NOTE: See “Feelings about Mitt Romney” below the fold, at the end of this post.
Chris Wallace is one of my favorite political interviewers. He is tough and will generally stay with a line of questioning until he gets answers. Yesterday he interviewed David Plouffe, one of Obama’s senior advisers. The interview spanned a number of topics, the most important being unemployment and gasoline prices.
This video clip is over 14 minutes, but at 13 minutes, five seconds, Wallace put up a chart that shows the unemployment rate at the time three incumbent presidents lost an election “seeking another term” over the last 36 years. The implication of course being that a key reason each of these one-term-only presidents lost reelection was due to the unusually high unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate today is 8.3 percent, not including those who want to work, but who stopped looking — that the government stopped counting. Following were the unemployment rates at the time of the presidential elections:
- Gerald Ford — 7.8%
- Jimmy Carter — 7.5%
- George H. W. Bush — 7.4%
The future does not look good for Mr. Obama if history is any indication!
Of course, many things factor into the ability of any incumbent president to win reelection, but the unemployment rate is a very important number and Obama knows it. You can tell by Plouffe’s demeanor and answer that the Obama Administration knows it. Top that off with high and rising gasoline prices and we have a current political climate that is worse than that of President Carter when Governor Reagan beat him with a mandate. We have seen both Gingrich and Santorum become desperate in their rhetoric; I will venture a guess that their desperation will pale in comparison to Obama’s in October and November.
Kimberly A. Strassel WSJ Op-Ed
Many editorials have emerged these past two weeks basically advising Gov. Romney to get out ahead of the opposition and provide more details to illustrate how his Massachusetts health-care plan is different from ObamaCare. In my opinion, the differences are many and very important — but I believe Gov. Romney’s lack of focus on healthcare in his speeches right now is a good strategy. He is succeeding without it and the risks associated with bringing it up are not worth it right now.
That said, Ms. Strassel makes some valid points in her Op-Ed. The first half of the piece discusses how she feels Gov. Romney’s lack of clarity in describing/defending his health-care plan against charges from Santorum and others has hurt him, but then she ends the piece by arguing Romney can turn it to his benefit (see Paul Johnson’s excellent article below to compliment this point). Strassel:
…[H]e could use it as his argument. The more conservatives have been forced to think about health care, the more they’ve understood the merits of state experimentation. Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute—a free-market think tank in Boston that has published a book on ObamaCare and RomneyCare titled “The Great Experiment: The States, the Feds, and Your Health Care”—argued in a recent conversation that the fundamental mistake of ObamaCare was in imposing a giant, untested law on an unwilling nation.
Mr. Romney’s health-care proposals embrace some of this, in particular his Paul Ryan-like plan to send Medicaid funds back the states via block grants. What he has yet to do is embrace Massachusetts as a lesson for what other states ought not to do.
This needn’t be an exercise in humiliation. Mr. Romney can take credit for being a Republican willing to talk about health care when most of his party wouldn’t. He can argue the mistakes Massachusetts made were one consequence of it being early to experiment. He can note, as the Pioneer Institute book does, that several programs he had intended to improve choice and competition, were instead hijacked by his Democratic successor, Deval Patrick, for the opposite purpose.
Mostly, Mr. Romney can argue he is better qualified than most to say what doesn’t work. He can note that several of his vetoes in the bill that his legislature overrode—an employer mandate, expanded option benefits for Medicaid recipients—have been proven costly and counterproductive. He can say that, best intentions aside, his state is now living proof that individual mandates, health subsidies for the middle class, and government control over insurance plans, medical services, and prices (all hallmarks of ObamaCare) raise prices and squelch choice.
Mr. Romney has admitted that “our experiment wasn’t perfect—some things worked, some things didn’t, and some things I’d change.” Having acknowledged as much, he may as well embrace his duck, and use it to his advantage. If Mr. Romney is looking for a breakthrough with voters, this is the place to start.
Politics Counts: “The Demographic Road Ahead for Romney,” by Dante Chinni
Chinni’s WSJ piece describes shifts in support among various demographic groups:
Among “working class whites” Mr. Romney has seen his positive/negative feeling rating go from a net negative 7 percentage points (22% positive and 29% negative) to a net negative of 13 percent (25% positive and 38% negative) over these polls. At the same time Mr. Obama has gone from a sizable net negative of 16 percentage points (52% negative to 36% positive) to a net positive of 5 percentage points (37% negative to 42% positive).
Mr. Romney has also lost ground with women in head-to-head comparisons against Mr. Obama. The former Massachusetts governor only trailed Mr. Obama by five percentage points with women in December – 43% to 48%. That divide is now a whopping 18 percentage points, 37% for Mr. Romney to the president’s 55%.
But despite that bad news, the last three months have not been a total loss to for team Romney. They have grown in strength in a few keys groups, particularly conservatives. The number of self-described conservatives who say they have positive feelings toward Mr. Romney has grown from 32% in December to 42% in the most recent poll.
Coming into primary season, one of the big questions for Mr. Romney was could he win over conservatives and prove he was one of them. These numbers suggest that he has at least been able to build enthusiasm among that group of voters.
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” ~ Thomas Jefferson