Jamelle Bouie

What Is Old Is New Again

(Ralph Alswang/Center for American Progress Action Fund)
In many ways, the 2012 presidential election looks a lot like the one in 2004. A divisive incumbent in a polarized electorate faces a surprisingly strong challenge from a lackluster politician against the backdrop of a stagnant economy. Like John Kerry, Mitt Romney is a Massachusetts-based candidate with a reputation for serial inconsistency, who lacks the full-throated support of his party’s base. And like George W. Bush, Barack Obama is running a campaign that highlights his strengths as a leader and portrays his opponent as untrustworthy and unprincipled. To wit, here is what Obama said in an interview with an NBC affiliate in Ohio: "Mr. Romney was one of the biggest promoters of the individual mandate. In Massachusetts, his whole idea was that we shouldn’t have people who can afford to get health insurance to not buy it and then force you or me, or John Q. Public to have to pay for him when he gets sick. That’s irresponsible. That’s exactly what’s included as part of my health...

Terribly Lackluster

(wools/Flickr)
For the third month in a row, job growth has been lackluster. In June , the number of new net jobs came in at 80,000—slightly below the 90,000 to 100,000 expected. Likewise, revisions for previous months were a wash—April’s numbers were revised from 77,000 to 68,000, and May's were revised from 69,000 to 77,000. There simply isn’t much news in this jobs report, which is another way of saying that our sluggish economic growth is grinding to a halt. Millions of American workers are stuck in continued stagnation, and the odds for relief are low. Republicans in Congress have no interest in providing additional fiscal stimulus, and the Federal Reserve is unmoved by widespread economic misery—if anything, it sees high unemployment as the necessary cost of low inflation. Politically, this obviously isn’t good for President Barack Obama’s re-election chances, and it's a godsend for Mitt Romney, who has been struggling against a headwind generated by the Supreme Court’s ruling on the...

In Florida, the Attacks on Bain Capital Are Working

Awhile back, I suggested that President Barack Obama might have a problem winning Florida in November. The latest polls showed him with a significant deficit and emphasized the extent to which the Sunshine State has plenty of advantages for Republicans: Demographically, it’s an exceptionally favorable state, with a large population of older whites. Overall, among whites, Obama lost every age group by double digits; his best performance was among whites ages 18 to 29, whom he lost by 10 points, instead of 12.5 points for whites over the age of 45, and 22 points for whites ages 30 to 44. What’s more, Obama’s advantage among Latinos is mitigated somewhat by Cuban American support for the GOP. When you take this together with the poor economy in Florida, it isn’t a surprise that Obama was behind six points in Quinnipiac’s polling. Since then, however, things have gone in the opposite direction. In the last two months of polling, Obama has held a modest four-point lead over the GOP nominee...

Romney's "Rich Man" Problem Just Got Worse

(News Hour/Flickr)
For the Fourth of July, the Obama campaign released a new Web video, highlighting a recent Vanity Fair look at Mitt Romney’s tax shelters and offshore accounts. It’s brutal: The key line: “I’ve never heard of a president having an overseas bank account.” This is a Web video, so it has limited circulation, but these interviews—and others, I’m sure—will certainly make it into swing-state and other general-election advertising. Moreover, they will play well with the Obama campaign’s attempt to hinder Mitt Romney by defining him as an out-of-touch plutocrat. The key thing to remember about this strategy is that it isn’t necessarily aimed at short-term movement in the polls. Instead, the goal is to shape the impressions of undecided voters so that when they make a decision in the fall, their mental map is dominated by a particular, and unflattering, image of Romney. This process is especially important for white undecided voters, who—if Romney can assemble them into a coalition—will give...

Who Won the Fight over Obamacare?

The most important thing about today’s landmark ruling on the Affordable Care Act has nothing to do with Barack Obama or Mitt Romney and everything to do with the millions of people who will gain health insurance—or keep it—as a result of the Court’s decision. Tens of millions of people would have lost financial security if the law had been struck down. With the law intact, everything moves to the voters—where it should have been this entire time. If Obama is re-elected, then the Affordable Care Act will survive, and the administration will have enacted the largest expansion in social services since the Great Society. By contrast, if he loses, Republicans will have a tremendous opportunity to reshape or dismantle the welfare state. That said, it’s hard to say if this will have any substantive effect on the direction of the presidential election. Obviously, the Court’s ruling is good for President Obama. The administration has won a huge battle, and at the risk of cliché, Americans...

Medicare Is Not Your Savior

Vermont Representative Peter Welch says that if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, Democrats should begin to push for universal Medicare: “If the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare, we have to have a substantive policy and political response — in my view, that’s Medicare for All,” Welch said. “Medicare is very popular. People understand it.” […] “If we argue for Medicare for All, it would reinforce our commitment to Medicare and highlight the Republican plan to turn it into a voucher system and unravel it,” Welch continued. I’m not sure why anyone thinks that liberals would be more successful if they take a different approach to universal health care. If Welch agrees that the Supreme Court has become unprecedentedly partisan in its dealings and will join the Republican Party in its opposition to Democratic initiatives, then there’s no reason to think that Medicare-for-all would survive a constitutional challenge. Yes, you could argue that since Medicare is already...

Why Windows 8 Might Force Microsoft into the Laptop Game

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Farhad Manjoo has a great column on the pitiful performance of PC trackpads: I switched to Apple notebooks more than five years ago, and I did so precisely because of things like the trackpad. I’ve searched high and low for a Windows notebook with a touchpad that comes close to the buttery bliss offered by the MacBook line. I haven’t found it, and you won’t either. At best, you’ll find a trackpad that can perform satisfactorily after you tweak a lot of settings—which may work fine for pros, but it’s not the kind of just-works experience that most computer users want. This has been my exact experience as well. The thing that sold me on Macs wasn’t OS X—it was the trackpad. Of course, Apple has a natural advantage here—because it has complete control over hardware and software, it can achieve the tight integration necessary to make a highly responsive trackpad. By contrast, PC manufacturers—who rely on commodity parts–can’t fine tune components to Windows. Now that Microsoft has entered...

The Outline of Victory, or Defeat

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
If you look closely at the latest poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, you can see the outlines of victory for either Obama or Romney. The top line result is where it’s been for the last two months—Obama leads Romney, 47 percent to 44 percent. He wins 92 percent of African Americans, 52 percent of women, 66 percent of Latinos, 52 percent of voters ages 18 to 29, and 40 percent of independents. By contrast, Romney is ahead among Tea Party supporters (94 percent to 1 percent), whites (53 percent to 38 percent), and men (48 percent to 43 percent). Obama’s challenge is to boost his share of the nonwhite vote to 2008 levels, and retain a significant plurality of the white vote. As Nate Cohn points out at The New Republic , Obama’s magic number for white support is around 38 percent: Obama would require 40 percent of the white vote if minority turnout falls to 25 percent of the electorate and only 77 percent of minority voters support Obama. Obama would only require 37 percent of...

The Return of President Sullivan

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
After two weeks of sustained activism by faculty, students, and alumni at the University of Virginia, the Board of Visitors reinstated President Teresa Sullivan by unanimous vote. As I wrote last week, she had resigned after the Rector of the Board—Helen Dragas—covertly gathered votes to force a resignation. This sparked a backlash that consumed the U.Va community, and forced Dragas to back down from her previous position–as evidenced by the fact that she also voted to reinstate Sullivan. The takeaway, for U.Va at least, is that Teresa Sullivan has far more power and support than she did at the beginning of this debacle. If she wants to take the University in a new direction, she has—for now at least—the necessary political capital. By contrast, the Board of Visitors has taken a tremendous political hit. Even after Dragas leaves her rectorship (it ends on July 1), the Board will have to work with students, faculty, and donors to rebuild its position and authority. One last thing. For...

The Obama Campaign's Rust Belt Strategy

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of Ohio illustrates my point this morning about the Obama campaign’s effort to keep Romney from consolidating disaffected white voters. Obama still leads Romney in the Buckeye State, 47 percent to 44 percent, but that lead has declined from 50 percent and 49 percent in previous polls. This decline has everything to do with white voters. Romney has opened up a 7 point lead among white voters, 49 percent to 42 percent. What’s more, he’s lost support from white Democrats. As PPP notes, he went from an 89–6 lead in early May, to 78–16 in June. In addition, Obama has a 9 percent approval rating among undecided voters—who, in Ohio, are disproportionately white. Obama’s saving grace is Romney’s unpopularity; his favorability is at 9 percent, and 61 percent say they hold a negative opinion of him. If Romney were to consolidate disaffected white Democrats, he would have a sizable lead over Obama. At the moment, however, he can’t, and the Bain Capital...

