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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Zombies Threaten Obama's Lead

Traders expect October to give the markets a scare, starting with news on the economy and jobs in the week ahead.

After a surprisingly good performance in the third quarter, the thinking is the stock market is ready to pull back, especially after a few choppy sessions and a new batch of data that should continue to show a slow-moving, ‘zombie like’ economy.
Friday’s jobs report is expected to show the low level of job creation continued in September, after August’s 96,000 nonfarm payrolls. The U.S. election is also a focus this week, with the first presidential debate in the tight race Wednesday evening.
AFP reports on an overseas development that could hurt the US economy further:
China's manufacturing activity shrank for an 11th straight month in September, HSBC said Saturday, adding to pressure on Beijing to provide fresh stimulus to boost the world's second largest economy.
The final reading of the purchasing mangers' index (PMI) released by the British banking giant hit 47.9 this month, a mild improvement from a final reading of 47.6 in August, HSBC said in a statement.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Losing to Win, 2012

Previous posts have discussed the "Losing to Win" dynamic that Ceaser and Busch analyzed in their book of the same name.  At National Journal, Charles Cook explains that GOP prospects in the Senate have dimmed, though mainly for reasons other than Romney's problems.  As for the other chamber...
In the House, we have not yet seen any signs of deterioration for the GOP majority. Even if Democrats were to win every seat currently rated solid Democratic, likely Democratic, or lean Democratic, as well as every toss-up, they would still come up short of a majority. The canaries in the coal mine are GOP seats currently rated as lean Republican or likely Republican. Cook Political Report House Editor David Wasserman points out that with Democrats likely to lose perhaps 10 of their own seats, they would have to gross 35 seats to hit the 25 net seats necessary to win a majority. That’s a very tall order.
House Republican strategists have been preaching the “balance message” to their candidates: If the top of the ticket starts to go south on them, then Republicans need to argue that the party must keep the House in GOP hands to have a firm check in place to balance against a second-term President Obama. [emphasis added]
The next week or 10 days are thus critical for Romney and the GOP. If things don’t turn around, a stampede could ensue reminiscent of 1996, when Republicans realized that Bob Dole was not going to defeat President Clinton. History could repeat itself.
On October 28, 1996, AP reported:
Republicans are putting out a new TV ad warning voters that electing a Democratic Congress could amount to a blank check for President Clinton _ a tacit admission that the president may be on his way to a second term.

The spot, which the party says will be shown in 50 House districts across the country, opens with a woman looking into a crystal ball and the question, ``What would happen if the Democrats controlled Congress and the White House?''
It goes on to recite the Republican version of events from the first two years of Clinton's term, when both the White House and Congress were in Democratic hands: tax increases, ``wasteful Washington spending,'' and Clinton's unsuccessful universal health care proposal.

``The liberal special interests aligned with Clinton desperately want to buy back control of Congress,'' the ad asserts, concluding, ``If we give the special interests a blank check in Congress, who's going to represent us?''

The 30-second spot seeks to capitalize on an issue that polls show could be among the most helpful for Republican candidates for Congress: voter fears of putting all of the levers of power into the hands of one party.
In 2012, however, there is a big complication, as Gallup reports:
A record-high 38% of Americans prefer that the same party control the presidency and Congress, while a record-low 23% say it would be better if the president and Congress were from different parties and 33% say it doesn't make any difference. While Americans tend to lean toward one-party government over divided government in presidential election years, this year finds the biggest gap in preferences for the former over the latter and is a major shift in views from one year ago.

Crossroads GPS in Another NY House Race

Politico reports on a Crossroads GPS ad in a New York House race:
As questions swirl about whether deep-pocketed GOP super PACs will shift their focus to congressional races, we’ve learned that American Crossroads [sic] is placing a heavy buy in a hard-fought upstate New York House race.
Crossroads GPS is spending more than $460,000 to air a TV ad hammering Democratic congressional candidate Julian Schreibman, who’s trying to unseat freshman GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, over Medicare.
The TV ad is only Crossroads’ second in a House race. Last week, it began airing a spot hitting New York Rep. Tim Bishop, who’s embroiled in a rematch with Republican Randy Altschuler.
So far Crossroads has refrained from making a nationwide investment to help defend the GOP’s 25-seat majority – a purchase that Republican strategists privately say they would like to see soon.
On Thursday, another Republican-friendly group, the Chamber of Commerce, purchased around $3 million of TV time in California, a major House battleground.

Friday, September 28, 2012

No Surprise: Romney Takes a Beating in the MSM

The one media platform where the tone of the discourse changed markedly during the last month, and where a candidate managed to generate more positive than negative treatment, however briefly, was in the mainstream news media.
Here, in a sample that also includes cable and talk radio hosts, Romney fared somewhat better during his convention week than Obama during his.
The week of the GOP convention, 36% of the stories about Romney studied in the mainstream media outlets was positive compared with 15% negative-a margin of 21 points. The week of the Democratic gathering, 32% of the stories about Obama were positive compared with 22% negative-a gap of 10 points.

