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Immigration Reform Proposal Shows Similar Ideas Betweeen Bush and Obama – The Daily Beast

The ghost of George W. Bush is haunting President Obama’s immigration-reform push.

The past president serves as both an unlikely inspiration and negative object lesson to the current effort. Because the plan pushed by Bush in his second term bears an uncanny resemblance to the bipartisan plan now backed by the Gang of Eight senators and hailed by Obama as the best hope for comprehensive immigration reform in a generation.

Take a look back at President Bush’s 2006 televised address to the nation on immigration reform and read it alongside President Obama’s Las Vegas take on the same subject this Tuesday. The style may be different, but the substance and sentiment are essentially the same. Read More…

A Reality Check for Chuck Hagel Bashers – CNN.com

At Thursday’s Capitol Hill confirmation hearing, Chuck Hagel will finally get to answer his critics.

The decorated Vietnam veteran and two-term Republican senator from Nebraska is President Obama’s choice to be the next secretary of defense. But the bipartisan pick hasn’t brought the two parties together.

Instead, a cadre of conservative activists have been trying to drum up opposition to Hagel ever since his name was first floated in what has amounted to a pre-emptive attack on not just his policies but, too often, his character. It’s time for a reality check. Read More…

GOP Needs More Northeast Republicans to Save the Party – The Daily Beast

Bobby Jindal’s calling it “the Stupid Party.” Glenn Beck is showing images of elephants dying while cutting up cake. And David Brooks is calling for a second Republican Party.

There’s grumbling agreement even among the party faithful that the GOP is facing an existential crisis. The belated embrace of comprehensive immigration reform with nary a scream about “amnesty” by anyone except Rush Limbaugh and the House radicals is just the latest indication that the default formula of anger and obstruction isn’t working anymore. Read More…

Obama’s Odd New Pals on Immigration – The Daily Beast

This time it will be different.

After repeated failures at the federal level, comprehensive immigration reform finally looks like a real possibility this year. And that’s because a broad bipartisan coalition has been built in the Senate, motivated by both self-interest and national interest. Today in Nevada, President Obama will add his vision to their legislative foundation, officially making immigration reform the core of his second-term agenda.

Obama’s unexpected ally in this effort is the evangelical community—part of an emerging conservative coalition in favor of immigration reform that supporters describe as “the Bible, the badge, and business.” Read More…

Republicans’ Nefarious Election Ploy – The Daily Beast

Something’s rotten in Virginia.

Conservatives in the Old Dominion state legislature are quietly plotting what could amount to an electoral coup d’etat: pushing forward a bill that would have delivered the majority of the state’s electoral votes to Mitt Romney, days after erasing a Democratic state senate district in a surprise mid-session redistricting.

In the wake of their decisive 2012 election defeat, Republicans aren’t digging the demographic changes making once safe states like Virginia go for Obama the last two presidential elections. Their response, as Michael Tomasky detailed yesterday, is to try and change the rules to allow electoral votes to be split up by congressional districts, compounding their advantage created by the rigged system of redistricting. In many of the states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio – this is at the level of legislative discussion rather than action. Read More…

Where’s the Retaliation for American Deaths in Benghazi and Algeria? – The Daily Beast

Benghazi. Algeria. This is the ground where Americans have been killed by Islamist terrorists over the past four months. And so far, nothing has been done to avenge their deaths.

“Avenge.” That’s the word President Obama used when he spoke to the widow of Sean Smith after his murder in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, as recounted by Michael Hastings in his bracing new book, Panic 2012.

It was a sentiment the president repeated the day after the attack to a campaign crowd in Nevada, saying: “We want to send a message to all around the world who would do us harm. No act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America … I want to assure you we will bring their killers to justice.” Read More…

‘No Budget, No Pay’ is No-Brainer – CNN.com

If you don’t get the job done at work, you won’t get paid.

