Commentary Magazine


Topic: Election 2012

On Ryan Plan, Can the Lie Become the Truth? (Hey-Hey)

The chief attack on Paul Ryan electorally is simple: His now-famous Plan “ends Medicare as we know it,” thereby stripping the elderly of their health care. They should fear it and fear him and vote against him.

The next three months will be a test of something important: Whether this assertion, which is an out-and-out lie, can overcome the plain explication of the truth.

Read More

The chief attack on Paul Ryan electorally is simple: His now-famous Plan “ends Medicare as we know it,” thereby stripping the elderly of their health care. They should fear it and fear him and vote against him.

The next three months will be a test of something important: Whether this assertion, which is an out-and-out lie, can overcome the plain explication of the truth.

The design of the Ryan plan is as follows. Everyone age 55 and older remains in the current Medicare system. Period. Nothing changes. Nothing. Assume for the sake of argument that a President Romney actually adopts the Ryan plan in its particulars, and fights for it in the way President Obama fought for Obamacare.

It took 15 months for Obamacare to be signed into law. So let’s say it takes until April 2014 for the Ryan Medicare plan to become law, and it says what it says now—that everyone in the Medicare system now stays in and everyone a decade away from the Medicare system will join it.

As a practical matter, this means that in 2012, anyone 53 or older, not even anyone 55 or older, will have total access to the current Medicare system.

The political argument against the Ryan plan is that it endangers Romney’s chances in Florida; indeed, the Obama campaign has already begun running scary ads about Ryan taking away Medicare.

But it’s not true. It’s true for me; I’m 51. It’s true for the people who were two grades above me in high school. But it’s not true for anyone older than me; not a single retiree in Florida or anywhere else, in other words.

That’s just the plain fact of it. There’s no argument. The complex new system won’t even come into existence, by Ryan’s own design, until ten years after his plan becomes law.

So how can it threaten current Medicare recipients? It can’t.

Like I say, this is an interesting test. There’s the undeniable truth, and there’s the bald-faced lie. Which will be believed?

Read Less

Bad Advice for Romney on Mormon Issue

A common feature of the competitive political news industry is the high volume of overpromising headlines. A good example is today’s Politico feature, headlined “GOP to Mitt: Own your Mormonism.” The story, however, says no such thing.

What we have instead is an array of quotes indicating that Romney talking more about his Mormonism would be detrimental to his prospects or that it would be irrelevant. We never quite get to the argument about how to sell Romney’s religion to the public. Now that Romney seems finally to be his party’s nominee, writes Politico, “many Republicans think that the standoffish candidate actually needs to embrace his Mormonism publicly to open a window into his life.” But where are these promised “many Republicans”?

Read More

A common feature of the competitive political news industry is the high volume of overpromising headlines. A good example is today’s Politico feature, headlined “GOP to Mitt: Own your Mormonism.” The story, however, says no such thing.

What we have instead is an array of quotes indicating that Romney talking more about his Mormonism would be detrimental to his prospects or that it would be irrelevant. We never quite get to the argument about how to sell Romney’s religion to the public. Now that Romney seems finally to be his party’s nominee, writes Politico, “many Republicans think that the standoffish candidate actually needs to embrace his Mormonism publicly to open a window into his life.” But where are these promised “many Republicans”?

First we meet Penny Young Nance, an activist and former Rick Santorum supporter, who says the public might connect with Romney if they could see him worshiping. But she also says she “will support anyone against this president”–not exactly an example of a voter Romney has to work to win over. Brent Bozell offers a related piece of advice, saying Romney shouldn’t “distance” himself from his religion, but then says that the hostility to Romney in the primaries “was based more on cultural issues–social issues, not religious.” But that doesn’t explain why Romney’s Mormonism can be a plus.

It’s also unlikely to be true. A Romney adviser tells Politico that the campaign was surprised by the GOP primary exit polls showing voters would only vote for someone who shared their faith. Politico then provides us with a couple of those voters, who say they could not “morally vote” if the election is Romney against Obama.

The story offers some more dubious advice by suggesting that “If there was ever a time for Romney to publicly reveal his inner Mormon, this is it,” in part because “The Broadway musical ‘Book of Mormon’ remains a huge hit.” Romney should not, it must be said, base his campaign strategy on a musical comedy version of his religion written by the creators of “South Park.”

Later, Politico quotes a Mormon endorsing the idea to open up about Romney’s faith, but immediately undermines it: “It’s more than a religion–it’s a subculture, a way of life. Mormons socialize together, they do business together, and they raise families together [Avoiding it publicly] just perpetuates the view that he’s distant.” What would also perpetuate the view that he is distant would be the revelation that members of his religion tend to self-consciously isolate themselves.

Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, says evangelicals aren’t the problem, because they will vote for Romney against Obama “in spite of his Mormonism.” This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the professed strategy. Land also notes, correctly, that the Romney campaign “would have more problems with Democrats demonizing the religion than with evangelicals,” as paraphrased by Politico. This is true, and David Axelrod has continued to press the Mormon issue despite promises he would put an end to the anti-Mormon aspect of the campaign. This is an explicit argument against Romney bringing up his Mormonism in the general election.

The final quote in the article encouraging Romney to talk about his Mormonism is from GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. But this advice is from, well, Steve Schmidt, so it’s hard to imagine the GOP doing anything with that advice but running from it as if it’s on fire.

It may well be that there is benefit in Romney’s Mormonism, but this article provides exactly one such quote that doesn’t immediately undermine the argument–and it’s from someone who didn’t support Romney but will in the general election because she’s a conservative activist.

The best argument I can think of in favor of opening up the Mormon issue is that Democrats, as indicated by Axelrod, will attempt to portray the religion in the most negative light possible. It’s not just Axelrod. Columnists at the New York Times have joined the anti-Mormon campaign almost as soon as they heard Axelrod’s starter pistol. Maureen Dowd joined the fray, but of greater concern was Charles Blow’s anti-Mormon insult on Twitter directed at the candidate himself. Blow later offered a tweet that was about as close to an apology that Mormons were going to get out of him, and he did not lose his perch at the Times–a signal that unlike other prejudices, anti-Mormon bigotry is not a firing offense and will be tolerated at the New York Times. (It will also be tolerated, perhaps unsurprisingly, by MSNBC.)

The best antidote to this may be the familiarity with voters that all presidential candidates attain in the age of long campaigns, 24-hour news networks, and ubiquitous social media. Or it may be for the Mormon community to do its best to counter the Democrats’ campaign against the religion. But now faced with trying to win Democratic votes against an incumbent Democratic president, it may still be perilous for Romney to raise the issue himself.

Read Less

Obama, Friend of the Gays Only at Fundraisers?

