Friday, August 31, 2012

"The Poster"

The New York Times reports:
One of the biggest lines Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin uncorked during his acceptance speech Wednesday night was his appeal to the disaffected young voters who were once among President Obama’s staunchest supporters.
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” Mr. Ryan said.
In a matter of hours, Mr. Ryan’s message was echoed by Crossroads Generation, an offshoot of the Karl Rove-founded “super PAC” American Crossroads, Young Republican National Federation and other Republican youth groups. On Thursday afternoon, Crossroads Generation posted an advertisement that tracked Mr. Ryan’s words with almost eerie precision, ending with a young man tearing a poster of Mr. Obama off his wall.
The article notes that the Crossroads groups cannot coordinate with the campaign and that a spokesman for Crossroads Generation said that the ad was in production before the speech.

 

Rove's Analysis

Bloomberg journalist Sheelah Kolhatkar got into a briefing for major donors.  Karl Rove spoke:
Rove explained that Crossroads had conducted extensive focus groups and shared polling and focus group data with “all the major groups that are playing” in the election. “As many of you know, one of the most important things about Crossroads is: We don’t try and do this alone. We have partners,” he said. “The Kochs—you name it.”
What had emerged from that data is an “acute understanding of the nature of those undecided, persuadable” voters. “If you say he’s a socialist, they’ll go to defend him. If you call him a ‘far out left-winger,’ they’ll say, ‘no, no, he’s not.’” The proper strategy, Rove declared, was criticizing Obama without really criticizing him—by reminding voters of what the president said that he was going to do and comparing it to what he’s actually done. “If you keep it focused on the facts and adopt a respectful tone, then they’re gonna agree with you.”
...
 “We spent—outside groups spent $110 million and Romney spent $42 million,” Rove continued. “So the bad guys [Democrats] spent $130 million and the good guys [Republicans] spent $152 million, and our money didn’t go as far as theirs because we couldn’t buy at the lowest unit rate. Really, it was sort of roughly equivalent, and we fought it to a draw.” And that, Rove pointed out, was after a brutal Republican primary. “We have to keep in mind whose vote we’re trying to get—it ain’t the delegate from Alaska. It’s not the alternate from Alabama. It’s some undecided voter in the battleground state who likes the president.
Rove spoke of Congress:
He also detailed plans for Senate and House races, and joked, “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”
 ...
There are six Republican incumbents Rove identified as in jeopardy, but the biggest risk to Republican hopes of retaking the Senate is Todd Akin in Missouri, following his comments about “legitimate rape.” Rove urged every attendee to apply pressure on Akin to convince him to leave the race. “We have five people who are interested” in replacing Akin, Rove said. “We don’t care who the nominee is, other than get Akin out.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Time, Chance, and Mitt Romney

Tonight, Mitt Romney accepts the GOP nomination. One school of thought is that his nomination was more or less inevitable because Republicans pick the "next in line."  But although Romney had major advantages going into the race, there was nothing inevitable about his victory.

For one thing, Mike Huckabee won more delegates in 2008 than Romney, so he had as good a claim to the "next in line" title.  But he decided not to run.  Had Mitch Daniels or Haley Barbour gotten into the race, either could have raised serious money. Similarly, if Jon Huntsman had declined to serve in the Obama administration, he would have been much more credible to Republican primary voters and he would have had more opportunity to build his organization and warchest. By the time he actually ran, however, most Republicans knew little about him, and the rest thought he was tainted by the Obama connection.

Any of these three could have taken a big chunk of the traditional/establishment vote that went to Romney, thus making him more vulnerable to a credible challenge from the right.

That challenge could have come from Rick Perry -- if had started earlier and worked harder.  But Byron York nailed it back in October:
For Romney, debate preparation involves taking all the things he has already thought through and finding the most effective way to present them in one-minute answers. For Perry, debate preparation is trying to learn new stuff about national issues that he should have been thinking about a long time ago.
It's often pointed out that since Perry entered the Republican race late, on Aug. 13, he had little time to build a campaign organization and hone a campaign pitch. That's true, but the fact is, if Perry wanted to be president, he should have been thinking seriously about the substance of national issues -- not just money-raising and state chairmen -- years before he declared his candidacy.
Even before his famous "oops" moment, his campaign was heading south.

Bachmann, Cain, and Gingrich had moments in the sun, but none of them ever had a real chance of nomination.  Santorum, on the other hand, might have made life tougher for Romney if just a couple of things had gone differently.  If the Iowa GOP had produced an accurate vote count on caucus night, the story would have been "Santorum edges Romney in stunning upset."  If Santorum hadn't disrespected JFK, he might have carried the Catholic vote in the Michigan primary, which could have been enough for him to score yet another stunning upset.

In other words, "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." -- which is the Bible's way of saying "You didn't build that."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Iron Law of Emulation

In Interest Groups Unleashed, a new reader from CQ Press, I have a chapter titled "The Iron Law of Emulation."  Its point is that Democratic outside groups served as a model for the Crossroads groups, which are now a model for newer Democratic groups. At US News, Elizabeth Flock writes:
Karl Rove refused to say Monday whether the influence of outside spending groups on the presidential election was good or bad for the electoral process.
"It is what it is," the former senior advisor to George W. Bush told reporters at a breakfast Monday morning. "All I know is this: the Democrats have been doing this for years, and I got sick and tired of fighting with one hand behind my back."
Rove, who founded American Crossroads, a Super PAC contributing the largest amount of money to political campaigns, defended his tactics as ones he learned from the other side of the aisle.
"Republicans were tired of the Democrats beating us by having this phalanx of liberal groups and unions talking to each other and beating up our guys and gals year in and year out," he said. "[Republicans] were looking around for a vehicle that they could support, and Crossroads is a little bit different vehicle."
Crossroads is more than "a little bit" of a different vehicle. The group raised $72 million in just 29 weeks in 2010, and Rove said his goal this cycle is to raise $300 million.

