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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute
Wednesday, August 8th
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17:00 The DNC revealed its next wave of top-tier recruits for the fall’s Congressional campaigns today. Known as “Red-to-Blue” candidates, they are heavily concentrated in areas where Democrats believe they won the edge in redistricting, especially California, Illinois, and New York.
The 13 candidates announced today brings the total number of Red-to-Blue candidates to 51.
“They are not about ideology,” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said Wednesday as he unveiled the new roster. “They are about solving problems … they are committed to strengthening the middle class.”
You can read the full list of recruits here.
16:31 I think Rich Lowry is absolutely right here:
Ryan would inject a jolt of energy into the campaign and reorient the debate around policy. The Romney campaign doesn’t have to be reckless. It does have to have a pulse. It doesn’t have to commit ideological hari-kari. It does have to have an unmistakable substantive content.
At times over the past few months, it has seemed that the Romney campaign has embarked on audacious experiment to see if it’s possible to run a presidential campaign devoid of real interest.
With the choice of Ryan, that would change in an instant.
Speaking purely from the perspective of a political commentator, Ryan would do something that no other possible VP pick can do nearly as well: Make the 2012 election more exciting.
16:12 “This is not a choice between two bad people. This isn’t not a choice between one bad guy and one good guy. This is a choice between a guy that has no idea what he’s doing and a guy that does.”
Those are the words of Marco Rubio speaking at a campaign event for Mitt Romney earlier today. I’ve always felt that this is the Republicans’ most effective line of attack. There’s no need to demonize Obama, to destroy him personally as the Democrats are attempting to do to Mitt Romney. Indeed, this is likely a pointless line of attack since Obama’s favorable numbers are so high. Instead, the GOP should simply say, “Hey, he’s a good guy, but he’s been a failure. It’s OK to admit a mistake, and it’s OK to change direction when things aren’t working out.”
In any case, the clip below shows Rubio’s appeal. It’s exchanges like this that keep him in the VP running, as he manages to do something that even Romney himself hasn’t been able to do yet: Make a positive case for Romney.
15:40 Nate Silver does some rigorous analysis to see how each of Romney’s potential VP picks could hurt or help him in their home states. Read the full article for all the detail, but here are the topline results in chart form:
And here’s a chart on how often picking one of the candidates resulted in a win in their home state:
Silver on how much any of this actually matters:
Then again, even the top-ranking candidates only changed the Electoral College outcome 2 percent of the time, other things being equal. Is that really worth it to Mr. Romney?
Probably not if the candidate comes with other disadvantages, since vice-presidential nominees can fall flat when they venture beyond their home turf. Sarah Palin was extremely popular in Alaska when John McCain named her as his running mate in 2008, for instance, but something was lost in translation when she hit the national stage. Thus, the home-state effect is more a good tiebreaker between two otherwise-equal candidates than something that should govern Mr. Romney’s decision.
Still, the election is close enough that these marginal effects could matter — and an extra point for Mr. Romney in Ohio or Virginia would be awfully nice for him right now.
15:17 Obama campaign surrogates and spokesmen are claiming that they don’t know any details about Joe Soptic, the man featured in the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action SuperPac. But that simply can’t be true, since Soptic appeared in an official Obama campaign ad and a conference call earlier in the year.
15:09 Yesterday we reported here that a sneaky way to figure out who Romney’s VP pick will be was to monitor the contenders’ Wikipedia pages. It looks like that won’t work anymore, as Wikipedia has locked their pages after a Colbert Report segment that encouraged his viewers to make as many edits as possible to their pages.
The pages of Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and David Petraeus have all been locked.
According to Wikipedia, some users, known as “autoconfirmed users” are still allowed to edit the pages in question. So in theory, the campaigns could still make edits so long as they meet certain requirements.
14:49 According to the Quinnipiac/NYT/CBS poll discussed earlier today, 51% of voters in Colorado think Obama’s economic policies “are not improving the economy and probably never will.” That’s a tough number to overcome when the economy is the #1 issue, and probably explains why he’s behind Romney in the state.
14:12 Newt Gingrich has entered the debate over Obama’s welfare waivers. Gingrich was famous for blasting Obama as a “food-stamp president,” and had typically Gingrichesque hyperbole on a conference call with reporters.
“On the hard left, there is unending desire to create a dependent America,” Gingrich said. “It’s not just Obama’s a radical, but the people he appoints are even more radical.” He singled HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying “She is waging war on the Catholic Church. She’s adopted radical positions on a range of issues. Why would any everyday American believe that she is going to enforce – that if she makes it optional, that she is going to enforce a work requirement? The fact is, when we wrote the bill, Section 407 was not [made] waive-able precisely because we distrusted people like the secretary of HHS.”
