Wonkbook: Race in the presidential race

August 28, 2012

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Wonkbook dashboard

RCP Obama vs. Romney: Obama +1.1%; 7-day change: Obama -1.4%.

RCP Obama approval: 47.9%; 7-day change: -0.1%.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win: 56.0%; 7-day change: -0.9%.

Top story: Race and 2012

The Romney campaign has concluded they need to take the fight to Obama on "cultural themes." "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. Having survived a summer of attacks but still trailing the president narrowly in most national polls, Mr. Romney’s campaign remains focused intently on the economy as the issue that can defeat Mr. Obama. But in 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.

'Subtle' is not the right word to describe the Romney campaign. "Mitt Romney’s campaign events are an homage to patriotism and Americana, draped with flags large enough to be hung 70 feet high from a crane and drenched in Rodney Atkins country music so loud that the speakers throb...They are a place for voters, mostly white and older, to channel their economic apprehensions about big government into homemade bumper stickers denouncing 'O-bum-a' and T-shirts declaring 'I am pro-America, anti-Obama.' What they are not: subtle." Ashley Parker and Michael Barbaro in The New York Times.

If you break the vote down by race, Obama's winning ratio is 80/40. Romney's is 61/74. "For President Obama, the winning formula can be reduced to 80/40. In 2008, Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority voters, including not only African-Americans but also Hispanics, Asians, and others. If Obama matches that performance this year, he can squeak out a national majority with support from about 40 percent of whites—so long as minorities at least match the 26 percent of the vote they cast last time. Obama’s strategic equation defines Mitt Romney’s formula: 61/74. Romney’s camp is focused intently on capturing at least 61 percent of white voters. That would provide him a slim national majority—so long as whites constitute at least 74 percent of the vote, as they did last time, and Obama doesn’t improve on his 80 percent showing with minorities." Ron Brownstein in the National Journal.

The public has become increasingly racially polarized in the age of Obama. "In Obama’s first 100 days, even as news polls showed him broadly popular (and before Republicans had turned en masse against him), surveys that also measured racial resentment unmasked a deep, nonpartisan divide. In April 2009, the Pew Research Center showed a gap of 70 points in Obama’s approval between “strong racial liberals” and “strong racial conservatives”—more than any of his five most recent predecessors in the White House." Sasha Issenberg in Slate.

EDSALL: Romney's latest ads testify to the insertion of racial undertones into the presidential race. "The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor. Ads that accuse President Obama of gutting the work requirements enacted in the 1996 welfare reform legislation present the first theme. Ads alleging that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare — a program serving an overwhelmingly white constituency — in order to provide health coverage to the heavily black and Hispanic poor deliver the second. The ads are meant to work together, to mutually reinforce each other’s claims." Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times.

Wonkblog recommends: The race in America discussion from Saturday's 'Up With Chris'.

@thegarance: Why anyone ever thought race wouldn't be an issue in the reelect of the 1st black president is a mystery.

KLEIN: Racial politics are alive and powerful in the Obama era. "Most of the issues dominating the 2012 election make sense. There’s the economy, of course. The budget deficit. Medicare. Obamacare. But click through the “videos” section of Mitt Romney’s Web site and you’ll see something odd: His campaign is running more ads about welfare than just about any other issue. Of the 12 most recent ads posted, five are about welfare...In modern politics, however, when a campaign begins doubling and tripling down on an unusual line of attack, it’s because it has reams of data showing the attack is working. What’s worrying is why this ad might be working...Romney’s welfare ads are not racist. But the evidence suggests that they work particularly well if the viewer is racist, or at least racially resentful. And these are the ads that are working so unexpectedly well that welfare is now the spine of Romney’s 2012 on-air message in the battleground states." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

SANTORUM: Obama is dismantling work requirements for welfare. "under President Obama we are beating a path back to big government and away from the independence and mobility that welfare reform sought to foster. I'm very proud to have been one of the authors of that 1996 legislation...President Obama seems determined to reverse this success. His administration recently issued a new directive giving the secretary of Health and Human Services the power to waive federal welfare-work requirements. The president has no authority to do so, because we were very clear in the legislation that work rules were not a requirement that could be waived." Rick Santorum in The Wall Street Journal.

