Elections

Obama’s Deficit Plan Closer to What CEOs Favor – CNN.com

The deficit and debt are major concerns for swing voters — and President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have very different visions of how to deal with it.

That’s why it was significant to see 80 CEOs of major American companies sign a letter this past week committing to press for a balanced bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit and debt no matter which candidate is elected president on November 6.

The words “balanced” and “bipartisan” are key here — because the CEOs understand that this problem is too big to be solved by tax hikes or spending cuts alone. We can’t simply tax or cut our way out of this problem. Read More…

October Surprise: Shadowy Conservative Groups Dominate Outside Spending – The Daily Beast

The Super-PAC October Surprise is here with unprecedented negative spending – and an overwhelming advantage for conservative shadow money groups flooding the airwaves against Democratic candidates.

Total non-party outside spending is now estimated by the Center for Responsive Politics to exceed over $1 billion this cycle—twice what the group estimated would be spent as recently as August. And dark money spending from non-disclosing groups has just passed $200 million in this election—more than every other election cycle over the past 20 years combined. Read More…

Deficit-Hawk CEOs Bend Toward Obama – CNN.com

The deficit and debt are major concerns for swing voters — and President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have very different visions of how to deal with it.

That’s why it was significant to see 80 CEOs of major American companies sign a letter this past week committing to press for a balanced bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit and debt no matter which candidate is elected president on November 6.

The words “balanced” and “bipartisan” are key here — because the CEOs understand that this problem is too big to be solved by tax hikes or spending cuts alone. We can’t simply tax or cut our way out of this problem.

Instead, the CEOs backed the outlines of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which attracted bipartisan support with its plan to cut spending, rein in entitlements and increase tax revenue through lower rates while closing loopholes and deductions. Read More…

Obama’s Risky Demographic Gamble – The Daily Beast

Demographics are destiny, but Team Obama may be taking that a bit too literally.

Play-to-the-base campaigns are particularly risky for Democrats given that only 21 percent of Americans identify as liberal, but the Obama campaign has staked its reelection on an even more elusive target—the evolution of the American electorate.

President Obama admitted as much in his now on-the-record comments to the Des Moines Register, saying “a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”

It is true that Mitt Romney and the current incarnation of the Republican Party have unwisely alienated Hispanic voters to an unprecedented extent. But it is unclear that betting something as big as a reelection on increased diversity is a wise decision in the short run. Read More…

Mourdock’s Rape Remark and Extremism – CNN.com

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock believes that rapes resulting in pregnancy are “something that God intends to happen.”

Do you?

It’s a relevant question as we enter the last two weeks of this election, because Mourdock’s comments are not isolated.

The statement comes from the same rigid ideology behind conservative Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s musings in August, when he said women’s bodies have the ability to “shut down” pregnancies that result from what he called “legitimate rape.” Read More…

CNN Election Express Sweeps the Swing States – CNN

With two weeks until the election, CNN sent John Avlon and their chief business correspondent Ali Velshi on the road to take the temperature among swing-state voters.

 

 

Democrat Jim Graves Has a Chance to Unseat Michele Bachmann – The Daily Beast

Meet the man who could defeat Michele Bachmann.

Jim Graves is a 58-year-old self-made Minnesota businessman and grandfather of seven, still married to his high-school sweetheart, running against a symbol of unhinged hyperpartisanship in the halls of Congress. Bachmann’s bizarre presidential run only highlighted what an awkward fit she is for the common sense civility that characterizes “Minnesota Nice.”

But she’s never faced a truly competitive opponent, despite a string of narrow wins—and that’s changed this time around. Read More…

Election Express Hits the Road – CNN


CNN’s Ali Velshi (@AliVelshi) and John Avlon (@JohnAvlon) hit the road on the CNN Election Express to interview voters in four swing states. The road trip will start in Boca Raton, Florida, the morning after the third presidential debate.

Interviews and analysis will be featured throughout CNN’s television networks and digital platforms.

