More important, though, is the opportunity Romney has when he delivers his convention speech Thursday night with the entire country watching. It is likely that 75 percent of the people who will see him on Thursday may never have heard him say more than a soundbite or two. Romney tends to rise to occasions, like the 20 Republican debates in which he performed—never badly, and probably outright won 15 of them. But this is the occasion of occasions—the most important night of his life and potentially a turning point in the nation’s life.
This is obviously a huge opportunity for Romney; and it’s an opportunity that Barack Obama does not have.
Despite pleas from leading Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin announced today that he would not step down as Republican Senate nominee in Missouri. The statement, which came on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show, is very bad news for the Republican Party. As I noted earlier today, Akin’s staying in the race not only turns a likely GOP Senate pickup into a likely Democratic hold, it also places in jeopardy any chance Republicans might have of repealing ObamaCare next January. It will provide ready ammunition to the Democrats’ disingenuous attempt to convince the country that the GOP is waging a war on women.
All of which makes it imperative that Mitt Romney speak out personally on the matter. If there was ever a time for a Romney Sister Souljah moment, this is it. The Romney campaign has issued a statement disagreeing with Akin and reportedly vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who serves with the Missourian in the House called him yesterday urging him to quit. But that is no longer enough. Romney has to come out in front of the cameras and the press and declare in no uncertain terms that Akin should end his Senate run and that he and all Republicans repudiate his views. An he must do it immediately in order to lessen the impact of the deluge of negative ads stemming from this fiasco that the Obama campaign will soon be issuing.
The campaign of embattled Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has responded to the furor created by his idiotic comments about rape with an ad asking voters to forgive him. In it a penitent-looking and sounding Akin apologizes for saying that women cannot be made pregnant when raped. Though a day late, it’s full-blown apology in which he walks back his offensive statement and seeks a fresh start from voters. That’s appropriate but it also misses the point. If Akin is still expecting conservatives to rally around him and claim he is a victim of media bias and double standards that allow liberals a pass on gaffes while conservatives are crucified, he’s mistaken. The stakes involved in this election are simply too high to allow right-wingers the luxury of sticking with the Missouri congressman.
The ad seems to signal that Akin is determined to stay in the Missouri Senate race. If so, that will set off a day of furious activity intended to convince him that he must pull out before the 6 p.m. (EST) deadline today that would allow Akin to be replaced on the ballot. The consensus on the right that Akin must go is based not just on revulsion against his stupid and insensitive crack. Conservatives understand that his determination to stay could allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate this fall. Lest anyone forget, a Republican majority in the Senate next January is necessary if there is to be any chance that ObamaCare can be repealed before it goes into effect. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and the GOP holds onto the House of Representatives, if Harry Reid is the majority leader when Congress reconvenes in 2013, ObamaCare will survive.
Ever since the last of a series of full-scale blowups between the Obama administration and Israel, Democrats have been desperately trying to convince Jewish voters that the president really is the Jewish state’s best friend. In order to do so, voters would have to ignore most of what had happened in the first three years of his presidency but they were able to argue that his decision not to blow up the U.S.-Israel alliance completely ought to serve as proof of his good intentions. That’s enough for many Jews whose partisan preferences leave them ready to believe the Democrats’ talking points. But while American voters, Jewish and non-Jewish who consider the question an important one, ponder the question of which presidential candidate is a better friend to Israel, the people with the most on the line in the Middle East also have an opinion.
The latest poll of Israeli views of the U.S. election is similar to previous surveys on the question of American leadership: they don’t trust President Obama. As the Jerusalem Post reports, a new Peace Index/Dahaf Institute poll shows that 2-1 majority of Israeli Jews think Mitt Romney cares more about them than the president. Forty percent of respondents said Romney “assigns more importance to defending Israeli national interests” while 19 percent said Obama did. Ten percent saw neither as being more supportive than the other while 25 percent said they didn’t know and six percent said “neither” backed their country. Back in April a Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll found that 60 percent of Israelis saw Obama as either pro-Palestinian or neutral in the Middle East conflict. All of which leads one to wonder why so many American Jews think they understand Obama’s views of the question better than Israelis.
You have a Democratic campaign that’s painting its opponent as a felon, a tax-dodger, a dog-abuser, and a killer who will bring back slavery. On the other side, you have a Republican campaign that’s responding to these attacks as “hateful” and “inappropriate.” The media spin? Both sides need to tone down the “toxic rhetoric”:
“You thought last week was bad? Just when you thought last week’s third grade insults were as low as the campaign could go here, here we go again, the campaign has gotten even uglier,” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said Wednesday. “It’s not faux outrage, it’s real outrage. Over the last 24 hours, the attacks from both sides have reached a new level of vitriol.”
