The possibility that new voter-ID laws could disenfranchise thousands of Democratic- voters in pivotal swing states has received considerable attention recently. After all, 9.2 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania lack photo identification, including 18 percent of registered voters in heavily Democratic Philadelphia. But these flashy numbers might be misleading. If voter-ID laws have consequences for voter turnout, they’re difficult to detect. Several studies conducted in the wake of the 2006 midterms showed a weak correlation between tougher voter-ID laws and reduced turnout.
Last night, the Drudge Report tried to distract us from Bain with the hot new rumor that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might be at the top of Romney’s list of possible veep candidates. While the rumor is intriguing, it’s almost assuredly false. Rice has never run for public office and has described herself as “pro-choice,” which is essentially disqualifying; after all, social conservatives are already justifiably skeptical of Romney's commitment to their causes.
After writing that there's not much evidence that the Bain ads are reshaping the race, some were keen to remind me of the NBC/WSJ poll, which set the Bain narrative by releasing a battleground subsample showing Obama with a larger advantage in the battlegrounds than the rest of the country. I did not mention the NBC/WSJ poll in the prior post, mainly because there were plenty of reasons to doubt that Obama had a structural advantage in the battlegrounds.
If there’s anywhere the GOP’s fundraising advantage could pay dividends, it’s in the demographically vulnerable and undefended flank of Obama’s path to 270: the Upper Midwest.
There’s no state is more associated with Obama’s meteoric ascent to the Presidency than Iowa, but four years later the state is in a dead heat. As political observers grasp at straws to figure out why, some have settled on one emerging narrative: that Obama’s decline here is unique, and has to do with Iowan voters' particularly high and unmet expectations of hope and change. But while there’s no question that Obama’s standing has declined considerably in the state, there's no need to look for an Iowa-specific explanation.
The attacks on Bain Capital are working—that’s the conventional wisdom, at least, and there isn’t much cause to doubt it. But that brings up the real question, which no one is able to answer: How much? To demonstrate the effectiveness of the Bain attacks, most analysts have relied on polls showing that perceptions of Romney’s business experience are different in the battleground states—where the attack ads are running—compared to the rest of the electorate.
The contours of the electoral map might seem disorienting to those accustomed to the old red-blue divide of the last decade. A bevy of states haven’t returned to their Bush-era patterns—instead, they've moved in opposite directions. Traditionally Republican North Carolina remains doggedly competitive, and Romney isn’t even contesting New Mexico. At the same time, Obama is well beneath 50 percent in states that he carried by 10 percent or more in 2008, like Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The Obama campaign has already depicted Romney as a corporate raider and outsourcer, but over the last forty-eight hours, the Obama campaign has transitioned to a new phase of the offensive: taxes. Obama campaign surrogates launched coordinated attacks on Romney’s investments in foreign tax havens, a Swiss bank account, and unwillingness to release more than one year of tax returns, while President Obama called for a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for people making less than $250,000. The two-pronged tax offensive places Romney in a delicate position.
No state gives political analysts more headaches than North Carolina, a state that barely voted for Obama in 2008's clear national victory yet remains competitive in this year's much tighter race. Yesterday, the Washington Post reclassified North Carolina as leaning Romney; I disagree. Although most would concede that Romney has a slight but discernible advantage in the Tar Heel state, North Carolina is still a toss-up.
Following a week of mixed messaging out of the Romney camp, the Wall Street Journal sounded the alarms with an editorial declaring that the Romney campaign’s failure to call the individual mandate a tax might be the turning point of the entire campaign. But the Wall Street Journal would be wise to take a deep breath: The penalty/tax dustup doesn't much matter, and it shouldn't obscure their more credible criticism—Romney’s failure to respond more aggressively to attacks on Bain Capital. Romney hardly squandered an opportunity on the mandate/tax question.