If you looked only at the top-line numbers, today’s new Washington Post-ABC News poll would seem to show a tight race. Obama leads Romney nationally by a razor-thin 49 percent to 47 percent. But if you only look at swing states, he’s leading by double-digits: 52 percent to 41 percent. This discrepancy is explained by Romney’s large margin in solid red states. He leads those by 14 points, 56 percent to 42 percent, while Obama leads solid Democratic states by only 10 points (53 percent to 43 percent). Some other poll highlights:
Ah, here's the number I've been searching for: "For every one-percentage-point decline in euro-area growth, history suggests growth in the rest of the world will take a 0.7% hit, 'with the U.S. seeing a somewhat smaller decline than other parts of the world.'"
That's David Wessel summarizing some research from JPMorgan. The main channel of contagion is financial. Exports to Europe are 1.2 percent of GDP. That's not nothing, but it's not that much. The bigger problem is that "European banks have lent more than $6 trillion to the rest of the world, twice as much as U.S. banks." Indeed, "European loans to the U.S. amount to about 10% of U.S. GDP."
On Wednesday, Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, released a 17-page attack on Paul Ryan's budget. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner called an op-ed by one of Mitt Romney's top economists "remarkably hackish." Today, Vice President Joe Biden is giving a speech at New York University in which he'll say Romney intends to take us "back to the failed policies that got us into the mess President Obama has dug us out of." And next week, President Obama will appear with the First Lady at rallies -- yes, rallies -- at Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University. In other words? Welcome to the general election, folks.
A forthcoming article in the Journal of Consumer Research finds that trusting one’s intuition improves predictions of future outcomes from politics and the stock market to American Idol and the weather:
Individuals who have higher trust in their feelings can predict the outcomes of future events better than individuals with lower trust in their feelings. This emotional oracle effect was found across a variety of prediction domains, including (a) the 2008 US Democratic presidential nomination, (b) movie box-ofﬁce success, (c ) the winner of American Idol, (d) the stock market, (e) college football, and even (f) the weather. It is mostly high trust in feelings that improves prediction accuracy rather than low trust in feelings that impairs it.
Gilbert Fidler, an audience member at last last night's CNN debate, was making it easy on the assembled Republican candidates. "What are you going to do to bring down the debt?" he asked.
Rick Santorum went first. "Here's where I differentiate myself from everybody else, including, obviously, the president," he said. "I actually have experience on tackling the toughest problems that we have in this country."
Ron Paul couldn't believe it. "He's a fake," he said, referring to Santorum. "I find it really fascinating that, when people are running for office, they're really fiscally conservative. When they're in office, they do something different."
Paul is only half right. According to a new report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, none of Paul's opponents are even running fiscally conservative campaigns. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Iowa’s economy survived the recession pretty well. Same for New Hampshire. South Carolina has struggled a bit more. But Florida, where voters will go to the polls later today, was one of states that the crisis hit the hardest, and it still hasn’t recovered.
Last year, Florida also had the seventh-highest foreclosure rate in the country, and it trailed only California in terms of the total number of foreclosures overall. That’s actually an improvement over 2010, when Florida’s foreclosure rate was the highest in the nation. And 2012 is expected to be another bad year for the Sunshine State, as banks that have held off on foreclosing properties push more homeowners out, depressing home-prices and the real-estate market even further.
Here’s the full text and video of Romney’s remarks in Florence, S.C. this morning, in which he admits that he pays an effective tax rate of 15 percent. He also explains his own position on capital gains and why he opposes the position of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) —and most of the 2012 GOP presidential field—to eliminate the capital gains tax entirely.
ROMNEY: I also think that the Speaker’s plan to eliminate the capital gains tax for high-income individuals--capital gains, interest, and dividends--would not only be a very expensive decision in terms of having to fill an even larger budget, but would provide people with very high income the possibility of no tax at all. You’d have individuals -- the Warren Buffet argument -- Warren Buffett, Bill Gates would probably pay no taxes at all. And today they probably pay 15 percent. Very high-income people in this country probably pay 15 percent taxes if their resources are coming from investments. And under their plan it would go to zero.
I just don’t think that’s the right course. With our precious dollars, we should focus on providing relief, tax relief, in two areas: one is for middle-income Americans, who have been hurt the most, and the other is to bring our corporate rates to a level where we could draw people from other countries to bring their funds back in this country.
Julie Schmit reports that the housing market is at, or very near, its bottom. After falling by 9 percent last year, single-family housing starts are expected to jump by 37 percent in 2012. Prices could still fall a bit, but by 2013, we should be in a real housing recovery.
In a play on the administration’s widely mocked “recovery summer,” Matt Yglesias has dubbed this period the “recovery winter,” arguing that the economy is making a real turn toward a sustained recovery. I’m more skeptical. I think we’ll see headwinds in 2012 that will keep a lid on the recovery, at least for the first half of the year. But there’s no doubt that the pressure toward a recovery is building in the American economy. The next president, whoever he is, will enjoy a “recovery presidency,” and so too will his party. And that makes the 2012 election really, really important.