“Romney and Obama campaigns going on the offensive at the same time? What that means is nasty rhetoric, really nastier than ever,” she said this morning.
Seriously? Romney has basically stuck to attacks on Obama’s policy, it’s the Obama campaign that’s gone into the gutter. In fact, the only “negative” remarks from the Romney campaign cited in the Politico story were made in response to Democratic smears. Yes, Reince Priebus called Reid a liar — in response to Reid’s baseless accusations that Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years. The Washington Post gave Reid’s claim four Pinnochios, and Politifact rated it as “Pants on Fire.” Should they be criticized for toxic rhetoric as well?
That’s according to the latest Zogby poll, which found Romney topping 40 percent with young voters for the first time since the race began. Meanwhile, Obama’s youth support still lags far behind 2008-levels. The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reports:
For the first time since he began running for president, Republican Mitt Romney has the support of over 40 percent of America’s youth vote, a troubling sign for President Obama who built his 2008 victory with the overwhelming support of younger, idealistic voters. …
In his latest poll, Obama receives just 49 percent of the youth vote when pitted against Romney, who received 41 percent. In another question, the independent candidacy of Gary Johnson is included, and here Obama wins 50 percent, Romney 38 percent and Johnson 5 percent.
The Wall Street Journal takes aim at the “bedwetter caucus,” its term for the anonymous “Republican strategists and campaign operatives” who were fretting over the Ryan pick in a Politico article yesterday:
Republicans who believe in something can console themselves in knowing that these “pros” are reflecting the Washington conventional wisdom. Nearly everyone in the Beltway thinks it’s impossible to reform entitlements like Medicare, and or even to restrain the size of government, so why would a candidate be foolish enough to try?
This crowd is good at forecasting the political future as a repetition of the past and present, but as Irving Kristol used to say, they aren’t very good at predicting the turns. We’ll see if this year is one of those turns.
There are moments in political punditry when it’s clear the so-called experts are anything but. This seems to be the case with what was by far the most common analysis of Paul Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate: pundits said it was a risk because the election would no longer be simply a referendum on an unpopular incumbent. But when you ask the voters about this, you get the opposite reaction. The Washington Postreports on its interviews with voters like Charles Bonuccelli:
“It’s not that I have an unfavorable impression of him. It’s that I have no impression of him,” he said. “You’re always kind of wondering, behind the facade, what are we going to get?”
The next day, he figured it out.
“This is a man who is to be taken at his word,” Bonuccelli said this week, after learning that Romney had chosen as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), a man known for his laser focus on shrinking the government.
“The thing was that we didn’t understand who this guy [Romney] was — was he serious about these things? It was a confirmation that he is serious,” he added.
The final slate of speakers at the Republican National Convention is shaping up, and it’s no surprise that Chris Christie and Marco Rubio both scored high-profile slots:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention later this month, USA Today reported. Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce Mitt Romney, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Christie confirmed earlier reports that he would give the 20-minute address, saying he will make an “empathetic” argument for the GOP and voting for Mitt Romney. The Republican governor is on his fourth draft of the speech and “grinding away on it,” he told USA Today.
The choices of Christie and Rubio for prominent roles indicate that the RNC’s convention theme is forward-looking, and reformist rather than rejectionist (a distinction that Michael Gerson articulated in the Washington Post a few months ago).
Yesterday, Alana asked a perceptive question about President Obama’s self-image as portrayed in Game Change. I think we have the answer. My favorite thing about Game Change–the book about the 2008 presidential campaign that was made into a much-maligned HBO film–is the index. Whoever created the index at the book’s publishing house assumed no one would read it from cover to cover, but instead that its target audience–people who are portrayed in the book–would scour the index for the references they were looking for. So the structure of the index is quintessentially Beltway.
What do I mean? The index entries are organized according to mainstream media conventional wisdom. So under “Obama, Barack Hussein,” there is an entry marked “calmness and self-possession of.” You know, just to help nudge book reviewers in the right direction. But the entry under Obama’s name that takes the cake is the one marked “conventional politics disdained by.” In case you haven’t heard, Barack Obama is a new kind of politician. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that accusing Mitt Romney of murder has become something of a central theme in the campaign to re-elect the president.
The assumption among liberals is that the more the public learns about Paul Ryan, the easier it will be to brand him (in the words of Obama campaign honcho David Axelrod) as a “certifiable right-wing ideologue.” The core of that strategy is the belief liberals can demonize Ryan’s budget and his effort to reform entitlements. But another aspect of it is the notion that the Republican vice presidential candidate’s social conservatism is also an easy target. As a New York Times article details, Ryan is pro-life, an opponent of gay marriage and opposes the federal mandate that all employers must be compelled to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs even if it contradicts their religious scruples. The assumption is that the mere listing of these positions that so offend liberal orthodoxy will ensure the defeat of the Republicans.