For the first week of the tour, you can follow the schedule of stops through Florida and North Carolina, on the CNN Election Express’ twitter feed @CNNExpress.

Schedule:

Tuesday, October 23

Boca Raton, FL
– Velshi and Avalon launch the road trip from the site of the third, and final, presidential debate.

Lakeland, FL
– Lakeland sits in the heart of the I-4 corridor, long known for swing voters.

Mirror Lake
701 East Main Street
Lakeland, FL 33801

Wednesday, October 24
Lakeland, FL
-Mirror Lake

Winter Park, FL
– The CNN Election Express will park at Central Park in the heart of a shopping and restaurant district.
214 South Park Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789

Thursday, October 25
Orlando, FL
– Eola Park is a popular place for locals to run, walk, eat, date, and just generally meet up in downtown Orlando.

151 East Washington St.
Orlando, FL
Jacksonville Beach, FL

– This beach town in Duvall County is a popular spot with locals, who will be gearing up for the University of Florida – University of Georgia football game happening that weekend in Jacksonville.

Friday, October 26
Winston-Salem, NC
– Winston Square Park is the locals’ gathering space in the central restaurant district downtown.

310 Marshall St N.
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Saturday, October 27
Winston-Salem, NC
– Winston Square Park

Lexington, VA
– Washington and Lee, the historic University in the mountains of Virginia, is one of the three schools that make Lexington hop. The CNN Election Express will host a town hall-style event with seniors from Washington and Lee, Virginia Military Institute, and Southern Virginia University. We’ll ask these seniors who voted for the first time four years ago what they think of their second presidential election?

Sunday, October 28
Lexington, VA
Washington and Lee

Manassas, VA
– An historic and picturesque suburb of Washington, D.C., the CNN Election Express will park in Old Town by the Manassas Railway station.
9417 West Street
Manassas, VA 20110

Ground Game: Obama Campaign Opens Up a Big Lead in Field Offices – The Daily Beast

Beyond the presidential debates, one final factor matters more than all the rest in a close race: ground game.

It’s the ability to get your voters to the polls—a way of moving soft support into actual votes.

Field operatives have been undervalued in recent years, as the focus of campaigns has shifted to big-money ad-bombs, compounded by the super-PAC economy. But this presidential campaign is going to come down to a few percentage points in a half dozen states, and suddenly ground game is about to get a lot of respect. Read More…

Will an Energy Boom Swing Ohio? – The Daily Beast

I spent the weekend in Ohio, and filed this report for CNN on how a natural gas energy boom in the bellwether northeastern region of the state is the final factor for many swing voters in the area.

Their votes may break down to simple but changing realities about dollars and acres:

“For decades, the economic news here has been grim. Once the breadbasket and manufacturing backbone of the nation, Ohio has been hit hard by outsourcing while family farms have been under constant pressure. Read More…

The Sound of Chugging Kool-Aid – The Daily Beast

This is the sound of chugging Kool-Aid:

“This debate goes to Romney. It seals his momentum and will lead to a big win,” Dick Morris writes at Fox.

“Game, set, match … one of the best debate performances ever by Mitt Romney,” Sean Hannity tweeted.

Some professional partisans feel that their job is relentlessly defending whatever their ‘team’ does or says, even when it conflicts with reality. Polls by CBS and CNN show that Obama won this second debate by a comfortable margin. Read More…

Hall Monitor Mitt’s Missed Chance – The Daily Beast – CNN.com

President Obama needed to step up and dig in at Tuesday night’s second presidential debate, and that’s exactly what he did, I write over at CNN. Insistent jockeying for time, his fumble of the Benghazi question, and furious Etch-a-Sketch moments on everything from Pell Grants to the Dream Act may have hurt Romney with swing voters – exactly the ones he needs to hone in on in the coming weeks.