Fact check: The welfare ads are lying, and so is Santorum.

@grossdm: People shocked at romney campaign increasingly unsubtle race-baiting shouldn't be. Private equity is all about the pursuit of whatever works

BARRO: The Republican strategy is to make Obama 'other.' "What Romney [has been] intimating [is] that Obama has given people cause to wonder how American he really is...What makes Obama look "non-American" to some conservatives isn't just his birth to a Kenyan father. It's his upbringing around the world and in remote Hawaii, his background in elite coastal institutions and academia, and his liberal politics...Obama is black, so his race is inevitably a part of 'othering' him. If he's not American, the implication must be that he is Kenyan...What Romney was up to on the stump last week wasn't just stoking the fires under the birth certificate conspiracy that won't die. It was continuing the Republican tradition of asserting that their party's agenda is the only truly American one. " Josh Barro in Bloomberg.

@jbarro: Romney knows Obama was born in Hawaii, but he *relates* to people's skepticism of his Americanness. Similar to Sununu.

KLEIN: Romney's strategy reflects a weak hand. "This isn’t where the Romney campaign hoped it would be in August. Recall that Team Romney began with three premises for how to win this election. The first was to make this a referendum, not a choice. The second was to keep it focused on the economy. The third was to bow to Obama’s essential likability by treating him as a decent guy who is simply in over his head. In recent weeks, the Romney campaign has jettisoned every single one of those premises." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Voting restrictions could reduce the minority vote. "[Romney] found little support among Latinos, blacks, and the young. Rather than competing for these voters, however, Republican culture warriors have been competing against them, by making it harder for them to vote...[S]uch requirements, which have become a priority among Republican legislators across the country, stand to effectively disenfranchise millions of eligible voters, the vast majority of them in demographic groups that tend to support Democrats. Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker.

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Top op-eds

SEIB: Who is Mitt Romney, anyway? "The leader Republicans will nominate for president this week is a man of many paradoxes, a figure well known yet not entirely understood...And while some politicians are easy to understand, he isn't one of them. The paradoxes only begin with the fact that he started his political life as a social-policy moderate in Massachusetts, but now champions a conservative line on abortion, gun control and gay marriage...In an era of profound ideological divides, he doesn't strike either friend or foe as particularly ideological...He is cool and unflappable in his public persona...Intriguingly, his cool and slightly enigmatic persona is something he has in common with the man he is trying to drive out of the White House, Barack Obama." Gerald F. Seib in The Wall Street Journal.

BROOKS: Uncovering the 'Real Romney.' "Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Virginia and several other swing states. He emerged, hair first, believing in America, and especially its national parks. He was given the name Mitt, after the Roman god of mutual funds, and launched into the world with the lofty expectation that he would someday become the Arrow shirt man." David Brooks in The New York Times.

PONNURU: Social Security is a fiscal mess. "[A] bipartisan consensus on entitlements has emerged in the past few years...On both left and right, the politicians and the experts are saying the U.S. needs to fix Medicare -- and have made fixing Social Security an afterthought...Too bad that consensus is wrong...Right now, we spend more money on Social Security than on Medicare, and that will remain the case for a while...If anything, it’s Social Security that ought to be saved first because it’s the more urgent near-term problem." Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.

FOLBRE: Globalization has led to the dis-integration. "Today, outsourcing by the country’s largest multinational corporations has become routine...[T]echnological agility threatens to render national borders almost irrelevant. The result is a process of strategic investment that often yields high profits without generating employment or tax revenues in the United States. Many American companies rely heavily on subcontractors in other countries, minimizing both their production costs and their tax liabilities." Nancy Folbre in The New York Times.

STRASSEL: GOP agenda embodied by guvs. "Republicans meet at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this week to spell out their vision for the country. It needn't be an exercise in imagination. The party's transformative spirit is already on vivid display, thanks to a crop of reformist Republican governors. With the GOP stymied in Washington, these state leaders—from Chris Christie in New Jersey to Scott Walker in Wisconsin—have become the heart of the conservative movement, many pursuing the sort of thorough overhauls of government once considered impossible." Kimberley A. Strassel in The Wall Street Journal.

MILBANK: Political conventions are slowling dying. "If there is any good to come out of this soggy spectacle, it will be that it hastens the demise of the political convention, which has become a meaningless anachronism. The Democrats’ convention next week has already been shortened to three days, and Republicans are joining Democrats in concluding that the drawn-out affairs of years past have become pointless."Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

@pourmecoffee: There are still some seminars today at GOP convention, like "Brainstorming: Laws About Lady Parts."

Top long reads

Binyamin Appelbaum explores the Janus-like views of Mitt Romney on economic policy: "When Mitt Romney declared during his unsuccessful campaign for the Senate in 1994 that the federal minimum wage should rise with inflation, a break with Republican doctrine, both Democrats and Republicans accused him of pandering to Massachusetts voters. Mr. Romney has now maintained that position for almost two decades, qualifying his stand as he sought the Republican presidential nomination but never relinquishing the view that inflation adjustments would be good for workers, good for employers and good for the broader economy. As he prepares to accept his party’s nomination this week, his steady support for an idea vigorously opposed by conservatives and business groups underscores the complexity of predicting how he might manage the national economy...During the current campaign, Mr. Romney has embraced the conservative view that government can best help the economy by getting smaller...But a review of the positions that Mr. Romney has taken on economic issues during his two decades in politics reveals a recurring tension between his political commitments and his private sector experience at Bain Capital, which he often cited earlier in his political career in advocating a larger government role in the economy."

Aram Bakshian Jr. answers how The Economist became the weekly for the global elite: "Twenty-five years ago, if you had asked a typical senior American corporate type or public official what his or her weekly reading consisted of, the answer would usually have run something like this: 'Time, Newsweek and maybe U.S. News & World Report...oh, yes, and the Economist.' Today, instead of being an afterthought, the Economist probably would head the list. It might even be the only publication mentioned...[This] smaller, older English oak survives and flourishes, possibly because it has never tried to be anything other than itself: a literate, informed (and occasionally smug) publication aimed at a literate, informed (and occasionally smug) readership...Today, it is arguably more influential, more widely read and more prestigious than at any other time in its 169-year history and in a way that is unlike any other magazine. Why is this so? And how well does the quality of its content live up to the Economist’s lofty status?"

A music 'history lesson' interlude: Johnny Cash performing 'I Walk the Line'.

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

Still to come: The worst decade for the American middle class; specialists providing primary care is an unnecessary driver of health care costs; Scalia says Court is collegial; Romney energy plan announced today; and how a computer can detect what makes Paris, well, Parisian.

Economy

Manufacturers call for policy agenda. "Manufacturing is back in vogue as part of the solution to America's job shortage...[L]ook for political candidates this fall to talk about how to spur investment in factories...[M]any manufacturers wish Washington would concentrate on what they see as the fundamentals: lower and simpler taxes, improved roads and other infrastructure, and better education...[M]anufacturers tend to see overhauling the tax code as a far bigger priority [than special tax breaks.]...[T]he typical marginal effective tax rate for U.S. manufacturers in 2012 was 35.6%, [a] study found." James R. Hagerty in The Wall Street Journal.

@conorsen: Can't fault those disrupted by technology to long for a return to gold, manufacturing jobs, etc, but it's just not going to happen.

Spain's recession is deepening. "Spain’s economic growth has been weaker over the past two years than previously reported, according to revised data published on Monday, indicating a deeper slump than earlier official estimates and further complicating Madrid’s efforts to bring down its deficit. Gross domestic product growth contracted 0.3 per cent in 2010, compared with an originally reported 0.1 per cent drop in output, while the 0.7 per cent growth registered for last year was revised down to 0.4 per cent, according to the country’s National Statistics Institute." Miles Johnson in The Financial Times.

Trompe l'oeil interlude: How to make a realistic drawing of a torn-up playing card.

Health Care

A new generation of medicine is on the way. "Patients are pretty horrible at taking their medicine. One study last month found that non-compliance with heart disease medications is responsible for about 113,000 deaths annually. That’s makes this new development especially interesting: California-based Proteus Health Care is at work building tiny, embeddable digestible chips that would be able to tell doctors’ when a patient has swallowed it...'The swallowed sensor is linked to a skin patch worn on the patient’s torso, which captures the report sent by the sensor. About the size of a grain of salt, the sensor has no battery or antenna and is activated when it gets wet from stomach juices. The skin patch records the digital message, along with the patient’s heart rate, body angle and activity, and sends the data to a bluetooth-enabled device such as a phone or computer.'" Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Republicans crow victory in Medicare debate. "If Republicans are right, Democrats are going to stop the Medicare ad war within two weeks. That was the prediction National Republican Congressional Committee Executive Director Guy Harrison made Monday at a briefing with reporters at the Republican National Convention...'I predict in two weeks the Democrats stop talking about Medicare because they will have officially lost this issue,' Harrison said."" Jennifer Haberkorn in Politico.

Overtreatment: expensive and dangerous. "[A]n epidemic of overtreatment — too many scans, too many blood tests, too many procedures — is costing the nation’s health care system at least $210 billion a year, according to the Institute of Medicine, and taking a human toll in pain, emotional suffering, severe complications and even death." Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times.

Domestic Policy

Obama admin. deporting more illegal immigrants than Bush did. "As of July, Obama deported 1.4 million illegal immigrants since the beginning of his administration — that’s 1.5 times more immigrants on average than Bush deported...[O]n local immigration enforcement, Obama and Republicans are effectively competing to see whose policies are tougher." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

@jdportes: [A]nybody who genuinely thinks cutting red tape could boost growth should start with immigration...

Where do Republicans and Democrats agree on policy? "Where are the two parties closest together? What goals do they have in common that will likely go unmentioned in Tampa and Charlotte? At least in the realm of economic policy, the best answer is: Not much...Even still, I thought of a few areas where the parties have common objectives...Both parties agree on the absolute necessity of reforming the addled, inefficient American tax code... Democrats and Republicans both support simplifying the regulatory code as well." Annie Lowrey in The New York Times.

Ohio judge issues new ruling in voting-law case. "A federal judge ruled Monday that Ohio must count improperly cast ballots this fall if the mistake is caused by an election worker rather than the voter, a small but potentially significant issue in an important presidential battleground state. The decision could mean that thousands of votes that otherwise would have been rejected — most of them cast in urban areas where Democrats are concentrated — will have to be counted." Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.

Infographic interlude: The Economist looks at how a China slowdown would impact the global economy.

Energy

Military faces criticism for pricey biofuels spending. "When the Navy put a Pacific fleet through maneuvers on a $12 million cocktail of biofuels this summer, it proved that warships could actually operate on diesel from algae or chicken fat...The naval demonstration — known as the Great Green Fleet — was part of a $510 million three-year, multiagency program to help the military develop alternatives to conventional fuel. It is a drop in the ocean of the Pentagon’s nearly $650 billion annual budget...The still-experimental fuels are also expensive — about $27 a gallon for the fuel used in the demonstration, compared with about $3.50 a gallon for conventional military fuels. And that has made them a flash point in a larger political battle over government financing for new energy technologies." Diane Cardwell in The New York Times.

Can a carbon tax dodge the fiscal cliff and the 'environmental cliff' of climate change? "With the United States facing the expiration of a slew of tax cuts in 2013 -- the dread 'fiscal cliff' -- there has been plenty of interest in offbeat tax-reform proposals. And one idea that a few economists keep knocking around is a fee on carbon emissions...[A carbon tax could] raise $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years...U.S. emissions would be 14 percent below 2006 levels by 2020 and 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2050." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Hurricane Isaac causing rise in gas prices. "US petrol prices leapt as tropical storm Isaac churned across the Gulf of Mexico, forcing refineries to batten down operations at a time of declining stocks of fuel. Wholesale petrol prices gained as much as 4.1 per cent to $3.2050 per gallon, the highest level since April, as Isaac was forecast to arrive as a hurricane in states from Louisiana to western Florida early Wednesday. The storm is the biggest threat to Gulf energy infrastructure since hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008." Gregory Meyer in The Financial Times.

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