Attacking Romney Rather than the People Looting our Economy

This Politico story–“revealing” Obama’s campaign plan to brand Multiple Choice Mitt as “weird”–has gotten a lot of attention in the twittersphere.

Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee.

The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.


The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”

“First, they’ve got to like you, and there’s not a lot to like about Mitt Romney,” said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. “There’s no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness.”

A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican’s personal awkwardness will turn off voters.

“There’s a weirdness factor with Romney and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” said the adviser, noting that the contrasts they’d drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be “based on character to a great extent.”

Now, no matter how reprehensible this campaign strategy is (particularly for the way it feels like Mormon-bashing), and for all Politico probably feels it has “won the morning” by printing it, both are missing something.

This campaign has already been in place.

A significant chunk of the tweets the Michigan Democratic Party sends out, for example, focus on Romney–showing Obama leading him, playing up GOP opposition to him, dissing his fundraising, recalling his stance on the auto bailout, branding his appearance in MI his “hypocrisy tour,” pitching other states’ anti-Mitt swag. While it has gotten better of late, for a while the MDP focused more on Romney-bashing than on Rick Snyder-bashing–which of course meant no one was attacking Snyder’s plan to tax seniors to pay for a tax cut for businesses.

Now, I understand MI may have a particularly driving reason to do this. Not only might Mitt’s ties to MI give him a critical edge over Obama that could flip a crucial swing state. But even at the primary level, MI’s cross-over voting might mean if Democrats support Romney, it could make a significant difference in him winning the Republican primary.

Yet, again, this early focus on Mitt has distracted from where I would like Democratic messaging to be targeted–not only on Snyder, but on the businesses that have looted our country. I would suggest this might explain why MI Dems have such little confidence in their party right now.

Obama may feel like he needs to call Mitt names to win re-election. But if that’s the sole purpose of the Democratic Party between now and then, it will leave a vacuum precisely where the most important messaging needs to be.

Mitt Romney Names Two Torture Lawyers to “Justice Advisory Committee”

The headline news about Mitt Romney’s new advisory committee of 63 lawyers is that Robert Bork is co-chairing it.

But even more troubling is that he has named two of the lawyers that okayed torture–Steven Bradbury and Tim Flanigan–to it.

Bradbury, of course, wrote the Combined Torture memo, which found, in part, that waterboarding someone 183 times in a month does not shock the conscience.

He also told DOD it could do whatever it wanted, so long as it called it “Appendix M.” Bradbury failed to mention that memo from Congress, too, when they asked for a list of all the torture memos he had been involved in.

Bradbury would have been investigated over the memos he wrote, had Michael Mukasey not intervened.

Flanigan was one of the three lawyers–along with David Addington and Alberto Gonzales–who told John Yoo to turn the Torture Memo into a “Get Out of Jail Free” card by saying that if the Commander-in-Chief ordered torture, then it couldn’t be prosecuted.

Now, why would Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney appoint two men who called torture legal to his Justice Advisory Committee?

David Plouffe’s “Same Old War Horses”

Scarecrow, Digby, and Jon Walker rightly took David Plouffe’s promises that a 9% unemployment rate won’t hurt Obama’s reelection chances to task.

But I’m at least as appalled by this part of Plouffe’s statement:

The White House’s top political adviser, downplaying the significance of the unemployment rate in the 2012 election, said the Republican candidates are offering the same policies that caused the economic crisis and targeted one potential opponent — Mitt Romney.

“So all of them are basically just bringing out the same old war horses,” senior adviser David Plouffe said yesterday at a Bloomberg Breakfast in Washington. “Let Wall Street kind of run amok, cut taxes for the wealthy, starve investment in things like education, research and development.”

Let Wall Street run amok. Check.

Cut taxes for the wealthy. Check.

And while Obama hasn’t as obviously starved investment in education and R&D (indeed, the stimulus he doesn’t like to talk about increased investments in both), by insisting on deficit reduction at the same time as states have had (or pretended they had to) cut education and R&D to balance their budgets, he has allowed such cuts to happen on his watch.

It troubles me a bit that David Plouffe doesn’t even see the irony of his statement.  Sure, the Republicans will be running on all those things. But so will, to a large extent, Obama.

Shorter Mitt: Let the Auto Retirees Starve!!!

