Politics: SPACE

The Shuttle’s Final Landing

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
July 21, 2011, 3:22 a.m.

FNC com­ment­at­or/ex-Bill Clin­ton ad­viser Dick Mor­ris touted ex-Speak­er Newt Gin­grich (R) for WH ‘12 in a speech to FL GOP voters 10/1, re­fer­ring to Pres. Obama as “the most evil pres­id­ent we’ve had to de­feat” and prom­ising Gin­grich “could mop the floor with Barack Obama in a de­bate. He could run rings around him, and he doesn’t need a tele­prompt­er to do that” (Gant, Daytona Beach News-Journ­al, 10/2).

Call Him Newtrada­mus

Gin­grich pre­dicted on 10/6 that GOP­ers “are on the verge of win­ning 55 to 65 seats in the House” on 11/2. He pre­dicted his party would do “much bet­ter” than pick­ing up the 39 seats they need to win back con­trol of the House.

Gin­grich said GOP­ers are “in strik­ing range of win­ning back the 10 seats they need” to take back the Sen­ate, but he stopped short of pre­dict­ing an out­right takeover. Gin­grich: “All I’ll tell you is that, as a gen­er­al prin­ciple right now, Re­pub­lic­ans are prob­ably between plus-55 and plus-65 in the House and they’re between plus-sev­en and plus-12 in the Sen­ate.”

He also opined that the GOP wave would ex­tend to state races. Gin­grich: “And there’re go­ing to be between 32 and 34 Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors after elec­tion night.”

Gin­grich said the ele­tions might not be on the mag­nitude of ‘94 or ‘80, but prob­ably closer to the ‘32 elec­tions that saw Dems pick up 97 seats in the House. Gin­grich: “I think that will be a big­ger sweep than ‘94; it may [not be] com­par­able to any­thing we’ve seen since 1932” (O’Bri­en, The Hill, 10/7).

A lot has happened, but noth­ing has changed.

This, be­lieve it or not, is what passes for sear­ing in­sight in­to the race for the White House from the top ad­visers to Pres­id­ent Obama and Mitt Rom­ney.

What they mean is the battle was joined in June and Ju­ly, huge amounts of money were spent on TV ads, sharp blows were ex­changed over Bain Cap­it­al and tax re­turns (Obama on Rom­ney) and Solyn­dra and “You didn’t build that” (Rom­ney on Obama). There have been gaffes galore (Rom­ney, Rom­ney, and Rom­ney again), dis­cour­aging eco­nom­ic news aplenty for Obama (quarterly GDP, un­em­ploy­ment, re­tail sales, and con­sumer con­fid­ence), and the emer­gence of a po­ten­tially pro­found philo­soph­ic­al choice Amer­ica will make about dir­ec­tion, fair­ness, gov­ern­ment, and growth.

A hel­luva lot has happened. But not much has changed … in the polls. The race re­mains a na­tion­al tie with­in the mar­gin of er­ror. The Gal­lup track­ing poll 100 days out had it tied at 46 per­cent (since 1964, every can­did­ate who led this poll 100 days out ex­cept Mi­chael Duka­kis in 1988 went on to win). In swing states, Obama has picked up a bit of mo­mentum, but mar­gins re­main too close for com­fort. Obama has sold off some of his likab­il­ity, but re­tains a huge likab­il­ity edge over Rom­ney. The eco­nom­ic news con­tin­ues its gloomy slog. Rom­ney re­tains his up­side po­ten­tial to sell him­self as a turn-around spe­cial­ist.

On the sur­face, not much has changed. At a deep­er level, we know more than we did six weeks ago:

1. Rom­ney can take a punch. Obama hit him and hit him hard on Bain, out­sourcing, and tax re­turns. Rom­ney wobbled but didn’t fall. Top Rom­ney ad­visers aren’t stu­pid enough to be­lieve they’ve taken all of Obama’s best shots, but they be­lieve they’ve taken most of them, and they won’t be play­ing “rope-a-dope” ever again.

2. Obama has sown doubts about Rom­ney. These are ex­pos­i­tion doubts about val­ues, middle-class con­nec­ted­ness, and shared goals. Not fall­ing is not the same as gain­ing ground. Rom­ney’s team knows this and un­der­stands it has got to do more to move un­de­cided voters from curi­ous but sus­pi­cious to curi­ous and per­suaded. They know Rom­ney looks too rich for too long, like a mis­shapen ves­sel for middle-class as­pir­a­tions. That they must change, which is why Rom­ney de­b­uted a new “I Be­lieve” bio­graphy ad on Tues­day. Mean­while, Obama re­tains these ad­vant­ages even as he has traded down likab­il­ity to grind up Mitt.

