Former President Bill Clinton is the star of a new Obama campaign ad that directly addresses the issue voters say is their top priority: the economy.
In the 30-second spot the man some in the Democratic Party still call the “Big Dog” pretty much speaks constantly throughout. (That brings back memories, doesn’t it?) He says that “this election to me is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment."
He goes on to say that the Republicans want to cut taxes on upper-income people and deregulate industry, and “that’s what got us in trouble in the first place.” Meanwhile, President Obama has a plan “to rebuild American from the ground up, investing in education, innovation, and job training."
“That’s what happened when I was president. We need to keep going with his plan,” concludes Mr. Clinton.
Hmm. Will this approach help or hurt Mr. Obama? After all, some might say that talking about unemployment head-on could be dangerous for an incumbent when the jobless rate likely will top 8 percent for the foreseeable future. It’s a subject on which Mitt Romney has framed much of his campaigning.
The conservative web site Hot Air! hits this point Thursday with a post by Ed Morrissey titled “Clinton cuts ad touting Obama plan that Obama never talks about."
“Let’s give at least one cheer to former President Clinton – at least he’s talking about economic policy, even if he’s vague and misleading,” writes Mr. Morrissey.
Well, we think there are a number of things the Obama campaign is trying to accomplish with this spot. First is to simply associate the current president with Clinton nostalgia.
Plus, Americans now judge Clinton as among the best of recent US presidents. Sixty percent of respondents to a Gallup survey from February rated Clinton’s performance as outstanding or above average. Only Ronald Reagan ranked higher. No other chief executive from the last 40 years even comes close.
Seen in that context, the ad represents Obama running out one of his biggest weapons to talk about something central to the campaign.
Second, the ad reflects Obama’s long-term attempt to remind the public that the economy was already awful when he took office. That’s the purpose of the line “that’s what got us in trouble in the first place." (Of course, Republicans would argue that the 2008 recession stemmed from the collapse of a housing bubble partly created by federal government actions. That’s a part of the Clinton ad that Morrissey judges “misleading.")
Third, the half-minute spot presents the election as a choice between two existing and quite different approaches to the economy. That might sound obvious, but challengers to an incumbent president usually want the election to be a referendum on the incumbent’s job performance. Are things bad? Let’s fire this person and try someone else.
“What we’re seeing here, I believe, is the beginning of the Obama campaign’s pivot to a more concerted effort to draw a contrast between what an Obama second term would look like and what a Romney presidency would look like,” asserts liberal Greg Sargent Thursday on his Plum Line Washington Post blog.
Given a continued flat economy, it’s possible that this approach reflects a subtlety that will be lost on many voters. After all, polls have been remarkably stable for months, despite gaffes by both candidates, Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as VP, Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment, and so forth.
Is Ron Paul getting a raw deal from the Republican National Committee? That’s the question among some of his committed supporters as Mr. Paul and the RNC near an agreement intended to ensure harmony on the floor at next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Yes, the developing pact ensures that the Texas congressman, who was among the last to fall out of the GOP race for the party's nomination, will get 17 of Louisiana’s 46 delegates. Yes, Paul’s camp is working to settle outstanding disputes regarding delegates from Massachusetts and Maine.
But many Paul foot soldiers believed that they had already won control of the Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Maine delegations at state party conventions. They feel Mitt Romney’s campaign is now yanking away those victories by charging that they were the result of procedural irregularities.
In recent days, the Paul Twitterverse and message boards on Paul websites have lit up with angry comments about the emerging Paul-Romney détente.
“The GOP acts like this is some sort of game show,” wrote one commentator on the Daily Paul comment forum Wednesday.
“I remember a time, not too long ago, where WE would be the ones giving [Romney] 17 delegates and keeping the rest. And, now? NO MORE COMPROMISING!” wrote another.