Boy. Mitt Romney let loose one festival of stupid on the NYT op-ed page today. He writes an entire op-ed making prescriptions for the auto industry. But in the whole op-ed, there are just two suggestions that aren’t already being implemented: The first suggestion? Find some way to renege on the pension promises the auto companies have made to retirees:

Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.

Unlike that recommendation, his second recommendation is very sound.

The need for collaboration will mean accepting sanity in salaries and perks. At American Motors, my dad cut his pay and that of his executive team, he bought stock in the company, and he went out to factories to talk to workers directly. Get rid of the planes, the executive dining rooms — all the symbols that breed resentment among the hundreds of thousands who will also be sacrificing to keep the companies afloat.

Chrysler’s Nardelli may make $1 million a year, GM’s Rick Wagoner makes $2.2 million a year, and Ford’s Mulally makes $2 million a year, plus truckloads of bonuses. I absolutely agree these guys should take a pay cut (and all but Mulally said yesterday they’d be willing to take them–Nardelli said he’d be willing to follow Lee Iacocca’s $1/year example). But it is more likely that these guys will take pay cuts in case of a bridge than in bankruptcy. (Also, some of them have put real limits on executive compensation and benefits already.)

Aside from these two suggestions, though, breaking a promise to our seniors and cutting the pay of top executives, every suggestion he makes is something that at least one of the Big Two and a Half are already doing.

Mitt predictably starts–after spending a long paragraph talking about how his Daddy turned an auto company around–by calling for new labor agreements.

new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors

Which is, of course, what the UAW negotiated. Last year. While wages and benefits haven’t yet been entirely equalized, they will be, probably by 2010.

Mitt’s next idea is to get rid of management–recruit new guys from unrelated industries.

Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations.

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McCain Campaign Ad: Wanted, Economic Surrogate

Now that we’ve become a socialist country (strike that–an 80% socialist country) under George Bush and now that McCain himself is channeling Herbert Hoover, the McCain campaign has a surrogate problem.

They’re actually fairly lucky–Phil Gramm, the architect of this year’s economic meltdown, had already gotten hidden away somewhere after he called us all a nation of "whiners." Had he still be out campaigning for McCain, it’d have made it a lot easier for us to explain how electing McCain (and putting Phil Gramm in charge of Treasury) would only exacerbate our economic crisis, since Gramm’s the guy who caused it in the first place.

But then yesterday, McCain’s top domestic advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, claimed that John McCain had invented the blackberry. Holtz-Eakin is still out there boasting of McCain’s great accomplishments, but his credibility has declined from that of a carnival huckster to that of a clown.

On the same day, Carly Fiorina stepped in it too. She already was a terrible surrogate to talk about the economy. After all, she failed as CEO of HP. More importantly, one of the McCain campaign’s responses to this economic meltdown is to attack CEOs–like Fiorina–who devastate their company but still get multi-million dollar golden parachutes.

But things got worse yesterday. Fiorina–who after McCain spotlighted in an attempt to have a woman, any woman, defending Sarah Palin’s qualifications to be Veep–trotted out and asserted that Palin is not qualified to run a corporation. And for that matter, John McCain isn’t either. Somehow that comment, not Fiorina’s qualifications as a poster child for wasteful golden parachutes, was enough for the McCain campaign to start canceling Fiorina’s speaking engagements. 

McCain might have any of the number of highly-connected 170-odd Republicans running his campaign. Then again, seeing as how Obama’s making effective ads pointing out that McCain’s campaign is being run by the same special interests McCain claims he’ll take on, that doesn’t help McCain either. 

So who’s that leave? I understand Mitt Romney was out touting McCain’s ability on the economy last night. But given that Mitt agrees with the rest of the world that McCain is a pathological liar, Mitt isn’t the best surrogate for McCain either.

I gotta say, it’s a testament to how bad this economic crisis is when you’ve got a Republican candidate for President who can’t find an appropriate economic surrogate.

Mitch McConnell, Hans Von Spakovsky, Mitt’s Re-Emergence, and McCain’s FEC Money Woes

The LAT reports that Mitt’s thinking of un-suspending his campaign.

Josh Romney, one of former Gov. Mitt Romney’s five sons, says it’s "possible" his father may rejoin the race for the White House, either as a vice presidential candidate or seek to become the Republican Party’s standard bearer if the campaign of Sen. John McCain falters.

