For as long a time as your Speculatroners have been dutifully cataloguing the damage that the primary process has been doing to Mitt Romney's brand, we have been cautioning you to underrate the long-term effects of the grueling primary season. And even as President Barack Obama has stacked up some occasionally gaudy results in various polls -- and Obama had what amounted to a banner week last week -- we've maintained that eventually the race would tighten. And the Obama campaign evidently felt the same way: for the past few weeks, it has been feeling waves of concern that its base of donors and supporters were settling into an assumption that the president's re-election was a done deal.
So, we're assuming that having said all that, all of you were among the least surprised people in America when the latest Gallup tracking poll had Mitt Romney ahead by two points, followed by a number of various poll results that suggested a wide variance as to who was up and who was down. All of which suggests a very close race is in the offing. Welcome to the general election, folks!
If you've a mind to follow the race closely, the shift to the general election means that you'll have new noise to detune as the contest escalates. Welcome, for example, to the period where pseudo-events dominate news coverage -- the time where a CNN pundit or a former rock star can say something that causes the media to stampede in the direction of Acid Canyon.
And if you follow the race closely, you're going to run up on a glut of polls and polling data from now until we all have to start preparing for the Mayan Apocalypse. There's a good chance that most of you have already encountered some useful guide on how to read polls and polling now that we've switched from the primary stage of the election to the general.
Nate Silver, for instance, offered a fairly comprehensive guide this week. His advice -- "be patient," remember the distinctions between registered voters and likely voters, keep an eye on economic indicators -- is well-heeded. We agree that keeping an eye on polling averages is the key to following the state of the race. One caveat: remember in these early days, some of the state averages won't be based on a lot of current polling, so don't draw conclusions too quickly.
Additionally, we'd remind you that even though you'll hear about nationwide head-to-head polls, you should remember that the election will be decided in the electoral college, and that a handful of battleground states will determine which way the race swings.
For example, in the news this week, you'll hear that Romney is up by two in the Gallup tracking poll and up by two in New Hampshire. Which result is more revealing? At the moment, it's the Gallup. That one result in New Hampshire is an outlier poll that happens to be the only one in the field, so far, in April. But as more polling gets conducted in New Hampshire, that polling average will have more and more salience -- especially if the national tracking continues to predict a close race -- because New Hampshire is one of those key swing states whose electoral votes Obama will want to retain.
Similarly, when you're looking at Obama's approval ratings, remember that while the nationwide result tells a general picture, the approval ratings in places like Virginia, Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania tell you so much more.
And above all, remember that there's a lot of political action happening on the ground that doesn't get reported. How well is Mitt Romney doing getting people to show up and make phone calls? Are those Obama field offices packed with as many enthusiastic volunteers are they were in 2008? This is where the fervor for a candidate can be best measured.
Yes, we know that for a long while, the story has been about GOP infighting over who would eventually be the party's nominee. A ghost mailer in Iowa from the Rick Santorum campaign that went out this week serves as a last reminder of that era. "It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee," the mailer -- which had been paid for and for which distribution was arranged before Santorum dropped out of the race -- sums up the argument that Romney's GOP competitors had been making all along. And as long as other candidates were in that race, providing voters with the dream of an alternative, everyone who was inclined to not like Romney had the leeway to do so.
But we're now in the part of the election cycle where Santorum's forthcoming communications will read, "It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Barack Obama wins re-election." And so, the formerly disaffected are coming home, and the "not-Romneys" are joining up to be part of the "not-Obama" movement. As our own Mark Blumenthal pointed out this week, the bases have aligned themselves behind their candidates. Remember all those primaries this past year, where pundits alleged that Romney's inability to win more than [x] percent was a troubling omen for the general? Yeah, you can forget that now.
In fact, the hot new wave of speculation is about whether the current election is going to be a "referendum" election or a "choice" election. Team Romney will hope for the former, and argue that a greater economic recovery would be possible under his technocratic management. Team Obama will make the latter case, and suggest that a Romney administration would take the country back to the bad old days. There are historical examples in which incumbents have successfully bucked the conventional wisdom on the "referendum" election, but basic political science favors the notion that this election is likely to be predicated on Obama's first term.
Of course, as the election season changes, so will your Speculatron. In the coming weeks, we're going to transition away from covering the dwindling primary contenders and get on a general election footing. That means that we'll also be providing coverage of key downticket races in the Senate, the House, and the states.
