Mitt Romney wants the presidential election to be all about Barack Obama. If the press doesn’t start asking Romney some difficult questions about the core arguments upon which his entire presidential candidacy is based, he may very well get his way.
Case in point: Check out Mike Allen’s preview this morning of the Romney campaign’s next attack on the President’s economic record...
A senior aide tells us Mitt Romney plans to begin hitting specific stimulus projects as he travels, arguing that President Obama has actually subtracted jobs:
“Were these investments the best return on tax dollars, or given for ideological reasons, to donors, for political reasons? He spent $800 billion of everybody’s money. How’d it work out? It was the mother of all earmarks, not a jobs plan. By wasting all of this money, you had the worst of all worlds: It destroyed confidence in the economy, and makes people less likely to borrow money. Dodd-Frank has been a disaster for the economy. Where are the steady hands? Who’s in charge of energy? Where’s the strong, confident voice on the economy?”
So Romney will now go back to claiming Obama subtracted jobs. But there’s a new twist: Romney will claim that the effect of the stimulus has been to destroy jobs. As it has in the past, the Romney camp will justify this by pointing to a bogus metric — the net jobs lost on Obama' watch. That includes the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost before the stimulus went into effect. Really: The Romney camp’s claim is that we can calculate that the stimulus destroyed jobs overall with a metric that factors in all the jobs destroyed before the stimulus took effect. That's not an exaggeration. It really is the Romney campaign’s position. It’s time to ask Romney himself to justify it.
The Romney camp will also begin claiming that Obama has “never created a job.” Will anyone ask Romney about the two dozen straight months of private sector job creation we’ve seen?
And if Romney is now going to start hitting individual stimulus projects, it’s also time to ask him what he would have done if he had been president in January of 2009. He has previously said positive things about stimulus spending. Are those no longer operative? Would Romney really not have proposed any government spending to stimulate the economy when it was in free fall? What would he have done instead? This question is absolutely central. How about asking it?
Then there’s the claim that “Dodd-Frank has been a disaster for the economy.” Romney has pledged to roll back financial reform completely, but he hasn’t said with any meaningful specificity what he woud replace it with, beyond claiming (after the J.P. Morgan debacle forced him to do so) that he supports “common sense regulations.” How about asking Romney what, if anything, he would do instead to guard against future Wall Street recklessness after rolling back Obama’s regulatory response to the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression?
Many of the claims that form the foundation of Romney’s entire case for the presidency are going without any meaningful national press scrutiny to speak of. Why?
* Progressives sending cash to Wisconsin: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee will announce today that it has raised $100,000 for the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s field operation in the battle to oust Scott Walker, in the wake of my report that Wisconsin Dems were angry at the Democratic National Committee for dragging its feet over their request for ground-game money. The PCCC’s Adam Green emails:
“When The Plum Line reported that the Democratic National Committee wasn’t giving Wisconsin Democrats the resources needed to get out the vote, the PCCC made a strategic decision to do less fundraising for our own Wisconsin TV ads and instead focus our attention on righting the DNC’s wrong. We’re proud that in the last 9 days, thousands of PCCC members helped us raise $100,000 for Wisconsin Democrats to get out the vote in the final stretch.”
Polls have suggested that the huge amount of cash being spent on TV ads are unlikely to move many voters, meaning the race will be decided on the ground, where unions and Dems have a good chance of matching or even outworking Walker’s operation. Wisconsin Dems have since said they are confident that the DNC will give it all the resources they need.
* Scott Walker has lead, but it’s not over: Polls suggest Walker will likely survive the recall attempt, but Chris Cillizza explains why it could still conceivably go the Dems' way:
Wisconsin has never had a gubernatorial recall election before and therefore predicting turnout in a poll is even more difficult than it is is a more traditional contest. Democrats also believe that if they can keep Walker’s margin to low single-digits heading into the vote next Tuesday they can win it on the ground thanks to their superior organizational efforts — much of which is being spearheaded by labor unions. As evidence of their organizational edge, Democrats note that early voting is running higher than expected — a good sign for them, they believe.
I’ve repeatedly said I’m skeptical of the chances of recalling Walker, and I haven’t changed that assessment, but there’s simply no reason to declare the race over already, as many pundits have.
* Obama campaign hits Romney over birther Donald Trump: With Romney set to attend a fundraiser with Trump today, the Obama campaign is out with a new video contrasting Romney’s refusal to distance himself from Trump with John McCain’s 2008 willingness to stand up to extreme voices within his party. In the video, Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom claims: “A candidate can’t be responsible for everything that their supporters say.”
Of course, Trump isn’t merely a “supporter”; he’s a leading Romney surrogate and fundraiser. And the Romney campaign — Fehrnstrom included — spent weeks hammering the Obama campaign for Hilary Rosen’s quote about stay-at-home moms, even though she wasn’t even an official Obama campaign surrogate.
Relatedly, Steve Benen tallies up the times Romney has failed to stand up to the right.
* Republicans admit government spending helps economy: Juliet Lapidos ferrets out a great quote from GOP Senate minority whip Jon Kyl, who objects to cuts to defense spending on the grounds that “the whole point here is to try to get some economic growth, job creation, to get out of this recession.”
Really? So government spending on defense would produce economic growth and job creation? That’s good to know. I thought the mantra was that cutting spending is the way to revive the economy. More on this later.
* No end to the Romney falsehoods: Eugene Robinson has the goods on yet another false claim: That Obama has presided over an unprecedented acceleration in the pace of federal spending.
* President Obama and his “kill list”: The New York Times’s big opus on Obama’s secret terrorist “kill list,” which the Times delicately describes as “aggressive,” will drive a lot of discussion today. One key nugget: Obama has told colleagues that the decision to kill an American cleric in Yemen was an “an easy one.”
If this is true, it’s hard to imagine that such a cavalier attitude towards a question like this one wouldn’t have infuriated liberals and Democrats if it had been exhibited by George W. Bush.
* Obama’s questionable method for tallying terrorists killed: Glenn Greenwald highlights another revelation in the Times story: about drone strikes: His method “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.”
* And debt ceiling battle could derail recovery: A must read from Bloomberg on how the next round of debt ceilnig brinkmanship,which John Boehner insists should be used to extract spending cuts that exceed the increase, could badly damage the economy.
Amusing tidbit: Bloomberg suggests that if Republicans learn from the history here — the last round of debt ceiling fighting almost damaged the recovery — than perhaps they can be persuaded to avoid the damaging fallout of another standoff.