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Friday Roundup: Pandermonium

Obama Vs Romney.

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Each week in the Friday Roundup, Riding the Tiger takes a look at the major news stories of the week involving the presidential election of 2012.

Pandermonium. President Obama elaborated on his decision to no longer deport undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children in a Time Magazine op-ed.  Meanwhile Romney received mixed reactions after delivering an address to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in which he called for loosening some immigration restrictions, including lifting caps on skilled worker visas and speeding the processing of applications for temporary agricultural work visas. In Arizona, Republican Representatives David Schweikert and Ben Quayle, who are running against each other in one of this year’s more competitive member-vs.-member primaries, each introduced legislation this week that would prohibit implementation of the Obama administration’s plan to stop deporting some illegal immigrants. Meanwhile Obama is reminding various constituents within the Democratic coalition of other accomplishments (contraception, support for gay marriage). In a new TV ad, Obama for America touts the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as the first bill signed by the president after his inauguration.

All the pandering this election season raises the question: Does the candidate or the party matter more? Gary Wills reminded all the “high-minded” voters who say they vote for the candidate and not the party that two are inseparable. According to Wills, “The man being voted for, no matter what he says, dances with the party that brought him, dependent on its support, resources, and clientele… The party has some continuity of commitment, no matter how compromised. What you are really voting for is the party’s constituency.” Jonathan Bernstein quibbled a bit, but mostly agreed that we choose between sets of constituencies. For more in-depth recent political science theorizing on the subject, read this paper.

The Real Candidates. David Maraniss’ new biography, Barack Obama: The Story, challenges the president’s memoir, Dreams of My Father. Maraniss shared excerpts of the book here and Ben Smith has a review of the book that is worth reading here. Meanwhile, the Washington Post profiled Romney’s path to success at Bain Capital. And the New York Times exposed the selective truths both candidates use in the campaigns.

It’s the economy, stupid! According to a new Gallup poll, “Americans become progressively less positive about economic conditions the farther away from home they look. Forty-nine percent rate economic conditions in their local area as excellent or good, but that drops to 25% when rating the U.S. economy, and to 13% when assessing the world as a whole.” Andrew Gelman graphed the partisan breakdown at The Monkey Cage and found that Democrats are more optimistic about the economy than Republicans. Meanwhile, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, Obama leads Romney on eight different character traits. However, Romney has the advantage when it comes to voter beliefs about who would improve economic conditions, and the economy dominates voter concerns.

Without Precedent: Is the Bay State Necessary for a Romney Victory?

Mitt Romney voting in Belmont, MA, March 2012.

Mitt Romney voting in Belmont, MA, March 2012.

Massachusetts has received quite a bit of attention this election year. The Obama campaign launched an ad campaign attacking Mitt Romney’s record as governor there. This week, the campaign also announced that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry will debate President Obama in order to prepare him for the fall debates with Romney. And earlier this week, spending reports showed that both presidential campaigns have spent $45 million, or nearly a quarter of all campaign spending since last year through the first quarter, in the Bay State, mostly on political consultants and data analysis companies.  Meanwhile, instead of going after Massachusetts, Mitt Romney is claiming Michigan as his native home and saying the state would hand him the presidency. In this post, Anand Rao digs beyond the headlines to examine what effect Massachusetts could have on Romney's chances in November.

In 2002, Mitt Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts, as the voters of that “blue” state defied conventional wisdom again and chose a Republican as their state leader for the fourth consecutive time dating back to 1990. The final vote tally was not especially close, as Romney outpolled Democratic opponent and state treasurer Shannon O’Brien by more than one hundred thousand votes, out of nearly 2.2 million total votes cast. Therefore, ten years later, it would seem natural for Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, to be a shoe-in to win at least a plurality of the popular vote in Massachusetts this November as he tries to unseat incumbent President Barack Obama. After all, it’s close to an article of faith in the U.S. that sitting or former governors are popular with the voters of the states that elected them. Unlike U.S. Senators who serve in Washington, D.C., governors serve in the states themselves and develop close relations with local legislatures and the people on the ground. So Romney all the way in Massachusetts with its 11 electoral votes, right?