And we'll be sending readers to further flung places as well and exposing readers to the work of reporters who know their state's political culture like the back of their hand -- like Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun, Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times, and Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Naturally, if you've got a favorite political reporter or think a race in your area deserves more coverage, we want to hear about it.
But for the moment, we'll slowly wind down the primary season. This week, Mitt Romney struggled with secrecy, Barack Obama fought distractions, Ron Paul went to war with Alaska, Gary Johnson challenged the two-party frame and Newt Gingrich skirmished with Antarctic waterfowl. To find out who won their battles and who lost, please feel free to enter the Speculatron for the week of April 20, 2012.
As has been discussed at length, here and elsewhere, Mitt Romney is emerging from the primary season as a historically unpopular nominee. So the electorate is still showing some unwillingness to embrace him. It surely doesn't help when Romney has a problem with eating the cookies that they offer him. There were National Rifle Association members, for example, who remained skeptical of Romney, telling reporters that he's still largely "grabbing at straws to get popularity," and that "he panders to whoever he's talking to." Chances are, he might have fared better at the NRA confab if he'd remembered to actually mention "guns" more than once. And some House Republicans remain almost comically cool to the idea of Romney as their 2012 standardbearer. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), for instance, complained, "There is not that excitement level, it's not what you would see with a Bill Clinton or a George Bush, for that matter, who were able to identify with people. So far, Governor Romney has not shown that." And Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) said wryly, "Whether you're liberal, or whether you're very conservative, you ought to be excited, because he's been on your side at one time or another." He followed that up by saying of Romney's candidacy, that he was "not as excited as I am desperate." And Romney continues to wait for Rick Santorum's official endorsement, which he has yet to proffer. In the meantime, Santorum's campaign evidently forgot to cancel a scheduled mailing. His supporters in Iowa this week received a mailer from the Santorum campaign that stated: "It truly frightens me to think what'll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee." But there's nothing like closing the polling gap with President Barack Obama to bring some doubters into Romney's camp, and this week, he got backed up by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and one-time presidential aspirant Mitch Daniels. More importantly, GOP voters have decided that for all his faults, Romney meets their accepted standard for competence. And Romney is making a move to garner the support of evangelical voters by agreeing to serve as Liberty University's commencement speaker this year. So, some of that primary season frost may be melting. This is all part of the process of shoring up all the doubters in the base. But as Steve Kornacki points out, these relationships are already strained to such a degree that Romney might not have the option that George W. Bush had during his campaign -- staging a philosophical "break" with House Republicans in order to project independence. Romney, in all likelihood, will have to keep his embrace tight. Romney's part in the Great Mommy Wars Of Last Week was complicated this week by his record on the issues as governor and his campaign's continuing inability or unwillingness to discuss the Lily Ledbetter Act and whether he -- unlike his female surrogates -- supports pay equity for women. And in a widely reported bit of flashback, it turns out that Romney has not historically been of the opinion that stay-at-home mothers possess much character. He has described non-working mothers, for example, as producers of "indolent and unproductive children," and believes that poor women should definitely work outside the home, instead of staying at home, lest they lose their welfare. (Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) will put Romney's new rhetoric about the nobility of stay-at-home mothers and how the work they do raising children should be considered "work" in the larger sense to test by attempting to pass the WORK Act, which would "provide low-income parents the option of staying home to raise young children without fear of being pushed into poverty.") Elsewhere, Romney's penchant for avoiding transparency was an issue that bubbled up around all of this week's Week Of Worrying About What Ted Nugent Is Talking About. After filing for an extension on his 2011 tax return, thus postponing its eventual disclosure, Romney refused to respond to requests that he release further tax documents. His reasoning was predicated on the idea that John Kerry had established a standard that makes this bit of opacity okay -- but as Sam Stein found out, Romney was misleading people on that score: It's a convenient rejoinder. But it's also inaccurate. When Kerry ran for president in 2004, he had released 20 years' worth of tax returns. The extent of that disclosure was first reported by Think Progress Tuesday, but even after the site published its report, there were lingering questions. It was impossible to find copies of Kerry's tax returns on the web. And if he released them during the '04 campaign, he did so without much fanfare. According to several veterans of the Kerry campaign, that's because the senator made it standard practice to release five or six years worth of tax returns during each of his Senate campaigns, meaning that when he launched his 2004 presidential bid, 18 years of tax returns had already been made public. And Romney's immigration position grew