Alec MacGillis
Senior Editor

Beltway Media Cynicism? Yeah, You Built That
July 25, 2012

The 2012 campaign got off to a hopeful start in the never-ending battle between truth and cynicism.  When the Romney campaign put up an ad last November that took a 2008 line of Barack Obama’s blatantly out of context—“If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” a line that was paraphrasing a John McCain adviser—the political press corps jumped all over it, and essentially shamed the Romney campaign into backing off that attack, no easy thing to do given that Romney advisers initially defended the ad with an “anything goes” breeziness.

The Obama Campaign’s Attack-Ad Edge, Revealed
July 24, 2012

Last night, I had the good fortune to be part of a small gathering of reporters assembled by a quartet of top political scientists who have embarked on an effort to analyze voter opinion in the 2012 election at a level of depth and nuance beyond what we’ve managed in past years. A centerpiece of the effort is their attempt to gauge voter response to the ads that are already crowding the airwaves in battleground states.

Ohio GOP Candidates Return Sketchy Lucre
July 23, 2012

Back in May, while reporting a cover story on the 2012 political landscape in Ohio, I decided to follow up on a article done last year by Toledo Blade reporter Tony Cook, noting the large number of donations from employees of a North Canton direct marketing company called Suarez Industries to Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel, who is challenging Sherrod Brown, and to Congressman Jim Renacci, who is running against Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton in a redistricted seat in northeast Ohio.

Citizens United? Don’t Worry Your Pretty Heads About It
July 23, 2012

Everyone loves a good counter-intuitive story, but Washington loves one sort in particular: the kind that assures us all that something we’ve been led to believe was a worrisome problem is, in fact, not all that big a deal after all, thus allowing us to return to watching “Veep” or “The Newsroom.” Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine offered a classic of this form, a Matt Bai piece arguing that the Citizens United ruling of 2010 is not nearly as responsible for the boom in campaign spending by outside groups as those whiny goo-goo types make it out to be: The oft-repeated narrative of 2012 goe

Guns and the Candidates: In Their Own Words
July 20, 2012

We will shortly be hearing from both President Obama and Mitt Romney about the fatal shootings in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Here, by way of context and without commentary, are some of the candidates’ more memorable past remarks on the subject of firearms in America. “I’m not a big-game hunter. I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.

This Is Your Campaign On Drugs
July 18, 2012

In December 2007, I was in New Hampshire covering the presidential primary, and drove over to Dover, in the Seacoast region, to check in with Billy Shaheen, the Democratic power broker married to the state's former governor and current senator, Jeanne Shaheen. I knew Billy Shaheen from my days working at the Concord Monitor and wanted to take his temperature on the state of the Democratic presidential race, in which he had a personal stake: he was the chairman of Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign.

The Problem With David Brooks’ Advice For Romney
July 17, 2012

David Brooks has a rather melancholy offering today, framing the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital as the inevitable move of a struggling incumbent -- a move that Romney is inexplicably unready to counter. Brooks, like many more orthodox conservatives in recent days, wishes that Romney would respond to the attacks with a more forthright, self-assured defense of the world of American business, rather than trying so frantically to distance himself from Bain’s activities after his sorta-departure in 1999.

On the Swiss-Yachting of Mitt Romney
July 16, 2012

The day that Barack Obama went up with his most devastating ad of the 2012 campaign—quite possibly the most devastating Democratic general election ad in years—I happened to be reading Bill Marx’s review of a new Ambrose Bierce collection in the Columbia Journalism Review. It included this quote from Bierce (best known for his oft-anthologized "An Occurrence At Owl Creek") speaking about the power of ridicule:  “Ridicule, as I venture to use it myself,” wrote the author in the Chronicle in 1890, “seems to me to be the most excellent of offensive weapons because it hurts without damaging.

Mitt’s Luck: The Mistaken Focus On ’99 As Pivot Point, UPDATED
July 13, 2012

The new questions about Mitt Romney’s sworn version of his 1999 departure from Bain Capital—which seems to contradict statements in SEC filings, testimony given to prove his Massachusetts residency, and corporate annual reports—are causing his campaign such a headache that someone in Romneyland was moved to float Condi Rice’s veep prospects last night as a diversion. The renewed focus on Bain, as I wrote yesterday, vindicates the Obama team’s decision to press forward with its criticisms of Romney’s tenure year despite the much-ballyhooed warnings of the mayor of the 68th biggest city in the

Wait, Wasn’t Bain Supposed To Be Off-Limits?
July 12, 2012

Early last month, a political blogger at a major national newspaper, as part of a growing chorus, all but declared that Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital was effectively defunct as a campaign issue. The headline: “Bill Clinton sticks another fork in Obama’s Bain strategy, says Romney had ‘sterling’ business career.” The top of the article: “The shelf life of President Obama’s Bain Capital strategy appears to be rapidly shrinking.

Pages