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61% Say Country Headed in Wrong Direction, Yet Obama Leads Romney

Despite an overwhelming majority of Americans thinking the country is headed in the wrong direction and declining confidence that the economy is recovering, President Obama still holds a slight lead over Mitt Romney in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

MSNBC (“NBC/WSJ poll: Obama, Romney remain in dead heat“):

President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney remain locked in a tight contest, with each candidate displaying significant strengths and weaknesses four months before Election Day, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

For Obama, he runs stronger than Romney does in the key swing states, and he holds a strong base of support among young voters, African Americans and Latinos. What’s more, the president continues to be personally popular.

But in the past month, the public has grown more pessimistic about the state of the U.S. economy and the country’s direction. And two key parts of Obama’s base – young voters and Latinos – aren’t as enthusiastic about the election as they were four years ago.

For Romney, key Republican groups – including the Tea Party – have begun to rally around the former Massachusetts governor, and he has the opportunity to capitalize on the attitudes about the economy and nation’s trajectory.

Yet he largely remains a largely undefined figure, and his favorable-unfavorable rating is still a net-negative.

“If the election is a referendum on health care or the economy, the odds work to Romney’s favor,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “Obama is the odds-on favorite if it’s a referendum on the personal aspects.”

[...]

In the poll, the president leads his presumptive challenger by three points among registered voters, 47 to 44 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.

Last month, Obama’s edge over Romney was four points, 47 to 43 percent.

Also in the current poll, the president’s overall approval rating stands at 47 percent (down a point from May), and his favorable-unfavorable score is 48 to 38 percent (which is essentially unchanged).

[...]

Among swing-state respondents in the poll – those living in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin – Obama leads Romney, 50 to 42 percent. Also in these swing states, Romney’s favorability numbers have dropped, possibly reflecting the toll the negative Obama TV advertisements are having on the former Massachusetts governor in these battlegrounds.

A month ago, Romney’s favorable/unfavorable score stood at 34-38 percent nationally and 36-36 percent in the 12 swing states. But in this latest survey, his national fav/unfav score is 33-39 percent and 30-41 percent in the swing states.

[...]

But it’s also been a problematic month for Obama when it comes to U.S. economy. According to the poll, 49 percent say they’re less optimistic about the economy after what they’ve seen, read and heard in the last few weeks, compared with 43 percent who are more optimistic.

What’s more, 53 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy, which is up one point from last month.

And 61 percent believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction, a three-point increase from May.

In full disclosure, Public Opinion Strategies employed my late wife from 1994 until her untimely passing in November and Bill McInturff is a family friend. It’s also worth noting that another firm partner, Neil Newhouse, is Mitt Romney’s pollster.

The “horserace” aspect off the poll strike me as uninteresting. The numbers changing 2 or 3 points since that May poll tell us exactly nothing; he numbers are fluctuating within the margin of sampling error. As Hart puts it, “It looks like a dead heat on a merry-go-round. The position of the two horses has not changed.” Any other interpretation is just silly journalism, trying to create a story when there isn’t one.

What’s more interesting to me is the degree to which this remains an uphill climb for Romney. The Wrong Track numbers remain astronomically high–fluctuating within the margin of error now for months and months. They’re not quite as high as they were at their peak last summer and fall but they’re higher than they were two years ago. And a majority disapproves of how Obama is handling the economy–which wasn’t the case his first few months in office but has been in every NBC/WSJ poll since December 2009.

The default position here should be Throw The Bum Out or Anybody But Obama. Yet, Obama’s leading the race. (Yes, it’s technically within the margin of error. Considering that Obama has come out ahead of Romney in every single one of these polls going back to September 2007, I choose to see it as a trend. And Romney’s been my choice since the early days of the primaries.)

Partly, that’s a function of people liking Obama personally. 48 percent have either very positive (29 percent) or somewhat positive (19 percent) feelings toward him with 38 percent having either somewhat negative (11 percent) or very negative (27 percent) feelings; another 14 percent are shockingly neutral after 3-1/2 years. Hell, I like the guy. But I wouldn’t take my car to an incompetent but likable mechanic, much less invest my money with a likable but incompetent financial advisor.

