Election 2012

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Center for American Progress released a report today that lays out how they see the 2012 election playing out, and their prescription for what Obama needs to do to win: President Obama must maintain as much of his community of color, Millennial generation, and unmarried women base as possible in terms of vote share and electoral composition—and then manage to either hold his 2008 margins among white college graduates to offset possible crushing losses among white working-class voters or keep his deficits among both white college and working-class voters to 2004 levels and hope that his base support compensates for these deficits. Not only does Obama need to hold on to his 2008 base, he probably can run on 2008 issues too, thanks to the failure of the Super Committee. However, the Obama campaign can’t rely on bashing the GOP if it wants to win. It also need to capture the hope of the 2008 campaign — perhaps the hardest part of making 2012 a 2008 redux. While Obama needs to hold on...

Forecasting Elections with Real-Time Economic Data

This post is jointly written with Anton Strezhnev , a very bright Georgetown undergraduate. One of the challenges in forecasting elections is that economic data are often inaccurate when first released. Some of the adjustments are substantial. Just to illustrate this point, the image below ( source ) shows the change from original issue to current estimate in a composite index of economic performance: the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI). The magnitude of some of these adjustments could potentially affect forecasts in what the models predict to be a close election . Moreover, there is serial correlation in the direction of the errors. So, if you are rooting for Obama you may think that the more recent positive adjustments mean that Obama has a slightly better chance than the models predict. If you are a forecaster, the serial correlation may allow you to better predict adjusted values. Economists have long recognized that the use of real-time versus ex post adjusted values...

Not All Endorsements Are Created Equal

Slate 's Dave Weigel takes The Washington Post to task for running an inane article listing the "big six 2012 endorsements." As a general rule, I'm opposed to these types of lists, which are typically desperate exercises reporters turn to when they have a deadline staring them down and no new ideas. But while he's right to criticize the lazy idea, Weigel takes it a little too far when he uses Chris Christie's support for Mitt Romney as evidence that endorsements play no role: That endorsement mattered. Romney went from the mid-twenties in national polls to... the mid-twenties in national polls. In Iowa, he went from the low twenties to the low twenties. In New Hampshire, he went from a twenty-point lead to a twenty-point lead. All the stuff about money and insider loyalty is true, but the Christie endorsement has done nothing yet to rally the sort of voters who wanted Christie to run. Sure, Christie's endorsement of Romney didn't sway the polls, but that's a poor example to expand...

The Lying Lies of Mitt Romney

With a little more than a month before the New Hampshire Republican primary, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has released his first ad of the campaign, a blistering attack on President Obama’s economic record: The ad hinges on a quip from Obama’s 2008 campaign, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The problem, of course, is that Obama was quoting the words of a McCain strategist. At best, Romney’s choice to put them in the mouth of Obama is disingenuous; at worst, it’s an outright lie. And given the extent to which the rest of the ad relies on various distortions -– Romney decries the high foreclosure rate despite his preference for a process that keeps homeowners underwater -– “lying” is a fair way to describe his rhetoric. This isn’t the first instance of dishonesty from the Romney campaign, and it won’t be the last. To wit, after the Obama campaign attacked this ad as “ deceitful ,” Romney spokesperson Gail Gitcho responded with this rejoinder: The...

2008 Redux

The failure of the Super Committee has been cause for much weeping and gnashing of teeth among Beltway pundits, but the important thing to remember about the current budgetary baseline is that absent any further action from Congress, we can expect around $7.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has the numbers : $3.3 trillion from allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, $0.8 trillion from allowing other tax cuts to expire, $0.3 trillion from allowing Medicare provider cuts to happen on schedule, $0.7 trillion from allowing relief from the alternative minimum tax to expire, $1.2 trillion from the Super Committee “trigger,” and $0.9 trillion from lower interest payments are a result of the above. Of course, now is a terrible moment for deficit reduction—austerity is useless when the economy is sputtering along with low consumer demand. But for those Democrats concerned with the deficit, there’s nothing the GOP could offer—short...