Last year, at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign (a lobbying organization for LGBT Americans) President Obama said: 

“We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the president of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be commander-in-chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”

Despite these remarks, Obama has remained silent on his position on gay marriage, claiming that it is still “evolving.”
Read More

Last year, at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign (a lobbying organization for LGBT Americans) President Obama said: 

“We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the president of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be commander-in-chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”

Despite these remarks, Obama has remained silent on his position on gay marriage, claiming that it is still “evolving.”

Two months ago, Obama cashed in on good will in the gay community, making more than $1.4 million at a fundraiser held at the home of two D.C.-area lesbians. At the fundraiser, he reportedly “promised to ‘keep on pushing’ for equal rights but did not discuss gay marriage.” U.S. News reported that the president remarked, 

“The work that we’ve done with the LGBT community, I think, is just profoundly American,” Obama said. “You should be judged on the merits. That’s at the heart of the American dream. That’s how you should be judged, not by what you look like, not by how you worship, not by where you come from, not by who you love.”

Eight weeks later, it seems the president doesn’t really care about gay Americans being judged on their merits as employees of the federal government. As Alana discussed earlier, the New York Times reports that the president has refused to sign a new executive order banning discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender people working for or seeking employment from federal contractors. Statements from the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for American Progress made clear that the gay community’s disappointment is palpable enough to be aired publicly.

While Obama has touted his repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” it appears that he is only willing to fight for the right of LGBT Americans to fight and die for their country, not work for it. The president’s refusal to support same-sex marriage has plagued his relationship with the far Left, which apparently held the hope that Obama wasn’t the politician he has shown himself to be. Inexplicably, his silence on human rights abuses against gays worldwide hasn’t been a source of trouble for an Obama campaign relying heavily on gay donor support. This latest refusal to take a stand for “gay rights” outside of fundraisers could (and should) seriously impact the president’s appeal to a far Left base that campaigned and fundraised heavily for him during the 2008 cycle.

Read Less

Operation “Romney-is-Human” Begins

One of the biggest challenges for the Romney campaign will be humanizing him, and his down-to-earth wife is clearly the most powerful weapon it can deploy on this front. The campaign released a sentimental video today of Ann Romney discussing the ups and downs of raising their five sons together, as old home movie footage and pictures play in the background.

Read More

One of the biggest challenges for the Romney campaign will be humanizing him, and his down-to-earth wife is clearly the most powerful weapon it can deploy on this front. The campaign released a sentimental video today of Ann Romney discussing the ups and downs of raising their five sons together, as old home movie footage and pictures play in the background.

The pictures and stories paint an image of a family that – even with its “practical jokes” and “mischievousness,” as Ann Romney puts it – seems too perfect for this world. And not because Ann Romney’s portrait of her family life is unrealistic or unusual. Just because that concept of a “normal” family is no longer an ideal we’re used to seeing on screen.

President Obama’s broken family, George W. Bush’s mid-life struggle with alcohol abuse, and Bill Clinton’s public and private infidelity all seem more fitting with modern society, not only because these lifestyles are more in-tune with the average family, but because we’ve become accustomed to the idea that dysfunction is normal.

Ann Romney’s video is a good start at softening her husband’s image and making him appear more like a person – a kind, considerate and caring person, judging from the video – and less of a two-dimensional cutout. If the campaign can keep this up, they will succeed at humanizing Romney. But helping him resonate with Americans whose visions of home life are currently being shaped by the Kardashians, the “Jersey Shore” and “Glee,” might prove more difficult.

Read Less

McCain Weighs in on the Veepstakes

Who better understands the stakes of the vice presidential choice than Sen. John McCain, who still gets to see his own decision played out repeatedly on HBO? When asked on CBS about whether the GOP nominee should “go rogue” with the VP choice this year, McCain gave a wink to his own 2008 choice:

Read More

Who better understands the stakes of the vice presidential choice than Sen. John McCain, who still gets to see his own decision played out repeatedly on HBO? When asked on CBS about whether the GOP nominee should “go rogue” with the VP choice this year, McCain gave a wink to his own 2008 choice:

McCain then went on to name all the obvious picks: Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels. All good choices, but with due respect to the argument that the dullest veep is the best veep, a Romney-Daniels ticket might be pushing it.

Rubio is obviously the odds-on-favorite. Then again, Christie’s visit to Israel yesterday – and meeting with Netanyahu – is fueling speculation that he’s trying to boost his foreign policy cred for some sort of high-profile national role.

Someone McCain left out who has been getting more VP buzz than usual today is Rep. Paul Ryan, who delivered a scathing speech blasting President Obama last night, after the president publicly criticized Ryan’s budget proposal.

Ryan challenged Obama for his “broken promises” reminding voters that he would try to divide Americans because he could not run on his record.

“I seem to remember him saying that he was going to be a uniter, not a divider,” Ryan said. “Frankly this is one and the worst of his broken promises. We do not need a campaigner-in-chief, we need a commander-in-chief, we need a leader that America deserves.”

“The presidency is bigger than this. He was supposed to be bigger than this.” Ryan continued, “We need solutions, not excuses. We need a president who takes the lead in not one that spreads the blame. We need someone who appeals to our dreams and aspirations, not to our fears and anxieties. We as Americans deserve to choose what kind of country we want and what kind of people we want to be.”

Obama’s direct attacks on Ryan this week have been fascinating. It’s not often the president of the United States gives speeches calling out the chairman of the House Budget Committee. But it’s a sign that Ryan’s desire to focus this election on the ideological differences between the parties on economic issues is working.

Choosing Ryan for VP could help cement that focus – but it would also carry risks. As a vice presidential candidate, Ryan would instantly become a more polarizing figure. His charisma and status as a conservative rising star could also end up overshadowing Romney in some ways. Ryan may actually be able to play a more supportive role for Romney outside of the campaign than in it.

Read Less

Obama Mocks Romney’s Word “Marvelous”

In a preview of what’s to come during the general election fight, President Obama took a mocking and unusually personal swipe at Mitt Romney during a speech on the GOP budget today:

OBAMA: One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar of version of this plan from last year would be introduced on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous — which is a word you don’t often hear when describing a budget. [Laughter]. That’s a word you don’t often hear generally. [Laughter].

Read More

In a preview of what’s to come during the general election fight, President Obama took a mocking and unusually personal swipe at Mitt Romney during a speech on the GOP budget today:

OBAMA: One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar of version of this plan from last year would be introduced on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous — which is a word you don’t often hear when describing a budget. [Laughter]. That’s a word you don’t often hear generally. [Laughter].

That’s because using the word “marvelous” is totally weird, unless you’re Obama or one of his speechwriters. Maybe Romney picked up the term from “Mad Men,” because he’s so old-fashioned he thinks it’s the evening news (that last nonsensical insult was David Axelrod’s contribution to the “Romney is uncool and out-of-touch” debate this morning).

