Commentary Magazine


Topic: 2012 presidential elections

2012 Debunked Campaign Finance Fallacies

Since the landmark Citizens United decision issued by the Supreme Court in 2010, liberals have been claiming that the ruling would more or less end democracy as we know it. Their fear-mongering on the issue was based on the assumption that freeing up the ability of individuals, groups and businesses to fund political speech would guarantee that money would decide all future elections. That conclusion was patent nonsense. Neither political party has an inherent advantage in raising money, since both have large affluent bases from which to draw funds. But even more important is the fact that while money is essential to giving a candidate a chance, it is by no means a decisive factor in determining the outcome.

These two facts were proved true again this past Tuesday. It is true that Mitt Romney’s defeat was a blow to the big Republican donors who contributed vast sums to help his cause. But as much as the New York Times was able to crow in an editorial published yesterday that the outcome was “A Landslide Loss for Big Money” by which they meant big Republican money, it can just as easily be represented as a win for the big liberal money raised by the Democrats. While the cacophony of competing claims made possible by the approximately $1 billion spent by both parties wasn’t the most edifying spectacle, it did give each ample opportunity to make their cases to the voters. There is nothing corrupt about the free flow of political speech, even in an election as nasty as the one that has just concluded. All that Citizens United did was to make it possible for the competitors’ voices to be heard. That is the essence of democracy and why calls for more efforts to restrict free speech via new, and undoubtedly unconstitutional, campaign finance laws (such as those advocated by the Times) should be ignored.

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Since the landmark Citizens United decision issued by the Supreme Court in 2010, liberals have been claiming that the ruling would more or less end democracy as we know it. Their fear-mongering on the issue was based on the assumption that freeing up the ability of individuals, groups and businesses to fund political speech would guarantee that money would decide all future elections. That conclusion was patent nonsense. Neither political party has an inherent advantage in raising money, since both have large affluent bases from which to draw funds. But even more important is the fact that while money is essential to giving a candidate a chance, it is by no means a decisive factor in determining the outcome.

These two facts were proved true again this past Tuesday. It is true that Mitt Romney’s defeat was a blow to the big Republican donors who contributed vast sums to help his cause. But as much as the New York Times was able to crow in an editorial published yesterday that the outcome was “A Landslide Loss for Big Money” by which they meant big Republican money, it can just as easily be represented as a win for the big liberal money raised by the Democrats. While the cacophony of competing claims made possible by the approximately $1 billion spent by both parties wasn’t the most edifying spectacle, it did give each ample opportunity to make their cases to the voters. There is nothing corrupt about the free flow of political speech, even in an election as nasty as the one that has just concluded. All that Citizens United did was to make it possible for the competitors’ voices to be heard. That is the essence of democracy and why calls for more efforts to restrict free speech via new, and undoubtedly unconstitutional, campaign finance laws (such as those advocated by the Times) should be ignored.

Liberals intent on demonizing conservative donors seem to forget that the president was able to raise hundreds of millions from their own cadre of rich backers. The Democrats raised money from Hollywood or those who seek to enrich themselves via “green” alternative energy companies, just as others did for Romney. Yet there is nothing wrong with these liberals or their labor union allies using the vast sums at their disposal to promote their ideas and favorite candidates any more than when conservatives do the same things.

Rather than draw the only logical conclusion from Obama’s win and to pipe down about the evils of money in politics, the ideologues at the Times are undeterred. Laws such as the disastrous McCain-Feingold legislation that was largely overturned by Citizens United, or any of its equally unsuccessful predecessors, only serve to strengthen the position of incumbents and to reassert the power of mainstream media outlets like the Times, whose right to political speech is protected by the First Amendment.

What all this money bought may not be pretty or even decorous but it is not corrupt. Nor should the government seek to restrain it in the hope of elevating our political life.

As the Times rightly asserted, a deluge of expensive campaign ads on television didn’t affect the race as much as effective get-out-the-vote efforts by Democrats. That was a point reinforced by the disastrously inefficient, yet no less expensive scheme of the Republicans to do the same thing. Perhaps in the future both sides ought to ponder whether television ads that enrich broadcast outlets and the political consultants who urge candidates to buy them, but sometimes provide little political payoff, are worth it. But to say that is not agree that they ought to be restricted or banned. This year proved what virtually every other election has always shown those who were willing to look honestly at the question. Though money is needed to create a viable campaign, it can’t buy the presidency.