Since then, Obama's coverage has turned somewhat negative, but is still far better than Romney's. In the week following the conclusion of the conventions, September 10-16, 20% of the stories about Obama have been positive compared to 24% negative.
For Romney, the majority of stories (53%) that week were negative. Strikingly, of the 130 stories about Romney examined from the mainstream press that week, researchers found none in which positive assertions about Romney outnumbered negative ones by a ratio of 3-2, the threshold used to determine a story as having a clear tone. But 47% of the stories that week were mixed in tone, meaning that the assertions about Romney were fairly evenly divided.
The mainstream press has also given more attention to Obama during this period, even with the negative publicity associated with Romney's video. From August 27 to September 16, Obama was a bigger newsmaker than Romney, the focus of 667 stories compared with 477 for his rival. [1] And while the number of stories about Romney exceeded those about Obama by more than 30% during the Republican convention, Obama was the focus on more than twice as many stories as Romney during the Democratic convention.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quantum of Easing

American Crossroads takes on President Obama and the Fed:

This web-only spot won't change any votes, but it will amuse conservative wonks.

Crossroads Senate Ads

Crossroads GPS goes after Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on taxes and jobs:


...and after Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada) on ethics and taxes:


... and after Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) on taxes:

...and after Joe Donnelly (D-IN) on taxes and Obamacare:


...and after Tim Kaine (D-VA) on spending and taxes:

  ... and after

American Crossroads, meanwhile. goes after Bill Nelson (D-Florida) over Obamacare and rationing:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shift in Senate Races

The battle for control of the Senate, which had favored Republicans for much of this election year, has abruptly shifted, with Democrats sharply improving their odds of keeping the majority.
Along with recent missteps by presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the erosion of Republican prospects in the Senate has contributed to a grim feeling among party activists that an election year that once held out the possibility of regaining full control of the government could be souring on them.
Republicans entered the election season with fewer incumbents to defend and many opportunities to pick up seats from Democrats at a time when President Obama's approval rating had dipped to a low point.
They need to gain a net of four seats to wrest away the majority that Democrats have held since 2006 — or three seats if Romney takes the White House, giving his vice president the tie-breaking vote. With nearly two dozen seats held by Democrats up for grabs this November, the routes to a GOP majority were many.
But in races from Virginia to Wisconsin, recent polls have shown a shift in Senate contests in favor of the Democrats, and the weakness of some GOP candidates has limited the party's prospects.
In the same paper, Doyle McManus speculates that the Crossroads groups may shift their resources into Senate races if Romney becomes a lost cause:
At this point, Crossroads GPS and its affiliate, American Crossroads, still plan to continue spending on the presidential race, a spokesman told me. Last month, Rove told an audience of donors that his budget was $200 million for the White House race, $70 million for the Senate and $32 million for the House.

But those were only "rough projections," Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in an email.
In public, Rove says he still thinks Romney can win. But other GOP strategists have noted that the number of undecided voters has been dwindling rapidly; by the last presidential debate, on Oct. 22, there may be few people left to persuade.
At that point, if not before, Rove and his colleagues could decide to shift their remaining money from the top of the ticket into races where it will count most, including those tight Senate contests in North Dakota, Montana and Nevada.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Coordination Among Outside Groups

The New York Times reports on how outside groups coordinate among themselves:
“Outside groups have to view themselves in a supportive and amplifying role, not as some rogue enterprise trying to score their own points,” said Steven J. Law, president of Crossroads GPS and its sister super PAC, American Crossroads. “In the past, groups would go off on their own and come up with what they thought was a great idea. And they could potentially do significant harm.”
He added that the groups are careful now to keep one another in the loop. “There’s a great deal of sharing,” he said.
And as long as they do not coordinate with Mr. Romney’s strategists, everything is perfectly legal. Though campaigns and outside groups are prohibited from collaborating, they are free to amplify and emulate each other.
“All of us have come to our own conclusions, but we have all come to the same conclusion,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group financed in part by Charles and David Koch. “To defeat the president, the public needs to understand the utter failures of his economic policies.”
A change in pitch in the message that Americans for Prosperity was using is just one example of the way independent political groups have gotten on the same page. The group started out by focusing on the Solyndra scandal, attacking the president as a corrupt figure who granted his cronies lucrative government contracts.
But their latest television campaign — featuring real voters describing how they feel let down by the president and will not support him again — borrows a page from the American Crossroads playbook, which found that more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger critiques of Mr. Obama worked better with swing voters than ads with a hard edge.
“The tone is crucial,” Mr. Phillips said. “Our ads don’t call anyone names. They’re very measured.”

Monday, September 24, 2012

Early Voting Begins

Previous posts have discussed a key development in the election process: the rapid growth of early votingPolitico reports:
Today is Election Day. And so is tomorrow. And the day after that.
By the end of September, voters in 30 states will start casting early or absentee ballots in the presidential race — a fact that both poses challenges for the campaigns seeking to make their final pitches as well as raises the stakes between now and Nov. 6.