Bad Numbers for POTUS, Late August Edition

The Washington Post reports on a new survey:
The Post-ABC survey highlights the dominance of the economy as an issue in the 2012 election. Seventy-two percent of voters say the president’s handling of the economy will be a “major factor” in their vote this November.
Fewer voters place great significance on other issues that have roiled the campaign, including newly minted GOP vice presidential candidate’s plan to restructure Medicare, differences between the parties on women’s issues and Romney’s handling of his tax returns.
Bloomberg reports:
Confidence among U.S. consumers fell in August by the most in 10 months as households grew more pessimistic about their employment prospects and the economic outlook.
The Conference Board’s index decreased to 60.6 from a revised 65.4 in July, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The 4.8-point decrease was the biggest since October. The reading was less than the most- pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey in which the median projection was 66.
Gallup reports:
Americans' views of the economy remain entrenched in negative territory as both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama prepare to use their respective conventions to make the case that they are the one better equipped to improve the country's economic situation. The Gallup Economic Confidence Index was at -27 for the week ending Aug. 26, similar to the -28 of the previous week and on par with what Gallup has found over the past seven weeks.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Changing Political Map

At The Wall Street Journal, Michael Barone analyzes the changing electoral map:
A party that attracts new support from a segment of the electorate tends to repel part of its old coalition. As the 1990s began, political pundits were opining that Republicans had a lock on the Electoral College—just before Bill Clinton, with assistance from Ross Perot, picked the lock and ripped open the door. Democrats won the popular vote in four of the five next presidential elections.
Republicans similarly embarrassed the pundits who said two decades ago that Democrats had a lock on the House of Representatives. Republicans won the most popular votes and most seats in seven of the nine congressional elections beginning in 1994.
As a result, the Republican core going into the 2012 election is no longer northern Protestants but white, married Christians. If you compare John McCain's 2008 percentages with the senior Bush's in 1988, you find Republicans suffering double-digit losses in states dominated by giant, culturally non-Southern metropolitan areas—New England, New York and down the I-95 corridor through New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and then down to Florida.
Republicans found support similarly sparse in Illinois, Michigan and (though the loss here seems temporary) Indiana, as well as in California, Nevada and Barack Obama's native Hawaii. Latino immigrants have added Democratic votes in most of these places, and out-migrating, native-born Americans have subtracted Republican votes.
But when you look at this map you also see areas where Mr. McCain ran even with or better than George H.W. Bush, notably the (Andrew) Jacksonian belt settled by Scots-Irish in the 18th and 19th centuries, running southwest from West Virginia through Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Western Pennsylvania and rural Texas, which remained solidly Democratic in the 1980s, have become solidly Republican.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Crossroads, Debt, and the Economy

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Crossroads CEO Steven Law talks about the issues that move people who vote for Obama in 2008 but are still undecided (emphasis added):
Mr. Law says their votes this fall will be driven in part by the summer of 2011. "The debt-limit fight of last July was much more of an important catalytic moment in the progress of the Obama presidency than most people focus on. In our own polling and focus-group research, that was the inflection point at which people began to seriously doubt whether President Obama had the skills necessary to solve the most important problems." Swing voters viewed the Beltway stalemate, which culminated in a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, as "a sour, lousy process," one that Mr. Obama "was an unhelpful part of."
...

Mr. Law concludes that welfare reform could be a "powerful issue to talk about this fall, but it needs to be done sensitively. Right now it may be more of an economic issue than a values issue: In other words, more people on welfare is another disturbing symptom of Obama's broken-down economy, rather than an indictment of those who are on welfare or the culture as a whole."

Among the other campaign issues, "the mother lode is economic insecurity." That will be the focus of Crossroads advertising. New GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, with his history of promoting pro-growth tax reform, can help "add texture to a robust economic argument." The Ryan pick also symbolizes "a newfound aggressiveness with the Romney campaign, and that's very welcome."
In Wisconsin, Crossroads GPS is going after Tammy Baldwin on the debt issue:

 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Republican Rules for 2016

William March reports at The Tampa Tribune:
The Republican Party's Convention Rules Committee on Friday passed stricter regulations, aimed directly at Florida, to prevent states from setting early presidential primary dates that violate the party's schedule.

Under the new rules, if the Florida Legislature breaks the calendar in 2016 as it did this year, the state would lose all but 12 of its delegates to the next GOP convention.

This year, Florida's delegation was reduced from 99 to 50, although the other 49 were allowed to remain as "non-voting guests" with all the delegate privileges and perks except voting.

This year's penalty, committee members noted, wasn't enough to prevent the Florida Legislature from setting the Jan. 31 date for the primary, nor to prevent the candidates from campaigning here.
James Hohmann reports at Politico:
The Republican Party changed a series of rules Friday to significantly increase Mitt Romney’s power over the GOP and make it harder for insurgent presidential candidates to compete in future elections.
After Ron Paul used the convention process to win the most delegates in some of the states where he lost the popular vote, the Republican convention rules committee passed a measure to ensure that a candidate who wins a statewide caucus or primary ultimately controls its delegation and gets more leverage over picking his delegates. The shift to binding primaries and caucuses means the end of so-called beauty contests.The Romney campaign’s move will mean less consequential state conventions — lower-profile events that typically follow the popular vote caucuses and primaries. It also might fend off potential primary challenges from the right in 2016 should Romney win this November.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bad Economic Numbers

Despite some good economic indicators, the news is mostly disappointing, with potentially harmful effects for the president's reelection changes. The Washington Post reports:
Household income is down sharply since the recession ended three years ago, according to a report released Thursday, providing another sign of the stubborn weakness of the economic recovery.

From June 2009 to June 2012, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 4.8 percent, to $50,964, according to a report by Sentier Research, a firm headed by two former Census Bureau officials.

Incomes have dropped more since the beginning of the recovery than they did during the recession itself, when they declined 2.6 percent, according to the report, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The recession, the most severe since the Great Depression, lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

Overall, median income is 7.2 percent below its December 2007 level and 8.1 percent below where it stood in January 2000, when it was $55,470, according to the report.
Bloomberg reports:
Demand for U.S. capital goods such as machinery and communications gear dropped in July by the most in eight months, a sign manufacturing will contribute less to the economic expansion.

Bookings for non-military capital equipment excluding planes slumped 3.4 percent, a Commerce Department report showed today in Washington. Total orders for durable goods, those meant to last at least three years, jumped 4.2 percent, paced by a 54 percent surge in demand for civilian aircraft.
Bloomberg also reports:
Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed last week to a one-month high, showing scant progress in the labor market that’s left Americans more pessimistic about the economy.
Jobless claims rose by 4,000 for a second week to reach 372,000 in the period ended Aug. 18, Labor Department figures showed today (Aug. 23) in Washington. Consumer confidence dropped last week to the lowest level since January, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.