considerably more fuzzy this week when his campaign decided to stop referring to anti-immigration zealot Kris Kobach as a "campaign advisor." This prompted a lot of back and forth, as Kobach refused to play this particular reindeer game, telling reporters that despite what Romney might have said, he would not be supporting any version of a "DREAM act." But some of Romney's plans got clearer after reporters surreptitiously listened in on a speech he gave to a group of donors at a closed-door fundraiser. There, Romney admitted his plans to eliminate and/or restructure several government agencies, with the major casualty being the HUD, which his father once ran. That would be bad news, indeed, for Americans currently seeking housing assistance. As Jonathan Bernstein points out, what remains unclear is whether Romney intends to merely streamline the current arrangement or dismantle these agencies' mandates and return those responsibilities to state governments. Jonathan Chait notes that in more likely latter case, "simply breaking one federal program into 50 programs of the same cumulative size amounts to a lump sum transfer payment to the rich from the non-rich." Meanwhile, speculation over Romney's future running mate continues to fly. The latest name to be floated as a potential VP candidate is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has also said that he would join the ticket, should he be called upon to do so. The one guy who's blowing off the idea is the guy many Republicans want to see standing with Romney come autumn: Marco Rubio. There remains a possibility that you'll sooner see Romney paired up with your favorite sketch comedians than a running mate -- the notion of a Romney-hosted Saturday Night Live was floated this week. That would definitely present Romney with a significant challenge to surmount, since the easiest joke about him is that he's terrible at telling jokes. All in all, though, it might help Romney to have a humbling experience. Maybe then he'd understand that it's a wee bit premature to be selling Inauguration Day access to wealthy donors. And the Obama campaign was worried that it might come off as cocky!
Reality shows no sign of having penetrated the mind of Newt Gingrich, who continues to do an excellent job of rolling onward, pointlessly, into the post-primary season under the pretense that he still has some sort of shot at becoming the GOP's nominee for the White House. At the National Rifle Association's annual conference, Gingrich presented himself as a legitimate candidate for something, armed with bold ideas -- such as his plan to "submit to the United Nations a treaty that extends the right to bear arms as a human right for every person on the planet because every person on the planet deserves the right to defend themselves from those who would oppress them, those would exploit them, rape them or kill them." It's not certain what sort of voter that attracts, but then, it's not certain that Gingrich is attracting many voters these days -- though his campaign has submitted video evidence that there are still six people who support his beleaguered bid. Newt Gingrich is apparently telling people, "If we do win Delaware, it will break up the media narrative." It will also "break up the media narrative" if Gingrich becomes Spiderman, or gets signed by the Philadelphia Phillies. Mostly, everyone who once pretended to love Newt Gingrich is moving on to sunnier pastures. His one-time backer Sheldon Adelson is now donating money to GOP House races. His best endorser ("best" being a relative term) -- Herman Cain -- has also bailed on him, citing the fact that Gingrich "doesn't have a shot." As the Daily Caller reports, the only people who haven't bailed on Gingrich are the members of his Secret Service detail, who remain in place to protect him from inquisitive reporters from the University of North Carolina, and penguins -- who have, of late, decided to turn on him. As the penguins go, so too go the puffins. As Molly Ball of the Atlantic reports, this foray into presidential politics has ended up costing Gingrich a considerable amount: The Fox News contributor gig is no longer, having been suspended when Gingrich became a candidate, and quietly canceled thereafter. Relations between Gingrich and the cable channel have notably soured. Recently, Gingrich told a Delaware Tea Party group that he felt the network had exhibited a bias against him, accusing it of "distortion"; the network fired back with a biting statement: "He's still bitter over the termination of his contributor contract." It seems safe to say that bridge, for Gingrich, has been burned. The policy and consulting enterprise Gingrich helmed is similarly on the rocks. American Solutions for Winning the Future, his major nonprofit, shut down last August, and the Gingrich Group, his for-profit advocacy shop, filed for bankruptcy in Georgia earlier this month. Together, the two entities had grossed more than $100 million over the course of a decade, according to Bloomberg. Now, thanks to Gingrich's quest for the presidency, they are defunct. Ball goes on to remind readers that Gingrich is also currently $4.5 million in debt and has recently had to rent out his donor list in order to make a little scratch. As Zeke Miller reported this week, lucky Gingrich backers got a special offer from LifeLock, which will protect your identity, but will not, apparently, protect you from making foolish life decisions, like staying in a presidential primary race that's now over. Politico, reporting on the donor list story, noted: Gingrich's aides are acutely sensitive to the perception that their boss is teetering on the edge of becoming a laughingstock, according to insiders. They recount a two-hour-long meeting of his campaign staff last month at which "the whole subject was rebuilding the brand" and "keeping him from looking like a fool," said a source familiar with it. The phrase that comes to mind is, "Too late!"