The website Politifact has found Romney’s attacks to be untrue, while Obama spokesman Lis Smith responded in a memo:
“Former President Clinton, the author of welfare reform, called Romney’s comments ‘not true,’ especially in light of Romney’s previous support for a policy that would have eliminated time limits for welfare recipients, which would have ended welfare reform as we know it,” Smith wrote. “If we take Mitt Romney at his word today, that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, it becomes clear that he lacks the core strength and principles the nation needs in a president.”
13:57 This is too good not to include.
In case you’re wondering, yes, that is Hillary Clinton dancing while on a visit to Pretoria, South Africa.
13:46 Here’s the video of Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul going off message earlier today:
13:28 Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul veered way off message on Fox News’ Happening Now this morning. She was there to discuss the controversial pro-Obama SuperPac ad that blames Romney for the death of a steelworker’s wife. But in defending Romney, she said “To that point, you know, if people had been in Massachusetts under Governor Romney’s health care plan, they would have had health care. There are a lot of people losing their jobs and their health care in President Obama’s economy.” (emphasis added)
Oh man. A Romney spokeswoman praising Romneycare? The right is up in arms, perhaps best encapsulated by this tweet from Erick Erickson.
More on this as it develops.
11:59 Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Texas GOP Senate nominee Ted Cruz, and Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno will speak at the Republican convention.
11:53 Fireworks on Morning Joe today as the panelists and Joe Scarborough take on Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs over the Priorities USA Action ad that accuses Mitt Romney of essentially killing a man’s wife. I couldn’t get the video to embed, but click here to see the discussion. It gets pretty heated, and I think Gibbs holds his own despite the fact that he’s defending a deplorable ad. He’s an effective Obama surrogate and should be placed on television more often for the campaign.
(UPDATE 13:44) Video added:
11:30 Romney had good success in driving the media narrative yesterday when it came to welfare. His campaign has released a new web video today called “The Rise and Fall of Welfare Reform.” It features several prominent Democrats from the 1990s praising the law, then juxtaposes this with Obama’s statement during the ‘90s that he “probably” wouldn’t have voted for the law. The tagline? “Probably turned into reality.”
Here’s the ad:
The Obama campaign is pushing back on the issue, releasing a short video his morning highlighting July press reports that said Obama was not rolling back the work requirement:
Bill Clinton is also pushing back, sending Politico a statement through his foundation:
Governor Romney released an ad today alleging that the Obama administration had weakened the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. That is not true. The act emerged after years of experiments at the state level, including my work as Governor of Arkansas beginning in 1980. When I became President, I granted waivers from the old law to 44 states to implement welfare to work strategies before welfare reform passed. After the law was enacted, every state was required to design a plan to move people into the workforce, along with more funds to help pay for training, childcare and transportation. As a result, millions of people moved from welfare to work. The recently announced waiver policy was originally requested by the Republican governors of Utah and Nevada to achieve more flexibility in designing programs more likely to work in this challenging environment. The Administration has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained and that waivers will be granted only if a state can demonstrate that more people will be moved into work under its new approach. The welfare time limits, another important feature of the 1996 act, will not be waived. The Romney ad is especially disappointing because, as governor of Massachusetts, he requested changes in the welfare reform laws that could have eliminated time limits altogether. We need a bipartisan consensus to continue to help people move from welfare to work even during these hard times, not more misleading campaign ads.
11:09 A new Quinnipiac/NYT/CBS News swing state poll finds that Obama leads Romney in two key swing states while trailing him in a third.
Virginia: Obama 49, Romney 45
Wisconsin: Obama 51, Romney 45
Colorado: Romney 50, Obama 45
Here’s Quinnipaic’s video highlight of the poll:
Obama leads heavily among women 51-43 in CO, 54-40 in VA, and 59-36 WI. Romney leads among men 56-39, 50-45, and 53-43, respectively.
In Virginia and Wisconsin, the two candidates are seen as roughly even on the issue of fixing the economy, but Romney is ahead by 10 points in Colorado. More voters think that Romney’s policies will help them personally than think so about Obama’s.
10:49 Romney hosted an event at 8:25 AM CT this morning at the Central Campus auditorium in Des Moines. Later in the day he heads east for fundraisers. He raised $1.8 million in West Des Moines last night.
Obama, meanwhile, just left the White House at 10:35 ET for a two-day tour of Colorado, with events at 1:20 MT in Denver and 5:25 MT in Grand Junction.
