Jamelle Bouie

2004 All Over Again


Two historical analogues have been bounced around with regards to this election. Conservatives say we’re looking at another 1980, where a weak incumbent is felled by a resurgent Republican Party in a decisive victory. Liberals, with much less optimism, say that this is another 2004, where an embattled incumbent ekes out a small victory against a hapless and unpopular challenger. At the Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib presents the case for both, but chooses not to take a side; at most, he invites his readers to speculate:

Obama a Descendent of the First Slave

Is President Obama a descendent of the first American slave? According to a team of geneologists, working with Ancestory.com, Obama is an 11th generation descendent of John Punch, an African indentured servant sentenced to slavery. Moreover, these roots come by way of his mother, a white Kansan whose roots contain at least one African forebearer. The New York Times explains:

Is Obama Misreading the Public?

In a new poll, Gallup asks voters to rank their priorities for the next president. Unsurprisingly, the top answer is “jobs,” followed by “reducing corruption in the federal government,” and “reducing the federal budget deficit.” Here are the full results:

Writing at the Washington Examiner, Byron York cites this as evidence that the Obama campaign is out of step with the public:

Teflon Don?

Responding to arguments that Mitt Romney is stronger than he looks, The New Republic’s Nate Cohn notes the degree to which Romney’s resiliency—in the face of attacks and gaffes—is a natural consequence of polarization in the electorate. In other words, it doesn’t actually tell us anything about the direction of the election:

You Can't Beat Voter ID with Facts

(Ted Polumbaum Collection / Newseum)

The most recent episode of the Prospect podcast is a conversation with my colleague Abby Rapoport on voter identification laws.

One thing that we begin to talk about, but don’t spend enough time on, is the normative argument against voter identification. So far, liberals have devoted their time to showing the rarity of in-person voter fraud—the kind ostensibly prevented by voter-ID—and the low likelihood that it would affect the outcome of an election. Tactically, this makes a lot of sense. The push for voter ID usually comes with stories of massive voter fraud, that play on public distrust toward government. If you can counter those stories with facts, you can make voters think twice about implementing an additional burden for voting.

Romney's Disastrous Trip Abroad

At the beginning of this week, I argued that Mitt Romney had nothing to gain from going abroad. If voters put him into the Oval Office, it will be because of discontent with the country's economy. Few people, especially undecided voters, are interested in what Romney has to say about foreign policy. Insofar as they even have opinions on it, they are most likely to agree with President Obama’s approach. For Romney, I argued, a foreign trip was high risk, low reward.

Sluggish Growth Makes Obama a Slight Favorite

(Barack Obama/Flickr)

I mentioned in the previous post that GDP growth was anemic; the economy increased by 1.5 percent in the second quarter, down from 2 percent in the first. Altogether, the economy has grown by 1.75 percent this year, which is nowhere close to where we need to be if we want a serious recovery from the Great Recession.

The Enthusiasm Question

Yet another poll shows President Obama with a commanding lead among Latino voters. According to a survey commissioned by NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo, Obama leads Romney 67 percent to 23 percent among Latino registered voters. Romney’s favorability with Latinos is incredibly negative, with 22 percent saying they have a positive view of the former Massachusetts governor, and 44 percent saying they have a negative view. Moreover, Romney hasn’t convinced Latinos that he would be effective on the economy; 53 percent say that Obama has better ideas to improve the economy, compared to 22 percent for Romney.

How Do We Make Elections More Competitive?


This year’s presidential election is guaranteed to be exciting. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are incredibly close in the polls, and barring a major change in outside conditions—economic collapse or a foreign-policy crisis—that will likely carry over through the fall.

Romney Has Nothing to Win by Talking Foreign Policy

Besides pledging his unconditional support to the government of Israel and reiterating his willingness to use force against Iran, Mitt Romney didn’t actually offer foreign policy ideas in his speech this afternoon to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The Gary Johnson Effect

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Joe Trippi, a long-time Democratic campaign operative, argues that Gary Johnson—former Republican governor of New Mexico and current Libertarian Party nominee—could have an outsized influence on the presidential election:

[R]emember that Ralph Nader didn’t crack 3% of the popular vote in 2000 – yet he completely changed the outcome of that race.

Gary Johnson, meanwhile, is currently polling at 5.3% in the latest Zogby national poll. […]

Johnson could make a major dent in the general election – because he is currently doing better than most people realize in several key swing states.

No One Actually Knows if the Bain Attacks Are Working

If the latest poll from Gallup and USA Today tells us anything, it’s that for many Americans, Mitt Romney is—on the face of things—a plausible alternative to President Obama. 63 percent of respondents said that Romney’s business background, including his tenure at Bain Capital, would lead him to make good decisions in dealing with the nation’s economic problems—only 29 percent disagreed. As for an overall assessment of the Republican nominee, 54 percent say that he has the personality and leadership qualities a person needs to be president, compared to 57 percent for Obama.

Batman: Gotham's Reformer

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)

My colleague Tom Carson makes an excellent point about The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy:

The real joke, as Rush [Limbaugh] might have learned if he’d crammed his posterior into a theater seat before venting, is that The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most deeply conservative movies to come out of Hollywood in years.

How Should We Approach Gun Control?

As many pointed out last Friday, after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, politics is one of the most important ways in which a democratic society deals with thorny issues—and the regularity of mass killings in the United States is a complicated issue that deserves a political lens. As David Waldman put it, “If you live under a regime of self-government, everything is political. Even the decision to decline to address things politically.”

Romney's Counterproductive European Tour

Next week, the Washington Post reports, Mitt Romney is taking a break from the campaign at home to meet with leaders abroad:

Mitt Romney plans to depart next week for a visit to Britain, Israel and Poland, and the Republican presidential candidate hopes the trip will help him project the aura of a statesman and signal to voters back home that he would make a plausible commander in chief.