Politics and Public Opinion, Elections

49 days: U.S. 2012 elections live

Tuesday, September 18
Image Credit: Marc Nozell (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image Credit: Marc Nozell (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

HEADLINES

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Latest news

16:41 Via Mother Jones, here is the full video of Mitt Romney at that fundraiser, divided into two parts.

16:35 The Tax Foundation has released an interesting map that shows where the non-income tax filers live. It highlights 10 states with the most such filers and the 10 with the least. The vast majority of these individuals live in the South.

Should that surprise us? No. Generally speaking, the South has more poverty than the North, so of course there would be more such filers there. But it does provide some nice, easy fodder for lefties to make “What’s the matter with Kansas” type arguments.

16:09 It. Is. On.

Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly will square off in a one-on-one debate on October 6th at 8 p.m. The debate will be livestreamed over the internet for a $4.95 fee. You can also buy tickets to watch the show live at George Washington University in D.C.

16:04 This clip of Barack Obama speaking in 1998 is making the rounds on the internet right now. In it, Obama says “I actually believe in redistribution.”

I don’t really see what the big deal is. We already know that Obama supports redistribution—he said so to Joe the Plumber in 2008. This is basically just a conservative reaction to the Mitt Romney videos released today, but I don’t expect it to have any legs.

15:48 Gallup reports that Romney shouldn’t be so quick to discard low-income voters: About a third of them support his candidacy:

15:37 When he was a reporter in 2008, Jay Carney (now the White House press secretary) called Obama’s comments about small town Pennsylvanians (bitter clinger), a “huge weakness.”

15:21 CBS confirms that the U.S. has suspended joint field operations with Afghan security forces in response to the string of insider attacks that have killed many American and British troops. It took 36 incidents and 51 deaths to get to this point, and it basically means that America’s war in Afghanistan is over. In the future, any joint field operation will require approval of a 3-star general. In other words, there won’t be any such operations.

And if there are no such operations, we won’t be able to effectively train an Afghan army to leave behind when we pull out. And if we don’t train such an army, Afghanistan will quickly descend back into war.

14:56 John Sides reminds us all to calm down about Romney’s 47% “gaffe.” He looks at candidates’ standings in the polls, then superimposes the dates of supposed game-changing gaffes and notes that the polls don’t seem to respond at all.

First, the 2008 Democratic primary.

Second, the 2012 race so far.

So maybe we should all take a chill pill and wait to see what happens in the wake of the 47% video.

14:49 The Obama campaign is hitting back on China in a new ad:

14:09 A new Romney ad brings focus to the national debt in stark terms. It uses Romney’s frequently-repeated line of a “prairie fire of debt,” and although the tone is scary, so is the problem. From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

Did you know that annual spending by the federal government now exceeds the 2007 level by about $1 trillion? With a slow economy, revenues are little changed. The result is an unprecedented string of federal budget deficits, $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010, $1.3 trillion in 2011, and another $1.2 trillion on the way this year. The four-year increase in borrowing amounts to $55,000 per U.S. household. …

Did you know that the Federal Reserve is now giving money to banks, effectively circumventing the appropriations process? To pay for quantitative easing—the purchase of government debt, mortgage-backed securities, etc.—the Fed credits banks with electronic deposits that are reserve balances at the Federal Reserve. These reserve balances have exploded to $1.5 trillion from $8 billion in September 2008. …

Did you know that funding for federal regulatory agencies and their employment levels are at all-time highs? In 2010, the number of Federal Register pages devoted to proposed new rules broke its previous all-time record for the second consecutive year. It’s up by 25% compared to 2008. These regulations alone will impose large costs and create heightened uncertainty for business and especially small business.

13:27 Obama’s bounce appears to be over. According to the latest Gallup Trial Heat, Obama leads Romney by only one point, 47-46, after leading him by a more significant margin for most of the past week. Moreover, Gallup polls registered voters instead of likely voters. Likely voter pools generally show a more favorable number for the GOP (and are more accurate).

Meanwhile, Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll has Romney up 2, 47-45. Rasmussen uses a likely voter model, but has often been criticized for having a pro-Republican house effect.

11:37 Gallup reports that its Economic Confidence Index is holding steady near its highest level of the year. The index averaged -19 for this week after surging 11 points the week before to -18.

The increase in confidence was driven mainly by a large bump in Democratic confidence, as well as a smaller boost among Independents.

While Americans still believe that current conditions are bad, they are much more optimistic about the future than they have been since at least June.

Don’t ask me to explain that confidence. Maybe it has to do with QE3? But given that QE1 and QE2 didn’t really work, I don’t understand why people are getting excited.

11:00 Who are the 47%? According to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center and the Census Bureuau, via TPM:

So about 30% of the 47% are either too old to work, students, the unemployed, the very poor, or individuals with disabilities. The other 70% pay  payroll taxes but do not pay income taxes.