For its part, Paul HQ is urging calm. Throughout the campaign Paul and Mr. Romney appeared to be the two GOP contenders with the best relationship. Paul’s aides have long said that they do not want their supporters to be disruptive in Tampa and that their long-term goal is to push the Republican Party in a more libertarian direction from within.
Settling the Louisiana dispute was a huge step forward, according to Paul campaign officials. The state party convention in Shreveport in June was chaotic. At one point a convention chairman elected by Paul supporters was injured by security guards intent on his removal. The Paul and Romney camps ended up holding separate conventions and submitting separate lists of delegates to the RNC.
A deal to seat a portion of Paul’s Massachusetts delegates is also close, Paul campaign strategist Jesse Benton told the Associated Press. Maine? Well....
“Maine is still unsettled, but talks are continuing and the conversation remains respectful,” Mr. Benton told the AP.
The bottom line is that presumptive nominee Romney has just about ensured that Paul won’t bolt and hold a separate protest rally outside the convention venue, as he did in 2008 in St. Paul, Minn. That means he can present the picture of a united GOP to the nation during the Republican convention.
Meanwhile, Paul has been able to influence the party platform, via language calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve, and a plank on Internet freedom that reflects Paulian views.
But as Mr. Putnam and other experts have pointed out, there’s been something of a divergence developing in recent months between Paul and some Paul supporters. While the Paul campaign has been urging decorum, some Paulites have gone rogue, urging confrontation with the GOP powers-that-be in the name of libertarianism.
In May, for instance, Paul supporters at the GOP convention in Nevada's Clark County pushed through a resolution calling for RNC chief Reince Priebus to resign because he’d merged party fundraising with Romney’s efforts.
That’s why it’s going to be interesting to see what the tone will be at Paulfest, or Paulstock, or whatever you want to call the Aug. 26 Paul “We Are the Future” rally scheduled for the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome. Beginning at noon, the proceedings will run for five hours and feature speeches from former congressman Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the 1964 Republican standard-bearer, and grass-roots Paul campaign leaders.
Noted blues guitarist Jimmy Vaughan is scheduled to play, and the master of ceremonies will be Doug Wead, a former Bush official and often-cited chronicler of presidential family history. Could be fun! “Ronvoys” are carrying supporters from many states to the festivities.
“Ron Paul’s rally will enable supporters, the public, and media to further witness the ideas and people that are the future of the Republican Party," said Benton, the Paul aide, in a statement outlining the Paulfest program.
Todd Akin says he’s not quitting. The GOP congressman insists he’s in the Missouri Senate race to the end, despite the fact that most of the Republican Party hierarchy is pressing him to step down. He hasn’t done anything morally or ethically wrong, and the furor over his use of the phrase “legitimate rape” when talking about pregnancy and abortion is an overreaction, Mr. Akin said Tuesday on Mike Huckabee’s radio show.
“What we’re doing here is standing on a principle of what America is,” said Akin.
OK then. It appears he’s going to continue his quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Could he actually win?
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The conventional wisdom is “no.” Many professional political prognosticators feel this flap has sealed his fate. Over at the Cook Political Report, analyst Jennifer Duffy judges that his comments about rape have “rendered him unelectable.” Democrats will repeat them no end, and Republican campaign organizations have all withdrawn financial and political support.
“As long as he remains the nominee, this race is no longer a Toss Up and McCaskill is a strong favorite for re-election,” writes Ms. Duffy.
But the race still poses a dilemma, Mr. Sabato tweeted in the wake of Akin’s announcement that he’s staying in. “Hard to imagine either McCaskill or Akin winning,” he wrote. “Maybe Akin gets out later on.”
Unsurprisingly, that’s not how Akin himself sees the election unfolding. In a number of interviews on Tuesday he defended himself in part by portraying himself as a candidate who’s now outside the party structure, and thus more appealing to “political bravehearts” (his words) who judge themselves independent.
Given current national attitudes about the poisonously partisan atmosphere in Washington, it’s at least possible that Akin is right. After all, current polls show that his gaffe hasn’t – or hasn’t yet – taken a toll. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted Aug. 20 showed Akin leading McCaskill by 1 percentage point, 44 to 43.
