Yesterday afternoon at the National Press Club (the standard Washington venue for events that need a little class), the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget—a bipartisan debt-reduction group—rolled out its “Fix the Debt” campaign, an attempt to push deficit reduction to the top of the congressional priority list. It's hard to overstate the extent to which this was an almost stereotypical gathering of Beltway deficit scolds.
The latest Pew survey shows something of a breakthrough for the Obama campaign. Since last fall's unveiling of the American Jobs Act, Obama has hammered home the “fairness” of raising taxes on high income earners. This rhetoric has made its way into almost every speech from the president, and is a key part of his second term agenda. According to Pew, it seems that Obama’s persistence has had an effect—by two to one, 44 percent to 22 percent, Americans say that raising taxes on the rich would help rather than hurt the economy:
Nate Silver has an excellent post this morning on the Romney campaign’s reaction to the attacks on Bain Capital. The short story is that Romney might be overreacting to the controversy; he continues to equivocate and go on the defensive, despite the thin evidence that these attacks are having an effect on the race. Both Obama and Romney are roughly where they were three months ago, when the general election began in earnest, and polls taken since the attacks began have been inconclusive on the effect of anti-Bain ads.
Is Bain a problem for Mitt Romney’s narrative? Andrew Sullivan says yes:
Romney, in other words, doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He has been running a campaign against the “Obama economy” insisting that the president own every single month he has been in office in order to condemn his economic management all the more - despite at least a first year in which Obama cannot really be held responsible for the fallout of an economic collapse he inherited. So Romney insists on maximal responsibility for Obama and the economy.
Former Bush official and conservative pundit David Frum has a harsh and critical take on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign:
The hope for many of us was that a Republican president could do a better job constraining them than Barack Obama has been able to do - especially if (as I personally also hoped) the very act of electing such a president would deflate the radicalism of the congressional GOP and revive a more constructive spirit.
Over the last week, Mitt Romney has struggled to deal with revelations over his tenure at Bain Capital and the extent of his involvement from 1999 to 2002. He insists he retired in 1999—and thus is not responsible for Bain’s conduct afterward—despite the fact that documents from a variety of sources show Romney as the owner, CEO, and sole shareholder, who continued to sign documents, sit on board members, and may have had a small role in managing the firm.
One ongoing theme in this election is the extent to which political observers are simply bored with it. Last month, Politico’s Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns expressed frustration with the “small scale” of the election, and today, TheNew York Times’ Peter Baker echoes the concern, with a piece on how the campaigns are relitigating the past rather than articulating a vision for the future:
The past 24 hours have been abysmal for the Romney campaign. Not only has it scrambled to deal with revelations regarding Mitt Romney’s “shadow years” at Bain Capital, but further digging has led to more serious questions—and accusations—about Romney’s conduct. Put another way, you know you’re in trouble when even a friendly piece—by Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler—has to tackle the question of whether Romney broke the law.
A few days ago, I noted that the fundamentals of this election are still on the president’s side. According to most models, Obama is projected to win a small majority of the vote on account of relative economic growth and a sufficiently high approval rating. On that note, political scientist Alan Abramowitz has released the first forecast from his “Time for Change” model, which uses June approval, second quarter GDP, and incumbency to project the president’s share of the two-party vote. Because of intense polarization in the electorate, Abramowitz added that as an additional variable.
Despite the fact that Barack Obama has an extensively documented past, and despite the fact that he revealed his birth certificate in a widely covered press conference, it seems that the birthers have turned Obama’s origins into an open question for a large chunk of the public. Here’s the latest survey from YouGov:
As an attempt to persuade, Mitt Romney’s speech to the NAACP this morning was an exercise in futility. African Americans are loyal Democratic voters and aren’t particularly interested in an agenda of tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for everyone else. But that wasn’t the point. Romney almost certainly knows that he’ll only win a tiny percentage of black voters in November—at best, he’ll match John McCain's performance in 2008. If current opinion surveys are any indication, it’s more likely that he’ll win fewer African American voters than any Republican in recent history.
So far this week, the big presidential campaign news is Mitt Romney’s massive fundraising haul for the month of June. The Romney team raised $106 million last month, out-raising President Obama by $35 million and besting Democrats for the second month in a row. There are important asterisks to the GOP gains—in particular, a large portion of this money has been raised for the technically ongoing primary, and can't be spent until after the convention—but it’s still impressive. If the Romney team can sustain this pace—it’s possible they’re collecting low-hanging fruit, and the numbers will drop off later—then it will have a large financial advantage in the fall.
By way of this chart, Citizens for Tax Justice makes an important point about President Obama’s plan for extending the middle-income Bush tax cuts:
We talk about the Bush tax cuts as if there is one set that applies to people with income under $250,000 and another set that applies to people with income over $250,000. But that’s not quite the case. The “middle-class” Bush tax cuts apply to all taxable income under $250,000; if your taxable income is $1 million, then you’ll receive a tax cut on the first $250,000. Under the Obama plan, everyone receives a tax cut.