Not so, according to a recent Washington Post article by Philip Rucker, who cites data showing that President Obama maintains a double-digit lead in the polls over Romney in the Bay State. Rucker concludes that while Massachusetts proved to be a launching pad for Romney’s presidential ambitions, he has no concrete base of support there and is almost guaranteed to lose the state to Obama, his fellow Harvard Law School graduate. Thus, in 2012, Romney must do something that has yet to be accomplished in post-1900 U.S. presidential politics: Be elected president for the first time without winning a plurality of the popular vote (and therefore all of the electoral votes) in the state where voters had once elected the candidate in question as their governor. James Cox of Ohio (1920), Al Smith of New York (1928), Alf Landon of Kansas (1936), Thomas Dewey of New York (1944), and Adlai Stevenson of Illinois (1952 and 1956) were all major party presidential nominees who suffered the humiliation of losing in the states where they had served as governor, and they were decisively defeated in their presidential bids as well. Even when Dewey won New York in his second presidential bid, this time against incumbent President Harry Truman in 1948, he still lost the general election.

Friday Roundup

Obama Vs Romney.

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Each week in the Friday Roundup, Riding the Tiger takes a look at the major news stories of the week involving the presidential election of 2012.

Vox Populi. Pressure is building for President Obama to do something more for Latino voters as his policies havehave produced few gains for them. The administration attempted to respond today with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announcement that the Obama administration will block deportations of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants who had been brought to the country as children. Jeb Bush said that Mitt Romney needs broader ideas on immigration if he is going to appeal to Hispanic voters.

According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, 43 percent of voters expressed a favorable impression of President Obama’s plan for the economy, while 37 percent say the same of Romney.

According to a new poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, global approval of President Obama’s policies has declined significantly. Except among Americans and Indians, there is considerable opposition to the Obama administration’s use of drones.

Jonathan Bernstein debunked five myths about swing states.

It’s the economy, stupid! President Obama delivered a major address in Ohio on economy telling voters, “This November is your chance to render a verdict on the debate over how to grow the economy, how to create good jobs, how to pay down our deficit.” Romney sought to frame the president’s speech in his own address on the economy, telling voters not to “forget he’s been president for 3 ½ years, and talk is cheap. Actions speak very loud.” The RNC also hit back with this video.

The Pentagon Papers and the Public’s Right to Know

Daniel Ellsberg at panel on a

Daniel Ellsberg at panel on a “Nuclear Free World” in New York. April 8, 2010. Photo by Thomas Good.

Executive privilege and democratic principles of transparency and accountability have long had a tenuous relationship, especially when it comes to national security matters. Forty-one years ago today, the New York Times began publishing a series of articles based on a 47-volume, classified study of U.S. involvement in South Asia from World War II to 1968. The Pentagon Papers, commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara in June 1967, revealed that administrations from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson had deliberated and knowingly deceived the American public and Congress about the conduct of the Vietnam War. Much of the debate around the release of the papers arguably centered on this question: does the public have the right to know?

Do Gaffes Matter?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speaks during a meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, June 4, 2012.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speaks during a meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, June 4, 2012. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Political analysts and pundits are abuzz over a press conference last Friday in which President Barack Obama said, “the private sector is doing fine.” Ezra Klein contends that President Obama’s original message was mangled and lost. Before his comments on the private sector, the president was discussing the global economic crisis and said, “Given the signs of weakness in the world economy, not just in Europe but also some softening in Asia, it's critical that we take the actions we can to strengthen the American economy right now.” President Obama was also using the press conference to push his administration’s plans for recovery at home. The president’s private sector comment actually sounds to me like a point made by New York Times op-ed columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman during our 2012 Election National Discussion and Debate Series on the Economy in April. During the debate, Krugman asserted that one of the most unique attributes of the economic recovery was that it largely benefited the private sector. Chris Cilliza of The Fix at the Washington Post asserted yesterday that President Obama’s remarks will be fodder for the election. That got us thinking about historical examples and the conditions under which gaffes might matter in the election.