Ron Paul spent part of this week campaigning in Rhode Island ahead of that state's April 24th primary. He released a new ad for the Rhode Island airwaves, touting himself as a "visionary" who saw the 2008 financial crisis coming, and who will cut $1 billion from the federal budget in year one of his presidency while ending foreign wars, the Federal Reserve, government bureaucracies and so on and so forth. As he brings a positive message to Rhode Island, Paul's campaign is casting daggers at GOP officials in Alaska, who they accuse of "illegal efforts to omit non-Romney delegates to the convention." Per a campaign press release: The state party-initiated conflict in this regard is especially worrisome and politically sensitive as the Paul campaign believes it won a significant portion of delegates at the Alaska State House district conventions already held. The Paul camp anticipates that its delegate tally at the upcoming state convention will increase as supporters of former candidate Rick Santorum -- including fellow prolife supporters -- defect to the Paul camp or become non-Romney delegates to the Republican National Convention to be held late August in Tampa, Florida. In light of this, the issue has national party and political implications because it affects the conversation that will occur in Tampa over whether constitutionally-limited government and an authentic commitment to the sanctity of life will prevail over the status quo. With Paul's chances remote in the primaries going forward, and state party officials trying to run end games around his whole caucus strategy in states that have already passed, it raises the question: why is Paul sticking with this primary race? Peter Grier of the DC Decoder attempts to answer that question: Paul remains in it, if not to win it, then to promote his ideas. He's long said that he wants to build a political movement as much as anything else, and if you look at his upcoming events, they remain heavy on appearances at colleges, which remain his most fertile ground for winning converts. On April 18 Paul is scheduled to speak at the University of Rhode Island, for instance. On April 19 he's supposed to be at Cornell. On April 20 the venue is the University of Pittsburgh. This emphasis on youth points out one of Paul's remaining electoral strengths - he's relatively strong in the 18-to-34 demographic, while presumptive nominee Mr. Romney is relatively weak. And Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal picks up a point your Speculatroners have endeavored to make these past few weeks -- that Paul's supporters are transforming themselves from a woolly band of energized insurgents to a group of consummate professionals who are steeped in the minutiae of the political process: Four years ago, James Smack grabbed the microphone at the Nevada Republican Party Convention to lead a revolt by Ron Paul supporters. That attempt to take over the convention failed when the GOP convention chairman shut the 2008 meeting down. Today, Smack is acting chairman of the Nevada Republican Party and among the vanguard of Paul backers methodically taking over the state and county parties from within. They've been promoting both the Texas congressman's ideas and his GOP presidential campaign. So, unlike Gingrich, who's going through the motions, a chance for Paul to compete in any primary is a chance to train the footsoldiers in his movement. Even if Paul doesn't personally benefit from all of this effort, he's very shrewdly planted the roots for his movement to continue on even firmer footing. Besides, Paul is getting something out of all of this. This week he was named to Time magazine "100 Most Influential People" list. Time, as you'd suspect, entirely misses the boat on what's going on inside his campaign, in terms of the maturation that's happening among his supporters -- but having noticed it, it seems pretty clear that he's a worthy inclusion on a list that tracks influence. Of perhaps greater interest to Paul supporters is the fact that there is a Ron Paul video game coming, "reminiscent of console classics like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog." Sadly, we cannot currently share with readers the cheat code that allows gamers to "end the Fed."
