Jamelle Bouie

Romney Owns the War on Women

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
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. In the overall average, as tallied by Pollster , the president is still underwater—47.1 percent disapproval to 48 percent approval—but he’s still on the upswing. The big news out of this poll is that it provides further evidence that Republicans have deeply tarnished their brand with women by fighting a loud battle over contraception, defending conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh, and siding with GOP governors like Virginia’s Bob McDonnell as they pushed laws that forced invasive procedures on women. The damage is so strong, in fact, that it has...

A Glimpse at the "Opportunity Society"

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.” Each of the Republican presidential candidates have made similar declarations, and to that end, each has promised to cut social programs until we are left only with what’s necessary. As Mitt Romney put it in his speech last Wednesday, “I want to restore the values of economic freedom, opportunity, and small government that have made this nation the leader it is.” The striking thing about this rhetoric is that it drastically overstates the extent to which we have a social safety net at all. Writing for the New York Times , Jason DeParle describes the shape of the welfare state for many...

Is the Obama Campaign Cocky?

(White House/Flickr)
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. And to say that the campaign doesn’t fear Romney is an understatement — he’s viewed as almost a joke. (The campaign named their sixth floor elevators for cars to mock Romney’s planned over-the-top addition to his La Jolla, CA home.) I have no doubt that the Obama campaign is confident about its chances in November, but...

Don't Worry about the Super PACs

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. Steven J. Law, the group’s leader, said the ads would address the challenge of unseating a president who polls show is viewed favorably even though many people disapprove of his handling of the economy. Basically, Mr. Law said, “how to dislodge voters from him.” Independent of a declining economy, or any other disaster, I have my doubts about whether this would be effective. President Obama is already well-defined in the...

Sorry Republicans, Mitt Romney Is Just as Weak as He Looks

Yesterday, at The Washington 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. And above all else, Klein notes, is the fact that external factors—the economy, or foreign policy—could take their toll on Obama and elevate Romney to the White House. On each count, I’m skeptical. For starters, I’m not sure that Romney won the nomination as much as it is that Republicans resigned themselves to Romney’s candidacy, and organized around him once it became clear that there were no other alternatives. As it stands, Romney took real damage from Rick Santorum, a failed former senator who ran a...

David Brooks to the Rescue!

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. Despite this, he still can’t help himself when it comes to the young Wisconsin congressman. To wit, after President Obama attacked Ryan’s latest budget for imposing costly cuts on programs for the poor, the elderly, and the infirm, Brooks emerged to scold the president for “exaggeration”: Under Ryan, Obama charged, 10 million college students would get their financial aid cut by $1,000, Alzheimer’s research would be slashed, 200,000 children would lose their chance to enter Head Start. Where did Obama get these specifics? He imagined them. He imposed some assumptions that are...

March's Disappointing Jobs Report

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. This looks good, but it isn’t; the employment to population ratio dropped a tenth to 58.5 percent, and if labor force participation had remained steady from February, then the unemployment rate would have grown to 8.4 percent. On the bright side, the composition of the unemployed has begun to change. Fewer are people who lost their jobs, and more are people who chose to leave them . In other words, a growing number of people feel confident enough about the job market that they will choose a brief period of unemployment to find a better deal. This is in line with the latest measure...

How Conservatives Moved Obama to the Left

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Andrew Sullivan is baffled by the Right’s refusal to take President Obama seriously as a politician or a leader: Why not fear of Obama’s charm? Or suspicion of his cunning? Why not coopt this oh-so-willing-to-be-coopted figure to move his policies to the right (as if the individual mandate, extension of Bush tax cuts, and escalation of the war in Afghanistan could get further right)? No. Instead we have contempt. A president who can be shouted at during a State of the Union address; a president whose birth certificate, readily available, is still questioned; a president who is regarded by an unthinkable chunk of Republicans as a Muslim; a president who allegedly cannot speak a full sentence without a TelePrompter; or, in Glenn Reynolds’ immortal words, “a racist hatemonger.” I think it’s best to understand this as part of a deliberate strategy. Rather than try to beat Obama with a more compelling vision of the country’s direction, Republicans have tried instead to break his presidency...

Has the Republican Establishment Given Up on Romney?

(Mitt Romney/Flickr)
Via Mike Allen’s Playbook, here’s Joe Scarbourough on yesterday’s Morning Joe with a few candid thoughts on what Republican leaders actually believe about Mitt Romney’s candidacy: “Nobody thinks Romney’s going to win. Let’s just be honest. Can we just say this for everybody at home? Let me just say this for everybody at home. The Republican establishment – I’ve yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year. They won’t say it on TV because they’ve got to go on TV and they don’t want people writing them nasty emails.” I don’t have any particular insight into whether this is true or not, and I imagine that most members of the Republican establishment—insofar that it exists—would deny anything but the utmost confidence in Romney’s ability to win. But, if we assume for a moment that Scarbourough is right, and Republican leaders are skeptical that Romney will beat Obama, then this has important implications...