Friday Roundup

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Each week in the Friday Roundup, Riding the Tiger takes a look at the major news stories of the week involving the presidential election of 2012.

Vox Populi. A new Pew Research poll finds that the values and basic beliefs of American voters are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years, and nearly all of the increase has occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The GOP base is coalescing around Mitt Romney faster than expected. According to one Republican consultant, “Conservatives don't universally claim Romney as one of their own, but they appear to have united behind him, perhaps reluctantly, but without question.” The right has been romanced.

In a new Purple Strategies poll, President Obama leads by a narrow two-point margin among voters in swing states.

A Fox News poll finds Republican Mitt Romney tops President Barack Obama on economic issues, while Obama’s biggest strengths are mainly foreign policy and fighting terrorism.  

Ezra Klein argued that elections do not give presidents mandates.

Battle for the Ballots. Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, shared the campaign's conceptualization of the current electoral map. The map counts Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Colorado as “tossups” and places the current electoral count at 243 for Obama and 191 for Romney. Governor Scott Walker might add Wisconsin to the list of states in play. After retaining his seat, Walker had this advice for Mitt Romney:

“The best thing he can do between now and November, because this is a very competitive state and we hope to see him here throughout the next several months, but is to get out and make a very compelling case about how he’s willing to take on the tough challenges.”

Michigan may also be in play. A new poll from EPIC-MRA shows Romney leading Obama 46%-45%.

Larry Sabato and his team have two new political maps – one that shows states in play based on current Crystal Ball Electoral College ratings and one that shows states in play by unemployment. From these views, the nation looks pretty divided.

Before we read too much more into what the Walker recall election results means for the presidential campaign, Nate Silver has numbers from the past 40 years that show the party identification of a state’s governor has said little about how presidential candidates will fare there.

A POLITICO review of public speeches and news clippings shows that six Cabinet members have made more than 85 trips this year to electoral battlegrounds such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The trips meld politics and policy with fiery defenses of administration policies mixed with off-the-clock fundraising. More support for Todd Purdum’s argument that Obama’s Cabinet members are not much more than mascots.

Promoting Democracy in the Arab World: What the Candidates Say

MENA protests throughout the Arab world.

Collage of protests throughout the Arab world. Top-left: Cairo, Egypt.  Top-right: Tunis, Tunisia. Middle-left: Al-Bayda, Libya. Middle-right: San’a, Yemen. Bottom-left: Hama, Syria. Bottom-right: Karrana, Bahrain. 01-14 to 07-29-2011.

Thirty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan outlined a new vision for American democracy promotion in an address to members of the British parliament in London. He declared that the United States should work “to foster the infrastructure of democracy—the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities—which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.”

Congress established the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, in 1983 to implement President Reagan’s vision. The NED has since given out grants to non-governmental organizations working to promote freedom in more than one hundred countries. American democracy promotion efforts have also expanded outside of the NED. Today, the United States Agency for International Development and the State Department join the NED in giving out foreign assistance with the stated goal of advancing democracy abroad. Combined, their efforts represent a multi-billion dollar a year industry.

To date, the presidential candidates have not spent much energy in public explaining or debating their proposed democracy promotion policies.

Latin America in the Elections: Time for a new ‘strategic vision’?

President Barack Obama delivers an address in Chile. March 21, 2011.

President Barack Obama delivers an address in Chile. March 21, 2011.

Over fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy proposed an “Alliance for Progress – Alianza para Progresso” with Latin America “to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a sustainable, suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom.” In his address announcing the Alliance for Progress, President Kennedy said:

Our unfulfilled task is to demonstrate to the entire world that man's unsatisfied aspiration for economic progress and social justice can best be achieved by free men working within a framework of democratic institutions. If we can do this in our own hemisphere, and for our own people, we may yet realize the prophecy of the great Mexican patriot, Benito Juarez, that ‘democracy is the destiny of future humanity.’

The program was meant to improve relations, which were at an all-time low when Kennedy assumed office, and to combat Communism. Many in the region were dissatisfied with American economic assistance after World War II. In addition, the United States was concerned with the growing Communist influence in the region. The ten-year program included a multi-billion dollar U.S. investment for economic aid, military assistance, food aid, education, and cultural initiatives.

Policy toward Latin America is one of the central issues this election. While containing the communist threat and civil wars are no longer the central focus of U.S. policy, the next administration will confront other ongoing critical challenges, including drug and gang violence, building economic ties, and immigration. Some critics contend, however, the United States no longer has a “strategic vision” for policy in the region as embodied in programs like the Alliance for Progress or the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Walker Makes History & Romney Sweeps Five More Primaries

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on February 18, 2011.

Republican Governor Scott Walker won the election in Wisconsin yesterday, making him the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. Political pundits are having a field day with what the results mean for the presidential election in November. On the one hand, Scott Walker has become a hero of conservatives. On the other hand, there are many ticket-splitters in the state. President Obama also didn’t campaign for the Democratic challenger and there are questions about whether spending contributed to Walker’s success. A Republican candidate hasn’t won the state since Ronald Reagan.

In other news, Mitt Romney swept the primaries in five states – California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota – increasing his delegate count to 1,398. The big news was the ballot shake-up in California. In 2010, voters approved a “top two primary” system in a ballot initiative, which was intended to stem partisan political gridlock and elect moderate candidates. Under the system, the top two finishers in the primary move on to the general election, regardless of party. The new system may provide stimulus for reform in other state and national elections.

Making and (un)Keeping Foreign Policy Promises

President Barack Obama Remarks at University of Cairo. June 4, 2009.

Yesterday marked the third anniversary since President Barack Obama delivered a landmark speech at the University of Cairo in which he promised forge a closer relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. On June 4, 2009, President Obama said:

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

Yet, three years later, hopes for better relations have been dashed. UVa Edward R. Stettinius Professor of Politics William B. Quandt placed the anniversary in perspective for Riding the Tiger:

Obama's Cairo speech in June 2009 raised expectations among many in the Middle East that they were about to see significant change from the widely disliked policies of the George W. Bush era. But along with the hope went considerable skepticism. Many admired the rhetoric, but were skeptical about real policy changes. Three years later their doubts seem largely justified, especially on the sensitive Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Beyond Tiananmen: Managing Sino-American Relations

Beijing:Tiananmen Square 180 degree overview picture

Beijing: Tiananmen Square 180 degree overview from Tiananmen gate looking south.

While the economy is central focus of most presidential elections, foreign policy serves as proxy for demonstrating presidential leadership. A strong record on foreign policy can help to bolster re-election prospects, but challengers can also use foreign policy failures for electoral advantage or to distinguish their policy platforms. In a series of posts this week, Riding the Tiger will examine the implications of foreign affairs for the presidency and the presidential election.

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China. Students sparked the popular demonstrations following the death of liberal reformer Hu Yaobang on April 15. The students called for economic and political reform and expressed grievances over inflation, limited career prospects for students, and corruption of the party elite. Military suppression ended the demonstrations just seven weeks later on June 4.  It is unclear how many protestors were actually killed by the military action and some are still serving prison sentences for participating in the demonstrations. The anniversary remains a sensitive subject for the party leadership in China. Twenty-three years later, censors continue to prohibit public commemorations, except in Hong Kong, and numerous internet search terms related to the date are blocked. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Stock Exchange opened on Monday at 2346.98, which looks like the date of the crackdown written backward, followed by the 23rd anniversary, prompting Chinese censors to block search terms related to the stock market. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index also fell 64.89 points, which of course looks like June 4, 1989.

