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Their research files, which the group is making public for the first time, also offers a sneak peek at the attacks the Democrats are poised to use against whichever potential V.P. ultimately gets the nod from Romney

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bad Numbers for Obama, Friday the 13th Edition

Bloomberg reports:
Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly declined in July to the lowest level this year as Americans grew more pessimistic about their finances.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment dropped to 72 this month from June’s 73.2 reading. The gauge was projected to rise to 73.5, according to a median forecast of 69 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The weakest quarter of hiring by companies in two years along with stock market volatility tied to Europe’s debt crisis threaten to hold back the household spending that accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Sales at retailers such as Hhgregg Inc. (HGG) may struggle as fewer consumers expect their incomes to increase.
“The labor market has been pretty slow to recover, house prices are still low and there’s a lot of nervousness about what’s going on in Europe” and Washington, said Michael Hanson, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America in New York, who correctly forecast the July reading. “The economy looks like it’s slowing.”
The age demographics may not be as favorable as in 2008.  Gallup reports:
Fifty-eight percent of U.S. registered voters aged 18 to 29 say they will "definitely vote" this fall, well below the current national average of 78% and far below 18- to 29-year-olds' voting intentions in the fall of 2004 and 2008. The 20-percentage-point deficit for young voters versus the national average compares unfavorably with six- and seven-point deficits in the later stages of the 2004 and 2008 elections, respectively.

Rice for Veep?

Josh Kraushaar writes at National Journal:
The political world was abuzz last night after the Drudge Report reported that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a frontrunner for Romney's running mate spot. The leak was immediately treated with a healthy dose of skepticism from the political class: Rice has said she's not interested in the job, she has no political experience, she supports abortion rights in a party that regards that as a near-litmus test, and hawks don't have fond memories of her foreign policy record in the Bush administration. Many went a stop further, mocking Drudge's track record in predicting the veepstakes (he hyped Frank Keating in 2000, Dick Gephardt in 2004, and Evan Bayh in 2008). And pundits noted the suspicious timing of the leaked news, right after Romney faced tough new questions about the timing of his tenure at Bain Capital.

But the floating of Rice sounds a lot more like a trial balloon from the Romney campaign than deliberately bad information that Drudge cooked up. Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades is famously close to Drudge, suggesting there's a deliberate strategy at play here for the campaign.
Rice would not draw a significant number of black votes.  During her time in office, she had weak favorability numbers among African Americans. In a 2007 poll, 50 percent of African Americans rated her as a "good influence," putting her 15 points behind Al Sharpton and one point ahead of Kanye West.

She was an architect of President Bush's Iraq policy, which gets terrible reviews from the general public.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Assets as Liabilities

Gallup reports:
Three-quarters of registered voters say the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is worth more than $200 million makes no difference to their likelihood of voting for him. However, 20% of voters, mostly Democrats and independents, say Romney's wealth makes them less likely to vote for him, while 4% say it makes them more likely.
 The Obama campaign has targeted Romney's wealth in recent weeks, stressing his net worth and how he earned it as head of Bain Capital, where he has invested it, and the fact that he has not released all of his tax returns from the last decade
Most of the 37% of Democratic voters who say Romney's wealth is a negative are unlikely to vote for him to begin with. Gallup's latest demographic analysis shows that 89% of Democratic registered voters prefer Obama, compared with 6% supporting Romney.
Independents, on the other hand, are more in play in the election, breaking 42% for Obama and 42% for Romney in Gallup's latest three-week average. Their views on Romney's wealth mirror the national average, with 19% saying Romney's wealth makes them less likely to vote for him and 4% saying more likely. Republicans, perhaps not surprisingly, are slightly more likely to say Romney's wealth makes them more likely (8%) rather than less likely (4%) to vote for him -- but most say it makes no difference to them.

Crossroads GPS: "Tried"

At The Hill, Geneva Sands writes:
The outside spending group Crossroads GPS launched a new television ad Thursday accusing President Obama of supporting failed economic policies and calling on him to reduce the federal debt.
The commercial from the GOP-affiliated group, "Tried," is being used in an $8 million ad buy set to run in the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia over the next week.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

American Crossroads v. "Obama's War on Women"

Geneva Sands writes at The Hill:

The conservative super-PAC American Crossroads is aiming to turn the tables on Democrats by accusing President Obama of waging an economic "war on women."
"Some people say there's a 'war on women.' We agree — it's a war being waged in our economy. Under President Obama, the number of women living in poverty has skyrocketed. Hit hardest in every poverty-related category," says a narrator in a Web video released Wednesday. 
Crossroads produced the video in response to a television ad launched earlier this week that claimed women are "troubled" by presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. 


