Jamelle Bouie

What's the Matter in Colorado?

This morning, The New York Times and CBS News, with Quinnipiac University, released their latest set of swing state polls, for Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado. In the Old Dominion, Obama leads Romney by four points—49 to 45—and in the Badger State, he leads the Republican nominee by six, 51 to 45. These numbers are in line with previous surveys; in both states, Obama has led in ten of the last 11 polls, with an average lead of 2.8 points for Virginia, and 5.8 points for Wisconsin. Colorado is a little different. According to the NYT , CBS News and Quinnipiac University, Romney leads there by 5 points, 50 to 45. This is out of line with previous surveys; for most of the summer, Obama has maintained a narrow but persistent lead in the state. Today marks the first time Romney has ever been ahead in Colorado: This should make us suspicious. If the race in Colorado were truly a toss-up, then Romney should be ahead as much as he is behind. Moreover, it’s unusual for a candidate to gain...

The Impolite Truth about Romney and Health Care

The latest ad from Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA Action features a former worker at GST Steel—one of the companies acquired by Bain Capital—who was then laid off in the Bain-led “restructuring.” As a result, he and his family lost their health care, and soon after, his wife developed cancer. Put another way, this ad all but accuses Mitt Romney of giving someone cancer: It’s a harsh message, but it does illustrate an important fact about this election. If Mitt Romney is elected, he will attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and if he succeeds, millions of people will lose health insurance. Indeed, if the Affordable Care Act were around when GST Steel was in business, it would have kept the narrator from losing his health insurance, and his wife could have had check-ups that caught her cancer before it spread. As a result of Romney’s promised return to the pre-ACA status quo, some people—who would have otherwise had access to health care—will develop ailments that could have...

Mitt Romney Doesn't Believe His Own Campaign

Yesterday, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait called attention to this clip from 2004, in which Mitt Romney defends George W. Bush’s economic record by saying—in no uncertain terms—that the president isn’t responsible for job losses that occurred at the beginning of his administration: In the video, Romney derides Kerry for blaming the recession of 2001 on President Bush, despite the fact that he just entered office and his policies hadn’t taken effect. Romney's defense sounds a lot like the rhetoric offered by Obama and his backers. Chait sees this as evidence of deep dishonesty: Romney’s whole campaign is based on an idea he doesn’t believe. If you held his current campaign to some standard of intellectual consistency and forced him to make arguments about the president’s economic responsibility without shaping those arguments to partisan self-interest, his entire rationale would collapse. It's true: Romney doesn’t actually believe the central claim of his campaign—that President...

The Voting Rights Act: A 20th Century American Revolution

(Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum/Wikipedia)
Today is the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 by a bipartisan (if sectional) majority of Congress, and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. With the fight over who deserves to vote having been reignited by the partisan push for voter identification, and with conservatives mounting legal attacks on key provisions of the Act, it’s worth noting the degree to which the VRA was a milestone for democracy in this country. Prior to the VRA, African American voting in the South was close to nonexistent. A minority of blacks were registered to vote, and small percentages made it to the polls, but the overwhelming majority were kept disenfranchised through taxes, tests, onerous registration requirements, and outright violence—in 1873, to name one especially bloody example, a group of whites murdered over 100 blacks who'd assembled to defend Republican lawmakers from attack in Colfax, Louisiana. It was during this time that the Democratic Party emerged as the chief...

Romney: Still Caught in the Tea Party Vise

Every presidential candidate has to oscillate between courting moderates and energizing his core supporters, but the arc is unusually wide for Mitt Romney. On most issues, there’s a huge gap between his conservative base and the median voter. Most voters want a short-term plan to fix the economy, lower health care costs, higher taxes on the wealthy to lower the defict, lower spending on the military, and higher spending on education and other investments. The conservative base wants none of those things. Its priorities, as articulated in Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” and Romney’s own economic plan, are large upper-income tax cuts, significant increases to military spending, massive cuts to non-defense government services, and a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They also want a better economy, but these policies are more likely to cause a recession than improve the recovery. Even for a gifted politician, squaring this circle would be difficult—imagine a world where Bill Clinton had to...

Should Mitt Romney Be Winning?

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
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 this election, despite the close polls, it’s clear that the fundamentals are on the side of President Obama. Yes, the economy is bad, but it’s better than it was when he took office, and it’s moving in the right direction. Obama is an incumbent, and so public attitudes about him and his administration are just about set in stone; a majority of Americans like Obama, and his approval rating is just below 50 percent. This is the...

Romney's Cruel Joke on the Middle Class

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: Increase domestic drilling, reduce regulations on the coal industry, and complete the Keystone XL pipeline. Sign new trade agreements and “curtail the unfair trade pracices of countries like China.” Devolve federal programs, like Medicaid, to the states, cut spending on an existing agencies and social programs, and institute a larger, long-term cut by capping federal spending at below 20 percent. Cut taxes, repeal the Affordable Care Act, reduce regulations, and make it more difficult for unions to organize. Romney’s cuts to Medicaid, Pell Grants and other social services—the inevitable outcome of capping federal spending while drastically reducing revenue—would shred the social safety net and make financial...