Seeing as how New Hampshire’s in the news today, it’s worth looking at why the state’s economy — 5.2 percent unemployment, low poverty — has been chugging along nicely. Is it the lack of income tax? The lax regulations? Perhaps. But Michael Mandel makes the case that the public sector has played a vital role in keeping New Hampshire afloat:
Rick Santorum has a 32-point plan for “building economic freedom.” Mitt Romney has a 59-point plan to “get America back to work.” At first glance, there aren’t huge differences between the two on proposed budget and economic reforms. But Santorum is slightly to Romney’s right when it comes to many of the specific campaign promises.
Despite the ongoing economic slump and warnings of burdensome new regulations, the U.S. financial system remained surprisingly robust and resilient through the end of 2011 — in no small part because of the havoc that the Euro crisis wreaked upon other countries. In 2012, the big fights over regulation at home and the Euromess abroad will continue to be front and center, and U.S. financial institutions will largely remain on the defensive. Here are three key issues that will be at stake in the early months of this year:
The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Republicans are losing the payroll tax fight, and bad. And, for the moment, that's true. The issue has pitted Senate Republicans against House Republicans, business conservatives against tea partiers, and everybody against Speaker John Boehner. But the fact of the matter is, not all Republicans are losing this one. Mitt Romney, in particular, owes Boehner -- and his more intransigent members -- a fruit basket.
In March, historian David Greenberg wrote an essay on “why last chapters disappoint.” He began by reviewing “Public Opinion,” Walter Lippmann’s 1922 treatise arguing that the longtime dream of a rational, enlightened democracy was being undercut by the complexity of policy issues and the irrationalities of the voting public.
The critics agreed: Lippmann’s book was brilliant. At least, until the final chapter, in which Lippmann offered gauzy and unpersuasive hopes that mankind’s better angels would rise up and banish “hatred, intolerance, suspicion, bigotry, secrecy, fear and lying” from the public square. The conclusion, H.L Mencken said, collapsed into “mystical gurgle.”
But Greenberg was sympathetic. “Lippmann’s experience will be familiar to almost anyone who has written a book aspiring to analyze a social or political problem. Practically every example of that genre, no matter how shrewd or rich its survey of the question at hand, finishes with an obligatory prescription that is utopian, banal, unhelpful or out of tune with the rest of the book.”
President Obama’s address from Osawatomie, Kan., also had a last-chapter problem.
In 2004, Obama gave a keynote speech at the Democratic Convention. The speech didn't just launch his career as a national politician -- it foretold the message that would carry him through the 2008 election.
The theme was political division. "Even as we speak," Obama said, "there are those who are preparing to divide us." And then came Obama's famous formulation, the one that launched a thousand pastel-colored posters: "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America." He even talked of the "audacity of hope."
Yesterday, in Kansas, Obama gave a speech foretelling his 2012 campaign. The theme this time is economic division — perhaps better known as inequality.
Two articles in today's Wonkbook are, in different ways, fundamentally asking the same question: How can a president stuck around 45 percent in the polls and who has suffered such a bad year done so little to shake up his staff?
In the Financial Times, Ed Luce writes that Obama's "campaign inner circle is actually strengthening its grip on the White House. The group, which most prominently includes Valerie Jarrett, the longstanding Chicago friend and mentor to the Obamas; David Plouffe, the 2008 campaign manager; and David Axelrod, who is now shepherding Mr Obama’s re-election campaign from Chicago, last week clipped the wings of Bill Daley, the president’s hapless chief of staff."
The big news out of last night's GOP debate was that a candidate who won't win couldn't remember the third thing on a list of things he wouldn't be able to do even if he did win. Video here. But the more important story is what the candidates who might win had to say about the crises they might actually face.
We’re only about 13 months from November 2012, so predictably, depressingly, Washington has turned its attention toward the election. Today, all eyes are on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who reportedly will choose to skip the race. That’s the wrong place to look. If you’re worried about the 2012 election — or, more quaintly, just worried about the economy — the politician to watch is Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Depending on which account you read, last night Chris Christie announced that he either was going to enter the presidential race, or that he definitely wasn't. On Twitter, it was quickly dubbed "the Rashomon speech." I'm told that Sarah Palin also made noises. This is the comforting, familiar narrative of the 2012 election: it's about the candidates, and their ideas, and their records. But here's the increasingly undeniable truth: the 2012 election is likely to be decided by the actions a handful of European leaders take over the next couple of weeks.
After yesterday’s discussion about the role that policy plays in securing or undermining a party’s election chances, Vanderbilt political scientist Larry Bartels e-mailed a paper (pdf) he had written testing this very question against a data set of 31 parliamentary elections conducted in developed countries between 2007 and 2011. His results will not be encouraging for politicians who hope doing a good job will be enough for them to keep their jobs.
To try to separate whether abnormally good policies led to abnormally good results, Bartels constructed a model that tried to predict election outcomes based on relative growth rates -- that is to say, the country’s growth rate subtracted from the average growth rate of developed nations. “This would be a more appropriate measure of economic conditions if voters in each country were comparing their own economy’s performance against that of other OECD economies—in effect, making rough allowance for the impact of global economic forces on national performance,” he writes.