Election 2012

The Case for a Clinton-Biden Switch

Putting the current secretary of state on the presidential ticket could be Obama's best shot at re-election.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves at the crowd at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) Current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves at the crowd at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. S hortly before the Democratic National Convention opens in Charlotte, North Carolina, next September 3, Barack Obama should announce that he has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to join him on the ticket as the vice-presidential candidate, and Vice President Joe Biden to become secretary of state in his second term—and that both of them have agreed. A Clinton-Biden switch can improve the odds of a Democratic victory at a time when economic conditions would make re-election difficult for any president. As secretary of state, Clinton has been associated with the part of the Obama administration that enjoys the highest approval. Just as important, she has not been associated with economic policy and could now provide the ticket with a fresh voice and sense of renewal on economic issues. According to polls, Clinton has been the most...

Obama Tied with Romney in the Swing States

Consider this an addendum to yesterday’s post on Nate Silver’s forecast of the 2012 election. According to a recent poll from USA Today and Gallup, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are tied in 12 swing states: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Of the GOP candidates, Obama fares best against Texas Governor Rick Perry in these swing states, winning 49 percent of the vote to Perry’s 44 percent. Despite the coverage around it, this poll doesn’t actually tell us much new about the landscape for next year’s election. Given the current economy and his approval ratings, Obama has long stood an even chance of losing re-election. If it does anything, this poll just underscores the extent to which he is in a precarious position. One additional thing: I’m not sure that it makes sense to call Pennsylvania a swing state, given its track record in presidential elections. It has voted Democratic in every...

Why Rick Santorum Should Be Ignored

With controversy circling Herman Cain all week, pundits have begun searching for the next conservative bubble. With Mitt Romney unable to top 25 percent in the polls, some candidate must step in to fill the conservative void, or so the thinking goes. Perhaps Newt Gingrich will get his moment in the sun. Or maybe Rick Santorum will steal away Cain's supporters in Iowa polls. At first glance, the latter wouldn't seem too surprising. A former senator from a swing state, Santorum has never strayed far from conservative doctrine and wouldn’t face the problems that might sink Rick Perry's candidacy. While other presidential candidates have been slow to invest in the early states, Santorum has been a constant presence in Iowa, earlier this week becoming the first candidate of the cycle to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties. But there will likely be no Rick Santorum boom. Even as the Republican Party drifts further and further right with each passing month, that shift is largely contained to...

Does Money Affect Election Outcomes in US Politics? A Quick Review of the Literature

Yesterday I addressed the question of whether Obama was actually having trouble raising money for his 2012 re-election campaign. This of course begs a larger question: how much does campaign spending actually affect election outcomes in US politics? I put this question to Andrew Therriault , a post-doctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University and an expert on campaign effects. Q: (me) What are the basic conclusions of the literature regarding overall spending in US elections? A: (Therriault): With regard to overall spending, Jacobson (1978) was the first to show an effect on vote outcomes, but this effect was mainly present for challengers [in Congressional elections]. In subsequent years, the effect of challenger spending was confirmed, but others also found effects for incumbent spending as well (e.g. Green & Krasno 1988, Erikson & Palfrey 1995, Gerber 1998). The basic takeaway is that spending more is clearly effective for challengers, and probably also matters for incumbents...

Cain Lurves the Race Card

You want some race card? Well here is some race card: That's not messing around. Note that this is not from the Cain campaign but from "Americans for Herman Cain," a group created to support his candidacy. You've got the testimony from Rush Limbaugh, who knows a thing or two about propagating racial stereotypes, and rather than just invoking Clarence Thomas, they actually show the clip of him talking about his "high-tech lynching." You'll recall that the "lynching" Thomas suffered through was one in which his sexual harassment of Anita Hill was revealed to the world and he was criticized for it, before ascending to his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, not one in which he was beaten, burned, and hanged from a tree until he died, but they're pretty much the same thing, right? Anyhow, Cain's supporters will now be portraying him as a similar martyr to venomous racism. But in case you're confused, here's a review of the right's current stance on that topic: 1. The primary...