It sounds like the Obama campaign is finally rolling out that personal-attack strategy they floated last summer to define Romney as “weird” and “awkward.” As Politico reported last August:

The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”

“First, they’ve got to like you, and there’s not a lot to like about Mitt Romney,” said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. “There’s no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness.”

A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican’s personal awkwardness will turn off voters.

“There’s a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” the adviser said, noting that the contrasts they’d drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be “based on character to a great extent.”

It won’t be a stretch to define Romney as strange, especially with the media and Hollywood willing to play along. The worst thing Romney can do is to go on the defense or try to refute these attacks. No matter what he does, he’s not going to seem cool, so he shouldn’t even bother to try that. But he will be able to draw a contrast between his own campaign and Obama’s if he declines to get into the mud, and keeps the focus on substance, not personality. And if Zooey Deschanel’s and Michael Cera’s careers prove anything, sometimes the public likes awkward.

Read Less

Romney to Raise Money With RNC

This was bound to happen eventually, but Rick Santorum might have hoped this news wouldn’t come before on the day of what is likely to be his last stand in the Wisconsin primary:

In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.

The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That’s far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.

Read More

This was bound to happen eventually, but Rick Santorum might have hoped this news wouldn’t come before on the day of what is likely to be his last stand in the Wisconsin primary:

In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.

The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That’s far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.

If the slew of high-profile Romney endorsements for GOP figures this week didn’t already cement his standing as the inevitable nominee, then this news puts the official stamp on it. For the past couple of weeks, the question has been how long Rick Santorum will play out his losing hand. But party leaders are obviously getting anxious, with President Obama significantly outraising the Republican candidates.

This is a firm push for Santorum and others to step aside and let the general election commence.

Read Less

Liberal Congressman Urges Obama to Campaign Against SCOTUS

Between now and the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare in June, we’re sure to see a lot of these attacks on the supposedly activist conservative court. The Wall Street Journal editorial board did a good job yesterday skewering the idea that overturning the mandate would be an example of judicial activism, but if the court strikes down the mandate or full law as many have speculated, the “activist” argument is really the only card the Democrats can play.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said President Obama should campaign against the Supreme Court, painting it as a conservative, activist institution if it rules that the administration’s healthcare law is unconstitutional.

“In terms of the Congress, I believe that it would be off-base for us to do that, but for the president, I don’t think it is,” Clyburn said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “I think the president ought to take a look at what happened in years before — we’ve seen presidents run against Congress and we’ve seen presidents run against the Supreme Court. Franklin Roosevelt did it to the Supreme Court; [Harry] Truman did it to the Congress.”

Read More

Between now and the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare in June, we’re sure to see a lot of these attacks on the supposedly activist conservative court. The Wall Street Journal editorial board did a good job yesterday skewering the idea that overturning the mandate would be an example of judicial activism, but if the court strikes down the mandate or full law as many have speculated, the “activist” argument is really the only card the Democrats can play.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said President Obama should campaign against the Supreme Court, painting it as a conservative, activist institution if it rules that the administration’s healthcare law is unconstitutional.

“In terms of the Congress, I believe that it would be off-base for us to do that, but for the president, I don’t think it is,” Clyburn said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “I think the president ought to take a look at what happened in years before — we’ve seen presidents run against Congress and we’ve seen presidents run against the Supreme Court. Franklin Roosevelt did it to the Supreme Court; [Harry] Truman did it to the Congress.”

Obama probably isn’t looking to Clyburn for campaign strategy, but the congressman’s comments do provide insight into the liberal mindset at the moment. The Supreme Court went into the Obamacare hearings with record low approval ratings of just 28 percent in the latest Rasmussen, and perhaps the Wall Street Journal is right that the criticism of the court is purely a public lobbying effort by the left – a warning to Justice Kennedy that his legacy hangs in the balance and an appeal to Chief Justice Roberts’ supposed sensitivity about the public image of his court.

On the other hand, liberals may actually have an appetite for an anti-SCOTUS campaign led by the president next fall, especially as their anger about the Citizens United ruling still hasn’t ebbed. But even with the court’s low approval rating, this seems like an ill-advised strategy. Obama’s health care law is unpopular, and the majority of Americans believe it’s unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court also takes that position in June, then Obama attacking the justices for it on the campaign trail isn’t going to be very helpful.

Read Less

Newt Gingrich Needs an Intervention

Newt Gingrich has been dragging out his futile campaign, long after the rest of the world realized it was over. Long after it started getting slightly uncomfortable to see him still on TV giving speeches. But there was always some hope he might snap back to reality once the money ran out. Apparently that’s not the case:

Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO. …

“We’re focusing exclusively on what it’ll take to win what we’re going to be calling a big-choice convention in August,” DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

There is no real reason to believe that these drastic measures to turn around a flailing campaign can save the former House speaker’s candidacy for a third time.

Following a string of embarrassing primary losses, it was only a matter of time before Gingrich had to make some kind of decision about the way forward. But the betting was on an actual withdrawal from the race rather than slapping a band-aid on the problem.

Read More

Newt Gingrich has been dragging out his futile campaign, long after the rest of the world realized it was over. Long after it started getting slightly uncomfortable to see him still on TV giving speeches. But there was always some hope he might snap back to reality once the money ran out. Apparently that’s not the case:

Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO. …

“We’re focusing exclusively on what it’ll take to win what we’re going to be calling a big-choice convention in August,” DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

There is no real reason to believe that these drastic measures to turn around a flailing campaign can save the former House speaker’s candidacy for a third time.

Following a string of embarrassing primary losses, it was only a matter of time before Gingrich had to make some kind of decision about the way forward. But the betting was on an actual withdrawal from the race rather than slapping a band-aid on the problem.

What exactly is Newt’s end-game here? If he was trying to pressure Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum into cutting some sort of deal with him, he missed that boat weeks ago. The only possible reasons for staying in the race at this point seem to be 1.) He’s consumed with bitterness toward Romney and Santorum, and thinks he can do more damage in the race than out of it; 2.) He figures he has nothing better to do for awhile, and might as well stick it out; 3.) He sincerely believes he still has a chance at the nomination.

But even in the implausible scenario that there is a contested convention, why would Gingrich honestly think he’s a likely choice? It’s not like Republican voters haven’t had a chance to consider his candidacy. He’s been in the race since the beginning, and if the party wanted him as the nominee, he’d have won more than two states at this point.

As Allahpundit writes, “If you’ve reached the point in a convention floor fight where, for whatever reason, both Romney and Santorum are deemed unacceptable, why wouldn’t you roll the dice on a dark horse outsider? You’re much better off with someone like Christie or Paul Ryan who’s young, appealing, superb on the seminal issue of fiscal reform, and yet to have their national image defined than you are with High-Negatives Newt.”

