The Senate on Tuesday cleared a key procedural hurdle on an extension of long-term unemployment insurance, with six Republicans voting to move forward -- just enough to get it to 60 votes and set it up for likely passage in the upper chamber.
So who joined with Democrats to pass the bill, and why?
Here's the breakdown:
If someone were to put together a soundtrack to welcome Congress back to Washington next month, it should begin with "Waiting for October" by Polaris.
Why? Because there are two big fiscal deadlines in coming in October. First, lawmakers must pass, and President Obama must sign a new continuing resolution to fund the government beyond Sept. 30, when the current spending bill expires. Second, the nation's borrowing authority will be reached in mid-October, setting up another showdown over raising the debt limit.
It's (still) "the economy, stupid."
The famous words coined by Clinton strategist James Carville for the 1992 presidential campaign ring true these days for President Obama, whose approval rating is most heavily influenced by what Americans think of his economic stewardship, according to data from Gallup.
President Obama and his senior aides are billing Wednesday's speech at Knox College in Illinois as a major moment in his second term, a unique opportunity to restart a debate over the right way forward for the nation's economy on his terms.
"Our goal is to lay out a vision and a plan, and then to just keep on pushing -- not just legislatively, but across the board -- so that we're changing the nature of the conversation and focusing on what matters," Obama said in a preview of the speech at a fundraiser Monday night for Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group manned by several of his former campaign aides.
For the second time in recent weeks, President Obama used the bully pulpit to make the case for dodging the rapidly-approaching package of automatic cuts known as the sequester.
"It won't help the economy. It won't create jobs. It will visit hardship on a whole lot of people," Obama said in remarks earlier Tuesday, adding later: "The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another."
The unemployment rate dropped in 41 states in September, including many of the top swing states in the presidential race, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As we noted this a.m. in Morning Fix, the state-based unemployment numbers can actually be a better indication of how the voters that matter in the 2012 election (i.e. swing state voters) are viewing the economy than the national unemployment figures.
As the candidates square off in their second debate, likely voters split about evenly between President Obama and Mitt Romney in their overall vote choice as well as whom they trust to handle the economy in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday. But (as the graphic below shows,) Obama holds advantages on two of the other six issues tested in the poll, while Romney holds one edge going into the debate at Hofstra University (follow all things debate on “The Grid“).
Obama holds a 50 to 43 percent edge on trust to handle international affairs (a focus of tonight’s sparring), and a 54 to 41 percent advantage on handling Medicare. Romney holds a 51 to 43 percent edge on handling the deficit. The two are essentially tied on trust to handle taxes and health care, and on the economy, still the campaign’s dominant issue.
(Note: Be sure to check out the Post’s Issue Engine, where you can read about each candidate’s position, endorse a candidate’s views).
The news that the unemployment rate dropped below eight percent in September — the first time it has dipped under that mark since January 2009 — is a much-need silver lining in a very cloudy week for President Obama.
While the intricacies of the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report will continue to be hashed out by economists, the political reality is simple: No longer can Republicans say that the president has overseen an unemployment rate over eight percent for the entirety of his presidency — as Mitt Romney has done in virtually every stump speech he has given since becoming the GOP nominee.
Issue No. 1, the economy, is sure to play a big role in the first debate Wednesday night. The latest poll from the Washington Post and ABC News finds large numbers of voters continuing to hold negative views of the state of the economy, its direction and where things stand for their personal finances, and ambivalence about the 2009 stimulus program.
President Obama’s fate in November rests largely on the question of whether the country believes he has improved the economy. That’s why Democrats and Republicans have been wrangling over the “are you better off” question so often in recent weeks.
A new chart from the Pew Research Center illustrates one factor that could make it more difficult to the president and his allies to to make the case that things are better: The recovery, at least in one respect, doesn’t look all that different from the recession.
The news out today that the Federal Reserve will take further action to stimulate the economy — known in technical terms as “quantitative easing” — immediately sent stock price soaring and political strategists scrambling to figure out what it all means for the presidential election.
The answer? Not as much as you think — at least according to several smart economic-minded strategists on both sides of the aisle we talked to this afternoon.