And he just came across as a bully:

“Mitt Romney followed a great debate with a fail. His constant interruption of Candy Crowley and the president – his peevish, ‘Hall Monitor Mitt’ persona – was not just a loss in terms of style points. It was revealing in terms of character. The CNN focus group found that the intense awkward interjections alienated swing voters and women in particular. Tweets to me used words like ‘entitled’ and ‘bully.’ Bottom line, it wasn’t presidential. It was small and self-important rather than big and magnanimous. And it will cost him momentum. Read More…

Will Energy Boom Swing the Election? – CNN.com

No Republican has won the White House without Ohio.

In these final weeks, the Buckeye State is an intense campaign battleground and northeastern Ohio is the bellwether of this key swing state.

For decades, the economic news here has been grim. Once the breadbasket and manufacturing backbone of the nation, Ohio has been hit hard by outsourcing while family farms have been under constant pressure.

But a bright spot has suddenly emerged after decades of struggle, an energy boom brought on by natural gas and oil wells. Suddenly, local farmland that had been worth $15 per acre six years ago was valued at $5,800 per acre and leases allow farmers to keep a portion of the royalties if oil and gas are found. Read More…

Moderate Mitt’s Rise and Conservatives’ Cognitive Dissonance – The Daily Beast

It’s a conundrum for conservatives—Mitt Romney couldn’t get traction while he was playing to the base with his vice-presidential selection or his convention speech. But once he broke out the big Etch A Sketch in his first debate against President Obama, Mitt started soaring in the polls.

Of course, the reaction is not really a mystery—it’s a tried-and-true lesson of American politics: a more centrist candidate moves swing voters into his column, while a more extreme candidate alienates them. Mitt’s gains among moderates, the middle class, and women voters since the first debate are a direct result of this self-conscious re-centering of his presidential campaign.

The problem is that it goes against conservative chapter and verse, which says that a centrist Republican candidate all but guarantees a general election loss for the GOP. Read More…

Ohio Oil Boom – OutFront – CNN

The key to winning the election could come down to Ohio. John Avlon reports on the final factors of the election.

 

Foreign Policy Should Take Center Stage – The Daily Beast

It is time for the presidential candidates to say what they see as America’s place in the world. Few aspects of the president’s job have as large an impact on as many people as his role as commander-in-chief, and while voters can look to President Obama’s record on the foreign stage, the Romney-Ryan ticket needs to make a clear, coherent statement of its own positions in the next debate.

In my latest column for The Sunday Telegraph, I write on how so far both campaigns have danced around some of the most important international issues that will determine America’s course over the next four years:

“Like Senator Obama four years ago, Governor Romney has little foreign policy experience. At least we knew then that Obama opposed the Iraq war and wanted to ramp up drone strikes against al-Qaeda instead – and now, in regard to killing bin Laden, the phrase ‘mission accomplished’ actually applies.

Read More…

The Gaffe Master Beats the Policy Wonk – The Daily Beast – CNN.com

Joe Biden didn’t just meet expectations Thursday night, he completely surpassed them.

Before the vice presidential debate, I’d thought that Paul Ryan would have the upper hand — a young, smart policy wonk and great communicator paired off against an out-of-practice, aging politico with a recurring case of foot-in-mouth disease.

I was wrong.

Joe Biden had clearly studied Barack Obama’s failures in the first presidential debate and decided to do the exact opposite — intensely engaged, smiling and pushing back aggressively at the slightest hint of misstatement or exaggeration.

Read More…

Final Factor: Loudoun County – Virginia’s Bellwether Battleground – The Daily Beast

This election will be decided by swing voters in swing districts of swing states. The second installment of OutFront’s election series The Final Factors took me to the key swing district of Virgina – Loudoun County. This is the heart of the new northern Virginia – fast growing, increasingly diverse and wealthy after a decade of defense spending. It voted for President Obama by 11,500 votes in 2008 – making him the first Democrat to win the Old Dominion State since LBJ. Unemployment is now 4% – half the national average. But the swing voters here are feeling the heat from the looming automatic defense cuts set to kick in next year. Read More…

Mitt Romney’s Military Budget Hypocrisy – The Daily Beast

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s deft first debate there’s been a lot of belated questions about whether his promises make sense in terms of, you know, math.