But Congress plays by its own rules. Specifically, Congress hasn’t passed a budget in almost four years. This is basic — and required by law. Congress seems to think it’s bigger than the law, however, which might help explain one recent poll that found it less popular than root canals, cockroaches and Donald Trump.

That’s why an act passed in the House on Wednesday deserves widespread support, as well as Senate passage. It’s called “No Budget, No Pay,” and it means what it says. Read More…

In His Inaugural Address, Barack Obama Delivers a Progressive Manifesto – The Daily Beast

“To form a more perfect union” has always been the core idea animating President Obama’s career, an attempt to bridge old divides, blending the personal and the political.

The president used his second inaugural address to try to demolish the false dichotomies that have defined the overheated political debates of the past four years, implicitly making the case that his Democratic Party’s agenda is squarely in the mainstream of American history—expanding individual freedom through collective action.

It was an audaciously political speech, a statement of personal and partisan principle, rather than the expected broad bipartisan outreach. From the outset, the president took aim at conservatives’ claim to represent the idea of American exceptionalism, arguing instead that it is achieved by the constant struggle to expand equal opportunity. Read More…

Mark Sanford on Run for Congress, a Second Chance at Politics – The Daily Beast

It’s official: Mark Sanford is running for his old congressional seat in South Carolina.

The former governor, who ended his second term in disgrace after admitting to an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman he described as his “soulmate,” had previously been considered a leading potential contender for the 2012 GOP nomination before the scandal consumed those ambitions.

But suddenly Sanford is back. Among many locals, he is considered the frontrunner in the special election to fill the congressional seat held by Tim Scott before he was appointed to the U.S. Senate—an unusual degree of turnover in a state where Fritz Hollings served as junior senator to Strom Thurmond for 36 years. Read More…

The NRA’s Shameful Day: Shooting App for Kids, ‘Stand and Fight’ Ad – The Daily Beast

The National Rifle Association board might want to quiz its communications shop. With President Obama set to unveil his gun proposals on Wednesday, the NRA spent its Tuesday “no-commenting” on what was apparently a sponsored shooting app geared to 4-year-olds, and releasing an ad calling Obama a “hypocritical elitist” for having the Secret Service protect his children.

The common denominator? Guns and kids. One month after Sandy Hook. It was a rare and ugly combination of cluelessness and callousness—and almost makes you think someone inside the NRA is trying to ruin its reputation. Read More…

Jerry Brown Creates California Surplus Miracle, But Can It Last? – The Daily Beast

California has long been synonymous with budget deficits so deep that it looked like the Golden State would inevitably be our Greece—beautiful and bankrupt.

But Governor Jerry Brown announced that his state has suddenly projected a surplus of $851 million. Two years ago, when Brown came back into office, the state had a $25.4 billion deficit, a Sisyphean problem Governor Arnold struggled with unsuccessfully all last decade.

This reversal of fortune raises a lot of questions. What caused California’s budget turnaround? Is it sustainable? And finally, could there be a national lesson here as Washington tries to confront deficits and debt? Read More…

Glenn Beck Attempts a Laughable Makeover as a Libertarian – The Daily Beast

Glenn Beck is rebranding himself as–get this–the alternative to “far-right, far-left” polarized debates on cable news, dominated by people “yelling at each other.”

“We’re not going to play in that crazy space as a network,” he announced earnestly.

The irony meter just died. Hypocrisy and chutzpah had a child.

This is, after all, the man who rode to riches by screaming louder and crazier than anyone else in the collective conservative nervous breakdown known as Obama Derangement Syndrome circa 2009 and 2010. Here are just a few of his unhinged greatest hits, lest we forget: Read More…

Conspiracy Peddler Alex Jones Melts Down – The Daily Beast

Most Americans got their first taste of Alex Jones’s brand of crazy last night on Piers Morgan Tonight, when the CNN host confronted this particular critic, who in turn called the CNN host “a hatchet man of the new world order,” raved that “1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!” and warned of “foreigners” and “mega-banks” trying to disarm Americans as part of a master plan to institute “world tyranny.”

