Jamelle Bouie

Birtherism Isn't Going Away

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: Only 55 percent of Americans believe, for certain, that Obama was born in the United States. That’s an astoundingly low number, and a sign that doubts about his citizenship will persist for the length of his time in office, and beyond. As I’m sure you can imagine, the numbers are far worse for Republicans: The belief that Barack Obama is an American citizen is a minority position in the Republican Party. My guess is that this has little to do with actual thought, and everything to do with tribal identification—rejecting Obama as a citizen is another way of rejecting his legitimacy as president. Even still, it’s deeply worrisome that so many citizens are willing to accept...

When Did Romney Leave Bain Capital?

For the past week, the Obama campaign has hammered Mitt Romney for (allegedly) outsourcing during his time at Bain Capital. Today, the Romney team responds with a single, simple message—Obama is lying: Obama’s claim has been debunked by several fact-checking organizations. But if recent revelations are any indication, that may have been premature. Since his run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney has told a single story about this time at Bain Capital. He left the company in 1999 to run the 2002 Winter Olympics. If Bain invested in outsourcing, the story goes, it was well after he left to enter public service. According to the Boston Globe , however, government documents filed by Bain Capital show that Romney was CEO and sole stockholder through 2002. This wasn’t a symbolic role; during that time, he created five new investment partnerships and continued to draw a six-figure salary from the company. In the timeline established by both The Washington Post and the Romney...

Mitt Romney's Successful Speech to the NAACP

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. The point of this address to the NAACP was to signal to right-leaning, suburban white voters—that Mitt Romney is tolerant and won’t represent the bigots in his party. But there’s a sense in which Romney had it both ways: Not only did he reassure hesitant whites but by pledging to repeal Obamacare—and being booed by the audience—he likely increased his standing with those who do resent African Americans. By...

How Much Will Money Matter?

(401K/Flickr)
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. But how much does that actually matter? The Obama team wants you to believe that fundraising could be the deciding factor in the election. In an email to supporters, campaign manager Jim Messina warned, “The gap is getting wider, and if it continues at this pace, it could cost us the election.” In the same email, Obama adds that...

Even the Rich Get a Tax Cut under Obama's Plan

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. The argument is over whether there should be an additional tax cut for income over that amount. According to CTJ, the Republican plan would triple the tax cut received by the richest 1 percent of taxpayers. Obama says that this isn’t worth the expense, while Republicans disagree and will not pass middle-income tax cuts unless they’re joined by an extension for upper-income cuts. Whether or not you see the GOP’s position as...

Obama's Firewall in Virginia

Public Policy Polling (PPP) did an update on the state of the race in Virginia and North Carolina, and found that President Obama is in a fairly good position. In Virginia, he takes 50 percent support to Mitt Romney’s 42 percent, while in North Carolina, he takes 47 percent support to Romney’s 46 percent. What's important about both polls is that they are part of a trend. In the last three Virginia polls conducted by PPP, Obama has led by an average of 7.33 points, while North Carolina has been a consistent toss-up for the last two years. PPP suggests that Virginia might be a firewall for Obama, and I think that’s right; like Colorado, Virginia is a state determined by demographics. One set of voters—nonwhites, women, college-educated whites—are strong supporters of the president, while another set of voters—middle-aged and older whites—are strong supporters of Romney. In both Virginia and Colorado, the former is larger than the latter, giving Obama the advantage. By contrast, in...

The Fundamentals Are Still in Obama's Corner

(White House/Flickr)
The latest poll from The Washington Post and ABC News reflects a point I’ve been making for awhile: The presidential race is basically stable. If the election were held today, 47 percent of voters would support Barack Obama, and 47 percent would support Mitt Romney. Moreover, the bulk of these voters are locked in to their choice; 80 percent of Obama voters say that they will “definitely” support the president, while 73 percent of Romney voters say the same for the former Massachusetts governor. Of those surveyed, only 8 percent say that they could change their minds over the course of the campaign—4 percent of Obama’s supporters and 12 percent of Romney’s. When it comes to Obama’s tenure , a large majority of Americans—63 percent—say that the country is on the wrong track. Forty-nine percent disapprove of how the president is handling his job—compared with 47 percent who approve—and 54 percent disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy. But, when voters are made to choose...

This Happened in Real Life

If I had to caricature a fundraising event for the country’s wealthiest people, it would look like this : The line of Range Rovers, BMWs, Porsche roadsters and one gleaming cherry red Ferrari began queuing outside of Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman’s estate off Montauk Highway long before Romney arrived, as campaign aides and staffers in white polo shirts emblazoned with the logo of Perelman’s property—the Creeks—checked off names under tight security. […] A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. "Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them. “We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies—everybody who’s got the right to vote—they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income—one, you’re not as...