What we had in 2012 was a bellyful of democracy. Some of us may not like what it bought us, but schemes to limit political speech won’t make the system any more fair or honest.

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Polls: Ohio Still a Tossup

Rasmussen’s latest (and last) finds Romney and Obama tied in Ohio: 

The pivotal presidential state of Ohio remains all tied up on the eve of Election Day.

The final Election 2012 Rasmussen Reports survey of Likely Ohio Voters shows Mitt Romney and President Obama each earning 49% support. One percent (1%) favors some other candidate in the race, and another one percent (1%) is undecided. …

The race in Ohio was tied late last week after Romney posted a slight 50% to 48% advantage a few days earlier. The candidates have been within two percentage points of one another or less in every survey in Ohio since May.

Forty percent (40%) of likely voters in the Buckeye State have already voted. Obama leads 60% to 37% among these voters.

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Rasmussen’s latest (and last) finds Romney and Obama tied in Ohio: 

The pivotal presidential state of Ohio remains all tied up on the eve of Election Day.

The final Election 2012 Rasmussen Reports survey of Likely Ohio Voters shows Mitt Romney and President Obama each earning 49% support. One percent (1%) favors some other candidate in the race, and another one percent (1%) is undecided. …

The race in Ohio was tied late last week after Romney posted a slight 50% to 48% advantage a few days earlier. The candidates have been within two percentage points of one another or less in every survey in Ohio since May.

Forty percent (40%) of likely voters in the Buckeye State have already voted. Obama leads 60% to 37% among these voters.

Today’s University of Cincinnati poll also found a statistical tie, with Obama up by one. Previously, Rasmussen showed Romney with a slight lead in Ohio. All of the other polls have found a tie or a slight edge for Obama — and several in the last week have found Obama at or above the 50-percent line. Party ID breakdowns that favor Obama could be skewing the polls, but we won’t know precisely to what extent until after the election. 

If Michael Barone is right, the polling is wildly off-base and Romney is heading for a landslide:

Also, both national and target state polls show that independents, voters who don’t identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans, break for Romney.

That might not matter if Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 39 to 32 percent, as they did in the 2008 exit poll. But just about every indicator suggests that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting — and about their candidate — than they were in 2008, and Democrats are less so.

That’s been apparent in early or absentee voting, in which Democrats trail their 2008 numbers in target states Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada. …

Bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223. That sounds high for Romney. But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election. Fundamentals.

On the other hand, if Phil Klein is right, Obama will prevail in all the states where he has a slight edge in the polls, and beat Romney by a hair:

I believe the arguments about polls understating Romney’s position have some merit, but only up to a point. I also believe that by and large, despite some high profile errors, polling is generally accurate when results from multiple pollsters overwhelmingly point in one direction. So, I’ve decided to split the difference in my prediction. That is, I’ve given Romney the states that are essentially tied, in which he’s led in at least some recent polls. But in states where Romney has trailed in nearly all polls, and in some cases by a comfortable margin, I’m giving them to Obama. My thinking is that even if Romney over-performs the polls somewhat, he still is unlikely to over-perform by a wide enough margin to win these states.

Applying this philosophy, I give Romney Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado. But I assume that Obama takes Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. …

Add it all up and the final tally is Obama 277, Romney 261.

Klein has a safer bet, but Barone’s argument is persuasive. They both show how difficult it is to come up with an analysis when we know the polls have some flaws, but don’t yet know to what extent.

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Respecting Israel’s Democratic Process

If the world could vote in the 2012 American presidential election, according to a new poll of respondents in 32 countries, it would cast its electoral votes for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. But according to the polls in Israel, the Jewish state would dissent, preferring Romney. Considering Obama’s treatment of Israel during his first term, this isn’t surprising. But Reuters today published an “analysis” insisting that those Israelis have nothing to worry about: there’s really no difference between the candidates.

The article notes that there is much continuity in American foreign policy, even when the White House changes parties. This is true. The article also notes that Obama has aligned his rhetoric on Israel with Romney’s, and that Romney has aligned his rhetoric on Iran with Obama’s. That is also true. So are Israelis just being silly, or is Reuters missing something? It is, of course, the latter. Reuters writes:

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If the world could vote in the 2012 American presidential election, according to a new poll of respondents in 32 countries, it would cast its electoral votes for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. But according to the polls in Israel, the Jewish state would dissent, preferring Romney. Considering Obama’s treatment of Israel during his first term, this isn’t surprising. But Reuters today published an “analysis” insisting that those Israelis have nothing to worry about: there’s really no difference between the candidates.