Absentee ballots have been mailed out in key swing states like North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. In South Dakota and Idaho — firmly red states — early voting began Friday, and in-person early voting in the crucial swing state of Iowa begins this Thursday.
“It’s no longer Election Day; it’s election two months,” said Pete Snyder, the Republican National Committee Victory chairman in Virginia.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The campaign ad wars, which used to peak toward the end of October, are expected to reach maximum intensity by the first of the month. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow voters, without any excuse or justification, to cast ballots in person prior to election day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Early voting is often promoted as a convenience for harried citizens. But it may be a bigger boon for candidates, enabling them to deploy money and personnel more efficiently as they work to corral votes as soon as possible.
"By encouraging our supporters to vote early, we can focus our resources more efficiently on election day to make sure those less likely to vote get out to the polls," said Adam Fetcher, an Obama campaign spokesman. "We've made early investments in battleground states, where we've been registering folks and keeping an open conversation going with undecided voters for months."
Using advanced technology, campaigns track, or "chase," voters who request absentee ballots, often on a daily basis, until they are turned in. Then the campaign moves on. After someone votes early, "You stop sending them mail. You stop calling them. You don't need to knock on their door anymore," said a senior Obama campaign aide, who requested anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman.
From NCSL: 

The Inside Outsiders

Bragging about one’s voting record used to be a staple of political advertising, and a career in Congress was worn as a badge of honor. But this year, many House candidates are deciding not to mention their service here, a blunt acknowledgment of the dim view that a vast majority of voters have of Congress.
In acts of great creativity, or profound chutzpah, some members, former and current, are shrouding their jobs with fuzzy images of cute children back home or tales of their private sector jobs. Where incumbents are being challenged by former members, the sitting members of Congress are painting their opponents as consummate insiders.
“With record low job approval, it’s not surprising that incumbents aren’t anxious to highlight their ties to Washington,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report, a nonpartisan political publication.
Mr. Heck [R-Nevada], in an ad that refers to him as “Dr. Joe Heck,” speaks about his father’s heart attack and points out that “as a doctor I’ve cared for thousands of seniors.” For good measure, he adds at the end, “I’m Dr. Joe Heck, and I approved this message.”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GOP Voter Contact

Some recent articles have discussed high-tech voter contact efforts for Romney and the GOP.  But will they be enough to counter the other side?

The New York Times looks at the return of Ralph Reed:
Three years ago, Mr. Reed formed the Faith and Freedom Coalition and began assembling what he calls the largest-ever database of reliably conservative religious voters. In the coming weeks, he says, each of those 17.1 million registered voters in 15 key states will receive three phone calls and at least three pieces of mail. Seven million of them will get e-mail and text messages. Two million will be visited by one of more than 5,000 volunteers. Over 25 million voter guides will be distributed in 117,000 churches.
To identify religious voters most likely to vote Republican, the group used 171 data points.
It acquired megachurch membership lists. It mined public records for holders of hunting or boating licenses, and warranty surveys for people who answered yes to the question “Do you read the Bible?” It determined who had downloaded conservative-themed books, like “Going Rogue” by Sarah Palin, onto their e-readers, and whether those people also drove pickup trucks. It drilled down further, looking for married voters with children, preferably owners of homes worth more than $100,000.
Finally, names that overlapped at least a dozen or so data points were overlaid with voting records to yield a database with the addresses and, in many cases, e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers of the more than 17 million faith-centric registered voters — not just evangelical Protestants but also Mass-attending Catholics. The group is also reaching out to nearly two million more people who have never registered to vote.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds:
Reed has taken data from consumer marketers and the Republican National Committee, mixed with his own files from the George W. Bush campaigns — when Reed helped Bush court social conservatives — and the Christian Coalition. FFC narrowed its efforts primarily to voters in presidential swing states. It will contact each of them between seven and 12 times – a text message, a call, an email, a postcard, a knock on the door.
When early voting begins in each swing state, FFC’s targeted voters will each get a text message telling them to vote, and the message links to a map for smartphone users showing them where their early voting site is.
“Not everybody in a church is going to vote Republican; not everybody in the most conservative evangelical church is going to vote Republican, for a variety of reasons,” said Sasha Issenberg, journalist and author of “The Victory Lab,” a new book about the science of campaigns. “So this type of politics is always a game of margins, we have just gotten a lot better. The most advanced tools have made us a lot better about shrinking the margins that you’re playing with." 
The Washington Post reports:
In the key battleground states, Obama’s celebrated network of organizing experts and neighborhood captains is being challenged by a conservative coalition that includes the National Rifle Association, the billionaire-backed Americans for Prosperity and a newly muscular College Republicans organization with a $16 million budget.
The conservative groups “are fully funded and ready for hand-to-hand combat,” said Steve Rosenthal, a Democratic organizer.

