Romney’s task for this summer was to reintroduce himself to the public as a competent moderate—someone who could get the economy back into shape by sheer dint of his business experience. But since Team Obama began its savage attacks on Bain Capital, the Romney campaign has been on the defensive. Revelations about Bain-led outsourcing, his “shadow years” at the company, and his opaque tax returns have wreaked havoc with his favorability ratings. Romney’s unfavorability is higher now than it’s been since the GOP primaries. Romney’s 40 percent favorability is the lowest mid-summer rating for a presidential nominee since 1948.
Being a campaign surrogate isn't easy. You have no say in what the candidate you favor or his campaign decides to say or do, yet you're called upon to defend their words and actions. That can put you in an extremely uncomfortable position, unless you're Newt Gingrich.
Yesterday, Newt went on Anderson Cooper 360 to talk about Mitt Romney's new welfare attack ad, which falsely accuses Obama of ending work requirements in welfare, and what he said was truly remarkable, even for him. Now, let me be absolutely clear about something. I've been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I've watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952. I've seen ads that were more inflammatory than this one, and ads that were in various ways more reprehensible than this one (not many, but some). But I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one...
Super PACs seem to be this election cycle's must-have accessory, on par with jelly bands and jeggings; not having one is clear sign that you're not hip with the times. For some election groupies, there is nothing much hotter than seeing the Federal Election Commission paperwork pile up in the wake of a Sheldon Adelson money tsunami, which is the only logical reason 593 of these committees raising unlimited amounts of dough for their candidate or issue of choice have been formed in the first presidential election since 2010's Citizens United decision.
Afraid? I'm not afraid! What makes you say that? (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In the early days of the 2012 Republican primaries, many thoughtful commentators took the position that it was simply impossible for Mitt Romney to win his party's nomination. Despite all his evident strengths as a candidate–money, the most professionally run campaign in the group, the endorsement of many establishment figures–Romney simply would not find a way to get past the fact that as governor of Massachusetts he had passed a health care plan that became the model for the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans had come to see as the very embodiment of evil in the modern world. The party's base would never abide it.
Yet he did, without all that much trouble. And he didn't deal with the health care issue through some brilliant strategy, either. He made no dramatic mea culpa, and never repudiated Romneycare, at least not directly. Whenever he was asked about it he would give a convoluted and utterly unconvincing argument about how what he did in Massachusetts was great, though of course it shouldn't be applied anywhere else, and even though the ACA is almost exactly the same as Romneycare, the latter was a pragmatic and effective policy solution while the former is an abomination so horrific that putting a copy of the bill in the same room as an American flag could cause said flag to burst into flames and be sucked through a demonic portal to the very pits of hell. Democrats shook their heads at the hypocrisy and smiled at Romney's pain, while Republicans narrowed their eyes and listened skeptically. I feel fairly confident that there was not a single person anywhere who upon hearing Romney try to make these absurd distinctions responded with, "Well that makes sense–I'm convinced."
And amazingly, it almost seems as if Romney thought he could get through the rest of the campaign without this coming up.
Yesterday, Mitt Romney unveiled a new attack that—even by the standards of his campaign—was incredible in its dishonesty. First, a little background. A few weeks ago, after urging from both Republican and Democratic govenors, the administration allowed states more flexibility when it came to fulfilling welfare work requirements. The memo, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, stipulates that states can receive a waiver as long as their programs achieve the same work goals as the original program. The hope is that, with flexibility to try new approaches, more recipients can be placed into jobs.
This morning, TheNew York Times and CBS News, with Quinnipiac University, released their latest set of swing state polls, for Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado. In the Old Dominion, Obama leads Romney by four points—49 to 45—and in the Badger State, he leads the Republican nominee by six, 51 to 45. These numbers are in line with previous surveys; in both states, Obama has led in ten of the last 11 polls, with an average lead of 2.8 points for Virginia, and 5.8 points for Wisconsin.
I spent most of July in the upper Midwest and was reminded that not everyone in America passes the summer fixated on politics. They go to the beach, catch fish, grill burgers, eat ice cream, try to stay cool, see The Dark Knight Rises without recognizing it as the fascist tract that shrewder observers from Rolling Stone do. In the Bear Lake Tavern where I would have dinner not far from Lake Michigan, the TV over the bar is set to the Olympics before being turned to CNN or Fox or occasionally NBC (but not MSNBC).
Just what do we mean when we call a campaign ad "negative" or "harsh" or even "brutal"? That question is raised by an ad released today by the pro-Obama superPAC Priorities USA, hitting Mitt Romney about a steel plant that Bain Capital closed in Kansas City. In the ad, Joe Soptic, a worker at the plant, tells how when he and his fellow workers lost their jobs, they also lost their health insurance. His wife got sick, but because they had no insurance she didn't see a doctor until it was too late, and she died of cancer three weeks after finally being diagnosed. While he doesn't actually say "Mitt Romney killed my wife," he ends the ad by saying, "I do not think that Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone. And furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned." Let's take a look, then we'll break it down:
The latest ad from Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA Action features a former worker at GST Steel—one of the companies acquired by Bain Capital—who was then laid off in the Bain-led “restructuring.” As a result, he and his family lost their health care, and soon after, his wife developed cancer.
Put another way, this ad all but accuses Mitt Romney of giving someone cancer:
Yesterday, Jonathan Chait called attention to this clip from 2004, where Mitt Romney defends George W. Bush’s economic record by saying—in no uncertain terms—that the president isn’t responsible for job losses that occurred at the beginning of is administration:
Let's get this out of the way first: Mitt Romney's smear of Barack Obama over the issue of early voting in Ohio is both shamelessly dishonest and utterly despicable. In case you haven't heard, Ohio voters used to be able to vote early in the three days before election day, then the Republican legislature passed a bill eliminating the early voting for everybody except active-duty military servicemembers. So the Obama campaign sued to restore early voting for everyone, which the Romney campaign rather predictably characterized as an attack on our brave fighting men and women.
So yes, Romney is just lying. But let's put that aside and ask this question: just what kind of special privileges should members of the military be entitled to?
Three Republicans are going head to head today for the Missouri Republican nomination to face off against Senator Claire McCaskill in November. They are former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (who has the backing of Sarah Palin), Representative Todd Akin (whom McCaskill clearly prefers because he is the most conservative of the trio) and wealthy businessman John Brunner. A new PPP poll puts Brunner first at 35 percent, Akin second at 30 percent, and Steelman last at 25 percent. But with 10 percent of the voters undecided, an upset is certainly possible.
Today is the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 by a bipartisan (if sectional) majority of Congress, and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. With the fight over who deserves to vote having been reignited by the partisan push for voter identification, and with conservatives mounting legal attacks on key provisions of the Act, it’s worth noting the degree to which the VRA was a milestone for democracy in this country.
It may be the peak of vacation season in Europe, but the continent’s fiscal crisis has not taken a break. Last week, Wolfgang Schäuble, the powerful German finance minister, took time out from his holiday to have a sit-down with his American counterpart, Tim Geithner, in the North Sea island of Sylt. The last-minute meeting was organized at Geithner’s request. Less than a hundred days from the U.S. presidential election, it highlighted—as if more evidence were necessary—the Obama administration’s concern about how developments in the Eurozone could affect the vote come November 6.