Jamelle Bouie

Why Obama Won't Get Credit for State-Level Economic Growth

From an NPR story this morning on Mitt Romney’s attacks on President Barack Obama in Ohio: Across town at Shorty’s True American Roadhouse, Michelle Maziarz has seen that improvement. She and her husband are taking their two young kids out for barbecue. “Around here, a lot of people work at the auto plants. … Both my parents work for Jeep [a Chrysler product]. And I can tell you, like a year ago from today, no one was getting overtime or anything like that, and now you’re starting to see third shift come back.” Business is picking up at the mall where she works, but she doesn’t give this President credit. “I give that to our city, that credit goes to our city . … That’s our people, in our community.” She does not think that Barack Obama will get her vote again. [Emphasis added] The United States chooses a president through the Electoral College, but that doesn’t mean that we ought to pay the most attention to state polls; national polls are often reflective of what will happen on the...

What Romney Needs Is a Bad Economy

Given the numbers, Ross Douthat argues , Mitt Romney isn’t far away from where Ronald Reagan was in 1980, or Bill Clinton in 1992: The last two times an incumbent president was defeated by a challenger – Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George Bush in 1992 – the hinge moment arrived only in the last few months of the campaign. In 1980, it came after the lone debate, when Ronald Reagan’s smooth, reassuring performance turned a tight race into a walkover. In 1992, it arrived with the Democratic Convention, when the one-two punch of Ross Perot’s temporary exit and the Clinton campaign’s skillful “place called Hope” showmanship propelled Bill Clinton to a lead he never relinquished. In other words, if Romney can assuage voter concerns—and show that he is a competent alternative—then he can capture discontented voters and surge ahead. The problem, Douthat argues, is that Romney lacks a positive message, or anything that would show voters that he isn’t the heartless corporate raider described by...

Don't Like Blacks? You'll Love Voter ID

Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress
Despite the rhetoric of GOP officials, it’s more than clear that voter ID laws are designed to depress turnout among traditionally Democratic groups. Attorney General Eric Holder has even gone so far as to attack the laws as glorified “ poll taxes ”—one of the mechanisms used during Jim Crow to keep African Americans from voting. Regardless of where you fall politically, it seems like this should be objectionable to everyone. The United States had a long and hard path to universal suffrage, and voter suppression is a direct challenge to the idea that everyone counts and everyone should have a say. Unfortunately, there is a real divide on the desirability of voter ID laws; according to the latest survey from the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication, support for voter identification is strongest among those who harbor negative opinions toward African Americans: To assess attitudes toward African Americans, all non-African Americans respondents in the poll were...

What About the Vice Presidential Tax Returns?

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
At this point, I’m actually a little impressed that Mitt Romney has managed to resist the growing calls to release his tax returns. Romney is under a tremendous amount of pressure from conservatives—including prominent supporters—to reveal his finances, and his continued refusal is a sign of impressive, if short-sighted, discipline. Of course, the longer Romney goes without releasing his tax returns, the more opportunities there are for awkward questions. In particular, there’s the question of his vice presidential vetting process—did candidates submit returns, how many were there, and is there a double-standard? After all, if you deserve to know the most about your potential running mate, isn’t it also true that the public deserves to know the most about its potential president? As it stands, neither Rob Portman nor Tim Pawlenty—the two most likely choices for the vice presidential nominee—have revealed anything about their taxes. Both candidates have been asked by reporters, and...

Obama's Successful Play for Latino Votes

President Obama can’t win re-election without high support and turnout from Latino voters, and to that end he has aggressively targeted them with ads, speeches, and one bold attempt to unilaterally reform immigration policy as it applies to the children of undocumented immigrants. If the latest poll from Latino Decisions is any indication, this strategy is working. Since June, Obama’s Latino support has risen 4 points to 70 percent, while Mitt Romney’s support has declined to 22 percent of Latino voters: The poll, commissioned by the Center for American Progress and America’s Voice, which advocates for immigration reform, finds Obama with a substantial lead over Romney in all segments of the Latino electorate. He wins 60 percent of Latino independents, 72 percent of Latinos who voted in the 2008 election, and 71 percent of Latinos in battleground states. He even wins 13 percent of Latino Republicans, compared to only 9 percent of Republicans overall. Here’s a full chart of the results...

The Beltway's Destructive Obsession with the Deficit

(Flickr/ sunlightfoundation)
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 event featured Pete Peterson—businessman and former Commerce secretary in the Nixon administration—who funds the Committee, as well as members of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal committee—including the titular Erksine Bowles and Alan Simpson—along with former New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, and former OMB director Alice Rivlin. Despite the subject, policy recommendations were not the focus of this event; at most, the panelists praised Bowles-Simpson for its “boldness,” and repeatedly described it as a plan to put the...