Wisconsin Dems off to a Fast Start

Opposition to labor restrictions has galvanized Wisconsin Democrats over the past year, but they face a tough haul with their recall campaign against Republican Governor Scott Walker. A recall will only be triggered if the campaign manages to collect signatures totaling 25 percent of the ballots cast in the 2010 election. That equals more than 540,000 signatures, though they'll need to gather more than that to guard against any challenges. All the forms must be submitted to the state's election board within 60 days of the first day of the campaign last week. It's no easy task, but Wisconsin Democrats are already well on their way to gathering the required number less than a week into the campaign. Over the course of the first four days, United Wisconsin (as the recall group is known) secured 105,000 supporters. From a pure logistical viewpoint, that's an impressive haul, yet I'm not so sure it guarantees their success. They have been organizing this campaign since the summer and used...

Rick Perry, the Good Old Days

With Rick Perry now in 4th place in GOP polls, I wanted to share this reminder of his glory days in Texas gubernatorial politics before it was too late. The attached radio ad comes from his 2006 reelection campaign against former congressman Chris Bell. Perry won 39%-30% (with two strong independent candidates, bizarrely including Kinky Friedman , garnering 30% of the vote between them.) Part of Perry’s theme: “this ain’t Taxachusetts!” It’s a negative ad—it’s called MrWayTooLiberal after all—but it’s funny. On purpose, unlike the Perry campaign this time around.

Rick Perry Signs Controversial Pledge

Rick Perry's campaign is increasingly on the ropes. His poll numbers hover in the single digits, and it looks like his funders have fled , robbing him of his primary hope to propel himself past the crowded field of anti-Romney candidates. His one last option to maintain relevancy: Appeal to the radical Christian right that cannot fathom voting for a Mormon who was governor of the first state with gay marriage. Over the weekend, Perry joined a select group of fringe presidential candidates when he signed The Family Leader's presidential pledge. The "Marriage Vow" puts Perry down on paper as endorsing a host of the most extreme elements of social conservatism. It was written by Bob Vander Plaats, a ringleader of Iowa's Christian right. Signers of the pledge vow to push a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, add new restrictions to make divorce more difficult, and fight for the "humane protection of women" from "all forms of pornography." One clause drew the most attention...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Jonathan Chait wrote a truly excellent essay in this month’s issue of New York that refuses to sympathize with the liberal journalists and scholars who have been writing damning commentary on Democratic presidents since the early 20th century. Instead of adding to the journalistic canon of how Obama is a traitor to his 2008 campaign, he turns his sight back on the Drew Westens and Patrick Caddells and Doug Schoens of the world and tries to explain why liberals are never satisfied with the people they elect: For almost all of the past 60 years, liberals have been in a near-constant emotional state of despair, punctuated only by brief moments of euphoria and occasional rage. When they’re not in charge, things are so bleak they threaten to move to Canada; it’s almost more excruciating when they do win elections, and their presidents fail in essentially the same ways: He is too accommodating, too timid, too unwilling or unable to inspire the populace. No one should be surprised that the...

Decoding Michele Bachmann's New Book

Michele Bachmann—or at least her publicity manager—did her research. The Prospect received an early copy of Bachmann’s new book, "Core of Conviction: My Story," last week. In honor of the book’s release today, we’ve compiled the five “Best of Bachmann” moments from the book. 1. Bachmann’s great-great-grandfather won a farm from Jesse James in a game of poker. Bachmann claims that Halvor Munson won a farm in Iola, Kansas, playing poker with Jesse James on a river raft. According to a short biography on Munson, written by a family genealogist, it is likely that Munson did meet Jesse James (before his name became synonymous with outlaws of the American West), but the claim that he won a farm from James is nothing more than family lore. 2. Bachmann is not a fan of Gore Vidal. She even goes so far as to insinuate that Vidal’s book, Burr , prompted her to change her party affiliation to Republican. She refers to Vidal as “snotty” and “disgusting.” She spends two pages slamming the novel for...