Rick Perry Preemptively Outsmarts Most Pundits

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. “I think it was ‘Cactus Jack’ Garner, who was VP under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said that being vice president is not worth a bucket of warm spit,” he said. Because of its obsession with the horse race, the media will flip out when Romney announces his vice presidential choice, even if it’s someone as bland as former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty or Ohio Senator Rob Portman. But while it’s true that presidential...

Four Things to Know About the July Jobs Report

(Wools/Flickr/Creative Commons)
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 isn’t a good number—a more rapid recovery would require up to 300,000 jobs a month—but it is a sign that the United States is not about to fall into another recession. Beyond the topline number, here are a few key things to take away from this month’s report. The revisions were … meh : The BLS revises its job statistics as it gets more accurate information. Today, job growth for May was revised from 77,000 to 87,000, but job growth for June—the most abysmal month of the...

The Question Rove Should Be Asking

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 Spectator a 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. These ads have not moved him up in the polls. The race is tied in the July 30 Gallup poll at 46%. Neither have the ads strengthened public approval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, which is stuck at 44% in the July 22 NBC/WSJ poll, nor have they erased Mr. Romney’s seven-point lead in that poll regarding who has “good ideas for how to improve the economy.” Rove’s problem is that this goes both ways. When you tally the spending from all groups, Team...

Team Obama Flanks Romney on Taxes

This morning, the Obama campaign came out swinging against Mitt Romney’s tax plan, which will raise taxes on 95 percent of households, according to the Tax Policy Center . Here’s the ad: The Romney campaign has pushed back, accusing the Center of bias—one of its analysts has ties to the Obama White House—but that ignores the extent to which the Center was quite generous in its evaluation of Romney’s plan. They assume a world where Romney cuts tax incentives for the rich—including the charitable giving deduction—and ends all deductions for any income over $200,000. They also assume that the plan will generate economic growth, providing funds to offset the cost of the tax cuts that form the centerpiece of the plan. But these implausibly optimistic assumptions aren’t enough to square the circle of Romney’s tax plan. The only way Romney can keep the Bush tax cuts, cut taxes by 20 percent on top of that, and keep revenue at its current level is to borrow huge sums of money or raise taxes...

Ted Cruz Is Not a Ticket to Latinos

(Wikipedia)
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.” The usual, in other words. But there was something ironic in Cruz’s performance. For as much as he denounced Barack Obama, he shared the president’s flair for public speaking. His speech was slow-building, but by the time he made his pitch—“We need to take back the Senate!”—the crowd was with him 100 percent, chanting back his lines and even adopting the “yes we can” call-and-response of Obama’s...

Obama's Advantage in the States

In presidential polling, the whole must eventually equal the sum of its parts. If a candidate has a consistent lead on the state level, then it will eventually show up in national polls. The opposite is also true; if a candidate takes a sharp decline in national polls, then that will also be reflected on the state level. Last week, Nate Silver noted the extent to which that hasn’t been true of this election. Nationally, the race is a near-tie between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. But in state polls, Obama maintains a clear lead over the Republican nominee. By calculating a value called the “implied national vote”—the difference between the current polling average and the 2008 results—Silver finds that based on state polling, you should expect a 3- to 4-point lead for Obama in national surveys. This isn’t to say that the race is actually less close than it looks—the state polls might end up overstating Obama’s strength—but to offer some context for the continued discrepancy between...

A Tight Race in Florida

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. At the beginning of this year, Florida looked like a sure thing for the Republican side. Demographically, the Sunshine State favors GOP candidates. In 2008, an excellent year for Democrats, 49 percent of Florida voters were above the age of 50, and 71 percent were white. Among whites, Obama lost every single age group by double digits; his best performance was among whites ages 18 to 29, whom he lost by 10 points. He lost by 12.5 among whites over the age of 45, and 22 points for whites 30 to 44. In a close election, it seemed clear that Republicans would win Florida, and early polls bore that out. Over the last two months, however, the outlook for...

Has Romney Learned Anything from the Bush Years?

The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein asks an important question about Mitt Romney's policy platform: Has he actually learned anything from the failures of the Bush administration? The answer, so far, is no: These last few years have been extraordinary — and not in a good way. We have been through, and in some ways are still in, a once-in-a-many-generation economic storm. And nothing in Romney’s agenda is responsive to that fact. There’s no new thinking here. Nothing that is clearly about the unusual problems we face in this moment. Nothing that a Republican in 2007, or 2005, or 1999, or 1991, couldn’t have proposed. Romney is like a doctor looking at a patient with acute pneumonia and prescribing, as he does during routine physicals, diet and exercise. This can’t be emphasized enough; far from offering a plan to deal with the short-term problems in the economy—namely, the lack of adequate demand—Romney is proposing a set of policies that are identical to those offered by George W. Bush...

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