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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: May 2012

Political Strategy Notes

USA Today’s Richard Wolf and Tim Mullaney report that “Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News say the economy is expected to have added 150,000 jobs in May, with unemployment holding at 8.1%. That’s up from 115,000 new jobs last month, but below the 200,000-plus monthly gains this winter.” and “midyear job growth is a solid election predictor. Employment grew strongly in the spring and summer of 1972, 1984, 1996 and to a lesser degree 2004 — and presidents won re-election. The opposite was true in 1976, 1980 and 1992, when incumbents lost.”
Hrafnkell Haraldsson has a pretty good wrap up at PolitcusUSA of the many reasons why Obama deserves support from progressives, as well as moderates.
Noam M. Levy reports in the L.A. Times that a new Kaiser Family Foundation finds “Little interest in women’s issues on the campaign trail.” I don’t know how much value there is in polls ranking issue priorities — of course respondents will say the economy is the big issue. But Levey’s note that “the Kaiser poll found just 31% of women believe there is currently a “wide-scale effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services.” Just 31 percent?…Sounds like bad news for the GOP to me.
Good to hear Attorney-General Eric Holder speak out about the threat to voting rights. The Democratic response to the GOP war on voting could use a louder trumpet.
Re: the war on voting, this report should make Derms a dilly of an ad.
At PoliticusUSA, Jason Easley reports that “CNN Moves To The Right and Loses 52% of Its Viewers.” Easley observes, “CNN’s problems started when the network bosses got the bright idea that they should try to copy Fox News, and move to the right. After climbing into bed with the Tea Party Express and hiring far right wingers Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch led to the current ratings disaster, what would you expect CNN to do?…If you said hire more right wingers and conservatives, congratulations, you are qualified for an upper management position at CNN.”
Bloomberg.com’s Heidi Przybyla’s “Senate Democrats Outspent 3 to 1 on Ads by Super-Pacs” provides a sobering look at the GOP’s financial edge, noting “The disparity could take a greater toll on House and Senate Democrats than on Obama…”There’s so much oxygen being sucked up by the Obama campaign,” said Ken Goldstein, president of New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a company that tracks advertising. “Democrats are also not going to have the same kind of money that Republican outside groups are going to have.”
I doubt President Obama’s “Polish death camp” gaffe will hurt much with Polish-American voters. In a way, it underscores the fact that an Obama gaffe is a very rare occurrence, the exception that proves the rule.
At The Plum Line, WaPo’s Jonathan Bernstein concludes that no swing voters will care one way or the other about Obama’s attacks on Bain capital or Cory Bookers take on it. Bernstein also observes, “Mostly, people vote on two things: their party leanings, and a general sense of how the incumbent has been doing (that is, how the nation is going, not whether his ads and TV surrogate appearances are well co-ordinated). Other things may, on the margins, push voters a little: specific issues, evaluation of the candidates’ personalities and abilities and ideology, group affiliation beyond partisanship…Most true independents are low-information voters who pay only minimal attention to any of this stuff.”

Sullivan: Obama Needs ‘Reasoned Centrist Approach’ to Win

Andrew Sullivan has some advice for the Obama campaign up at his perch at The Daily Beast:

Here’s how I’d summarize the argument I think works best for Obama:
“I inherited a financial and economic disaster and two wars that did not end in victory. I have prevented a second Great Depression, restored job growth, saved our auto industry, restored financial stability, ended one war and wound down another, but we need more. We need investments in infrastructure, reform of immigration, and continuation of my education reforms. And we need a sensible approach to debt elimination. My policy is to cut entitlements, cut defense and slash tax loopholes and deductions so we can get higher revenues from those who have done extremely well these past three decades. My opponent refuses to tax the extremely wealthy at the same rates as ordinary folk, and wants to cut the debt solely by cutting entitlements for the old and sick, while increasing defense spending and cutting taxes even further. We all know we are going to have to retrench. Would you rather do it with me guarding the core of the welfare state or with Romney-Ryan who want to end it with a solution that Newt Gingrich called ‘right wing social engineering'”?
I think you have to have this positive contrast to balance the brutal attacks on Romney in advertizing, or risk losing that critical ingredient that made Obama Obama: a sane reminder of the actual policy choices we face, and a reasoned centrist approach to solving them. Alas, after the heat of a brutal partisan pushback from the GOP from Day One, that positive vision is not so present this time around. It needs to be brought back.