“Akin has certainly been damaged by this whole thing ... but he’s by no means out of it – it looks like Missouri’s increasing Republican lean over the last few years would give him a decent chance at victory in spite of this major controversy,” writes PPP’s Tom Jenson.
Missouri’s GOP tendency might indeed be Akin’s last, best chance at winning a Senate seat. As New York Times polling analyst Nate Silver notes, the Show-Me State has trended Republican in presidential votes since 1996. In 2008 it was the only battleground state Sen. John McCain (R) won.
Why is this? White, conservative, rural voters in the state have become increasingly Republican, as they have throughout neighboring Southern states, Mr. Silver writes. Missouri’s population growth has centered on such GOP strongholds as exurban St. Louis. Overall, Silver predicts that Mitt Romney has a 79 percent chance to take Missouri’s electoral votes.
So it’s possible Akin could ride into office on Romney’s coattails. But it’s also just as possible that the effects of his unfortunate language just have yet to sink in. A 2011 paper by political scientist Nicholas Chad Long of St. Edward’s University found that on average Senate incumbents involved in scandals of one kind or another lost 6 points at the polls.
But Akin isn’t the Senate incumbent in Missouri – that’s Senator McCaskill. [Editor's note: The last sentence of this story, which contained an error, has been omitted.]
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Country singer Hank Williams Jr. increased the volume on his anti-Obama rhetoric last week, telling a crowd at the Iowa State Fair, “We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the US, and we hate him!” according to an account of the concert in The Des Moines Register.
Mr. Williams’s political views have landed him in trouble before, in case you’ve forgotten: Last October, he compared President Obama playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner to Hitler hitting the links with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After this, ESPN pulled his “All My Rowdy Friends” from its intro to "Monday Night Football," thus at a stroke depriving Williams of one of the most lucrative residual/promotional positions available on national TV.
Given the loss he’s already incurred, why more inflammatory words?
Well, we don’t know what Williams believes in his heart. But it’s worth remembering that a substantial number of Americans still hold to the incorrect view that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. In that sense, Williams is speaking to a constituency.
A July Pew Research Center poll of registered voters found that 17 percent of respondents say that the US president is Muslim. Forty-nine percent correctly identified Obama as Christian, while 31 percent said they did not know his religion.
Interestingly, the percentage of voters who think Obama is Muslim has actually increased a bit since 2008. That rise is particularly pronounced among self-identified conservative Republicans. Four years ago, 16 percent of GOP conservatives identified Obama as Muslim. Today, 34 percent do, according to Pew.
Seen in that context, Williams is speaking for a constituency that is substantial and growing.
Plus, at this point Williams’s rants might be good for business. He has a new album out, “Old School, New Rules,” which is highly anti-Obama. It contains such lyrics as, “Hey Barack, pack your bags, head to Chicago, take your teleprompter with you so you’ll know where to go.”
“More than half the songs ... are raging political commentaries,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle in July.
Williams himself says ESPN did him a favor by dropping his song, as it pushed supporters to rally to his side. He told Mr. Doyle that the controversy sold $200,000 worth of T-shirts in cities such as Evansville, Ind.
Fans “have made me feel real special," Williams told Rolling Stone. "I’ve never had so many e-mails and letters. That’s what makes those songs easier to write.”
“This is nothing but pure hatred and racism and has no place in the US,” wrote Mr. Collender.
Is Joe Biden going to be a particular target for Republicans in the months leading up to the November presidential election? It sure looks that way at the moment.
Already this week, Team Romney has accused Mr. Biden of injecting race into the campaign, because he told a largely black audience that the GOP would “put y’all back in chains.” And on Friday, the "super PAC" American Crossroads is releasing an ad that mocks Biden for all manner of verbal slips, from the “chains” remark to his assertion that “jobs” is a three-letter word.