After all, a core claim of the Romney campaign is this: “Getting our fiscal house in order has become more than just an economic issue; it’s a moral imperative.” As a Bowles-Simpson-style deficit hawk, I appreciate the sentiment about reducing the generational theft of deficits and debt. It’s the policy hypocrisy I can’t stand.

So for the moment, let’s put aside the very reasonable question about whether Mitt can simultaneously cut taxes 20 percent, and keep the cuts revenue-neutral by closing unspecified loopholes, all while progressivity in place. Let’s assume he’s a wizard, as Jon Stewart suggests and move to something even more contradictory and concrete—military spending. Read More…

In Virginia’s Crucial County, Military Cuts Worry Swing Voters – CNN.com

Take it from President Barack Obama — Virginia’s Loudoun County is a must-win swing district in a must-win swing state.

“We won last time in Loudoun County, and if we win again, we win Virginia,” Obama declared at a rally in August. “And if we win Virginia, we win the election.”

The final factor affecting many undecided voters in this wealthy Washington exurb is sequestration — massive, automatic cuts scheduled to start taking effect at the the beginning of 2013 after the failure of a supercommittee to come up with a deficit-reduction plan. Read More…

Defense is Key to Winning Virgina – OutFront – CNN

John Avlon goes to Loudoun County, Virginia to talk to swing voters about their final factor in the 2012 election.

 

As Presidential Contest Tightens, State Races Could Prove Crucial – The Daily Beast

As you nervously pour over swing-state presidential polls, don’t forget to factor in one crucial variable—the rest of the statewide ticket.

Call it down-ticket coattails. Because President Obama and Mitt Romney are not running in a vacuum. They are going to fly with or against prevailing winds in each swing state. And if a statewide senatorial or gubernatorial candidate is riding high, it makes the hurdle the presidential candidate has to clear in a tight race that much steeper or easier, depending on the down-ticket dynamic.

Take a closer look at the three biggest swing states at stake this year: Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. All three have Senate races in play. And while the presidential polls are tightening, the Senate races are not nearly as close. Read More…

A Look at Swing Voters – The Final Factors – OutFront -CNN

John Avlon unveils a new OutFront series, “The Final Factors.” A look at swing voters’ and their role in the election.

 

In 2012 Election, Centrists Move Left As Independents Stay Split – The Daily Beast

Mitt Romney’s debate debut of his new, centrist political persona may be no deeper than an Etch-a-Sketch drawing, but it might prove effective. After all, elections in America are won by the candidate who connects best with centrists and independents, the quintessential swing voters.

But in an important and little-noticed new trend, centrists and independents this year have changed from nearly identical to become two very different groups.

For months, the once and apparently future Massachusetts Moderate has been getting crushed by President Obama among self-identified centrist voters—trailing by about 20 points, 36 percent to 58 percent, according to the mid-September Pew Survey and and 39 percent to 57 percent according to a late September poll by ABC News and The Washington Post. Read More…

The Audacity of Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch – CNN.com

The Etch a Sketch was in full effect at the first presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday night.

Mitt Romney put forward a strong performance, transforming back into his 2002 Massachusetts moderate mold, a belated advocate of bipartisan leadership. It would have had a lot more impact if it hadn’t contradicted almost every policy statement Romney has made on the campaign trail since he started running for president. This flip-flopping is a force of habit, but it was used to great effect, reflecting a campaign and a candidate finally focused on the general electorate.