Sullivan also has “three key” soundbite-sized questions he feels that the Obama campaign should pose to voters:

Would you rather cut the debt by slashing entitlements alone – or do you favor a balanced approach, with increased taxes on the wealthy, retrenchment of defense and reform of entitlements?
Would you rather a president who wants to launch a war against Iran or a president who will do all he can to avoid it?
Do you want repeal of a healthcare law that guarantees available private insurance even to those with pre-existing conditions? If you are under 26, and on your parents’ health insurance, do you want to lose it?

Keeping those questions front and center will help secure victory for Obama, Sullivan feels. Though progressive Dems will gag on some of Sullivan’s suggestions, it’s hard to argue with his concluding sentence, “Waiting for better economic numbers and pummeling Romney’s favorables is not, in my view, a superior strategy.”
Obama did OK in ’08 without Sullivan’s advice, and centrist candidates have not exactly been lighting the electorate on fire thus far in 2012. Yet there are undoubtedly centrist voters still out there in significant numbers, waiting for a clear statement of principles that resonates with them. In a close election, offering them a little encouragement with some of Suillivan’s points may not be such a bad idea.

Romney and Trump: the Equivocator and the Bloviator

No one is ever going to put it any better than conservative scribe George Will, who called Donald Trump “a bloviating ignoramous.” But credit fellow conservative Russ Douthat with a more thorough skewering of GOP candidate Mitt Romney for hitching his star to the birther gasbag. As Douthat puts it in his New York Times column:

…Throughout the presidential selection process, the Romney camp has repeatedly pulled back the curtain of highmindedness to acknowledge more cynical realities.
…Think of Romney’s famous debate explanation for why he fired a landscaping company after learning they were employing illegal immigrants (“I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals!”), or his attempts later in the primary season to defend delaying the release of his tax forms, which emphasized the hay that Democrats might make with them rather than any principled reason for non-disclosure…The description of the general election’s arrival by Eric Fehrnstrom, a key Romney adviser, as an “etch-a-sketch” moment, in which the slate of base-pandering primary season positions could be shaken clean, was unusually dunderheaded precisely because it was so unusually honest, saying out loud what most campaign operatives would only say behind closed doors.
The same thing happened Tuesday, after Donald Trump used the occasion of a joint fundraiser with the Republican nominee to embarrass Romney with a burst of “birther” nonsense…Responding to the inevitable questions about Trump’s paranoid pose, Romney issued an anodyne bit of evasive politician-speak — “You know I don’t agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in” – but then followed it up with a characteristic Romney-ism: “But I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people”…But “I’m running for president, and I need Donald Trump in my corner” manages to be at once cynical and stupid.”

Like Will, Douthat seems perplexed that Romney’s political calculus is so warped as to see any kind of benefit accruing from their joint public appearances. Douthat speculates that whichever GOP strategists see merit in Romney hooking up with The Donald “confuse the existence of a fan base (which Trump certainly has) with the existence of a meaningful constituency (which he almost certainly does not).” Douthat adds:

Indeed, precisely because Trump’s highest goal is so transparently the perpetuation of his own celebrity, his latest attention-seeking stunt offers Romney an almost cost-free chance to repudiate a figure who’s notionally to his “right” (though in reality lacks any ideological commitment whatsoever) without risking any kind of sustained conservative revolt…
Given the bad publicity he’s obviously capable of generating for Romney’s campaign, then, giving Trump the stiff-arm would not only be the right thing to do but the crafty thing as well. The fact that Romney thinks otherwise suggests that underneath his public cynicism lurks something more troubling: A deep miscalculation about which votes he needs to win and how.

You’d think that a Republican presidential candidate who has weathered the primaries would have enough sense to heed the advice of two of America’s smartest conservative journalists. But that would presuppose assumptions about the adequacy of Romney’s character and judgement that he evidently can’t meet.

Lux: Romney a Disaster-in-Waiting for Sick, Disabled

This article, by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, is cross-posted from HuffPo:
At my father’s funeral, the presiding minister, Ebb Munden, was a man who had been one of my dad’s closest friends. Ebb talked about how the last time he had gone to see my dad before he lost consciousness, he had been very emotional but that my dad had comforted him by gripping his hand and telling him it would be alright, that my dad was at peace and Ebb should be too. The lesson was that even at our physically weakest we could still be helping other people and making things better in the world.
I was thinking of that this past weekend when I went to see my brother Kevin back home in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kevin is one of those people who followers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy would call a leech on society — Rand believed that people with disabilities were leeches and parasites on society, and that the “parasites should perish.” Kevin’s birth father broke a chair over his head and gave him brain damage, making him developmentally disabled and making it hard for him to speak clearly. He came to my family when we were both 11 years old, and has been not only my brother but one of my closest friends ever since. As an adult in recent years, his body has continued to betray him as he is hard of hearing, can’t see well, and has muscular dystrophy. Recently he had to go into the hospital for major surgery and then developed pneumonia — his muscular dystrophy makes it especially tough to recover from all this.
For all of that, though, Kevin still contributes to the world around him, just as he always has. He has always shown great tenderness to the people around him, and still does. He can’t talk right now because he is on a ventilator, but his expressive hands still say a great deal. After I was watching him go through strenuous rehab exercises, I came over to him after he was done and asked how he was doing, and he just grinned and patted me on my too-big tummy, not only telling me he was okay, but that maybe I should be doing more exercise too. Even with all the tubes attached to him, he was still up for playing catch with a plastic ball in his room. He still had smiles for, and played ball with, a 5-year-old girl who came to see him. One of the nurses at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital told me how touched she had been when he gave her a hug even though she was doing painful rehab exercises she knew he didn’t like. He still gave me all kinds of trouble, taking delight in showing me two stuffed dogs people had given him because he had named the big dog Kevin and the little dog Mike. And when I had to leave to go the airport and had tears in my eyes as I was leaning down to hug him goodbye, he rubbed my head to comfort me. I had come to comfort him in his time of pain, and he had comforted me even more. Kevin being a part of my life has been such a gift to me, and has made me 100 times better a person.
Kevin has also shaped my values and philosophy of life, and given me a perspective on policy issues. Conservatives are obsessed with the idea that somewhere, somehow there are lazy “undeserving” welfare recipients, but more than 90 percent of government support dollars go to the elderly, people working hard but are still below the poverty line because of low-wage jobs, and very disabled people like Kevin — those whose middle-class families like mine would be plunged into poverty if we had to pay for all their medical costs on our own.
It is Kevin who I think of when I see that the Ryan-Romney budget slashes money from Medicaid and from the Social Services Block Grant, a fund specifically targeted to help states meet the needs of their most vulnerable citizens. It is Kevin who I thought about when the audience at a Republican debate cheered about a man who had no health insurance dying. It is Kevin who I thought of when an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference laughed and cheered when Glenn Beck gleefully proclaimed that “in nature, the lions eat the weak.”
A society that does not value my brother Kevin at least as much as it does the Wall Street titans who grow rich as they speculate with other people’s money, and use the tax code to write off the debt they use to buy and sell companies regardless of the consequences to the families who work there, is a sick society. A government that would cut support to middle-class families trying to support their disabled children so the wealthy can get more tax breaks — a government that actually decides to help the wealthy and powerful more than the poor and disabled — would be a government with no decency. That is what Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Republicans are proposing for us. Their hero Ayn Rand would be proud.
I have many reasons for working to oppose Romney’s policies. I think his economic policies are a disaster for an economy still weakened by allowing Wall Street to run roughshod over the rest of us for the first decade of this century. I’d like for people to have access to contraceptives, and all of us to have access to quality health care. The idea of appointing more Supreme Court Justices who support cases like the Citizens United ruling that have allowed “corporations are people, my friends” is destructive to our democracy. But even if all of that wasn’t there, I would only need one reason to oppose Romney’s policies, and his name is Kevin.

TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira: Support for Marriage Equality at All-Time High

In his latest ‘Public Opinion Snapshot,” TDS C o-Editor Ruy Teixeira reports that “Americans’ support for legalizing same-sex marriage has reached its highest level yet.” Teixeira continues:

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53 percent of respondents said they supported legalization versus just 39 percent who opposed it. The 14-point pro-legalization gap is the largest margin the poll has ever recorded. It is also the first time that strong support for legalization (39 percent) has been larger than strong opposition (32 percent).

And President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage is also supported by most Americans, according to Teixeira:

The same poll finds high public approval of President Obama’s decision to support marriage equality: 51 percent support his decision versus 41 percent who oppose it.

It certainly appears that the opposition to same-sex marriage is becoming “a dwindling minority,” as Teixeia puts it. “The country is moving on.”

Political Strategy Notes

When it comes to comparing job-creation track records as elected officials, Mitt Romney gets crushed, as The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky explains: “…Romney–when working in the public sector, not the private, as he obviously would be as president–had a downright embarrassing jobs record, especially for a state with higher-than-average education levels…This, as has been often noted, put Massachusetts at 47th in the nation, only ahead of of Michigan, Ohio, and Katrina-ravaged Louisiana…In his seminal book Unequal Democracy, political scientist Larry Bartels measured the effect of each president’s policies on the economy since Harry Truman by giving them all one year for their policies to start to kick in…by Bartels’s rules, Obama has created a net 3.635 million jobs. Applying the same rules to Romney’s numbers through the same time period–that is, through April of his fourth year in office, 2006–we credit Romney with 64,500 jobs. So he grew jobs by 1.9 percent. Obama’s job-growth rate is 2.35 percent.”
In The New Republic, Walter Shapiro takes a skeptical look that the opening salvo of TV ads for the presidential campaign and finds, despite “an estimated $1-billion-plus orgy spent trying to define the Obama-Romney race” that “all too often, the ads themselves are simply mediocre…Never in political history has so much money been spent to convince so few voters of so little. Take, as a case in point, the dreary dozen of TV spots and web videos put out by the Obama and Romney camps in the last two weeks. These ads offer either visual wallpaper or run-from-the-room negativism. There is not a dollop of surprise or aesthetic flair. These are headache ads transported to politics.” Ouch.
Speaking of excessive negativity in political ads, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar has a Bloomberg Businessweek post up comparing two “throw granny of a cliff” ads from both parties — they literally throw granny off a cliff –, arguing that neither one will help much.
The AP’s Todd Richmond reports that the real story in the Wisconsin recall election may come down to: “a handful of undercard recall races could transform Wisconsin politics just as dramatically in the long run…Pockets of voters in southeastern, northwestern and central Wisconsin will decide recall elections that could hand Democrats control of the state Senate.”
Despite media pessimism about Dems’ hopes in the June 5 Wisconsin Recall vote, Abby Rapoport offers an alternative strategy in The American Prospect, where she explains “How Walker Loses in Wisconsin.”
AP’s David Crary discusses the disconnect between opinion polls showing substantial growth in approval of same-sex marriage on the one hand and continued disapproval in the voting booth in 32 states. “It’s a paradox with multiple explanations, from political geography to the likelihood that some conflicted voters tell pollsters one thing and then vote differently.”
Karl Rove writes in the Wall St. Journal about “Romney’s Roads to the White House” and the “3-2-1” strategy that can get him there. Lotsa “ifs” here.
Rove’s rationale looks like even more of a stretch in light of Donna Cassata’s AP report “Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida — GOP highlights in 2010 now marked by bitter Senate primaries.”
Meg Handley reports at U.S. News on “Homeowners in Battleground States Dogged By Underwater Mortgages.” Says Handley:”…Florida and Ohio are the only swing states that have negative equity levels above the national average…Although nearly one in three homeowners with a mortgage is under water, fully 90 percent of them are still current on their payments, and stresses that negative equity doesn’t necessarily equate to foreclosures.”
Paul Begala does a solid job of blistering two hypocritical fat cat Republicans, Joe Ricketts and former major league star Curt Schilling, who rail against government spending, but use plenty of it in their dubious business ventures. Re Schilling: “The state of Rhode Island has pumped $75 million of taxpayers’ money into Schilling’s unsuccessful 38 Studios, and could flush millions more down Schilling’s commode. Schilling, who earned $114 million in his baseball career, loves to lecture us bleacher bums about government spending. Then Begala throws in Romney for good measure: “…Classic crony capitalism: privatize the gain, socialize the risk. When Romney drove GST Steel into bankruptcy, he and his partners made $12 million in profit and another $4.5 million in consulting fees. But Romney stuck the taxpayers with a $44 million tab for the company’s underfunded pensions.”
After all of the shouting of campaign 2012 is done, look at two sets of stats to predict who will win the presidential election, explains Alan I. Abramowitz in his post “What Does President Obama’s May Approval Rating Tell Us About His Reelection Chances?” at Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “…The final outcome will depend on the actual performance of the economy and the public’s evaluation of the president’s job performance in the months ahead. Those interested in assessing where the presidential race stands should focus on these two indicators rather than the day-to-day events of the campaign, which tend to dominate media coverage of the election.”

TDS Co-Editor William Galston: How Europe Could Sink Obama’s Election Chances–And What He Can Do About It

This item by TDS Co-Editor William Galston is cross-posted from the New Republic.
Europe’s Greek tragedy has now entered its final act, with potentially fateful consequences for the global economy–and for Barack Obama, whose reelection may hinge on the decisions of Germany in the coming weeks. The 2012 election will pivot on the public’s evaluation of the president’s economic stewardship, and a perceptible decline in the U.S. growth rate–which a badly handled Greek exit from the Eurozone would cause–could easily spell the difference between victory and defeat. Obama’s fate, then, may well lie in Angela Merkel’s hands. That doesn’t mean, though, that there’s nothing he can do about it.
What are the economic stakes? Mark Cliffe, ING’s head of Financial Markets Research, has conducted the most detailed analysis that I know of. He examines two scenarios–a Greek exit from a Eurozone that remains intact, and an exit that triggers a complete collapse of the European monetary union. The consequences of the latter would be catastrophic. In the first year alone, Eurozone GDP would fall by 9 percent. Inflation in the “peripheral economies” such as Spain and Portugal would head toward double digits, while the Eurozone core–especially Germany–would suffer a “deflationary shock.” Because the dollar would surge in relation to whatever national currencies might emerge, the United States would undergo that shock as well, and the exchange-rate jolt to U.S. competitiveness would reduce the odds of a sustained recovery in U.S. exports–a cornerstone of Obama’s growth strategy.
The consequences of a Greek exit considered in isolation would be less serious, of course. Even so, they are not pretty. Cliffe projects that the Eurozone would undergo a major recession and experience significantly higher levels of unemployment. In the United States, GDP growth would slow to only 1.3 percent in 2012 and 1.7 percent in 2013. Unemployment would stop falling and stagnate at current levels for the remainder of this year. These developments would make it harder for Obama to argue that we’re heading in the right direction, and–based on my analysis of recent elections involving incumbents–I suspect that economic growth at these depressed levels would mean victory for Mitt Romney.
From the American standpoint, the best outcome is concerted European action to keep Greece within the fold, while the second best outcome is a strategy that delays the inevitable until Europe can strengthen its defenses against contagion.
But there’s a problem: Many key European officials and observers have concluded that a Greek exit is both inevitable and manageable. A lengthy article in Der Spiegel makes this case, going so far as to argue that the consequences of doing what would be necessary to keep Greece in the monetary union would be worse than allowing it to leave. And Germany’s powerful Bundesbank agrees. Its most recent monthly report states: “A significant dilution of existing agreements [concerning Greece] would damage confidence in all euro area agreements and treaties and strongly weaken incentives for national reform.” Crucially, Germany’s central bank has concluded that Europe could successful deal with a Greek exit: “The challenges this would create for the euro area and for Germany would be considerable but manageable given prudent crisis management.”
To be sure, many other leaders–especially in France and Italy–are far more concerned about Europe’s ability to contain the consequences of Greece’s departure. France’s new president, Francois Hollande, is pushing the European Central Bank to provide further liquidity and intervene in sovereign debt markets. But the stark fact is that right now these leaders’ views don’t matter all that much. Angela Merkel, Germany’s new iron chancellor, holds the veto, and she appears unyielding. And (it must be said) German opinion from top to bottom seems driven by the tale of the ant and the grasshopper. Germany’s success in no accident, Germans believe. A thrifty, disciplined people bit the bullet and made the painful structural adjustments that long-term prosperity requires. Now it’s time for others to follow suit.
Until now, the ability of the United States to influence Eurozone policy has been modest, and many of our efforts to do so have produced resentment. So what is President Obama to do? If he believes, as I think he should, that the global economy, U.S. economy, and his own electoral prospects all hang in the balance, then he should call Merkel and propose a quick summit between the two leaders and their respective economic teams. He should come armed with a menu of concrete steps that the United States and major international institutions would be willing to take if Germany were to change course. He should appeal to Germany’s self-interest as the major beneficiary of the expanded export market the Eurozone has created. He should remind Merkel of the sacrifices that the United States made over many decades to help build a Europe that is free, whole, and united. And he should make it clear in private, and announce in public, that from the American standpoint, what touches all concerns all: Chancellor Merkel is not free to proceed as though the current crisis affects only Germany (or Europe) and the rest of the world has no legitimate say in the outcome.
Granted, this would be a bold and risky step. There’s no guarantee of success, and it would surely strain ties between the United States and one of its most important allies. Obama could return empty-handed, resulting in a diplomatic catastrophe. But the alternative is worse–to stand by while the dominant European country allows short-term politics, nationalist myopia, and misplaced moralism to substitute for far-sighted statesmanship that promotes a broader good.

Romney: Going Negative, Subtly

(This article by leading pollster James Zogby is cross posted from the Huffington Post)
Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney was given credit last week for refusing to endorse a proposed ad campaign that sought to link President Barack Obama with the controversial sermons delivered by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. In doing so, Romney appeared to be demonstrating the same streak of decency that wouldn’t allow him to join in with the silly “birther” cabal, or the “Islamophobic” hysteria when these tendencies were all in vogue.
So far, so good. But before pinning any medals on Mitt Romney, it is important to note some worrisome signs indicating that he and his campaign may have opted for a more subtle approach to establishing the “otherness” of Barack Obama.
The more ham-fisted approach was used in 2008 by then vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. It was both divisive and a failure. Beautifully cataloged by radio and TV personality, Bill Press, in his new book, The Obama Hate Machine, the GOP and their media echo chamber engaged in a multi-pronged assault against Obama in an effort to paint him as “radical,” “foreign” and “different than the rest of us.” He was “Muslim,” “associated with terrorists,” “of foreign birth;” a “Black militant,” “not a loyal American,” or a “Marxist” — all of which Press termed “the ‘othering’ of candidate Obama.”
Republicans failed to defeat Barack Obama in 2008. But their efforts did leave a deep residual mistrust of the President. For example, recent polls show that an average of 40 percent of Republican voters in Southern states do not believe that Obama was born in the United States (and is, therefore, ineligible to be president) and more than a quarter of all Republicans still believe that Obama is a Muslim.
There was also a more subtle approach to establishing the “otherness” of Obama, and it had its roots in the 2008 Democratic primary. A memo prepared back then by Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Mark Penn, pointed out the “diverse multicultural background” of her opponent, suggesting that “it exposes a very strong weakness for him — his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine Americans electing a president… who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and values.”
Based on this assessment, Penn then asked, “How we could give some life to this contrast without turning negative?” And he answered his question with the following advice:
“Every speech should contain the line you were born in the middle of America… and talk about the… deeply American values you grew up with… Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches, and values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American Century, etc… Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.”
While candidate Clinton rejected this approach, her surrogates, at times, did not. In any case, this Penn memo proposing a more subtle “othering” of Obama appears now to have been picked up by team-Romney in 2012.
Earlier this week I received a mass fundraising mailer from the Romney campaign. It included a glossy full color photo of the candidate in wrinkled jeans and wind-breaker, standing in front of a weathered barn emblazoned with a massive American flag. Under the photo was written:

“James,
Thank you for believing in America as much as I do…this is a moment that demands we return to our basic values and core principles.
Mitt Romney”

The fundraising letter that accompanied the photo featured, on just its first page, in only 15 lines of text, the words “America” and “American” 10 times. The letter began: “I believe in America… I believe in the American Dream. And I believe in American strength.” And continued: “This election is a battle for the soul of America.” It concluded by asserting that this campaign is “to reclaim America for the people.”
While only a touch more subtle than the rejected “paint him with the Jeremiah Wright is a radical brush,” the net effect of this Romney mailing is the same. In case you missed the point: Mitt Romney is the “real” American; he is the one who believes in “American values;” and he alone is fighting for the “soul of America.”
And the subtext of the message, in case you missed that: Obama is different; he’s not like “us;” his ideas are foreign; and he and his supporters believe in values that are un-American.
So while claiming to be the higher road, this GOP approach invites the same conclusion and opens the door to same bigotry that has for four years now tarnished our national discourse.
This election can be about many things. It can be about approaches to job-creation, or philosophies of governance, or character, or even qualities of leadership. But in a time of great national stress, faced, as we are, with a struggling economy and an unsettling and rapidly changing world, what this election debate should not be about are subtle or not so subtle digs calling into question the “patriotism” or “otherness” of the incumbent.

Bowers: Sign Petition, Thank 22 A.G.’s Fighting ‘Citizens United’

Join Daily Kos and Democracy for America in signing their petition thanking all of the attorneys general who are fighting against Citizens United
Late last year, the Montana Supreme Court made the first crack in Citizens United by upholding a century-old state law banning direct corporate spending for or against candidates in state elections. Not long afterward, a right-wing group asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule that decision. Now, as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case, the attorneys general from 22 states and D.C. have filed an amicus brief supporting Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock’s bid to maintain limits on corporate spending in state elections.
With nearly half of all states on board, this is the largest coordinated legal effort against Citizens United yet. Winning this lawsuit would immediately curtail the corrosive effect that unlimited corporate dollars are having on our democracy at the state level, and also be a major step toward overturning Citizens United nationwide.
Please join with Daily Kos and Democracy for America by signing our petition thanking all of the attorneys general who are fighting against Citizens United. We will send them the signatures.
Keep fighting,
Chris Bowers
Campaign Director, Daily Kos