“Some people say Joe Biden should be dropped from Obama’s ticket, but we say Joe should stay,” says the narrator in a sarcastically earnest tone. “Joe Biden, America’s greatest vice president, when we need him most.”
Take the No. 2 person on a national ticket, highlight their gaffes and inapt word choices, and splash that against a background of photos in which they look goofy. Hmm. It’s almost as if Republicans are mirroring the way Democrats attacked Sarah Palin in 2008.
“This is staggeringly awesome. Go give them some cash so they can get that ad up everywhere,” Mr. Erickson writes.
At HotAir, conservative Ed Morrissey mulls over a report that Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked to replace Biden on the ticket. He finds that questionable and then raises what he calls the rhetorical question that’s been on everyone’s minds this week. Or at least the mind of everyone who’s enthusiastic about the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney’s ticket.
Therein may be the impetus of the current bash-Biden boomlet. Four years ago when the talkative then-senator was plucked from the Foreign Relations Committee to run as VP, many Democrats were worried about his tendency to produce gaffes in bunches, like grapes. But then John McCain tapped Ms. Palin, and the rest is history. The media focused on Palin’s perceived faults. Biden looked statesmanlike by comparison.
Aaron Blake makes this point on The Washington Post’s political blog The Fix today.
“In large part thanks to Palin, the debate over Biden’s utility on the Democratic ticket is four years late,” writes Mr. Blake.
In 2012, Representative Ryan promises to be a different sort of veep opponent. His plan for Medicare might poll poorly, but nobody’s charging that Ryan is inarticulate. Next to him Biden appears older (because he is), chattier (he is that also), and perhaps more prone to say stuff he wouldn’t if he thought about it just a second longer.
But here’s another question: Does that matter? Biden’s not going anywhere. In the modern era, sitting VPs just don’t get replaced. In part, that’s because such a heave-ho would make the incumbent US chief executive look desperate. In part, it’s because VP candidates just don’t have that much effect on a ticket’s chances.
Seen in that context, Republican attacks on Biden may just be attempts to sow dissension in the opposition ranks.
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The Mitt Romney campaign has a new talking point that it’s hitting hard: President Obama “robbed” Medicare of $716 billion to help pay for his health-care reform legislation. Is this assertion accurate?
Well, it is true that the Affordable Care Act – known to some as Obamacare – would reduce spending on Medicare by $716 billion from 2013 to 2022, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. It is also true that this reduction is used to offset spending on other ACA provisions.
However, the ACA does not literally lop this figure off Medicare’s bottom line. Most of these reductions would occur due to the fact that the law makes changes meant to lower future costs for the big health-care program for seniors.
For instance, the ACA cuts many of the payments Medicare makes in its fee-for-service system to hospitals, nurses, and other health-care providers. (Doctors would not be affected by this payment squeeze.) According to CBO, over the 10-year period it measured, Medicare payments for hospital services would go down by $260 billion, for instance. Payments for skilled nursing services would go down by $39 billion and for home health services by $33 billion.
The other big category of ACA Medicare reductions is aimed at Medicare Advantage, a sub-section of Medicare plans run by private insurers. Medicare Advantage began as a pilot program under President George W. Bush, who pushed it as a means to save money by pitting private insurers against each other in a competition to cover Medicare beneficiaries.
This approach has not worked out as intended. Currently Medicare Advantage plans cost the government more on a per-person basis than traditional fee-for-service Medicare.
“The Affordable Care Act gives those private plans a haircut and tethers reimbursement levels to the quality of care administered, and patient satisfaction,” writes Washington Post Wonkblog writer Sarah Kliff in her analysis of the $716 billion reductions.
In essence, the Medicare cuts contained in Obama’s health-care reforms reduce the pay of providers within the system. That’s why restoring them could actually make the program less fiscally sound in the longer term. If the reductions are reversed Medicare’s cost structure would suddenly be higher, and it would be paying out cash faster well past the 2022 period, bringing its day of insolvency closer as a result.
