Let’s get started with this excellent scoop from Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam:
One of Mitt Romney’s strongest assets as the GOP presidential front-runner is also a potentially serious liability in the race: his heavy reliance on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for financial support.
A quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign and an allied super PAC has come from just 41 people, each of whom has given more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors have contributed $1 million or more.
Four of the $1 million donors are hedge fund managers, and Dems will surely point to this as evidence that the very rich are fueling Romney’s campaign because his tax policies protect their financial interests. The loophole that Obama’s Buffett Rule would close keeps their tax rates lower than those paid by many middle class taxpayers.
Exacerbating this picture, of course, is the fact that Romney himself is a member of this class that benefits so handsomely from the unfairness of this tax structure. The Dem strategy is to paint Romney as the walking embodiment of everything that’s unfair about our economy and tax system, and all the ways it’s rigged for the wealthy and against the middle class. The fact that a tiny handful of extremely wealthy individuals who are reaping so much from the current structure — as is Romney himself — are investing so heavily in his candidacy will only strengthen the case.
This becomes starker still when you consider that Romney (like the other GOP candidates) won’t release the names of its bundlers, and favors doing away with any and all limits on contributions to campaigns.
No one is denying that big money’s corrosive influence over our politics impacts both parties. But the emerging larger picture on Romney’s side takes this all to another, almost surreal, level. Taken together, it all seems so out of sync with the public mood that it’s hard to know where to begin. And yet here we are — this is who the GOP appears set to nominate at this particular economic and political moment.
* Deconstructing Romney’s “very poor” quote: Jonathan Cohn does a deep dive into all the problems with Romney’s “not concerned about the very poor” remark yesterday, and matches up the quote against Romney’s policies:
Romney’s political strategy here seems clear to me: He’s trying to drive a wedge between the poor and the middle class, convincing the latter that they lose out to the former when Democrats are in charge. And the strategy may work. It’s certainly helped Republicans before. But the big beneficiary of Romney’s plan to reorder fiscal priorities is not the middle class. It’s the very wealthy, who would get substantial tax benefits and who will usually be fine with weakened public services.
So maybe Romney’s quote is misleading after all. It suggests that only the poor would be afterthoughts in a Romney presidency, when even many non-poor Americans would be forgotten, too.
* Dems hit Romney over “very poor” remark: Relatedly, the DNC’s Web video of the day targets Romney’s “very poor” quote, but broadens the indictment to argue that his tax policies don’t reveal very much concern about the middle class, either — even as they offer the very wealthy a massive tax cut.
Key takeaway: For all the discussion of Romney’s quote, this election will be all about the middle class, and not so much about the poor or the very poor.
* Obama reelect reality check of the day: It’s hard to know how much stock to place in this, but it certainly should not be discounted:
The CBO projects unemployment will rise, hitting 8.8 percent in the third quarter of the year, the heart of the campaign. That’s terrible politics. Obama advisers have told us repeatedly on background that if unemployment is above 8.5 percent in the final months of the campaign, it will be extremely hard, if not impossible, to win. The advisers say independents will not return to Obama if it looks like economic growth is anemic and uncertain and it looks like his policies did little, if anything, to create new jobs under his watch.
The counter-argument: The political scientists tell us that it’s public perceptions of the direction the economy is moving in that dictate an incumbent’s chances amid a bad economy. It’s unclear whether the unemployment rate on Election Day 2012 will dictate those perceptions, but there’s no question that the continuing unemployment crisis could make the political environment extremely challenging for Obama this fall.
* The bad economy Obama is up against: Ian Swanson has a detailed look at the various metrics and the reasons for both optimism and pessimimism they suggest about Obama’s reelection chances.
Also: Steve Benen has the latest improvement in jobless claims in chart form.
* The Tea Party’s last stand against Romney: The Times has an interesting report on how Nevada, whose political landscape has been dramatically altered by a severe unemployment and foreclosure crisis, is emerging as the last opportunity for the Tea Party to strike a blow against Romney’s seemingly unstoppable march to the nomination.
Footnote: This quote, from a Nevada real estate broker, really captures the uncertainty of the political environment in a key western state: “A lot of people had lives and homes and jobs that they now see are never coming back...It’s just the same-old from everyone, and instead of any of the bailouts helping regular people, it helped everyone else but them.”
* But Romney set to win big in Nevada: Tea Party or no, a new Las Vegas Review Journal poll shows Romney heading for a blowout win in the state, and his grip on the nomination continues to tighten.
* Game changer of the day! Okay, not really, but Donald Trump is set to endorse Gingrich in Las Vegas today, which will bring Newt a bunch of media attention but probably won’t do much to alter the outcome.
* This day in Senate myopia: GOP Senator Jon Kyl is offering an intriguing objection to Sherrod Brown’s and Jeff Merkley’s proposal that Senators divest in stock in companies impacted by their legislating:
“Why should someone who has worked and accumulated some equity and is investing that in American businesses no longer be able to do that when they’re elected to public office?”
The issue, Senator, is whether you should be drawing profits from companies whose bottom lines depend on your decisions as a legislator. Either way, the proposal is almost certainly a non-starter.
* And a note on Obama’s assassinations: Glenn Greenwald offers a typically brutal cross-examination of Obama’s public proclamations and legal rationale — or lack thereof — for his assassination program.