Romney is less well-liked. Partly, that’s because people don’t really know him. Which is to say, despite those of us reading and writing for political blogs having paid rapt attention to this race since literally before the last one was finished, most Americans haven’t really tuned in yet. A whopping 22 percent have a neutral opinion of Romney. While that’s down from the low 30s a few months ago, it’s still a sizable number. Another 6 percent have no opinion at all. Of those with an opinion, only a third have either a very positive (9 percent) or somewhat positive (24 percent) view of the presumptive Republican nominee. A higher number, 39 percent, have either a somewhat negative (17 percent) or very negative (22 percent) opinion.

So, Romney has a pretty serious “I’d like to have a beer with that guy” deficit. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t drink beer.

Which, incidentally, plays into the “Mormon Question.” While a bare majority (50 percent) claim to “feel comfortable” with Romney’s faith, 29 percent “don’t know enough to say either way” and a full 18 percent “do not feel comfortable.” That’s problematic in a close election–especially since the “do not feel comfortable” number is likely very low owing to a variation of the Bradley Effect. That is, people know they’re not supposed to be prejudiced against people on religious grounds, so they lie to pollsters to make themselves look good. That nearly a fifth of respondents admit to being uncomfortable about Romney’s Mormonism is a red flag.

More importantly, perhaps, is that while the economy remains far and away the most important issue and most people say that the economy is lousy and think Obama is doing a lousy job, there’s not an overwhelming sense that Romney will do any better. For one thing, 60 percent think Obama inherited the bad economy and only a third (33 percent) think his policies have hurt it. Another third (32 percent) think he’s helped and another third (32 percent) think it’s been a wash.

There’s oddly not a question asking which candidate would do a better job managing the economy. But there is a question asking about whether Romney’s business experience has made an impact on their view of him. And only 23 percent said it made them more positively disposed, compared to 28 percent who said it made them more negative. (Presumably, either a function of the anti-Bain ads, although it’s possible that these people are mostly Democrats, since there are no crosstabs available.)

Given the horrible state of the economy and the public’s extreme recognition and focus on that fact, this should be Romney’s election to lose. That he’s still behind should be of great concern to his supporters.

 

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Dan Nexon says:

    “Given the horrible state of the economy and the public’s extreme recognition and focus on that fact, this should be Romney’s election to lose”

    The economy is actually doing better than poll respondents say. It isn’t a great economy, and the level of government austerity, combined with the European mess, isn’t helping. But economic conditions are right at the point where we should expect an election to be close — and not at the point where the incumbent gets crushed. It just isn’t the case, given current conditions, that either candidate is under- or over-performing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  2. Chad S says:

    Romney’s problem is that he’s personally unlikeable and can’t clearly explain what he’d do different as President outside of vague platitudes. Same trap Kerry was stuck in when he ran in 2004.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    I wonder how much of a role the Democrats’ out-of-touch/child of privilege/outsourcer/gangster capitalist meme is playing in the subconcious of voters. If that strategy really is having a significant effect on opinions of Romney, it suggest a stronger populist leaning than I had thought extant at this time.

    On the other hand Romney’s remarkably wooden demeanor isn’t personally endearing, and committing himself to satisfying the current Republican base is almost certain to be hurting him with independent voters who aren’t interested in the culture wars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  4. Hello World! says:

    Obama is doing fine on the economy and I think his good numbers are reflective of the fact that people know congress is largely responsible for any grid lock. That being said, it looks like congress will remain largely unchanged this election cycle which seems to indicate that maybe people really do want a congress that fights each other from both sides. On one hand they want congress to act on jobs and the economy and on the other hand they want congress to fight any additional spending, people may not like congress but i think they like this division.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  5. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner

    Partly, that’s a function of people liking Obama personally. 48 percent have either very positive (29 percent) or somewhat positive (19 percent) feelings toward him with 38 percent having either somewhat negative (11 percent) or very negative (27 percent) feelings; another 14 percent are shockingly neutral after 3-1/2 years. Hell, I like the guy.