A National Right to Vote

(KCIvey/Flickr)
Via Ed Kilgore comes a new move from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to disenfranchise voters ahead of the presidential election: On the day he took office, Branstad signed an order reversing a six-year policy started under Democrat Tom Vilsack in which felons automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision. The move flew in the face of a nationwide trend to make voting easier for felons, making Iowa one of four states where felons must apply to the governor to have voting rights restored. Branstad’s new process requires applicants to submit a credit report, a provision critics call inappropriate and unique among states. Since then, 8,000 felons in Iowa have finished their prison sentences or been released from community supervision, but less than a dozen have successfully navigated the process of applying to get their citizenship rights back, according to public records obtained by the AP. I appreciate the honesty in this–Branstad won’t even...

Our National Political Science Experiment

MSNBC’s First Read has an excellent take on the Romney campaign’s flexibility, or lack thereof: If there is a constant criticism about Mitt Romney and his campaign from both the left and right, it’s that they’re not nimble – especially when it comes to dealing with issues they’d prefer to ignore. […] We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Much of a president’s job is crisis management, and the only way to succeed is being nimble. That Team Romney seems to struggle with this aspect of the job is a potential warning sign for a challenger against an incumbent president. What compounds the problem is the fact that Romney is also evasive on those issues he wants to talk about. Despite his monomaniacal focus on economic growth, Romney has been reluctant to give details on what he would actually do to improve the short-term economic situation. In fact, when pressed for details, he gives a surprisingly candid answer on why he refuses to offer any meat to the public: “The media kept...

The Latest Attack on Bain Capital

Thanks to recent stories by The Washington Post and The New York Times , Bain Capital is back in the news. In particular, there’s a renewed focus on outsourcing; both newspapers found that Bain “pioneered” outsourcing during the 1990s, when it was led by Mitt Romney. This is an irresistible target for any political campaign, and it comes as no surprise to see that it's the core of a new ad from the Obama team in which the campaign asks—pointedly—“Does America need an outsourcer-in-chief?” Of course, Barack Obama, like most Democrats, isn’t opposed to outsourcing. Like his criticism of NAFTA in 2008—which disappeared after winning the Democratic nomination—this is little more than a cynical political gambit. But for what the campaign is trying to accomplish, this doesn’t matter. From the beginning, the Obama campaign’s assault on Bain has been dismissed as unfair and ineffective. East Coast Democratic elites are unhappy with the attack on Wall Street, and D.C. pundits aren’t convinced...

Romney Faces a Tough Choice on Immigration

Two weeks ago, President Obama put Mitt Romney in a tough position with his DREAM Act by executive action—with a policy on the table, Romney was forced to respond, and his opposition to humane immigration reform came to the forefront of the election. With today’s ruling on Arizona’s immigration law, the Supreme Court has put Romney in another perilous spot that may damage his attempt to win back Latino voters–or at least stem the bleeding. As my colleague Scott Lemieux notes in an excellent piece on the ruling, a 5–3 majority on the Court stuck down three of the major provisions in Arizona’s infamous immigration: [T]he imposition of a state penalty for failing to “complete or carry an alien registration document” in violation of federal law; a provision making it a state crime for an undocumented alien to seek employment; and a provision allowing state law enforcement officials to arrest anyone without a warrant if they have “probable cause” to believe that a person has “committed any...

Blame the Supreme Court!

(Flickr/IslesPunkFan)
It’s a virtual certainty that, if the Supreme Court overturns the individual mandate or the Affordable Care Act wholesale, liberals will find a way to blame each other—or the administration—for its failure to anticipate the constitutional challenge. Yesterday, both The Washington Post and The New York Times ran stories in which critics and observers laid blame on the administration for its tactical strategy, and the bill’s authors for using the mandate to achieve near-universal health-care coverage. Here’s the Times : With the benefit of hindsight, some advocates said they would have been better off framing the law more explicitly as a tax, although doing so would have been politically explosive. Short of that, some said, strategy alternatives like slowing down the case still might not have made a difference. This strikes me as misguided. Underlying the assumption that the Court will strike down the individual mandate—or the Affordable Care Act as a whole—is the idea that the current...

Pages