Clearly, Romney is wrong to lump all of the 47% together. After all, he certainly isn’t proposing to start taxing seniors or those with disabilities! But he is correct that most of these individuals won’t respond to his message of lower tax rates because, well, they don’t pay income taxes, and income taxes are what people think of when a politician talks about a tax cut. He’s pretty much right in saying that these folks won’t respond to such an appeal.

But is he wrong in calling them dependent on government? Well, technically no, since more than 47% of Americans are on some type of government assistance.

But of course, just because something is technically true doesn’t mean it’s useful. First of all, Romney’s comments were tonally awful: He dismissed these people out of hand, saying they would never vote for somebody who would take some of those benefits away. Not a great way to make friends, even if people in the 47% don’t realize (or want to admit) that they are.

Second, Romney’s comments betrayed a lack of compassion. Not in the sense that you must be in favor of government benefits to be compassionate, but in the sense that he doesn’t empathize with these people. Many (probably most) of them may be embarassed to be dependent on government, but have no choice (especially given the Obama economy). Living on the government dole isn’t conducive to dignity, self-respect, and human flourishing, but if the choice is being on the dole or letting my family starve, the choice is clear to me.

Romney should focus on how he is going to help the 47% earn their own success by growing the economy, ending crony capitalism, and reforming welfare programs to encourage work and self-improvement. He should stop denigrating these people and start trying to inspire them.

10:29 Submitted without comment:

10:25 Via Rachel Weiner on WaPo’s Election 2012 Blog:

In Muscatine, Iowa, Vice President Joe Biden mused on his past visits to Iowa and offered this self-assessment:

“Well you know what, on the way on the plane, to show you how effective I am, my political guy said I’m glad we’ve got your schedule for just the last time around when I was trying to get the nomination,” he said. “I spent 120 days in Iowa. You saw how effective I am. You know what I mean? But I’m a good vice president.”

A diner at the Good Earth Restaurant responded, “You haven’t done too bad.”

10:19 Romney gave a press conference in response to the “47%” video. He didn’t exactly back down from his comments, although he acknowledged that he could have stated them more elegantly.

10:05 Here is the other secret video of a Mitt Romney fundraiser at which the former governor discusses his views on the Palestinian situation. In essence, he says that Mideast peace is practically impossible, and that it’s primarily the Palestinians’ fault.

This video won’t be nearly as damaging to Romney as the 47% one, for the simple reason that he’s talking about a foreign policy issue rather than directly discussing almost half of Americans. Moreover, does anyone really think he’s wrong? I guess you could quibble over whether the Palestinians are actually interested in peace, but the overall message is that Romney doesn’t think much can be done about the Palestinian-Israeli situation. Is that so wrong? It’s not like President Obama has had any success in moving towards a resolution.

9:53 Ezra Klein of the Washington Post’s wonkblog goes into America’s tax numbers in a little more detail and shows that while Romney is technically correct that 47% of Americans don’t pay income tax, his claim that they therefore don’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives” isn’t quite accurate.

9:48 According to the Washington Post’s The Fix blog, total television ad spending on the presidential race has topped $500 million as of last Friday.

Republicans spent $314 million. The Romney campaign accounted for only 27% (86 million) of that spending. The rest came in the form of conservative-aligned outside groups, particularly the Crossroads GPS Super Pac.

Democrats, meanwhile have spent $277 million on ads, with the Obama campaign accounting for 80% (222 million) of that total.

So in other words, only 1 in 4 Republican/conservative ads have been paid for by Romney while 4 of every 5 Democratic ads have been directly paid for by the Obama campaign.

The Fix also says that Romney could well have a two-to-one spending advantage between now and November 6.

9:27 Ok, here is the obligatory video of Romney’s soon-to-be-infamous “47%” comments, along with a transcript.

We’re going to be hearing about this all day (probably all week), so I’ll update with more analysis as time goes on. My initial reaction: This isn’t going to hurt Romney as much as the media hype will suggest. In fact, it may even help him. As HotAir’s Allahpundit said:

Everyone thinks they’re a “maker,” not a “taker,” due to whatever little tax they pay, so when Mitt lays into freeloaders, even people who pay no income tax think he’s talking about someone else. It’s sort of the flip side of senior citizens saying that America needs small government while telling politicians “Hands off my Medicare.”

9:17 President Obama hosts the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx in the White House this afternoon. He flies to New York for a 4:40 taping with David Letterman. At 7:40, he attends a reception at the Waldorf Astoria and delivers remarks at a 9:45 reception at the 40/40 Club.

Mitt Romney flies to Salt Lake City at 11:10 MT and then goes on to Dallas, Texas.

Joe Biden is in Iowa for the second day. He will hold rallies in Ottumwa at 10:30 CT and Grinnell at 2 CT.

Paul Ryan has an 11:10 town hall in Dover, New Hampshire, followed by a 5:25 rally in Newport News, Virginia. He then flies to North Carolina at 7:50.

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