Watch the Swine Eat Their Own!
So, next week it’ll all be debate, debate, debate and we can re-watch that old clip of Lloyd Bentsen smacking Dan Quayle with "Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy."*
Here’s Mitt Romney today:
* Historical footnote: JFK wasn’t a friend of Lloyd Bentsen’s, so far as anyone knows. Not that it matters now. Also, Bentsen lost.
Updated at 10.11pm BST
Finally: If you live in Ohio, Florida or Virginia, you could see more than m spent on political advertising in each state this week alone.
And the 2012 election campaign has already outspent the entire 2008 campaign, with more than five weeks remaining.
President Obama, Mitt Romney, and outside groups spent more than m on advertising running between September 25 and October 1, according to sources watching the advertising market. Obama’s campaign alone spent m during the last week, while Romney’s campaign dropped m on its own advertising.
All told, Obama’s team has spent a total of 5m on broadcast, cable, and radio advertising, while Romney’s camp has spent 7m. Add in outside spending and the total spent on the general election tops 4.6m to date.
Updated at 9.26pm BST
Still with Todd Akin – because, why not? – the Republican hopeful today defended his use of the term "ladylike" to attack Claire McCaskill, according to the Kansas City Star:
I was using this just as the English language uses those terms.
That would be the English language of a Jane Austen novel, perhaps.
Barb Womack, chairwoman of the Missouri State Women’s Political Caucus, is not so impressed: “I’d like to know what his definition of ‘ladylike’ is, because we know his definition of rape is incorrect."
Updated at 9.18pm BST
Todd Akin watch, part whatever: despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, a pair of former Republican senators have announced that they are indeed backing Akin to win Missouri’s Senate seat.
Jim Talent and Kit Bond have both climbed on board the Akin Express, despite having earlier called on him to drop out of the race.
In the wise words of Crosby, Stills and Nash: If you can’t be with the one you want, honey, love the one you’re with.
The Miami Herald has more on the Republican party-affiliated voter fraud alleged to have taken place in Florida. It seems the company that the RNC and several other GOP state parties also hired to conduct voter registrations wasn’t very bright: one registration form misspelled the voter’s name.
But here’s the irony:
Republicans in the Florida Legislature pushed through a controversial and sweeping elections law during the 2011 session…. Republicans argued the bill was needed to reduce voter fraud, even though there was scant evidence of any in Florida.
Well they fixed that, didn’t they?
This has nothing to do with the presidential election. Nothing.
Citing national security risks, President Barack Obama on Friday blocked a Chinese company from owning four wind farm projects in northern Oregon near a Navy base where the US military flies unmanned drones and electronic-warfare planes on training missions.
It was the first time in 22 years that a US president has blocked such a foreign business deal.
For years Republicans has been warning about the dangers of voter fraud. And finally they have been proved right! There’s just one problem:
What first appeared to be an isolated problem in one Florida county has now spread statewide, with election officials in at least seven counties informing prosecutors or state election officials about questionable voter registration forms filled out on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida.
State Republican officials already have fired the vendor it had hired to register voters, and on Thursday took the additional step of filing an election fraud complaint against the company, Strategic Allied Consulting, with state officials.
Updated at 8.48pm BST
World statesman Mitt Romney had a phone call Binyamin Netanyahu today, and Romney’s campaign was quick to share the news with everyone, saying the Republican presidential candidate and the Israeli prime minister discussed "a number of topics of mutual interest to the United States and Israel."
Later in his charter jet, Mitt popped back to chat with his traveling press pack to reveal more about this discussion:
Hilarious. Mitt and Bibi go way back to their consulting days. So what did they actually discuss regarding Iran and nuclear weapons?
Missouri’s Todd Akin: the gift that keeps on giving. The AP reports:
In a video circulating widely on the Internet Friday, Akin is seen discussing his involvement in an anti-abortion demonstration and says "you know, don’t tell anybody I’m a jail bird." He also says in the video that "a bunch of us sat in front of these doors and the police gave us a ride to the free hotel for a while, and you know how it goes."
Asked at a press conference Friday in Kansas City to confirm the arrest, Akin said: "Yeah, well, certainly. Probably about 25 years ago or so I was involved in some peaceful protests. As I’ve made very clear I don’t apologize for being pro-life. I stand up for the things I believe in." His campaign promised to provide details of the arrest later Friday.
