It has become an article of faith among the pundit-ocracy that this election will turn on unemployment and nothing else. But what if that turns out to be an overstatement? In a provocative piece this morning, Ron Brownstein suggests that the Obama campaign is going to close out — at least in part — with a message that’s heavily focused on non-economic issues, from abortion to immigration to women’s health (that last one is admittedly an economic issue in some ways).
The reason why is simple: Women and Latinos could prove decisive. Obama is at risk because of the closing gender gap, and the possibility that Latino turnout will flag remains. Brownstein:
Much of the modern Democratic coalition — including minorities, young people, and socially liberal (primarily college-educated) white women — is attracted to the party primarily because of its views on noneconomic issues, from immigration to abortion. That seemed very much on the president’s mind this week. During the debate, often before he was prompted by audience questions, Obama repeatedly raised issues like legalizing the presence of young people brought here illegally by their parents, which his rival has opposed; Romney’s call for “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants; pay equity for women; and a constellation of women’s health issues that included Romney’s call to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and his opposition to the provision in Obama’s health care bill that requires employers to provide no-cost contraception in insurance plans. Romney was uncomfortable discussing all of those concerns.
Obama’s approach during the debate, like [David] Plouffe’s comments after it, signaled that the campaign believes the president must spotlight his contrasts with Romney on such issues if he is to energize his core groups. With Hispanics, the challenge is increasing turnout; polls show Obama maintaining a preponderant lead among them. But with white women, several polls suggest that Obama’s advantage has narrowed or vanished since his disastrous first debate.
The tightening of the race, Brownstein reports, can be largely attributed to the fact that Romney reassured women during his first debate, by coming across as moderate and reasonable in a way that assuaged women’s doubts about Romney’s extremism on their issues. But in the second debate, Obama drew a very sharp contrast with Romney on issues like pay equity, contraception, and access to women’s health. And the fact remains that Romney has compiled a series of extreme statements and positions on these issues during the GOP primary that can be dredged up in the race’s final days.
Much to my relief, Obama has pivoted hard to an aggressive defense of his economic record, and a concerted case that the economy is recovering, in the final stretch of the race. But this is a very complicated election, and it may turn out that women’s health, abortion, immigration and the GOP’s generally hidebound stances on issues important to women and Latinos could loom larger than we think. So keep an eye on how Obama’s second debate performance impacts the gender gap and Latino enthusiasm.
* Good progressive messaging on Medicare: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is up with a new ad in New Hampshire’s 2nd District for Dem Carol Shea-Porter that provides a good example of how progressives should message around Medicare and the safety net in general:
The spot, which features an emotional couple discussing the thousands of dollars in hospital charges linked to the man’s heart attack, hits GOP Rep. Frank Guinta for voting to “end Medicare.” Republicans claim Paul Ryan’s plan would preserve Medicare for current retirees and give folks the option of buying in to traditional Medicare, but the plan would ultimately end Medicare’s core mission. The ad captures this, saying Guinta’s vote has “put us all at the mercy of private insurance companies.”
PCCC says the ad will run for at least a week, with the amount determined by how much money the group raises for the spot.
* New polls show Obama ahead in key states: The new NBC/WSJ/Marist polls show Obama leading among likely voters in Wisconsin by 51-45 and in Iowa by 51-43, which is hard to square with Romney’s supposed seven point national lead in Gallup. Only one of the three days of polling came after the most recent debate, so future polls may still show more movement.
Key findings: Obama holds a 67-32 lead over the 34 percent who say they voted early in Iowa and a 64-35 lead over the 15 percent who voted early in Wisconsin.In the Real Clear Politics polling averages, Obama is up by 2.8 points in Wisconsin and by 3.3 points in Iowa.
* Obama campaign touts early voting in Ohio: The Obama campaign is out with a new memo arguing that the early returns suggest a big Obama lead in both early voting and registration in the state.
Key nuggets: 81 percent of those who have registered are either, female, younger than 30, or African American or Latino. The total number of early votes from precincts Obama won in 2008 is more than 55,000 votes higher than the number from McCain precincts. And Dem primary voters who have voted outnumbers Republicans by over 28,000.
Relatedly: Ari Berman on the plans by voting rights advocates to head off voter surpression — during early voting.
* Huge fundraising day after Obama debate: Mike Allen scoops this from an Obama campaign aide: The Wednesday after the Long Island showdown “was the biggest campaign fundraising day for the Obama campaign in history, including 2008.”
* Don’t give too much weight to Gallup polling: Nate Silver’s long awaited dissection of Gallup tracking data is welcome. Silver details that Gallup has a history of getting it very wrong when its data diverges from the consensus of other national and state polling, as is certainly happening now.
The problem is that Gallup’s influence over the media/political conversation is far greater than warranted; we should treat Gallup’s findings as only one data point among many as we try to understand what the polls are telling us. Stick to the polling averages!
* Watch today’s state-by-state jobs numbers: The Fix crew make an interesting point: Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its final numbers on unemployment in the states. While national economic indicators tend to be a factor in voter decision making, there’s also an argument to be made that local, state-based economic conditions may also be influential. For instance: Obama’s continuing lead in Ohio may be related to the fact that the unemployment rate has fallen farther, and to a lower point, than the national average.
* A final burst of pro-Romney ad spending: The pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future is set to unleash a 12 million ad barrage in swing states designed to push undecided voters away from Obama in the home stretch. The Romney camp will at a minimum be able to outspend the Obama side as voters make their final decisions.
Restore Our Future and other groups have specialized in ads that distort the jobs numbers to paint a dire picture of the Obama economy, so look for more of that, backed up by $12 million.
* A victory that could resonate in the battlegrounds: Reuters reports that the World Trade Organization sided with the Obama administration in barring China from imposing duties on U.S. steel exports manufactured in Pennsylvania and Ohio. This could blunt Romney’s charges that Obama has been soft on China, which is key to Romney’s final pitch to hard hit battleground state residents.
* Battle for Virginia continues: Caitlin Huey-Burns has an interesting look at the continuing battle for Virginia, which centers on northern areas where Obama made major inroads last time. Romney does seem very likely to win the state, but it’s worth noting that it’s far more important to Romney’s route to 270 than it is for Obama’s, and it may be significant that Romney has not yet taken the state off the board.
* And guess what: Romney’s 12 million jobs plan is a sham: Paul Krugman devotes a whole column to this blog’s favorite topic, the idea that Romney’s 12 million jobs plan is, with no exaggeration, nothing but a ruse. Romney aides are unable to provide any credible backup for the plan’s promises, and economists say the economy is set to create 12 million jobs without any Romney proposals:
To summarize, then, the true Romney plan is to create an economic boom through the sheer power of Mr. Romney’s personal awesomeness. But the campaign doesn’t dare say that, for fear that voters would (rightly) consider it ridiculous. So what we’re getting instead is an attempt to brazen it out with nakedly false claims. There’s no jobs plan; just a plan for a snow job on the American people.
Again, this 12 million jobs plan is the main rationale for Romney’s whole case for the presidency. Why isn’t the fact that it has been revealed to be a sham a bigger media story?