Read Less

Has the Rubio Smear Campaign Hurt His VP Prospects?

There have been several Sen. Marco Rubio “bombshells” out during the past six months or so that initially receive a lot of attention in the press but fizzle under scrutiny.

First there was the escandalo Univision story about the senator’s brother-in-law who was arrested on a drug-dealing charge – when Rubio was 16-years-old. Then there was the WaPo scoop about Rubio supposedly lying about the timeline about his family’s escape from Cuba – when in fact there has been no evidence that the timeline discrepancies were anything other than an honest mistake. Finally, BuzzFeed broke the “Rubio was a Mormon” story, which revealed that his family briefly converted to Mormonism for a few years when he was in elementary school.

At WaPo, Marc Thiessen writes about how this whisper-campaign against Rubio has already started shifting the mainstream narrative about him. While he’s still at the top of most analysts’ lists for the VP pick, they’re starting to express doubts about his past:

Read More

There have been several Sen. Marco Rubio “bombshells” out during the past six months or so that initially receive a lot of attention in the press but fizzle under scrutiny.

First there was the escandalo Univision story about the senator’s brother-in-law who was arrested on a drug-dealing charge – when Rubio was 16-years-old. Then there was the WaPo scoop about Rubio supposedly lying about the timeline about his family’s escape from Cuba – when in fact there has been no evidence that the timeline discrepancies were anything other than an honest mistake. Finally, BuzzFeed broke the “Rubio was a Mormon” story, which revealed that his family briefly converted to Mormonism for a few years when he was in elementary school.

At WaPo, Marc Thiessen writes about how this whisper-campaign against Rubio has already started shifting the mainstream narrative about him. While he’s still at the top of most analysts’ lists for the VP pick, they’re starting to express doubts about his past:

The Great Whisperer has used these stories to plant seeds of doubt about Rubio: How well do we really know this guy? What else is there in his record? Indeed, the whispers are making their way into the mainstream commentary. Even in ranking Rubio first on his vice presidential list, The Post’s Chris Cillizza writes, “We hear whispers that his time in the state legislature could be mined by a good opposition researcher.” And this month, the National Journal downgraded Rubio’s position on its vice presidential power rankings because, it claimed, Rubio “skated into office without much of his past being vetted in the media. That would change in a hurry if he’s tapped for the vice presidency, and coming four years after Sarah Palin had such trouble adjusting to harsh scrutiny, that’s a very real concern for some Republicans. After all, Tallahassee has its own secrets.” (Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo vigorously disputes the suggestion that Rubio was elected without proper scrutiny by the Florida press corps.)

The National Journal makes the Sarah Palin 2008 comparison, which might make some iota of sense if Rubio hadn’t been a prominent figure on the national stage for the past two years. And are we supposed to believe he never came under scrutiny prior to that from the very capable and very ample Florida press corps during his years as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the state?

Rubio has also just hired his own opposition researcher to rummage through his past, Thiessen reports – a sure sign that his seriousness far outpaces Palin’s in 2008. So the fact that reporters are still being spun up about the supposed lack of vetting Rubio is clearly an indication of how nervous Democrats are about the prospects of him being tapped for the Republican VP slot.

Read Less

Time for George Will to Reassess?

The most recent New York Times/CBS poll (which John and Jonathan write about) has President Obama’s approval rating down to a record low of 41 percent. If you are a supporter of the president, the internal numbers are downright depressing. The judgment of the Times seems about right to me: “President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground.”

In addition, yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll (which Alana wrote about) found that President Obama’s approval rating is at 46 percent — even with a sampling advantage that favors Democrats by too much. Fully 59 percent of Americans give Obama negative ratings on the economy, up from early last month, with 50 percent giving the president intensely low marks, the most yet in a Post/ABC News poll. And among independents, 57 percent now disapprove of Obama; and among white people without college degrees, disapproval now tops approval by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, at 66 versus 28 percent.

No president will win re-election with an Election Day approval rating of 41 or 46 percent.

Read More

The most recent New York Times/CBS poll (which John and Jonathan write about) has President Obama’s approval rating down to a record low of 41 percent. If you are a supporter of the president, the internal numbers are downright depressing. The judgment of the Times seems about right to me: “President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground.”

In addition, yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll (which Alana wrote about) found that President Obama’s approval rating is at 46 percent — even with a sampling advantage that favors Democrats by too much. Fully 59 percent of Americans give Obama negative ratings on the economy, up from early last month, with 50 percent giving the president intensely low marks, the most yet in a Post/ABC News poll. And among independents, 57 percent now disapprove of Obama; and among white people without college degrees, disapproval now tops approval by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, at 66 versus 28 percent.

No president will win re-election with an Election Day approval rating of 41 or 46 percent.

I wonder whether, in light of these polls, George Will might begin to reconsider his column from earlier this month, in which he suggested that we might well be reaching a point in which conservatives, in “taking stock of reality” and in order to “economize” their energies, should “turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than, and not much less important than, electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.”

As it happens, the goal of winning control of the Senate is harder to reach than many people assumed just a few months ago. And it’s not at all clear to me how abandoning the top of the ticket will help down-ballot races.

In any event, and more importantly, Will’s counsel — which edges right up to the line of conceding the election to Obama eight months before a single vote has been cast — strikes me as ill-considered and oddly anti-empirical. Anti-empirical because perhaps the most persistent political fact of the last year is that Barack Obama is a vulnerable incumbent. No president since Jimmy Carter has begun an election year in more precarious shape.

I will repeat here what I have said a dozen or more times before: This does not guarantee Obama will lose or that the GOP nominee will win. But it does mean the political stars are not well aligned for the president. The temper of the country, its voting disposition, is to make Obama a one-term president. And whatever weaknesses Mitt Romney might have, at this point he’s got a reasonable – and probably better than even – chance to win the presidency. That’s not a bad position to be in during what may well be the nadir/near nadir of the campaign for Romney (who has been embroiled in an intense and nasty primary battle for the past two-and-a-half months).

It’s not a state secret that George Will is no great fan of Mitt Romney. But that shouldn’t cloud his judgment about the enduring weakness of America’s 44th president. Helping to oversee a Lost Decade is not usually a recipe for re-election.

 

Read Less

Republicans, Obama and the Muslim Myth

A new survey by PPP (Public Policy Polling) finds that Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi believe, by large margins, that President Obama is a Muslim. PPP asked Republicans in both states, “Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?”

In Alabama, a near-majority (45 percent) said “Muslim,” while 41 percent said “unsure.” Only 14 percent said Obama is a Christian.

In Mississippi, a majority (52 percent) said the president was Muslim, while 36 percent said they are unsure and only 12 percent said Obama was a Christian.

