Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama this morning on CBS News has some obvious high points for the president. Powell strongly defended Obama’s economic record, pointing out that Obama inherited an economy in free fall, and noting that we’re “starting to gain altitude.” That’s important, since Obama has now pivoted to a stronger argument that we are in recovery (see the new minute-long ad making that case).
Powell pointed out that Obama is winding down the wars while also remaining “very solid” in “protecting us from terrorism,” which is in keeping with the two pronged message that the Obama administration is ending Bush’s overseas adventures while descimating Al Qaeda.
But perhaps the most interesting part of the interview came when Powell hit Romney on trust. Here’s what he said:
“I have concerns about his views on foreign policy. The Governor, who was speaking on Monday night at the debate, was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. So I’m not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy...
“It’s a moving target. One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan, but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal. Same thing in Iraq. On almost every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Governor Romney agreed with the President, with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign. And my concern, which I’ve expressed previously in a public way, is that sometimes I don’t sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have, and he gets advice from his campaign staff that he then has to adjust to modify as he goes along.”
I noted here the other day that the Obama campaign’s closing message will include a final push to undermine voter confidence on a very fundamental level in Romney’s character, integrity, and trustworthiness. That case will focus heavily on Romney’s opposition to the auto-bailout and his subsequent dissembling about it; the Obama camp sees this as the perfect way to make the case, particularly in Ohio, that Romney can’t be trusted to come through for people when it really counts. Not only did he fail to do that when Ohioans needed the auto industry bailed out; he also lacks the integrity to come clean about it.
More broadly, the Obama camp now has video of Powell making the case that Romney isn’t being forthright about his foreign policy proposals, an arena in which voters presumably want to see evidence of steady leadership. Many pundits have argued that Romney did manage to reassure voters with his Monday performance, by clearing what they like to call a “commander in chief threshold.” But Powell has now directly undermined this case, too; expect this to be incorporated into Obama’s larger closing case against his GOP challenger.
* The GOP case for a Romney victory: Karl Rove’s Op ed is worth reading to hear that case made in its most optimistic (for Romney) terms. The story is the same: Romney has momentum; undecideds usually break towards the challenger (a curious data point in favor of a Romney victory, coming from the architect of John Kerry’s defeat). There’s also the claim that states Romney needs are breaking his way:
He leads in most recent polls in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire and Colorado.
* Republicans worried about Ohio and electoral math: In a must-read, Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker delicately point out that Romney’s outward projections of optimism about victory are studiously ignoring just how daunting the electoral math remains for him. This tidbit about Ohio is important:
Party strategists on both sides say the race appears to be remarkably close, but two senior Republican officials here said that they believed Mr. Obama had a slight advantage and that they worried that Mr. Romney’s gains had leveled off.
News outlets have been far too credulous about the supposed “momentum” Romney is enjoying, so it’s good to see the Times devote a stand alone story to Romney’s electoral math challenges.
* How about more of a focus on Virginia? It bears repeating: Polling averages show a tighter race in Virginia than in Ohio. The averages show a tie in Virginia, but the focus of the conversation always seems to be on Ohio. Romney may have to win both to gain the presidency; he is leading in neither.
The latest: A new Public Policy Polling survey in Virginia, commissioned by Health Care for America Now and taken entirely after the third debate, puts Obama up five points, 51-46. That is out of sync with the averages, so take it with skepticism, but still: Virginia is in play.
* National poll shows Romney ahead: The Associated Press poll showing Romney leading Obama among likely voters by 47-45 is generating a lot of chatter this morning. Again: polls like this are entirely consistent with the averages, which show a national dead heat.
Update: It turns out that four of the five days of polling in this survey took place before the last debate on Monday.
* Obama camp continues tying Romney to Mourdock: The Obama campaign is out with a new web video hitting Romney for standing by Richard Mourdock, despite his comments about God and rape. Dems hope to keep this story alive, since every day spent not talking about the Obama economy and Romney’s phantom five point plan is a day wasted for the GOP ticket, with time running out.
* More signs of economic optimism? A fascinating finding by Gallup: For the first time during the Obama presidency, more Americans feel better off (38 percent) financially than feel worse off (34) That’s a 20 point drop from May 2009, when 54 percent said they felt worse off.
Key nugget: The percentage who feel better off is comparable to the numbers who felt that way just before the 2004 and 1996 presidential elections (the Reagan recovery is constantly held up by the right as proof of Obama’s relative economic failure).
* More good economic news? The Wall Street Journal has it:
Sales of new homes jumped in September to their highest level in more than two years, the latest sign that the housing market is on firmer ground after a bruising five-year downturn.
There will be a tremendous amount of media attention to the October jobs numbers released just before election day, but what really matters is how people are feeling about the direction of the economy, something that is far too complex to be captured by that one metric.
* Jobless claims fall again: Steve Benen has it in chart form.
* And labor calls Romney an “economic traitor”: The union-backed PAC Workers Voice is amping up the attacks on Romney and Bain to screaming decibel levels: It’s releasing a new Web site and a new ad to air in select markets in Ohio and Wisconsin that label Romney an “economic traitor.” The Bain-owned Sensata plant in Illinois is relocating jobs to China, a decision Romney obviously has nothing to do with; the ad argues Romney “created” and “remains invested in” Bain.
The ad is a reminder of how central Bain will be to labor’s efforts to drive up turnout among union households in the key battlegrounds.