Four years ago, could we have guessed that President Obama would soon be considered less exciting than candidate Mitt Romney? The enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown to more than 20 points since March, according to today’s CBS News/NYTpoll (h/t HotAir):
Meantime, three and a half months before election day, Republican enthusiasm about voting this year has shot up since Mitt Romney clinched the nomination in April, from 36 percent of Republicans saying they were more enthusiastic in March to 49 percent now.
President Obama was helped to election in 2008 by a wave of voter enthusiasm among Democrats, however this year, Democratic enthusiasm is down a bit since March. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year than they were in past elections, compared to 30 percent four months ago. And 48 percent of Democrats say their enthusiasm this year is the same as past elections, compared to 39 percent who answered the same question in March.
Independent voters’ enthusiasm is also up with 29 percent saying they’re more enthusiastic now from 22 percent four months ago.
Overall, voters aren’t as enthusiastic about this year’s election as they were in 2008. Just 33 percent of all registered voters said they were more enthusiastic this year than they were for past elections, compared to 41 percent in March 2008.
Mitt Romney showed guts today when he spoke to the NAACP and, as Roger Simon noted at Politico, neither groveled nor pandered to a hostile African-American audience. He may show even more nerve soon naming his running mate well in advance of the Republican National Convention. That’s the way Reuters is interpreting a comment made yesterday at an appearance in Colorado when the GOP candidate was asked whether he would name the person who will fill out his ticket before such announcements are normally made. Rather than shoot down the suggestion or not answer, Romney simply said he hadn’t decided.
The article says Romney and his advisers are considering moving up the pick in order to help raise even more money for their campaign war chest. The suggestion is also made that naming his vice presidential candidate will help distract the public from the scathing attacks the president and his surrogates are making on Romney’s wealth and business career. But if he does pick early — which is still merely speculation — the thinking here is that it will not be in order to gain some temporary advantage that would soon be dissipated. Rather, it would be because Romney had completed the systematic evaluation of his potential running mates and thought there was no point in prolonging the process. If the talk about moving up the announcement is real it is because Romney has made up his mind.
One of the great ironies of the 2012 presidential campaign is the extent to which President Obama’s team is openly trying to paint Mitt Romney as a strange, vaguely un-American “other,” as Roger Simon writes today. We heard the reverse complaint virtually nonstop during the last four years, first during the 2008 election and then during Obama’s first three years in office. Nearly any critique of Obama doing things differently–another irony, as his campaign was built on hope and change–was construed as an offensive implication that Obama is alien to Americans. Here’s Simon:
Swiss banks accounts? Who has Swiss bank accounts? Others, that’s who.
Biden described Romney using classic terms of “otherness.” Romney, Biden said, was “out of touch” and “out of step” with basic American values….
Nobody is saying (as of yet) that Romney did anything illegal by keeping millions of dollars in Swiss and other foreign banks. It just seems … odd.
A Gallup poll out this morning found that Mitt Romney has an eight-point voter enthusiasm advantage over President Obama across 12 swing states, an edge that could make all the difference in a tight race:
The June swing-states poll showed 47 percent of registered voters across the 12 swing states backing President Barack Obama for president and 45 percent backing the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
However, voters in swing states who support Romney for president are more likely than those backing Obama to say they feel “extremely enthusiastic” about voting — 31 percent to 23 percent. The same pattern is seen by party, with 32 percent of Republicans in the swing states and 25 percent of Democrats reporting extreme enthusiasm. However, these candidate- and party-level differences disappear when one looks at total enthusiasm, defined as those either extremely or very enthusiastic.
The Romney campaign, along with its Romney Victory fund and the Republican National Committee, raised more than $100 million in June, obliterating the campaign’s goal and setting the one-month record for any Republican campaign, according to a GOP official.
Barack Obama raised $150 million as he was surging in September 2008, the record month for any campaign.
This is huge for Romney. It’s a fundraising record for Republicans, and a big leap from the $77 million he raised in May. Obama’s team already appeared to be overextending itself, breaking records for number of fundraisers attended all the way back in May and continuing the frantic pace through June. Still, the president’s fundraising total lagged behind Romney’s last month. The Obama campaign hasn’t released its latest numbers yet, but it’s hard to imagine it could top Romney after pulling in just $60 million in May (which was actually the biggest haul for Obama so far this election). The president has hit a ceiling. How can he possibly pencil in more fundraisers or send out more pleading emails than he already does?
