Jamelle Bouie

Obama's Total Knockout

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. S o far, the conventional wisdom for the presidential debates has been on target. Pundits correctly saw the first debate as an outstanding victory for Mitt Romney, and the second as basically a draw, with Barack Obama winning a small victory and stopping the bleeding of the previous engagement. For the final presidential debate—a bout over foreign policy, held in Boca Raton, Florida—the conventional wisdom is that Obama won, handily, but that Romney proved himself capable of taking over as commander-in-chief. I’m not so sure. It’s not that Romney performed poorly—he was mediocre from beginning to end—as much as it is that he already passed that plausibility test. It seems that in the excitement of the debate, pundits have forgotten that Romney’s image as a...

Will 2000 Happen Again?

In the last week or so, conventional wisdom has begun to settle on the possibility of an Electoral College/popular vote split. The situation is straightforward: Thanks to a persistent lead in Ohio, Obama ekes out a victory in the Electoral College, but Romney wins a bare majority of the popular vote. Setting aside the question of politics— i.e. , how the parties and public would react to the second such split in just over a decade—just how likely is this scenario? If you go by current polling, it looks like a solid possibility; just this morning , the pollsters at Quinnipiac University found Obama with a five-point lead in Ohio. If you take an average of the three major polling averages—Talking Points Memo, Real Clear Politics, and Pollster—Obama has a 2.4-percent lead over Mitt Romney in Ohio. By contrast, that same average of averages shows a slight 0.2 percent lead for Romney nationally. If this holds, we could have the split. Of course, in addition to accepting this is as a...

Romney Still Hearts Clinton

I’ve written before about the Romney campaign’s odd insistence on using Bill Clinton as a de facto spokesperson. Every so often, Team Romney highlights a comment by Clinton as a critique of President Obama, as if Clinton wasn’t an avowed and enthusiastic supporter of the president. The rationale, I suppose, is to be able to claim bipartisan discontent with Obama. The problem is that this does nothing more but boost Clinton’s credibility by turning him into a nonpartisan figure of repute. And as we saw during the Democratic National Convention, he can use this “referee” status to effectively hammer Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. Indeed, it was after Clinton’s devastating speech that I expected Republicans to leave the former president out of the election. Turns out, they couldn’t resist: Today, Team Romney is distributing a clip of Clinton in Ohio, where he said that the economy has not been “fixed” under President Obama. In their eagerness to use Clinton against Obama, it’s...

"Don't Worry, He's Lying!"

Yesterday, I did an online debate with Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights , for New York magazine. We went through a wide range of topics, but one thing we stuck on—for a while—was the issue of Mitt Romney’s political commitments. Bissinger refused to believe that Romney is the conservative he’s campaigned as for the last 18 months, and he insisted Romney would be more moderate than he’s appeared if elected president. Here’s the nut of his argument: [T]ake a look at Romney’s record as Mass governor. He was not some crazoid conservative. He crossed party lines. He provided the template for Obamacare, for God’s sake. Romney has at least shown some ability to cross lines, however weak. Obama has not. He is not politically adept. He is not good at crossing the aisle. I can only go on what I have read, but he does not like politics and all the gab and bullshit. Politics is gab and bullshit. So I think Romney has a much better chance of appealing to Dems than Obama will ever have...

12 Million Jobs and a Unicorn!

(Bluegal)
Mitt Romney’s entire presidential campaign is premised on the idea that—as a former businessman—he is best qualified to fix the economy. It went unnoticed, but while talking tax reform, President Obama pushed against that with an effective attack on the shaky numbers behind Romney’s tax plan: Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t take such a sketchy deal and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up. Since then, “sketchy deal” has become something of a catchphrase for the president; to wit, in an Iowa speech yesterday, he used it to contrast Romney’s plan with “deals” of the past: Romney still benefits from a presumption of competence, and Obama would be well-served by hammering on the essential vapidness of Romney’s...