    Personally I suspect Obama is as much a space alien as Romney when it comes to things like emotion and empathy, but Obama is much better able to mask/attenuate public perception of it due to the remarkably smooth delivery he’s developed. I think Obama knows where he’s weak when it comes to the personal touch and “compensates” for it in a manner similar to autistic individuals who got solid, early intervention to help them develop protocols for appropriate responses. Romney on the other hand doesn’t appear to have that rule structure to help guide him: I’m not sure he even understands he’s weak in the interpersonal area.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Could be polling dissonance. Could be the Bradley effect. Could be the Mormon issue. Perhaps a combination of all three items. Could be that misery truly loves company. Republican Derangement Syndrome presumably plays its part. Perhaps Zombieland also has reached a critical mass of sorts, where they’ve been dumbed down to such an extent they literally can’t think straight. We’ll find out for sure in November.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Republican Derangement Syndrome presumably plays its part

    RDS would be a phenomenon of people who never would have voted for Romney anyway, so I’m not sure how it could possibly be playing a role in the current numbers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. Rob in CT says:

    It does seem a bit like 2004. That election should’ve been Kerry’s to lose (in that instance, not because of the economy, but because it was obvious at that point that Iraq, The Sequel was a huge blunder). Well, it was, and he lost it by sucking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. mattb says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    I think Obama knows where he’s weak when it comes to the personal touch and “compensates” for it in a manner similar to autistic individuals who got solid, early intervention to help them develop protocols for appropriate responses.

    I had never thought of it that way before, but this is an interesting theory.

    Romney on the other hand doesn’t appear to have that rule structure to help guide him: I’m not sure he even understands he’s weak in the interpersonal area.

    And that may be one area where starting from a position of great wealth might have truly stunted his development.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. Phillip says:

    Just because people think the country is headed in the wrong direction doesn’t mean that they believe electing Mitt Romney to the Presidency will change that. In fact, from my point of view, it will simply make turning things around even harder.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  11. Rob in CT says:

    I love the “_____ derangement syndrome” meme (by which I mean I have nothing but contempt for it). [I've seen Obama supporters use it too, fwiw. And sure, there are always some who are simply, well, deranged. Most are not, though. Most of the GOP-supporters who show up here are not, even though I think they're very wrong about lots of things].

    Unless of course our Tsar is referring to the derangement of the Republican party, in which case I agree entirely. ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  12. More importantly, perhaps, is that while the economy remains far and away the most important issue and most people say that the economy is lousy and think Obama is doing a lousy job, there’s not an overwhelming sense that Romney will do any better. For one thing, 60 percent think Obama inherited the bad economy and only a third (33 percent) think his policies have hurt it. Another third (32 percent) think he’s helped and another third (32 percent) think it’s been a wash.

    Do we have “wrong track” numbers for the GOP?

    The key for exploiting a dissatisfied populous is a better plan. Reagan sold one. He convinced voters then that his move back from big government was right for those times. I know some of our leftish friends disagreed, then and now, but my point is he sold it.

    The GOP has more trouble now selling more extreme views. They probably did plan on selling expansionary austerity this summer. They probably hoped to point to European success. Unfortunately that path has not been successful.

    So what do they have at this point? Half-hearted pitches for a future they can’t really believe themselves?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  13. superdestroyer says:

    As the percentage of the population that automatically votes for the Democrats grows, the state of the economy will have a smaller effect on elections. There is a good chance that unemployment will stay above 7% for the eight years of the Obama Administration but no one will care.

    As I have said before, Historians will be writing in January 201 that the Obama Administration was hampered by the Bush economy for the entire 8 years of the administration.