If President Obama has sounded nostalgic for his 2008 opponent John McCain lately, it’s because he’s trying to make the case that the once-moderate Republican Party has fallen into the hands of extremists like Mitt Romney (cue skeptical side-eye). But according to a Rasmussen poll, likely voters are not buying it. Forty-seven percent say Obama’s views are “extreme” while just 31 percent say the same about Romney:
A bare majority of voters still considers Mitt Romney in the political mainstream, while the number who think President Obama’s views are extreme has edged up for the second month in a row. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51percent of Likely U.S. Voters describe the political views of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate as mainstream. Thirty-one percent consider his views extreme. Eighteen percent are not sure.
The unemployment numbers in May were bad, but June showed no improvement, according to the jobs report released this morning. Just 80,000 jobs were added last month (economists expected 95,000 on the lower end of estimates), keeping the unemployment rate unchanged, via BLS.gov:
Nonfarm payroll employment continued to edge up in June (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Professional and business services added jobs, and employment in other major industries changed little over the month.
The number of unemployed persons (12.7 million) was essentially unchanged in June, and the unemployment rate held at 8.2 percent. (See table A-1.)
The common assumption is that conservatives will have an outside money advantage in the presidential election, thanks to massive spending by pro-Romney super PACs. This wisdom is on display in the New York Times today, which wonders whether Democrats will be able to “catch up in the super PAC game”:
“They’re spending ridiculous amounts of money on the other side,” [potential donor] Amber Mostyn said. “All the crazy commercials they’re going to put up — how do you combat that?”
Burton was ready for this question. “You don’t do it dollar for dollar,” he said. He whipped out his iPad and showed the Mostyns a few slides from his PowerPoint presentation. The slides included polling data indicating voters’ lack of familiarity with Romney’s business record at the private-equity firm Bain Capital, as well as financial figures from the 2010 midterm election showing how well-spent donations could help a Democrat prevail over a better-financed Republican opponent.
I find it hard to believe the spin that the Supreme Court upholding the health care law is somehow politically better for Republicans because it will “energize the base.” Nullifying Obama’s signature legislative achievement — which he rammed through while the economy was on the brink — would have been a powerful blow to his campaign (and don’t tell me that wouldn’t have galvanized the conservative base just as well).
But there is a silver lining here for Mitt Romney. If the Court had overturned the law in its entirety, Romney would have been under intense pressure to provide a detailed alternative — a challenge that, as David Frum points out, would be difficult enough for him after the election. This would be a far more perilous task during the election, which is why, so far, Romney has avoided it.
Today’s NBC News/Marist poll has President Obama and Mitt Romney virtually tied in New Hampshire, North Carolina and — most troubling for the president — Michigan. With little more than four months to go, the close race in the key Rust Belt state is the latest sign of turmoil in Obama’s reelection strategy.
A new round of NBC News-Marist polls shows President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney running almost neck-and-neck in three key battleground states, with Obama holding a slight advantage in Michigan and North Carolina, and the two candidates tied in New Hampshire.
In Michigan, Obama is ahead by four percentage points among registered voters, including those who are undecided but are still leaning toward a candidate, 47 to 43 percent.
In North Carolina, the president gets 46 percent to Romney’s 44 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.
And in New Hampshire, the two men are tied at 45 percent each.
Politics is an ugly, dirty business, a business where truth, in Winston Churchill’s marvelous phrase, is usually “attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in political TV ads, where the slippery evasions of marketing merge with the needs of ideology.
This week’s winner of the Lillian Hellman Memorial Prize for Mendacity (“Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the”—Mary McCarthy) is a new TV ad for the Obama campaign that the WashingtonPost, a liberal newspaper, gives four Pinocchios to.
President Obama was already suffering one of the worst imaginable months for an incumbent president in an election year – including a dismal jobs report and declining factory orders, falling approval ratings (including in swing states), the overwhelming victory of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, the president’s widely ridiculed claim the private sector is “doing fine,” Bill Clinton’s various apostasies, the realization that Obama might be outspent in this election by Mitt Romney, and a major speech in Ohio that was panned even by sympathetic liberals. (Jim Geraghty provides a nice summary and analysis here.)
But it may be that the first half of June was a walk in the park compared to the latter part of the month. Because two events – one which just happened and one that will happen next week – may turn out to be powerful, and even crippling, body blows to the president.
During my appearance earlier this week on a national talk radio talk show, a caller – in the context of how formidable Mitt Romney is as a candidate – argued that the test will be whether Romney criticizes Barack Obama for his pre-presidential associations and voting record. In the last few weeks, I’ve also heard from a friend who thought the president’s critics should focus attention on Obama’s association with the radical New Party (for more, see Stanley Kurtz’s fine piece here). And still others have argued with me that Obama’s failure to produce his transcripts from college ought to be a focal point of the election.
My answer in each case is this: Among the challenges in politics is to remind oneself that issues we think are of major importance aren’t always what much of the public thinks are issues of major importance. In other words, you could believe that Obama’s association with the New Party is relevant in terms of his past and current policies – but much of the public might simply disagree. A campaign has to pursue strategies that are effective — and no campaign manager worth his salt will spend valuable time fighting to convince the public they should care about an issue they don’t much care about.
Eleanor Clift, writing in The Daily Beast, reports on a focus group of a dozen independent voters. The bottom line? They are souring on Obama – including many of those who voted for him in 2008.
To be specific, Democratic pollster Peter Hart gathered a group (sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center) in Denver last week. Nine of the 12 people voted for Obama four years ago. Today, only three lean toward him. Among the findings: (a) independents “aren’t biting” when it comes to the attacks on Mitt Romney on Bain Capital; (b) to the degree the public believes the economy is improving, the president doesn’t get the credit for it; (c) the president simply is not connecting with the voters he needs to win; and (d) there’s “no sense of leadership” emanating from the president.
“Whether it’s a failure of policy or of communications is debatable,” according to Clift, “but the sense of disillusionment with Obama’s performance is real.”
“He set up expectations that began 46 months ago, and they only grew over time,” according to Hart.
One man, a 31-year-old Web designer and home remodeler who voted for Obama in 2008, said, “The whole platform was hope—I don’t feel any more hope today.”
Pressed by Hart as to which candidate he was leaning toward, this person admitted, “I don’t even know if I’m going to vote this time.” In Hart’s view, the young Web designer should be in Obama’s corner, and the fact that he isn’t is emblematic of the president’s problems.
Obama’s deportation decision already seems to be boosting his support with Hispanic voters, and it’s getting high marks from the general public as well, according to a Bloomberg poll:
Sixty-four percent of likely voters surveyed after Obama’s June 15 announcement said they agreed with the policy, while 30 percent said they disagreed. Independents backed the decision by better than a two-to-one margin.
The results underscore the challenge facing Mitt Romney and Republicans as they try to woo Hispanic voters, who are the nation’s largest ethnic minority and made up 9 percent of the 2008 electorate, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of exit polls. Obama won the Hispanic vote 67 to 31 percent over Republican John McCain in 2008, according to exit polls.
Note that even McCain’s very moderate views on immigration were only able to net him 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared to Obama’s 67 percent. With that in mind, Romney’s muted response to Obama’s announcement is smart. He isn’t doing anything to specifically turn voters away from him on immigration, but he’s also keeping his focus on the economy and unemployment, issues that have had an outsized impact on the Hispanic community. Obama’s hope at this point is to knock Romney off message and shift attention to social issues that distract from his economic record.
As if yesterday’s “controversy” about Mitt Romney supposedly marveling over WaWa sandwich technology wasn’t dumb enough, it turns out that it wasn’t even accurate. Instead, his comments had been misleadingly edited by MSNBC, as the blog Sooper Mexican discovered. Here is the deceptively edited version of the speech published by MSNBC:
Why is Barack Obama’s road to re-election so steep and uncertain at this stage?
There are five important reasons.
1. An indefensible record. Every election which features an incumbent is, at least in good measure, a referendum on the record of the incumbent. The problem facing Obama is that he can’t offer a convincing case that his policies have succeeded. Recall that at the outset of his presidency, Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “I will be held accountable. I’ve got four years… If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” Yet last October, Obama had to concede to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “I don’t think [people are] better off than they were four years ago.”
In addition, the main achievements of the Obama presidency – including the Affordable Care Act and the stimulus package – are deeply unpopular. By virtually any measure, then, the president has presided over a failed first term. He cannot reinvent, and therefore he cannot successfully defend, his record.