Romney Decides to Make Stuff Up on Abortion

Mitt Romney is no stranger to shifting positions on reproductive rights, but even for him, his latest move is audacious. In an ad released today, he simply denies that he’s ever held conservative positions on contraception and abortion: If you can’t watch videos, here’s what the narrator says: “You know, those ads saying Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraceptions seemed a bit extreme, so I looked into it. Turns out, Romney doesn’t oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, and to save a mother’s life.” It’s hard to definitively say that this isn’t true, because Romney has been intentionally vague about where he stands on these issues. His website says that he is “pro-life,” “believes the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade ,” and supports the “Hyde Amendment,” which bars the use of federal funds for abortion. There’s no mention of exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother...

Obama Said Knock You Out

(Sipa via AP Images)
What made the first presidential debate so shocking—and what sent liberals into complete panic—was the fact that, for the first time in four years, President Obama had to face an equal—and he didn’t seem to know how to respond. He looked less like the president, and more like another politician, who might not be ready for another four years on the job. Last night’s town hall-style debate gave Obama a chance to sound presidential again—and he took it. On every subject—and especially foreign policy—Obama sounded like someone who was proud of his record, ready to defend it, and eager to continue the fight for another term. For the first time in a long time, Obama defended the core policies of his administration, while offering a portrait for the next four years, if he’s re-elected. As he said to one audience member, “The commitments I’ve made, I’ve kept. And those that I haven’t been able to keep, it’s not for lack of trying and we’re going to get it done in a second term.” Before the...

What Does Obama Need to Do Tonight? Defend His Record.

(Jamelle Bouie)
Ahead of tonight’s town hall debate, the Obama campaign has released a direct-to-camera video featuring Bill Clinton, who—as president—thrived in town hall-style environments. The video, which is meant to clarify the issues around Mitt Romney’s tax plan, is a partial restatement of Clinton’s acclaimed speech at the Democratic National Convention. Take a look: I get the reasoning behind this video: to remind voters of Mitt Romney’s absolute commitment to the interests of the wealthy, and to call to mind the last round of upper-income tax cuts, which did little to boost economic growth but insured a decade of gains for the richest Americans. Still, I think it’s a mistake. The genius of Mitt Romney’s vague tax plan is that it allows him to mount any defense that sounds plausible. Indeed, if there is anything Romney is ready for, it’s attacks on his tax proposals. And as we saw in the last presidential debate, he’s adept at twisting any criticism into an opportunity to extol the claimed...

Mitt Romney's Debt Explosion Plan

Writing for CNN, Peter Hamby reports that Team Romney will move to deficit and debt as its theme for this week. Part of that includes a set of talking points on how President Obama has added trillions to the debt, and will add trillions more if he isn’t removed from office. To wit: President Obama has racked up more than $5.5 trillion in debt over the past four years, putting our national debt above $16 trillion—and in a second term he’ll let it climb to $20 trillion. He also broke his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, instead presiding over four straight trillion-dollar deficits. Middle-class families are facing a $4,000-a-year tax increase just to service the debt President Obama has already racked up and the new spending he has proposed. Missing from this, of course, is the fact that Romney has no interest in deficit reduction; if he did, he wouldn’t have a tax plan that cuts rates across the board, lowers taxes on investment, and doesn’t specify new...

Medicaid Is the Real Target

Since August, when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, the two campaigns have fought a fierce battle over who is the most stalwart protector of Medicare. In the first presidential debate, Romney assailed President Obama for his $716 billion in Medicare cuts, and Ryan did the same in last week’s vice presidential face-off. Likewise, the Obama campaign has hit Team Romney for the Ryan plan and its Medicare “premium support”—which, if implemented, would gradually replace traditional Medicare with subsidized, regulated private insurance. The irony is that—in the short term, at least—Medicare will stay unchanged, regardless of who wins the election. Seniors are among the most mobilized voters in the electorate, and there’s too much political risk involved in making big, immediate changes to Medicare. For that reason, Medicare reform plans on both sides are backloaded and will take time to unfold. The same isn’t true of Medicaid, the other major federal health-care program. The...