Rosenthal co-founded the Atlas Project, which is tracking voter statistics and other data to guide Democratic groups as they design precinct-level voter-outreach strategies. He describes the Obama operation as “second to none,” but in reviewing data in recent weeks, he has grown alarmed by what he views as a successful years-long campaign on the right that could alter the landscape.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Limits of Outside Spending

Previous posts have discussed how outside groups can lawfully act in concert with candidates and parties without crossing the line into illegal coordination.  Nevertheless, outside dollars may still not be quite as effective as candidate dollars. At the Los Angeles Times, Melanie Mason and Matea Gold explain:
Too many other ads "diminish effectiveness," said Steve Lombardo, a veteran Republican strategist who worked on Romney's 2008 presidential run. When ad buys are made outside the campaign, "there can't be the same level of discipline when it comes to overarching strategy," he added.
In recent weeks, for example, ads by Americans for Prosperity hit Obama on failing to fix the economy, while the Republican Jewish Coalition attacked his policies on Israel and Crossroads GPS asserted that middle-class taxes would go up because of Obama's healthcare overhaul.
There's another disadvantage to leaning too heavily on outside groups: After Labor Day, their dollar doesn't go as far.
Under federal law, TV stations must offer candidates the lowest available rate for airtime, a deal not available to political parties and outside groups. As available TV time shrinks in key states and prices rise, a campaign dollar thus goes further than a dollar from an independent group.
Super PACs have proved themselves adept at negative advertising. But they are less helpful when it comes to advocating for Romney's candidacy. Because outside groups cannot coordinate, the candidate cannot speak directly for himself in ads run by his allies.
"That leaves outside groups little choice but to run ads that contrast the opponent," said Todd, the GOP ad maker, who is not affiliated with the Romney campaign. "But the case against Obama's presidency has been made and accepted. The thing that Romney needs to do is make the case for Romney. The best person to do that is Mitt Romney."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crossroads Money in the Bank

Recent fundraising numbers have not been great for the Republicans.  But, Open Secrets reports:
Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing President Barack Obama's re-election effort, had its best month of fundraising in August, collecting $10.1 million. That's more than twice as much as the group has raised in any month but one, and a third of the total amount it has brought in since it was started by two former Obama aides last year.
Priorities spent $9.5 million, and had $4.8 million in the bank at the end of August.

The super PAC supporting Romney, Restore Our Futurepulled in just over $7 million last month. But American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-connected super PAC that has spent millions supporting Romney as well, raised $9.4 million while spending $6.9 million.
That leaves American Crossroads with a whopping $32 million still in the bank, which it can let loose as an an enormous water balloon of negative advertising in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Salvos from Crossroads GPS

Against Jon Tester in Montana (gone Washington):


Against Shelley Berkley in Nevada (ethics):


 Against Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota (Obama):


 Against Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin (loud, extreme):


 Against Rep. Tim Bishop in New York (ethics):


Maybe Romney Doesn't Have a Money Advantage

Perhaps Romney's financial strength is not living up to its billing.  Josh Kraushaar writes at National Journal:
Despite all the well-deserved hype about Romney’s superior monthly fundraising tallies throughout the summer, the campaign and its allies are being outspent down the home stretch in many of the key battlegrounds. A Hotline ad tracking analysis showed that last week, Team Obama outspent Team Romney in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin – and in several of those states by significant margins. This isn’t an anomaly.
The New York Times reports today that Romney and his allies aren’t able to spend some of the money they raised, given that a significant chunk is earmarked for the Republican National Committee and state parties. More of President Obama’s donations went directly to his campaign account, giving him more flexibility on when and how he can spend the money. This comes after news that Obama’s campaign significantly outspent Team Romney on the airwaves during both party conventions, when many politically-attuned voters were watching. The campaign ended up taking out a $20 million loan because most of their remaining funds were strictly earmarked for the general election.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why Obama Is Ahead

Four years ago, in the wake of the financial crisis, the economy was horrible.  For the past few years, it's been miserable.  As Woody Allen once explained, miserable is better than horrible:

501(c)(4) Groups Win in Court

Previous posts have discussed Van Hollen v. FEC, a case about 501(c)(4) disclosure. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Conservative groups pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 campaign won a reprieve Tuesday when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington overturned a decision requiring organizations that run election-related television ads to reveal their donors.
In an unsigned decision, a three-judge panel said a lower court erred in finding that Congress intended to require such disclosure. It sent a case brought by Rep. Chris Van Hollen(D-Md.) against the Federal Election Commission back to the district court and called on the FEC to defend its regulations or issue new ones.
Practically, the ruling changes little in the short term: Nonprofit organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS changed the type of ads they were running this summer in order to sidestep the lower-court ruling and keep their donors secret.
But the appellate court decision was hailed by conservative groups as a major victory in their broader battle against the push for donor disclosure — a fight that took on new stakes after recent federal court rulings unshackled corporations and groups of wealthy individuals to spend freely on campaigns.
From Rick Hasen:
You can find the unanimous opinion of the DC Circuit here.
More from National Journal, Politico, Roll Call, The Hill, AP, Huffington Post, Bloomberg BNA.
See the statements by Fred Wertheimer, Sunlight, CLC, Steve Hoersting, Center for Competitive Politics.

American Crossroads "Next"

In its latest, American Crossroads features small-business owners talking about the president:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gaffe, Schmaffe

At The Monkey Cage, John Sides offers some caution for those who think that the Romney video is a "game-changing gaffe."