    When less than half of the population does not pay taxes and the number of people on social security disability grows faster than private sector employment, there is no chance for a conservative party to survive in the U.S. What people should realize, by now, is that the next relevant election for president will occur in the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses in January 2016 and the New Hampshire primary in 2016. Those Democratic Party voters in those two states will be picking the next president of the U.S.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  14. Fiona says:

    While I don’t put a whole lot of credence in polls at this point in the race, I’m not sure that greater public exposure to Romney is going to help his numbers. I just don’t see him doing well in a debate against Obama. Not only is he wooden, but he comes off as disingenuous, willing to say anything to get elected. It’s not an image that easily changed.

    Finally, while the economy is still shaky, a recent poll indicated that most people don’t think it matters who’s in the White House–that Romney will do no more to improve things than Obama.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/polls/234481-poll-voters-doubt-either-romney-obama-win-will-help-economy

    Not exactly good news for Romney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @mattb:

    And that may be one area where starting from a position of great wealth might have truly stunted his development.

    I really don’t know much about Romney’s early life, but if he never had to develop skills to get along with others it would explain much. The damage would be compounded because those skills are largely developmental: if you miss the window you never learn them. I have at times wondered whether Romney is in fact mildly autistic, though I’m certainly not qualified to make such a diagnosis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  16. C. Clavin says:

    There are other polls out there that show people are pessimistic about the national and global scene…but pretty satisfied with their local conditions. Which is interesting because the national stagnation is largly caused by cuts to local and state governments. Absent those cuts we are probably at low 7% UE.
    At any rate…just because things are bad is no reason to elect someone who is only promising more of what made things bad in the first place. That would just be dumb. And near as I can tell Romney has the dumb vote locked up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  17. @superdestroyer:

    When less than half of the population does not pay taxes

    Still a lie. There are, and must be, other kinds of tax than federal income tax.

    (including light, not extreme or protectionist, tariffs)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  18. Andy says:

    Well, when there are only two candidates to choose from then one is inevitably going to be perceived the lesser of two evils in surveys. I don’t see that as a positive affirmation for one over the other – instead it’s depressing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. @Andy:

    Well, when there are only two candidates to choose from then one is inevitably going to be perceived the lesser of two evils in surveys. I don’t see that as a positive affirmation for one over the other – instead it’s depressing.

    Sometimes. I’d say a newcomer, a non-incumbent, needs a story he can tell. Obama had “hope and change,” and as much as our rightist friends hated that one, “my point is he sold it.”

    Maybe Mitt has a story he is waiting with, timed for the election cycle, but … I really think not. As I say, I think his plan was overturned by events. Austerity won’t sell as he might have liked in 2012.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  20. (As an aside, I think I perceived some of our OTB hosts to be selling expansionary austerity a year ago. That they’ve gone quiet is really typical. A year or two ago the Norquist tax pledge could be told as a dream for a better future. For me that was always “hocus pocus” economics, but it was riding higher in the public mind. Not so now. The Norquist pledge is increasingly hated by the center-right, and is increasingly seen as punitive, rather than as a growth story.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  21. Andy says:

    @john personna:

    I agree, I’m just saying these surveys are limited because it’s always a comparative choice. Two evenly matched weak and flawed candidates will survey the same as two evenly-matched strong candidates. I’d say these two are on the weak side.

    Romney got the nomination not because he’s a great candidate but because all the other alternatives sucked even worse. A real political talent, like a Reagan or Clinton, would be wiping the floor with Obama right now but the modern GoP doesn’t have any of those.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. Graham says:

    More importantly, perhaps, is that while the economy remains far and away the most important issue and most people say that the economy is lousy and think Obama is doing a lousy job, there’s not an overwhelming sense that Romney will do any better.

    This was exactly my thought upon reading the headline.

    Obama is a charismatic guy. Romney is a wooden plank. Neither has the knowledge or the power to fix our economy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. @Graham:

    Obama is definitely better grounded in the economics of our situation. What he can’t do is “charisma” congress into action. The GOP are spoilers, not just as election strategy, but because their (waning?) beliefs still block them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  24. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I don’t recall either Doug’s or Steven’s position on the matter and it’s rather hard to search the archives to figure it out, given how many economy posts we wrote back in the day. As for myself, I opposed the Bush and Obama bailouts and the nature of the Obama stimulus but supported various other stimulative measures. I’d have preferred massive investment in infrastructure, education, and training along with various safety net measures for those thrown out of work by the bad economy. That included more generous unemployment benefits and across-the-board programs to deal with the pain caused by the housing bubble.