Unedited and in person, Jones comes off even more unhinged than on primetime or in his role as a conspiracy entrepreneur on his syndicated radio show and at InfoWars.com. Jones was booked by Morgan because he started a petition, much promoted on the Drudge Report, to have the British host deported. Read More…

Richard Ben Cramer Dies – The Daily Beast

News that Richard Ben Cramer died swept through the Twitterverse on Monday night, even before a hint of his passing hit major news outlets.

It was oddly appropriate, because the cult of Richard Ben Cramer was always first a word-of-mouth initiation, as in: “You’ve got to read this.” Journalists passed his work among them like samizdat, old articles referred to more than read, finally put online after persistent if not widespread demand. He was just that much better than anyone else. Read More…

Callous Conservatives: Gulf State Republicans’ Sandy Shame – The Daily Beast

Slap a scarlet “S” on these callous conservatives. Sixty-seven members of Congress–all Republicans—voted against even $9 billion of Hurricane Sandy relief yesterday.

Remember their names, and hold them accountable.

Twelve of the scarlet 67 voted for Hurricane Katrina relief—which passed ten days after that devastating Gulf Coast storm—but against Hurricane Sandy relief 69 days after its landfall in the Northeast. Their names: Trent Franks (AZ), Ed Royce (CA), Sam Graves (MO), Steve Pearce (NM), Steve Chabot (OH), Jimmy Duncan (TN), Kenny Marchant (TX), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Mac Thornberry (TX), Bob Goodlatte (VA), Tom Petri (WI), and Paul Ryan (WI).

These congressmen are content to use New York City and the tri-state area as an ATM when they are looking for campaign funds, yet they willfully turn a blind eye when hundreds of thousands of homes and small businesses are damaged or destroyed and more than 100 Americans are dead.

Note the name of last year’s vice presidential nominee and potential 2016 presidential candidate Paul Ryan on this list. Donors would do well to ask him about this vote. The Texas delegation likewise asked for federal funds when hurricanes have devastated their state, yet are ignoring suffering in the Northeast. But then conservatives often become liberal when an issue affects them personally. Just two years ago, Missouri Congressman Sam Graves begged President Obama for an emergency declaration to deal with flooding in his district—now he is afflicted with convenient amnesia.

The full list of the 67 “nos” is tilted toward the conservative Gulf Coast states and the congressmen—many elected after Katrina—whose constituents often feel the brunt of natural disasters.

Congressman Paul Broun—who when Obama was elected in 2008 called the president-elect a “Marxist” and compared him to Hitler, who denounced evolution as a “lie from the pit of hell” despite serving on the Science Committee—had no trouble asking for FEMA funds when his district was flooded in 2009. And Alabama’s Mo Brooks was equally eager for federal funds when tornados devastated his district in 2011.

The larger point, of course, is that massive disaster relief is a role for the federal government. There are times when we are 50 individual states and times when we need to unite and act as one country. Hurricane relief should be a no-brainer.

But Club for Growth and other conservative activist groups decided to make Hurricane Sandy relief a litmus test for their annual scorecards, and conservative congressmen started running scared.

The presence of pork in the original Senate Hurricane Sandy relief bill was a predictable disgrace. For example, in an essay on CNN, I called out the presence of pork like $150 million for Alaskan Fisheries and $41 million to military bases including Guantanamo Bay. But that pork was rightfully stripped from the ultimate Senate and House bill. Angry conservative activists never bothered to update their talking points and so they argued from ignorance.

Moreover, the bill that Congress passed on Friday was just $9 billion of the total $60 billion Sandy relief bill (an amount far less than the Governors’ estimate of $80 billion in damage). We’ll have to wait until at least January 15th for a vote on the remaining $51 billion.