The best case for saying that “gaffes matter” is that actual voters are persuaded to change their minds because of the gaffes.  If they don’t, then it’s tough to argue that “gaffes” are really “game-changers.”  And, in fact, usually voters don’t change their minds.  See, for example, Michael Tesler’s and my analyses of the impact of “the private sector is doing fine.”
The best argument you can make about these gaffes is sort of a woolly counterfactual: “Well, if it hadn’t been for the release of Romney’s video today, Romney would have been able to accomplish X, Y, and Z, which would have helped him win the election.”  Like any counterfactual, there is some plausibility—yes, Romney would rather talk about the unemployment rate than these comments.
But like any counterfactual, it’s predicated on assumptions about what the world would have looked like without these comments.  And given the tenuousness of any such assumptions, and the (at best) small effects that single events in any presidential general election campaign tend to have, I would stop well short of calling this video “devastating.”
Many a news cycle was built on a “gaffe” with a remarkably short shelf life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Romney Remark with Reverb

In the summer of 2011, Rick Perry complained that nearly half of Americans paid no income tax -- even though Republican presidents had taken many of them off the rolls.

At Mother Jones, David Corn obtained video of a private fundraiser where Mitt Romney suggested that Obama voters were the ones who did not pay the tax and who were dependent on the government.


The Inevitable "Campaign in Disarray" Story

Every four years, we see stories of one or both campaigns in disarray.  Earlier this year, reporters noted the technical proficiency of the Romney campaign:  events started on time. But punctuality is a minor asset compared with message effectiveness, which is where the campaign seems to be in trouble. Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei write at Politico:
Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.
Not a word Wehner wrote was ever spoken.
Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood’s meandering monologue to an empty chair.
Romney’s convention stumbles have provoked weeks of public griping and internal sniping about not only Romney but also his mercurial campaign muse, Stevens. Viewed warily by conservatives, known for his impulsiveness and described by a colleague as a “tortured artist,” Stevens has become the leading staff scapegoat for a campaign that suddenly is behind in a race that had been expected to stay neck and neck through Nov. 6.
This article is based on accounts from Romney aides, advisers and friends, most of whom refused to speak on the record because they were recounting private discussions and offering direct criticism of the candidate and his staff, Stevens in particular.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Born-Again Bipartisans?

The New York Times reports:
Partisan obstreperousness, the force that propelled Congressional Republicans to widespread victory in 2010, is suddenly for many of them as out of style as monocles. In campaign advertisements, some lawmakers who once dug in against Democrats now promote the wonders of bipartisanship. And legislatively, Republicans in tough races are seeking to soften their edges by moderating their votes, tossing their teacups and otherwise projecting a conciliatory image to voters.
The Republican quest for bipartisanship — at least nominally — is not hard to explain. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week and released this weekend showed that 44 percent of Americans see Republicans at fault for gridlock in Washington, compared with 29 percent who blame President Obama and the Democrats. Nineteen percent said both were to blame. That imbalance has persisted at almost exactly those proportions since last year.
Is something real going on, or does the article merely highlight the local appeals and pro forma assertions of bipartisanship that are the stuff of most campaigns?  The article cites the ad below, which makes brief reference to bipartisanship, but focuses much more on opposition to higher taxes:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Election Law Battles

In a tight race, legal battles over voter identification, registration purges, early voting, provisional ballots, and the like could mean a dramatic series of post-election court battles. The New York Times reports:
“In any of these states there is the potential for disaster,” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “You have close elections and the real possibility that people will say their votes were not counted when they should have been. That’s the nightmare scenario for the day after the election.”
Bloomberg reports:
Iowa’s secretary of state was temporarily barred from issuing new rules on purging noncitizens from voter registration rolls by a judge who said the process was likely to create confusion for legitimate voters.
Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican, can’t claim that the public interest justified his use of emergency rule- making procedures governing elections, Polk County District Court Judge Mary Pat Gunderson in Des Moines said, granting a motion for a temporary injunction.
“They have created fear that new citizens will lose their right to vote and/or be charged with a felony, and caused some qualified voters to feel deterred from even registering,” Gunderson said in her 12-page ruling.
The lawsuit is among multiple court battles over voting rules in states, particularly so-called swing states including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns see possible victories.
At least two lawsuits challenging a proposed voter purge are pending in Florida. Voter cases are also under way in Alabama, Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina. In Pennsylvania, the stateSupreme Court is deciding whether to allow to the state to enforce a law requiring voters to have photo identification, which the American Civil Liberties Union has argued was aimed at keeping likely Democratic voters away from the polls.
More from the National Conference of State Legislatures

Friday, September 14, 2012

Crossroads Groups Get Tougher

American Crossroads deploys the empty chair against Obama in a very tough spot. It accuses him of being AWOL on the Mideast crisis:


 Crossroads GPS says that Potus is "dishonest" on taxes:


Another GPS ad takes a Nevada-specific angles:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

American Crossroads Adapts RNC Tactic

American Crossroads shows how the president's 2012 acceptance speech echoes phrases and promises from the past:

The ad draws inspiration from several RNC ads.