Fear Not the Negative Campaign

One thing we can reliably expect in any presidential campaign is that each side will complain that the other side's attacks are beyond the pale of civilized politics. Back in August, New York magazine writer John Heilmann tweeted "Truth: 2012 will be most negative pres campaign of our lifetimes" (I ridiculed the notion here ). News flash: Campaigns often involve candidates criticizing each other, and this one will be no different. So Ben Smith explains that once again, Barack Obama is preparing a relentlessly negative campaign that will nonetheless not leave him tarred as a meanie. This will be accomplished through some combination of grand master-level jiu-jitsu and hypnotism: Attack politics, of course, are more the norm than the outlier in American politics. But while slash-and-burn attacks typically damage both candidates—see, for instance, George Bush's low approval numbers when he was re-elected—Obama has so far pulled off the difficult trick of remaining broadly personally...

More Allegations Raised Against Cain

When Politico revealed the sexual-harassment charges against Herman Cain over the weekend, it would have been fairly easy for the Republican candidate to dismiss their relevance. They were the musings of the liberal media! Or a targeted hit from an opposing campaign! As Jamelle noticed Monday, conservative luminaries like Rush Limbaugh jumped to defend Cain. Politico followed up yesterday morning with a story about how unconcerned Iowa Republicans were with the scandal. That should change today. Further allegations have been leveled against Cain, this time by a prominent Iowa conservative. Radio host Steve Deace suggested to Politico that Cain made inappropriate remarks or advances to his show's staff members: Deace, who penned an opinion piece critical of Cain earlier this month, told POLITICO in an email that Cain said "awkward" and "inappropriate" things to the staff at his station. "Like awkward/inappropriate things he's said to two females on my staff, that the fact the guy's...

Does David Brooks Understand Market Economics?

In his weekly back-and-forth with Gail Collins at The New York Times " Opinionator" blog this week, David Brooks finds a backhanded way to blame a woman for being forced out of a job by her supervisor's sexual advances. He doesn't seem to realize that his comment blames anyone who asks for compensation for an employer's negligence or harm: David Brooks: Now we turn to ethical issues. My first question, and this is a genuine question, concerns the victims. Let’s detach ourselves from the specifics of the Cain case and consider a general question: If you are the victim of sexual harassment, and you agree to remain silent in exchange for a five-figure payoff, should any moral taint attach to you? In the old days, somebody who allowed a predator to continue his hunting in exchange for money would certainly be considered a sinner. I’m reluctant to judge people in these circumstances, but I’m inclined to agree. Am I missing something? Well, yes, he is...

Why Try to Win When You Can Just Change the Rules?

Earlier last month, Pennsylvania Republicans floated a proposal to allocate the state’s 22 electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-take-all. The change would have rigged the game in favor of the Republican presidential candidate, given the partisan composition of the state’s congressional districts. Democrats cried out against the proposal, and voters voiced their disapproval as well. Human Events reports that Pennsylvania House Republicans have backed away from the proposal, citing the potential for voter backlash: Although joint House-Senate legislative hearings on the electoral vote proposal were held in October, backers were lukewarm in voicing their support and signs are now strong the measure will not make it out of committee for a vote by Thanksgiving. Several sources told HUMAN EVENTS that the Keystone State’s 12 Republican U.S. representatives suddenly became nervous about any possible danger to their re-elections that the change in electoral vote...

The Game Belongs to Mitt

Last month, I argued that Mitt Romney was on his way to winning the Republican presidential nomination, despite the large anti-establishment faction within the GOP base. Herman Cain might be surging among Republican voters, but recent polls affirm that view. At the The Plum Line , Jonathan Bernstein examines a recent poll of GOP insiders and finds that Romney is well positioned to win wide support among Republican elites. Of the party actors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, 36 percent report a “good chance” of endorsing the former Massachusetts governor. “Of the entire group,” notes Bernstein, “while 23% have already endorsed another candidate, only another 10% say they have 'no chance' of supporting him for the nomination.” Or, put another way, two-thirds of Republican elites in those states are willing to endorse Romney for the nomination. And given the extent to which endorsements are a key part of winning the party’s support, this is an excellent sign for Romney. With...

