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Political Strategy Notes

Peter Nicholas of the L.A. Times D.C. Bureau writes on the importance of President Obama's Pennsylvania campaign. "It's too early to say the president is on the ropes," writes Nicholas. "But there's no question that his approval ratings have fallen, here as elsewhere. In a Quinnipiac poll last month, 44% of those surveyed said they approved of Obama's performance in office. The same poll showed him in a dead heat statewide when matched against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney...Registered Democrats still far outnumber Republicans, but the GOP has narrowed the gap by 125,000 since the 2008 election."

Marc Pitzke's "The Republicans' Farcical Candidates: A Club of Liars, Demagogues and Ignoramuses" at Spiegel Online International provides a capsule description of the GOP presidential field in the title. Says Pitzke, "They lie. They cheat. They exaggerate. They bluster. They say one idiotic, ignorant, outrageous thing after another. They've shown such stark lack of knowledge -- political, economic, geographic, historical -- that they make George W. Bush look like Einstein and even cause their fellow Republicans to cringe. ...What a nice club that is. A club of liars, cheaters, adulterers, exaggerators, hypocrites and ignoramuses. "A starting point for a chronicle of American decline," was how David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, described the current Republican race."

Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul ain't having it -- something about maintaining a semblance of, ahem, dignity -- but the rest of the GOP prez aspirants are lining up to kiss the ring of The Donald, reports WaPo's Aaron Blake.

Clown allusions are all over the blogosphere and the MSM, as the stunned journalistic community struggles to describe the GOP circus. Paul Krugman's "Send in the Clueless" sheds a little light on the surreal mess the Republicans have made of their pre-primary season: "Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year...You also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican-designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security...So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements? There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or totally clueless...that's why the Republican primary has taken the form it has, in which a candidate nobody likes and nobody trusts has faced a series of clueless challengers, each of whom has briefly soared before imploding under the pressure of his or her own cluelessness."

Not to pile on with the cluelessness theme, but today Romney will proudly welcome the much-coveted Dan Quayle endorsement, according to USA Today On Politics.

Nonetheless, T. W. Farnam reports at Washington Post Politics that 42 billionaires have contributed to Romney's campaign, and adds "Although donors are limited to giving no more than $5,000 directly to a campaign, new rules allow them to give to "super PACs" that run independent ads supporting the candidates. Donations to super PACs are not limited, so billionaires can donate as much as they want."

At CNN Politics, Julian Zelizer mulls over "How Democrats could win with a 'fairness' campaign." Zelizer explains: "With President Obama's low approval ratings, Democratic candidates won't want to focus on his record. With the economy likely to still be in laggard condition, Democrats won't be able to boast that it's morning in America. With economic concerns front and center for most Americans, Democrats won't be able to make much headway with talk about the foreign policy successes of this administration...This doesn't leave candidates with many options. Although some could focus on local issues, they will be under pressure to develop a national theme since Republican candidates will be talking critically about Obama.The most potent theme that the party has to offer is the issue of fairness. Democrats can claim that as Americans struggle to survive in this economy, the party has championed policies that aim to soften the blows voters are suffering and to provide support for the middle class in hard times."

Mark Schmitt's "Why Republicans Don't Mind Newt's Brazen Flip-Flops" at The New Republic ponders the difference between Mitt's and Newt's flip-floppage: "Romney's flips are tortured and self-conscious, shrouded in nuance and implausible stretches to reconcile two, three, or more positions...Gingrich, on the other hand, makes no such attempt to reconcile his positions...Gingrich seems able to live in an eternal present, in which the statements and actions of each moment are unconnected to anything before or after."

Demos has a post, "Voter Registration for New Americans: New USCIS Guidance on Voter Registration at Naturalization Ceremonies," that should be of keen interest to Democrats who want to accelerate naturalization -- and voter participation -- of Latinos in the U.S. The crux: "In October of 2011, the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised its guidelines regarding the provision of voter registration applications at naturalization ceremonies; and for the first time ever, the USCIS has committed to providing the opportunity to apply to register at every single administrative naturalization ceremony in the country."

U.S. News Politics has a good update on the campaign for Jewish support. The gist: "Such attention is all being paid in recognition that Jewish voters, though comprising only 2 percent of the electorate nationwide, are an important part of Obama's base and could make the difference in battleground states including Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada in a close election. Moreover, the Jewish community is an important source of donations, and Obama campaign supporters want to maintain that support as much as Republicans want to chip away at it."

Things are looking up for Democratic Senate candidates, say Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, writing in Sabato's Crystal Ball. The authors' updated ratings cite improved prospects for Dems running for U.S. Senate in six Senate Races: AZ; FL; MA; MN; NJ and WV. "While we still favor Republicans to take the four seats they need to win control of the upper chamber, we can also see a conceivable if unlikely path for the Democrats to retain control if the breaks go their way, especially if President Obama picks up steam in his reelection bid." Their report includes state by state analyses of all Senate races.