Republicans in these states hold these views despite Obama’s own public profession of Christian faith and the fact that there’s no credible evidence that he’s a Muslim. And yet this belief persists. Why?

It’s impossible to know without doing more research and in-depth interviews. But my hunch is that there are several factors at play.

Read More

A new survey by PPP (Public Policy Polling) finds that Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi believe, by large margins, that President Obama is a Muslim. PPP asked Republicans in both states, “Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?”

In Alabama, a near-majority (45 percent) said “Muslim,” while 41 percent said “unsure.” Only 14 percent said Obama is a Christian.

In Mississippi, a majority (52 percent) said the president was Muslim, while 36 percent said they are unsure and only 12 percent said Obama was a Christian.

Republicans in these states hold these views despite Obama’s own public profession of Christian faith and the fact that there’s no credible evidence that he’s a Muslim. And yet this belief persists. Why?

It’s impossible to know without doing more research and in-depth interviews. But my hunch is that there are several factors at play.

One of them is the belief of some Republicans that because Obama is a political liberal, he cannot be a Christian. I strongly dissent from this view, but there are those who believe the only “good” Christian is a conservative one; that faith in Jesus translates into a high score from the American Conservative Union. Another reason undoubtedly has to do with Obama’s family history (his father and step-father were Muslim) and his middle name. A third reason may have to do with the durability of Internet conspiracies. We live in an age in which people can find sources of support for virtually any view they hold, including elaborate conspiracy theories. And of course one cannot discount simple ignorance as a factor.

But there’s something deeper and more disturbing going on, I think. We live in a political culture that is so polarized that for some people, the worst thing that is said about one’s political opponent is assumed to be true. Being a Muslim shouldn’t automatically disqualify a person from being a president, of course; but for many people who (absurdly) assume that being a person of the Muslim faith and being a jihadist are interchangeable, it is.

Like the birth certificate issue, the claim that Obama is a Muslim [read: terrorist sympathizer] is a pernicious effort by some to discredit and disqualify him. It focuses on make-believe charges at the expense of real policy disagreements. But in some respects it’s even worse than the birth certificate issue, because it attempts to divide us on explicitly religious grounds, something that America at its best has always avoided.

I served a president who was at the center of crazy left-wing conspiracies. Ben Smith, then of Politico, reported: “More than half of Democrats, according to a neutral survey, said they believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks.” They asserted this not because there was a shred of evidence to support it but because they wanted to believe the worst they could about a president they had come to hate.

Those on the right shouldn’t replicate a similar tactic when it comes to President Obama. The GOP presidential candidates, if and when they’re asked about it, should do everything they reasonably can to discredit this belief which is, in some places at least, widespread. There are right ways and wrong ways to win elections – and Obama should not lose this election, or even a single vote, based on the false claim that he’s a Muslim.

 

Read Less

Team Obama’s Negative Ads Against Palin

The Obama campaign wishes so badly it could run against a divisive national figure like Sarah Palin that it’s decided to just pretend it actually is. Here’s Obama’s latest ad, which attacks Palin for calling him a radical (via HotAir):

The strategy of attacking Palin – who is still influential with the conservative base but increasingly marginal in the Republican Party – could be chalked up to Obama’s nostalgia for the 2008 campaign. But it also seems remarkably similar to a communications strategy the White House orchestrated back in 2009, when it tried to elevate another polarizing figure, Rush Limbaugh, to the position of “de facto” Republican leader, thus forcing congressional Republicans to respond to his inflammatory comments. Politico reported on the White House’s internal plan at the time:

Read More

The Obama campaign wishes so badly it could run against a divisive national figure like Sarah Palin that it’s decided to just pretend it actually is. Here’s Obama’s latest ad, which attacks Palin for calling him a radical (via HotAir):

The strategy of attacking Palin – who is still influential with the conservative base but increasingly marginal in the Republican Party – could be chalked up to Obama’s nostalgia for the 2008 campaign. But it also seems remarkably similar to a communications strategy the White House orchestrated back in 2009, when it tried to elevate another polarizing figure, Rush Limbaugh, to the position of “de facto” Republican leader, thus forcing congressional Republicans to respond to his inflammatory comments. Politico reported on the White House’s internal plan at the time:

Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.

Soon it clicked: Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s. …

The seeds were planted in October after Democracy Corps, the Democratic polling company run by Carville and Greenberg, included Limbaugh’s name in a survey and found that many Americans just don’t like him.

“His positives for voters under 40 was 11 percent,” Carville recalled with a degree of amazement, alluding to a question about whether voters had a positive or negative view of the talk show host.

Then came what Begala called “the tripwire.”

“I hope he fails,” Limbaugh said of Obama on his show four days before the president was sworn in. It was a time when Obama’s approval ratings were soaring, but more than that, polls showed even people who didn’t vote for him badly wanted him to succeed, coming to office at a time of economic meltdown.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was the first to jump on the statement, sending the video to its membership to raise cash and stir a petition drive.

Come to think of it, this seems to bear a close resemblance to how the White House and Democrats manufactured the whole Susan Fluke/Rush Limbaugh controversy duringthe past few weeks. The strategy goes something like this:

1.)   Obama personally responds to inflammatory comments from a loose-cannon conservative figure, in an attempt to raise this person’s standing to the level of a serious Republican leader.

2.)   The media reports on the “controversy.”

3.)   Right-wing bloggers and Fox News pundits defend the loose-cannon conservative.

4.)  Democrats call on Republican candidates to repudiate the comments.

5.)   The media asks Republican candidates whether they agree with the polarizing conservative’s comments, which sets up a lose-lose scenario. If the candidate criticizes the comments too forcefully, he risks alienating the Fox News demographic. If the GOP candidate criticizes the comments too gently, Democrats slam him for pandering.

Maybe the anti-Sarah Palin campaign video really is just a sign the Obama team is in completely desperate straits and simply has nothing else to run on or against. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats start trying to emphasize Palin’s influence in the Republican Party, and call on Romney, Santorum, et al, to condemn her comments in the coming weeks.

Read Less

Should the GOP Just Focus on the Senate?

The odds that Republicans will be able to take back the White House seem slimmer by the day. But is it getting to the point where the GOP would be better off giving up on the presidential race to fully focus on taking back the Senate, and maintaining its grip on the House? That’s what George Will argues in his Sunday column this week, according to an advanced copy obtained by POLITICO:

“Romney and Rick Santorum… are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected… If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him,” Will writes in his upcoming Sunday column, obtained in advance by POLITICO Playbook by Mike Allen.

However, Will argues, that control of both house of Congress is more attainable and more important.

“[T]here would come a point when… conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than… electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.. [C]onservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013,” writes Will.