From September 10:

 From April 4:


From January 24:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romney and Libya

U.S. officials believe that an attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya resulting in the death of an American ambassador may have been planned and not solely the actions of a spontaneous mob demonstrating against an online video ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

"This was a coordinated attack, more of a commando-style event," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told CBS News Capitol Hill producer Jill Jackson. "It had both coordinated fire -- direct fire and indirect fire. There appeared to be military maneuvers approaching the facility."

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi Tuesday.
CNN has gotten hold of talking points distributed by Mitt Romney’s campaign to top Republican leaders and surrogates facing questions about the situation in Libya and Egypt.
The memo addresses questions about Romney’s statement on the protests, in which he accused the Obama administration of expressing sympathy for those who breached the Cairo embassy wall and killed officials in Libya. That accusation is based on a statement from the Cairo embassy that was released before either attack.

Allies are told to note that the White House distanced itself from the same Cairo embassy statement Tuesday night and argue that “it is never too soon to stand up for American values and interests.”

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul took that tack in a message to reporters, saying: “If Governor Romney ‘jumped the gun’ why were White House officials also distancing themselves from the statement?”
Several prominent conservatives have publicly criticized Romney’s handling of the situation, including the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan on Fox News Wednesday morning and Ed Rogers in a blog post.

The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol was supportive of the Romney campaign’s point, but said it was fair to “question the timing and tone” of the statement’s release.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Crossroads GPS Ads

Against Shelley Berkley in Nevada:

 Against Sherrod Brown in Ohio:


 Against Tim Kaine in Virginia:


Another anti-Kaine ad, focusing on his education record as governor:


 Same as above, except for an emphasis on Northern Virginia:


Monday, September 10, 2012

The Obama Bump

A new survey indicates President Barack Obama moved up four points following the Democratic National Convention last week, and now has a six point advantage over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
According to a CNN/ORC International Poll (PDF) released Monday, 52% of likely voters nationwide back the president, compared to 46% for Romney. Just before the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Obama was tied with Romney 48%-48%.
Forty-three percent of Americans say what they saw at last week's Democratic Convention makes them more likely to vote for Barack Obama -- typical of what Gallup has measured for most conventions -- and slightly better than the 40% reading for Mitt Romney and the recent Republican Convention. At the same time, a relatively high 38% of Americans say the convention made them less likely to vote for Obama, resulting in a net impact rating of +5, which is on the low-end of Gallup's historical comparisons.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Politics of Jobs Numbers

In 2009, the transition team reported on the likely impact of the stimulus plan.  For Obama critics, the report is the gift that keeps on giving.  At AEI, James Pethokoukis superimposes historical data on the 2009 projection:


He adds:
– Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 96,000 in August, the Labor Department said, versus expectations of 125,000 jobs or more. The manufacturing sector, much touted by the president in his convention speech, lost 15,000 jobs.
– Since the start of the year, job growth has averaged 139,000 per month vs. an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.
– As the chart at the top shows, the unemployment rate remains far above the rate predicted by Team Obama if Congress passed the stimulus. (This is the Romer-Bernstein chart.)
– While the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1% from 8.3% in July, it was due to a big drop in the labor force participation rate (the share of Americans with a job or looking for one). If fewer Americans hadn’t given up looking for work, the unemployment rate would have risen.
– Reuters notes that the participation rate is now at its lowest level since September 1981.
– If the labor force participation rate was the same as when Obama took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate would be 11.2%.
– If the participation rate had just stayed the same as last month, the unemployment rate would be 8.4%.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day Two of the Democratic Convention

Bill Clinton gave a bravura performance at the Democratic convention, but the day had not gone well before then. Conn Carroll reports:
When convention chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa moved to put “God” and Jerusalem back into the party platform, the Democratic delegates loudly booed. It took three voice votes before Villaraigosa just gave up and just gaveled the motion through. Here is how the event played in the press:
  • CNN‘s John King: “This Is Keystone Cops”
  • NBC News’ Chuck Todd: “How Do You Mess Up God And Jerusalem Politics In 2012? … That Was A BAD Fumble.”
  • CBS: “Democrats Fumble Major Israel Issue, Put Jerusalem As Capital In Platform”
Later on CNN, after Wasserman Schultz told Brianna Keilar that “There wasn’t any discord” over the platform, Anderson Cooper turned to his panel of analysts and said, “I mean, that’s an alternate universe.”
Yes, one would have to be living in an alternative universe to think this convention was going well for Obama.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Obama's First Real GOP Opponent

Why has the Obama campaign been less than sure-footed in parrying GOP attacks on economic performance and other issues?  Byron York writes:
Here's a theory: Barack Obama has never in his life run against a sharp, determined and aggressive Republican opponent. Facing Mitt Romney, who is all three, is a new experience for the president.
Look at Obama's political career. He won his first election to the Illinois Senate in 1996 mainly by challenging signatures on his Democratic primary opponent's candidacy petitions and getting her kicked off the ballot.
Re-election was no problem in Obama's heavily Democratic district. The only race he would ever lose came in 2000, when he mounted a primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush for a seat in Congress. Republicans were not a factor.
When Obama ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, both his Democratic primary opponent and Republican general election opponent imploded when their (ugly) divorce records were made public. Obama ran for a while with no opponent at all until GOP gadfly Alan Keyes moved to Illinois to offer weak opposition. Obama won in a landslide.
In 2008, Obama faced the race of his life against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries. He ran a good campaign but was also aided by some inexplicable Clinton mistakes in which she failed to exploit the system by which Democratic delegates were awarded.
When the general election came around, Obama faced a Republican opponent, John McCain, who had lost a step from his GOP primary run eight years earlier, whose campaign was riven by internal turmoil, and who simply was not determined to do what it took to win.

