Let’s get started with the read of the morning: Zachary Goldfarb’s excellent account detailing that one of the biggest threats to the recovery has been cuts to state and local governments:
Since the beginning of his term, state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees — including 196,000 educators — according to government statistics. Unlike the recovery in private-sector employment that Obama and his reelection campaign often cite — with businesses adding 4 million jobs since hiring hit its low point in 2010 — the jobs crisis at the state and local level has continued throughout his term...
“The job losses at state and local governments is the most serious weight on the job market,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, who has advised both parties.
The story also makes an important point about Obama’s capitulation to austerity: At key moments, Obama ceded the argument to Republicans who were insisting that spending cuts were necessary for the good of the economy, and gave up on making the case for more stimulus spending, thinking it was a political nonstarter. In fairness, when Obama made his pivot to jobs last fall, he did aggressively push for more spending on hiring public sector workers, which was blocked by Republicans who didn’t want it paid for by a tiny tax hike on the rich.
Either way, what’s remarkable here is that the usual suspects continue to argue that the growth of government is a drag on the recovery, when the exact opposite is true.
* Obama’s reelection blueprint: As I’ve been saying here, Mitt Romney’s whole case against Obama is premised on the hope that the American people will develop mass amnesia about the scale of the mess the President inherited. Today the Obama campaign is out with a new Web video that gives us the clearest look yet at how the Obama team will push back against this — the most comprehensive effort yet to get the American people to take the long view of his presidency:
The video, which the campaign says will be used as an “important grassroots organizing tool throughout the general election,” is also notable for its direct mention of the “stimulus,” suggesting the Obama campaign is going to try to meet public skepticism about it head on, by touting two dozen straight months of job creation, which will be a mjaor talking point. The unabashed touting of Bin Laden’s death as an accomplishment and a “victory” is a sign Obama won’t be paying much attention to Romney’s complaints that he’s been politicizing it.
* Obama’s role in Bin Laden killing: As Kevin Drum notes, whatever you think about Obama touting the killing of Bin Laden, there is actually an available set of facts that allow us to gauge whether Republicans are right or wrong in claiming that any other president would have made the same call Obama made:
I don’t know what Mitt Romney would have done in similar circumstances, but there’s not much question that Obama played an active and ultimately crucial role. Without his leadership, things might have turned out quite differently.
Given the centrality of this argument to the campaign, you’d think news orgs would try a little harder to establish who’s actually right about Obama’s role in the killing.
* Paul Ryan owns Mitt Romney: An interesting quote from conservative GOP Rep. Tom Cole, buried in today’s big New York Times piece on the budet chairman:
“Paul Ryan effectively captured the Republican presidential candidates.”
If Democrats are intent on elevating Ryan’s plan — with its deep spending cuts and its ending of Medicare as we know it — as the agenda that Republicans will pursue if Romney is elected president, this quote won’t hurt.
* Norquist to Romney: Ryan owns you: Another telling nugget from the Times story: “Grover Norquist, the Republican strategist who heads Americans for Tax Reform, said in an interview that he did not expect Mr. Romney to lead as president. He just wants him to sign the bills that put Mr. Ryan’s vision into practice.”
* Romney’s narrow route to victory: Chris Cillizza has a useful overview of the electoral map and Romney’s relative lack of routes to 270 electoral votes. Key takeaway: If Obama is able to hang on to only some of the swing states he flipped in 2008, Romney’s chances are slim.
* Obama’s “green team” rolls out political offensive: With Obama on the defense over gas prices, his energy and environmental officials are mounting a newly aggressive effort to cast his energy agenda as central to building an economy that’s built to last,” a central Obama campaign slogan.
The new push shows that the Obama team sees an urgent need to broaden the argument over gas prices to one about our long-term energy future and its relationship to economic security.
* “Green” groups on offense? Relatedly, the League of Conservation Voters is expanding its political activities this cycle, spending big in the race against Scott Brown and helping bankroll an ad from the pro-Obama super PAC, suggesting that Dems see a bigger opening than usual to use environmental issues to put Republicans on defense.
All of which raises a question: Will Obama make climate change central to the presidential campaign?
* A House race progressives should watch: Eric Griego, a progressive candidate for Congress in New Mexico’s First District, is up with his first ad of the cycle touting himself as someone who will “never let the Tea Party Republicans cut Social Security and Medicare.”
Griego is running against Dem Marty Chavez, who has suggested he’s open to entitlement cuts, and liberal groups such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are backing Griego as part of a broader push to elect Dems to Congress who will draw hard lines against any such cuts.
* And the political mystery of the day: Scott Walker and his aides are refusing to divulge the whereabouts of his recall election campaign office.