There is very little good news for President Obama in the new August jobs report, despite the fact that the unemployment rate technically fell.
The number of jobless American workers decreased from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent in August, according to new figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That might seem good on the surface, but in reality it’s because a huge number of people simply gave up trying to find work and dropped out of the pool of potential workers.
The reason Obama must take on this extraordinary feat of persuasion is simple. For more than two years, a majority of Americans have disapproved of Obamas performance on the economy. And if that trend continues, Obama will need to win a greater share of economic disapprovers than Romney needs to win economic approvers.
In his first one-on-one interview since announcing Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney sought to put some distance between himself and Ryan’s Medicare proposal.
Echoing his rhetoric on the campaign trail in recent days, Romney emphasized that he is the leader of the GOP ticket and that he does not agree with the Medicare cuts in Ryan’s budget — which are similar to the cuts in President Obama’s health care bill.
‘The worst economic recovery America has ever had’: Scott Pelley’s soon-to-be starring 2012 election role
Expect to see lots of Scott Pelley on your TV this fall — even if you don’t watch the CBS Evening News.
The CBS anchor’s statement at the top of a broadcast two weeks ago that this is “the worst economic recovery America has ever seen” is kibble for Republican ad-makers.
Already, the clip has been used to punctuate an ad launched this week by Crossroads GPS, the issue advocacy arm of the American Crossroads super PAC. And you can bet the farm that GPS will hardly be the last to use it.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its July jobs report this morning — an assessment that didn’t exactly show considerable growth in the economy over the past month. And from a political perspective, that means one thing: President Obama is running out of time.
Because polling — both in this campaign and in past races — suggests that public perception on major issues (economy, Iraq, etc.) cements several months in advance of the actual vote, barring some sort of cataclysmic event.
In less than 24 hours, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its July jobs report, which, if early indicators are to be trusted, won’t be the sort of turnaround that President Obama and his political team are hoping for in advance of the fall campaign.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is sure to seize on a status quo (or worse) report as yet more evidence that Obama’s economic policies have made things worse not better over the last four years.
But how do Obama’s first three-plus years as chief steward of the U.S. economy — as measured in job gains and the unemployment rate — stack up against the men who have previously held the office?
Not so well, according to a terrific infographic put together by the folks at Political Math. (You can read more about that blog here.)
We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog in recent weeks detailing the fact that a handful of wealthy donors have changed the presidential election game by sending millions of dollars to GOP-leaning super PACs and outside groups.
Those commercials have helped Mitt Romney even the score in the 2012 ad game.
But while the rich are certainly keeping Romney in the game early in the presidential race, he will rely on plenty of less-well-off voters if he is to win the presidential race this year.
Case in point: the chart below, which is based on data from Sentier Research and shows various measures of income in three sets of states — red states, blue states and swing states.
It turns out that what we throw out or, more accurately, how much we throw out, tells us a lot about the general economic direction of the country.
At least, that is, according to calculations by economist Michael McDonough, who has produced an absolutely fascinating chart that shows the remarkable correlation between carloads of waste (as calculated by the American Association of Railroads) and the U.S. gross domestic product.
Judging from the coverage of the presidential race over the past few weeks — questions about Mitt Romney’s staff, his exact departure date from Bain Capital and whether or not he should release his tax returns — you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s time for President Obama to break out the champagne and start celebrating his likely re-election in November.
But to draw that conclusion ignores the broader currents at work in the political waters, currents that will make it very tough for President Obama to win a second term almost no matter what Romney does between now and this fall.
Once you step back from the day to day knife fight of the campaign — and make no mistake that Obama is getting in more and better swipes than Romney at this point — you’re reminded that the overarching dynamic of this race is the sputtering economy and a continued lack of confidence within the electorate that things are or will get better.
President Obama’s recent remark about business owners needing the government’s help is starting to gain traction on the campaign trail.
“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama said Friday, referring to the government-funded tools that entrepreneurs have at their disposal.
