This week in the 2012 presidential campaign brought good news for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who beats everyone in New Hampshire according to a new poll, bad news for real estate tycoon Donald Trump and the birther movement, which saw a setback and mixed news for the potential GOP presidential primary lineup, which voters are still not into.
Here are other developments in the campaign this week, by the numbers:
3.84: Economists and Beltway types typically look to the unemployment rate (now at 8.8 percent) as a kind of national misery index, tying the party in power to the ebbs and flows of job loss and creation. But it is the average price of a gallon of gas — $3.84, almost a dollar higher than it was a year ago — that is now a daily reminder for most Americans of the weak and unpredictable economy. And a potential pitfall for Democrats. That’s why Obama addressed the rising price of gas during his Facebook town hall on Wednesday, even though he didn’t get a question about it. And that is why presumed candidates such as Trump are talking about oil prices and getting tough with oil-rich countries. The price at the pump is one of the few kitchen table issues that allows candidates to talk not only about domestic policies around energy and off-shore drilling, but foreign policy as well. With summer approaching and steady unrest in the Middle East, this issue will stick around. On the campaign trail in 2008, then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) proposed a summer gas tax holiday, while Obama said it was gimmickry. The issue allowed Obama to put more daylight between him and the other candidates. Expect this issue to come up at the May 5 GOP debate in South Carolina and for potential candidates to bludgeon the White House over fuel prices and energy policy and perhaps invoke former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s “Drill, baby, Drill” mantra.
100: A week after launching the presidential reelection campaign in Chicago, the Obama administration kicked off what could be called outreach week at the White House and across the country. With a stop in Obama’s home town on Monday, Michael Blake, the director of African American outreach for the White House, will begin to crisscross the country to host 100 events to reach 1 million blacks in 2011. And interim DNC chairman Donna Brazile hosted a conference call with black media outlets about the GOP’s budget approach, echoing Obama’s comments during a town hall in Virginia, a state Obama wants to keep in his column. Add to the outreach efforts among African Americans the symbolic olive branch extended to Latinos with an immigration meeting at the White House and trips to Nevada and California, states with large Latino populations. The most buzzed-about effort was to the young and highly connected with the Facebook town hall. In 2008, Obama did well with young people, besting McCain by 34 points among 18- to 29-year-olds, so-called millenials. And an April poll shows that his approval rating among this demographic is up, showing that even pushing 50, and with graying hair, Obama still has some cache. Among African Americans, support is still robust at 85 percent, though slightly down. The media will likely to be asking: In a sluggish economy, without President George W. Bush as a foil, can he recapture the enthusiasm of 2008?
10: Palin relaunched her Web site this week, with all the e-mail and donor-gathering bells and whistles of a potential presidential candidate’s site, renewing speculation that she might make a run for the White House. For months, the conventional wisdom has been that she wasn’t going to run. Her missteps in the aftermath of the Arizona shootings and her lack of outreach to key figures such as Gov. Nikki Haley in South Carolina suggested that she might sit this one out. But Palin, always unconventional and full of surprises, is stirring up buzz again. But a new poll suggests that Palin still has the same problem she’s always had — although she gets plenty of ink and airtime, and has 2.9 million Facebook fans, likely Republican voters aren’t sold on her. She trails potential rivals former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Trump and Romney in a new poll, getting 10 percent of the vote among Republicans. It could be that Trump — who has reached out to critics and key players like Haley this week, and has a trip to first-primary state New Hampshire planned next week — is crowding Palin’s space and capitalizing on what had been her time on the sidelines. But in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina, both with a large contingent of religious conservatives among the GOP base, Palin has the edge. (Already she has something of a stealth ground game in Iowa). And by flirting with running, rather than launching the sort of in-your-face media campaign that Trump is waging, Palin could in the coming weeks benefit from Trump-fatigue, and find an opening.