The article notes that there is much continuity in American foreign policy, even when the White House changes parties. This is true. The article also notes that Obama has aligned his rhetoric on Israel with Romney’s, and that Romney has aligned his rhetoric on Iran with Obama’s. That is also true. So are Israelis just being silly, or is Reuters missing something? It is, of course, the latter. Reuters writes:

Most Israelis would be reassured if Mitt Romney won next week’s U.S. presidential election, feeling they had an unquestioning friend rather than a dispassionate critic in the White House.

But any change would probably be a question of style over substance, analysts say, with a Republican administration expected to follow the path already laid out by President Barack Obama when it comes to Iran and the Palestinians.

That’s the crux of the article, which obviously leaves out some points that are important to Israelis but not to Western media. There certainly has been a degree of policy continuity between Republican and Democratic administrations in recent memory. But there is one point on which there is a marked difference, and it is relevant now because Israelis are also heading into an election. And if past is prologue, that election will mean much to Israelis but not necessarily to the American president.

Of the last three presidents, two were Democrats and one a Republican. And far from respecting Israel’s electoral integrity, the two Democrats—Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—spent an offensive amount of time and effort trying to either bring down or change Israel’s elected governments. Clinton did so publicly and without shame, when Benjamin Netanyahu defeated Clinton’s preferred candidate, Shimon Peres, in the first election after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Clinton interfered to get Peres elected, failed, and then spent the next few years sending his team to Israel to run Netanyahu out of office and replace him with Ehud Barak.

Obama was certainly less obsessed with running Netanyahu out of office, but as even Obama’s defenders on the left, like Jeffrey Goldberg, noticed, he was committed to the prospect of shaking up Israel’s Knesset to bring Kadima back to power.

George W. Bush, however, worked with three Israeli parties—Labor, Likud, and Kadima—that spanned the political spectrum. He felt no desire to challenge Israel’s voting public, and respected and worked with their choices. So it’s understandable that with their own election looming, Israelis are wary of an American president who may want them to have to vote again and again until, in his mind, they get it right. Israelis imagine that Romney, like Bush, will simply respect Israel’s democratic process.

On the Palestinian issue, Reuters may be correct that there wouldn’t be much of a change, but that is because Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority refuse to even consider resuming negotiations, so there could be no progress on that front anyway.

And on Iran, Reuters is right that Romney and Obama speak the same language. But Reuters seems to forget one possibility: that Israelis believe Romney, but don’t trust Obama. They may or may not be right to do so, but there’s no question that trust is a problem between the Obama administration and the Israeli government, as even Reuters acknowledges. It’s worth considering that the “daylight” Obama wanted to put between the two governments cost him the benefit of the doubt among many Israelis.

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Obama Abandons Independent Voters

With the presidential election just two and a half weeks away, it’s no surprise that President Obama is now solely focused on turning out his base. But it’s still somewhat jarring to read stories like today’s New York Times piece on Obama’s closing argument, and Byron York’s report on the same. From the Times:

With 19 days left before Americans go to the polls in a closely fought presidential campaign, President Obama is distilling his stump speech into the essential pitch of any political race: Vote.

No fewer than half a dozen times, Mr. Obama urged supporters at a rally here on Thursday to go to the polls. Each time he criticized Mitt Romney, drawing boos from the crowd, he repeated his call to arms: “Don’t boo — vote.” When the crowd began chanting, “Vote, vote, vote,” a satisfied-looking Mr. Obama replied, “All right, you guys are getting it.”

Obama’s closing argument is to rest his case. But what exactly is that case? York writes that it essentially amounts to an admission that he’s got nothing left in the tank:

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With the presidential election just two and a half weeks away, it’s no surprise that President Obama is now solely focused on turning out his base. But it’s still somewhat jarring to read stories like today’s New York Times piece on Obama’s closing argument, and Byron York’s report on the same. From the Times:

With 19 days left before Americans go to the polls in a closely fought presidential campaign, President Obama is distilling his stump speech into the essential pitch of any political race: Vote.

