Friday, July 13, 2012

Election Week in Review (July 13, 2012)

I have to give the Obama team credit...this should have been a bad week for Obama, but through furious spinning and deflection, I think they actually  might have come out ahead.

The week started last Friday with the tepid jobs report and the sticky 8.2% unemployment rate.  The report should have dominated the week's news cycle and allowed Romney the opportunity to get the campaign back on the economic message that (possibly, not definitively) favors him.  And next came the huge June fundraising victory for Romney, with the final tally being $106 million for Romney, $71 million for Obama.

But the Obama campaign came up with very effective deflecting tactics.  First was the proposed legislation to extend the Bush tax cuts for the "middle class" (under $250K) for one year.  This was clearly a way to blunt the effect of the jobs report.  There is no way this legislation will be enacted as a standalone – the pending Bush tax cuts expiration, the imposed sequestration and the need to raise the debt ceiling are the post election perfect storm (Jan/Feb 2013) that will either result in a true Grand Bargain or a very bad economic news.  But the tax proposal did turn the discussion back to putting the Republicans on the defensive for "protecting millionaires."

The only downside for Obama was he was not on the same page with his own party, as Pelosi and Schumer initially continued to call for the cut-off to be at $1 million instead of $250K.  Schumer was put in the awkward position of trying to explain why…and what he said was that an income of $250,000 "makes you rich in Mississippi but not in New York."  Schumer is known for being "Mr. Middle Class" and having him portray his lifelong constituency (such as his invented middle class couple, "Joe and Eileen Bailey") as inclusive of near-millionaires was not a pretty sight.  I doubt "Joe and Eileen" are struggling along on $500K!

Then the barrage on Romney really began:  Romney as "Holder of Secret Off-Shore Accounts;"  Romney as "Outsourcer-in-Chief;"  Romney as "Didn't Leave Bain Capital When He Said He Did;" and "Why Won't Romney Release His Past Taxes?."  I think all this inflicted a bit of damage on Romney.  Romney had a good quote prior to this barrage:  "If you're defending yourself, you're losing."  I think that insight actually came into play this week.  And he continues to get heat from his conservative flank, for how he is conducting his campaign.

I read somewhere that all of these attacks represented the "Swift Boating" of Mitt Romney…(or at least an attempt to).  That is, revive the Bush-era tactic to take your opponent's core credential and turn it into a negative.  If Bush, with a weak military resume, could get away with attacking Kerry, the war hero, on his military record, then it's surely a tactic that will be used time and again.  Romney is running on his Bain Capital record…and the Bain Capital record, such as it is, will continue to be a major story. 

The issue of when Romney actually left Bain Capital – in 1999 as he insists, or in 2002, as the Obama campaign claims, could loom large.  It was in those years that Bain Capital engaged in various instances of outsourcing and layoffs, and Romney clearly wants to distance himself from those decisions.  But SEC filings from 1999-2002 describe him as the "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive office, and president" of Bain Capital.  Hmmm.  But, to be fair, other documents seem to corroborate the view that he did indeed have virtually nothing to do with the firm while he was running the Olympics in that time frame.  Let's see where this one goes.

Back on Monday with the updated numbers!

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