The Politics of Goebbels

The Nazi motif is back. Two years ago, Jerry Brown compared Meg Whitman to Joseph Goebbels.  His state's Democratic chair just the same with Republicans in general. The Los Angeles Times reports on his non-apology apology:
John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, has apologized for comparing Republicans to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, a comment that quickly sparked outcry from the GOP.
“If Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or the Republicans are insulted by my describing their campaign tactic as the big lie -- I most humbly apologize to them or anyone who might have been offended by that comment,” John Burton said in a statement.

Burton, who let loose against Republicans in an interview with KCBS and the San Francisco Chronicle, expressed his contempt for the party’s recent rhetoric Monday morning.

“They lie and they don’t care if people think they lie. As long as you lie, Joseph Goebbels, the big lie, you keep repeating it, you know,” he said.

Burton made a point of noting that he never used the word “Nazi”; however, he did invoke the Nazi minister of propaganda twice.

“That was Goebbels, a big lie, they said they don’t care about facts,” he said. “They’re going to lie so, I mean, that’s not pejorative to them. They probably wear it as a compliment.”

Monday, September 3, 2012

Better Off?

The Hill reports:
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Monday said the country was “clearly” better off than four years ago, walking back remarks he made this weekend.
“We are clearly better off as a country, because we are now creating jobs rather than losing jobs,” said O’Malley on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “We have not recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession,” he added.
O’Malley’s comments came after Republicans seized on a remark he made on Sunday saying that voters were not better off.
O’Malley was asked by CBS host Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” if he could “honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago.”
“No,” replied O’Malley, a prominent Obama surrogate, “but that’s not the question of this election.
“Without a doubt, we are not as well-off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses," O'Malley had added.
At The New Republic, Timothy Noah writes that most people are worse off:
Median household income losses between June 2009 and June 2012 occurred for nearly every conceivable demographic group. Family households lost 4.7 percent. Nonfamily households (i.e., people who live alone) lost 7.5 percent. Men who live alone did very badly; they lost 9.4 percent. Households headed by African-Americans did even worse; they lost 11.1 percent. Married-couple households weathered the, um, recovery better than others, but still lost 3.6 percent. Weirdly, two-earner households lost more income (5.9 percent) than one-earner households (4 percent), perhaps because they started out with more income to lose. Households headed by full-time workers lost 5.1 percent. Households headed by private-sector workers lost 4.5 percent, while households headed by government workers lost 3.5 percent.


Last week's Republican National Convention had a minimal impact on Americans' self-reported voting intentions, with just about as many saying the convention made them less likely to vote for Mitt Romney as say it made them more likely to vote for him.
These results, based on Gallup Daily tracking conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 1, showed predictable partisan differences. Republicans overwhelmingly said the convention made them more likely to vote for Romney, although most would likely be voting for their nominee anyway. Democrats as predictably said the convention made them less likely to vote for Romney. Independents, a key group in any presidential election, were essentially split, with 36% saying the convention made them more likely to vote for Romney and 33% less likely -- although 30% said they don't know or that the convention made no difference.
Romney's acceptance speech this year scored low by comparison to previous convention speeches going back to 1996. Thirty-eight percent of Americans rated the speech as excellent or good, while 16% rated it as poor or terrible. The 38% who rated the speech as excellent or good is the lowest rating of any of the eight speeches Gallup has tested since Bob Dole's GOP acceptance speech in 1996.
The Week reports:
The 2012 Republican convention, which wrapped up with Mitt Romney's acceptance speech on Thursday, had millions fewer TV viewers than the last one. Viewership was down by a whopping 41 percenton night two of the Tampa convention compared to the same night in 2008, though opening night this year did better, narrowly topping the audience of the corresponding night four years ago. But all of the networks got hammered in the ratings on Thursday — the convention's third and final night — with roughly one-third fewer viewers than they had four years ago.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Obama and Romney: Voter Contact

Previous posts have discussed the president's potential advantage in the ground game. (Karl Rove, however, notes that the Democratic edge failed to materialize in Wisconsin.) At The Washington Post, Aaron Blake writes:
Democrats are winning at least one key aspect of the 2012 campaign: voter contact.
Some Republicans are starting to fret a little bit about their ground game and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that fear is at least somewhat justified.
According to the poll, 20 percent of registered voters say they have been contacted by the Obama campaign, compared to 13 percent who say they have been contacted by Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Obama Stiff-Arms Congressional Democrats

James Madison still rules and the separation of powers still shapes elections. In 1984, Reagan won a lonely landslide, stiffing the congressional GOP in a quest for a 50-state victory. In 1992, congressional Republicans ran away from Bush.  In 1996, Clinton made deals with Republicans that took away key issues from his party on Capitol Hill.