No fewer than half a dozen times, Mr. Obama urged supporters at a rally here on Thursday to go to the polls. Each time he criticized Mitt Romney, drawing boos from the crowd, he repeated his call to arms: “Don’t boo — vote.” When the crowd began chanting, “Vote, vote, vote,” a satisfied-looking Mr. Obama replied, “All right, you guys are getting it.”

Obama’s closing argument is to rest his case. But what exactly is that case? York writes that it essentially amounts to an admission that he’s got nothing left in the tank:

Obama’s real second-term agenda, as outlined in his speeches and other campaign appearances, is protecting the work of his first term. He’ll keep troops out of old war zones. He’ll protect Obamacare from repeal. He’ll keep pushing, and funding, green energy. The critics who (correctly) say Obama doesn’t have a second-term agenda sometimes miss the fact that much of Obama’s argument for re-election is that he needs another term to keep in place the things he has already done.

Put two and two together, and you have an abandonment of the chase for independent voters. Obama’s exhortation to just vote is made to his supporters at rallies–people he knows (or assumes) are in his camp. And that is exactly to whom his issue-based pitch is made. The broad electorate has soured on Obama’s foreign policy, nearly erasing the lead he once had on the subject. And that’s because the country thinks a foreign policy must be about more than just adhering to withdrawal timetables. But that’s what Obama’s left-wing base wanted out of him on foreign policy. And that’s all they got.

His base wants Obamacare, but independents don’t. (Nor do many Democrats.) And the green energy mix of crony capitalism and bad investments, as in the case of Solyndra, and opposition to the Keystone pipeline, which would bring jobs in a time of high unemployment and oil at a time of high gas prices, is not pragmatic policymaking. It’s just another sop to the base.

But will all that even inspire his reliable supporters? He’s asking for a vote of appreciation, not a vote of confidence. He did what he came here to do, he’s saying, and he intends to rest on his laurels and sit on his hands in a second term. The Times story closes with the words of an Obama supporter in New Hampshire that perfectly sum up the president’s predicament:

“People aren’t fighting for Obama as outwardly as the last time,” she said.

Ms. Bliss, who was at the rally with her children, said she was not sure that Mr. Obama would improve his prospects by visiting New Hampshire again before the election. “Whenever he comes, my Republican friends, they’re so annoyed because he stops all the traffic,” she said.

Even his supporters aren’t too excited, and the best thing he can do for his prospects is to stay away from anyone outside his base. Judging by Obama’s recent campaign speeches, you don’t have to tell him twice.

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Pew Poll Finds Foreign Policy Problems for Obama

This Pew Research Center poll was conducted the weekend after the first debate, but the overview was just released today. It found that Mitt Romney has significantly cut into President Obama’s 15-point lead on foreign policy, and now trails by just four points:

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2012 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, finds that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run about even on most foreign policy issues. On the question of who can do a better job making wise decisions about foreign policy, 47% of voters favor Obama and 43% Romney. This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September.

Some of Obama’s slide may have to do with the Benghazi attack. While respondents were split how the administration handled the attack, a plurality of independents disapproved. The more closely respondents followed the news, the more likely they were to disagree with the administration’s response:

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This Pew Research Center poll was conducted the weekend after the first debate, but the overview was just released today. It found that Mitt Romney has significantly cut into President Obama’s 15-point lead on foreign policy, and now trails by just four points:

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2012 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, finds that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run about even on most foreign policy issues. On the question of who can do a better job making wise decisions about foreign policy, 47% of voters favor Obama and 43% Romney. This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September.

Some of Obama’s slide may have to do with the Benghazi attack. While respondents were split how the administration handled the attack, a plurality of independents disapproved. The more closely respondents followed the news, the more likely they were to disagree with the administration’s response:

The administration gets lower ratings from those who followed news about investigations into the embassy attack very or fairly closely. Among this group, 36% approve of the administration’s handling of the situation and 52% disapprove.

More Republicans (67%) followed news about the Libya investigations than did Democrats (53%) or independents (55%). However, looking only at independents, those who followed news about the Libya investigations disapprove of the administration’s handling of the situation by two-to-one (59% disapprove vs. 29% approve).

Keep in mind, this was a poll of the general public, not registered or likely voters. Unless Obama’s argument about Benghazi in Tuesday’s debate resonated with voters, his numbers could be even lower with the actual electorate.