American foreign policy toward China has been a careful balancing act between managing the economic relationship, human rights, and democracy for decades.

Presumptive No Longer: Romney Clinches Nomination

Mitt and Ann Romney on Super Tuesday.

Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney takes the stage with his wife Ann to give his victory speech at his headquarters at the Westin at Copley Plaza on Super Tuesday. (Ryan Hutton/Boston University News Service)

Even though the Republican primary race has effectively been over since Rick Santorum ended his candidacy in April, we can finally drop the “presumptive” adjective. Mitt Romney officially clinched the Republican nomination yesterday with a victory in the Texas primary that gave him enough delegates to reach the magical 1,144 he needed. Now nominee Romney must prepare for even more scrutiny and the media frenzy that will surely ensue with any new revelation about the candidate. (Top results on the news search today included: Romney’s new “Believe in Amercia” app, the misspelling of which lit up the social media world yesterday; why the Republican foreign policy establishment has been slow to embrace him; how he got ‘trumped’ by birther talk; the revelation that his father was born in Mexico; and how people of the Mormon faith are responding to his White House run.)

Riding the Tiger takes this opportunity to highlight some of the (dare we say “excellent”) scholarly contributions on Mitt Romney to our blog.

Whither the War Powers Resolution?

President Barack Obama delivered an address at the National Defense University on the American intervention in Libya.

President Barack Obama speaks on the military intervention in Libya at the National Defense University, March 28, 2011. Photo courtesy of the National Defense University.

In observance of Memorial Day, we express our profound gratitude to all of the men and women who have bravely served our country. In this post, Riding the Tiger contributor Stephen Knott puzzles over the institutional contestation of the power to send our soldiers to war. 

Students taking introductory courses in American government are taught that there is an abiding tension built into the Constitution, “an invitation to struggle” between Congress and the President over the right to direct the nation’s foreign policy. We learn that the founders were determined to “chain the dog of war” by giving Congress the power to declare war, believing that this power was simply too dangerous to entrust to the President alone.

Friday Roundup

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Electoral Horse race. New polling from NBC and Marist College give President Barack Obama a slight edge over Mitt Romney in Florida (48-44), Ohio (48-42), and Virginia (48-44). Public Policy Polling gives Romney a 50-43 advantage in Arizona and a Civitas Institute Poll shows Romney leading 47-45 in North Carolina. According to a new Gallup poll, Vice President Joe Bidens favorability ratings have dropped to 42%, suggesting he may not be as a big of an asset when deployed by the Obama campaign.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll shows that Obama leads Romney by 34 points among the Hispanic community. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at the Washington Post's The Fix suggest that the Republicans’  “Hispanic problem” didn’t happen overnight, but they “need to find ways to begin growing their support among Hispanics or they run the risk of struggling to build majority national coalitions in 2016, 2020 and beyond.” Meanwhile, the Romney campaign is quietly beginning an outreach effort to black voters.

Joseph Gerth at the Courier Journal provided a visual representation of the vote breakdown and explained that Kentucky snubbed President Obama in the primary mostly as a result of widespread and emphatic opposition to many of his policies.

Ron Paul’s campaign is making good on his promise to continue to build support in the states. Or at least that’s the case in Nevada where top Republican party officials resigned in a dispute with Paul supporters just weeks after supporters swept the state convention.

Romney wins Arkansas, Kentucky—and Bragging Rights Over Obama?

Mitt Romney easily won the primary contests in Kentucky and Arkansas yesterday, with 67% and 69% of the vote, respectively.

Romney received a higher percentage of votes in the Republican primaries than President Obama did in the Democratic primaries. While Obama ultimately prevailed, 42% of voters in each state voted against the president. This follows in the wake of the Democratic primary in West Virginia earlier this month in which an incarcerated federal inmate, Keith Judd, received a significant portion of the vote.