The Congressional Tea Party Caucus. In the rear, Rep. Louie Gohmert appears to be about to swallow a small child whole.
As we've discussed here many times, there a number of factors that make it more likely than not that Barack Obama will win re-election in November. But it's also quite possible that Obama will lose, and Mitt Romney will become president in January. If Romney does win, chances are that he'll come into office with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. That's because whatever conditions produce a Republican win at the top will also probably allow Republicans to hold on to the House and take the Senate. It's even possible that Obama could win and Republicans wind up with both houses, since Democrats right now hold only a 53-47 lead in the upper chamber, and they are defending 23 seats in this year's election, while Republicans are defending only 10. There's an outside chance that a big Obama win could allow Democrats to hold the Senate and take back the house, but for now let's focus on the possibility of a Romney win, which will probably leave him with the benefit of total Republican control. This is an eventuality that we really need to start thinking about, since a Romney presidency would be shaped in large part by his relationship with Congress.
For all the focus on President Obama’s narrow lead over Mitt Romney in the latest poll from Quinnipiac University, the more interesting numbers are in the full results, where you can find a better account of how voters perceive the two men. Independents, for example, are neither thrilled nor satisfied with the president. His favorability rating is 19 points underwater at 37/56, while his job-approval numbers are 17 points in the negative at 39/56. Overall, 47 percent of voters approve of Obama’s performance, while 48 percent disapprove.
One of the few pro-marriage-equality Senate candidates. (Flickr/Edward Kimmel)
American public opinion on same-sex marriage has been steadily moving in the direction of support for fmarriage equality for some time, and recently some polls have shown a majority or the public in favor (see here for example). Politicians, however, have lagged the public on this issue, none more visibly than Barack Obama, who is famously "evolving" on the issue. One presumes that evolution will reach its higher stage some time after he gets re-elected, but you'd think that candidates running for lower offices might be a little more willing to come out in favor of marriage equality, particularly since it's so obvious that such a position will only become more popular over time. But as Jonathan Bernstein tells us, that doesn't seem to be happening, at least when it comes to Democratic Senate candidates. "The web sites of the 10 Democratic candidates running as challengers or for open seats show that very few of these candidates are eager to jump on this particular bandwagon. Only two — Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Chris Murphy in Connecticut — trumpet their support for marriage equality and for repealing the Defense Of Marriage Act." This might seems surprising, but if we subject it to a cold-hearted Downsian risk-reward calculation, it actually makes plenty of sense.
Who do I love? You! You're the one I love! (Flickr/Terence Burlij/PBS NewsHour)
A lot of the things that consume us during a presidential campaign have absolutely nothing to do with what kind of a president any of the contenders will be. It isn't as though during the last three years we've said, "Boy, it sure was a good thing we spent all that time talking about Reverend Wright in 2008." But some things actually matter, and so it is with the discussion aboutwhether Mitt Romney can comfortably appeal to voters in the center and to what degree he has to continue reassuring his conservative base. This will not cease to be a relevant question on the day he takes office. Instead, he'd be constantly confronted with choices that involve potentially angering conservatives. So it's useful to understand just what forces would be operating on a President Romney.
We always knew that Mormonism was going to be a touchy issue in this presidential campaign. After all, there are still many Americans who express discomfort with the idea of a Mormon president (up to 40 percent, depending on how you ask the question). But it's one thing when you ask that question in the abstract, and quite another when we're talking about a particular Mormon. In that case, I'm fairly sure that nearly everyone is going to decide their votes on how they feel about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, not how they feel about Joseph Smith. Even Robert Jeffress, the Baptist minister and Rick Perry supporter who only a couple of months ago denounced Mormonism as a "cult," just announced that he'll be supporting a member of that cult for president, since Obama is so vile unto his sight. But all that doesn't mean that the Romney campaign and its supporters aren't going to be on the lookout for any anti-Mormon slights, so long as they come from Democrats.