Super PACs: Right Over Left


Outside spending has been increasing over the past several cycles (and was doing so even before Citizens United.)  Open Secrets reports:
According to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of the latest super PAC filings (disclosed earlier this week with the Federal Election Commission), conservative super PACs have spent $137.1 million through the end of July. That's more than four times the amount that their liberal counterparts, which have managed to spend just $31.1 million through the same period.

Breaking down super PAC spending on a month-by-month basis, it's clear that the conservative groups had a major jump on the liberal ones -- in large part because of spending fueled in the closely contested Republican primary -- but in recent months, liberal super PACs have stepped up their spending. For instance, liberal super PACs spent more in the month of July than they did the entirety of 2011 and the first four months of 2012 combined -- about $8.3 million compared to $6.1 million. Meanwhile, in June, the partisan gap narrowed to its closest point -- liberal super PACs spent $9.5 million, while conservative groups spent $11.3 million.

But just as liberal groups appeared to be catching up, the conservative super PACs stepped on the gas. In fact, the very next month, in July, conservative groups spent a total of $27 million, which nearly matched the total that liberal super PAC groups have mustered this full election cycle so far.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Response Ad That Worked

A Mitt Romney ad blasting President Barack Obama for the spot that linked the Republican to a woman’s cancer death is the only ad so far this cycle to hurt the president among independent voters, according to a new study.

Romney’s “America Deserves Better” ad — which attacks the president for the pro-Obama super PAC commercial that suggests Romney played a part in a woman’s death from cancer after her husband lost his job and benefits when Bain Capital closed down a steel plant — swung support among independents six points in Romney’s favor, the Vanderbilt/YouGov Ad Rating Project survey shows.

“The ‘America Deserves Better’ ad seems to score points for Romney,” Vanderbilt professor John Geer, the leader of the Ad Rating Project, said in a statement. “It was the first time among all the ads we have studied where a Romney attack moves down the president’s numbers among pure independents.”

In the poll, Romney held an eight point lead among independents after they watched one ad, “Right Choice,” which hits Obama on welfare. That advantage with independent voters jumped to 14 points after they viewed “America Deserves Better.”

Crossroads GPS Ads Up in Florida, Montana, Ohio, and New Mexico

Crossroads GPS is on offense ...

Against Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Medicare:



 Against Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Obamacare and jobs:

 

 Against Jon Tester (D-MT) on debt:

 

 Against Martin Heinrich (D-NM) on spending:

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Todd Akin = Vito Marcantonio


AP reports that Democratic candidates are tying their foes to Todd Akin:
From Colorado to New Hampshire to Illinois, Democrats already are using the incendiary comments about rape made by the Missouri congressman and Republican Senate candidate as a political bludgeon. In interviews, news releases and tweets, they've blasted Akin for saying victims of "legitimate rape" are able to naturally prevent pregnancy and tried to tie their opponents to legislation he's supported.
...
In New Hampshire, Annie Kuster rapped one of Democrats' top targets, GOP Rep. Charlie Bass, saying she was "disappointed" Bass hadn't yet called for Akin to leave the Senate race. Bass quickly did so. In Illinois, another Democratic challenger, Cheri Bustos, called on her opponent, GOP Rep. Bobby Schilling, to return a $2,000 donation from Akin. Schilling did so and issued a statement expressing his disgust with Akin's remarks.

Democrats are using an approach that Richard Nixon honed in his 1950 Senate race, where he linked Helen Gahgan Douglas to left-wing New York House member Vito Marcantonio. In his biography of Nixon, Earl Mazo observed:

In the California election Mrs. Douglas was first tied to Marcantonio by her Democratic primary opponent. When he read ahout it in Washington, Marcantonio went to a friend of Nixon’s and said, chuckling, “Tell Nicky to get on this thing because it is a good idea.” Marcantonio disliked Mrs. Douglas intensely and normally used an obscene five-letter word when referring to her in private conversations.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Akin

Despite his devastating gaffe, Akin says he will stay in the race. Slate reports:
Republican Todd Akin made a return trip to Mike Huckabee's radio show on Tuesday, again making it clear that he has no intention of ending his Senate campaign in Missouri despite calls from his own party to call it quits.

"We are going to continue with this race for the U.S. Senate," the Missouri congressman said. Barring a surprise change of heart, Akin's comments effectively stop the countdown clock that was ticking toward the 5 p.m. (local time) deadline he faced to exit the race if he wanted to spare his party a host of likely bureaucratic hurdles should he later call it quits.
His decision comes in the face of a remarkably swift and united GOP and conservative effort to get him out.  CNN reports:
Five past and present Republican senators from Missouri, including highly regarded names such as John Danforth and Christopher "Kit" Bond, added their voices to calls for the embattled candidate to get out of the race.
"We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race," said the statement by Sen. Roy Blunt and former senators Danforth, Bond, John Ashcroft and Jim Talent. "The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside."
The latest call signaled that Akin stood alone in wanting to remain in the race.
Top Republican officials -- including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus -- also have signaled that the six-term Missouri congressman should withdraw.
Yesterday, National Review editorialized:
Most Republicans who hold the view that unborn children have a right to life regardless of the circumstances of their conception will have the wit to explain themselves in a way that prevents most voters who disagree from vetoing them for that reason.

While Akin is a stalwart conservative and an honorable man, we regret to say that he inspires no such confidence. That is one reason why Senator Claire McCaskill, the sitting Democratic senator, boosted him during the Republican primaries with ads calling him a “true conservative.” She knew that she is the weakest Senate incumbent on the ballot this year and that her only hope was to draw a weak opponent. Akin won a three-way primary with a plurality of the vote; there was no run-off. McCaskill’s strategy is now paying off.
Akin has backed off from his remarks, albeit with the politician’s excuse of “misspeaking.” People who make such remarks on television are typically capable of making more like them, or rather incapable of exercising the judgment to refrain. We suspect that this same lack of judgment will cause Akin to blow past tomorrow evening’s deadline for him to leave the race and allow the Republicans to select a better nominee. We hope the congressman, who surely wants to see a Senate with as much conservative strength as possible next year, will prove us wrong.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not a Good Weekend for the Congressional GOP

The weekend damaged GOP chances in one Senate race and perhaps a couple of House races.