2. A weakening economy. The Obama campaign rested its hopes on the American economy getting stronger rather than weaker. This would have allowed the president to argue that while things haven’t improved as quickly as Americans had hoped, the trajectory was encouraging, that progress was being made, that the building blocks to prosperity were in place. From there, Obama would say he needed a second term to complete what he (belatedly) started in his first. But the data this year – including dismal economic growth, job creation, and factory orders – have left the Obama narrative in ruins. In the fourth year of his presidency, Obama is presiding over a weak economy that is becoming weaker still. The issue the public cares most about (the economy) is the issue the president is most vulnerable on.
3. Intellectual exhaustion. The Obama campaign is out of ideas. On the economy, Obama has used virtually everything in his progressive toolkit. Nothing has worked. And so the president, unable to defend his record in the first term, is left with no compelling vision to offer in a second term. Witness his speech in Ohio yesterday. It was billed as a “major” address on the economy. But it was widely panned even on the left for being empty and uninteresting. The president himself cannot articulate why his agenda in a second term would be more effective than what he’s done in his first term. He’s running on empty.
As Jonathan noted, the latest poll out of Michigan is more evidence that the state is seriously in play for Mitt Romney. Take into account that Obama won Michigan by 16 points in 2008, and was up by 14 points in a Public Policy Polling survey taken just last month. Whether the tightening of the Michigan race is due to fallout from the Wisconsin recall or the latest jobs report, something has clearly shifted the momentum to Romney in the past few weeks.
The Romney campaign sees an opening, and it’s tapped Michigan as the final stop on its swing-state bus tour next week. If you’re wondering how nervous Democrats are about losing the rust belt, take a look at this desperate gambit:
Democrats are launching a bus tour this morning to mirror Mitt Romney’s weekend bus tour of several swing states. The Democratic National Commmittee’s bus will stop in the same states Romney is visiting, carrying Democratic surrogates and Massachusetts officials to highlight the weaknesses in Romney’s record as Bay State governor and to criticize his economic platform. For instance, the bus is scheduled to stop in Scranton, Pa., this afternoon with former Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Massachusetts teacher and a member of the Pennsylvania teacher’s union aboard. …
A popular argument lately has been if the Supreme Court overturns ObamaCare, it will actually be disastrous for Republicans by taking away a major motivating force that would have driven voters to the polls in November. That’s hard to believe. Voters routinely cite jobs and the economy as the top issues that influence their votes, with health care trailing well behind. Those who do list health care as a key voting priority are actually more likely to support Obama. Not to mention, anyone who was planning to vote based on their opposition to ObamaCare would likely be attracted to the GOP’s broader economic vision as well.
Democrats have by far the most to lose if the law is struck down, and their response will be hugely important. In the WSJ today, Karl Rove outlines the best case Obama can make if his signature legislative achievement is overturned:
If the court moves to invalidate part or all of the Affordable Care Act, what matters most politically is Mr. Obama’s response.
The president could pivot to the center and regain some of the high ground he occupied in his 2008 campaign. He could say that while he disagreed with the court’s decision, the justices had the responsibility under our system to decide whether the law was constitutional. Everyone needs to respect and accept the verdict.
He could then add that a big problem remains: Tens of millions of our fellow citizens lack affordable health insurance. Now it is the responsibility of Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives to come together and provide access to coverage. And the president could offer proposals to do that.
Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski has unearthed a fascinating old C-SPAN clip from 1994, after Ted Kennedy defeated Mitt Romney in that year’s Massachusetts Senate race. The clip shows Stu Stevens, a GOP media strategist who is currently Romney’s chief strategist, discussing the Kennedy campaign’s conduct during the election. Kennedy elections are notoriously no-holds-barred affairs, and Stevens credited the Kennedy win in part to the Democrat’s repeated use of “the Mormon card”:
The Kennedy campaign very insidiously played the Mormon card in Massachusetts, by simply saying over and over again they weren’t going to talk about the fact that Romney was a Mormon. And this sort of worked. And the Romney campaign should’ve reacted more quickly to it. I think that they felt in Massachusetts it wouldn’t work because Massachusetts has a reputation of being a very tolerant state.
Romney’s rookie mistake, assuming the famous “liberal tolerance” was not the mirage it has always been, may not be a mistake the campaign will make again. That is all the more likely as Stevens is now a prominent campaign adviser. And it’s an important lesson to learn, because as Alana pointed out yesterday, Kaczynski’s colleague McKay Coppins is only the latest to produce a study showing that liberal anti-Mormon bigotry continues to rise.