Friday, August 31, 2012

2008 Had Joe the Plumber and ...

... 2012 has "Invisible Obama" ... who has his own twitter account.

I recommend the first interview (after Clint Eastwood's obviously).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Clint Eastwood

Yeah, it was bizarre. And no, it doesn't matter in the long run. As Steve Schmidt said, it won't cost Romney a single vote.

But ... if you're a Republican, wouldn't you rather have that 12 minutes of the nation's attention back to do something productive with them?

Larry Kudlow ...

... was disappointed with Mitt Romney's speech. And that pretty much sums it up.

It was a non-event and therefore a missed opportunity for Romney.

Larry Kudlow points out right after the speech that Mitt Romney is going to launch a "jobs tour" after he becomes president. Kudlow observed he didn't know what the heck that means. Answer: It doesn't mean anything. It is an empty platitude ... like the rest of the speech.

How big will the convention bounce be? 4-5 points is my guess and I think it will vanish faster than the usual bounce.

I think where we emerge in about 2 weeks (after both convention bounces fade) is Nate Silver's model showing Obama with a 72% chance of winning. Let's see if I'm right.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Amateur Psychology Hour

Mitt Romney is still being forced to talk about his taxes which, just as an aside, is really not what he wants to be doing and he'd be better off if he would ... JUST RELEASE HIS TAX RETURNS!!!

But whatever. I'm tired of railing on that one. What's new is that Romney is taking a new (also stupid) path by conflating taxes and charity. He's wanting to point out that, when you put this tax payments and his charitable donations together, he actually pays quite a bit more than the 13.9 percent he paid in 2010. How many things are wrong with this business? Let's count:

1) Romney's new strategy (to conflate taxes and charity) still has him talking about tax returns. He might as well discuss animal transport. That's about as good a topic for him.

2) The further he goes into this topic, the more times he ends up pointing out that he paid just 13.9% in taxes in 2010. That number just keeps coming up like a bad penny.

3) This brings me to my main point. Romney is now planning to release his 2011 taxes on October 15 (terrible idea, but okay). He was asked what his effective tax rate was in 2011 and his response?
I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that.
Oy vey. "Or something like that?" I'm not a psychologist but it seems to me that Mitt's got a tell. If you're trying to pretend your just guesstimating, you probably don't want to give a number that includes tenths of a percentage point. That's not an estimate. That's a pretty freakin' precise number.

To put this another way, you could have said: "It is 13.6%." Or you could have said, "It 13 or 14 percent, something like that." But you can't put those two options together. It is like the police are asking a suspect, "So what time did you leave the bar?" and the suspect responds, "A few seconds past 4:03 or something like that." That is a suspect who is hiding something.

I'm perfectly happy letting Mitt twist in the wind on this all through the Fall but, if I were advising him, I'd be saying, "Mitt, just release the taxes already. Release them all. It is still August. Nobody's paying attention. Your convention will drown out the story soon enough even if it is bad. Just get it over with."

... Or something like that.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Romney Pays No Taxes ...

... under the Paul Ryan tax plan.

Actually, he does pay a small amount. Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic estimates that in 2010, a year for which we do have Romney's full tax return, Romney would have paid an effective tax rate of 0.82%. As in < 1%. The only reason he'd even pay that is because of his income on his speaking fees which, you know, is "not very much" according to Romney himself.

I'll agree with the pundits on this: Picking Ryan sure was "bold."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Some Initial Thoughts on the Ryan Pick

1) The timing makes little sense to me. Romney has just a few opportunities to truly reset the race. The VP pick, the convention, and the debates. Why make this move on a Saturday ... on a Saturday at 8:45AM EST ... on a Saturday at 8:45AM EST during the last weekend of the Olympics? It is as if Romney is trying to get people to ignore the news. Why not wait until Monday or Tuesday when more will tune in?

2) Picking Ryan is a clear admission the Romney team thinks they are behind and need to change the dynamic and conversation in the race. If you're comfortable with where you are, you pick Pawlenty, Portman, etc. Ryan brings many things to the table that are good for Romney. He's respected by tea party people, he's from Wisconsin, he's smart, and he's telegenic. But he's also a candidate who brings risk to the Romney campaign. He reinforces the pre-existing Obama narrative: Romney wants to give tax cuts to wealthy people while balancing the budget on the backs of the rest of us by cutting Medicare, etc.

3) Picking up on that last point, Romney runs stronger with seniors than younger voters. Picking Ryan gives Obama an opening to gain ground with seniors. The Obama campaign has already sent out an email on Ryan highlighting his plans on Medicare which would be devastating to a very popular program. Also, Ryan is a young guy and he looks even younger than he is. Perhaps this was an intentional effort to reach out to younger voters by Romney but it could hurt him just as much or more among older voters.