Lux: Obama Should Hang Tough on Wall St. Regulation

The following article, by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, is cross-posted from HuffPo:
When I worked in the Clinton White House, I was always struck by how far off the conventional wisdom usually was in terms of how President Clinton’s big speeches played with the public. For the State of the Union and other big speeches, there was almost an exact inverse reaction between the way the D.C. pundits reacted and how much voters liked it — the more the D.C. guys hated the speech, the more the public usually liked it in the follow-up polling we were doing. It got to the point where I would cringe when one of the D.C. experts said they liked something Clinton did, because I feared what that would mean for our poll numbers.
I am seeing the same thing today in the Bain debate. When the beltway establishment attacks, I cheer. That is especially true having seen some focus group and polling data: when voters understand what kind of business Bain Capital is, and what Romney did when he was there, they hate it. Swing voters understand Bain to be vulture capitalism, as Newt Gingrich so accurately put it — vulture capitalism at its worst. Cripple companies with debt, lay off workers and cut their wages and benefits, outsource jobs to countries like China, sell off valuable assets, and then use tax loopholes to walk away with millions. Bain made money even when the companies they bought went bankrupt — sometimes because the companies went bankrupt. You explain to voters what Bain’s business model was, and they find it appalling — probably because it is.
In addition to D.C. types always tending to be out of touch with what real people believe, there is the bought off factor. Take the Democrats who are complaining the loudest. They are the exact Democrats you would expect to complain about this kind of strategy. Cory Booker is in office today because of the massive amounts of money he raised from Wall Street, including partners at Bain Capital itself.
Harold Ford, who has made Wall Street his home after raising millions from the financial industry in his political career, is the only Democratic candidate in a targeted Senate race to lose in 2006, and then went on to chair the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization that went down in flames shortly after he took over as chairman. After those two brilliant political endeavors, Ford announced that he might run against Kirsten Gillibrand for Senate in New York because he was so upset that Democrats were beating up so much on poor old Wall Street, but didn’t do it when his polling shockingly told him that voters hated Wall Street.
Ed Rendell works for a firm with a bunch of Wall Street investors as clients. Dianne Feinstein’s husband is in the financial industry, and Wall Street has been one of her main sources of political money. When I was working on financial reform issues over the last couple of years, Mark Warner was arguably Wall Street’s biggest Democratic advocate on the Hill. These folks are all big time Wall Street Democrats, and their opposition to the Obama campaign’s Bain message could not be more predictable.
Here’s the deal about this election year: Democrats are going to have blow off these attitudes by their Wall Street gang if they are going to have a chance to win this election. The voters who will decide this election are mostly in two categories: Latinos, the young, and working-class unmarried women who all should be Democratic base voters but are too hard hit by this economy to care much about voting; and working-class white swing voters.These are exactly the kinds of voters who are in an ugly mood about this economy, and they remain deeply angry that the Wall Street execs who destroyed the economy were bailed out and then got big bonuses the very next year instead of going to jail or at least being fired. Although voters think both parties are in bed with the big bank special interests, they tend to blame Obama for most of this, especially those swing voters.
Telling the story of Bain Capital and talking to voters about how they made their money sets this election up perfectly for Obama — as long as people (a) understand how Bain operated, and (b) have some evidence that Obama’s values are the opposite of Bain Capital’s values. Obama has to have credibility in being willing to call out and hold the big bankers accountable. Voters are getting a pretty good sense that Romney is Wall Street’s friend, and I think they are going to be easy to convince that being Wall Street’s friend doesn’t help create jobs, since it didn’t work for Romney in Massachusetts (46th in the country in job creation), and it didn’t work for George W. Bush. But Obama has to keep the heat on Bain, and he has to show he is going to put the heat on Wall Street in general.
The Obama campaign needs to confidently ignore the whiny Wall Street Democrats. They have no credibility, and their political advice is poison. And the Obama administration needs to roll over the pro-Wall Streeters in their own midst by giving the financial fraud task force more resources and by squeezing the biggest banks with tough regulatory action.
Voters are in a foul mad. They are itching to blame someone for this ugly economy. A lot of people blame Bush quite a bit, but he has been gone too long and he is not on the ballot, so Obama can’t rely on that. Ultimately, most of the blame will fall on either Obama or Wall Street — and the Jamie Dimons and Bain Capitals of the world. Democrats better hope it is the latter.