Crossroads GPS in Montana, Virginia and Ohio

A Tuesday release from Crossroads GPS:
Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) today announced a new TV issue ad effort in Montana, Ohio, and Virginia – urging action to fight wasteful spending, government debt and ObamaCare. Supported by a $2.5 million total buy, the ads continue the ongoing effort by Crossroads GPS to advocate for the New Majority Agenda to fix the broken economy. 
The new ads start today and will run for 10 days on broadcast and cable networks in Montana, Ohio, and Virginia.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Trackers as Stalkers

Politico reports that some Democratic trackers are crossing a line.
While most serious campaigns on both sides use campaign trackers — staffers whose job is to record on video every public appearance and statement by an opponent — House Democrats are taking it to another level. They’re now recording video of the homes of GOP congressmen and candidates and posting the raw footage on the Internet for all to see.
That ratcheting up of the video surveillance game is unnerving Republicans who insist that even by political standards, it’s a gross invasion of privacy. Worse, they say, it creates a safety risk for members of Congress and their families at a time when they are already on edge after a deranged gunman shot former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords 18 months ago.
Trackers assigned to California GOP candidate Ricky Gill, a highly touted challenger to Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, pushed the edge of the envelope even further.
In May, a clip of Gill’s parents’ Lodi, Calif., mansion appeared online. The one-minute video shows the front of the huge home, a gated fence and vast front yard. The next month brought a three-minute video that begins by slowly passing by Gill’s home, with a cameraman overheard saying, “This is the house that he’s been registered to vote in since 2005.”
About one minute in, the video shifts to the University of California-Berkeley, campus, where the 25-year-old Gill recently finished studying law. The tracker waits in a hallway where Gill soon appears. As the candidate walks outside, the tracker follows in clandestine pursuit.
In 2004, a Senate candidate faced the same treatment.  The Chicago Tribune reported:
A campaign operative for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan will keep himself and his video recorder a few more paces away from his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, a Ryan spokesman said Friday.
The spokesman also apologized if the operative invaded Obama's "personal space."

Ryan staffer Justin Warfel had been trailing and filming Obama, a state senator from Hyde Park, since at least May 11. Ryan aides said they dispatched Warfel to monitor Obama in Springfield and in other Downstate locales because they are trying to document if Obama's statements are consistent as he campaigns across Illinois.
But Warfel had been getting a little too close for Obama's comfort, and when Obama complained to reporters and the Ryan campaign on Thursday that Warfel was stalking him, Warfel was told to take a step back.
"If we got a little too close to his personal space, we'll see that that doesn't happen again," said Bill Pascoe, communications director for Ryan. "The campaign manager has asked [Warfel] just make sure you don't get too close. ... I have no reason to doubt Mr. Obama's word, and I offer an apology on behalf of the campaign.
"Politics in Illinois and here in Chicago is certainly a contact sport," Obama said Friday at an unrelated news conference. "But I think it is indicative of a pattern in politics in the United States these days, especially in Washington, where anything goes. There is sort of a scorched-earth approach to politics so that people in politics think they can do things that none of us would ever think about doing in normal life."

Monday, July 9, 2012

Outside Groups' Ad Buys

Reid Wilson writes at National Journal:
So far, American Crossroads has purchased more than $39.8 million in advertising across at least 10 states between Labor Day and Election Day. The inundation of advertising will come in states that are battlegrounds both in the White House race and the tussle over control of the U.S. Senate, according to sources watching the advertising market.
Between September 4 and November 5, American Crossroads has purchased more than $10 million in advertising in Florida; more than $7 million in Ohio; nearly as much in Virginia; more than $3 million in Colorado; $4 million in North Carolina; $3 million in Iowa; and more than $2 million each in New Hampshire and Nevada, the group will announce today.
Beyond the presidential figures, Crossroads GPS – the 501(c)(4) arm of American Crossroads, which does not have to disclose its donors – is spending $800,000 on advertising during the final two months before Election Day in North Dakota.
Most of the money looks geared toward the presidential contest. But there is ample evidence suggesting American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are buying time to advertise in Senate contests. The groups use two separate vendors to purchase television time: One company also purchases advertising time for Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing presidential nominee Mitt Romney. To avoid improper coordination, buys that firm places are geared toward Senate contests instead of the presidential, according to sources in the advertising industry.
Maggie Haberman writes at Politico:
The American Action Network, the center-right issue advocacy group co-founded by former Sen. Norm Coleman, is devoting a minimum of $10 million to establishing a legislation-focused ground game in a number of states where there are competitive House races but state parties with little ability to provide a lift, POLITICO has learned.
The group, one of the key outside forces on the right, is one of the organizations helping out in the so-called “orphan” states, with weak state parties but races that are key to holding and expanding the Republican majority in the House. They are pairing up, state by state, with existing groups on the ground to develop, over time, a comprehensive ground game that includes phones, offices, voter data and registration drives.
“We wanted to build something to serve as a counterbalance to the folks on the left,” Brian Walsh, president of AAN, said in an interview. “It has always been a focus of ours.”
The move is part of building out a broader, issues-specific grassroots network with endurance. But in 2012, the AAN build-up will serve a simultaneous purpose of working in targeted House districts. As of now, AAN already has several people on the ground in specific districts, such as Rep. Nan Hayworth’s in New York, and congressional districts 10 and 11 in Illinois.
They are committing a baseline figure of $10 million to the project, which is being done through the network as issue advocacy, and not through its affiliated super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is devoted entirely to House races. Still, the focus on orphan states, officials note, has been a major priority of House Speaker John Boehner for months, as has fundraising for the CLF.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Corporate Contributions to 501(c) Groups

