After today’s speech to the National Rifle Association, there should be no speculation about Mitt Romney’s ideological positioning in the general election. More than running as a conservative, Romney has positioned himself as an absolutely stalwart defender of conservative values, and his rhetoric leaves room for an abrupt move to the center. As John Whitehouse joked on Twitter, the former Massachusetts governor “appears to be running for the Continental Congress.”
The latest ad from the Obama campaign is a web video, so it won’t receive much traction among the population at large, but it does provide an interesting glimpse into how the campaign will attack Mitt Romney:
It seems that Mitt Romney is following the Karl Rove template for presidential campaigns; taking your perceived weaknesses and using them to attack your opponent. The former Massachusetts governor has been criticized as an elitist reactionary who will say anything to get elected. And so, in the last two weeks, he has attacked President Obama as an out-of-touch hypocrite, who would rather scare voters than own up to his record.
At TheWashington Post, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write a bit more about the planned advertising blitz by Republican Super PAC American Crossroads:
The Crossroads ads, which began airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia and attack the incumbent for his handling of gas prices, are the first of what is expected to be an extended air assault on Obama by the conservative group.
As far as challengers to a party establishment are concerned, Rick Santorum was unique. Unlike Ronald Reagan, Santorum didn’t lead an ideological faction. Unlike Gary Hart, he wasn’t the young and dynamic future of his party. He didn’t lead a marginalized wing of the party coalition, like Jesse Jackson did, and he wasn’t a media favorite, like John McCain was.
Later this afternoon, in Florida, President Obama will make his push for the Buffet rule, a policy which would ensure a minimum 30 percent tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million per year. There’s no chance that it will pass either chamber of Congress, but that’s not the point; the proposal is meant to place Democrats on the side of tax fairness and present the GOP as tied to the interests of the wealthy Americans. The Republican response is that this is an attempt to draw attention away from the economy and its sluggish performance over the last three years.
This past weekend, evangelical mega-church pastor Rick Warren spent a portion of his Easter on the Sunday shows, where he patiently explained to ABC News' Jake Tapper that the Gospels require him to oppose both a social safety net and higher marginal tax rates on the rich:
There’s one last nugget from the ABC News/Washington Post poll that I wanted to mention. In the poll, they ask voters for their thoughts on the “biggest problem facing the country,” and offer a choice—“unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy, or over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity.” By a large margin, 52 to 37, voters said that unfairness was the biggest problem facing the country. I’m not a believer in the power of the bully pulpit, but this seems to lend credence to the view that—after more than six months of populist rhetoric and attacks on “you’re on your own” economics—Obama has pulled both the public and the economic narrative in his direction.
The latest poll from ABC News and The Washington Post provides another point in President Obama’s upward trend with voters. His approval rating has grown to 50 percent, and his likability—which you can read as an analogue for favorability—dwarfs Mitt Romney’s, 64 percent to 26 percent. The significance of this is still small, but in a head-to-head matchup with the former Massachusetts governor, Obama wins 51 percent to 44 percent.
Whenever Paul Ryan speaks on the need to reform the welfare state, he declares that what the United States needs is a social safety net, and not a hammock. The idea is easy to understand: A net is meant as a last resort, to keep you from serious danger; a hammock, by contrast, is designed to keep you comfortable or—in Ryan’s words—“lull able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”
The latest Buzzfeed story is a look inside of the Obama campaign headquarters, and their preparations for the general election. Their big scoop? Despite the insistence of top staffers like Jim Messina and David Axelrod, the campaign is cocky about their eventual face-off with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. Here’s Buzzfeed:
Some of Obama’s old Chicago allies however, say they worry that the campaign is getting a little too cocky. Months of blockbuster economic data were interrupted by a March jobs report that missed expectations. Obama allies fear that the president’s team will get caught flatfooted on the economy if growth slows down between now and Election Day.
Writing for the New York Times, Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg report that American Crossroads—the largest of the Republican super PACs—will soon begin its advertising blitz against President Obama:
With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month. But they said they would focus the bulk of the first phase from May through July, which they believe is a critical period for making an impression on voters, before summer vacations and the party conventions take place.
Yesterday, at TheWashington Post, Ezra Klein argued that Mitt Romney is a much stronger general election candidate than he might look at first glance. As Klein points out, there’s no way that a moderate governor of Massachusetts wins the nomination in a red-blooded GOP without some political skill. Moreover, Romney’s big weakness in the primary—his record for centrism—could become an asset in the fall; it gives him a place from which he can appeal to moderate and independent voters.
Last year, the New York Times’ David Brooks was one of the pundits who declared Paul Ryan “brave” and “serious” for his proposal to pillage the social safety net and direct the spoils to rich people. Since then—and in particular, the debt ceiling showdown—Brooks has become a bit more circumspect about hailing the genius of politicians who promise to solve our problems by yanking security from the vulnerable.
For the March jobs report, economists were expecting another month where the economy grew by more than 200,000 jobs. Instead, what we received—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—was a disappointing backslide into the anemic months of last fall. The economy created 120,000 jobs in March, a huge drop compared to previous months. At the same time, however, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent.