Wonkbook: Party interrupted

August 27, 2012

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Wonkbook dashboard

RCP Obama vs. Romney: Obama +1.4%; 7-day change: Obama -2.0%.

RCP Obama approval: 47.9%; 7-day change: -0.5%.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win: 55.8%; 7-day change: -2.3%.

Top story: Isaac interrupts the Republican Party

Hurricane Isaac has thrown off the GOP convention schedule. "Isaac was out there somewhere, an uninvited blowhard. The sky was dark, spitting and gusting, impatient for some serious storming...Thus began the Republican National Convention — though it’s not entirely clear when it will really start in earnest, or when it will end. Monday’s a washout, and rumors have spread that Tuesday’s events could be in political peril if a major hurricane slams the Gulf Coast to the north." Joel Achenbach and David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.

The storm might reduce the political impact of the convention. "The decision by the Republican National Committee to cancel the first day of the party’s quadrennial political convention as Tropical Storm Isaac bears down on the Gulf Coast will likely force a split-screen viewership that complicates the GOP’s attempts to tell and sell the story of Mitt Romney...The storm clearly complicates the planned rollout of Mitt Romney to the general public for his campaign and his party." Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

@BobCusack: GOP analyst Alex Castellanos on CNN says it is "almost impossible" to push back convention to Friday, citing logistics.

Bookmark: The full revised 2012 GOP convention schedule.

Romney to make major push on likeability at convention. "Mitt Romney enters the most important week of his political career dogged by a nasty tropical storm but hopeful it will pass in time for a circle of friends and supporters to give his presidential campaign the powerful lift it has been seeking all summer...Mindful that Mr. Romney is often uneasy and occasionally clumsy talking about himself, the Romney camp will turn to an unusually large circle of others who know him, including people he has helped through his church and business career, in an attempt to make the prospective nominee more approachable to voters who seem to respect him more than like him." Colleen McCain Nelson and Patrick O'Connor in The Wall Street Journal.

But after that, expect a harder-edged message from the Republican. "Mitt Romney is heading into his nominating convention with his advisers convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations...[I]n a marked change, Mr. Romney has added a harder edge to a message that for most of this year was focused on his business and job-creation credentials, injecting volatile cultural themes into the race." Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times.

Dan Balz explains: FAQs about GOP convention politics, messaging, and strategy.

Meanwhile, the once-fringe elements of the GOP are holding a de-facto parallel convention in Tampa. "In a speech that was part motivational, part valedictory and at every opportunity critical of the mainstream Republican Party on the eve of its convention here this week, Representative Ron Paul declared his 'liberty movement' alive and well on Sunday before a crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters who were eager to testify to that claim...Mr. Paul, 77, was not scheduled to speak at the Republican convention...At another rally on Sunday at a Tampa church, two other former presidential contenders, Herman Cain and Representative Michele Bachmann, spoke to a boisterous crowd of several hundred Tea Party supporters." Susan Saulny in The New York Times.

Nevertheless, the Tea Party and Republican Party increasingly speak with one voice. "As the tea-party movement agitated for fiscally conservative ideals, it often found itself at odds with Republican party leaders. But as the GOP convention opens this week, tea-party activists say they like what they see...[I]n many ways, the convention marks an alignment between the Republican Party and the tea-party movement that is more complete than some imagined only two years ago." Peter Nicholas in The Wall Street Journal.

READ: A draft of the Republican Party platform.

But for the other factions, the ties of political coalition are weakening. "Mitt Romney arrives here this week to accept his nomination from the increasingly disparate coalition of factions known as the Republican Party, confronting the challenge of unifying them behind him and — should he win — exerting his own authority over a party that is in many ways still forging a post-Bush identity...[M]any [Republican leaders] said they were concerned about the crosscurrents that have churned the party, particularly since the emergence of the Tea Party movement three years ago...It is common for parties out of power to suffer an extended identity crisis...It has been happening to Republicans for at least four years as different conservative factions have competed for dominance and as outside forces, from the grass-roots Tea Party activists to “super PACs” and other groups financed by wealthy conservatives, have to some degree undercut the party establishment. But in some ways, the Republican Party today appears more factionalized — ideologically, politically and culturally — than Republican leaders said they could remember in recent history." Adam Nagourney in The New York Times.

@Neil_Irwin: When was the last time a party didn't have its most recent president speak at convention? Clinton '04, Reagan '92, Carter '84 all spoke.

Explainer: The elephants in the Republican herd.

HUNT: This is the end of the establishment Republican. "From Washington to the state capitals to the local level, the movement conservatives are in the ascendancy. For years, the Republican base was divided; it’s now dominated by the movement types....Today there are very few House Republicans who break with conservative orthodoxy. The changes are equally dramatic at the state and local level. Moderate Republican governors are relics." Albert R. Hunt in Bloomberg.

LUCE: Romney is a pragmatist doing a bad job aping an ideologue. "In each incarnation, Mr Romney’s trademark was pragmatism...Which brings us on to the presumptive Republican nominee’s main problem: his party. Like any aspiring president, Mr Romney has had to pander to people with whom he might normally disagree...Mr Romney has been forced to abandon common sense positions to get the nomination...In each case, Mr Romney has submitted to prevailing – and hardening – Republican theology...If it goes well the convention ought to showcase Mr Romney’s executive skills. It may also shine the light on the growing anti-enlightenment dimension to the party he now leads." Edward Luce in The Financial Times.

DIONNE: Romney's nomination brings history full-circle. "In 1964, George Romney, then the governor of Michigan, walked out of the Republican National Convention during Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech. He was protesting his party’s sharp turn rightward...Mitt Romney is set to achieve what his father never could. But his great family triumph will not represent a vindication of his father’s principles. Mitt Romney reached the summit not by battling the GOP’s staunchest conservatives but by accommodating them. Nothing better captures the absolute victory of the forces of Goldwaterism than a Romney triumph on the basis of Goldwater’s ideas." E. J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

BARONE: The Republican base has narrowed to working class whites and evangelical Christians. "The core of the Republican Party throughout its history has been voters who are generally seen by themselves and by others as typical Americans—but who by themselves don't constitute a majority of what has always been an economically, culturally and religiously diverse nation. But, as the electoral data cited above suggest, the nature of that core group has changed over time....[T]he Republican core going into the 2012 election is no longer northern Protestants but white, married Christians...[N]oncollege whites [have] been declining as a percentage of the electorate, but in the process it has become an important part of the Republican core." Michael Barone in The Wall Street Journal.

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist even endorsed Obama on Sunday. "Former Republican Florida governor Charlie Crist, writing in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times, endorsed President Obama, calling him 'the right leader for our state and the nation.'...In his endorsement, Crist continued to criticize what he says is a Republican Party 'pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people.'" Vanessa Williams in The Washington Post.

HUNTSMAN: The GOP is walking away from surefire growth policy: immigration. "Americans are facing the most difficult economic headwinds in a generation. Future economic growth will depend in large part on our ability to maintain an edge in human capital. This means we must focus on immigration as a key economic driver...Work-based immigration programs like the H-1B visa, which is a temporary program for workers with special skill sets, have to be expanded. Foreign graduates of American universities simply have to be given the opportunity to pursue U.S. citizenship. Beyond that, we must move from passively opening our arms to immigrants to actively seeking them. Let's start by making sure that graduates of elite foreign universities who receive degrees in mathematics, science or engineering can immigrate to the U.S. if they so choose." Jon Huntsman in The Wall Street Journal.

Top op-eds

COHAN: Tax us, please, moguls say. "If you get Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner and Bob Wright -- three of the U.S.’s most highly respected former executives -- together in a room with David Gregory, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and there are no television cameras around, there are bound to be some fireworks...On a recent steamy evening in a high school gymnasium on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, the men did not disappoint...The former CEOs in that Nantucket gym agreed that a good place to start would be to raise taxes on the wealthy as part of a comprehensive tax and spending plan to achieve a modicum of fiscal responsibility." William D. Cohan in Bloomberg.

KRUGMAN: Chris Christie doesn't walk the walk. "Both [Rep. Paul Ryan and Gov. Chris Christie] have carefully cultivated public images as tough, fiscally responsible guys willing to make hard choices. And both public images are completely false...Christie was forced to engage in belt-tightening...[but he hasn't] eschewed budget gimmicks: like earlier New Jersey governors, Mr. Christie has closed budget gaps in part by deferring required contributions to state pension funds, which is in effect a form of borrowing against the future, and he has also sought to paper over budget gaps by diverting money from places like the Transportation Trust Fund. If there is a distinctive feature to New Jersey’s belt-tightening under Mr. Christie, it is its curiously selective nature. " Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

FELDMAN: Why we still need affirmative action in public universities. "Nobody is prepared to tell the court the real reason we still need affirmative action: It would be shameful madness to recruit and train an elite that included only a handful of blacks and Latinos. Instead, the core argument for retaining some element of affirmative action in admissions is 'diversity.'...The Obama administration and the universities claim that diversity is beneficial because it enhances the educational experience in the classroom for all the students, not that it serves a vital political function...Yet the Obama era can also point us to the true societal reason we still need affirmative action: We are a country run in no small part, though not exclusively, by a meritocratic elite...Then there is the unpopular issue of injustice. Even if we could be governed by an elite that didn’t look like America, would it be right? Meritocracy fits poorly with democracy if the meritocrats aren’t representative. The problem isn’t that unrepresentative universities wouldn’t be democratic. It’s that governance by the elites they produce would be." Noah Feldman in Bloomberg.

FRANK: Carbon taxation is right for the environment and the economy, despite contrary political winds. "[W] we could insulate ourselves from catastrophic risk at relatively modest cost by enacting a steep carbon tax...[B]ecause recent estimates about global warming have become more pessimistic, stabilization may require a much higher tax...[G]lobal warming has a fairly simple and cheap technical solution. Extreme weather is already creating enormous human suffering." Robert H. Frank in The New York Times.

Top long reads

Helen O'Neill unconvers the human costs of deporting parents of children who remain in the United States: "Alexis Molina was just 10 years old when his mother was abruptly cut out of his life and his carefree childhood unraveled overnight. Gone were the egg-and-sausage tortillas that greeted him when he came home from school, the walks in the park, the hugs at night when she tucked him into bed. Today the sweet-faced boy of 11 spends his time worrying about why his father cries so much, and why his mom can't come home. 'She went for her papers,' he says. 'And she never came back.'...It's a question thousands of other families are wrestling with as a record number of deportations means record numbers of American children being left without a parent. And it comes despite President Barack Obama's promise that his administration would focus on removing only criminals, not breaking up families even if a parent is here illegally. Nearly 45,000 such parents were removed in the first six months of this year, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Behind the statistics are the stories..."

New Jersey musical interlude: Bruce Springsteen, "Hungry Heart".

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Still to come: Bernanke to make public comments on Friday; Medicare Advantage sees strong growth in enrollment; little hope of averting fiscal cliff now; coordinated global release of reserve oil is coming down the pipeline; and the statistics of the drought.

Economy

The Federal Reserve is weighing the costs and benefits of additional monetary stimulus. "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivers what could be his closing argument in deliberations about launching a new bond-buying program when he speaks Friday at the central bank's Jackson Hole, Wyo., conference. The argument comes down to weighing costs and benefits...Bernanke's confidence that the Fed can manage it suggests he doesn't see big costs to taking more action in an effort to boost the economy." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.

Smothered by austerity, Spain's economy is back to square one: barter. "As Europe's leaders struggle with a five-year-old economic crunch that has saddled Spain with the industrialized world's highest jobless rate, young Spaniards are increasingly embracing such bottom-up self-help initiatives to cope. The diverse measures—some commonly associated with rural or disaster-zone economies—supplement a public safety net that is fraying under government austerity programs. Besides time banks, they include barter markets springing up in barrios, local currencies designed to spur the flagging retail economy, and charity networks that repurpose discarded goods...Similar efforts are also emerging in Southern Europe's other troubled economies." Matt Moffett and Ilan Brat in The Wall Street Journal.

Broken promises from policymakers hold back Eurozone recovery. "The gap between what E.U. governments announce they will do about the region’s two-year-old debt crisis and what they do in practice has been a big factor in continued skepticism among lending institutions that buy sovereign debt. That has helped prolong the crisis...According to the economists, part of the problem is that E.U. leaders have sought to inject confidence in the markets with ringing declarations that they could not back up." Edward Cody in The Washington Post.

A new broken promise? Spain's regions find themselves in massive budget hole. "[A] discrepancy in this year’s spending plans for Spain’s 17 autonomous regions – which have become one of the main battle grounds for prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s austerity programme – could allow the regions to exceed their agreed budget deficit for 2012 by almost 10 per cent...The resulting €1.2bn hole amounts to about 8 per cent of the €15bn deficit the regions are allowed to run this year." Miles Johnson in The Financial Times.

Mars interlude: How the Curiosity Rover landed on the Red Planet, in new stunning video.

Health Care

After Texas Gov. Perry nixes statewide Medicaid expansion, several counties may go it alone. "Local officials in Texas are discussing whether to band together to expand Medicaid coverage in some of the state’s biggest counties, making an end run around Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition to the expanded program included in President Obama’s health-care law...Whatever the plan’s fate, it shows that frustrated local officials don’t necessarily want to give the governor the last word on whether to accept millions of federal health aid that could ease local burdens." N.C. Aizenman in The Washington Post.

Medicare Advantage is thriving. "Even as President Obama accuses Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan of trying to privatize and 'voucherize' Medicare, his administration crows about the success of private health plans in delivering prescription drug benefits and other services to Medicare beneficiaries. More than a quarter of the 50 million beneficiaries receive coverage through private Medicare Advantage plans, mostly health maintenance organizations, and Medicare’s drug benefits are delivered exclusively by private insurers, subsidized by the government...Federal spending on Medicare drug benefits has been about 30 percent lower than the Congressional Budget Office predicted when the drug legislation was passed in 2003." Robert Pear in The New York Times.

Domestic Policy

The chance to avert the fiscal cliff is vanishing. "The tight presidential race has all but ensured that Congress will not pass a bill before the election that would halt sequestration cuts...President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney have traded barbs over sequestration...The result has become into a war of words between the campaigns over who’s to blame for letting sequestration become law — and who’s the roadblock now to preventing the across-the-board cuts...Part of the reason that’s unlikely to change between now and November is that both Democrats and Republicans see sequestration as a winning issue on the campaign trail." Jeremy Herb in The Hill.

Obama and GOP agree on need to re-examine old regs. "The White House doesn’t want to go nearly as far as Republicans in placing an automatic expiration date, but Obama’s regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, has made it a priority to conduct 'look backs'...Obama has also worked to institutionalize these regulatory “look backs”: in May, for instance, he issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to continue to scrutinize rules on the books to see if they really make sense." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

Apple-Samsung ruling may bring major consequences in tech. "Friday’s landmark verdict in Apple’s San Jose battle with Samsung over smartphone design patents will - if Samsung is to be believed – usher in an era of iPhone dominance in the 'post-PC' world...[I]f the short term is fraught with uncertainty and risk for Apple’s rivals, longer term some see Apple’s legal victory hurting it, as its rivals are spurred to create more novel devices." Tim Bradshaw and Simon Mundy in The Financial Times.

@rupertmurdoch: Apple giant deservedly, Google great and respected, but Amazon seen doing everything right. All three very aggressive.

Infographic interlude: The New York Times looks at the statistics of the drought.

Energy

Global oil reserves to be unleashed in markets after pressure from Obama admin. "The International Energy Agency (IEA) likely will call on countries to release oil reserves to combat rising prices and maintain the integrity of Iranian sanctions, according to trade journal Petroleum Economist. With oil prices spiking 30 percent since June, unnamed IEA sources said the agency is poised to dip into Western nations’ strategic reserves as early as September. The IEA originally opposed a unilateral U.S. plan to tap its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). But the agency reportedly gave in after the Obama administration insisted on using the SPR." Zack Colman in The Hill.

@Ben_German: Interior Dept: 24% of Gulf of Mexico oil production suspended due to Isaac thus far. This will put even more upward pressure on pump prices.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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Dylan Matthews · August 26, 2012