    As a general matter, it’s always been a bipartisan truism that you don’t raise taxes or cut spending during a recession.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. jukeboxgrad says:

    Mitt’s biggest problem is that he projects weakness. This is a fatal flaw for a POTUS candidate. Carter, Dukakis and Kerry all had a problem with looking weak. Those purple heart Band-Aids were about weakness.

    Mitt sends a strong message of weakness when he refuses to state a clear position and stick with it. This is really obvious in his slippery response to Obama’s immigration move. He’s going to get hammered for this.

    He also sends a strong message of weakness when he panders to people like Trump and the rest of nuts who comprise the base. Even the nuts know he’s pandering to them, and they know he’s doing it out of weakness. So when he does this he wins respect from no one. Mitt was announcing his own weakness when he said this: “but I need to get 50.1 percent or more, and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.” English translation: ‘I’m so weak that I can’t expect to win without kissing a lot of butts that don’t deserve to be kissed.’

    Norquist was also talking about Mitt’s weakness when he said this: “pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.” As Frum explained:

    Norquist: Romney Will Do As Told … a candidate who appeases the most disliked people in national politics? That guy will command neither public affection nor respect. Mitt Romney badly needs his Sister Souljah moment. Instead, he’s running as Jim DeMint’s doormat.

    And as Trump’s doormat. Weak, weak, weak.

    The GOP would like to claim Obama is weak, but this is a tough sell after all the bad guys he has killed. It’s hard to find something like this in Mitt’s bio. For Obama, a bold attack means killing OBL. For Mitt, a bold attack means assaulting a kid with scissors.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  26. @James Joyner:

    Here’s a good one. Alex said that the GOP plan would create pain, and Doug said “bring it.”

    On stimulus, let’s not forget this BS:

    Obama Stimulus Destroyed Million Private Sector Jobs

    If you opposed stimulus, you were probably wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  27. mantis says:

    I’d have preferred massive investment in infrastructure, education, and training along with various safety net measures for those thrown out of work by the bad economy. That included more generous unemployment benefits and across-the-board programs to deal with the pain caused by the housing bubble.

    As a general matter, it’s always been a bipartisan truism that you don’t raise taxes or cut spending during a recession.

    Why the hell are you voting for Romney, exactly?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  28. JKB says:

    So people may be reluctant to say they won’t vote for the Mormon for religious open-minded reasons but they’ll eagerly admit they no long are going to vote for the black guy?

    I suspect, as was indicated in Wisconsin, the “professionals” may have to sit this election out as we won’t know people’s true opinions until the ballots are cast.

    You are a Democrat who is not going to vote for Obama, who do you tell? Would you like to keep being invited to the parties? How about not having your kids harassed? And that “pollster” are they legit or some Democrat machine operation taking names for future retaliation. We saw it with the gay rights initiative in California and we see it now with demands for donor lists. We see it in the special scrutiny the Tea Parties get from the IRS. In Obamalandia, you tell the proper lies and keep your real opinions to yourself.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 17

  29. @JKB:

    Would you like to keep being invited to the parties?

    Just a note … your comment was non-psycho until this line, and then went downhill.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I think it’s closer to he projects insincerity, people get that message and they respond to it.

    Consider that, with Romney, we have a candidate who used to be pro-choice, used to be pro gay rights, used to be pro individual mandate style healthcare, used to be pro environment, and not only acknowledged global warming, but actually proposed to do something about it. He has now been reduced to having to give drama queeny stump speeches in which he is forced to revile positions that he himself held only a short time ago.

    I’m convinced that the reason that he comes across as washed out and insincere when he speaks these days – he doesn’t believe half of what he saying any more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  31. al-Ameda says:

    So, Romney has a pretty serious “I’d like to have a beer with that guy” deficit. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t drink beer.