10:46 Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, on why gridlock is not to blame for Washington’s failures:
10:32 More highlights from the Washington Post/ABC News poll. Eighty-four percent of Republicans view Obama unfavorably while 80% of Democrats view Romney unfavorably. These are among the highest numbers ever measured for the opposing candidate in Post/ABC polls. In 1996, 78% of Republicans viewed Clinton unfavorably while in 2004, 76% of Democrats saw George W. Bush unfavorably.
Via Chris Cillizza of WaPo, here’s a chart detailing the ratings of each candidate dating back to ’88:
The top-line numbers conceal the true extent of the polarization because 70% of Republicans view Obama in a strongly unfavorable light. That’s a really high percentage: only 57% of Democrats view Romney strongly unfavorably.
Yet more evidence that America is more partisan than ever.
10:25 Ann Romney’s horse is out of contention for an Olympic medal. Can we stop talking about Ann Romney’s horse now?
10:23 Would a Ryan VP pick help or hurt Romney among seniors? According to an AARP poll of voters over 50, 91% believe “Social Security is critical to the economic security of seniors” and “the next president and Congress need to strengthen Social Security so that it is able to provide retirement security for future generations.” Also, 95% say that “Medicare is critical to maintaining the health of seniors” and 88% say the next president and Congress “need to strengthen Medicare so that it is able to provide health coverage in retirement for future generations.”
Those numbers make it seem that Ryan is a bad pick. His reform plan is easy to attack as “destroying Medicare” or “ending Medicare as we know it.” On the other hand, the current structure of Medicare is fiscally unsustainable, so Ryan could argue (as he does) that only by reforming the system can we ensure its future availability.
The problem with that is that it’s a complicated argument which assumes Americans actually know that Medicare is a dying program. Simpler is usually better, and Ryan is a very risky pick. On the other hand, there’s nobody in the Republican Party right now who is better equipped to make such an argument than Paul Ryan (except maybe Chris Christie).
10:09 Dueling ads in the Massachusetts Senate race.
First a new Warren (D) ad, “Crushed,” that focuses on student loans and debt. Interestingly, there’s a new USA Today poll out today on rising concern over college costs. Here’s the ad:
Scott Brown (R) is also out with an ad, “Paul – New Bedford,” which is the third in his “Democrats for Brown” series. It once again highlights Brown’s bipartisanship and cross-party appeal. Expect this messaging to continue throughout the campaign in Democrat-heavy Massachusetts. Here’s the ad:
10:00 NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro are saying “with a high degree of confidence” that Romney’s VP shortlist has narrowed down to three men: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Senator Rob Portman, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. NBC’s team says it’s very possible that Romney has already made up his mind. Each potential candidate brings something different to the table.
Pawlenty: The “loyal outsider” who would enable the ticket to run an anti-Washington campaign. He would also add blue-collar appeal to the ticket.
Portman: The “insider” who knows how Washington works and could help govern starting on Day 1.
Ryan: The “crusader” who wants to substantially transform America’s entitlement system would elevate the campaign to transformational issues and would electrify the GOP base. NBC’s team says there is a “very real” possibility that he will be selected, but he also brings the most risk.
9:54 Claire McCaskill has already begun her attack on Todd Akin by going live with a website called TruthAboutAkin.com. The site has five videos showing Akin talking about privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into a voucher program, comparing federal student loans to cancer, opposing the minimum wage, and defending subsidies for oil companies. That was quick!
9:40 The Washington Post and ABC have released a new poll. It shows Mitt Romney’s favorability rating stalling and appearing to flat-line. While 40% of voters say they have a favorable opinion of him, 49% were unfavorable, up from 45% since May.
President Obama remained in positive territory on favorability, 53-43. Importantly, independent voters now hold their favorable views of Obama more strongly than of Romney. Obama has a positive 53-40 margin with them, while Romney is viewed unfavorably, at 37-50.
Romney gained ground among Republicans, however, with 83% now feeling positively towards him, his highest measure to date. Eighty-four percent of Democrats feel positively about Obama.
9:19 There was an upset in the Missouri Senate primary race, with Todd Akin defeating businessman John Brunner and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. Akin is a six-term social conservative congressman who was powered to victory by infighting among his opponents and a positive message.
With more than 80% of the precincts reporting, Akin lead Brunner 36% to 30%, when the AP called the race. Sarah Steelman, who was backed by Sarah Palin, was at 29%. Steelman’s loss ends a Sarah Palin endorsement hot streak which culminated with Ted Cruz’s victory in Texas.
Akin received assistance from an unlikely source: his opponent in the general election, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). McCaskill promoted Akin to GOP voters because she believes she has the best chance of defeating him in the fall. Still, most polls show her trailing, and she told Politico last weekend that her reelection number is in the low to mid-40s.
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