Buddy Roemer has lately taken his anti-money-in-politics message to the youth, in the hopes that he can do a little movement-building of his own. Last week, he visited Tulane University in his home state, and this week, he headed across the country, to U.C. Berkeley: In an interview with The Daily Californian following his speech, Roemer admitted that one of the greatest problems facing his campaign is that many people do not know about his platforms or who he is. But he said he is relying on youth, specifically at universities, to mobilize his campaign. He said in the interview that many students were encouraged by his sense of optimism about the American economy and future and appreciated his stance on campaign contributions. Funnily enough, this week Roemer did manage to get a compliment, at the very least, from a key Romney endorser: Buddy Roemer, the one-time congressman and Louisiana governor, was bound for Sacramento this morning to promote his long-shot candidacy for president when, at Reagan National Airport, in Washington, D.C., he crossed paths with a former presidential hopeful, John McCain. "I heard this shout," he said. "'Roemer!'" The Republican senator from Arizona has endorsed Republican Mitt Romney this year, but Roemer said he told him his campaign is "awesome," too. Hey, woo, John McCain thinks Roemer is awesome and that's neat, but it sort of raises the question: if McCain is so convinced that super PACs are evil and are certain to bring "scandal," why is he endorsing Romney, the super PAC king, and not Roemer, the one guy in the race who actually agrees with him. Probably because McCain has bonded more strongly with Romney over their mutual love for holding fungible convictions. Meanwhile, Roemer's hopes for getting on the ballot look more and more like they will hinge on the Reform Party. Americans Elect is having a hard time getting Americans to elect anyone, and according to Uncovered Politics, at the rate Roemer's going, he won't qualify for the AE ballot line until August. Of 2013. And he's their best candidate right now!
The middle of April has arrived, and with it comes some seasonally appropriate campaign initiatives from Libertarian Party hopeful Gary Johnson. This week, Johnson took a page from the Paul playbook and asked supporters to contribute to his "Tax Day Money Bomb." Unlike a Ron Paul money bomb, however, pickings appear to have been slim -- his site currently boasts that it raised about $1350 from 34 donors. This is still a lot better than, say, North Korea's actual bombs! And, because today is 4/20 and Gary Johnson is probably holding (strong opinions about America's pointless War On Drugs), he will be doing a National Drug Day Online Townhall tonight at 9:00 pm Eastern time. If you recall, Johnson took some criticism last week from the Libertarian Party's former vice presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root, who said that Libertarians would be better off voting for Romney and not permitting Johnson to be a spoiler in the 2012 election. And columnist Thomas Mullen piled on, suggesting that Johnson was not a true libertarian. This week, United Liberty's Jeremy Kolassa mounted a defense: This gets back to the point I made in my last blog post about problems with the libertarian movement, specifically foreign policy. We, as a movement, have gotten way too puritanical about what makes libertarians libertarians. Many insist on an absolutionist view of the non-aggression principle, when really, the entire goal of libertarianism is simply maximizing individual liberty. I don't know about you, but legalizing marijuana, cutting the military budget by 43%, possibly eliminating the drinking age, and repeal the PATRIOT Act is pretty damn libertarian in my book. Saying that he isn't libertarian because he doesn't hew to an absolutionist line on the non-aggression principle is not just silly, it's dangerous. As I said previously, it hamstrings us to a completely unreasonable policy line we can't hold, as well as open us up to attacks both rhetorical and actual. And former Reagan biographer Craig Shirley gave props to Johnson as well: The Etch a Sketch comments from Romney are revealing and terrifying. Romneyism--like Bushism and McCainism--is about wiping Reaganism away from the Republican Party. Romney has made it clear in the past his abhorrence of Ronald Reagan. Romney is about personal power, plain and simple. [...] If Romney becomes the nominee of the Republican Party, conservatives will seriously consider walking away and looking at the candidacy of Gary Johnson. That's certainly Johnson's hope, as he tries to make the election a three-way race at the very least. And as Karl Dickey -- who's clearly become the new go-to source of Johnson campaign coverage -- notes, Johnson offers the clear contrasts that make third party candidacies remotely viable. At the moment, Johnson is polling at around six percent in that three-way. McKay Coppins speculates that he therefore has Romney-spoiler potential. But based on Johnson's policy positions and personal demeanor, we'd suggest that Johnson is probably pulling some support from both of the establishment candidates.
Fred Karger -- who we remind you has essentially pinned his candidacy's hopes for recognition on a strong showing in California -- continues to mainly wage his battle against the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). To that end, he has filed a complaint in the Golden State against NOM for "failing to report a $10,000 donation from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign." Says Karger: "Mitt Romney and NOM appear to have gone to a lot of trouble to hide his contribution ... I am sure that Romney's $10K was never meant to see the light of day." But while Karger's dedication to fighting the forces arrayed against marriage equality continue apace, the candidate is still struggling to gain much traction or support from within that community: In reviewing the many Facebook postings by members of various "gay rights" groups and pages, it is heavly weighted to the Democratic Party and to Barack Obama in raising funds and awareness, yet Republican Karger is never mentioned and Libertarian Gary Johnson is rarely mentioned. Ironic, in that Obama is not in favor of marriage equality and treats gays and lesbians as second class citizens only favoring them to have civil unions. Indeed, Karger and Johnson remain the only two candidates in the 2012 cycle that support marriage equality.
