By Elizabeth Dias | @elizabethjdias | July 10, 2012
Once again it is time for the First Lady Candidate Cookie Contest, when Americans judge Presidents and would-be Presidents by their wives’ culinary skills. It’s a ridiculous exercise–this ain’t Mamie Eisenhower’s Million Dollar Fudge recipe of 1955, it’s 2012. But since the good folks at Family Circle magazine have asked Americans to do their “patriotic duty” by tasting Ann Romney’s and Michelle Obama’s cookies, we figured we could skip the social commentary and answer the crucial question: How do they taste?
Here in the TIME offices we conducted a blind taste test, analyzing both cookies and doughs. We debated the flavor and texture: Was one too greasy? The other too minty? This was a thorough examination, we assure you. Our favorite by a 9-3 landslide: Michelle Obama’s white and dark chocolate chip cookie over Ann’s M&M confection.........."
With the Supreme Court having already decided on President Obama’s health care law and the news cycle relatively sparse, we’re starting to reach the stage of the campaign when there will be rampant speculation as to who Mitt Romney will pick as his vice presidential running mate. But as you listen to all the talk, it’s worth keeping in mind that in recent history, presumptive nominees haven’t announced their running mates until right before the party convention........"
BRIAN BEUTLER JULY 9, 2012, 10:58 AM
Mitt Romney: Hostage Taker?
I suspect a lot of politicians and talking heads and reporters will treat President Obama’s renewed push to allow the high-income Bush tax cuts to expire as deja vu. And in their defense, there’s some overlap between what’s about to play out in the political realm, and what happened in 2010, when Democrats fractured over the issue and agreed to extend all the Bush tax cuts for two years.
But the story’s actually much different now, and that mostly has to do with the fact that this time around Republicans have a presidential candidate on the ticket. Not just any presidential candidate, either, but one personifies the class of super-rich that benefited from the Bush tax cuts so much more than everybody else.
Here’s why that matters.
One piece of this story that’s playing out exactly as it did two years ago is that congressional Republicans have once again adopted a legislative strategy that more or less amounts to hostage taking. They’re happy to renew the middle-income Bush tax cuts — tax cuts that, by the way, apply to everybody, including rich people — but only if tax cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans are part of the deal. If Dems don’t agree to that, then Republicans will block everything in between and allow all the tax cuts to expire, including for regular folks who can’t really afford it in this economy. Indeed, the broader economy can’t really support all that fiscal contraction — which is why we constantly hear dire warnings about the threat of the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year.
Last time around, nobody really had to answer for that strategy — nobody with any real accountability anyhow. This time around Mitt Romney will play that part. And he’s going to have little choice but to own the hostage taking. There’s almost no conceivable way the right will give him enough berth to dodge the issue, let alone break with Congressional Republicans. This is the core of the GOP’s identity, and the single biggest organizing principle uniting the Conservative movement.
So here we’ll have Mitt Romney — the millionaire outsourcer guy who claims to believe wealthy Americans are already doing just fine — saying it’s appropriate to hold the middle-class’s tax cuts hostage until the yacht-owning set that finances his campaign gets its tax cuts too.
There may be some nimble Republican politician out there who could dance around this problem, but I don’t think Mitt Romney can. Which is why the fight will be so clarifying and, I assume, why the White House and Obama campaign seem eager to relaunch it.
In the end, the legislative politics that determine what actually happens to the Bush tax cuts will be shaped by the election. Obviously, if Republicans win they won’t need to take anything hostage. But I doubt that’s enough to protect Romney from having to answer for the strategy as it exists right now. And I don’t think screaming “tax hike!” will suffice.
Obama Winning the Ad Wars In Swing States
A new USA Today/Gallup Poll of swing states finds President Obama "is the clear winner in the ad wars. Among swing-state voters who say the ads have changed their minds about a candidate, rather than just confirmed what they already thought, 76% now support the president, vs. 16% favoring Romney."
Robert Draper’s New York Times Magazine story about Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super-PAC, is the most interesting political story of the week. One takeaway from Draper’s story is that Priorities USA really does have a big role in the campaign. The tepid pace of the recovery suggests that Obama can’t run on a “look what we did” platform. He can only persuade Americans that Mitt Romney won’t make things better.
And here Priorities USA has a central role. Most voters have well-defined opinions about Obama. Romney is the variable here. And undecided voters have almost no opinion about him whatsoever:
While conducting a different focus group — this one with non-college-educated Milwaukee voters on the eve of Wisconsin’s April 3 primary — Burton and Sweeney were surprised to learn that even after Romney had spent months campaigning, many in the group could not recognize his face, much less characterize his positions.
In the same passage, Draper explains that Burton and Sweeney couldn’t effectively sell voters on Romney’s support of the Ryan plan, since cutting Medicare in order to clear budgetary headroom for tax cuts for the rich, while an accurate description of the Ryan plan, struck those voters as so cartoonishly evil that they found the charge implausible. (“he respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”)............." (see link below)
Is the Affordable Care Act really “the largest tax increase in the history of the world,” as Rush Limbaugh so grandiloquently put it? No. It’s not even the largest tax increase in the history of this country.
Or of the past 50 years. Or 20. It’s not even the biggest tax increase scheduled to take effect in the very near future. (That’s the expiration of the George W. Bush tax cuts slated for New Year’s Day.).......
How Obama Can Really Hurt the GOP: Focus on Its Radical Economic Plan
by Michael Tomasky
The president can sink Romney by trumpeting the details of the ludicrous economic solutions he’s been backing. How Mitt would turn America into one big Pottersville.
Three years ago, two years ago—heck, six months ago—I and a lot of people I know thought: Surely the jobs situation will have picked up as we round the clubhouse turn toward Election Day. I envisioned Barack Obama at the Democratic convention, being able to claim... something fairly modest, but something: three straight months of 200,000-plus-jobs growth. Some kind of hook for an upbeat narrative.
Well, it looks like it ain’t gonna happen. Obama will be able to make some claims, and he damn well better make them without apology or fear of how the 48th Street Fantasy Factory will spin them. But the story isn’t good enough, so there’s but one alternative: convince people that Mitt Romney and a Republican Congress will make things worse. In a rational world, that wouldn’t be too hard, because except for Ronald Reagan’s second term, making things worse is all Republicans have ever done since Nixon. But our world isn’t rational, and Obama is going to have to confront that fact in a huge way or risk being sent to the showers early.
It’s amazing, first of all, the importance now of these jobs numbers. Partly it’s because the economy is bad, true; but partly it’s also the blog-and-tweet, more-faster-now political culture. Romney was having an awful week—and, by the way, still did have an awful week. Those issues—the mandate confusion, Bain, the offshoring, the million-dollar IRA—aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll resurface. But obviously, they had to be relieved up in Boston when the 80,000-jobs number came out Friday morning. .......