The 67 congressman who voted against relief would have almost certainly voted for it if the impact was felt in their district. But if those 67 were to visit Staten Island or the Jersey Shore or the Rockaways today and see the citizens and volunteers still struggling to dig their way out of the devastation, they might have a different opinion. These folks need relief. And the region needs to increase its resilience to avoid future costs.

Hypocrisy is the unforgiveable sin in politics—and it abounds among ideologues in congress. But the absence of compassion matters as well. Because if the threat of professional partisan activist groups is enough to make you overlook the struggle and suffering of your fellow American citizens, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and consider a field of work other than public service.

House Republicans Cave to Sandy Aid Pressure – The Daily Beast

It was a congressional slap in the face to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

More than two months after hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the tristate area were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Republicans in the House of Representatives intentionally killed the $60 billion bill passed by the Senate by refusing to bring it to a vote on New Year’s Day.

Right-wing activist groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, and Heritage Action have all pressured congressional Republicans to vote against the bill. Read More…

Congress’s Fiscal-Cliff Chaos: House Passes Last-Minute Deal – The Daily Beast

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else,” Winston Churchill once said. But even by that standard, the scramble to avoid the entirely predictable fiscal cliff at the last possible minute was an exasperating exercise that made sausage-making look good.

Despite 518 days to deal with the sequestration cuts and 12 years to anticipate the end of the Bush tax cuts, it took two late-night votes on the hinge of the New Year to stop Congress from kicking America’s economic recovery in the teeth. The Chinese must have been laughing, watching C-Span these last few days. This is not a textbook example how great nations govern themselves. Read More…

Picks for 12 Best Opinion Columns of 2012 – The Daily Beast

It can be hard to appreciate the present, because we have no perspective on it. But year-end “best of” lists help create a sense our times, even if it requires some instant nostalgia. And because I’ve always enjoyed annual lists of best albums, books, and movies, I decided to compile a list of the 12 best columns of 2012, crowdsourcing the suggestions to cut the inevitable subjectivity.

After editing Deadline Artists with Jesse Angelo and Errol Louis, we often have been asked whether this American art form is still alive and well. The good news is that there are still deadline artists working today, turning out reported columns. And even though we are living in a time when obituaries are being written for newspapers every day, opinion writing is proliferating online like never before. Read More…

Our Pathetic Congress – The Daily Beast

Welcome back to Washington, House of Representatives. Hope you all had a great vacation. While you were out, your inaction caused markets to tumble, and now America is just hours away from collectively being pushed off the fiscal cliff.

Your colleagues in the Senate—the supposedly responsible body—have been working the last three days, trying to put together some kind of deal your fractious asses can pass by New Year’s Eve. The bad news is that as of Sunday morning, they still didn’t have a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff. Agreement that 98 percent of Americans shouldn’t have their taxes raised isn’t enough. And deficit and debt reduction? Forget about it—this is all now a desperate exercise in political pain avoidance. Read More…

Chuck Hagel Deserves Fair Hearing for Defense-Secretary Post – The Daily Beast

The preemptive strike on Sen. Chuck Hagel’s possible nomination to be secretary of defense has been relentless this holiday season. It is trial by Twitter, character assassination by media narrative, a steady drumbeat of accusations and innuendo all designed to make the Nebraska Republican seem politically toxic.

The irony is that the political logic of a Hagel appointment is to demonstrate bipartisan outreach by President Obama—the appointment of a second Republican secretary of defense to follow in Robert Gates’s pre-Panetta footsteps. While Hagel has strong defenders, pointed critics have come from the far right, and a few from the far left. Liberal Democrats primarily question the need for any outreach to Republicans at all after a decisive election victory, while Republicans who might normally cheer the nomination of a fellow party member disdain Hagel for his outspoken independence during the Bush years. Read More…

Favorite Books of 2012 – The Daily Beast

The Passage of Power by Robert Caro—Sometimes reality exceeds the hype. Robert Caro’s magisterial portrait of Lyndon Johnson hit new heights as this fourth volume chronicled his rise from a much-disrespected VP to a president capable of greatness and uniting the nation in the wake of tragedy. What emerges is as complex and textured as any novel while providing a primer on the use of power in a democracy. It also doubled in the Obama era as an extended memo to the president on the virtue of muscular politics—the art of getting things done. Johnson’s reputation will only grow in future decades, in large part because of his biographer. Read More…

As Plan B Fails, GOP Imperils Fiscal Cliff Deal, Boehner’s Speakership – The Daily Beast

Extremes are always their own side’s worst enemy.