Worst-Case Scenarios

In David Frum’s most recent op-ed , he describes the “menu of possibilities” for non-Tea Party Republicans in 2012. His second possibility –- in which Mitt Romney wins the nomination but loses the general election -– is one I’ve been thinking about for some time. Here is Frum’s assessment of what might happen as a result of that outcome: If candidate Romney loses, tea party Republicans will claim that the GOP lost because it failed to nominate a “true conservative.” That claim may fly in the face of political math (how would a more extreme candidate win more votes?), but it will pack a lot of emotional punch…Back-to-back losses under John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 will open the way to an ultra-conservative nominee in 2016 – and a true party debacle. If you take the view that today’s Republican Party is dangerously extreme in its rejection of institutional norms and raw pursuit of power –- and that this stands to do huge damage to America in the long-term –- then the best...

What Are Obama's Chances in 2012?

For this week’s New York Times Magazine , FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver offers a forecast of the 2012 election. He considers three election fundamentals—economic growth, incumbent popularity, and the ideology of the opposing nominee—and gives four scenarios based on varying configurations. For President Obama, the picture isn’t great. In the first scenario, Obama enters 2012 with an approval rating in the low 40s, the nominee is Mitt Romney, and the economy has stalled out at 0 percent GDP growth. Under those conditions, Silver predicts, Romney has an 83 percent chance of winning the popular vote, to Obama’s 17 percent chance. Absent a major event that turns the tide for Obama—Silver says that he "might ask whether there was some sort of October surprise: 'Mitt in Torrid Affair With Filipina Housekeeper'”—you would assume a Romney win under thse conditions. In the second, everything is the same, but GDP growth for 2012 averages out at 4 percent (Silver is using ±4 margin of error in...

Herman Cain's Accusations of Racism Make No Sense

Ta-Nehisi Coates flags this exchange between Georgia businessman Herman Cain and Charles Krauthammer: KRAUTHAMMER: Do you think that race, and being a strong black conservative, has anything to do with the fact that you’ve been so charged? And if so do you have any evidence to support that? CAIN: I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it. But because I am unconventional candidate running an unconventional campaign and achieving some unexpected unconventional results in terms of my, the poll, we believe that, yes, there are some people who are Democrats, liberals, who do not want to see me win the nomination. And there could be some people on the right who don’t want to see me because I’m not the, quote/unquote, “establishment candidate.” No evidence. KRAUTHAMMER: But does race have any part of that? Establishment, maverick, yes. What about race? CAIN: Relative to the left I believe race is a bigger driving factor. I don’t think it’s a driving factor on...

You Say Tomato, I Say Potato

Yesterday, The New Republic ’s Alec MacGillis arrived at the conclusion that Mitt Romney's famous flip-flopping and President Obama's pragmatism were one in the same: A politician who considers himself driven more by case-by-case pragmatism than any overarching philosophy, who likes to get all the smartest people in the room to hash out an issue, probing each side with questions and counters to arrive at some kind of workable middle ground. Does that sound familiar? I understand the temptation to make this argument, but it's off base. Obama’s pragmatism defines him. Every decision he’s made during his first term, from passing the stimulus to the intervention in Libya, evinces his belief that realism, data, and debate—not ideology—make for effective long-term policy. This pragmatism was present during the 2008 election, but Obama’s hopey-changey persona made his pragmatism easy to overlook and easier to decry later when he didn’t give his supporters all the legislative victories they...

Why Mitt Romney Should Want Better Competition

Michael Cohen calls this one of the “harshest things” he’s seen this campaign season. I’m inclined to agree: Here’s the thing about Mitt Romney: He’s a much weaker candidate than he looks. His reputation for competence notwithstanding, he has made his fair share of gaffes and mistakes in his quest for the presidency. That he has escaped (mostly) unblemished has less to do with his skill as a politician and more to do with the sorry state of his competition. Whether Romney realizes it or not, this puts him on shaky terrain. The downside of fierce competition in a presidential primary is that you might not get the nomination. The upside, however, is that you’ve learned to deal with mistakes and emergencies and are better prepared for the rigors and contigencies of a general election. Put another way, not only did it pay to have Jeremiah Wright emerge in the middle of the primary than in the general election but surviving Wright made Barack Obama a better candidate than he otherwise...

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