    Maybe it’s because of things like car elevators, equestrian dressage, and the fact that he made his fortune by acquiring companies through leveraged debt, closing operations and laying off workers.

    Mitt’s the kind of guy who would call you into his office to show you pictures of the new car elevator and then to tell you that you’re being laid off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  32. @James Joyner:

    Here’s one right back at ya, James. In Bill Clinton’s Solution to Debt Crisis: Punt you deride the position you now claim to endorse.

    Former President Bill Clinton has a fool-proof plan to solve the debt problem: Cut spending and raise taxes . . . but not today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. (Not to deride growth and change. I actually think the best we men of a certain age can hope for is that we slowly come around to better positions. We are not a nimble bunch. That said, we should recognize our changes.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @john personna:

    Americans have always loved THEIR federal spending. They just hate everybody else’s …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  35. @HarvardLaw92:

    Sure, but I think the article is about … at least a reduced energy for “cut other people’s spending.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Gustopher says:

    Romney is less well-liked. Partly, that’s because people don’t really know him.

    Now that is something I would love to see explored with statistical rigor. Do people who know less about Romney like him more or less than people who know more about him?

    The more I learn about Romney, the less I like him. And it’s not just that I am a dyed in the wool liberal — I think Santorum is a nice guy trying to do what he thinks is right (I disagree on what is right, but I recognize his conviction, sincerity, and patriotism), but I can’t really say that about Romney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  37. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I’m not making an analytical point there, just being snarky about the nature of Clinton’s plan. The very short analytical take I add after the blockquote:

    This does indeed help solve the short-term political problem of neither Democrats nor Republicans being able to do what’s necessary without alienating their constituencies. But it doesn’t do anything to solve the immediate crisis, either.

    That is: Clinton’s right about what the long-term plan should look like but it doesn’t solve the situation at hand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. anjin-san says:

    I’d have preferred massive investment in infrastructure

    In the bay area, stimulus money has made a massive difference in our infrastructure picture.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. george says:

    More importantly, perhaps, is that while the economy remains far and away the most important issue and most people say that the economy is lousy and think Obama is doing a lousy job, there’s not an overwhelming sense that Romney will do any better.

    I think you nailed it here. Given the economic performance of the GOP under Bush, there’s no real reason to think Romney will do any better (or worse) economically than Obama. Which means do you vote for “change for change’s sake”, or go with the “better the devil we know” approach. Which means it probably comes down to likeability, and Romney isn’t doing well on that score.

    And then, for a few of us at least, is the feeling that Romney is going to go out of his way to get us involved in a war with Iran, and the economy simply can’t afford another war. The current recession is to a large part the result on the Iraq war, it’ll take us at least another decade to recover economically – the last thing we need is to pay for another war. And yet Romney seems to be talking in that direction …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. @James Joyner:

    The weird thing was the conflation of the long term problem with “the immediate crisis.” That still confuses me. The fuel for the snark seems to be that you wanted spending cut and tax increase hastened.

    Whatever, but this ties to the GOP’s right or wrong path now. For years their story was spending cut “now” and “no new taxes.” That mantra seems to be losing its power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I don’t recall the immediate standoff. Was that in the midst of one of the debt ceiling showdowns?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @john personna:

    Perhaps it became clear to them that there is no path to a truly balanced budget, much less actual reduction of debt, that doesn’t involve everyone’s sacred ox being gored.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. gVOR08 says:

    I’m failing to see any mystery here. The country is heading in the wrong direction, and has been since the mid seventies. Read Hacker and Pierson, Winner Take All Politics. Many people see this and understand that Obama represents a pause in the march toward corporate oligarchy. The polling James cites bears this out, “60 percent think Obama inherited the bad economy and only a third (33 percent) think his policies have hurt it. Another third (32 percent) think he’s helped and another third (32 percent) think it’s been a wash.” In other words, something between 30 and 60 % see the situation as it actually is.

    James, you’re correct that the Stim was badly designed and limited. But why was that? Was it because that’s how Obama and his advisers wished it to be? Or did it represent their calculation of the best deal they could get past the Republicans in congress?