4) Does Ryan deliver Wisconsin? No. He's popular in his district but I don't think that matters statewide. Many people have misread Scott Walker's recall victory as an endorsement of Walker's policies. It was more a rejection of the recall mechanism in dealing with policy differences. Moreover, the Obama campaign will wrap Walker's assault on unions around Romney. I think that could hurt Romney just a little bit in states like Ohio and Michigan.

5) I've said all along VP picks don't make much of a difference in the long run of a campaign though they can hurt a candidate. Does Ryan hurt Romney? Certainly not in the short term. Indeed, Romney may even get a minor bounce until people learn more about Ryan and the "newness" of the story fades. In the longer run, I figure it makes no difference and could mildly hurt Romney in terms of reinforcing Obama's narrative.

6) This pick looks an awful lot like Jack Kemp in 1996. A smart conservative darling gets picked to try to smooth out some of the "non-conservative" warts of the nominee. Conservatives swoon over the VP pick in the short term and few remember the pick in the long run and it doesn't make a difference.

Monday, August 6, 2012

News That Doesn't Matter

If it's news but doesn't matter, is it really news?

Romney plus RNC raised $100 million in July while Obama plus DNC raised $75 million. Does that matter? No.

Look ... both sides are going to have far more to spend than they need and, given that only a few states are actually in play, that money will be so concentrated on those states that the saturation point will be reached even earlier.

How the two sides are spending their money is a different question. The Obama campaign has been investing more heavily in their ground game by opening more offices, hiring more staff, and investing in GOTV efforts. The Romney campaign has emphasized advertising to a greater degree. It isn't black and white obviously as both sides have enough money to conduct both an air war and a ground war. But the differing emphases are pronounced enough that it could make a difference. I really don't know which side is making the better bet empirically. But I will say I generally think the Obama team is the smarter and more experienced group of the two.

Friday, August 3, 2012


A couple of days ago, Quinnipiac released polls in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania showing Obama with leads of 6, 6, and 11 points respectively among likely voters.

Yesterday, Pew Research Center released a national poll showing Obama with a whopping 10-point lead with Romney's unfavorables ticking up to 52%.

This morning, the monthly jobs report held moderately good news for Obama ... a gain of 163,000 jobs in July. We've said previously that averaging job gains of even 125,000 a month would probably be good enough for the President to get reelected.

Finally, Nate Silver's model has Obama's probability of winning ticking up a bit over 70% and that has not yet factored in the decent jobs report.

So, is there real movement in the race here or just statistical noise? Let's break down each piece of news here. The Quinnipiac polls are probably the most positive indicator in all this as they are a good pollster and the Ohio and Florida numbers are surprisingly strong for Obama (please don't get me started on Pennsylvania again). Quinnipiac has moved to a likely voter screen here though and, while that normally gives a slight bump to the Republicans, it could do almost anything depending on how they are screening likely voters. So, it is entirely possible there is no movement here at all and Obama's lead in Ohio and Florida in these polls is just a function of a bad likely voter screen. Similarly, it could be statistical noise though these polls had very large sample sizes (over 1,000 likely voters in each state).

The Pew poll shows a very large lead for Obama that is out of step with other polls. Pew has had a significant house effect towards Obama for some time now so the "lead" would need to be discounted some just for that reason alone. Nate Silver discussed this at length last night.

The jobs numbers are decent for Obama but not incredible. The new numbers basically stem the erosion of confidence in my view rather than boosting Obama. This is good news for Obama no doubt but it is not a "game-changer."

Taking all that together, I think it is fair to say it has been a good couple of days for Obama but "no movement" is a good day for him right now. He doesn't need the dynamic of the race to change. I am not sure we're seeing actual movement in any numbers here. We'll know more in a week or two but count me as one who believes the breaking news here is ... nothing, nothing is happening.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Simple Math

Mitt Romney seems intent on making the whole case for his candidacy on the economy's poor performance and on his (Romney's) superior qualifications and background in the private sector actor. Some problems:

1) The Obama campaign has been hammering Romney on his Bain years and it appears to be resonating with voters ... -1

2) People want to know that, even if Romney can fix the economy, he's credible as a foreign policy actor. He just returned from a trip that suggests otherwise ... -1

3) Many have criticized Romney for running strictly on his biography and failing to offer clear ideas for how he would fix the economy. But he has offered a tax plan. Brookings finds that Romney's tax plan would actually increase the tax burden for 95% of Americans while cutting taxes for the wealthiest 5% ... -1

So that's a negative 3. What effect has it had on the race? None, so far. The national polls don't show much movement. If anything, they show Romney closing just by a bit but nothing really. The state polls seem to be moving in favor of Obama if anything. But ... nothing really.

Then none of it matters, right? I wouldn't quite say that. All of this is laying a foundation for the race to come. It is setting the strategic environment. I guess we might say the ingredients for the cake are being gathered. So, while we don't know what the cake will look like, the chef is going to be constrained by what is in the kitchen and what's not.

Nate Silver's forecast has moved around very, very little since it was introduced. But, right now, it is near the high point for Obama's chances of winning - 69%. That sounds about right to me.