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.”
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.
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.
Why is the 2012 campaign so rife with awful ads?
It’s true that spots that clip or distort the truth have a long history in presidential runs, stretching back to Lyndon Johnson’s infamous “daisy" spot, which implied that electing Barry Goldwater would lead to nuclear war. But this time around, it seems, reporters are searching for new ways to say the word “slime.”
Exhibit A is the spot produced by Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama "super PAC." It suggests that GST Steel employee Joe Soptic’s wife died of cancer because he lost his health insurance after Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s firm, shuttered the plant. The ad has been furiously condemned by the Romney campaign and widely debunked by independent fact-checkers, who note among other things that Mr. Soptic’s wife had insurance through her own job and passed away years after GST’s bankruptcy.
Exhibit B is the Romney campaign’s ad suggesting that President Obama is doing away with work requirements for welfare – an assertion that fact-checkers have also found to be highly misleading. In between has been an array of various spots from both candidates and their allies that take the opponent’s words out of context to the point where their meaning is flipped 180 degrees.
One reason for Mudfest 2012 is the nature of an incumbent president’s run for reelection. Simply put, most incumbents win. As Seth Masket, associate professor of political science at the University of Denver, noted Thursday on the Mischiefs of Faction blog, of the 19 presidents who have run for another term since 1900, only four have lost.
“There’s a built in bias toward incumbents. Things have to be going pretty badly for one to be kicked out of office,” Mr. Masket wrote.
Why does this lead to ads that teeter on the edge of rationality? Because challengers push hard to depict the state of the nation as indeed awful – and because incumbents react by doing everything they can to make the election a referendum on their challenger. Particularly if, as is the current case, the economic state of the nation really isn’t very good.
Another reason for the political propensity to produce ooze is that most voters have already made up their minds. Gallup’s daily tracking poll, for instance, shows the 2012 undecided vote at between 6 and 8 percent, as opposed to about 11 percent at the same point in the last presidential election cycle.
That means much of the effort of the Obama and Romney efforts may be aimed not at winning over wavering voters, but at exciting supporters to make sure they go to the polls – and depressing opponents to the point where they stay home on Election Day because the political state of the nation is too awful to contemplate.
Some Republicans insist that is the real point of the Priorities USA Action spot – to make white working-class voters, a demographic that generally supports Mr. Romney, so angry and confused that they don’t vote.
These reasons for the current muck of political ads have held true for past campaigns, however. What may be unique to 2012 is the communications context of the modern age. Supreme Court decisions have allowed outside groups to raise and spend political money like never before, making them key players in the presidential wars. While such groups as Priorities USA Action may be controlled by Obama loyalists and may have a sort of nudge, nudge, wink, wink relationship with the official campaign, they aren’t under a candidate's direct control.
This leads to a diffusion of decisionmaking about ads and perhaps a race to the bottom in tone. Super PACs, after all, are answerable only to their donors – not to the US electorate per se.
The media are vastly different as well, with the Twitter-driven news cycle reducing time for contemplation and research, and partisan bloggers and news outlets redefining what constitutes mainstream reportage. The result: a world in which voters’ choices for information are more diverse than ever – and also a world in which a lie can travel halfway around the blogosphere before the truth gets on its polished wingtips.
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First, the bad news for Donald Trump fans: He’s apparently not going to give a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. He declined an invitation to deliver a major address “because he relishes the role he plays as an independent voice and believes his support of the Romney campaign could be served in other ways,” according to a story Thursday in the conservative publication Newsmax.
But fear not Trumpizens, there’s good news, too! The Donald is going to take part in a big “surprise” at the GOP confab, says the Newsmax account, “but the nature of his involvement is being kept secret.”
We love surprises, and this one sounds delicious – what do you think Team Romney allegedly wants the developer/reality show host to do?
Well, we’ve got a couple comments here. First, Mitt Romney has said nothing about this, so maybe it won't happen. But we have little doubt that the Newsmax account is accurate insofar as it reflects Mr. Trump’s actual thoughts. It has interviewed Trump a number of times before, and Trump was scheduled to host a Newsmax-sponsored debate during the primary campaign until most GOP contenders declined to participate. The Newsmax story credits “sources with knowledge of convention plans,” and we would be unshocked if said sources were a strangely coiffed New York real estate billionaire and one of his aides.
Second, we’re pretty sure the surprise won’t involve a renewed call for President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, or another of Trump’s more outré political interests. Nominees get to run the whole show at big party political conventions, and presumptive banner-carrier Romney is well aware that Trump’s bluster about possible secrets in Mr. Obama’s past does not play well with independent voters. Plus, Trump won’t just blurt something out. He’s perfectly capable of playing coy when the situation demands it.
On Tuesday, for instance, Trump told Greta Van Susteren that Obama needs to release his college records. Then he declined to elaborate as to why, despite pointed follow-up questions from the Fox News host.
Finally, there are at least two policy messages Romney might find it useful for Trump to convey. One is about China. Both the billionaire and the ex-Massachusetts governor have been very tough on the Chinese, citing Beijing’s currency manipulation as a reason for its economic rise, among other things. So the “surprise” could involve some sort of rousing pro-US economic exceptionalism speech.
But the more likely message for Trump is obvious. He’s most famous nowadays not for being a casino mogul, not for dating supermodels, but for his “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show.