President Obama, in turn, had an objectively weak debate. The president was more professor than preacher, a budget wonk getting lost in paragraphs of detail rather than concisely punching back. He fulfilled the political truism that incumbent presidents have bad first debates because they are comparatively unprepared and overburdened by budgets and other details of governing — as President Reagan did in his disastrous first 1984 debate. Read More…

Are Karl Rove and Crossroads Propping Up the Romney Campaign – The Daily Beast

Brand new data on super-PAC spending is out courtesy of the Wesleyan Media Project, and conservative groups are still considerably outspending liberal organizations, despite an overall ad-buy advantage from the Obama campaign over the Romney campaign as the Tsunami of Sleaze rolls through our airwaves on to Election Day 2012.

TV ads by nondisclosing dark-money 501(c)(4)s are keeping up with super-PAC spending in these final weeks, with the combined totals almost matching Team Mitt’s overall ad spending.

And in several key swing-state Senate races, independent groups account for more than 50 percent of all the advertising money spent. Read More…

Benghazi Backlash, Mideast Implosion, Jobless Numbers: The Real Potential October Surprises – The Daily Beast

October Surprise. It’s defined by Safire’s Political Dictionary as a “last minute disruption before a November election; unexpected political stunt or revelation that could affect an election’s outcome.”

America was treated to a lame attempt to manufacture just such a stunt last night with the live re-release on Hannity of a speech the president gave in 2007, promoted all day with banners at the Drudge Report and housed on the Daily Caller website.

The speech—originally broadcast on Fox on June 5, 2007—caused a minor stir at the time, commemorated in this column by Roland Martin, but it had largely been forgotten in the wake of two presidential campaigns and almost four years of actions in the White House.

Let’s be honest: It is a naked attempt to reinsert race into the election, trying to stoke the fires too many folks on the far right have been fanning since Obama first ran for president—arguing that he is not a “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln” (in the immortal words of Fred Davis’s emotionally aligned super-PAC pitch to Joe Ricketts) but a Black Panther radical in disguise who secretly hates white people and America (which is why he’s always apologizing for it). The alternative is to “let America be America again”—by any means Read More…

For GOP, It’s the Social Issues, Stupid – CNN.com

This election is about the economy — not social issues or other distractions.

At least, that’s the mantra we’ve consistently heard from conservative candidates this election cycle. We heard the same thing during the “tea party election” of 2010.

But it’s an odd insistence from an overwhelmingly social conservative Republican party. Because keep in mind, they’re not disavowing anti-choice beliefs on abortion or opposition to gay rights or any other deeply held hot-button issues. They just don’t want to discuss them loudly in an election year. Read More…

GOP Keeps Social Issues in the Closet – OutFront – CNN

The Obama campaign woke up to good news today with new polls in three swing states that has President Barack Obama exceeding 50% support among like voters. Obama also holds a lead of nine to 12 points over Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

Romney ‘my heart aches’ for those struggling

In his latest column for CNN.com, John Avlon discusses the absence of social issues from a party that stands for social conservatism, the GOP.

 

Early Voting – OutFront – CNN

With 43 days until election day, chances are you can vote right now if you don’t want to wait until November 6th. By the end of this month, voters in 30 states will be able to cast their ballots in the presidential election.

In total, about 35 percent of voters — are expected to vote early this year, up from 30 percent in 2008.

Which side benefits more from this shifting election “day”? And how will it impact what happens on the election battlefield between now and November 6th?

 

Political Independents: The Future of Politics? – The Daiy Beast

In the final stretch of this play-to-the-base presidential election, it is strange to say that the 40 percent of Americans who identify as independent are currently close to an afterthought. With so few undecided voters left, even most independents have chosen sides by now.

But some day this election is going to end, and if the next president and the next Congress hope to break through the hyperpartisan stalemate, they are going to have to find ways to appeal to the largest and fastest-growing segment of the American electorate.

Two timely new books—Mickey Edwards’s The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans and Jacqueline Salit’s Independents Rising offer valuable insights into the impulses that have inspired a record number of Americans to reject the two parties and demand something different. Read More…

Mitt’s Likability Problem – The Daily Beast

Less than 50 days from the election, it’s still Mitt Romney’s biggest mystery.