A growing majority of Americans also say it’s more important to take a firm stand against a nuclear Iran than to avoid a military conflict. In January, the “stand against” option led by nine points. In the latest poll, it leads by 21 points:

The public has long favored tough measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and 56% now say it is more important to take a firm stand against Iran’s nuclear program, while 35% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict. In January, 50% favored taking a firm stand against Iran and 41% said it was more important to avoid a confrontation.

The Republican Party also continued to dominate the Democratic Party on the pro-Israel issue. A plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, say that the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel, while only 9 percent of Democrats agree. One-quarter of Democrats say that the U.S. is actually too supportive of Israel.

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Romney’s Lifeline: Debates Matter

Since early last week, the polls have been a string of bad news for Mitt Romney. Both in swing-state polls and in national ones, President Obama is pulling ahead. There may be some nuggets of good news in states like Colorado, but overall, in must-win states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida, things are looking dire for the Republican nominee. Is it time for Romney to radically alter his campaign or its strategy? Is he due for an ad-spending blitz to try to buoy his numbers going into the fall?

Last summer, pundits debated how long it would take Rick Perry to clinch the Republican nomination. Would he sweep every single primary? How long would it take before his opponents just threw in the towel? His peak was mid-September 2011 in the polls, when according to the Real Clear Politics average, he led the next-most popular candidate, Romney, by more than ten points. He had yet to participate in a debate. Perry’s record as governor of one of the most prosperous states in the union brought him to the lead, and unfortunately, Perry’s less-than-stellar performance in debates was what quickly undid his candidacy. By early October, his lead over Romney disappeared, and his popularity only continued to sharply decline until his withdrawal from the race in late January.

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Since early last week, the polls have been a string of bad news for Mitt Romney. Both in swing-state polls and in national ones, President Obama is pulling ahead. There may be some nuggets of good news in states like Colorado, but overall, in must-win states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida, things are looking dire for the Republican nominee. Is it time for Romney to radically alter his campaign or its strategy? Is he due for an ad-spending blitz to try to buoy his numbers going into the fall?

Last summer, pundits debated how long it would take Rick Perry to clinch the Republican nomination. Would he sweep every single primary? How long would it take before his opponents just threw in the towel? His peak was mid-September 2011 in the polls, when according to the Real Clear Politics average, he led the next-most popular candidate, Romney, by more than ten points. He had yet to participate in a debate. Perry’s record as governor of one of the most prosperous states in the union brought him to the lead, and unfortunately, Perry’s less-than-stellar performance in debates was what quickly undid his candidacy. By early October, his lead over Romney disappeared, and his popularity only continued to sharply decline until his withdrawal from the race in late January.

There were two defining moments for Perry in the debate cycle. In his premier debate on September 7, Perry came off as far too aggressive in his efforts to be heard above the seven other voices on stage. A few days later, polls began to register the response to the debate and his numbers sank even with Romney’s. The second moment was so painful I muted the television as it was unfolding live. In a debate on November 9, Perry struggled to name all of the governmental agencies he would cut as president and, after he realized he couldn’t, he ended by saying “Oops!” On that debate performance Alana wrote,

A presidential contender forgetting the name of an agency he wants to cut is pretty awful, but momentary memory lapses happen. But as you can see, there were so many escape hatches that other politicians – smoother communicators – would have taken. Perry should have dropped the issue when Paul gave him a chance, moved on, changed the subject and tried to recover. Instead, he stood onstage for almost a full, excruciating minute, fumbling for an answer that never came to him.

If all Perry lacked was substance, he might still be polling in the double digits right now. Look at Herman Cain. Perry’s big problem is that he also lacks style. And in today’s media and political culture, that’s unforgivable.

After that November 9 debate, Perry lost any hope of regaining momentum, and soon he was an afterthought in discussions about the primary in the media. While few people were watching these endless strings of debates, the buzz after them permeated the consciousness of Republican voters. Tales of Perry’s poor debate performance impacted the perception of voters who weren’t even bothering to tune in yet, and soon Newt Gingrich rose on the back of his strong debate performances. Gingrich’s poor campaigning and checkered past couldn’t keep him in the running, but for a brief time in both December and January, he gave Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum a run for their money. Before Perry’s star took off, Tim Pawlenty saw the end of his campaign based on one moment in an early debate: his refusal to call ObamaCare “ObamneyCare” — tying Romney’s healthcare program in Massachusetts while he was governor to ObamaCare. Pawlenty’s nice guy moment put the end to his consideration as a serious contender for the nomination.

