While it’s overstating the case to say that presidential elections are predictable, it’s fair to describe them as strongly influenced by a consistent set of conditions. These “fundamentals” are straightforward: Is the economy moving in a positive direction? Is the president an incumbent, or is this an open election? For how long has the incumbent party controlled the White House? What do people think of the president and his party? Elections aren’t determined by the answers to these questions, but to a great extent, they shape the dynamics of the contest.
In response, it seems, to criticism of his economic plan—which will raise taxes on the vast majority of Americans in order to cut taxes for the wealthiest taxpayers—Mitt Romney has released a one-page “plan for a stronger middle-class.” The provisions are what you would expect:
Mitt Romney was in Colorado yesterday, where some people aren't too pleased with him. This week he came out in opposition to an extension of the wind-power production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of the year. The tax credit helps make wind power competitive and is credited with enabling the creation of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and construction. This is almost certainly not going to be a huge issue in the campaign, but it does reveal some interesting things about where Romney is vis-a-vis the Republican Party. On one side, you have the parochial economic interests of many Republican members of Congress and some very well-heeled Republican economic constituency. On the other, you have the purely knee-jerk reaction of Tea Party types to anything hippies might like. Guess where Mitt comes down?
When it comes to the significance of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice, Texas Governor Rick Perry seems to have more sense than most political pundits:
“There are great and talented people out there, but vice presidential candidates are interesting choices that will probably only make two or three days worth of news, unless they make some huge gaffe,” Perry told CNN in an interview at the Republican Governors Association retreat in Aspen, Colorado. “As long as it’s not me, I’ll be cool.”
Perry invoked another famous Texan, John Nance Garner, to make his point.
Harry Reid has always been an unusual character. He's often dismissed as a lightweight by Republicans (Senator Tom Coburn recently called him "incompetent and incapable"), but he is also an adept legislative maneuverer who has notched some extraordinary victories, perhaps none more notable than getting every Democrat in the Senate, even ones like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman who live to make trouble for their own party, to vote for the Affordable Care Act. He's very soft-spoken, speaking most of the time in a near-whisper, but he's also willing to wield a shiv with an enthusiasm few in his party can muster.
And now, Reid is doing the kind of work that surrogates are supposed to do for presidential candidates: go out and make the kind of biting, maybe even questionable attack on the opponent that the candidate himself doesn't want to be seen making. Reid has charged that a source at Bain Capital has told him privately that Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years, and that's why Romney won't reveal his tax returns. When asked for concrete evidence beyond the word of an anonymous source, Reid says, "I don't think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn't he release his tax returns?" Romney replied that Reid should "put up or shut up," and offered an unsubstantiated charge of his own: "I'm looking forward to having Harry reveal his sources and we'll probably find out it's the White House."
This episode gives us yet another case study in how different Republicans and Democrats are...
Today is the first Friday of a new month (i.e., Christmas for wonks and political junkies), which means the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released its monthly report on employment. The economy created 163,000 net jobs in July, an increase over projections—which hovered around 100,000—and a substantial increase over June, when the economy added a scant 80,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.25 percent (up from 8.21), but was rounded up to 8.3 percent for the purposes of the report.
This is going to sound crazy, but in Philadelphia, plenty of voting-rights activists are hoping plaintiffs lose their case against the state voter-ID law—at the lower court level, that is. Pennsylvania's voter-ID law, one of the most restrictive in the country, requires a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, and would disenfranchise a significant number of voters, particularly those who are poor, elderly, and nonwhite. It's a scary prospect, and the lawsuit brought by several voting-rights groups on behalf of ten plaintiffs seeks to get the law suspended. Closing arguments ended yesterday, and Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has promised to rule on the measure by August 13.
This November, voters in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have the chance to do something radical: legalize marijuana for recreational use. In all three states, activists secured enough petition signatures to place initiatives on the ballot to essentially treat cannabis like alcohol, regulating its distribution and taxing it. The three states already allow patients with ailments like cancer and AIDS to use marijuana; Colorado allows dispensaries, which make for a bigger and broader semi-decriminalized system. But if these initiatives pass, they would be the first allowing anyone who doesn't have (or claim to have) a medical need to use marijuana.
The most recent conservative attack on the Obama campaign has been around the efficacy of its spending, i.e., “they are outspending us on ads, without any movement in the polls.” J.T. Young made this argument in the American Spectatora few days ago, and GOP guru Karl Rove made it today in the Wall Street Journal:
His cash advantage over Mr. Romney was probably gone as of July 31, in large measure because (according to public records at TV stations) Team Obama has spent at least $131 million on television the last three months.
The Romney plan for the middle class, in its entirety.
Campaign plans are a little overrated. One one hand, it's good to tell people exactly what you want to do if you're elected. But on the other hand, on the really big things whatever you do is going to have to go through the legislative sausage grinder, so the degree to which what eventually gets produced resembles what you proposed is a function of how close you were to your party's desires in the first place. For instance, the Affordable Care Act ended up looking a lot like Barack Obama's 2008 health-care proposal. There were important exceptions—his proposal didn't include an individual mandate and did include a public option—but the contours reflected the elite Democratic consensus of the moment. That's why his plan didn't differ much from those offered by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
So if you want to know what Mitt Romney is going to do, the best thing is probably to examine Paul Ryan's plans as Ryan Lizza argues, because that's where the Republican Party is now. But Romney himself isn't going to get into too much specificity, in part because the more specific you get about your plans, the less likely anyone is to actually care. Most presidential candidates produce lengthy issue briefings, which very few people actually read. So why bother? That appears to be the question Romney is asking.
Let it not be said that William Kristol — magazine editor, Fox News commentator, all-around uberpundit and man-about-tow — is not a man with practical solutions for the strategic challenges that face a Republican presidential campaign. Today he gives the Romney advance team an important heads-up: "Mitt Romney's hosting a campaign event at Jeffco Fairgrounds in Golden, Colorado around lunchtime today, and a quick scan of Chick-fil-A's website shows several locations within fifteen miles or so of the Romney event. So it should be easy for Romney to stop at a Chick-fil-A for a photo-op (and a sandwich!) on his way there."
Is Romney going to take the advice? I'd bet my bottom dollar he is. Because Chick-fil-A has become the right's culture war emblem of the moment, Mitt won't be able to resist. It would be just the latest indication of something rather remarkable: the election is only three months away, and almost everything Mitt Romney does seems geared not toward persuading undecided voters, but toward securing his base. Wasn't he supposed to have that taken care of by now?
The first time I saw Ted Cruz in action was last year at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. He was seven months into his campaign for the Senate nomination in Texas and had already been the subject of a glowing cover story for National Review. His speech to the Values Voter crowd was the usual blend of partisan red meat and personal anecdote: He railed against Obama’s “socialism,” promised to restore free enterprise, decried abortion, told the story of his family’s journey to America—he’s the son of Cuban immigrants—and issued a cry for “change” conservatives could “believe in.”
If there’s any state that’s key to Mitt Romney’s strategy, it’s Florida. You can imagine a GOP win without Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, or other traditionally Republican-leaning states—but Florida has 27 electoral votes, nearly twice as many as the other swing states, and without them, Republicans can’t score an Electoral College victory.
Just about every national pundit has the same take on Ted Cruz's victory in Texas's Senate primary: Another Tea Party triumph! It's just like Florida in 2010, where "moderate" Governor Charlie Crist lost to insurgent Marco Rubio, or Indiana earlier this year, where "moderate" Senator Richard Lugar was dethroned by Tea Partier Richard Mourdock. The establishment loses again, and the new wave of the GOP continues its takeover of the party.