He is an exemplary husband and father—the kind of man you would want as a member of your church or would trust to run your business.

So why do so many people find it hard to warm up to Willard?

His “47 percent” comment resonated because it reinforced the negative narrative about Mitt as an out-of-touch member of the superrich with little feeling for policy, politics or people—a million miles away from W’s “compassionate conservative” mantra. He comes across as an awkward mix of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller, without any of the redeeming qualities. And it’s arguable which is worse—whether Romney essentially believes what he said at the $50,000-a-plate fundraiser, or was simply pandering to the well-heeled audience. Read More…

Our Toothless Campaign Finance Watchdogs – The Daily Beast

This is the third and final installment in a series by The Daily Beast, in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, on the influx of money into the 2012 campaign. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here.  This Article was co-authored by Michael Keller and Daniel Stone.

The gold rush excesses of the super-PAC economy are encouraged by a Wild West mentality, where all boundaries are pushed in the absence of strong laws. The mechanisms for enforcing the rules are toothless and totally unsuited for the task at hand.

The Federal Election Commission would seem to be the obvious agency to regulate the system, but experts say the odds that it will hand down harsh penalties for, say, illegal coordination between a super PAC and a campaign are extremely low. In recent years, the FEC—which is run by six commissioners, three Republicans and three Democrats—has been routinely deadlocked with party-line votes. Read More…

Will More Democrats Follow Rahm Emanuel in Chicago and Take On Unions? – The Daily Beast

The Chicago fire is out for now. The teachers’ strike is over. But the beyond the question of winners and losers in this negotiation is the larger state of play—will more Democrats follow Rahm Emanuel’s lead and declare independence from labor unions?

“The fact that this Democratic mayor was willing to take on the unions, especially during the presidential election is incredibly important,” says Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. schools chancellor and founder of StudentsFirst. “I think it sends a message to the unions that it’s a new day.”

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie proved that he could take on the public sector unions and win the fight in the court of public opinion, closing budget gaps without raising taxes and gaining significant concessions on teacher tenure reforms. The sometimes ugly union protests were not successful in demonizing him among the independents who outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans in the Garden State. Even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who quickly proved more clumsy and polarizing than Christie, survived a recall attempt by a larger number of votes than he was initially elected with, despite an existential full court press by labor unions. Read More…

Toothless Watchdogs – OutFront – CNN

Despite President Barack Obama’s lead in new polls, he has been outspent pro-Romney Super PACs. John Avlon has been looking at the Super PAC economy all week and how the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are powerless to stop the dark money abuse.

OutFront tonight: CNN Contributor John Avlon is writing a series of reports on the influx of cash into this year’s campaigns for the Daily Beast in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics.

John Avlon is also a CNN contributor and member of the OutFront political strike team.

 

 

Dark Money Shuffle – OutFront – CNN

A federal appeals court Tuesday overturned a ruling that would have tightened disclosure rules for political donations. The decision may make it even harder to follow the money trail at a time when record amounts of money are being poured into the election through Super PACs and other groups.

OutFront tonight: CNN Contributor John Avlon is writing a series of reports on the influx of cash into this year’s campaigns for the Daily Beast in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics.

John Avlon is also a CNN contributor and member of the OutFront political strike team.

 

The Super-PAC Economy – The Daily Beast

This is the first installment in a series by The Daily Beast, in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, on the influx of money into the 2012 campaign.  These articles were co-authored with Michael Keller.

Beneath the still struggling American economy, there is a gold rush going on. An unprecedented $5.8 billion will be spent in this election cycle, $2.5 billion in the presidential election alone. Much of this money will be spent not by campaigns, but by two kinds of outside organizations: super PACs and social-welfare groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s.