The remark didn’t catch on initially, but Republicans anxious to move past Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital controversy and whether he will or won’t release his tax returns have increasingly fixated on the remark as Case Study No. 1 when it comes to Obama’s big-government philosophy.
And it just might work.
Voters in eight swing states carried by President Obama in 2008 are evenly divided on whether they will cast their ballot this fall based on what the incumbent has done in his first four years in office or what he would do in a second term, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The poll suggests an even-steven battle between the past and the future that carries major electoral consequences this fall.
In the eight swing states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin — identified by The Fix, 41 percent of respondents said their vote would be about Obama’s first term, while 41 percent said it would be about what he would do in a second term.
The June jobs report — 80,000 jobs added in the month and an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent — is full of bad news for President Obama as he seeks to make the case to the American electorate that the economy is slowly but surely improving.
The politics of the economy are heavily dependent on perception and that perception is heavily driven by the unemployment rate. (Economists roll their eyes at using such a simplistic measure to gauge the relative health of the economy but — and we can’t believe we are writing this — it is what it is.)
The news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning that the economy added just 80,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate stayed stuck at 8.2 percent suggests that any hope that President Obama will be able to run for reelection bolstered by an improving financial picture is rapidly disappearing.
The three summers of President Obama’s first term in office have been decidedly unkind to him on the economic front, a trend that puts even more importance on this morning’s June jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In each of the past three summers, the unemployment rate has bumped upwards while the job creation numbers have either leveled off or dipped downward. That trend — plus the fact that we are 123 days before the election — makes the BLS’s 8:30 announcement of the utmost political importance.
New weekly tracking numbers from Gallup show that economic confidence in the country is at its lowest ebb since late January, a bad sign for President Obama as he seeks to convince the public that the financial health of the country is getting slowly but surely better.
The latest Gallup Economic Confidence Index, which combines how people feel about the current economic conditions in the country and what the future holds for the economy, stands at -26.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s path to victory over President Obama this fall is remarkably simple: Turn the election in a straight referendum on the incumbent’s handling of the economy.
While that sentiment has been kicking around the political world for months, new polling numbers from the Pew Research Center paint that electoral reality for Romney (and Obama) in stark relief.
On eight different character traits, Obama leads Romney by margins as large as 31 points (“connects with ordinary Americans”) to two points (“can get things done”).
Obama has double-digit leads over Romney on six of the eight character traits, including “willing to take an unpopular stand” (+19), “honest and truthful” (+14) and “good judgment in a crisis” (+13).
But, on the question of which candidate would do the best job of “improving economic conditions,” 49 percent of people choose Romney, while 41 percent opt for Obama.
President Obama continues to struggle to recover politically from a disastrous May jobs report that showed that just 69,000 jobs were created in the month while the national unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent.
Obama and his campaign team have spent much of the two and a half weeks since the release of the jobs report fighting back against chatter — much of it from within their own party — that the president badly needs a course correction when it comes to his economic messaging.
President Obama’s problems heading into the November election are less rooted in the ongoing economic struggles in the country than in a widespread sense of unmet expectations among those who backed him in 2008, according to a recent focus group conducted by Democratic pollster Peter Hart in Colorado.
Writes Hart in a memo describing the focus group results that was sent to reporters Thursday night:
“People are disappointed in economic conditions and the amount of debt the President has racked up, but he hasn’t lost these voters because of these problems. They sense that this is all a show. There is no roadmap, no program, and no conviction of where the President wants to lead the country. Participants say that Obama reminds them of their hometown baseball team, the Colorado Rockies (lots of promise but not a pennant).”
Americans express tepid support for President Obama’s economic agenda and little confidence that he has the right priorities when it comes to spurring economic renewal, setting up the challenge as he seeks to re-frame the debate.
So, what should Obama’s economic message be — both in his speech in Ohio today and going forward in the campaign?
The disappointing April jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning not only complicates the Obama Administration’s argument that the President’s policies on the economy are beginning to work but also brings them dangerously close to the point at which even a substantial recovery might not be fully noticed by voters.
Anyone who pays even passing attention to politics knows that the November presidential election will be a referendum on the nation’s economy.