Twenty-two years ago, Republican Clayton Williams threw away a chance to become governor of Texas by making a "joke" about rape.  In Missouri, the same topic may turn a potential GOP pickup into potential GOP throwaway.   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
Missouri's contentious U.S. Senate race has been unexpectedly jolted by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's comments that victims of "legitimate rape" will rarely become pregnant, causing some pundits to predict it could shift momentum and put U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill back in the lead.
Nate Silver, the New York Times election forecaster, said last week that the race tilted in Akin's favor because of his consistent polling lead. (Akin led Democrat incumbent McCaskill by 11 points in a recent Survey USA poll.)
On Sunday, Silver changed his mind.
"Have to wait for polls, but on instinct I'd call McCaskill a 2:1 favorite in #MOSEN now," Silver wrote, predicting the polls could swing against Akin by 10 points.
It's bad enough for a grown man to go skinny-dipping -- but in the place where Jesus walked?  Politico reports:
The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff — and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses.
During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel, the sources told POLITICO. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed, while some lawmakers partially disrobed. More than 20 people took part in the late-night dip in the sea, according to sources who were participants in the trip.
...
These GOP sources confirmed the following freshmen lawmakers also went swimming that night: Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and his daughter; Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and his wife; Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.). Many of the lawmakers who ventured into the lake said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters. Others said they were simply cooling off after a long day. Several privately admitted that alcohol may have played a role in why some of those present decided to jump in.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Skirting the MSM


Byron Tau and Dylan Byers write at Politico:
President Barack Obama has been taking a lot of questions in the two months since his last press conference or national news interview. He’s just been doing them with ESPN, Entertainment Tonight, People Magazine and FM radio stations around the country, mostly to talk local sports and regional cuisine.
This isn’t a mistake. Even at the height of a campaign in which they’ve been firing hard at Mitt Romney and trying to keep hold of the news cycle, Obama’s reelection staffers are pretty sure most voters aren’t tuning in.
The campaign says that the approach enables them to reach nontraditional audiences.
That also lets them avoid the back-and-forth with the national press corps for much lighter outlets. Friday, Obama was behind closed doors at the White House to cap off a week in which Mitt Romney announced his running mate and Obama’s own vice president lit up controversy. But he was on the air: Obama called in to a New Mexico morning radio show to weigh in on “Call Me Maybe,” his favorite work-out songs and his ideal super power (he chose speaking any foreign language, though “the whole flying thing is pretty good”). The exchange ended with one co-host Kiki Garcia giggling, “I just flirted with the President of the United States of America.”
The approach also makes life harder for reporters, opposition researchers, and ordinary citizens who just want to know what their president has said.  As this blog has noted many times, the White House seldom posts interview transcripts anymore.  While major news organizations often post their own transcripts of presidential interviews, smaller papers and broadcast stations usually do not.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ryan and Medicare

Ryan's position on Medicare might not be quite as toxic as Democrats hope.

From National Journal:

Adding credence to the GOP's case: Polls conducted in 28 battleground districts for the National Republican Congressional Committee, obtained by National Journal, which suggest Republicans aren't as vulnerable on the Medicare debate as the conventional wisdom suggests. Their pollsters tested both the Republican message on Ryan's plan (Ryan's plan doesn't touch anyone over 55, preserves Medicare for future generations, invokes ObamaCare), and the Democratic message against it (end Medicare as we know it through voucher system, seniors pay more out of pocket, rates will go up). When the results of all 28 polls were aggregated together, the GOP argument prevailed 46 to 36 percent.
Another counterintuitive finding from the polls showed that there was little correlation between the most senior-heavy districts and their response to the Medicare arguments
Also from National Journal:
Even Democratic polling, which ostensibly shows the vulnerability of the Ryan budget to Congressional Republicans, isn’t as clear-cut as advertised. Greenberg’s Democracy Corps survey showed that the Republican argument for the Ryan budget actually wins widespread support in (largely) Democratic-leaning battleground districts.
According to their survey, 52 percent of voters in those swing districts support the budget, with just 37 percent opposing it. But when hearing the various critiques of the plan, support falls to 46 percent, with 47 percent opposing it. For a proposal that’s considered such a lightning rod, an even split hardly suggests it’s toxic
And from the Palm Beach Post:
But two Florida polls conducted since Ryan’s selection suggest that voters who are 65 and older support Ryan and his budget plan more than younger voters do. A third Florida poll released this week doesn’t include an age breakdown, but finds the state’s voters agreeing more with Ryan’s description of his budget and Medicare plan than with Democratic criticisms that it would “end Medicare as we know it.”
... 
A poll by bipartisan Purple Strategies this week found likely Florida voters split nearly evenly on which ticket would do a better job of protecting Medicare. In a poll with a 3.1 percent margin of error, 45 percent said Obama and Joe Biden were more likely to protect Medicare and 44 percent chose Romney and Ryan.
The poll found 46 percent of Florida voters agreeing with the Republican description of the Romney-Ryan budget plan as one that protects Medicare for the long term, while 41 percent agreed with the Democratic criticism that the plan “ends Medicare as we know it by replacing guaranteed coverage with vouchers.”

Friday, August 17, 2012

Economic Challenges for POTUS

USA Today reports:
Unemployment rates rose in 44 U.S. states in July, the most states to show a monthly increase in more than three years and a reflection of weak hiring across the United States.

The Labor Department says unemployment rates fell in only two states and were unchanged in four.
Unemployment rates rose in nine states that are considered battlegrounds in the presidential election. That trend, if it continued, could pose a threat toPresident Barack Obama's re-election bid in less than three months.
Three months before the election, President Barack Obama gets good marks from Americans for his handling of terrorism, fair marks for education and foreign affairs, but poor marks on immigration and three big economic issues: the federal budget deficit, creating jobs, and the economy generally.

These ratings, from a Gallup poll conducted Aug. 9-12, are similar to Americans' previous ratings of Obama's performance on each issue, as measured in 2011 and early February 2012. Only his approval on terrorism (58%) is down slightly from the peak level (63%) seen last fall after the killing of Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi. Also, his approval on education, at 49%, is up slightly from 41% last August.
Obama's ratings on the economy are significantly worse than all three prior successful presidential incumbents at this same point in their first term, according to the available Gallup trends. His 36% approval rating on the economy is well below George W. Bush's rating in August 2004 (46%), Bill Clinton's in August 1996 (54%), and Ronald Reagan's in July 1984 (50%). Still, in terms of comparisons to presidents who lost, Obama's economic rating is substantially better than that of George H.W. Bush in July 1992 (18%). Gallup did not measure Americans' approval of Jimmy Carter on the economy in 1980.