This isn’t just democracy. It’s big business. “This is the greatest windfall that ever happened for political operatives in American history,” says Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “It allows them to make extraordinary amounts of money for work whose effectiveness is hard to determine.” Read More…

Romney Foreign Policy Attack Was Disgraceful – CNN.com

“Partisanship ought to end at the water’s edge” is a longstanding adage of American politics.

But in the hours after the death of the first U.S. ambassador killed in decades, Mitt Romney — panicked as his poll numbers have slipped — punched hard against the president, unleashing an unwise, inaccurate and unpresidential attack on the Obama administration.

The fog of war applies to the confusion about the timeline of ugly incidents in the Middle East on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But when the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement condemning the obscure and intentionally inflammatory film that had already given rise to riots, the Romney campaign saw an opportunity to amplify its “Obama-Apologizes-For-America” narrative. Read More…

The Super PAC Economy – OutFront – CNN

One problem Mitt Romney doesn’t have is raising money. The Super PAC supporting him has already raked in more than 65-million-dollars. That’s more than outside groups in total spent at this point in the 2008 election.

CNN Contributor John Avlon is writing a series of reports on the influx of cash into this year’s campaigns for the Daily Beast in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics.

John Avlon is also a CNN contributor and member of the OutFront political strike team.

 

Romney Leaked Audio – OutFront – CNN

On a day when Mitt Romney is trying to retool his message, undercover video has emerged of Romney at a private fundraiser earlier this year – joking about how being Latino might have helped his campaign.

The video was obtained by the left-leaning blog, “Mother Jones.”

 

Wisconsin’s Healthy Union Mess – The Daily Beast

Republicans in VP nominee Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin got unwelcome news late Friday afternoon when Judge Juan B. Colas declared significant portions of collective-bargaining reform unconstitutional.

This was Governor Scott Walker’s signature reform, the result of a hard-won policy fight that ended up provoking his unsuccessful recall earlier this year. And while the collective bargaining reform may have been ideologically motivated, it helped close a multi-million dollar budget gap in the state.

Since Walker took on the public sector unions—exempting police and firefighters—Wisconsin has been positioned as ground zero for an ideological Armageddon. Unions unleashed lengthy protests that presaged the Occupy Movement, while fiscal conservatives saw an opening for ongoing reforms that could be exported to other states. Read More…

Democrats for Education Reform? Why Policy Fault Lines Are Shifting – The Daily Beast

“On this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.” So said Paul Ryan at the outset of the Chicago’s teacher strike this week.

Now in its fourth day, the Chicago strike affects 350,000 kids. It occurred despite an offer by Mayor Emanuel to support a 16 percent pay raise over four years—on top of an average $76,000 teacher salary—despite the city facing a $1 billion budget deficit. In exchange, educators would need to accept teacher evaluations and principals’ discretion over hiring and firing. The union rejected the deal.

Sometimes policy, not just politics, makes strange bedfellows and Paul Ryan’s status as a charter member of the Republicans for Rahm fan club shouldn’t distract from perhaps an even more surprising dynamic—the growing number of Democrats who are standing up for education reform. Read More…

Clinton the Closer – OutFront – CNN

Fresh off his star turn at the Democratic convention, Former President Bill Clinton hits the campaign trail Tuesday for President Barack Obama in a crucial swing state, Florida.

The former president’s power is not lost on the White House. A new CNN poll out today puts Obama’s approval rating at 51 percent. That’s much higher than the two presidents who lost re-election in the last 30 years, but still far below Clinton’s high of 60 percent at this point in 1996.

So can Clinton charm undecided voters enough to move the needle for Obama?

 

The Obama Iconography: Only One Candidate in Race Inspires Heartfelt Fandom – The Daily Beast

The two-week convention caravan is now at rest, and Tampa and Charlotte are in the rear-view mirror. So how did the two conventions compare, seen up close and side by side? Well, sometimes stereotypes ring true: Republicans fall in line, while Democrats fall in love.

