White House

Troop Drawdown from Afghanistan: Modest or Significant?

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June 9, 2011, 11:39 a.m.

A Rasmussen Re­ports (IVR) poll; con­duc­ted 10/5; sur­veyed 750 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 3.6% (re­lease, 10/7). Tested: ‘06 can­did­ate/ex-Stam­ford May­or Dan Mal­loy (D) and ex-Amb. to Ire­land Tom Fo­ley (R).

Gen­er­al Elec­tion Match­up

- Now 9/26 9/9 8/11 7/1 5/4 4/1 2/1 D. Mal­loy 49% 50% 46% 48% 44% 38% 35% 37% T. Fo­ley 44 40 39 33 35 35 44 36 Oth­er 1 2 3 6 5 11 8 10 Un­dec 7 8 12 13 17 16 14 18

Just when you thought it was safe to go back out­side, it turns out the cam­paign lull we thought had just be­gun hasn’t oc­curred at all.

We were as­sured by the Demo­crats that the pres­id­ent’s travels to three battle­ground states this week were ab­so­lutely, pos­it­ively, not about polit­ics. Ig­nore those aren­as full of stu­dents shout­ing “Four more years.” This was all about policy, they in­sisted.

And we were as­sured by the voters — vast mar­gins of them — that Mitt Rom­ney was in­deed the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee. But what ho: Is that Newt Gin­grich still trav­el­ing with a full Secret Ser­vice en­tour­age in tow?

There are rules about these things. The pres­id­ent has to re­im­burse the tax­pay­er at a very spe­cif­ic rate if he uses the trap­pings of his of­fice — Air Force One chief among them — to go about drum­ming up votes for reelec­tion.

Pres­id­ent Barack Obama ad­dresses col­lege stu­dents at the Uni­versity of Iowa (CNN)

But the White House is also cor­rect when it points out that the pres­id­ent is the lead­er of the free world, 24/7. It’s hard to draw a line. Pres­id­ent Obama is not the first in­cum­bent to make this point, but Re­pub­lic­ans are not en­tirely crazy to draw the line.

White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said it wasn’t polit­ic­al when the pres­id­ent vis­ited the Uni­versity of North Car­o­lina, the Uni­versity of Col­or­ado, and the Uni­versity of Iowa be­cause he was press­ing Con­gress to pass le­gis­la­tion ex­tend­ing low in­terest rates on col­lege stu­dent loans.

But the Obama cam­paign said it will be polit­ic­al next week when Mr. Obama and the first lady drop in on Vir­gin­ia Com­mon­wealth Uni­versity and The Ohio State Uni­versity.

Yet the it­in­er­ary for both trips looks like a tour through the Obama swing-state cam­paign map.

“This doesn’t pass the straight-face test,” House Speak­er John Boehner told re­port­ers on Cap­it­ol Hill. “You know it and I know it.” He said the pres­id­ent’s travels this week cost tax­pay­ers $179,000 an hour.

The line can be fuzzy on the Re­pub­lic­an side as well. It was widely con­ceded weeks ago that Rom­ney would be the nom­in­ee. Rick San­tor­um saw the hand­writ­ing on the wall and hustled out of the race be­fore he could be em­bar­rassed in his home state of Pennsylvania. For the re­cord, he still hasn’t en­dorsed Rom­ney.

But we still await Gin­grich’s fi­nal exit. Re­port­ers and strategists stopped pay­ing real at­ten­tion some time ago, but the former House speak­er only grudgingly agreed to drop out and en­dorse Rom­ney this week. Each day he stays in the race, tax­pay­ers fork over roughly $40,000 for his Secret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion.

The truth is we all know bet­ter than to buy in­to any­one else’s defin­i­tion of when cam­paigns be­gin and end. It will al­ways come to money — money raised and money spent.

How much does it cost to fly the pres­id­ent to of­fi­cial events? How much money was San­tor­um go­ing to be forced to spend to de­fend Pennsylvania (and did he have it)? Will the even­tu­al nom­in­ee help his former com­pet­it­ors re­tire their cam­paign debt? Will Rom­ney spring for a plane and staff to en­able them to cam­paign on his be­half?

Now of course, every for­mula has its flaw. Ron Paul is, when last seen, still run­ning for pres­id­ent and he has nev­er ac­cep­ted Secret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion. In fact, he called it a “form of wel­fare.”

But in gen­er­al, let’s stick with dol­lars-for-donuts as the best avail­able way to define what con­sti­tutes cam­paign­ing. Or, as Obama cam­paign man­ager Jim Mess­ina put it when he roun­ded re­port­ers up to an­nounce the Ohio and Vir­gin­ia kick­off: “Good even­ing, every­one. Wel­come to the gen­er­al elec­tion.”

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