Biden

Earlier this year, the vice president's unscripted remarks about same-sex marriage forced the president to change his timetable on the issue. At The Los Angeles Times, Michael Memoli writes:
The same Joe Biden who can display a mastery of the kind of face-to-face, hand-to-hand retail campaigning that President Obama is sometimes accused of lacking can also be a bit too candid, too over the top. That's always been the case, but the emergence of the highly scripted Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice presidential candidate makes the contrast all the more pointed.
On balance, the campaign insists that Biden remains a valuable asset. But a firestorm over his remarks to a diverse audience here Tuesday — when he accused Republicans of wanting to "put y'all back in chains," in reference to Wall Street reform — points to the challenge of managing a blunt candidate in an era where unscripted moments go viral in an instant.
And the unscripted moments can end up in Super PAC videos, too.  From American Crossroads:


And long before viral video, there was C-SPAN.  Biden's 1988 presidential campaign featured this moment in New Hampshire:



He had to withdraw from that race.  In 2008, David Greenburg wrote at Slate that he repeatedly plagiarized a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.
Biden lifted Kinnock's precise turns of phrase and his sequences of ideas—a degree of plagiarism that would qualify any student for failure, if not expulsion from school. But the even greater sin was to borrow biographical facts from Kinnock that, although true about Kinnock, didn't apply to Biden. Unlike Kinnock, Biden wasn't the first person in his family history to attend college, as he asserted; nor were his ancestors coal miners, as he claimed when he used Kinnock's words. Once exposed, Biden's campaign team managed to come up with a great-grandfather who had been a mining engineer, but he hardly fit the candidate's description of one who "would come up [from the mines] after 12 hours and play football." At any rate, Biden had delivered his offending remarks with an introduction that clearly implied he had come up with them himself and that they pertained to his own life.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crossroads GPS v. Heitkamp

Crossroads GPS has another spot against Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota:


Turnout and Registration: Problems for POTUS


A USA Today poll suggests that GOTV and other elements of the ground game will be crucial:
A nationwide USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll of people who are eligible to vote but aren't likely to do so finds that these stay-at-home Americans back Obama's re-election over Republican Mitt Romney by more than 2-1. Two-thirds of them say they are registered to vote. Eight in 10 say the government plays an important role in their lives.
Even so, they cite a range of reasons for declaring they won't vote or saying the odds are no better than 50-50 that they will: They're too busy. They aren't excited about either candidate. Their vote doesn't really matter. And nothing ever gets done, anyway.
...
"There's this pool of people that Barack Obama doesn't even need to persuade," says David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which took the survey. "All he needs to do is find them and identify them and get them to the polls. It's like a treasure chest. But the bad news is that the treasure chest is locked. …
"You've got this overriding sense of bitterness and people who have been beaten down by the economy and the negativity and the lack of trust, and that's the key that Obama can't find. And he's running out of time."
The Boston Globe reports:
Across Florida on Wednesday, President Obama’s campaign scheduled 53 field events to register voters. Last weekend in Virginia, there were at least 78 such events — typical of drills in the past several months on behalf of the incumbent Democrat in the battleground states that are likely to decide the Nov. 6 election.
But a Globe analysis of voter registration data in swing states reveals scant evidence that the massive undertaking is yielding much fresh support for Obama.
In stark contrast to 2008, when a strong partisan tailwind propelled Democratic voter registration to record levels, this year Republican and independent gains are far outpacing those of Democrats.
In Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada — tossup states where direct election-year comparisons could be drawn — the numbers are striking. Democratic rolls increased by only 39,580, less than one-tenth the amount at the comparable point in the 2008 election.
At the same time, GOP registration has jumped by 145,085, or more than double for the same time four years ago. Independent registration has shown an even stronger surge, to 229,500, almost three times the number at this point in 2008.
The Obama campaign is saying that the 2008 gains are still in the bank:
Jan Leighley, an American University professor of political science with a specialty in voter turnout, sees merit in the Obama camp’s explanation. “To say ‘We did a lot in 2008 and we’re not going to repeat those numbers in terms of a percentage increase’ is a legitimate point,” said Leighley. “Registration is not the endgame; the endgame for the campaign is to get people to the polls,” she said.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Independents in Swing States

From a new report by Third Way:


TV Spending By 501(c)(4) Groups

Previous posts have discussed the finances of by Crossroads GPS and other 501(c)(4) groups.  Pro Publica reports on television spending:
Two conservative nonprofits, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, have poured almost $60 million into TV ads to influence the presidential race so far, outgunning all super PACs put together, new spending estimates show.
These nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s or c4s for their section of the tax code, don't have to disclose their donors to the public.

The two nonprofits had outspent each of the other types of outside spending groups in this election cycle, including political parties, unions, trade associations and political action committees, a ProPublica analysis of data provided by Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, or CMAG, found.

Super PACs, which do have to report their donors, spent an estimated $55.7 million on TV ads mentioning a presidential candidate, CMAG data shows. Parties spent $22.5 million.

Crossroads GPS, or Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, is the brainchild of GOP strategist Karl Rove, and spent an estimated $41.7 million. Americans for Prosperity, credited with helping launch the Tea Party movement, is backed in part by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, and spent an estimated $18.2 million.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Rollout

At Time, Mark Halperin lists 20 ways in which the Ryan rollout demonstrated technical skill by Team Romney.  Here are the first five:
  1. The choice and the timing of its announcement was a kept a secret up until the last minute, allowing the campaign to control the rollout.
  2. The announcement event was well staged.
  3. The optics of the Romneys and Ryans together are very good.
  4. The talking points intended to smooth over rough spots (such as policy disagreements between the top and bottom of the ticket) were carefully written in advance.
  5. Boston had a thought-out pushback on the Medicare issue – raising ObamaCare’s Medicare cuts – and made sure all surrogates were ready to make the same case.
The Des Moines Register reports that not everything went smoothly at the Iowa State Fair:
Frank Cordaro, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a liberal advocacy group, stood near the platform as Ryan spoke and repeatedly shouted, “Stop the war on the common good.”
Cordaro, a retired Catholic priest, has been arrested many times over the years at anti-war demonstrations. Cordaro has most recently been detained during Occupy Wall Street protests.
After the speech, his arm was bleeding from a cut he said he sustained as the crowd jostled him. Some people who filed by him as they left accused him of being rude.
“When Jesus went to the temple, he was rude, too,” he said.
A police officer later shoved Ross Grooters, 38, a CCI member from Pleasant Hill, down the sidewalk and away from the stage.
Grooters’ exit came shortly after another CCI member was escorted out of the area shouting, “Stop the war on the poor,” after she had tried to climb the stage.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interest and Enthusiasm

Sixty-four percent of Americans say they have given quite a lot of thought to the 2012 presidential election, a slightly lower percentage than Gallup measured in July of 2004 and 2008. But Americans are much more engaged in the current election than in the 2000 election.