Read More

The odds that Republicans will be able to take back the White House seem slimmer by the day. But is it getting to the point where the GOP would be better off giving up on the presidential race to fully focus on taking back the Senate, and maintaining its grip on the House? That’s what George Will argues in his Sunday column this week, according to an advanced copy obtained by POLITICO:

“Romney and Rick Santorum… are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected… If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him,” Will writes in his upcoming Sunday column, obtained in advance by POLITICO Playbook by Mike Allen.

However, Will argues, that control of both house of Congress is more attainable and more important.

“[T]here would come a point when… conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than… electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.. [C]onservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013,” writes Will.

Without having access to Will’s full column yet, it’s hard to judge the persuasiveness of his argument. But two problems immediately jump out:

1.) Will Republicans be able to draw enough conservative voters to the polls if they prematurely resign themselves to losing the presidential race? This seems like a recipe for low GOP turnout, which would decrease the possibility of winning control of the Senate. If voters don’t believe there’s at least a fighting chance of taking back the White House, many might not even bother to come out.

2.) Today, Romney is leading the Republican field nationally. Two weeks ago, it was Santorum. A little over a month ago, Gingrich was surging. Public opinion has turned so quickly and dramatically it’s impossible to predict what the race will look like next month, let alone next November. Toss in the wild cards of rising gas prices, the economy, Iran and the Supreme Court’s look at ObamaCare, and the GOP would be selling itself short if it surrendered so prematurely. Remember last summer when all the pundits pronounced Tim Pawlenty’s campaign dead? He listened to them – and that turned out to be one of the dumbest political moves of the race.

The Republican Party would be crazy to make a similar mistake. As depressing as the current field may be for conservatives, winning the White House isn’t impossible – unless, of course, the GOP gives up before it even begins.

Read Less

Premature Talk About Romney Narrative

There’s a lot of talk these days among pundits that Mitt Romney has “lost his general election narrative.” We’re told he is “suddenly headed for the kind of political and ideological cul-de-sac that losing presidential candidates often end up occupying.” And that despite winning Michigan, “his path to the White House has narrowed considerably.”

So just for fun, I went back and checked where Ronald Reagan stood in March 1980. And here’s what I found (courtesy of Craig Shirley’s excellent book Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America). As Shirley reports,

Reagan may have been doing well with Republican primary voters, but he still wasn’t breaking through to the general population, according to a new poll in the Chicago Sun-Times. The survey showed that in a matchup against Carter, Reagan would get blown out in Illinois, 60-34. [George H.W.] Bush was doing much better against Carter in Illinois, down only 42-36; Anderson was actually doing better than Carter in Illinois.

On Election Day 1980, Reagan beat Carter 50 percent v. 42 percent in Illinois, with John Anderson winning 7 percent of the vote. Reagan, by the way, beat Carter 489 v. 49 in the Electoral College vote.

Read More

There’s a lot of talk these days among pundits that Mitt Romney has “lost his general election narrative.” We’re told he is “suddenly headed for the kind of political and ideological cul-de-sac that losing presidential candidates often end up occupying.” And that despite winning Michigan, “his path to the White House has narrowed considerably.”

So just for fun, I went back and checked where Ronald Reagan stood in March 1980. And here’s what I found (courtesy of Craig Shirley’s excellent book Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America). As Shirley reports,

Reagan may have been doing well with Republican primary voters, but he still wasn’t breaking through to the general population, according to a new poll in the Chicago Sun-Times. The survey showed that in a matchup against Carter, Reagan would get blown out in Illinois, 60-34. [George H.W.] Bush was doing much better against Carter in Illinois, down only 42-36; Anderson was actually doing better than Carter in Illinois.

On Election Day 1980, Reagan beat Carter 50 percent v. 42 percent in Illinois, with John Anderson winning 7 percent of the vote. Reagan, by the way, beat Carter 489 v. 49 in the Electoral College vote.

I’m not saying Mitt Romney is Ronald Reagan. I’m not even saying Mitt Romney is the sure-fire 2012 GOP nominee. But what I am saying is all this talk about Romney having lost his general election narrative, finding himself trapped in ideological cul-de-sacs, and his path to the presidency having been narrowed considerably is wildly premature. Today is March 1; the election is November 6. Whoever the GOP nominee is will have lost and re-found his general election narrative roughly ten dozen times between now and then. It’s far too early for Republicans to panic and Democrats to rejoice. The election will probably be close, and it won’t pivot on anything Mitt Romney has said, or not said, so far in this campaign.

 

Read Less

Gallup’s Good News for the GOP

There are two interesting polls from Gallup today worth highlighting.

The first shows that by 53 percent to 45 percent, Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they are “more enthusiastic than usual about voting” this year. The 53 percent of Republicans who feel more enthusiastic about voting today — as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are engaged in a pitched nomination battle — is greater than the 44 percent found in February 2008, when John McCain and Mike Huckabee were still facing off in the primaries.

Gallup points out that the enthusiasm question is important because, in the last several presidential and midterm elections, the party whose rank-and-file members showed the most enthusiasm about voting toward the end of the campaign either gained congressional seats or won the presidency. It’s important to note, too, that enthusiasm is down among key parts of Barack Obama’s 2008 coalition, including non-whites (down 26 percent compared to this time four years ago) and 18-29 year olds (down 28 percent compared to this time four years ago).

Read More

There are two interesting polls from Gallup today worth highlighting.

The first shows that by 53 percent to 45 percent, Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they are “more enthusiastic than usual about voting” this year. The 53 percent of Republicans who feel more enthusiastic about voting today — as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are engaged in a pitched nomination battle — is greater than the 44 percent found in February 2008, when John McCain and Mike Huckabee were still facing off in the primaries.

Gallup points out that the enthusiasm question is important because, in the last several presidential and midterm elections, the party whose rank-and-file members showed the most enthusiasm about voting toward the end of the campaign either gained congressional seats or won the presidency. It’s important to note, too, that enthusiasm is down among key parts of Barack Obama’s 2008 coalition, including non-whites (down 26 percent compared to this time four years ago) and 18-29 year olds (down 28 percent compared to this time four years ago).

The second poll shows that registered voters are currently split in their intentions to vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate in their congressional district, with 47 percent saying they would vote for each “if the elections for Congress were being held today.” Two previous polls, from December and August of last year, showed Democratic advantages of four and seven percentage points. Here’s why this is bad news for Democrats: At about this point in the 2010 election cycle, Democrats led by a three-point margin on the generic ballot. As Gallup points out, Republicans went on to gain a net total of 63 seats in the House in 2010, the largest such gain for the party since 1938.

This doesn’t mean the GOP nominee will win the presidency or the Republicans will re-take control of the Senate. It simply means that contrary to much of the Conventional Wisdom these days, the Republican Party is in fairly strong shape – and President Obama, while certainly in a better position than he was last fall, still faces a steep mountain to climb if he hopes to win a second term.