3. Obama has paid dearly to keep the race stat­ic. In the face of drab eco­nom­ic news, Obama has had to at­tack re­lent­lessly. It’s been costly. Cam­paign to cam­paign, Obama has out­spent Rom­ney heav­ily in every swing state — with at least 70 per­cent of the statewide TV cost in Ohio, Flor­ida, Vir­gin­ia, Nevada, Iowa, Col­or­ado, Pennsylvania, and New Hamp­shire. Only in North Car­o­lina is the Obama spend­ing blitz be­low 70 per­cent of statewide TV cost (65 per­cent). Obama needs to feed this TV ma­chine, which is why his fun­draisers mul­tiply, and when sur­rog­ates like the first lady show up in Bo­ston (as she will next week) there is no ce­re­mony or idle glad-hand­ing. To at­tend, you have to write checks — per­son­al ones. It’s cold and ruth­less. Be­cause Obama needs the money.

4. Nar­rat­ives are com­ing. We are en­ter­ing a new phase of the cam­paign where nar­rat­ives be­gin to shape dis­cus­sions and in­ter­pret­a­tions. Rom­ney will hit the eco­nomy on Fri­day after the Ju­ly jobs re­port comes out and add new spe­cif­ics to his eco­nom­ic plan (re­spond­ing to crit­ics like Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er). Top aides said that from now on, Rom­ney will talk less about gen­er­al­it­ies (taxes and debt) and more about middle-class spe­cif­ics (take-home pay and cost of debt per child). He will also roll out his vice pres­id­en­tial pick (yes, there’s an app for that), and use the GOP con­ven­tion to fan what ap­pears to be or­gan­ic small-busi­ness fury over Obama’s “You didn’t build that” re­mark. Obama will have his nar­rat­ives of “for­ward” pro­gress, an eco­nomy built to last, and break­ing the D.C. stale­mate. Both cam­paigns will de­vote time and en­ergy soon to their own stor­ies — re­du­cing the fre­quency and in­tens­ity of the hour-to-hour skir­mishes that dom­in­ated June and Ju­ly.

5. Rom­ney wasted time over­seas. Is­raeli dip­lo­mat Abba Eban once fam­ously said that the Ar­abs (not the Palestini­ans, as lore would have it) “nev­er miss an op­por­tun­ity to miss an op­por­tun­ity.” This can now be said of Rom­ney. His hash of an over­seas tour was a study in mis­man­age­ment and me­diocrity. OK, he had a de­cent speech and good “golden hour” pic­tures in Jer­u­s­alem. How hard is that? If Olympic judges had scored his Lon­don vis­it, he would have been dis­qual­i­fied. The rant­ing at re­port­ers in Po­land (“Kiss my ass” and “Shove it”) from Rom­ney’s press staff only heightened the im­age of frayed nerves. Will Rom­ney lose the elec­tion be­cause of the trip? No. But every day is pre­cious, and fight­ing to ugly draws or los­ing them com­pletely when you’re sup­posed to pro­ject strength, com­pet­ence, and dip­lo­mat­ic acu­men is mal­prac­tice. Gross mal­prac­tice.

A lot has happened. But the cam­paigns know each oth­er bet­ter (like box­ers), and voters have be­gun to sift a lot more in­form­a­tion. It all looks stat­ic, and it sounds like white noise in sat­ur­ated me­dia mar­kets (43,000-plus gross rat­ings points already in Des Moines!). But not much has changed. Or has it?

What We're Following See More »
Trump Still Considering Yellen For Fed
3 hours ago

"President Donald Trump plans to formally interview Janet Yellen this week about potentially staying on as Federal Reserve chair, two people familiar with the matter said...Many Republicans on Capitol Hill want Trump to move on from Yellen, whose first term ends in February, and choose a more traditionally conservative Fed chair."

Trump Noncommittal on Marino
4 hours ago
Manchin Asks Trump to Drop Marino’s Nomination for Drug Czar
5 hours ago
McCaskill Will Introduce Bill in Response to “60 Minutes” Scoop
5 hours ago

In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."

Judge Refuses to Dismiss Charges Against Menendez
5 hours ago

"The judge overseeing in U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s case says he won’t dismiss any charges against the New Jersey Democrat. Judge William Walls ruled against defense lawyers’ arguments that the charges should be dropped because they didn’t meet a narrower definition of bribery under a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reversed the conviction of Republican former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.