And, anyone who pays even passing attention to Fix — we assume that’s virtually everyone in the country, right? — knows that for the average voter the health of the economy is largely determined by the unemployment rate both nationally and in their particular state.
Given the primacy of the unemployment rate in peoples’ perception of the state of the economy — and, consequently, on their votes — we are forever in search of data to illustrate which way the trend line on the economy is headed.
That’s where Patchwork Nation — an amazing mapping and demographic project run by Fix friend Dante Chinni — comes in. We asked Dante to produce a few maps charting the unemployment rate over time both nationally and in the Rust Belt (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).
Two of President Obama’s key surrogates took to the weekend political chat circuit to spread the message that the administration’s economic policies were working — kind of, sort of.
Senior strategist David Axelrod in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” said that “The choice in this election is between economy that produces a growing middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead, and an economy that continues down the road we are on, where a fewer and fewer number of people do very well, and everybody else is running faster and faster just to keep pace.”
There’s one number in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll that should send a chill up the collective spine of President Obama and his reelection team. That number? 76.
Seventy six percent of respondents said that the economy is “still in recession” while just 21 percent said the recession is over, according to the Post-ABC poll. While 85 percent of Republicans feel the economy is still in recession so do 68 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of independents.
Former President George W. Bush reflected on his presidency in a rare public appearance Tuesday, poking fun at his low approval ratings and saying he didn’t miss being the leader of the free world.
“People ask, ‘Do you miss the presidency?’ I really don’t,” Bush said at an economic forum hosted by his George W. Bush Institute at the New York Historical Society. “I enjoyed it; it was an unbelievably interesting experience. It was inconvenient to have to stop at some stop signs — stop lights coming over here, but I guess I miss that.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released detailed information about the unemployment rate in the states earlier today, and the news is quite good for President Obama.
Of the 15 states expected to be seriously contested by the two parties this fall, nine have an unemployment rate below the 8.3 percent national rate for the month of February. (For a full list of the swing states and their unemployment rates, scroll to the bottom of this post.)
If not for rising gas prices, the economy might be an asset rather than a liability for President Obama’s reelection campaign.
After three-plus long years of gloomy economic news, Americans are starting to see light around the corner. Recent polling from the Washington Post-ABC News and Fox News shows slightly more Americans think that Obama has been good for the economy rather than bad.
And about the only thing getting in the way is how much they are paying at the pump.
A majority of Americans believe that former President George W. Bush is more responsible than President Obama for the current economic problems in the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said that Bush was more to blame while 29 percent put the blame on Obama; 9 percent said both men deserved blame while 6 percent said neither did. Among registered voters, the numbers are almost identical; 54 percent blame Bush, while 30 percent blame Obama.
A newly combative President Obama got another bit of good news Friday, with a new jobs report showing the nation’s unemployment rate in December dropping to 8.5 percent and the economy adding 200,000 new jobs.
The unemployment rate is down slightly from last month and continues on what looks to be a more and more consistent downward trend; December was also the sixth-straight month that at least 100,000 jobs have been created.
President Obama’s resurgence in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll — his 49 percent job approval rating is as high as its been since May — is built in no small part on a growing sentiment in the electorate that he is fighting for the middle class.
Asked who they trust more to protect the middle class, 50 percent of respondents chose Obama while just 35 percent named “Republicans in Congress”.
The belief within the party — and this appears to be a rare moment of strategic agreement between the House, Senate and White House — is that focusing on inequality, particularly as it relates to the middle class, is the path to winning the economic argument in 2012. And now they have some polling data to back up that belief.
Late last week, we published a chart detailing the unemployment trend line since President Obama took office.
The chart above may well represent the best chance President Obama has at a second term. We’ve long maintained that a president’s stewardship of the economy — particularly in tough times — is judged more by the direction in which the unemployment rate is headed than what the actual number is in the runup to an election.
We’ve long argued that the politics of the economy — for most voters at least — can be boiled down to a single number: the monthly unemployment rate.
Yes, economists will roll their eyes at this too-simple calculation — nerds! — that misses the real underpinnings of the relative strength (or weakness) of the American financial system.
