Alec MacGillis

Senior Editor

It was overshadowed by the return of the jury in the John Edwards case, but the Obama campaign opened a whole new front of attack against Mitt Romney on Thursday: going after his record as governor of Massachusetts. Romney has of late been starting to invoke his gubernatorial record, after running mainly on his years in business during the Republican primaries, so it makes sense for Team Obama to try to undermine his claims of success on Beacon Hill as it is trying to undermine his record at Bain Capital.

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A couple months ago, Democrats were taking comfort in the reports of the massive gender gap facing Mitt Romney, who was trailing Barack Obama badly among women voters. At the time, the size of the gap struck me as slightly counter-intuitive. Yes, Romney had just come through a Republican primary season that was not exactly designed to attract women swing voters, what with all its talk about limiting contraception access and such. It was clear why the Republican brand, at that moment, might not be so popular with women.

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In a moment of Washington gridlock of the sort we’ve had since the 2010 midterms (and arguably before that in the filibuster-bound Senate), it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that truly nothing has been getting done, and perhaps even that there won’t be all that much of a difference if the other guys win the White House this fall, as long as Democrats still can filibuster bills in the Senate.

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I have little patience for overreaction to political gaffes or misstatements, but usually this lack of patience takes the form of dismay at the blatant cynicism involved in such overreactions. In the case of the upset over President Obama's reference last night to "Polish death camps," I'm left with more mystification than dismay, because the uproar of sensible people like David Frum and Michael Tomasky is genuine.

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Elizabeth Warren’s supporters breathed a sigh of relief last week when polling emerged showing her running neck and neck with Scott Brown despite several weeks of stories about her and the universities that employed her having at various points made highly dubious claims about her having Native American roots.

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Sharp readers like Jonathan Chait have seized on a telling exchange in Mark Halperin’s recent interview with Mitt Romney, in which Romney blatantly undercuts the anti-Keynesian line that he and other Republicans have been pushing for the past couple years. Halperin: You have a plan, as you said, over a number of years, to reduce spending dramatically. Why not in the first year, if you’re elected—why not in 2013, go all the way and propose the kind of budget with spending restraints, that you’d like to see after four years in office?

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Amid all of the commentary this week on what the mayor of the 68th biggest city in the country thinks of the Obama’s campaign attacks on Bain Capital (Democratic blowback!), I’ve seen little analysis of what Obama is actually up to with his critique of Romney. If you take a look at what Obama is actually saying, he’s not only attacking Romney for the infelicitous particulars of private equity, he is more broadly suggesting that Romney’s background as a businessman—the chief asset Romney is running on—does not necessarily translate into being a good president.

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Politico went big with one of its conventional wisdom-setting 30,000-foot pieces today: “Obama Stumbles Out of The Gate.” As typical for this form, the piece is full of sniping quotes from anonymous consultants. The piece also manages to turn a smattering of voices speaking out against Obama’s anti-Bain Capital attacks—most notably Cory Booker, mayor of the 68th biggest city in the country—into a “Democratic blowback” against Obama. But what struck me most about it was its glaring internal contradiction. First, the article gives us this: Bain has turned into pain this week.

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Rob Portman has been enjoying his moment of buzz for a couple weeks now. The aggressively unobtrusive Ohio senator—a former congressman and trade representative and budget director in George W.  Bush’s administration—is the insiders’ top bet to be Mitt Romney’s running mate, and today he got his big Washington Post Style profile, a rather Seinfeldesque piece that was basically about the weird nothingness that is the state of being a veep short-lister.

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I’m a day late to this, but I wanted to be sure to draw attention to an important article by Tom Hamburger and Brady Dennis that ran too far inside Tuesday’s Washington Post: looking at the gathering movement to rein in campaign contributions by corporations by coaxing them to disclose more of their political spending.

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