 

Read Less

Left Tries to Spin Israel Poll-Part Two

This is my second post on this topic, wherein is a discussion on why survey wording matters. The last post dealt with the “Obama is quantitatively ahead of his GOP rivals spin,” which wasn’t technically true and would be irrelevant if it was. This one deals with an issue that’s a little more tangled and open to interpretation – but not much. The question is whether Israelis favor an attack on Iran without the prospect of gaining U.S. support, which they don’t.

This finding is being spun to show they don’t favor an attack over current U.S. public objections. The data shows, bluntly, the opposite.

Read More

This is my second post on this topic, wherein is a discussion on why survey wording matters. The last post dealt with the “Obama is quantitatively ahead of his GOP rivals spin,” which wasn’t technically true and would be irrelevant if it was. This one deals with an issue that’s a little more tangled and open to interpretation – but not much. The question is whether Israelis favor an attack on Iran without the prospect of gaining U.S. support, which they don’t.

This finding is being spun to show they don’t favor an attack over current U.S. public objections. The data shows, bluntly, the opposite.

The poll asked respondents: “There has been increased talk of a military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities, even though the United States, the UK and Germany have advised against it. What do you think Israel should do?” Putting aside the negatively valenced wording (that “even though” could get dicey in a low-information environment, but maybe it’s a translation quirk), the results were:

“Strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, even without the support of the US” – 19 percent
“Strike only if Israel gains at least American support” – 42 percent
“Do not strike” – 34 percent

The spin is that under the current configuration – with the U.S. “advising against” a strike – only 19 percent of Israelis support the action. But that’s not what the question asked. It asked about U.S. “support,” against the backdrop of current U.S. “advi[ce].” It’s entirely possible that most Israelis believe the U.S. would still “support” a strike despite Obama’s current position, in which case the number in favor would be closer to 61 percent. And it turns out, per a subsequent question in the very same survey, that’s exactly what they do think!

Respondents were asked: “Given America’s recommendation that Israel not strike Iran, what do you believe the U.S. government’s reaction would be if Israel strikes anyway?”

“It would join the war on Israel’s behalf” – 27 percent
“It would support Israel diplomatically, but not provide military assistance” – 39 percent
“It would stay neutral” – 14 percent
“It would punish Israel by reducing its current support to Israel” – 15 percent

So most respondents would be reluctant to support an attack unless the U.S. ended up supporting Israel, but most respondents think the U.S. will end up supporting Israel. Unless there’s something very strange going on inside the crosstabs, where the people who think the U.S. would support an attack are also the ones who categorically oppose the attack, then there’s a clear majority for a strike.

The best way to aggressively spin the question, then, is to extensively describe the first question but not tell readers how the second question was worded. Want to guess how Media Matters posted the poll?

Israeli officials, including its foreign minister, have hinted that such an attack would be their decision and their decision alone. But a poll released today by the University of Maryland showed that Israelis don’t support that policy… Only 19 percent of Israelis polled expressed support for an attack without U.S. backing… while 42 percent endorsed a strike only if there is at least U.S. support… More than a quarter of those surveyed think the U.S. would join an Israeli war, and nearly one in four said the U.S. would give Israel diplomatic but not military support.

This is nicely done. It establishes plausible deniability by acknowledging that the second question exists, but it doesn’t give the full wording, which would contradict the rest of the post. Nonetheless, Israelis think the U.S. will support its democratic ally against a declared enemy of both countries, and on that basis they support a strike against Iran. That might be naive, but it’s what the survey shows.

Caveat: it could be the wording is different in the Hebrew. This criticism relies on Israelis functionally imagining that the actual American position is – stated or unstated, but in reality – “we recommend/advise you not to do this, but we’ll support you if you do.” That’s the interpretation most consistent with the question wording in English. If the first question in Hebrew somehow equated “advice” with “support,” or if there’s something going on with “gains” that implies prior support, then that would weaken this particular criticism. But equating advice and support creates other problems – e.g. given that 20 percent of Israelis are undecided on Iran, it’s bush league polling to frontload a question with global opposition, implying there’s probably a good reason for that opposition.

Read Less

Left Tries to Spin Israel Poll-Part One

A new poll [PPT] shows: (a) that Israelis oppose a strike on Iran unless it has American backing, which is being spun as showing that Israelis oppose a strike given Obama’s current stance; and (b) that Israelis prefer President Obama to anyone in the GOP field, which is being spun as showing that Israeli distrust of Obama has been wildly exaggerated. The anti-Israel left is even crowing that the poll undercuts Netanyahu on the eve of his meeting with the president.

The only problem is the survey shows exactly the opposite. On both issues.

Read More

A new poll [PPT] shows: (a) that Israelis oppose a strike on Iran unless it has American backing, which is being spun as showing that Israelis oppose a strike given Obama’s current stance; and (b) that Israelis prefer President Obama to anyone in the GOP field, which is being spun as showing that Israeli distrust of Obama has been wildly exaggerated. The anti-Israel left is even crowing that the poll undercuts Netanyahu on the eve of his meeting with the president.

The only problem is the survey shows exactly the opposite. On both issues.

Explaining why is fairly straightforward – in one case it’s a matter of literally going two questions down in the poll – but it still requires getting into the survey itself. So just as a summary: (a) an overwhelming majority of Israelis think a strike would get U.S. support despite Obama’s current position, and an overwhelming majority of Israelis support a strike under those conditions; and (b) two-thirds of Israelis refuse to support Obama regardless of whether the candidate is Mitt Romney or an anti-Semitic-ish candidate running on a platform of detonating the U.S./Israeli alliance. They just can’t bring themselves to do it.

Specifically on the U.S. election

Where the spin on Iran will get kind of insulting — see the forthcoming Part II — the story being spun on the U.S. election is just inexplicable. It’s not what the numbers are, and it’s certainly not what the numbers imply. The claim is Obama wins a plurality of Israeli support or Israeli Jewish support vs. each of the four GOP candidates, which is taken to mean he or his policies have the backing of the Israeli public. The quantitative claim is mostly true. The implication is not only unjustified but belied by the data.

Respondents were asked, “whom would you like to see elected as the next American president” and presented with questions pitting Obama vs. Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul. They could choose “Barack Obama,” the GOP candidate, “None of them,” or “I have no preferences.” The results for all Israelis were:

vs. “Mitt Romney”: 29 (Obama) / 29 (Romney) / 6 (None) / 7 (NP)
vs. “Rick Santorum”: 33 (Obama) / 18 (Santorum) / 7 (None) / 7 (NP)
vs. “Newt Gingrich”: 32 (Obama) / 25 (Gingrich) / 6 (None) / 6 (NP)
vs. “Ron Paul”: 32 (Obama) / 21 (Paul) / 6 (None) / 8 (NP)

The first thing you’ll notice is that Obama and Romney are tied among Israelis. In fairness, the split is 32/29 among Israeli Jews, though that’s still well within the +/-4 percent margin of error. Even Gingrich is within the MOE if you squint and assume a worst-case scenario.