This Station is Non-Operational

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
The latest Public Policy Polling poll shows Obama with majority support in Nevada, a big improvement over last year. I’ll have more on this tomorrow. Chris Cillizza speculates about Paul Ryan’s vice presidential chances. I was once skeptical about this, but as I think about it more, I’m not sure that it won’t happen. Economic confidence in March was higher then it’s been since January 2008. And, for something a little more entertaining, a Gawker writer heads down to Arkansas to attend a Ku Klux Klan convention. Hijinks don’t ensure, but it’s still a good read. I was on C-SPAN this morning, discussing “The Other Glass Ceiling,” my piece on the limitations faced by ambitious black politicians. It was a long appearance, but worth watching in its entirety, especially since I receive a bunch of questions from people with…interesting views:

Records to Run On

(White House/Flickr)
There’s one thing about Romney’s speech this afternoon that I didn’t mention in the previous post. At one point, he dings Obama for refusing to run on his record: And while I understand why the President doesn’t want to run on his record, he can’t run from his record either. The problem, as is often the case with Romney’s rhetoric, is that it isn’t true. Here is an excerpt from Obama’s last campaign speech : I ran for office not just to get back to the status quo; I ran for office – I ran for this office because we had not tended to a set of challenges that had been building up for decades. And that’s why even as we were trying to right the ship and yank ourselves out of a potential depression, we did not take our eye off the commitments that I had made to you when I ran for office. And that’s why we fulfilled pledges to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” or to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act that ensures equal pay for equal work. That’s why we followed through on commitments to invest in...

Mitt Romney Half-Steps to Obama

(AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta)
In an election year, political speeches have more in common with hip-hop “diss” tracks then they do with anything else. In which case, President Obama’s speech last night was the “Ether” to the Republican Party’s “Takeover”—an assured, aggressive response that methodically destroyed the GOP’s rationale for its slavish devotion to the rich. Today, I expected Mitt Romney to hit back with a diss of his own. As the presumptive standard-bearer of the Republican Party, it falls on him to make the party’s case against a second term for Obama. In his speech today before the American Society of News Editors, he tried to hit the president on both his record and the tenor of his campaign. And in fairness to the former Massachusetts governor, he makes a few well-placed swipes—it is true that the administration has yet to release a budget, and it is true that Obama has abruptly changed pace on energy issues, accommodating the oil and gas industry in a way that wasn’t true last year. With that...

Romney Is Failed by His Surrogates. Again.

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Like clockwork, a Romney victory at the polls has been followed by an embarrassing admission from a surrogate. Here’s former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich: That Mitt Romney plans to change his rhetoric for the general election is not a surprise, but it would behoove the campaign not to emphasize the point. Moreover, they would be well-served by avoiding words like “real views,” which suggests that the former Massachusetts governor is lying to conservatives, and intends to reveal his inner moderate to the public at large once it’s too late for Republicans to make a different choice. For my part, I’m not sure why anyone would trust Romney either way. If he’s willing to lie to win the nomination, what’s to say that his “real views” aren’t lies either? And if he wins the White House on the strength of those lies, who is to say that he won’t stop lying once in office? Given the degree to which Romney’s campaign is actually defined by mendacious dishonesty , this is a question that all...

Romney's Wins Can't Hide His Fatal Flaw

(World Affairs Council of Philadelphia/Flickr)
The good news for Mitt Romney is that the Republican presidential primaries are effectively over; with his decisive win in Wisconsin—and his victories in Maryland and Washington, D.C.—he has established himself as the presumptive nominee. To wit, his victory speech was light on red meat, and heavy on his critique of the Obama administration, with a new variation on his claim that the president sought a society of equal results: “The president has pledged to ‘transform America,’ and he has spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society,” Romney said in Wisconsin. “I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of our Opportunity Society, led by free people and free enterprises.” I have no insight as to whether this message will appeal to independent voters. But because it runs counter to observable reality, my hunch is that it has limited utility. What’s more important is the fact that Romney has made an explicit turn away from the...

Obama: The GOP Is Crazier Than You Thought

(AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster)
If there was a question President Obama tried to answer with his speech this afternoon to the Associated Press, it was this—“what happened to the Republican Party?” And to that end, he marshaled evidence from a century of political history to show that today’s Grand Old Party is dangerously unmoored from the American consensus, with a budget proposal that amounts to “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” To a large degree, Obama’s speech was filled with the frustration of liberals who see the extent to which the Republican Party has rejected the notion of a government that works positively within the economy. “It was Dwight Eisenhower who launched the interstate highway system and made investments in scientific research … Reagan worked with Democrats to save Social Security … It was George W. Bush who expanded Medicare to include prescription drug coverage,” he said, citing Republican presidents who worked to strengthen the social safety net over the course of the last century. “What...