Republican Hopefuls Focus on the Family

The country's shaky economic condition has dominated the Republican presidential primary conversation, but social issues will still rule the day for a portion of the GOP's base. This voting bloc may sway the outcome in two of the first three nominating states—Iowa and South Carolina—and poses the greatest threat to Mitt Romney's cakewalk path to gaining the nomination. Social conservatives finally got their first moment in the spotlight at a forum in Iowa over the weekend. The Thanksgiving Family Forum was hosted by Bob Vander Plaats, a major player in Iowa's evangelical scene who played an important role in organizing Mike Huckabee's winning 2008 campaign. All of the major figures of the campaign were in attendance except for Romney and Jon Huntsman. Abortion rights got their first true airing of the campaign, and, to no one's surprise, the candidates jumped out do one another in their opposition to women's rights (of course ignoring that, according to current Supreme Court precedent...

The Worst Political Column of All Time

Patrick Caddell and Doug Schoen have built a name for themselves as “Fox News Democrats” — the pundits conservatives use to show the world that “even Democrats” agree with their attacks on Barack Obama (he is a hyper-partisan socialist) and liberals as a whole. In fact, most of their work is centered on the premise that Democrats can only succeed if they jetison any semblence of liberalism from their agenda. This is the proper context for their latest op-ed in the Wall Street Journal , which — to put it lightly — is a nightmare. Their argument is straightforward: Barack Obama has been a hyper-partisan disaster for the Democratic Party, and “should abandon his candidacy for re-election in favor of a clear alternative,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They describe the former First Lady and New York Senator in glowing terms: Never before has there been such an obvious potential successor—one who has been a loyal and effective member of the president’s administration, who has the...

Obama Doesn't Have a "Base" Problem

The Washington Post ’s Chris Cillizza does a nice job of debunking the notion that President Obama faces a problem with his base: In Gallup’s latest weekly tracking polling, Obama’s job approval rating stands at 43 percent among the general public but is nearly double that — 84 percent —among African Americans. In the November NBC-WSJ poll, Obama’s approval rating among black voters stood at a stratospheric 91 percent. […] Although African Americans remain the base group most broadly supportive of Obama, liberals and Democrats are very much in his camp as well. In Gallup’s most recent data, Obama’s job approval rating stood at 78 percent among Democrats and 70 percent among liberals. The important thing to remember in any discussion of Obama’s base — and the Democratic base writ large — is that African Americans loom large. Absent 85-percent-plus of the black vote in national elections, Democrats would have an incredibly hard time of winning the presidency. It should be said that the...

What Happened to the Tea Party?

When the 2012 Republican nominating contest was getting underway earlier this year, it was widely predicted (I predicted it myself) that the race would eventually come down to a contest between an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, and a Tea Party candidate more appealing to the party's base. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time; after all, the Tea Party had energized the GOP and propelled it to the historic 2010 congressional election victory. With its anti-Obama fervor, the Tea Party was the focus of all the GOP's grassroots energy, to such a degree that nearly every Republican felt compelled to proclaim him or herself a Tea Partier. Once the Tea Party's champion was selected, we would discover just how much strength the party establishment still held in our decentralized political age. Yet with the Iowa caucus just six weeks away, it appears that there will be no grand battle between the establishment and the insurgents, the old guard and the new. There...

Super-Duper Failure

As many of us have been hoping and praying, the Super Committee fell of its own weight, making room for a much better debate about where budget cutting fits into a recovery strategy (if at all), and how to raise taxes progressively in order to finance the investments and jobs that America needs. President Barack Obama was unwise to make this devil’s bargain in the first place; he has since moved on to emphasizing jobs and recovery. The Super Committee crack-up should be the last gasp of the “bipartisan” folly about deficit reduction as key to recovery—which the president himself gave a big boost with his appointment of the late Bowles-Simpson Commission. Now, mercifully, the Republicans stand exposed as the party that would ravage Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other valued social outlays in order to spare the richest 1 percent any tax increases. Republicans have been in their own echo chamber for so long that they don’t quite grasp that most of the voters oppose this idea...

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