The second thing you’ll notice is that roughly 30 percent of the Israeli electorate is missing from these responses. Those might be “no responses” – people who dropped off the call or refused to answer or whatever – but they might also be “undecideds.” The undecided number – per Ben Smith – wouldn’t contradict what you’d expect for the leader of a foreign country. Still, it speaks horribly for the survey’s robustness. If you take into account how that MOE was for the full sample, and so the actual MOE for these question is larger, this part of the survey begins to flirt with meaninglessness.

But even taking the numbers on their face, that just means the vast majority of Israelis have no opinion specifically on the GOP field vs. Obama (probably because they don’t know anything about the GOP field). Even the ones picking the GOP candidates might be reacting to Obama rather than to those candidates’ positions. That’s the best explanation for why the numbers are both strange and stable across the board – strong Israel supporter Santorum polls just below anti-Israel partisan Paul, while Obama’s support doesn’t change whether he’s up against Romney or Paul.

Instead, the numbers show the vast majority of Israelis can’t bring themselves to support Obama no matter what (so much for Netanyahu being undercut at home!) That’s the reaction you’d expect given the president’s early and repeated and even dishonest attempts to undermine Israel’s diplomatic posture, to say nothing of his dangerously weak position on Iran. But many pundits wish it weren’t so and are willing to pretend as much.

Read Less

GOP Final Four Had Guts to Stick With It

It’s easy for politicians and political commentators, myself included, to focus on the foibles, mistakes and awkward language that sometimes characterizes the current crop of GOP candidates. That’s why Bill McGurn’s words are worth reflecting upon:

As Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum force Republican voters to make their choice in a hotly contested Michigan primary, once again we hear the great lament that we have looked at the candidates and found them all unworthy. Not everyone puts it as harshly as the headline over Conrad Black’s piece in the National Post: “The Republicans Send in the Clowns.” But it’s a popular meme in the campaign coverage.

Like so many others who find the field wanting, Mr. Black laments that “the best Republican candidates—Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Haley Barbour—have sat it out.” We’ll never know, will we? Because the “best” Republicans opted not to put their records and statements up for national scrutiny, commit themselves to a grueling campaign trail, and subject themselves to TV debates moderated by media hosts who often seem to be playing for the other team.

So say this for the final four: They had the guts to put themselves out there—and stick with it. That’s something a winner needs.

Read More

It’s easy for politicians and political commentators, myself included, to focus on the foibles, mistakes and awkward language that sometimes characterizes the current crop of GOP candidates. That’s why Bill McGurn’s words are worth reflecting upon:

As Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum force Republican voters to make their choice in a hotly contested Michigan primary, once again we hear the great lament that we have looked at the candidates and found them all unworthy. Not everyone puts it as harshly as the headline over Conrad Black’s piece in the National Post: “The Republicans Send in the Clowns.” But it’s a popular meme in the campaign coverage.

Like so many others who find the field wanting, Mr. Black laments that “the best Republican candidates—Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Haley Barbour—have sat it out.” We’ll never know, will we? Because the “best” Republicans opted not to put their records and statements up for national scrutiny, commit themselves to a grueling campaign trail, and subject themselves to TV debates moderated by media hosts who often seem to be playing for the other team.

So say this for the final four: They had the guts to put themselves out there—and stick with it. That’s something a winner needs.

Bill is quite right. For one thing, the non-presidential politicians look good in large part because they’re not in the presidential arena. If they were, they would be reduced in stature, mocked, and ridiculed just like Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul. Their past words and votes and life stories come back to haunt them. Any Republican who becomes a serious contender for the presidency is going to face withering scrutiny not simply from opponents but from the press. And there’s no guarantee any of the names on Black’s list – several of whom I wanted to enter the race – would be doing well at all. They might have met the same fate as Governor Tim Pawlenty, who looked quite good on paper but failed as a presidential candidate.

McGurn is also right to point out that at least Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul – for whatever complicated mix of motives – were willing to put themselves through an exhausting, grinding campaign. It’s all fine and good for commentators and politicians past and present to critique the current combatants, to say how negative, foolish, unprincipled and tone deaf they are. But the truth is that all of us, including politicians of considerable accomplishment and skills — faced with the daily scrutiny and relentless pressure presidential candidates endure on a daily basis — would come off pretty poorly at times. It’s a lot easier to analyze candidates from behind a keyboard, microphone, television studio, and at a resort conference or cruise than it is to actually run day after day, speaking at event after event, taking question after question.

None of this is an argument for withholding honest critiques and opinions. It’s only an argument for a bit of modesty, a smidge of understanding, and the realization that there but for the grace of God go I.

 

Read Less

Obama’s Keystone Retreat a Matter of Time

Environmental activists are already up in arms about the White House’s decision to support the partial construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But they should prepare themselves for a lot more disappointment down the road.

President Obama has been playing both sides of the Keystone XL debate since the beginning, and his thumbs-up to the partial construction is the latest sign he’s only interested in delaying the pipeline long enough to hold onto environmentalist support until after November 2012.

Read More

Environmental activists are already up in arms about the White House’s decision to support the partial construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But they should prepare themselves for a lot more disappointment down the road.

President Obama has been playing both sides of the Keystone XL debate since the beginning, and his thumbs-up to the partial construction is the latest sign he’s only interested in delaying the pipeline long enough to hold onto environmentalist support until after November 2012.

Republicans already see this issue causing problems for Obama in the general election. “I think the president is in an untenable position on the pipeline, and I’ll be surprised to see if they don’t figure out a way to retreat in the face of public [opposition] on this issue,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

With the price of gas rising, Obama has had to rework his initial political calculation on the pipeline. Previously, the issue pitted together two of his key support groups: the environmental left (which opposed the pipeline) versus the labor unions (which supported it). Rather than risk losing either side in the upcoming election, Obama punted the Keystone XL construction decision until 2013.

But now that rising gas prices are likely to become an election issue for independent voters, Obama can’t risk being seen as responsible for the pipeline’s delay. His public support for the partial construction was a nod to that shifting political reality.

Of course, once construction on the pipeline begins, environmentalists lose any hope of ever killing the Keystone XL completely. They also lose the possibility that Obama may come out strongly against the pipeline for green energy reasons. In fact, as gas prices become increasingly important as an election issue, expect Obama to back away even further from his earlier opposition to the pipeline.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.