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  44. @HarvardLaw92:

    Assuming Congress wants to do the job … we have an interesting situation. Right now the government is borrowing for 10 year bonds with a negative real rate of interest. That is, after inflation they pay back less than they borrowed. Combine that with James’ snark:

    a fool-proof plan to solve the debt problem: Cut spending and raise taxes . . . but not today.

    and it actually works.

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  45. @gVOR08:

    Or did it represent their calculation of the best deal they could get past the Republicans in congress?

    I think you can go further than that. It was the best deal they could get past Congress.

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  46. DRS says:

    It’s not just that – to pick one example – Romney was pro-choice once and now isn’t. People evolve and change their minds. Everybody can grok that. It’s that he made a big hoo-ha about his cousin’s (or his cousin’s friend – I’ve seen two versions) death from a botched abortion and how no woman should ever face the risk etc. etc.

    Soooo….when he went for the Republican nomination what happened to the cousin? Anybody? Or did that get etch-a-sketched away?

    Only Romney (and maybe Dukakis, who also had anti-charisma in bushels) could go pro-life and piss off more pro-lifers than pro-choicers.

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  47. Jen says:

    @DRS: Her name was Ann Keenan, and she was the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law. Salon had a big piece about it.

    “Etch-a-sketched away”–this is exactly what it feels like to me. He had a policy position–one that was infinitely understandable given the tragedy–and yet he changed his position.

    I honestly believe that politicians should be able to change and respond to the times. But not on every single issue. I still think Jon Huntsman’s description of Romney as a “well-oiled weather vane” is one of the more accurate out there. And it shows–he seems to be desperately searching for the most vague statement possible any time he is asked a question.

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  48. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    You are a Democrat who is not going to vote for Obama, who do you tell? Would you like to keep being invited to the parties? How about not having your kids harassed?

    #Logicfail as usual — by this same rule what Republican or Tea Partier dare tell their friends (or Pollsters) they will not be voting for Romney? After all, choosing to vote for another candidate or not vote at all is, according to Conservative Media, pretty much a vote for Socialism, Gun Taking, FEMA Camps, and, in general, the destruction of America.

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  49. Anonne says:

    It’s very easy to dislike the way the country is going without necessarily wanting to change presidents, seeing Obama as the (marginally, for some) lesser of two evils. Our grossly dysfunctional Congress is the primary reason we are incapable of fully recovering from the financial crisis, and it keeps bringing us to the brink of financial calamity. The bipartisan selling of this country to moneyed interests is a concern that ruffles many a feather. Our Supreme Court inspires no faith that they will respect precedent and will kowtow to the same moneyed interests.

    For me, an Obama win will only slow part of the destruction of this country. It’s distasteful on some levels, but allowing the Republicans to have another hat trick of controlling all the branches of government is suicidal.

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  50. mattb says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    I really don’t know much about Romney’s early life, but if he never had to develop skills to get along with others it would explain much.

    I think one could easily make a theoretical case for your argument. Consider the following bits:

    When Romney was born, there was not the common understanding or acceptability of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Additionally, the way it might have manifested as a child might have made him appear as a “good” child.

    The larger issue is that, given the rather wide power disparity between the Romneys and any third parties that might have been in direct contact with Mitt (teachers, care givers, friends parents, church officials, Doctors) it’s sort of hard to imagine many people having the character to say “Mr and Mrs Romney, you son is strange, and not just in a normal way.”

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  51. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    As I have said before, Historians will be writing in January 201 that the Obama Administration was hampered by the Bush economy for the entire 8 years of the administration.

    There is historical precedent for this type of assessment. Voters never stopped blaming Hoover for the crash, depression and failed economy that was bequeathed to FDR. Admittedly, the 2008 crash was not as severe as the 1929 crash, however many economists believe that we were too close to the precipice. We are still working our way through the 2008 crash.

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  52. tobe says:

    @Ben Wolf: Obama has had the Hollywood assistance to boost his image; he is a far better actor than Mitt who is too reality based and honest!

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