"Thought given to the election" is one of Gallup's "likely voter" questions, and is a predictor of voter turnout. The current data, from a July 19-22 USA Today/Gallup poll, would suggest that voter turnout among the voting-age population will be lower in 2012 than it was in 2004 (55%) and 2008 (57%), but higher than in the 2000 election (51%).

The percentage of Americans thinking about the election typically increases over the course of the campaign; thus, more Americans should be paying attention to the election during the party conventions, debates, and final push to Election Day.
Currently, Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to say they are thinking a lot about the election.
In most prior election campaigns, Republicans have typically paid a higher level of attention to the election than Democrats. However, the current 13-point Republican advantage is larger than Gallup has measured in recent presidential election years.
Resurgent Republic reports:
Republican-leaning voting blocs are more enthusiastic to vote this November, which could be the deciding factor in a turnout election. As we head into the final campaign stretch, President Obama faces the unwelcoming reality that he must close the voter enthusiasm gap and improve his performance among key voting subgroups if he is to be successful in his bid for reelection.

When looking at those voters who say they are extremely enthusiastic to vote in the presidential election, Republicans hold a double-digit advantage over Democrats, 62 to 49 percent, and the subgroups most likely to support Governor Romney register higher enthusiasm than those backing President Obama, according to our most recent survey July 9-12.

Reliable Republican demographics, such as Protestants, Evangelicals, and white men, score above the median rate of those who are extremely enthusiastic to turnout and far out pace several traditional Democratic voting groups, including Hispanic voters, unmarried, and young voters (18-to-29-year-olds). African-American voters are the exception among Obama supporters and register enthusiasm on par with Republicans.

The higher enthusiasm among Republicans overall will help shrink the traditional Democratic identification advantage on Election Day, which stood at seven points during the 2008 wave election. As a result, national polling with a Democratic voter edge greater than the 2008 margin should be viewed with skepticism.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Steven Law Interview

Nancy Cordes of CBS interviews Steven Law, president of the America Crossroads and Crossroads GPS:
Steven Law: Between last year and this year we'll raise a total of $300 million dollars, we'll spend roughly two-thirds of that towards the presidential effort. However that will end up being dwarfed by what organized labor puts on the table so we think there will be a rough parity on both sides in terms of outside efforts on either side.

Nancy Cordes: Do you think conservative spending is going to be dwarfed by organized labor?

Steven Law: Certainly ours will be and I think if you take a look at--

Nancy Cordes: But if you add up all conservative groups together that's a different story, right?

Steven Law: I think if you put all our groups together and you put on the other side what labor unions, environmental groups, and other groups like that, the trial lawyers will spend on their side and I then think you compare overall spending by President Obama versus Mitt Romney I think it will not be tremendously out of whack on either side....


Nancy Cordes: You said recently that groups like yours coming in prevents this race from being a killing field for the Romney campaign and its fundraising, why do you say that?

Steven Law: Well during this period, we knew that President Obama was going to use his very substantial funding advantage to try to focus attention away from himself, away from his own record and onto Romney. And that's clearly what he's tried to do. Now our mission has been to just pull people back to the key problems and issues our country faces. And our viewpoint, which is that President Obama not only has failed to fix those problems but he's actually made things worse.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate.

Opportunities:

Ryan speaks with great knowledge on a range of issues. In particular, he knows the budget better than anyone else on Capitol Hill.   He will be sharp in debates and press conferences.

He excites conservative activists and will give clear policy direction to the Romney campaign.

As a young Catholic from the Midwest, he provides some balance to an older Mormon from the Northeast.  But "balance" is a minor asset.  Though political junkies will be aware of his religion (making Romney-Ryan the first-ever ticket without a Protestant), ordinary voters will scarcely notice.  Since he represents only a portion of Wisconsin, he probably won't make much difference statewide.

Risk:

Ryan has been very specific in his proposals for reforming Medicare and other programs. Democrats are already attacking those proposals. They will claim that the Republicans want to wage war on the poor and elderly.

Expect to see a lot of the following:


 
Stuff That Won't Matter Either Way:

He has no executive or military experience, and has spent little time in the private sector. Then again, the same was true of both Obama and Biden in 2008, and it didn't hurt them a bit.  (BTW, the 2012 election will be the first in eighty years in which neither ticket has a presidential or vice presidential candidate with military experience.)

He has no specific background in foreign policy, but that should not be a political drawback, either. He is extremely intelligent and has been voting on foreign policy issues during his 14 years in Congress. He won't make the kind of errors that hurt Sarah Palin four years ago. In any case, only about one percent of Americans cite foreign policy as the top issue in the campaign .

Ryan Lizza makes an odd claim: "But Ryan’s Washington experience is also light, at least for a potential President—which, after all, is the main job description of a Vice-President." He has spent 14 years on Capitol Hill -- the same as JFK in 1960. And unlike JFK, he has actually chaired a committee. And no, he will not compare himself to JFK and Biden will not be able to say "I knew Jack Kennedy." (Then again, one never knows what Biden will say.)


Friday, August 10, 2012

The Cancer Ad and American Crossroads

Jon Healey writes at The Los Angeles Times:
Sometimes the presidential campaign feels like it's scripted by George Orwell.

This week, Republican Mitt Romney released an ad accusing President Obama of "taking the work out of welfare" because of a proposal to let states experiment with more ways to move people from the dole to private payrolls. Romney might as well put out an ad saying "I was for federalism before I was against it."

But that particularly cynical distortion seems like the biblical truth in comparison to a new commercial by the pro-Obama "super PAC" Priorities USA Action. Called "Understands," it all but accuses Romney of killing the spouse of a former steelworker who had the misfortune of working for a manufacturer (GST Steel) purchased by Bain Capital.