Yeeesh, what does Mitt Romney have to do to drum up a bit of enthusiasm from his party? Sure, he's got to be feeling pretty content as each day brings another Republican casting aside the somehow-still-going campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to accept the inevitable proposition that Romney will be the party's nominee. Yet few can seem to offer an explanation for why they like Romney beyond the fact that they’re stuck with him. Shortly after I noted John Boehner’s lackluster endorsement yesterday, reporters asked Mitch McConnell for his take on Romney and were given the same nod-and-sigh routine:
I am smiling. Please don't mock me. (Flickr/World Affairs Council of Philadelphia)
After John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, some people saw the origins in McCain's love of craps, a game involving little in the way of strategy but a willingness to take big risks. McCain was quite unusual in his penchant for risk-taking; the life of a politician, where your words are watched closely and there is always a whole party of people out to destroy you, not to mention the fact that you constantly have to appeal to ornery voters, inclines one toward caution. As Time's Adam Sorenson says, in today's campaign, "Every semi-public utterance will find its way into the news; every available scrap of personal history will worm its way to daylight. That’s why we end up with candidates like Romney and Obama, men of catalog-perfect families, immaculate pasts and abundant political caution." I'd actually argue that Obama has exhibited what might be called a general cautiousness punctuated by episodes of extreme boldness, none more so than his decision to seize the moment and run for president just a couple of years into his first term in the Senate.
Mitt Romney is starting the general election running far behind Barack Obama. A CNN poll puts Obama ahead by 52-43 percent over Romney, a wider margin than Obama actually won in 2008. That's paired with a new Washington Post/ABC News poll that doesn't include a head-to-head matchup but still offers a bit of discouraging news for the new presumptive Republican nominee. Almost half of the country has unfavorable views of Romney. Just 35 percent say they like Romney while 47 percent dislike the former Massachusetts governor.
Mitt Romney had no trouble garnering more endorsements than his opponents during the Republican primaries, though a number of prominent figures held off from granting Romney their nod until his nomination was all but certain. John Boehner was one such politician—no huge surprise given his position in the party (then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi refrained from directly endorsing Obama in the 2008 primary though it was clear she supported him against Hillary Clinton).
Now that Romney is the presumptive candidate Boehner is free to offer his support, but boy does he sound unexcited about the idea:
A lot could change between now and Election Day, but barring major changes over the next six months, it looks like it will be a close election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Real Clear Politics' average puts Obama ahead by a little less than three points, and most polls over the past month have given the president a slight lead. However, as the Prospect's Paul Waldman pointed out yesterday, even a close election plays into Obama's favor. An AP count of electoral votes put 242 in Obama's column as either solid or leaning Democrat, with 105 "up for grabs"—all states that Obama carried in 2008.
Mitt Romney's old ski lodge, aglow with the warm light of taxpayer subsidy.
Like a good liberal, I feel a tiny pang of guilt when I do my taxes every year and see how much the government is subsidizing my choice to buy a home. Not that I'm going to turn it down as long as it's in place, but the mortgage interest deduction is not easy to justify. Even if there are reasons to believe that homeownership is a good thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that the government should pay you thousands of dollars to do it, particularly when you were probably going to do it anyway.
Among politicians, as among athletes or practitioners of a hundred other arts, there are "naturals," people who have an instinctive feel for how their endeavor ought to be done and display an effortless level of skill. Then there are those who have less of an instinctive feel for it but work hard to master the various components until they become the closest approximation of the natural as possible. Bill Clinton, for instance, would be in the first category, while Hillary Clinton would be in the second category. Then there are people like Mitt Romney, who not only isn't a natural but can't quite seem to put all the pieces of being a candidate together.
Priorities USA Action, the super PAC run by former Obama advisers, is up with a new ad explaining to voters that Mitt Romney is an extremely rich guy, who does richie rich things like hold up pieces of legal tender while surrounded by his richie rich friends. In short, the ad seems like little more than an attempt to get everyone to look at that now-famous photo from the founding of Bain Capital, in which Romney and his fellow Bainians demonstrate that their new company is all about job creation. There is one thing about this ad that may have Republicans crying foul, which is the fact that midway through they doctor the photo to put the current Mitt Romney's head on the much younger Mitt Romney from the photo. Take a look:
The prolonged Republican primary forced Mitt Romney to take stances on a host of controversial issues to win the allegiance of conservative voters. That could be alienating now that he is moving to the general election. His opposition to reproductive rights, harsh tone on immigration, and deference to Paul Ryan's budget have been the centerpiece of the campaign so far; he has also turned against gay rights, a move that puts Romney out of touch from the increasing majority of Americans who favor same-sex marriage. During debates Romney tried to cast himself as nondiscriminatory in his interactions with LBGT individuals but settled on a hardline opposition to same-sex marriage.
One of the more frustrating aspects of this year's Republican primary was the utter lack of specificity in candidates' proposals. It turns out this was a strategic decision. In an interview with the Weekly Standard last month, Romney said: