Wonkbook: At $6 billion, 2012 will be the most expensive election in history by far

November 1, 2012

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas’s morning policy news primer. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

NOTE: Sandy knocked out power and internet access for some of our authors. Wonkbook is written in multiple locations in the Northeast. That power and internet still isn’t back, so today’s Wonkbook will be abbreviated, but present.

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RCP Obama vs. Romney: Tied; 7-day change: Romney -0.9%.

RCP Obama approval: 49.8%; 7-day change: +0.5%.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win: 68.9%; 7-day change: +7.1%.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $6 billion. "The 2012 election will not only be the most expensive election in U.S. history, the cost will tower over the next most expensive election by more than $700 million. Earlier this year, the Center for Responsive Politics estimated that the 2012 election would cost $5.8 billion -- an estimate that already made it the most expensive in history -- but with less than a week to go before the election, CRP is revising the estimate upwards. According to CRP’s new analysis of Federal Election Commission data, this election will likely cost $6 billion." The Center for Responsive Politics.

A Romney campaign advertising truck rolls past people waiting in a line to attend an Obama campaign rally in Virginia on Oct. 19.

Top stories

Nate Silver: The state and national polls don't match. "Mitt Romney and President Obama remain roughly tied in national polls, while state polls are suggestive of a lead for Mr. Obama in the Electoral College. Most people take this to mean that there is a fairly good chance of a split outcome between the Electoral College and the popular vote, as we had in 2000. But the story may not be so simple. For both the swing state polls and the national polls to be right, something else has to give to make the math work. If Mr. Obama is performing well in swing states, but is only tied in the popular vote nationally, that means he must be underperforming in noncompetitive states. But polls of noncompetitive states don’t always cooperate with the story. Nate Silver in The New York Times.

Major Garrett goes inside the (very confident) Obama campaign. "'We could lose.' That’s David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief reelection strategist, injecting an obligatory note of caution into what is in every other way a 'there’s-no-way-we-can-lose' assessment of the campaign...Every campaign, of course, believes it’s going to win. Obama’s team, however, conveys such a visceral sense of self-confidence that even protestations to the contrary take on air of comically profane absurdity." Major Garrett in the National Journal.

Correction: This piece from Major Garret is from 9/1/2012. I don't know how it ended up in my news feed as a fresh article. But it's out-of-date. I apologize for the mistake.

Sasha Issenberg on why the Obama campaign is better at talking to voters. "When it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era. No party ever has ever had such a durable structural advantage over the other on polling, making television ads, or fundraising, for example. And the reason may be that the most important developments in how to analyze voter behavior has not emerged from within the political profession. 'The left has significantly broadened its perspective on political behavior,' says Adam Schaeffer, who earned graduate degrees in both evolutionary psychology and political behavior before launching a Republican opinion-research firm, Evolving Strategies. 'I’m jealous of them.'" Slate.

@NateSilver: "7 polls released in Ohio in past 48 hours: Obama +2, Obama +3, Obama +3, Obama +3, Obama +5, Obama +5, Obama +5. #notthatcomplicated"

INTERACTIVE! Make Romney's tax math work. It's like an awesome video game for very boring people.

Sandy shows the U.S. is unprepared for the coming climate. "The fallout from Hurricane Sandy has provoked some politicians into taking [climate change] adaptation more seriously — even if it’s hard to link a single hurricane to climate change. 'These are extreme weather patterns. The frequency has been increasing. It is something we’re going to have to start thinking about,' said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after surveying the flooding in lower Manhattan. 'The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level.'" Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

NYT graphic: Where the power is out.

Congressional Democrats are beginning to rally an extension of the payroll tax cut. "Democrats gunning for another year-end fight over the payroll tax cut say an extension isn’t just good economics — it’s also good politics. Though a wide swath of their party loathes the nearly two-year old payroll tax cut — and even President Barack Obama has proposed ending it — many Democratic lawmakers, particularly in the House, are pressing their colleagues to keep the multibillion-dollar provision alive in the wide-ranging tangle of fiscal cliff negotiations awaiting Congress after the election." Seung Min Kim and Steven Sloan in Politico.

Health insurers: Rising costs aren't our fault! "AHIP has put together an iPad app called “US Health Care Spending 101,” which its state and federal lobbyists will soon bring into legislators’ offices. It has charts, all drawn from federal data, that show that health care costs are indeed growing very quickly...Then there are the charts that look at the role insurers play in rising health care costs. From AHIP’s vantage point, its a pretty small one." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Americans in poverty are much more likely to be depressed. "31 percent of Americans under the U.S. Census Bureau's poverty threshold in 2011 had been diagnosed with the disorder, as opposed to 15.8 percent of those not in poverty." Lindsey Abrams in The Atlantic.

Top long-form

Behind the "voter-fraud myth." "True the Vote, which was founded in 2009 and is based in Houston, describes itself as a nonprofit organization, created 'by citizens for citizens,' that aims to protect “the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party.” Although the group has a spontaneous grassroots aura, it was founded by a local Tea Party activist, Catherine Engelbrecht, and from the start it has received guidance from intensely partisan election lawyers and political operatives, who have spent years stoking fear about election fraud. This cohort—which Roll Call has called the “voter fraud brain trust”—has filed lawsuits, released studies, testified before Congress, and written op-ed columns and books. Since 2011, the effort has spurred legislative initiatives in thirty-seven states to require photo identification to vote." Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.

Top op-eds

CHAIT: Obama is a great president. Yes, great. "I have never felt even a bit of the crushing sense of disappointment that at various times has enveloped so many Obama voters. I supported Obama because I judged him to have a keen analytical mind, grasping both the possibilities and the limits of activist government, and possessed of excellent communicative talents. I thought he would nudge government policy in an incrementally better direction. I consider his presidency an overwhelming success." Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

YGLESIAS: Obama's second-term agenda is big. "The biggest myth of the 2012 campaign is the idea that Barack Obama doesn’t have a second-term agenda. In defense of the misguided conventional wisdom, it’s largely the president’s own fault that he’s allowed this impression to exist. Obama’s second-term agenda is something we can specify in unusually precise detail because, unlike last time around, it doesn’t particularly hinge on Congress. It’s all about exploiting what’s already scheduled to happen thanks to the past four years worth of legislative activity." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

ROVE: Romney's got it in the bag. "It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney. He maintains a small but persistent polling edge. As of yesterday afternoon, there had been 31 national surveys in the previous seven days. Mr. Romney led in 19, President Obama in seven, and five were tied. Mr. Romney averaged 48.4%; Mr. Obama, 47.2%. The GOP challenger was at or above 50% in 10 polls, Mr. Obama in none. The number that may matter the most is Mr. Obama's 47.2% share. As the incumbent, he's likely to find that number going into Election Day is a percentage point or so below what he gets." Karl Rove in The Washington Post.

KINSLEY: If affirmative action gets you into Harvard, go. "The idea that a minority student who can get into Harvard, by favoritism or otherwise, would actually be well-advised to turn it down in favor of, say, Ohio State -- not because he thinks Ohio State is just as good or better but precisely because he thinks Ohio State is a lesser school -- strains credulity. But that is the advice Sander and Taylor are giving him. Check with me before you take it, please." Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View.

DRUM: The GOP's record on FEMA isn't so good. "Mitt Romney apparently still thinks that downsizing and privatizing the functions of FEMA is a good idea. After all, everyone knows that federal bureaucracies are cesspools of incompetence. Except....it turns out that they're only cesspools of incompetence during certain eras. See if you can spot the trend here." Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.

DEBATE: Do we really need FEMA?

Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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