The 60-year-old Romney, who "suspended" his campaign for the GOP nomination after a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday and a week later endorsed McCain, was taking a break from politics this weekend on a skiing vacation in Utah with his wife Ann, according to his 32-year-old son.

The elder Romney, who was unable to assemble sufficient conservative support to thwart McCain, has made no public comment since the McCain camp was rocked…

by a controversial article in the New York Times last week first revealed in December in a posting on the Drudge Report.


Because he suspended rather than terminated his campaign, Romney still retains control of the nearly 300 delegates he’s already won. Another former governor, Mike Huckabee, remains in the race and is nearing Romney’s delegate totals, though few give him a realistic chance of catching McCain with more than 900 delegates.

Now, I doubt Mitt would be considering un-suspending his campaign without talking to the GOP bigwigs first. So this trial balloon suggests that GOP bigwigs may well be worried about McCain’s two pressing problems: the Straight Talk for Lobbyists Express seems to be getting traction in the news, and the FEC says McCain is officially taking matching funds, which means he has reached the limit he can spend between now and the GOP Convention in September.

Personally, I think they’re probably more worried about the FEC problem. They probably just can’t understand that having a presidency run by lobbyists might be a problem for the average voter. And if McCain can’t spend between now and September, he will lose.

But here’s the curious bit. At least according to the FEC, they will consider McCain to be receiving matching funds (and therefore to be forced to stop spending) until such a time as they have a quorum so they can consider his request to withdraw from matching funds.

Read more

Clusterfuck Eve

I can tell you, it’ll sure be hard to sleep tonight as I ponder the possibilities of tomorrow’s MI Clusterfuck Primary. Polls show that Romney might just pull this out–and surprisingly, at least one of those polls says he’ll do so with Republican support.

“As the undecided voters make up their minds, more are turning to Mitt Romney than to John McCain. We have also seen the participation among Republicans increase from 62% last night to 75% at the end of phoning tonight. That means that 75% of the voters taking part in the GOP Primary identify themselves as Republicans,” Steve Mitchell, president of Mitchell Interactive said.

Rasmussen has a similar projection for the number of Republican primary voters who will be Republican. And the Free Press claims that 0% of Democrats polled said they’d vote a Republican ballot–a laughable number, IMO. If those numbers are correct, it may mean "Uncommitted" will have a come from behind victory on the Democratic side as more Democrats listen to party leadership and decide to vote in the meaningless Democratic primary. I’d actually be thrilled with an "Uncommitted" victory in MI–it describes how I’m feeling right now perfectly. But like said, the 0% is a laughable number.

But what I’m really looking forward to is for Joe Lieberman and John McCain to stop spamming me (or rather, some Republican named Margaret) with robocalls and junk mail. McCain is even doing an event in Washtenaw County, a sure-fire sign he thinks Democrats might put him over the edge again. Though why he believes Lieberman is going to help make that case, I don’t know.

I still have gotten a robocall from Huck yet, which was the only reason I would cross-over to vote for Mitt. There’s still time yet, but for now, I’m hoping our clusterfuck ends in the only logical fashion: uncommitted.

Polling the Clusterfuck

Yesterday I said there were no MI polls. Well, now there are two, which still support my clusterfuck analysis, but also suggest that the Mitten might finish off Mitt. Here are the two polls:

Rossman Group/MIRS/Denno-Noor
January 6 and 7, MOE 5.8%

Huck 23%
Mitt 22%
McCain 18%
Rudy 8%
Frederick of Hollywood 4%
Paul 3%
Hunter 1%
Uncommitted 13%
Unsure 7%

Hillary 48%
Kooch 3%
Gravel 1%
Uncommitted 28%
Unsure 11%
Other 10%

Strategic Vision
January 4-6, MOE 4%

John McCain 29%
Mitt Romney 20%
Mike Huckabee 18%
Rudy Giuliani 13%
Fred Thompson 5%
Ron Paul 5%
Duncan Hunter 1%
Undecided 9%

So let’s start with the Democrats (only MIRS polled Dems). The poll was pre-NH, so you might assume that Hillary would pick up a bit for her NH victory, which might put her over 50%. However, state pols have really just started their campaigns to get Dems to vote uncommitted, including the rather amusingly named, Detroiters for Uncommitted Voters and radio ads from Congressman Conyers. As more people realize what "uncommitted" means, Hillary may well lose some points to … no one. What I’m most interested in with the MIRS is the 10% who voted "other," which is what I’d answer if I were given a Democratic ballot and asked who I planned to vote for if I planned to cross-over and add to the Republican clusterfuck. In other words, I take this poll to suggest, very very very roughly, that the Republicans might be hosting at least 10% of self-identified Democrats. Though of course, who they’ll vote for is anyone’s guess. Read more

Michigan’s Clusterfuck: Prelude to a National Clusterfuck?