Revenge of the Biden

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay) Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, representative of Wisconsin, listens to Vice President Joe Biden during the vice-presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. “This is like the Avengers, when the Hulk grabbed Loki and smashed him on the floor.” I watched this debate in Chesapeake, Virginia, with a group of local Democrats, and it’s fair to say that they were excited by Vice President Biden’s performance in tonight’s debate. They cheered his jabs—“This is malarkey”—and cheered when he directly attacked Paul Ryan for his rhetoric. In other words, if Biden’s job was to cover for President Obama and rebuild Democratic enthusiasm, then he accomplished it with flying colors. From foreign policy to Medicare to taxes and national security, Biden defended the administration’s policies and offered a strong retort to claims from Paul Ryan and the Romney campaign. Biden was dominant throughout the debate, but there were particular areas where he...

Romney Lunges to the Center on Abortion

If there’s any one issue that is emblematic of Mitt Romney’s core malleability, it’s abortion. Over the last 16 years , Romney has called himself “unequivocablly pro-choice,” pro-life (but unwilling to change the status quo), “delighted” to sign a national abortion ban, eager to extend the 14th Amendment to unborn children, and willing to turn abortion over to the states. Yesterday, Romney made another transformation: In an interview , he told the Des Moines Register, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Anyone familiar with the Romney of eight months ago knows that this runs counter to his stated positions. In a February interview, he said that he would cut Planned Parenthood, block foreign aid from going to abortion services, and appoint Supreme Court judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade . The problem here, of course, is the same problem he’s had with all of his positions; they’re popular with Republican...

Some Bounces Just Fade Away

The least interesting part of the latest Gallup poll is the fact that it shows Mitt Romney with a 2-point lead over President Obama among likely voters, 49 percent to 47 percent. Given the extent to which Gallup has shown a close race through most of the year, this was expected. What’s more interesting is the evidence, buried in the article, that Romney’s post-debate bounce was short-lived and is subsiding. Here’s the full range of post-debate polls among registered voters: This is in line with my earlier analysis: Romney received a sizable post-debate bounce, which leveled off on Saturday and declined on Sunday. Together with polls from Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen, there’s a chunk of evidence to suggest that this race will stabilize by the end of the week, and Obama will regain his slight advantage over the Republican nominee. Indeed, the fact that Obama’s approval rating went up —to 53 percent—is a sign he is still well-positioned to win reelection, even as the race tightens...

Romney's Tax Plan Still Makes No Sense

For my part, the most incredible exchange of the first presidential debate came in the first 20 minutes, when President Obama hit Mitt Romney on his tax plan—which would implement across-the-board cuts to marginal rates—and the Republican nominee responded by denying its existence . Romney insisted that his plan would not cut upper-income taxes ( it calls for a 20 percent reduction ) and, in fact, would end breaks for upper-income taxpayers (he has yet to give any detail on this score). The Tax Policy Center, on the other hand, found that there was no way for Romney to accomplish his goals—tax cuts, fewer loopholes, revenue neutrality—without significant tax increases on some group of taxpayers. The Romney campaign has repeatedly dismissed the study. Today, the co-director of the Tax Policy Center, William Gale, offers a response : Suppose Governor Romney said that he wants to drive a car from Boston to Los Angeles in 15 hours. And suppose some analysts employed tools of arithmetic to...

The Great Reset Has Arrived

The Pew Research Center has near-impeccable credentials with its polls, which is why yesterday’s—which showed Mitt Romney ahead by four points among likely voters—inspired mass panic among supporters of President Obama. Andrew Sullivan was at the forefront of the freakout. In a post titled “ Did Obama just throw the election away ?”, he excoriated Obama’s lackluster debate performance: “I’ve never seen a candidate self-destruct for no external reason this late in a campaign before. … I’m trying to see a silver lining. But when a president self-immolates on live TV, and his opponent shines with lies and smiles, and a record number of people watch, it’s hard to see how a president and his party recover.” Sullivan will have more grist for the mill if he wants to continue to voice his disappointment with Obama. This morning, the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling released a national poll that shows Romney with a two-point lead over Obama among likely voters, 49 percent to 47 percent...

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