It’s a near-certainty that the economy — measured in political terms by the unemployment rate — won’t have recovered in any meaningful way by November 2012.
That reality means that for President Obama to win a second term next year, he must convince voters that he is doing everything he can to turn things around — whether or not his actions are working.
The Post’s Karen Tumulty and Perry Bacon Jr. note in this morning’s paper that the Republican presidential candidates have come out with some wide-ranging tax proposals.
But just what’s in those tax plans, and how do they differ? The Fix explains in detail below. (And check out this helpful infographic.)
President Obama is in Nevada today touting the federal government’s new program to ward off the foreclosure crisis. And there’s a lot at stake — mostly because of the states that have been hit the hardest by the crisis.
The two states with the highest foreclosure rates — Nevada and Florida — are also two of the bigger swing state prizes on the 2012 presidential map. And other states that rank in the top ten in terms of home foreclosures — including Arizona, Colorado, Michigan and Ohio — are also likely to be a major part of Obama’s electoral math. (For more on where foreclosures are concentrated, see this great heat map.)
The Democratic National Committee is spending very heavily to promote President Obama’s jobs plan, dropping nearly $8 million on ads in September.
A Federal Election Commission Report filed over the weekend shows the DNC raised $4 million in September, received a $10 million transfer from money that Obama raised and spent more than that total combined -- $16.5 million.
Of that $16.5 million, nearly half went towards advertising expenses – a huge off-year ad buy for a national party committee.
It’s become a familiar refrain in Washington by now; President Obama pushes for Republicans to support one of his big initiatives, only to see members of his own party vote against him.
There was the economic stimulus package, the health care bill, the cap-and-trade energy bill – and now Obama’s jobs bill, which two politically vulnerable Senate Democrats voted against Wednesday.
Herman Cain’s opponents in the presidential campaign aren’t the only ones who aren’t on board with his 9-9-9 plan for the economy.
So do many major conservative groups and even — wait for it — one of Cain’s own consultants.
The plan, which would overhaul the tax code with a 9 percent sales tax, a 9 percent income tax, and a 9 percent corporate tax, was the most touched-upon subject at Tuesday night’s Washington Post-Bloomberg News debate.
The September jobs report — 103,000 jobs created, unemployment rate steady at 9.1 percent — is neither good enough to provide President Obama a real boost as he makes the case for passage of his jobs bill nor bad enough to significantly embolden his Republican critics on the campaign trail and in Congress.
You can’t get 75 percent of people to agree to much of anything these days.
But according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 75 percent of Americans agree that millionaires should have their taxes raised.
This is the crux of President Obama’s tax policy and perhaps the best-known aspect of the jobs plan he has put before Congress.
We have talked a good deal in this space about how many aspects of President Obama’s jobs plan poll quite favorably.
And that’s true.
But as we always note here at The Fix, the devil is in the details when it comes to political polling. And the GOP is searching for said devil as we speak.
They haven’t found it yet, but party strategists believe that the jobs bill isn’t as clear cut a political winner for Obama as polling has shown it.
New polling from Gallup shows that a majority of Americans — 53 percent to be exact — now say President Obama bears at least some blame for the nation’s economic problems, the first time that has been true since he took office in 2009 and a sign of the challenge before him heading into 2012.
Twenty-nine percent of those tested said Obama deserves “some blame” while 24 percent said he deserves a “great deal of blame.” Forty-seven percent said Obama deserved “not much” (27 percent) or no blame (20 percent) for the state of the economy.
It hasn’t been a good month for President Obama, but beneath it all, the American people are still ready to hear him out when it comes to his jobs plan.
And in fact, at first glance, they seem to like it.
Two new polls show more Americans like the president’s jobs plan than dislike it. A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 43 percent favor Obama’s jobs plan, while 35 percent oppose it. And Gallup shows an even wider gap, with 45 percent in favor and 32 percent opposed.
With less than majority support, it’s hardly a resounding affirmation of the president’s policies, and much has yet to play out. But the numbers do show that the American people haven’t written off the president’s economic ideas, even as the economy has tanked.