I’m not the only one calling MI’s primary next week a clusterfuck–one of the state’s top Dem consultants, Mark Grebner, thinks so too, though he doesn’t use the word clusterfuck:

Of course, we may get lucky, but that’s not really "a plan". With Clinton bouncing back tonight in NH, it’s plausible that she and Obama will go round after round, with neither scoring a knockout.

Imagine next that Michigan’s "primary" results in a Clinton landslide on January 15, caused mainly because the opposition will be confused and splintered by the available options. I don’t know whether that will happen, but it may.

The consequence might be that Michigan’s would-be delegation would prove critical to forming a majority. Not at the Convention, most likely, but during the wheeling and dealing phase that leads up to it, as the two sides struggle to assemble a majority.

If this comes to pass, the fight will be between Clinton’s effort to seat Michigan, and Obama’s struggle to uphold the DNC sanctions. One side extending pseudo-grace and forgiveness to our transgressions, while the other side asks in pseudo-good-faith, why he should be punished for complying with the DNC’s rules and following their instructions.


My question is: is there some reason this can’t happen?

I’m marginally less worried than Grebner is about the Democratic side (though trust me–he’s a lot smarter about MI politics), mostly because I’m taking naive solace in the fact that "uncommitted" will appear on ballots, meaning Edwards and Obama supporters won’t have to navigate what would be effectively a write-in vote, but with a legally significant word, to support their candidate. That doesn’t mean Democratic voters won’t choose to vote in the Republican primary, doesn’t mean that those cross-over voters won’t be decisive as they were in 2000 for McCain, and doesn’t mean either party will get a real read of the support for its various candidates from the clusterfuck. It just means that Hillary will win by a smaller landslide (hey–with both Edwards and Obama supporters voting on the same line, who knows?), which will make the clusterfuck imagined by Grebner slightly less severe, though still a real possibility.

Me, I’m more intrigued by the way that Michigan’s clusterfuck may begin to set off a larger clusterfuck for Republicans. There has been no polling in Michigan since mid-December, and in that poll Huck scored remarkably well. Read more

Missing the Party

Let me start this post by throwing out some assertions.

  • The most interesting question about New Hampshire, IMO, is not whether Obama beats Hillary or whether Mitt survives against McCain. It’s whether Obama has a greater draw over Independents than McCain, which thereby deprives McCain of any victory there.
  • In her very gracious concession speech the other night, Hillary seemed genuinely thrilled by the huge Democratic/female/youth turnout (even after bitching about Obama’s direct appeal to "out-of-state" students for several weeks beforehand), even as she seemed to be recognizing how failed her strategy in Iowa had been.
  • Mitt Romney won handful of delegates today, and regardless of what happens in NH, will go onto MI, a state where several buildings in Lansing bear his Daddy’s name, to compete against a guy who had a huge victory here in 2000.

All of which is my preface to saying that the pundits are (for the most part) dealing with a much too flat conception of what this primary is going to look like, seeing only the intra-party competition, and they’re not seeing that we’re already thick into a competition between the two parties that may well have real ramifications for the outcome.

That said, let me go back to the beginning and explain what I mean. The press has largely assumed that McCain, the "maverick" who won in NH in 2000, stands to be the non-Mitt there this year. That assumes, of course, that the Independents (and even the Republicans) who turned out for McCain in 2000 will turn out for him again and it assumes that McCain’s prime contestant is Mitt. Now, ignore the fact that NH is a pretty solidly anti-war state and McCain is up there threatening a hundred year presence in Iraq. The bulk of the press still seems to be ignoring an unstated contest between Obama and McCain for Independents. Chris Bowers reads it right, IMO, when he suggests,

No momentum for McCain and Huckabee whatsoever. Obama is sucking up all the air right now, and probably the New Hampshire independents that McCain needed. Read more