April 3, 2012

April 1, 2012

Paul Ryan for VP

  9:55 pm

This past week, my colleagues Matthew Miller and Dave Gaultier respectively made compelling cases for Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio as the next Vice Presidential nominee of the United States. Few subjects in politics interest me more than Veep discussion, so I decided to follow their lead and stump for my preferred running mate for Gov. Romney: the esteemed Congressman from the Badger State and visionary House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan.

I’ll begin by addressing the commonly cited downsides of Ryan-as-VP. First, some, such as Mr. Miller himself, have argued that putting Ryan on the bottom of the ticket would divert attention away from the top and essentially make the election a referendum on the Path to Prosperity (and if I have misrepresented Matthew’s position, I’ll stand corrected). I used to agree with this. However, in recent times, it has become obvious that Mitt’s healthcare – and, by extension, deficit – proposals largely mirror Ryan’s. Therefore, when considering the harsh scrutiny Republican presidential nominees receive during general election campaigns no matter what, I submit to you that having Ryan on the ticket wouldn’t make much of a difference. And in fact, if Mitt seeks to turn this election into a choice between two noticeably different visions for America’s future – a possibility I will examine later, his campaign may actually welcome the added attention, as it would reinforce the notion that they endeavor to offer the American public serious solutions to serious problems.

Along these lines, many have fretted the possibility that Romney’s running mate could eventually overshadow him, a la Sarah Palin and John McCain. However, when we consider the other “dream” running mates Republicans have most often cited for the Governor – Rubio, Jindal, Chris Christie, and Ryan – it becomes rather clear that the Chairman appears far less likely than the others to outshine Mitt in personality, charisma, or background. Ryan obviously brings extraordinary strengths to the table, but he doesn’t provide Christie’s edge-of-your-seat excitement, Rubio’s inspiring oratory, or Jindal’s jaw-dropping record of achievement and competence. This may provide more of a good match than a conflict with Romney’s seemingly risk-averse nature.

I’ve made it no secret that I harbor a fondness for the Cheney/Biden VP model – of a Washington insider (excuse the dirty word) with an intimate knowledge of political and legislative dynamics and the ability to spearhead the president’s agenda through Congress. More so than the other oft-mentioned top choices, Ryan fits this profile. While he has taken great pains to preserve his reluctant citizen-politician image, the fact remains that Ryan keeps an ear firmly to the ground when it comes to political sentiment. Consequently, he could serve as a key policy adviser to a President Romney and help him shape his agenda to best adapt to political realities. He could also utilize his sterling reputation and extensive connections in Washington to win over key support on crucial legislation. The president (thankfully) only has so much unilateral power, so all the executive experience in the world will not amount to enough for Romney if he can’t get Congress to work with him.

Above all, Romney should tap Ryan if he seeks to make this election the aforementioned choice between two competing visions for America’s future – between the government-driven corporatism Obama offers and the private sector-driven opportunity society that Romney professes to desire. More than any alternative, Paul Ryan would help center the focus of the fall campaign on the most important issue facing the country: our debt and deficit.

I suppose we can look at it this way: if Mitt cares most about political considerations, he should go with Sen. Rubio. If he cares most about executive competence and nuts-and-bolts governing, he should opt for Gov. Jindal. But if he cares most about addressing the biggest of the big issues of the day, he should select Chmn. Ryan.

Photo h/t to talkingpointsmemo.com


The Path to Prosperity Beats the Alternatives

  1:57 pm

The Bipartisan Policy Center has produced a nifty graph comparing Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity to the plans prepared by Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici, Simpson-Bowles, House Democrats, President Obama, and the BPC itself (to provide a baseline). The results are striking:

And to top it off, these numbers use the CBO’s pessimistic growth assumptions.

Of course, some have attacked the Path to Prosperity from the right, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough or balance the budget quickly enough. However, we must remember that Chairman Ryan incorporated a keen understanding of political reality when he compiled the plan. When we consider this, the merits of the Path look all the more impressive.


February 29, 2012

Obama Ramping Up Campaign Rhetoric

  6:00 am

President Obama has begun to telegraph the type of messaging he’ll use during the upcoming general election:

Given that reality [a sluggish economy], Obama needs to find smaller success stories that allow him to effectively make a “promises made, promises kept” argument. The recovery of the auto industry is sure to be front and center in that argument from the Administration.

“If we had turned our backs on you; if America had thrown in the towel; GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today,” Obama said to huge cheers from the UAW crowd. “I placed my bet on American workers…three years later, the American auto industry is back.”

Promise made, promise kept.

But then Obama sought to broaden out the argument — making the case that what he did for the auto industry is what separates him from the men vying to be the Republican presidential nominee this fall.

Said Obama: “You want to talk about values? Hard work — that’s a value. Looking out for one another — that’s a value. The idea that we are all in it together — that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper — that is a value.”

…In the space of a single speech that spanned just over 2,000 words, Obama summed up the entirety of his re-election message: 1) There have been provable successes because of actions his Administration has taken 2) He better understands what it means to be an American than do Republicans and 3) The Republican philosophy toward government represents a step backwards not a step forward.

While the philosophy the president espoused may appeal more to our collectivist than individualistic natures, we cannot deny the appeal of this kind of rhetoric to the broad public, especially the notoriously fickle low-information swing voters.

No matter whether Obama squares off against Romney or Santorum, his argument still has the potential to resonate among enough people to nudge him over the line. In short, Republicans sure have their work cut out for them this Fall.


February 21, 2012

Romney’s Tax Plan, Phase 2.0

  7:36 pm

Numerous observers (especially those of the supply-side persuasion) have eagerly awaited the release of Mitt Romney’s long-awaited addendum to his tax proposals. With a hat tip to James Pethokoukis, Larry Kudlow passed along the following:

Team Romney tells me there will be a bolder tax-cut plan released either at the debate tomorrow night (if Mitt gets it in) or more formally at his Detroit Economic Club speech on Friday. I’m embargoed from releasing details until tomorrow. But I can say that the new plan will be across-the-board with supply-side incentives from rate reduction, and that it will help small-business owners as well as everyone else.

Pethokoukis then offers some predictions regarding the proposal’s content:

– Romney has said he doesn’t want to raise capital gains tax rates, which Simpson-Bowles does.

– Romney wants to lower the corporate rate to at least 25 percent, meaning the top marginal tax rate probably needs to be in that vicinity.

– Romney is unlikely to suggest a net tax increase.

– Romney is unlikely to propose anything that would result in his own taxes directly being cut.

– Romney is unlikely to suggest “paying for” upper-income tax hikes by raising taxes on the middle class.

– Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard recently suggested “a progressive consumption tax, equalising the tax treatment of debt and equity, and drastically lowering tax rates on dividends and capital gains.”

A bold, supply side-friendly plan carries plenty of potential to make inroads among the party base, but it also further exposes him to class warfare attacks (“Gov. Romney wants to give more tax breaks to rich people like him, while the the middle class continues to struggle.”).

However, with the troubles he has recently encountered, this seems like a risk worth taking. Many have lamented that Romney’s campaign lacks “vision” – an overarching theme that clearly articulates the main goals of a Romney administration, or, phrased more bluntly, justification for its existence. By injecting some supply side into his campaign, Romney can take up the prosperity “mantle” and entice Americans with the prospect of a more dynamic and vibrant economy – and, consequently, country.


February 18, 2012

GOP Leaders Prepare Santorum Contingency Plan

  10:40 pm

I call your attention to today’s installment of what has begun to seem like daily brokered convention/white knight rumors:

Most reporters still think Romney “will find a way to win Michigan.” Nevertheless, some of the nation’s most powerful Republicans are poring over filing deadlines and pondering worst-case scenarios.

Our friend handed us a printout of FEC deadlines for ballot access, with five of them circled and starred: California (March 23), Montana (March 12), New Jersey (April 2), New Mexico (March 16) and South Dakota (March 27). The point: Even after Feb. 28, it might be possible to assemble a Hail Mary candidacy that could garner enough delegates to force a CONTESTED convention (a different nuance than BROKERED, which implies that someone is in charge).

Under RNC rules, the delegate count builds slowly: just 15% before Super Tuesday, March 6; 19% through Super Tuesday (brings you to 34%); 17% in the rest of March (brings you to 51%); with 48% in April, May and June (21%, 12%, 15%).

Our friend said: “If somebody came on the scene that week after Super Tuesday with, ‘I’m coming in. I’m taking a look at this,’ there are enough delegates. He would suck all the oxygen out of the race.

At this point, the unfolding of this race has so often taken me by surprise that I no longer place much stock in predictions even by me. But, for what it’s worth, I’ll opt against categorically ruling out a brokered (or contested, as the cited article suggests) convention.

Of course, the conversation then turns to who (or is it “whom”?) would benefit from the unrest in the party and become the white knight. For my money (keep in mind how poorly I’ve fared with foreseeing the proceedings of this race), I can’t see the GOP rallying behind Jeb Bush, with his toxic last name and the treasure trove of campaign material it would bring. Mitch Daniels doesn’t seem to have the personality to clear the “intensity” hurdle the base clearly seeks in a potential nominee. Nor does Bobby Jindal. Chris Christie doesn’t seem to want it. Neither does Marco Rubio (nor does he likely feel ready). Mike Huckabee appears too comfortable in his media role. Sarah Palin generates too much uneasiness among much of the party faithful. And for the nostalgic, Rudy Giuliani would have a difficult time convincing voters of his relevance.

Thus, for my money, I’ll have to agree with my esteemed colleague Matthew Miller and argue that Paul Ryan seems like the most logical and realistic choice. As Matthew frequently notes, Ryan still has one of the highest profiles of anyone in the party, especially when budget season rolls around. And both the grassroots and upper levels of the party hold him in high regard. What do you think? Agree? Disagree?


February 8, 2012

It’s the Economy, Stupid…Or Is it?

  8:24 pm

While nearly every political onlooker, including yours truly, has expected that the 2012 election will revolve around the economy, recent events have cast some doubt on that assumption. As Rachel Weiner, of the Washington Post, reports:

For months, the Republican presidential candidates have hammered away on the economy — and only the economy — as they crisscrossed the campaign trail. But over the past few days, longtime social issues — contraception, abortion and gay marriage — have taken the stage in the campaign.

First, Planned Parenthood supporters helped force the resignation of Susan B. Komen Foundation executive Karen Handel after the breast cancer organization cut grants to the family planning group.

Then Catholic bishops began sparring with the White House over a new mandate that all employers cover birth control for women, with very narrow exemptions for Catholic-run institutions.

And on Monday, a federal appeals court in California struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, prompting outrage from the GOP candidates.

…How long this spike in passion over social issues will last is unclear. There were no exit polls from Tuesday night, but in other states the economy is consistently the voters’ top concern.

Still, the longer this wave goes on, the more it hurts Romney, who has supported abortion rights in the past.. He has struggled among evangelicals and voters who oppose abortion in all circumstances.

One can’t help but ponder whether Obama had something like this planned all along. It has become no secret that his greatest vulnerability lies with Independents, who propelled him to election in 2008 but have since grown skeptical of his administration.

Perhaps the President, searching for a means to lure back these pivotal voters without angering the Democratic base and thus risking the progress (no pun intended) his populist turn in the last year has made, figured that he had another option.

Wooing the Center on economic issues would most likely require Clintonesque messaging focused more on growth than “fairness” (read: redistribution) – not exactly what the Left wants to hear. He already enjoys strong approval numbers on foreign policy among Indies, so he can’t really shake up things much in that realm. However, when it comes to social matters – especially issues like contraception and gay marriage – nonpartisan voters increasingly side with the Democrats. So, by bringing social issues to the forefront, perhaps Obama calculated that he could provoke Republicans into caricaturing themselves as champions of the Religious Right, thus scaring Independents away from the GOP and into the Democrats’ open arms.

Maybe I’ve just over-thought this (you don’t say, a political junkie over-analyzing a potentially minor event in a presidential campaign?), and these events have converged merely out of coincidence. Regardless, it appears that we may see yet another piece of conventional wisdom about this election shattered.


February 7, 2012

Should We Focus on Demand to Spur the Economy?

  8:30 pm

In case I haven’t made it blatantly obvious, I like to turn to AEI’s James Pethokoukis when it comes to economic commentary and analysis. He does another number today on the Keynesians’ obsessive focus on the demand side of the economy. He begins with two charts, courtesy of the BLS and adds the following:

These charts are based on the U.S. Job Openings and Labor Turnover report. The first chart shows that with 13.1 million people unemployed, there were an estimated 3.9 unemployed people for every opening. That’s the lowest level since December 2008. Good news.

Yet, as can be seen in the second chart, job openings have been rising faster than hiring. As Barclays concludes: “This suggests that factors such as mismatched skills continue to be frictions in the labor market.”

Or, in other words, people who lost their jobs in the Great Recession will not be able to return to their old jobs or even new jobs in the same industry.

He then points to a recent article in the WSJ, written by Arnold Kling:

Many jobs in home construction, durable-goods manufacturing and distribution, and mortgage finance were dependent on housing markets with ever-rising prices. In the U.S. and the U.K. in particular, the finance industry expanded well beyond its true economic value. Once the property bubbles burst, these jobs were exposed as not viable. Meanwhile, ongoing creative destruction brought about by the Internet and globalization have continued to allow substitution of capital and emerging-market labor for industrialized countries’ labor in many sectors. Together, these phenomena have caused widespread dislocation. … The necessary adjustments can only be made by the decentralized efforts of entrepreneurs. …

The Keynesian story would lead one to expect a recovery to consist of workers returning to the jobs that they held prior to the recession. That is not what happened after the Great Depression. It is not what has happened in recent recessions in the U.S., particularly the one that ended in 2009. Regaining full employment requires significant restructuring of the economy, rather than simply returning to the pre-slump status quo.

We’ve heard the standard arguments from the Keynesnians over and over again: Effective tax rates on individuals and businesses stand at or near historical lows, the Fed has interest rates at rock-bottom levels, and yet the rich and their companies still sit on trillions in cash, so what else can we do except stimulate demand via government spending until the private sector can once again shoulder the burden of driving growth?

Setting aside the Keynesians’ convenient avoidance of the simple truth that without the profit and price mechanisms depended on by the private sector, the government can never know exactly how much to pump into the economy and when to do it, the data and arguments voiced by Pethokoukis and Kling highlight only a fraction of the evidence against central planner orthodoxy and Obamanomics. Now, if only we could get the mainstream media to report this…


February 1, 2012

Romney’s Political Problem

  9:00 pm

For those who haven’t heard, Mitt Romney, fresh off his blowout Florida victory, stepped in it today, with yet another gaffe that looks even worse when you consider who said it:

It doesn’t matter if he answered Soledad O’Brien’s follow-up question with righteous indignation (whether authentic or not), statements like this continue to provide general election campaign fodder for President Obama and other Democrats. In case you need a refresher, here you go:

At two points in the campaign, Romney has described his desire to fire people — first a health insurance provider and then a hypothetical adviser who told him a moon colony was a good idea. That context aside, both could be very unhelpful sound bites for someone whose biggest liability may lie with people laid off by Bain Capital.

In the same vein is Romney’s “corporations are people” argument at the Iowa State Fair. And then there’s the time he defended banks.

And let’s not forget the time when Romney offered Texas Gov. Rick Perry a $10,000 bet at a debate, or the time he only had $100 bills in his wallet and needed an aide to hand him a single, or the time he gave an unemployed woman a $50 bill (who carries around $50 bills?).

…Romney’s liability, though, seems to be in how often he reinforces his wealth and appears out of touch with average Americans. And the more concise he makes those moments, the better it is for Obama’s team.

I’m sure all this will infuriate our numerous die-hard Romney supporters, but we discount and dismiss these blunders at our own peril, as they only lend credence to the perception Americans already hold:

Now, I don’t write this to argue in favor of Newt Gingrich (or any other candidate, for that matter), as that WaPo poll shows he only fares worse in the image department. I just hope the Romney campaign realizes just how much work their candidate has to do.


January 29, 2012

Ups and Downs for Mitt Leading Into Florida

  1:10 pm

Today, Politico had two interesting articles about Mitt Romney’s electoral prospects and the current state of the race in Florida. The first details the recent success Mitt has had in the Sunshine State:

Like they have throughout the primary, the two Florida debates this week played a major role in Romney’s resurgence.

Romney took advantage of both debate audiences. The quiet, smaller crowd in Tampa allowed him to accentuate his sober demeanor. In Jacksonville, the hall was packed with vocal Romney supporters, much to Gingrich’s frustration.

Romney used both occasions to charge after Gingrich who, without the crowd on his side, was visibly off his game and didn’t go on the offensive.

The change was palpable, showcasing a different Romney than the unsteady South Carolina debater, in part thanks to new debate coach Brett O’Donnell, McCain’s and Michele Bachmann’s former coach.

…It shouldn’t be underestimated how much the Romney operation has managed to get into Gingrich’s head. From its first day in Florida, the campaign held daily anti-Newt conference calls featuring campaign surrogates. The calls didn’t break news, but left Gingrich to defend ever more allegations about his time as speaker and post-House career.

And there were the real-time Romney surrogates, tasked with trailing Gingrich from event to event and offering rebuttals to reporters in real time.

This so aggravated and distracted the Gingrich campaign that spokesman R.C. Hammond wound up in a yelling match Friday with Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz at a Delray Beach event. Chaffetz, using the Romney campaign’s buzzword for Gingrich, said Hammond became “unhinged” in responding to him.

…There was no way Romney was going to match the thousands of people Gingrich drew to campaign rallies Tuesday in Sarasota and Naples.

So he didn’t try.

Instead, the Romney advance operation built a series of small, made-for-TV events at the beginning of the week to spotlight the campaign’s message.

One, a Monday roundtable with eight people hit by the mortgage crisis, had as witnesses only the traveling press. The next day, Romney spoke to an invite-only crowd in an empty Tampa warehouse and stood in front of a foreclosed-by-Freddie Mac house to spotlight the mortgage broker for which Gingrich consulted.

As recently as Tuesday, Romney senior aide Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters the campaign would stick to “message-driven” events rather than big rallies.

I came away with two chief conclusions after reading this piece: 1. Romney has surrounded himself with a highly capable staff that knows how to adapt to changing circumstances and handle the cards dealt to them; and 2. It bodes poorly for Newt’s general election prospects if he and his team cannot handle the challenges imposed by a primary race. If they can’t cope with Romney surrogates pressuring them, how on earth can they possibly expect to combat the full weight of the Obama organization and the Democratic machine?

Unfortunately, with the positives, come some negatives, as highlighted by the next Politico article:

Obama’s biggest challenge, the CW goes, is winning back a percentage, however modest, of independents that have deserted him wholesale since 2009. So, it’s with no small degree of satisfaction that they are closely watching Mitt Romney’s recent swan dive with swing voters.

A poll-of-polls analysis of Romney’s recent unfavorable rating with indies, provided to POLITICO by a Democratic strategist, shows that the race has driven him way underwater, with more than 50 percent of unaffiliated voters given him failing grade; Only about a quarter of independents give him a favorable approval rating.

Romney’s staff says that this is simply a product of a ferocious GOP primary, and his numbers will rebound once the tidal wave of negative super PAC advertising recedes; Dems say voters are turned off by Romney’s Eddie Haskell, say-anything-to-get-elected style.

The latest bad news for Romney a Washington Poll poll last week showing him with a 23 percent approval/49 percent disapproval split with independents. Red siren, that: His unfavorables had been in the 30s, not bad, in recent months.

…But Obama, whose health care reform remains as popular with centrist voters as dry rot, will accept misery-loves-company parity. Romney’s unfavorables are also spiking with the larger electorate, up from 42 percent last year to 45 percent this month, according to the Pew poll.

“This is not normal,” the Democratic memo reads. “Republicans may claim that this is typical of a primary process — it is not.”

We Republicans cannot simply brush off this information. With the expanding numbers of Independents in recent years, if the GOP hopes to maintain long-term viability, Republican candidates need to enhance their appeal to these voters. Romney must launch an all-out assault to address this reality as soon as he (presumably) wraps up the nomination.


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