Mitt Romney: The New Face of GOP Intransigence

As expected, President Obama has called for an extension of the middle-class Bush tax cuts—which apply to all incomes under $250,000—and an end to the additional tax cut for income greater than that amount. Given the degree to which the GOP program is devoted to more and greater tax cuts for the wealthy, it’s no surprise that Republicans are completely opposed to this plan to modestly raise taxes on higher-income Americans. Indeed, in a renewed bit of hostage taking, congressional Republicans have refused to renew the middle-class tax cuts unless Democrats also vote to extend further tax cuts for wealthier Americans. If the issue isn’t resolved, lower-income and middle-class Americans will see a significant hit to their income, and the economy will suffer from the decline in consumer spending. As Brian Beutler explains for Talking Points Memo , this puts Mitt Romney—standard-bearer for the Republican Party—in a tricky position: Last time around, nobody really had to answer for that...

Control of the Senate Depends on Obama

At The Washington Post , Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake note that the battle for control of the Senate is basically a toss-up: Assuming King wins and picks the Democrats, Republicans would need four seats to take over the majority if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney wins and five seats if President Obama is re-elected. (The vice president serves as President of the Senate and casts tie-breaking votes when necessary.) So, how do Republicans get to four (or five)? Nebraska is an almost certain pickup, with polls showing state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) with a comfortable lead. North Dakota’s open seat is far more competitive than most people expected (including us) but it’s still a state that should go solidly for Romney in November, which will help Rep. Rick Berg (R). The Republican field in Missouri is mediocre, but Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) isn’t likely to be able to get enough distance from Obama to save herself. The easy way to put this is that the Republican Senate majority...

The Public Sector Is Still Bleeding

Public-sector jobs continued to disappear last month; according to today’s report, government employment is down by 4,000. To Republicans, these aren’t “real” jobs. For the rest of us, however, the decline of the public sector over the last three years has been a tremendous drag on economic growth. Since June 2009, state and local governments have shed more than 600,000 jobs. At the Economic Policy Institute, Josh Bivens and Heather Shierholz crunch the numbers to find that the economy would have 2.3 million more jobs if not for those ongoing losses: Putting our four components together—the jobs lost in the public sector, the jobs the public sector should have gained just to keep up with population growth, the jobs lost in the private sector due to direct public-sector job declines, and the jobs likely lost when state spending cutbacks on transfer programs were made—we find that if it weren’t for state and local austerity, the labor market would have 2.3 million more jobs today—and...

Voters Have Changed Their Mind about Romney—for the Worse

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Methodologically, it doesn’t make much sense to do a poll of just the swing states. In presidential elections, the country moves as a whole; if President Barack Obama gains support nationally, then it will be reflected in individual states. Yes, some states will show more movement than others (Nate Silver calls these “ elastic ”), but there’s no real reason to focus exclusively on swing states, since you can predict the change with national polling. At most, it furthers the common but misguided notion that the election comprises 50 individual contests. Of course, we can still glean useful information from swing-state polls. The most recent , from USA Today and Gallup, has a good amount of useful information. Focusing on the barrage of TV ads in swing states, USA Today and Gallup found that of the overwhelming majority of voters in those states who saw campaign ads, about 1 in 12 said that it changed their minds. And of those 1 in 12, 76 percent say they now support President Obama,...

Running on Health Care

A significant part of the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity had less to do with the law itself, and everything to do with its contested status. With Democrats unhappy and Republicans furious, voters saw the law as something controversial and potentially terrible. As such, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law was an important signal to low-information voters; it communicated a certain amount of legitimacy, which—as we saw at the beginning of this week—translated to increased support for the bill. According to a poll from CNN, for example, support for Obamacare increased to 50 percent after the Court’s ruling. Likewise, a Reuters/Ipsos poll saw support increase to 48 percent of the public, up from 43 percent. I argued last week that this is an opportunity for the administration to resell the bill as something that will help the average American, and it seems that they’ve taken my advice [1] : Before a cheering crowd of several hundred at a rally in northwestern Ohio, Obama...

The American Jobs Act Still Exists

Mitt Romney is back to accusing President Obama of having no plan for economic growth: The president’s policies have not gotten America working again. And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it. I know he’s been planning on going across the country and celebrating what he calls ‘forward.’ Well, forward doesn’t look a lot like forward to the millions and millions of families that are struggling today in this great country. It doesn’t have to be this way. The President doesn’t have a plan, hasn’t proposed any new ideas to get the economy going—just the same old ideas of the past that have failed . [Emphasis added] The political world has all but forgotten the American Jobs Act , but it remains on the table as Obama’s plan for juicing the economy. If passed in full, the Jobs Act would cut payroll taxes for businesses, double the size of the payroll tax cut for individuals, give aid to states to prevent public sector layoffs, and increase infrastructure...

Health Care Is Slavery?

Rand Paul’s debut on the national stage was marked by a firestorm over his comment that he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act, on account of the fact that it intruded on a business’s “freedom” to discriminate against black people. Since then, Paul has been circumspect about commenting on anything related to civil rights. However, it seems that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act has caused the Kentucky senator to throw caution to the wind. Via ThinkProgress : In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision, can you still argue that the Constitution does not support ObamaCare? The liberal blogosphere apparently thinks the constitutional debate is over. I wonder whether they would have had that opinion the day after the Dred Scott decision. Think of how our country would look now had the Supreme Court not changed its view of what is constitutional. Think of 1857, when the court handed down the outrageous Dred Scott decision, which said African Americans...

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