But as Politico notes today, as much as Ryan helps energize the conservative base behind a Romney candidacy about which they were lukewarm, placing the articulate congressman from Wisconsin on the ticket also helps put the votes of Catholics who are independents or conservative Democrats into play. While those who look to the editorial page of the New York Times for guidance may be outraged about Ryan’s positions on social issues, the number of those voters — including those whose support might be up for grabs in November — who share his view of ObamaCare as well as on abortion, gay marriage and guns is far greater. Ryan’s impact on the working-class Catholic vote that helped make the difference for Barack Obama in some states four years ago is a factor that many analysts are underestimating.
Watch this clip of Mitt Romney sparring with a heckler at the Paul Ryan homecoming rally in Wisconsin last night and tell me where this candidate has been the whole campaign. This is not the same stiff, cautious Romney we’ve been watching for the past year and a half:
Many Democrats are outwardly cheering Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan. But I wonder what’s actually going through the minds of Obama’s inner circle. David Axelrod has probably run enough campaigns to realize that Paul Ryan is an exceptional political talent whose star is rising just as Obama’s is fading. And what’s the president thinking? Back in 2007, this was how Obama’s personal frustrations with his self-identity were described to the authors of the book Game Change:
“[Obama] wanted to be seen as substantive. He was substantive. And not being viewed that way was hurting his chances, he thought. I’ve spent my whole life caring about policy, he told his staff. I want to have new ideas. I want them to be specific. I want to make sure that no one can say they’re not specific enough. Obama had imagined at the outset of the campaign that he would set aside hours to consult with world-class experts, delving into the issues, devising innovative solutions. He kept asking for more time to do that, but his schedule was too jam-packed with fund-raisers and campaign events.”
The liberal assault on Paul Ryan has commenced. But the first round of attacks can’t provide much solace to Democrats, who assume they will be able to demonize the Republican vice presidential candidate with ease. The first 48 hours of Ryan’s candidacy has already seen a deluge of abuse from the mainstream media editorial pages and columnists. If all you read is the opinion pages of the New York Times, which trotted out its second editorial rant against Ryan in two days, then you probably think that political strategist turned pundit Robert Shrum’s boast in the Daily Beast that by the time the Obama campaign is through with him, Ryan will be as toxic as Sarah Palin. Liberals like Robert Reich, who took to the Huffington Post to howl that Ryan’s ideas are “social Darwinism” or former Times editor Bill Keller who damned the prospective next GOP administration as a compendium of every wicked conservative idea ever conceived, clearly believe all they need to do is to just call Ryan and to a lesser extent Romney, every name they can think of.
But the problem with this effort to Palin-ize Ryan is that the first returns show it probably won’t work.
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.
Democrats are supposedly happy about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan because it helps them transform the election from a referendum on the last four years (which Obama cannot win) into a choice about the next four (which Obama hopes to win by labeling Romney-Ryan “extreme” — the word used three times by David Axelrod in his mass email yesterday).
But the referendum on Obama has already been held. The 2010 election was a personal rebuke (Obama referred to it the next day as the “shellacking … I [took]”); two years later, the verdict on his performance is, if anything, worse: his approval rating among likely voters is at 45 percent, and 43 percent of them “strongly” disapprove – the same “strongly disapprove” percentage George W. Bush had in January 2009; likely voters want ObamaCare repealed by a lopsided majority (55-39); and Obama has been reduced to claiming he always said things would take much longer to get better, when he never said anything of the sort.
One day after Mitt Romney announced his choice for vice president, the consensus among Democrats is all they have to do to win in November is to mention one word: Medicare. They are convinced Paul Ryan’s budget and his belief that entitlements must be reformed if they are to be preserved is easily demagogued. Mediscare tactics are at the heart of their belief that a critical mass of voters can be stampeded toward Obama and the Democrats by claiming Paul Ryan is the boogeyman who is going to push grandma over the cliff. There is good reason to believe that once Americans get a good look at Ryan and start listening to his ideas they’ll be convinced this liberal caricature is just the usual mainstream media sliming of conservatives, but if there is any group on which such fears might work, it is among American Jews. That will make the battle for the Jewish vote in Florida a key test of Democrat plans.