Speaker John Boehner’s failure to cobble together enough conservative votes to pass his Plan B is not just bad news for Boehner. It is bad news for the Republican Party and the country.

Not only is the path to avoiding the fiscal cliff now far less clear; Boehner’s position as speaker is imperiled.

This is a symbol of the sickness in our politics: a dogged dealmaker like Boehner is left stranded in the center, while irresponsible ideological activists in his own party encourage insurrection. It’s a no-win situation for the nation because his potential successors—Eric Cantor and Jeb Henserling—would be even less likely to try and make a deal with the Obama White House. Read More…

Right Wing Needs to Stop Crazy Explanations for Newtown Slaughter – The Daily Beast

It’s definitely not too soon to condemn this craziness.

The visceral shock of the Newtown school slaughter has provoked a reassessment on gun laws among many on the right—including Joe Scarborough and Rupert Murdoch.

But there are still those on the far right who, when confronted with the killing of classrooms full of 6-year-olds, reached for alternate explanations that could preserve their ideological purity and avoid common sense.

These are not just fringe figures but elected officials and other leaders of the Tea-vangelist wing of the GOP. Read More…

Most Innovative Mayors in the U.S. – The Daily Beast

While Washington seems paralyzed by partisan bickering, America’s mayors are busy putting ideas into action. City hall is increasingly a place for bold experimentation. Unlike Congress, there’s no fiddling over the fiscal cliff or divisions into angry, ideological, debating societies. As communities climb out of the great recession, pragmatism is forcing innovation. Success requires strong leadership and a vision of politics as the art of what works.

With the help of Stephen Goldsmith and Jayson White of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Newsweek has developed a list of five top city-hall innovators who are tackling tough issues including education reform, public safety, quality of life, and job creation. Read More…

One Tough Nerd—Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Pragmatic Labor Stance – The Daily Beast

So this is what he meant by “One Tough Nerd.”

Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has become public enemy No. 1 among liberals for his controversial decision this week to sign right-to-work legislation in Michigan—the birthplace of the American organized labor movement.

In 2010, he campaigned apart from the Tea Party tide, representing himself as a comparatively centrist technocrat, a CEO, and a CPA who would be relentlessly focused on balancing the state’s budget and improving its business climate. He rose from obscurity—beginning the race with virtually no statewide name recognition—to win office, largely thanks to a great TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl, introducing him as “One Tough Nerd.” Read More…

George W. Bush to Republicans: Embrace Immigration – The Daily Beast

President George W. Bush’s first postelection speech was a call for immigration reform—and an implicit rebuke of the failed GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

On Tuesday morning, the Bush Center held a conference on immigration and economic growth at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. It was only the second major policy speech the former president has delivered since leaving office, and Bush let himself wax poetic on the subject of immigration: “Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul.”

The fact that Romney received just 27 percent of Hispanic vote, eight years after Bush got 44 percent, was not far from attendees’ minds, even though Romney’s name went unmentioned. Instead, the conference was an extended argument for the economic benefits of immigration, offering a new policy booklet to that effect (PDF). It was also by implication a meditation on the comprehensive immigration reform Bush backed in his second term, only to see it cannibalized by talk-radio conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and those politicians who choose to pander to them, including Romney. Read More…

Will the Second-Term Quicksand Swallow Barack Obama? – The Daily Beast

Second terms come with instant historic legitimacy—and seemingly inevitable scandal.

Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Full Monica all started snowballing a year after strong second-term presidential wins. The defining domestic disaster of President Bush’s second term, the response to Hurricane Katrina, also fits the overall pattern of a tough repeat act—with the president rarely leaving office as a conquering hero.

So if history is any guide, President Obama should spend his political capital wisely, and now. Read More…

Democrats Must Step Up on Entitlement Reform for Fiscal Cliff Deal – The Daily Beast

The good news is that Republicans are starting to recognize the need to break with Grover Norquist and his anti-tax pledge. But that’s only part of the way toward a genuinely balanced bipartisan deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Listen carefully to what one of the principled defectors, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on ABC’s This Week: “I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.”

Got that? Democrats are going to have to step up with serious entitlement reforms to get a balanced plan done. Read More…

Republican Politicians Must Stop Pandering to Conservative Populism – The Daily Beast

Republicans need to “stop being the Stupid Party.” That was a blunt postelection declaration of independence by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism,” continued Jindal. “We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people, and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Amen.

After being demographically left in the dust by President Obama, conservatives are regrouping, reassessing, and recognizing the need to evolve on social issues if they are going to connect with the millennial generation. Read More…

The Final Insult: Mitt Romney’s Clueless Gift Gaffe – The Daily Beast

Mitt Romney made his final newsworthy post-election pronouncement, explaining to a conference call of big-dollar donors that he had fallen short because President Barack Obama had bribed liberal special interests with expensive gifts.

Here’s what he said, according to The New York Times:

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift…Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008 … You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge … Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.” Read More…

Obama’s Strong Support Among Cuban Americans Underlines Demographic Shift – The Daily Beast

The depth, if not dimensions, of President Obama’s reelection victory is slowly resonating, even in Republican circles.

After all the partisan spinning, it is clear that the combination of the Obama campaign’s ground game and demographic evolutions in our nation were decisive for his victory and bode well for the Democrats in the future.

One broad measure of this recognition is this: conservatives are arguing that the man they once dismissed as a failed socialist president is now grimly touted as a rare political talent with an unparalleled ability to inspire. These compliments come with a base alloy of consultant self-interest—once Obama is no longer on the ticket, they say, Republicans will be back in fighting form. There’s no need to change policies. Read More…

Welcome to the Twilight Zone – Newsweek – The Daily Beast

Partisan politics is starting to look like a cult, and after this presidential election, Republicans will need some serious deprogramming.

The overheated anti-Obama echo chamber on the far right led to a fact-free fanaticism, inspiring otherwise educated folks to ignore most polls in favor of feel-good tall tales about “Mitt-mentum” going into Election Day.

Among those caught up in the fever swamp was the architect of George W. Bush’s two White House wins, Karl Rove, seen awkwardly on air arguing with Fox News’s own pollsters about whether the election was over. The respected co-author of The Almanac of American Politics, Michael Barone, predicted a Romney landslide, as did the poet laureate of conservative columnists, George Will. And these were the adults at the conservative table. Read More…

Nightmare Scenario—Ohio’s Provisional Ballots May Be 2012’s Hanging Chads – The Daily Beast

There was a traffic jam on the highway leading to the early voting station in Franklin County, Ohio, on Monday. Inside the former box store, lines snaked around the showroom floor with voters waiting more or less patiently for an hour or more.

In the center of the polling place stood a separate line coiled in a tight rectangle, a hundred or so people holding bright-yellow provisional ballots. These harmless looking documents could be the hanging chads of 2012, throwing the final results of the election to Nov. 17 or later in what state party leaders call the “nightmare scenario.”

The man set to be cast as the Katherine Harris of this potential debacle is Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican and former speaker of the state house in his early 40s. Opponents regard Husted as a partisan operative trying to tip the scales, while he argues that he has done everything possible to level the playing field and extend early voting in “the most important swing state in the country”. Read More…

Presidential Election Likely to Come Down to the Future vs. the Past – The Daily Beast

The fault lines in the 2012 election are the future versus the past—and not in an empty rhetorical “America is at a crossroads” sort of way. Something more fundamental and demographically measurable is at work. Consider this:

President Obama’s largest margins of support come from voters under 30, women under 50, African-Americans, and Hispanics.