The Romney Death Star Is Not Operational

It’s still too early to tell, but if the Washington Examiner ’s Byron York is right , the vaunted “Romney Death Star” has an unshielded thermal exhaust port at the center of its super-structure: So at least at the moment, the vaunted Romney death star, the machine that flattened his Republican opponents, just isn’t working. Romney is trying to get traction — this week, he’s focusing on Obama’s crony capitalism — but he is struggling. To fix things, he’ll have to put out more facts about his own record, plus capitalize on more bad economic news for Obama (that’s a sure bet at this point), plus gain access to the money he’s raised for the general election, plus find a way to sharpen the SuperPACs’ games. When the general election began, the assumption was that the Romney Death Star was fully operational; it had destroyed Newt Gingrich in a show of force, and overtook Rick Santorum in his underdog effort to win the nomination. But in the face of a fully-equipped opponent, it has faltered...

Voters Are Buying Obama's Argument on Taxes

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: There’s been some question of timing with regard to the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital. “If these are so effective,” goes the argument, “then why has Obama deployed them this early in the cycle?” The answer is fairly straightforward—they are the prelude to a broader attack on Mitt Romney’s policies. The Obama campaign almost certainly plans to tie Romney’s taxes, finances, and business practices to his support for upper-income tax cuts, corporate tax...

With High Unemployment, Why Is Obama Ahead?

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. To show that Romney isn’t underperforming (because of Bain or anything else), Silver looks to his economic model for the election, which predicts a small but solid lead for the incumbent. Moreover, he makes an important point about the economic indicators that matter in the election year: Pace almost all election coverage, unemployment doesn’t actually tell you much about the final outcome of an election: In plain English, what this chart says is that there’s almost no...

How Bain Undercuts Romney's Narrative

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. Romney’s attempt to evade responsibility undermines his core argument against Barack Obama. How can you say, on one hand, that Obama is responsible for every job loss that has happened under his tenure—even if his policies haven’t taken effect—and then on the other, deny responsibility for actions your company took when it was still under your ownership? This, it seems, is the problem with flagrant dishonesty in a presidential campaign—it doesn’t leave room to maneuver...

Mitt Romney Is Not a Weak Candidate

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. But at every point, Romney has surrendered to the fringe of his party. Weak. And now in his first tough encounter with Barack Obama, Romney is being shoved around again. This is not what a president looks like - anyway, not a successful president. With the revelations over Bain Capital, this is an increasingly popular position—especially if my Twitter feed is any indication—but I think it’s an over-reaction. As far as candidate quality is concerned, Romney is a generic Republican, and little more than an avatar for discontent with President Obama...

Will Bain Actually Matter for November?

(NewsHour/Flickr)
Over the last week, Mitt Romney has struggled to deal with revelations over his tenure at Bain Capital and the extent of his involvement in the company 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; he continued to sign documents, and may have had a small role in managing the firm. The Obama campaign has had a field day, hitting Romney for his evasiveness and even going as far as to suggest the Republican nominee broke the law. This provoked angry demands for an apology from the Romney team, which in turn, prompted this response from Obama for America. This easily ranks as the most brutal ad to appear in the 2012 election campaign—it’s likely the closest Barack Obama will get to simply slapping Mitt Romney in the face . But for as much as Romney is flailing to explain his contradictory statements, and for as much as...

2012 Is about the Past and the Future

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, The New 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: Mr. Obama’s campaign on Thursday hammered Mr. Romney over business deals from the turn of the century, just days after the president summoned supporters to the East Room for the latest salvo over tax cuts enacted by his predecessor a decade ago. Mr. Romney’s Republican supporters in Congress countered by voting in the House to repeal Mr. Obama’s two-year-old health care program and by trying to force a Senate vote on President George W. Bush’s tax cuts. “It’s just rearguing and rearguing and rearguing,” said Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma and author of a book...

Why Is Everyone Focused on Bain Capital?

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. Naturally, this has prompted a vigorous response from the Romney campaign, in the form of an ad that accuses President Obama of lying for political gain. Given recent revelations, the timing of the ad was a little awkward, but that hasn’t stopped the Romney campaign from deploying it in a serious way. As Greg Sargent reports , the ad is currently running in multiple media markets in each of the major swing states: Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. This push has two goals: first, to challenge President Obama...

Is America Ready for a Change?

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. Altogether, depending on economic growth, Obama should expect 50.2 percent to 50.8 percent of the two-party vote, which would amount to a moderate Electoral College victory. Here’s the chart: The usual caveat—that this is a projection and not a prediction—applies. It suffices to say, however, that this should bolster the emerging conventional wisdom: The race hasn’t changed, and Obama is still a (very)...

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