Does all this mean Obama has looted Medicare? On “60 Minutes” last Sunday, Mr. Romney said: “There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare.”
“The only element of truth here is that the health-care law seeks to reduce future Medicare spending and the tally of those cost reductions over the next 10 years is $716 billion,” writes Politifact. “The money wasn’t ‘robbed,’ however, and other presidents have made similar reductions to the Medicare program.”
However, on Thursday the Romney campaign released a video of the presumptive GOP presidential candidate in which he charged that Obama’s reductions would have a real effect on beneficiaries.
Due to the cuts, 4 million people would lose Medicare Advantage plans, Romney charged. (They would presumably still be eligible for the regular Medicare system). Plus, ever-shrinking payments to health care providers would cause them to drop Medicare patients, said Romney.
“The Medicare actuary estimates that 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes will stop taking Medicare patients,” Romney said.
Since then lots of Republicans – and some prominent Democrats – have hit the incumbent VP hard for a remark they say had racial undertones. When he uttered the phrase “back in chains” Biden was talking about GOP plans to repeal the Obama administration’s Wall Street reforms. But much of the Virginia audience was African-American, and Biden’s words were an unmistakable reference to slavery’s bondage, in the view of critics.
“You know, these are the kinds of things you say when you’re desperate in a campaign,” said presumptive GOP VP nominee Rep. Paul Ryan in an interview Thursday with Sean Hannity on Fox News Radio.
Administration officials insist that Biden was talking about finance and simply made a clumsy reference to the harm that would befall consumers if the Romney-Ryan ticket wins. President Obama said as much in an interview with People magazine. Biden aides said the veep verbally tripped after saying that Republicans want to “unshackle” banks.
“He often talks about the middle class and the importance of unshackling the middle class,” said White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki in a briefing for reporters on Wednesday. “He was using a metaphor yesterday and talking about Wall Street reform and the fact that we can’t allow Republicans to defund Wall Street reform.”
However, some African-American Democrats were not convinced. Former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder told CNN that “without question” the remark was an appeal to race. Mr. Wilder indicated that he took particular umbrage at the fact that Biden referred to “y’all,” not “us.”
“So he was still involved with that separate America. And I’m sick and tired of being considered something other than an American,” said Wilder.
At the website The Root, which is aimed at an African-American audience, contributing editor David Swerdlick called Biden’s remark “inexcusable” and said that “any reference to slavery ... isn’t any better when it’s made by a liberal."
But he and other Root commentators were also annoyed at what they judged to be faux outrage from Republicans. The GOP has long used coded language in reference to racial issues, according to Mr. Swerdlick, such as when some Republicans insinuate that President Obama is not a real American by calling for his long-form birth certificate.
“African-Americans can point – and rightly so – to a steady stream of chatter that’s never quite outright race-baiting but sure feels that way.... But maybe next time, if Romney hears something foul come from his side of the aisle, he’ll be the one who calls it out first. Because now, at least, he knows how black people feel,” wrote Swerdlick.
The spot, titled “You Paid,” begins with a still photo of a concerned-looking white-haired guy. “You paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck,” says the narrator, while the camera moves in tighter on the shot.
Then there’s a quick cut to a photo of an empty wheelchair. “Now when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for Obamacare,” says the narrator. “So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”
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Then a shot of a smiling Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan, appears. “The Romney/Ryan plan protects Medicare for today’s seniors and strengthens Medicare for the next generation,” it concludes.
If nothing else, the quick release of this ad shows that the Romney campaign knows it has to move fast to blunt Mr. Obama’s charge that Congressman Ryan wants to end Medicare as we know it. Plus, it picks up on talking points that some proponents of Ryan’s approach have been urging the GOP to use.
The first of these is obvious: that $716 billion slice out of the program’s funds.
