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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Looks like the Republicans aren’t totally paranoid about voter fraud, after all. An Indiana jury just convicted Republican Secretary of State Charlie White of three counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of theft, according to this Indy Star report.
Ronald Brownstein has a sobering analysis for those who think President Obama will have a cakewalk election in November: “Political strategists used to believe that incumbents were unlikely to win elections (or carry states) where their approval rating lagged below 50 percent; but given the widespread cynicism about politicians many strategists on both sides believe the tipping point is now around 47 percent. Below that number, incumbents are a distinct underdog; above it, they are favored, with the ground tilting much more toward them once they cross 50 percent…the number of states Obama can plausibly contest to reach 270 Electoral College votes is narrowing.” On the upside, Brownstein notes that Obama is “generally polling above his approval ratings in head-to-head match-ups against the leading Republican contenders-who have seen their favorability ratings decline amid their fierce primary struggle.”
Punditty at Allvoices.com has a somewhat sunnier take on Obama’s prospects: “According to poll figures available Feb. 3, 2012, at Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, President Obama leads in 20 states when the three most recent polls for that state are averaged, giving him 259 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win re-election. The unnamed GOP opponent is ahead in 15 states for 106 electoral votes, with 136 electoral votes rated as tossups and 37 electoral votes lack enough data to reach a conclusion.”
AP’s Ken Thomas assesses prospects for a long GOP campaign, and also sees a tough struggle for Dems: “A Gallup survey showed Obama’s approval ratings dropping in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, all critical to his re-election. In New Hampshire, which Obama carried in 2008, he had an approval rating of about 38 percent…Adding to the concerns, the Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that the economy would grow only 2 percent this year. It also predicted an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent on Election Day.”
In his post on “The 50 Percent Problem” at The Hill, Democratic consultant Mark Mellman takes an instructive look at the relationship between presidential approval ratings and reelection prospects, and notes “Professor Alan Abramowitz’s statistical model suggests that a 1-point increase in the president’s net approval rating leads to a 0.1 percent increase in vote — meaningful, but hardly the perfect correlation implied by the 50 percent rule…So based on all the data, what can we say about approval ratings and presidential votes? In short, presidents with approval ratings below 43 percent are quite likely to lose, while those over 55 percent are very likely to win. In between, where President Obama now stands, is the zone of uncertainty…
Charlie Cook sees a significant uptick in President Obama’s prospects: “My feeling for much of the past year was that Obama’s reelection chances were distinctly uphill. Today, I am not so sure. I see it as more of an evenly matched fight, something borne out by a USA Today/Gallup survey of the key battleground states showing essentially a tie.”
As if the GOP doesn’t have enough internecine conflict, Karl Rove picks a fight with Clint Eastwood for doing a patriotic “Yea America” ad cheering on Big Auto’s comeback — just because it indirectly calls attention to the fact that President Obama’s initiative — which Romney opposed — saved America’s most pivotal industry. Hard to see any political upside for Rove’s whine, which has undoubtedly increased the ad’s hittage, now at over 2.7 million and counting.
Republicans shot themselves in the other foot with a different Super Bowl ad deploying a demeaning racial stereotype to defeat Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI). The denunciations are rolling in. As Republican consultant Mike Murphy swiftly tweeted his verdict Sunday night: “Pete Hoekstra Superbowl TV ad in MI Senate race really, really dumb. I mean really.” Hoekstra still supports the ad, which was produced by the same wizard who did the ‘Demon Sheep’ ad for Carly Fiorina in her losing Senate campaign in CA. and Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m You” spot in her losing U.S. senate campaign in DE.
The buzz is increasing, even in conservative circles, that Dems may indeed retake the House, mostly because of the growing perception that Republicans are responsible for Washington gridlock, reports WaPo’s Aaron Blake.
Big shift in Obama campaign fund-raising strategy, as Michael O’Brien reports at MSNBC First Read: “Obama campaign manager Jim Messina emailed supporters to formally endorse contributions to Priorities USA, the Democratic super PAC founded by Bill Burton, a former White House deputy press secretary. “With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm,” Messina wrote on the campaign’s blog. “Therefore, the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC.”
Lest you thought that the GOP voter suppression campaign was finally flagging, the Virginia News Leader reports that “there are at least 17 bills flowing through the Virginia General Assembly that make voting more difficult…Those “Voter Integrity” bills are generally the work of Republicans.”
George Wagner’s op-ed in the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel, “Today’s GOP Vacates the Center,” presents some interesting data about the primary source of current political polarization and paralysis: “…Over the last generation, the Republican Party has drifted much farther to the right than Democrats have moved to the left. Political scientists Howard Rosenthal and Keith T. Poole cite legislative voting records over the past 35 years. By creating a widely used measurement that reveals the ideology of congressional members, U.S. Senate Republicans moved twice as far to the right as Senate Democrats moved to the left; and House Republicans moved six times farther to the right than their Democratic colleagues move to the left…It’s really been a one-sided shift. The polarization that the electorate decries has been caused mostly by the GOP.

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