Though many in the Obama camp have been trying to pretend there is no problem for them among this staunchly partisan Democratic demographic, there’s little doubt that uneasiness about the president’s attitude toward Israel is going to cost him a lot of Jewish votes this November. The administration’s election year Jewish charm offensive confirmed the White House understands that three years of constant fights with Israel will have electoral consequences. But today, liberals are predicting Florida will be where they will best be able to stampede elderly Jews away from the Republicans, worries over Israel notwithstanding. That’s the conceit of the Forward’s first shot on the topic that claimed Ryan would be a “Four-Letter Word” among Jews. But liberal assumptions on this point may turn out to be more wishful thinking than anything else.
One of the most entertaining scenes of the seemingly endless Republican primary debate season was Juan Williams’s “food stamp president” question to Newt Gingrich, which Gingrich handled as Manny Ramirez used to handle unprepared pitchers: bait them into throwing the pitch he wanted, hit it out of the park, and give the pitcher a good stare-down as he began to round the bases.
It typified the reason many conservatives wanted to take on President Obama with Gingrich—namely, his ability to effectively challenge the premise of a question and change the conversation. This is a useful skill because the mainstream political press will always seek to force conservatives to play by whatever rules are most advantageous to the liberal establishment, and Gingrich was able to set his own rules, to an extent. But people tend to forget the rules automatically change during a presidential general election: the exposure nominees get, through public appearances, speeches, rallies, and debates, gives candidates an ability to speak over the din of the media and directly to the American people. It raises the volume.
As John wrote earlier today, liberals are convinced that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate offers them a golden opportunity to savage the Republicans about the Wisconsin congressman’s budget plans. Predictably, the New York Times delivered one of the first such salvos in its editorial posted hours after Romney announced his pick in which it slammed Ryan as “callous” and claimed his attempt to control the nation’s out-of-control entitlements would leave the poor and the elderly sicker while also harming the unemployed and students. Not considering it advisable to even make a pretense of noting the GOP veep candidate’s strengths, the Times thought it advisable to go for the jugular first and worry about nuance later. We can expect the rest of the liberal mainstream media to do no less in the days and weeks that will follow.
However, it must be noted that the expectation by liberals that they can get away with such blatant demagoguery is not entirely without foundation. The pick of Ryan should energize the Republican base and will lend intellectual heft to a Romney campaign that has often seemed intent on merely waiting for the voters to fire Barack Obama rather than putting forward its own vision. But we know that “Mediscare” tactics employed by the Democrats have worked sometimes. And, as Times political blogger and statistical analyst Nate Silver pointed out on Wednesday, Ryan brings no obvious or immediate tactical political advantages to the Republicans. If Romney’s choice does anything it is to provide a test for the electorate. Are they prepared to listen to reasoned arguments articulated by Ryan about the need for entitlement reform, or will they succumb to simplistic liberal cant about pushing grandma over the cliff? As much as conservatives want to believe the American public is not so foolish or shortsighted as to simply accept the left’s defense of the status quo, we won’t know the answer to that question until November.
The selection of Paul Ryan has been greeted with a wild joy on Twitter, and not just by conservatives; I’ve seen hundreds of liberals celebrate the choice. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jesse Ferguson, said this: “So this is what xmas morning feels like?” The idea here is that Ryan is the perfect target for Democrats because he has proposed specific budget cuts and the overhaul of Medicare, while supporting tax reform that would lower rates on the wealthy.
Doubtless, Ryan has provided some subject matter for Democratic attacks. But so, in different ways, would anyone else on Mitt Romney’s short list. Romney already opened himself up to assault on the Ryan budget by calling it “marvelous,” and it’s not as though the Obama campaign was going to stand on scruple and let him go on that because he hadn’t formally adopted it.
The other two exciting possibilities on the Romney list, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, are arguably more dynamic than Ryan—Rubio is probably the best speaker in the GOP, and Christie the master of the viral—but they too would have been put in the position of actually having to defend the supposedly draconian Ryan budget the Democrats were and are going to hang around the Romney campaign’s neck. And they would have been worse at it, obviously.
More important is the quality of the glee itself. It’s an ongoing liberal political-character flaw. So insulated a are many, if not most, American liberals that they simply presume that which they despise is inherently despicable, and that what they fear is inherently fearful. As they gather in their echo chamber, all they hear are voices resounding with the monstrousness of redesigning Medicare and the parlousness of cutting the federal budget. They genuinely do not know that budget cutting is popular, even if only in theory, and that tens of millions of voters do understand the notion that the government is living far beyond its means. From what we can gather, in fact, these are exactly the sorts of ideas that speak to independent voters and have since the days of Ross Perot.
Ryan is a formidable presence in American politics. Generally speaking, formidable players do formidable things. The glee of the Left suggests its folk are so excited by what the Obama campaign can dish out that they are unprepared for what Ryan and Romney can dish out right back.