The New York Times finds evidence that corporations are getting around disclosure requirements by giving to 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) groups:
The secrecy shrouding these groups makes a full accounting of corporate influence on the electoral process impossible. But glimpses of their donors emerged in a New York Times review of corporate governance reports, tax returns of nonprofit organizations and regulatory filings by insurers and labor unions.
The review found that corporate donations — many of them previously unreported — went to groups large and small, dedicated to shaping public policy on the state and national levels. From a redistricting fight in Minnesota to the sprawling battleground of the 2012 presidential and Congressional elections, corporations are opening their wallets and altering the political world.
Among the largest beneficiaries of corporate donations in recent years have been trade organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which largely backs Republican candidates. As a nonprofit “business league” under the tax code, the chamber does not have to disclose its supporters, who helped finance its $33 million in political ads in the 2010 midterm elections.
But voluntary disclosures by corporations — usually at the prodding of shareholder advocacy groups — shed some light on the use of trade groups for lobbying or as pass-throughs for political spending. A search of voluntary disclosures, some collected by the Center for Political Accountability, which advocates for transparency in corporate political spending, found more than $6 million in chamber donations by 10 companies last year.
Two of the largest came from Prudential Financial and Dow Chemical, which each gave $1.6 million, while Chevron, MetLife and Merck each gave at least $500,000. Some of the donations were directed to the chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, which lobbies for limits on liability suits.
Some contributions are disclosed by accident. Aetna’s check to the American Action Network, along with a $4.5 million contribution last year to the chamber, was mistakenly included in a filing with insurance regulators. The disclosure was first reported by SNL Financial, a trade publication. Even where companies pledge voluntary disclosure of political contributions, they often make an exception for donations to tax-exempt groups.

Will Johnson be Magic for Obama?

Charlie Mahtesian writes at Politico:
Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson campaigned in Tampa Friday where he implored a crowd to call national polling companies and encourage them to include him in their surveys.
"Just ask them to include my name," the former New Mexico GOP governor said, according to a Tampa Bay Times report. "That does not seem like such an onerous request."
Johnson needs to hit a 15 percent threshold in the polls to qualify for inclusion in the fall presidential debates, so it’s a big deal to his campaign.

He has a hill to climb, as Gallup reports:
U.S. registered voters show limited support for third-party candidates this year, with the vast majority preferring Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. A June 7-10 Gallup poll asked a special presidential preference question, listing three third-party candidates in addition to Obama and Romney. Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson is the choice of 3% of registered voters and Green Party candidate Jill Stein the choice of 1%. Another 2% volunteer Ron Paul's name and 1% mention someone other than the listed candidates.
With Gallup's daily horse-race ballot generally showing a competitive race between Romney and Obama -- the two are tied at 46% of the vote among registered voters since Gallup began its tracking program in April -- it is interesting to note that much of the third-party vote seems to be coming at Romney's expense. Romney's 40% share of the registered voter total in this ballot format in the June 7-10 survey is significantly below his average in tracking to date, while Obama's 47% vote share is more in line with his typical performance.
And Johnson could be the Ralph Nader of 2012, doing just well enough to tip certain key states from Romney to Obama..  At Politico, Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns write:
“I really think Gary Johnson takes New Mexico off the table for Mitt Romney,” said Jill Hanauer, president of the Democratic firm Project New America, which polls Western states.

Colorado, Hanauer said, is another state that’s ripe for Johnson’s influence, especially given the fight there over a ballot referendum to legalize medical marijuana that Johnson supports. A PPP survey recently showed the former governor getting seven percent of the vote, and pushing Obama’s lead wider there over Romney. Nevada also has potential.
“In Nevada, we saw a lot of support during the Republican primary for Ron Paul. … I bet a million bucks they’re going to turn their eyes to Gary Johnson,” Hanauer said. “And the Republican Party [there] is economically conservative, but Nevadans are generally very moderate on social issues.”