If Team Obama Re-Elect maintained any sky-high hopes that the general election was going to be easy, they had to have come crashing down this week, when a mixed bag of polling demonstrated that the race had tightened into what amounts to -- at best -- a dead heat. At the moment, the Obama campaign can take solace in the fact that their guy is more widely liked than Romney, and that he retains an electoral vote edge -- though all that means is that Obama has a greater share of the non-battleground electoral votes. In the contested states, they can point to a lead in Florida, but a shortfall in New Hampshire -- and chances are that out in the swing states, those numbers will remain volatile. Especially if the economic boomlet we saw in these early months of 2012 stalls out, as it seems to be doing. Obama took aim at Romney this week, commenting that he hadn't grown up with a "silver spoon" in his mouth. Jay Carney took great pains to tell reporters that this comment wasn't intended to be a shot at Romney, but COME ON. We're not that stupid. Greg Sargent notes that the remark touches on a particularly nervy area of "sensitivity" for Romney. And Carney, even in dismissing the idea that the barb was intended for Romney, suggested that Romney was being "a little over-sensitive." So it was a dig at Mitt, coming and going. This week, Obama mounted a public campaign in favor of the Buffett Rule and an attack on oil speculators and their role in driving up the cost of gasoline. No one particularly thinks much legislation is going to come from this -- Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the Buffett Rule, for example -- but these moves are ones to which the public is generally amenable (the Buffett Rule in particular is wildly popular), so it makes a certain amount of campaign sense to pursue them. Of course, it's hard to get these stories into the headlines when the White House is having to deal with the ongoing GSA "Sorry For Party Rocking in Las Vegas On The Taxpayer Dime" scandal, as well as this week's "Secret Service Goes A'Whoring in Cartagena" misadventure. There's no sign that either of these matters particularly taints Obama, but as the Associated Press reported, they have "overwhelmed the president's agenda," and make it harder for him to mount his election year argument: The scandals are taking a toll. They are distracting embarrassments that are dominating public attention while Obama seeks to focus on difficulties abroad and jobs at home. And they are giving Republicans an opportunity to question his competence and leadership, an opening for Romney in a race so close that any advantage might make a difference. Even if the Democratic president escapes being defined by these flare-ups, they still feed a story line that can erode public confidence in Washington institutions, fuel a perception of federal excess and frustrate Obama's argument that government can be a force for good. Further distractions from the campaign message came from Obama's own side of the ideological spectrum, as well. Outgoing Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) joined outgoing Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in lamenting the Affordable Care Act, with Frank telling reporters that he'd urged Obama to give up the pursuit after the Senate's supermajority was lost, and Webb saying that the whole matter was a "failure of leadership" because of the way Obama "passively" went about setting the agenda, plunging it into murk. And outside of Congress, the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka took a shot at the president as well, in an interview with Sargent: AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka ripped into Obama for taking a key step this weekend towards the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement -- which Trumka claimed would have domestic political ramifications for Obama. Trumka said continuing betrayal of labor would make it harder to turn out supporters this fall and was already muddying Obama's efforts to draw a sharp contrast with Mitt Romney over who represents the 99 percent. "The more these things happen, where workers interests are subjugated to other interests, it has a cumulative effect, making it harder for us to energize our members and get them out in the numbers necessary in the fall," Trumka told me. "The candidates have to decide whether they represent the 99 percent or the one percent," Trumka continued. "Each time this happens, it obscures the clearness with which the president represents the 99 percent." While Obama can take some solace in the fact that his core coalition from 2008 remains firmly in his corner, all of this comes at a time where the Obama campaign would like to be expanding. The campaign hopes to pick up generic middle class support and independent voters, conquer electoral map territory like Arizona, where the Hispanic vote is seen as poachable, and equalize the donor gap with Romney and his affiliated allies. On the latter score, the Democrats need to galvanize their donor base badly. The problem, as Paul Begala notes, is that "many progressive donors think President Obama has it in the bag. But he doesn't even have it in the shopping cart yet, much less in the bag." Team Obama's latest plan? Unleash George Clooney. (And if that doesn't pan out, go to Ryan Gosling, we guess?) Seems to us that rather than spending so much time quibbling over the methodology of the Gallup tracking poll, the Obama campaign would have been better served this week to spread the word far and wide that they're not winning.
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