Conservatives are primarily united by the prospect of unseating President Obama, while at least among liberal conventioneers the love affair with him still seems to be going strong.

On the airwaves, this is a definitively post–Hope and Change election, with both campaigns trying to motivate their base by any means necessary to vote against the other guy. Positive pitches or policy plans have been basically MIA on television, where most Americans are viewing the campaign. Read More…

Obama Needs a Second-Term Agenda in His Democratic Convention Speech – The Daily Beast

President Obama’s blessing is his curse—a soaring speech won’t be good enough Thursday night.

Call it the Obama discount or just a credibility gap, but words are cheap where this POTUS is concerned. That’s why he needs to get serious about policy and set forward a clear, distinct second-term agenda in his nomination speech.

The reason is simple: promising more of the same isn’t enough to get reelected.

Look, everybody understands that the fiscal crisis began before Obama took office. But pivoting from “Hope and Change” to “It Could Have Been Worse” is somewhere between insufficient and sad. Read More…

Better Off Than When, Exactly? – The Daily Beast

This is literally the most anticipatable question for a presidential re-election—and the fact that Governor Martin O’Malley got caught flat-footed on it is a cause for head-scratching, if not concern, given his otherwise stalwart performance as a Obama surrogate.

If there is cause for the stumble it is because the unemployment rate remains higher than when Barack Obama took office. Add to that fact so many underwater homes and under-employed workers and it seems callous to crow about improvements. And “It could have been worse” is a definitively uninspiring re-election slogan. Read More…

Will Republicans’ Vast Super-PAC-Money Advantage Swing the Election? – The Daily Beast

As Democrats gather in Charlotte, N.C., the optimism is palpable. But the party has been dangerously overconfident throughout this election, and some are still in denial about the big money behemoth they are facing this fall.

Mitt Romney just announced his third $100 million month. He has approached this presidential campaign like a private-equity bid: the man with the most money wins.

But campaigns are only part of the money in play post–Citizens United. The 2012 elections are expected to cost an unprecedented $5.8 billion dollars—$2.5 billion on the presidential race alone—according to the invaluable Center for Responsive Politics. And when it comes to the super PACs—the new, new thing in campaign finance—Democrats are being left in the dust. Read More…

Many 2008 Conservative Obama Backers, or ObamaCons, Will Stay True – The Daily Beast

Back in 2008, Barack Obama boasted the support of more than 40 prominent Republicans and conservatives, including Colin Powell, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, and Reagan solicitor general Charles Fried. These “ObamaCons” were offered as a barometer of Obama’s crossover appeal, evidence of his ability to unite the nation. And surprisingly, Obama won 20 percent of conservatives that fall.

But four years later, how many of these ObamaCons regret their decision to back the inspiring but untested Obama? In the absence of someone as polarizing as Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket, are they planning on returning to their roots as Republicans with Mitt Romney? Or are they sticking with President Obama—and if so, why? Read More…

Politics of Clint Eastwood’s Empty Chair – CNN.com

Clint Eastwood’s rambling speech to an empty chair in Tampa, Florida, was more than just awkward performance art on a political stage.

It actually provided a useful metaphor for one of the most nauseating aspects of this presidential election — the growing gap between narrative and facts.

One of my favorite quotes is by the late, great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” But because of the rise of partisan media, amplified by the echo chamber of the Internet and talk radio, today everyone comes to civic debates armed with their own facts. Read More…

US Election 2012: Why Mitt Still Needs to Polish His Sales Pitch – The Telegraph

The Republican Convention in Tampa ended after three days of frenzied networking and made-for-television speeches, all against a backdrop of American flags.

This is now Mitt Romney’s Republican Party, even if it is more unified by intense dislike of President Obama than love for their nominee. The cavalcade of speakers was designed to present an inclusive Republican vision while reaffirming the party’s core positions.

Watching the show-flow from inside the arena on the final night offered a look at the strategy Team Romney believes will win back the White House. Read More…