What Obama and Mitt Should Be Talking About

From “What’s The Plan Mitt?,” Adam Davidson, NYT:

“The United States has always had pockets of sustained poverty, but throughout its history, almost everyone, almost everywhere, even the poorly educated, have shared in the country’s broad economic growth.  Unfortunately, this no longer seems to be the case.  According to many economists, technological advances and competition with low-wage countries, among other factors, portend an America in which the undereducated everywhere, including the 85 million people over 25 without post-secondary training, will fall further and further behind the educated and in-demand software designers and biotech engineers.  If that’s true, roughly one out of three American workers can expect to see their living standards erode throughout their lifetimes.”

Italics in original; emphasis added.

Green Shoots!

Housing prices were up 4.6% in August compared to prices in August 2011.  This is the biggest increase in six years.

A housing rebound is essential to an economic rebound, they are inextricably linked.  This is very encouraging news.

I hope the Prez mentions this at the debate.  You can be sure that if prices had dropped 4.6%, Mittens would mention it.

Economy — Bad; Romney Campaign — Worse

From “Obama’s a Good Bet,” Charlie Cook, NationalJournal:

“My view is that if Obama is reelected, it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign; if Mitt Romney wins, it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign. This economy is an enormous millstone around Obama’s neck, yet he and his campaign have managed to secure the upper hand—albeit with a very tenuous grip. At the same time, despite an enormous advantage that the sluggish economy and the sentiment for change affords him, Romney and his campaign, to an astonishing degree, seem to have squandered too many opportunities and undermined his chances of winning.

“It should be emphasized again and again that this campaign isn’t over and that the race is still awfully close. But without a change in the trajectory, it’s a good bet that Obama will come out on top. The questions are whether the opportunity will arise for that trajectory to change and whether the Romney campaign be able to effectively capitalize on it.”

The GOP post-mortem on this election, which should have been a landslide for them, is going to be fun.

An Eerie Similarity to ’08

Almost exactly four years ago, the McCain campaign pretty much collapsed right when Lehman Brothers did.  John McCain insisted on suspending his campaign and having a meeting at the White House, where he proceeded to sit there like a potted plant, while Barack Obama dominated the meeting.  McCain himself admitted that he didn’t know much about the economy, he was really a foreign policy and defense kind of guy.  He had expected the campaign to be mostly about Iraq and Afghanistan, and suddenly it was about an economic collapse.

The 2012 election was supposed to be about the economy.  But now we see foreign affairs take center stage, and Mitt emulating McCain, both in his over-the-top reaction and in his watching the campaign shift to an area where he lacks experience and expertise.

McCain never recovered from his mid-September misstep.  Will Mittens?

It’s the GOP Candidate, Stupid

From “It Shouldn’t Be This Close,” Charlie Cook, National Journal:

“Still, this race shouldn’t be as tight as it is. Whether one looks at polling measurements of whether voters think the country is headed in the right direction, at consumer confidence, or at key economic measurements such as growth in gross domestic product, deviations in the unemployment rate, or the change in real personal disposable income, it is puzzling, to say the least, why polls show President Obama and Mitt Romney running neck and neck. Incumbents generally don’t get reelected with numbers like we are seeing today.

“So why isn’t Romney doing better?

“First, Romney is a very bright guy but hardly a natural candidate. I suspect that the results of a Myers-Briggs personality test would not have suggested that he pursue politics as his vocation.

“Second, and compounding the first reason, is Romney’s campaign advertising. Until his campaign finally began airing biographical ads a few weeks ago, his election effort seemed to studiously avoid trying to establish any bond, any connection, or any level of trust between him and American voters. His campaign seemed to hold the view that any day or dollar spent focusing on anything other than the economy was a day or dollar wasted. Presidential races are not likability contests, but a candidate does need to be “likable enough,” to borrow Obama’s phrase. Voters need to feel comfortable with the person they back.

“The Romney campaign did not lay down a layer of positive ads at the outset to give voters some understanding of who its candidate is. So when the deluge of negative ads about Bain Capital, layoffs, outsourcing, income taxes, and foreign bank accounts came, Romney had no Teflon coating to protect him.

“Third is Romney’s decision to spurn an effort by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to find a middle ground for the Republican Party on the Dream Act that could well have cut at least a little into Obama’s 35-point lead among Latino voters.

“Finally, as much as conservatives are thrilled with Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, anything that takes the focus off the economy and Obama’s handling of it is not a good thing for the GOP ticket. A presidential campaign is the last place in the world to try to hold a serious and intelligent discussion about any substantive issue. Bringing Medicare, Social Security, and deep spending cuts into the conversation only distracts from the focus on the struggling economy and makes Romney’s path to victory that much more challenging.”  Emphasis added.


More Jobs Than Expected

The economy created 163,000 jobs in July, more than expected, and much better than the past four months.

But unemployment ticked up to 8.3%.

The numbers come from different surveys.  The jobs number comes from a business survey, while the unemployment number comes from a household survey.

The number voters focus on is the unemployment rate, and President Obama needs it to be heading down.

I’ve been hoping it would decline to 7.9% for the October report released days before the election.  Crossing that 8% threshold would be important psychologically.

Mitt’s Unfortunate Analogy

Mitt today likened President Obama to a “dog chasing its tail” on the stalled economic recovery.

Um, Mittens, you’re disqualified from doing dog analogies.  You’re talking about Obama, and all we’re thinking is “Seamus, poor Seamus, abused Seamus.”

I guess he could have compared President Obama to a terrified dog stricken by diarrhea because he was strapped to the roof of a station wagon going at least 60 mph on the highway.

Green Shoot Alert!

From “Housing Passes a Milestone,” David Wessel, WSJ:

“Nearly seven years after the housing bubble burst, most indexes of house prices are bending up.

“Economists aren’t always right, but on this at least they agree:  A new Wall Street Journal survey of forecasters found 44 believe the housing market has reached its bottom; only three don’t.

“For some time, housing has been one of the biggest causes of economic weakness.  It has now — barely — moved to the plus side.

“From here on, housing is unlikely to drag the U. S. economy down further.  It will instead reflect the strength or weakness of the overall economy:  The more jobs, the more confident Americans are about keeping their jobs, the more they are willing to buy houses.”  Italics in original.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being Mitt

Fox News asked voters if they think President Obama has a clear plan for improving the economy.  Only 41% said he did, and 53% said he did not.

Good news for Mitt?  Not exactly.  Asked the same question about Mitt, only 27% said he had a clear plan, and 55% said he did not.

Vapidity got Mitt the nomination, but it won’t get him the White House.  His content-free campaign is catching up with him and keeping him from catching Obama.

The economy (which will not improve between now and November) tells me Obama should lose, but emotion tells me Mitt can’t win.  Elections ultimately are about emotions, and we don’t have a good feeling about Mitt.  We may be in the frying fan with Obama, but we know we could end up in the fire.