Romney and his campaign surrogates “need to point out that it was President Obama, not Romney, who cut $700 billion from Medicare to fund other priorities. Listening to [top Democrats] on the Sunday shows, you’d think it was the other way around,” wrote American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Andrew Biggs earlier this week.
To this Democrats would reply, "Yes, the Affordable Care Act did make that reduction. But the money was cut from Medicare payments to hospitals, Medicaid prescription drugs, and reimbursements to private insurance plans under the pilot Medicare Advantage program. It did not come directly from benefits."
(They might also add that both Ryan’s and Obama’s Medicare budgets foresee the same general financial path for the system. Both foresee per-person benefits rising at the rate of increase of the gross domestic product (GDP), plus 0.5 percent. The difference is in how the respective budgets plan to get to that financial goal.)
The second point the ad makes is simple, though made in a subtle way: Current recipients would not be affected by the Romney/Ryan team’s proposed changes. That’s why the ad says the pair would “protect Medicare for today’s seniors.”
That’s true. The Ryan-produced budget passed by the House earlier this year draws the line at age 55. Those 55 or older would not see any change in the Medicare system. Those under 55 would participate in Ryan’s “premium-support” model for the giant government health-care system.
“No one over the age of 55 would be affected in any way,” wrote Mr. Biggs.
But for people under age 55, Medicare would fundamentally change. “Premium support” means “voucher,” in the view of Democrats. Beneficiaries would receive a fixed sum of money from the government to buy private insurance from a Medicare Exchange. (The traditional fee-for-service would be one of the exchange’s options, and the premium would be adjusted for different regional costs and the health of the beneficiary.)
Democrats charge that under this system seniors would inevitably end up paying an increasingly large percentage of their health-care costs. Ryan’s proponents proclaim that’s not true. Competition for customers between private plans on the exchanges would effectively keep prices down, they say.
But is the Romney campaign smart to confront the issue in such a direct manner? After all, many GOP operatives worry that focus on Medicare diverts attention from the issues on which Obama fares worst among voters, the overall state of the economy and jobs.
Plus, Democrats have long “owned” Medicare, in the sense that polls show voters trust them rather than Republicans when it comes to the big program’s fate, notes George Washington University political scientist John Sides on the Monkey Cage political blog.
Such stereotypes are remarkably persistent, according to Mr. Sides. Political scientists’ research shows that when candidates try to “trespass” on the other party’s turf – when a Republican runs as pro-education, say, or a Democrat runs as tougher on defense – voters don’t really pay much attention.
Thus the Romney/Ryan ticket’s attempts to portray itself as the savior of Medicare “will be an uphill battle for the GOP,” he concludes.
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First lady Michelle Obama was on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” on Monday, and she spent a lot of time talking about the experience of visiting the London Olympics. Her operative word was “cool,” as in, the opening ceremonies were “actually really cool if you were there," the events she saw were “very cool,” and she was “cool with it” when a US female wrestler picked her up as if she were a training barbell.
We’re not making fun of the first lady here. She seemed genuinely excited by the whole thing, as befits someone who has made fighting childhood obesity one of her signature issues. While in London she hosted a kids’ play event on the US ambassador’s lawn, and Leno showed video of her schooling a Sponge Bob character at soccer, playing tug of war, and so forth. At one point Mrs. Obama disappeared under a parachute or tent-like thing with some children, and you could see in the tape that the Secret Service agents suddenly got very nervous. They jockeyed around other kids to try to keep their protectee in view.
“It’s always fun watching the Secret Service trying to manage a bunch of kids,” said the first lady. “That’s when their parent voices come out. 'Stop it! Stop pushing!' ”
Gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas was another Leno guest, and she (Gabby) made the mistake of admitting in front of Mrs. Obama that she’d downed a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich to celebrate her accomplishments.
Michelle leaned over toward the tiny Olympian and said, “Gabby, we don’t encourage that. I’m sure it was a whole-wheat McMuffin.”
The pair then dissolved into a fit of giggles.
“You’re setting me back, Gabby!” said Mrs. Obama.