Here’s wagering that the “surprise” will involve Donald Trump striding on stage in front of a full crowd of cheering Republicans, and shouting one line: “Barack Obama, you’re fired!”
It’ll blow the roof off the arena. And as Trump tweeted on Thursday, the new season of his show will start filming in five weeks, and the “all-star” cast will be announced soon. Say what you want about his hair, Donald Trump is great at timing his publicity.
A Romney official seemed to indicate that Wednesday.
Commenting on the harsh ad just released by a pro-Obama "super PAC," in which an ex-steelworker basically blames Bain Capital for his uninsured wife’s death, spokeswoman Andrea Saul told Fox News that “if people had been in Massachusetts, under Governor Romney’s health-care plan, they would have had health care.”
Yes, they would have, because the law Romney signed into office when he ran the Bay State requires it. (It also includes subsidies to help lower-income residents purchase insurance, as does Mr. Obama’s national law.)
It’s possible Ms. Saul’s reference was inadvertent. But Romney, who has aggressively distanced himself from his landmark legislation, appeared to cautiously embrace it during an appearance Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
“We’ve got to do some reforms in health care, and I have some experience doing that, as you know,” Romney said.
The presumptive Republican nominee went on to criticize the Affordable Care Act, known pejoratively as Obamacare. He said he could make a “better setting” than the incumbent when it came to preventing people with preexisting conditions from being dropped by insurers, assuring access to insurance for all, and so forth.
Still, some conservatives were apoplectic over the “Romneycare” references. Notable among them was Erick Erickson, editor of the RedState blog, who after learning of Saul’s comments tweeted that they could lose Romney the election.
“This was an unforced error of monumental idiocy,” he wrote Wednesday.
Conservatives should not allow Romney to tack left on this issue, Mr. Erickson wrote. If they do, enough voters from the center-right spectrum of the party might sit out the election to allow Obama to win.
“The reaction should come quickly and be vocal or the Romney campaign, which is not conservative, will take it as a tacit admission from conservatives that it is safe to let their hair down on these issues,” Erickson wrote on his blog.
Meanwhile, conservative pundit Ann Coulter called on Romney to fire Saul. Others bemoaned the fact that the Romney camp had not just dismissed the Bain ad as completely illegitimate and refused to discuss its specifics at all.
The ad – from pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action – has been widely denounced as unfair by independent fact-checkers. It does not mention that Romney says he left Bain Capital years before the steel company mentioned in the ad, GST Steel, went bankrupt. Nor does it mention that foreign competition was battering all US steel firms at the time, that the wife of steelworker Joe Soptic had her primary insurance through her own employer, or that she died some five years after GST went under.
Unsurprisingly, liberals have been quick to use Saul’s comment to try to argue that the widely debunked Priorities USA ad is in fact a clarifying moment in the presidential race.
“The Romney campaign now seems to be claiming that government-established universal health care is the answer to what to do about people like Ms. Soptic who lack insurance,” wrote liberal Greg Sargent on his Plum Line Washington Post blog. “That’s Obama’s argument for Obamacare.”
That is the Drudge report story making a big splash on the web.
Certainly, having General Petraeus – a decorated and widely respected war hero and military strategist – as a running mate would be a boon for Romney by boosting his national security credentials.
So it is easy to fathom why Mr. Romney would want Petraeus on his ticket.
But how would Petraeus benefit – and what are the chances he would say yes?
The odds he would agree to join Romney on the campaign trail are, in a word, slim.
For starters, Petraeus is known to be fiercely protective of his reputation in the media.
A student of strategy, Petraeus is no doubt well aware of how politics can muddy sterling military reputations – a la General Wesley Clark’s 2004 presidential run after retiring as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander.
He has also studied the career trajectory of Ulysses S. Grant. He spoke to NBC’s David Gregory in August 2010, noting “how historians changed their views of Grant over the years, initially, of course, regarding him as the true hero, of course. And then, over time, in the 1900s there was a period when a bit more disparaging views of him, and then it’s actually come up again in recent years.”
Some Republicans, meanwhile, are not so sure he would be an ideal pick.
True, “Petraeus fulfills the Republicans’ perpetual desire for an authoritative father figure,” notes Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain. “But that’s a psychological issue among Republicans, not an actual job qualification.”
Most tellingly, Petraeus has made no secret of his lack of political ambition.
“I am not a politician, and I will never be, and I say that with absolute conviction,” Petraeus told Mr. Gregory. “No way, no how.”
The White House, however, remains wary that Petraeus could be lured into a campaign.
Some analysts argued that his appointment as CIA director in September 2011 was the Obama administration’s effort to give Petraeus a job that he would see as a great intellectual challenge – but that would also keep him out of the spotlight, effectively sidelining him.
Though the Drudge Report Tuesday said President Obama had “whispered to a top fundraiser” this week that he believed Romney wanted to name Petraeus as his veep and had secretly met with him in New Hampshire, the White House denied the report.
“I can say with absolutely confidence, such an assertion has never been uttered by the president,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. “And again be mindful of your sources.”
The CIA for its part issued its own disavowal of the report. “Director Petraeus feels very privileged to be able to continue to serve our country in his current position,” said CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz. “And as he has stated clearly numerous times before, he will not seek elected office.”