...

There are so many things wrong with that ad, it's hard to know where to begin. My colleague Matea Gold, the Washington Post, CNN and the New York Times are among those who've found gaping holes in the ad's story line; for starters, Soptic's wife Ilyona "Ranae" Soptic obtained health insurance from her own employer after her husband's plant closed. Oh, and yes, Romney was on leave from Bain, running the Salt Lake City Olympics, at the time GST went bankrupt.
But like LBJ's Daisy spot, which only ran once as a paid commercial on broadcast television, the cancer ad seems to be a play for reverb.  At The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters and Michael D. Shear write:
According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, there are no instances of the ad ever running as a paid commercial. Kantar uses technology to track the appearance and frequency of political ads across the country. And so far their data show that the commercial has never been shown on broadcast television or national cable.

Bill Burton, one of the founders of Priorities USA Action, acknowledged that the ad had indeed never been broadcast. But all that free media attention has helped it chalk up nearly half-a-million views online, according to YouTube.

More important for Mr. Burton and his super PAC, however, may be where the ad is being watched. Of the top five states where people are watching the ad, one is California — often in the top because of the size of the state. A reliably Democratic state in presidential elections, California is not a focus of either the Romney or Obama campaign.

But the other four are: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

According to Mr. Burton, who said the ad will eventually run on television, it has been watched by 48,979 people in Florida; 28,473 people in Pennsylvania; 23,739 people in Ohio and 22,887 people in Virginia. 
American Crossroads is weighing in:

 

Why The Brown-Warren Race Stays Close

Why has Elizabeth Warren failed to leap ahead of Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race?  Alec MacGillis has a smart analysis in The New Republic:
Since entering the Senate, Brown has proved to be a remarkably agile politician—casting a symbolic vote against extending the Bush tax cuts while protecting the carried-interest loophole for investment managers; voting for financial reform, but not before weakening it at the behest of the banks who’ve given heavily to him. Still, he should be beatable in Massachusetts on the basis of one vote alone: the one he would cast to make Mitch McConnell majority leader of the Senate. And yet polls put his statewide approval rating at around 60.
One of Brown’s great advantages is that he has lived in Massachusetts virtually his entire life, and he never lets you forget it. He can be seen at opening day at Fenway Park; he’ll buy time on the Red Sox network to bid farewell to retiring players. Andrea Nuciforo Jr., a former Democratic state senator from Pittsfield who is running for Congress, recalls seeing Brown in action at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Sturbridge: “He talked about the Patriots, the Red Sox, and the weather.”
Warren is no carpetbagger—the Oklahoma native moved to Cambridge in 1995—but she lacks the same fluency in the state’s cultural preoccupations. She “doesn’t know that Ben Downing, the state senator from the Berkshires’ dad used to be the D.A. and he died of a heart attack shoveling snow,” says DiCara. “You can get briefed all you want, but it’s tough to understand that stuff.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Destiny's Child

At this point, nobody outside the Romney camp knows who the vp will be.  But Josh Kraushaar concludes a piece on the veepstakes with a broader, more important insight:
Romney holds a fundamental advantage over President Obama in the November election: He controls his own destiny. Obama already has used up most of his best attack ads against Romney and is merely hoping that the economy doesn’t get any worse. He’s largely at the mercy of forces beyond his control now. Most voters have already made up their minds about him. But by picking a talented running mate and delivering a winning convention acceptance speech, Romney has the opportunity to convince the skeptics and redefine the election.

Bullock Ad in Montana

Steve Bullock, Democratic candidate for governor of Montana, has started his general-election ad campaign:



The emphasis on "old-fashioned" Montana values is a good illustration of how policies and messages vary by state. A Democratic candidate for governor of Connecticut probably would not mention praise from the National Rifle Association.

 Full disclosure: Steve was my student.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tough Night for GOP

Democrats have had some bad luck in Hill races. Last night, they had some good luck, as Josh Kraushaar sums up at National Journal:
Last night's primaries in Michigan, Missouri, Washington state and Kansas couldn't have gone much better for Democrats.
The party saw Republicans nominate their weakest candidate against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who spent her own campaign money in order to affect the outcome of the primary. They saw Republicans tap a reindeer-farming Santa Claus with controversial views to run for the suburban Detroit seat recently held by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich. And in a promising gubernatorial pickup opportunity for the GOP in Washington state, the first round of balloting showed Democrats still hold some fundamental advantages in a traditionally Democratic state.
The biggest news came out of Missouri, where GOP Rep. Todd Akin came from behind against self-funded businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, two candidates who Republican party officials viewed as more formidable challengers against McCaskill. Akin, as a longtime member of Congress and ardent social conservative, holds vulnerabilities that McCaskill is hoping to exploit. With the self-funding Brunner as the nominee, Republicans likely wouldn't have had to spend money to hold onto the seat. With Akin, Republicans are very confident about their prospects - a recent poll showed him leading McCaskill by five points -- but they'll need to expend resources against the freshman senator.

Crossroads GPS Hits Dems on Ethics and Taxes

Crossroads GPS is up in several Senate races. Once more, it raises the ethics issue against Shelly Berkley in Nevada:


 It also uses the tax issue against several candidates.

Claire McCaskill in Missouri:

 

 Jon Tester in Montana:

 

 Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota:

 

 And Tim Kaine in Virginia:

 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Disclosure and Nondisclosure

Open Secrets reports that 501(c)(4) organizations and other nondisclosing groups are spending much more on independent expenditures than in the past. 
outsidetotals.JPG
That trend is due in part to a U.S. District Court decision March 30 in the case Van Hollen v. FEC, which requires tax-exempt organizations making electioneering communications to disclose "each donor who donated an amount aggregating $1,000 or more to the person making the disbursement." After the decision, some big spenders like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had previously produced only issue ads, changed tack and began running ads that explicitly advocate for or against candidates. As a result, the group can continue to avoid disclosing its donors.

In fact, no group has reported making a single electioneering communication since the beginning of April, just after the court decision.

Any group claiming 501(c)(4) status under the Internal Revenue Code is supposed to spend less than half its budget on political activity, such as independent expenditures. However, as OpenSecrets Blog has described, some groups spend much of their money on issue ads, and also fund other tax-exempt groups with similar political philosophies that in turn spend their money on advertising.

