Five days before Christmas, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection campaign received a most welcome gift: The state’s unemployment rate had fallen, again, to 6.4 percent.
“Under Rick Scott, Florida’s economic recovery continues,” trumpeted the state Republican Party.
Good tidings also arrived that day at the White House. President Obama announced that the nationwide unemployment rate had dipped to 7 percent, its lowest point in five years. Although he stopped short of declaring victory, he made sure to tout “the progress we’ve painstakingly made over these last five years with respect to our economy.”
The dueling narratives reflect what’s likely to be a leading theme of the 2014 election: the battle between the president and Republican governors for bragging rights over the economy.
Assuming the economic outlook continues to brighten, the debate will be fiercest in the nine swing states won by Obama but run by GOP governors seeking reelection — Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Other Republican governors laying claim to the recovery include potential 2016 presidential contenders such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, and Texas’s Rick Perry.
The stakes are high for the GOP, which occupies most of the nation’s governor’s mansions — 30 in all. In light of the nation’s disgust with Congress, the party is increasingly promoting its state leadership.
“All across America, Republican governors are doing what Washington can’t: getting the big things done to move our country forward,” Christie declared when he was elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association in November.
In the nine battleground states, Republican governors were elected in the tea-party wave of 2010, promising to tame unemployment, cut spending, and crack down on labor unions. In some cases, their slash-and-burn approaches cost them dearly, in the polls and beyond. Scott wore the crown of the most unpopular governor in the country from the start. Gov. John Kasich was soundly rebuked by Ohio voters when they struck down his signature overhaul of the state’s collective-bargaining law. In the most extreme backlash, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker nearly lost his job in a recall election just 17 months after taking office.
All of these governors have rebounded to some extent amid an improving economy, but whether they deserve the credit for the improvement is another question. Economic cycles are typically far more powerful than any policy enacted by a state’s chief executive. “It’s like taking credit for the sun coming up in the morning,” said Dean Baker, cofounder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
More specifically, of the battleground states run by GOP governors, Florida and Nevada have seen their unemployment rates fall the furthest, but that’s hardly proof that Scott and Gov. Brian Sandoval are miracle workers; it is mainly because their states were the hardest hit by the real-estate-market crisis, which began to give way roughly halfway through those governors’ first terms.
Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless says the federal government can have more of an impact on the economy in the short term — defaulting on the national debt, for example, would create immediate fallout — while governors can make more of a difference long-term by nurturing a fertile economic climate. He estimates that a governor nearing the end of his or her first term accounts for roughly 5 percent of the state’s economic growth or failure, and that national policymaking accounts for about 25 to 30 percent.
The rest comes down to the “constellation of industries” in that particular part of the country and in that state, Burtless said. No governor of Michigan, for example, could generate economic growth amid a decline in demand for cars and a spike in fuel costs. Nor could a governor of Washington control a drop in sales of Boeing’s airplanes.
“Bad things can happen to good presidents and good governors, and good things can happen to bad presidents and bad governors,” Burtless said. “If a president takes office with a recession in the offing, there’s nothing he can do to stop it. Governors have even fewer levers to make an impact, especially in just one four-year term.”
Right now, however, the GOP governors appear to be taking an early lead in the race to set the narrative. One recent Quinnipiac University poll found that, among Ohio voters who think the economy is getting better, 74 percent said Kasich deserved some or a lot of credit. Only 33 percent in the survey said Obama deserved some or a lot of credit.
“Frankly, voters aren’t giving Obama credit for much of anything right now,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report. “And if his standing and the general mood of the electorate improves, it will only help incumbent governors, because voters will be less inclined to throw people out of office.” P
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”