In 2010, Democratic House candidates won just less than 45% of the popular vote, so President Obama is not eager to hitch his prospects to them. Democrats think he is ignoring them. A June post highlighted a quotation from a Democratic congressional aide: “He’s done nothing for us so we don’t have to do anything for him.”  Glenn Thrush and Jonathan Allen write at Politico:

These days, Obama’s messaging is strikingly in tune with that of down-ballot Democrats. Yet there’s a nagging sense among some headed to Charlotte that Obama is an enthusiastic Democrat who remains oddly unenthusiastic about other Democrats.
“I’ve been on Air Force One twice — with George W. Bush,” said one Democratic lawmaker, representing the sentiment of a half-dozen prominent Democrats interviewed by POLITICO.
Few core Democratic constituencies have been spared the occasional collision with an Obama team many outside Democrats view as insular: congressional liberals and Blue Dogs alike, black candidates for statewide office, organized labor, environmentalists, gays and lesbians, state party organizers and even his handpicked chief of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has clashed behind the scenes with Obama’s team.
Chris Kofinis, a onetime adviser to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — one of the red-purple state Democrats shunning Charlotte — compares the party under Obama to “my big Greek family … sometimes you’re close, sometimes you’re not. You’re still a family. … But as my mom often reminds me, ‘You know, it would be nice if you visited and called more.’”

Laura Meckler writes at The Wall Street Journal:
The Obama campaign is primarily focused on winning the 270 electoral votes needed to gain a second term. The president does almost no fundraising for Senate or House candidates and hasn't transferred money to other party election committees. His numerous campaign offices rarely coordinate with local candidates or display signs for anyone but Mr. Obama.
At rallies, Mr. Obama seldom urges supporters to volunteer—or even vote—for other Democrats running for office. Sometimes, he mentions other politicians in the room without noting that they are seeking re-election. He rarely shares the stage with other candidates.

Mr. Obama has good reason to distance himself from Congress. Only 12% of voters said they approved of its job performance in an August Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, with 82% disapproving. Both those marks tied records for the poll, which has asked voter opinions of Congress since 1994.
The president's stance appears to suit some Democratic candidates just fine, particularly those in conservative states. Heidi Heitkamp, running for the Senate from North Dakota, has been openly critical of Mr. Obama and his policies. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana is among those skipping the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Roger Hickey, co-director of the liberal advocacy group Campaign for America's Future, sees risks in the president's approach. He says it will be all but impossible for Mr. Obama to accomplish his goals in a second term if he doesn't have a Democratic Congress.
"He has a rap he uses all the time on the campaign trail about this being the election that will break the stalemate in Washington. But when you look at it, it sounds like he's just talking about getting him re-elected," Mr. Hickey said. The better course, he said, would be for Mr. Obama to tell voters: "Send me a Congress that can do the big things that need to be done."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Partisan Shoreline

At The New Republic, William Galston looks at Gallup and Pew data.  Although he has noted differences between the current election and the one that gave Bush a second term, he does see a "partisan shoreline" that looks more like 2004 than 2008.
Not that much has changed for Republicans since then. Today, their favorable rating stands at 44 percent, and unfavorable at 50. The big shift has come for Democrats, whose edge over Republicans has completely disappeared. Only 43 percent of registered voters have a favorable view of the Democratic Party (down 13 points), while 52 percent have an unfavorable view (up 13 points). The erosion has been especially severe among men (15 points), whites (17 points), voters 35 to 54 years old (17 points), and Independents (12 points). Only nonwhite voters are more favorably inclined toward the Democratic Party than they were four years ago. And while a successful convention can provide a boost, history suggests that any such improvement in public perceptions of a political party is likely to disappear by Election Day.
On August 23, the Pew Research Center released a report entitled “A Closer Look at the Parties in 2012”, backed by more than 20 pages of detailed tables. Pew’s findings are consistent with Gallup’s. In 2008, Democrats plus Independents who lean Democratic constituted fully 51 percent of registered voters, versus only 39 percent for Republicans plus Independents who lean their way. But now, the 12-point Democratic edge of four years ago has shrunk to only 5 points, 48 to 43, statistically indistinguishable from the split in 2004. Among whites, the Republican edge has expanded from 2 points to 12; among white men, from 11 points to 22. While Democrats have lost ground in every age cohort, they still maintain an edge of 19 points among Millennials, down from 32 points in 2008.
Drilling down more deeply, Pew finds finer-grained trends. Republicans have made only modest gains among college-educated men, and none at all among college-educated women. But among men with less than a BA, Republicans have turned a 6-point deficit into a 3-point edge; among less educated women, the Democratic advantage has been pared from 20 points to 8. Relative to 2008, Republicans have made no gains among registered voters with household incomes of $75,000 or more, but they are doing much better among those making less than that. And all of these changes are more pronounced among white voters.
As Galston pointed out in November, the Republicans might have thrown away a potential victory by nominating an incompetent candidate.  But in spite of his many faults as a candidate, Romney easily clears the competence threshold.