The increase in the overall reported spending by nondisclosing groups this cycle is likely attributable in great part to the fact that this is a presidential election year. An additional factor may be that this is the first full election cycle since the January 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC and other legal developments freed up fundraising and spending by outside groups.
The numbers reported to the FEC don't include the bulk of what the groups have spent. It excludes any money spent on electioneering communications that fell outside the 30-day pre-primary window. Most estimates put that amount at more than $100 million so far this cycle. [emphasis added]

Models

Previous posts have mentioned forecasting models for presidential electionsNate Silver offers a useful table:
These models are all over the map, forecasting everything from a nearly certain Obama victory to the substantial likelihood of his defeat. But more of them have Mr. Obama as the favorite. If you simply average their win probability estimates together, you get about a 61 percent likelihood of his winning the election.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Obama's Net Loss of 2008 Voters

Gallup reports:
Eighty-six percent of voters who say they voted for Barack Obama in 2008 are backing Obama again this year, a smaller proportion than the 92% of 2008 John McCain voters who are supporting 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Nine percent of 2008 Obama voters have switched to supporting Romney this year, while 5% of McCain voters have switched to Obama.

GOP Ahead in Money

At The New York Times, Michael Shear and Nicholas Confessore report:
The fund-raising machine behind Mitt Romney and the Republican Party once again bested President Obama’s effort last month, raising $25 million more in July than the president and his Democratic allies did.
Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee raised $101.3 million in July, his campaign announced Monday, as Republican donors rallied behind their presumptive nominee with the national convention only a few weeks away.
The president’s campaign announced on Twitter on Monday morning that his July fund-raising topped out at about $75 million. “Every bit helps,” the campaign tweeted, noting that 98 percent of the contributions were under $250.
Mr. Obama’s advisers have all but conceded the money race to Mr. Romney. Fund-raising e-mails from the campaign have taken a more urgent tone over the summer, repeatedly warning supporters of the financial advantage that the Republicans will hold going into the final weeks of the presidential campaign.
At this point, there are a couple of big questions:

1.  Are the Democrats correct that their early spending on technology and field offices truly was an investment that will pay dividends through November?
2.  How will Romney and the Republicans spend their money?  Given the small number of undecideds and the saturation of the airwaves, will more ads have much effect?  Is it too late to develop the kind of campaign infrastructure that Obama built months ago?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Burning or Investing?

At The New York Times, Nicholas Confessore and Jo Craven McGinty write that the President Obama has spent more campaign money faster than any recent incumbent, putting it into personnel, field offices and technology.
Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have burned through millions of dollars to find and register voters. They have spent almost $50 million subsidizing Democratic state parties to hire workers, pay for cellphones and update voter lists. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on polling, online advertising and software development to turn Mr. Obama’s fallow volunteers corps into a grass-roots army.
The price tag: about $400 million from the beginning of last year to June 30 this year, according to a New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission records, including $86 million on advertising.
...
“There is a lot of worry that Romney’s folks are raising so much more,” said one of Mr. Obama’s top fund-raisers, who did not want to be identified as discussing internal campaign business. “I just don’t think there’s a lot of high-dollar money left on the table.”

...

But in interviews, party and campaign officials defended the approach of spending money to build out the campaign, saying they believed that the wisdom of Mr. Obama’s strategy would be demonstrated at the voting booth in November.

“The earlier the better,” said Adam Fetcher, an Obama campaign spokesman. “Starting a conversation with a persuadable voter months before Election Day allows us to be more effective in responding to that voter’s priorities than if they first hear from us a few weeks out. Building and maintaining our grass-roots foundation takes time and resources, but we believe those early investments will make a difference.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's Not 2008 Anymore

Gallup reports that party identification in the states has shifted substantially since 2008.

  Political Composition of U.S. States, January-July 2012 vs. 2008-2011

Clint for Mitt

Clint Eastwood endorsed Mitt Romney.




 The following does not really advance our knowledge of the 2012 campaign, but it's awfully fun:

 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Good News, Bad News, and Worse News for POTUS

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the economy created more jobs than expected (good) but that the unemployment rate rose a hair (bad).
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 163,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment rose in professional and business services, food services and drinking places, and manufacturing.
...
In July, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) waslittle changed at 5.2 million. These individuals accounted for 40.7 percent of the unemployed. (See table A-12.) Both the civilian labor force participation rate, at 63.7 percent, and the employment- population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little in July.
Also see the U-6 numbers:
U-6 Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force 
  • March..14.5 
  • April....14.5 
  • May.....14.8 
  • June.....14.9 
  • July..... 15.0

Average Time Unemployed Are Without Work


Unemployment Rate By Duration of Unemployment

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Crossroads GPS and the Window


The FEC mandate, which comes as the result of a case brought by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and argued in part by The Campaign Legal Center's Paul Ryan, means that the groups must now use, as Ryan says, certain "magic words like 'vote for' or 'vote against'" in order to legally keep their donors' names out of the public sphere.
"The irony," he explains, "is that the more explicitly the ad pushes one particular candidate, the less disclosure is required."
That's where the IRS comes in – or could - Ryan says, if it chooses to be more engaged.
Crossroads GPS maintains its tax-exempt status specifically because it does not – or has not to this point – released so-called independent expenditure ads. That's the legal term for spots that openly push for or against a candidate's election. If the FEC ruling in the Van Hollen case pushes groups like Crossroads GPS too deep into that kind of advertising, the IRS could revoke their exemptions and put a crimp in their finances.
Matea Gold picks up the story at The Los Angeles Times:
Electioneering communications are television spots that refer to federal candidates but stop short of advocating for their election or defeat and that air within 30 days before a primary (or before the first day of a national nominating convention) and 60 days before the general election.
According to the FEC, the electioneering communications window before the Democratic National Convention begins Aug. 4. However, the commission has offered confusing guidance on the topic: Last week, its website identified the start the period as Aug. 7, which the FEC then said was a mistake, noting the correct date was Aug. 4.
“The commission regrets the error,” the FEC said in a statement posted on its website Friday.
“The commission will exercise its prosecutorial discretion and will not take enforcement action with respect to communications disbursements made in reasonable reliance on the erroneous information on the website in connection with EC reporting.”
Officials with Crossroads GPS appear confident that because of the confusion, the group will not be forced to reveal its contributors
“Crossroads has no plans to air ads that will trigger reporting in the [electioneering communications] window,” spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in a statement.