“Sorry,” replied the gymnast.
Leno felt the sting of the first lady’s needle, as well. She showed a purported surveillance photo that zoomed in from space to show a grainy but recognizable long-chinned comedian emerging from a Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Let’s change the subject. Let’s talk about politics,” said Leno after the audience stopped laughing.
As to that subject, we’ll note that many conservatives aren’t fond of the first lady’s healthy eating campaign. It’s not broccoli per se that bugs them, but the fact that the government is in essence trying to tell them how to manage their personal lives.
That said, Mrs. Obama remains a potent quasi-campaigner, and that was on full display in her Leno appearance. She talked about her upbringing in Chicago, where her backyard swing set didn’t actually have a swing. (“You know, in the hood sometimes you don’t get a swing, sometimes you only get a bar,” she said.) Leno let her talk at length about her reaction to the US Supreme Court decision that largely upheld President Obama’s health-care reform law, with her noting that insurers will no longer be able to drop those with preexisting conditions, and so forth. She talked about her excitement at addressing the forthcoming Democratic National Convention, and so forth.
In a nonjournalistic setting such as the Leno show, all this occurs unanswered, with a genial host and no push-back from a GOP representative. The Obama campaign has pushed such appearances for both her and the president – remember his “slow jamming the news” on the Jimmy Fallon show? The Romney folks have done some of this as well, but not to the extent of their Democratic opponent.
On Leno's show, for instance, Mrs. Obama announced that she’s going to be the guest editor for the back-to-school edition of iVillage, an online site aimed at women. That will appear just as the political race enters its final sprint – and women have long been a particular target of the Obama campaign. Does that mean it’s campaigning? We’d argue that in a larger sense, it is. With an approval rating that hovers about nine percentage points above that of her husband, the first lady remains one of the Obama campaign's most important means of attempting to humanize a candidate who can appear too methodical and restrained to many voters.
President Obama has a big lead among US citizens who are eligible to vote but say they are unlikely to go to the polls in November.
Yes, we know this sounds like a piece from the satirical website “The Onion," or a bit from the show of comedian Stephen Colbert: “Obama Leads Among Couch Potatoes." But it’s true. A just-released poll from Suffolk University finds that Mr. Obama leads presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney among likely nonvoters by a margin of 43 to 14 percent.
In fact, the party of people who plan to not participate in the political process is so un-enamored of Mr. Romney that an unspecified third-party candidate outperforms him in the Suffolk survey. Twenty-three percent of nonvoters say they’d pull a lever for a third-party standard-bearer. Except they won’t be doing that, because they have to work that day, or they don’t have child care, or their polling place is too distant, or their aunt will be in town and they haven’t seen her in years. Or they can’t be bothered, frankly, because what does it matter? One vote won’t change anything.
The reason most often cited for not voting among Suffolk’s respondents was “too busy." Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said they didn’t have time to participate in America’s quadrennial choice of national leader. Coming in second at 12 percent was “vote doesn’t count/matter."
OK, maybe it’s a bit cheap to treat this matter lightly. But in the larger democratic scheme of things, nonvoting matters quite a bit.
In particular, it’s a big issue from the point of view of Democrats and the Obama administration. According to Suffolk’s results, Obama would cruise to an easy reelection if nonvoters changed their minds and showed up in November.
These results are in line with past surveys, too. In general, the party of “not voting” leans Democrat. Its members are younger, less educated, and more financially stressed than the voting-age population as a whole, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center analysis.
That’s why Democrats are generally (though not always) more eager than Republicans to pass early-voting laws and other measures meant to expand the voting electorate. It's also why higher overall turnout tends to favor Democratic over Republican candidates.
And the Stay At Home Party is huge. According to George Mason University’s United States Elections Project, 61.6 percent of the eligible voting population of the US cast ballots for president in 2008. That means about 38 percent of people in the US who could have voted did not do so. In raw numbers that’s 82 million nonvoters.