The first of three scheduled presidential debates comes in a little over a week. Historically, presidential debates have been unable to move the needle in favor of a candidate; generally the only way a candidate’s future has been decided is through a gaffe. While Romney’s numbers aren’t solid going into them, strong showings in the debates could help turn his campaign around, giving him the buzz necessary to get a boost among voters. Romney’s campaign isn’t failing, but it isn’t going to get him over the finish line first either. Totally revamping his campaign will only show signs of desperation and will surely fail to give the candidate a meaningful jump among voters. Only one thing can save Romney: himself.

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Student Loan Talk Won’t Save Obama in NC

President Obama is campaigning in favor of extending a student loan interest bill in North Carolina today in an effort to woo young voters, a critical demographic for him in the state. But as Politico reports, his professed enthusiasm for this student loan bill is a relatively new development, since he missed two votes on the same bill while campaigning back in 2007:

In 2007, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama missed two votes on the student loan interest bill that he now wants Congress to extend.

Obama twice skipped the Senate vote on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act when the bill came to the Senate floor first in July and again in September of 2007, according to public records.

The bill, introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and signed into law by President George W. Bush, first cleared the Senate in July on a 78 to 18 vote, with Obama as one of only four senators to abstain. Obama did not cast a vote again in September, after the House and Senate had ironed out different versions of the bill. He was on the conference committee assigned to merge the House and Senate versions of the bill.

To be fair, Obama’s votes weren’t needed to pass the legislation at the time (in July of ’07, the bill passed the Senate by a 78 to 18 margin, according to Politico). The proposed extension currently has bipartisan support, and Mitt Romney has already come out in favor of it. So while Obama’s support for it is most likely genuine, this isn’t exactly a position that distinguishes him from the GOP.

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President Obama is campaigning in favor of extending a student loan interest bill in North Carolina today in an effort to woo young voters, a critical demographic for him in the state. But as Politico reports, his professed enthusiasm for this student loan bill is a relatively new development, since he missed two votes on the same bill while campaigning back in 2007:

In 2007, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama missed two votes on the student loan interest bill that he now wants Congress to extend.

Obama twice skipped the Senate vote on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act when the bill came to the Senate floor first in July and again in September of 2007, according to public records.

The bill, introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and signed into law by President George W. Bush, first cleared the Senate in July on a 78 to 18 vote, with Obama as one of only four senators to abstain. Obama did not cast a vote again in September, after the House and Senate had ironed out different versions of the bill. He was on the conference committee assigned to merge the House and Senate versions of the bill.

To be fair, Obama’s votes weren’t needed to pass the legislation at the time (in July of ’07, the bill passed the Senate by a 78 to 18 margin, according to Politico). The proposed extension currently has bipartisan support, and Mitt Romney has already come out in favor of it. So while Obama’s support for it is most likely genuine, this isn’t exactly a position that distinguishes him from the GOP.

It also isn’t a position that’s going to suddenly drive skeptical young voters to support him. Student loans are a major concern for young people, but their top policy priority is still job creation. In a Georgetown University poll released last week, 74 percent of 18 to 24-year-old cited jobs and unemployment as the most critical issue facing the country. The federal deficit and education were tied in a distant second place.

So while Obama’s focus on student loans won’t hurt, and might even help him with some young voters, the real issue he’s going to need to address to them is jobs. And fuzzy rhetoric is not going to be enough. His support is tanking with young voters because of his record on unemployment – half of recent college graduates are currently jobless or underemployed according to the latest study.

The lack of enthusiasm isn’t just noticeable in Obama’s sinking approval ratings. Many young Democratic voters have also fallen off the voting rolls, according to Politico:

But for once, demographics aren’t on Obama’s side. The number of young Democrats registered to vote in the state has shrunk by nearly three times Obama’s victory margin; 40,000 of them have fallen off state voter rolls in the state since 2008, a Tufts University study in December found.

Obama isn’t going to get these voters back simply by backing the extension of a student loan bill that already has bipartisan support. He’s going to need to figure out how to generate enthusiasm similar to 2008, and at this point in his presidency that seems like an impossible target.

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