Mitt Romney’s largest margins of support come from senior citizens and white men.

The data are depressingly clear. According to the final Pew Poll, Obama is beating Romney by 28 points among voters under 30, while Romney is winning voters over age 65 by 10 points. Read More…

Sex, Drugs, and Ballot Initiatives – The Daily Beast

Ballot initiatives are direct democracy—the cutting edge of politics—but they don’t get the respect they deserve despite the huge consequences that can come from giving citizens the rebellious ability to do an end run around their slow-moving state legislatures.

With sex and drugs questions along with taxes, education, and election reform up in states across the nation, this year’s crop of ballot initiatives deserve your attention. Beyond the votes for president and Senate, they could help shape future policy debates across the nation.

So here my take on the most interesting and consequential items on the ballot in 2012. For a more comprehensive look, check out Ballotpedia.com Read More…

Vote the Bums Out: the Eight Worst Members of Congress – The Daily Beast

This divided and dysfunctional Congress has earned its record low-approval rating. Luckily we have the remedy in our hands on Election Day: vote the bums out. Here is my brief list of the eight worst congresspeople in 2012 from both parties and the reasons they deserve to get the boot on Tuesday. Consider it part of the mission to civilize, a necessary part of the process to start solving problems again in Washington. Read More…

As Election Nears, Voter Suppression Efforts Kick Into Gear – The Daily Beast

’Tis the season for dirty tricks.

Less than one week out from Election Day, we are witnessing a war of attrition, a game of inches. With state polls this close, every vote counts. And so beyond the positive effort to outdo the other party’s ground game and early-voting pushes, there is a negative corollary: voter suppression, confusion, and intimidation.

The ugly efforts to discourage the “wrong” voters from showing up reflect the asymmetrical polarization in Congress: neither party is entirely innocent, but conservatives have appeared to be driving the great bulk of efforts to suppress or misinform voters.

Yesterday, documents posted by Scott Keyes at TPM showed that the Romney campaign in Wisconsin is training poll-watchers to lie at polling stations by registering as “concerned citizens” rather than campaign volunteers; to untruthfully tell voters they are ineligible to vote unless they show proof of residency; and to misleadingly warn voters they are ineligible if they have been convicted of treason or bribery. Read More…

As Campaign Closes, Mitt Romney Peddles A Bipartisan Myth – The Daily Beast

Turn on the television in any swing state these days and you’re likely to see Mitt Romney smiling wistfully and saying this:

“Republicans and Democrats both love America. But we need to have leadership — leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done.”

In the background, there’s a parade of carefully chosen faces—a young woman, a Hispanic father, a union worker wearing a hard-hat—all demographics he is losing by large margins, shown to create the illusion of a broad coalition. Read More…

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…

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…

The Human Rights Abuses in Sudan Continue – The Daily Beast

The human rights abuses in Sudan continue—and a harrowing new video captures the attack on a Nuba Mountain village in real time.

The Satellite Sentinel Project, working with the Sudanese journalist group Nuba Reports, brought the video to an international audience this morning, providing indelible evidence of the kind that rarely exists when villages are burnt and looted. This time, though, the camera phone of one of the attackers—members of the Sudanese Central Reserve Police—captured the bloodlust. The 18-year old high school student named Niam who is captured and then tortured was subsequently interviewed on camera about his ordeal, after a $30 ransom was paid.

This is a video that cuts through all the abstractions and obfuscations. In the United States, news organizations are focused on the second presidential debate tonight—but that event should not keep this documentation of an attack in real time from reaching a wider audience. In the past, the absence of cameras meant this violence could be ignored. Now, we have evidence that demands attention and accountability.

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…

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…

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…