Here’s the video of Akin describing himself as a "jailbird":
So he’s really making Christine O’Donnell look good at this point.
Mitt Romney made a visit to the un-swinging state of Pennsylvania today, mainly to raise funds but also to tell supporters at the Valley Forge Military Academy:
The Obama campaign thinks Pennsylvania is in their pocket, they don’t need to worry about it. You’re right and they’re wrong — we’re going to win Pennsylvania.
Funnily enough, Romney was less positive when he spoke earlier to a smaller group of wealthy supporters at a fundraiser held in Philadelphia’s upmarket Union League Club:
We really would shock people if early in the evening of November 6 it looked like Pennsylvania was going to come our way and actually did come our way.
The Associated Press noted acidly:
The state has not supported a Republican presidential candidate in nearly a quarter-century and his campaign is not running any television ads in Pennsylvania.
With the vast sums of campaign cash sloshing around, the competition for ad slots is getting intense. The sexy new political advertising venue in 2012 is local cable TV operators, according to this Ad Age piece:
From the start of the general election campaign on April 10 to September 16, Obama aired 311,433 spots on local cable, according to NCC Media – 9,000 more spots than the 302,134 he aired on local broadcast, national network and national cable, per Kantar Media CMAG. His top cable networks are the Food Network, HGTV, CNN, ESPN, The History Channel and USA. He’s been buying local news channels in North Carolina and Florida; Spanish local cable such as CNN Espanol, History Espanol and ESPN Espanol; and high-indexing women’s programming.
Romney began buying local cable after the Democratic convention ended, in tune with his campaign’s strategy to build momentum from August onward. The 12,323 spots he aired in 10 days account for 11% of his 114,471 overall general-election spot count, again per NCC and CMAG data. The Romney campaign’s top choices are CNN, FOX News, HGTV and Lifetime. Translation: Republicans and women.
There was a sad preview of what we can probably expect from the presidential debates on Wednesday in last night’s Nevada Senate debate between Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Shelley Berkley.
The awfulness of the debate had Nevada’s fine journalist Jon Ralston pulling out his hair in dismay:
What happens too often during debates is what happens too often during campaigns: Otherwise relatively normal human beings disgorge utterances that no normal person would dare to say. To wit:
Heller: "Nobody has done more to hurt the middle class than my opponent.” Really? Nobody?
Berkley: “My opponent has voted for budget after budget that balances our budget on the backs of our senior citizens and our veterans.” Really? Their backs must be sore.
With the pre-debate expectations-lowering reaching new levels of absurdity, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait goes the extra mile with fake memos from the rival campaigns:
From the Romney camp:
A debate moderator murdered Governor Romney’s childhood friend during a notoriously grizzly 1956 cross-country killing spree, and Romney continues to battle a crippling fear of debate moderators to this day. Should he turn in even a satisfactory performance, it will be thanks to an almost unimaginable level of concentration and courage.
From the Obama side:
Reports indicate that Romney has blocked out fifteen hours for debate practice every day for the past five months…. President Obama, meanwhile, has yet to spend one moment preparing for the debates, as he is too busy reviving the economy and supporting our brave men and women fighting overseas as commander-in-chief.
Note: all this stuff is made-up.
Updated at 6.53pm BST
Writing in the Guardian’s CIF America op-ed section, the Daily Caller’s Michael Lewis has a defence of Mitt Romney, arguing that some of Romney’s woes are the result of the fissures within the modern-day Republican party:
Conservative commentary today is essentially bifurcated between the red meat-hurling carnival barkers who pander to the base and the mainstream media quislings who cater to the Georgetown cocktail circuit and the cable TV bookers looking to book a "token" conservative to fill out their Sunday morning panel.
After Isreal’s Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama spoke on the phone just now, the White House put out a statement:
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke today as part of their regular consultations, and to follow up on Secretary Clinton’s meeting with the Prime Minister.
The two leaders discussed a range of security issues, and the President reaffirmed his and our country’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The Prime Minister welcomed President Obama’s commitment before the United Nations General Assembly to do what we must to achieve that goal.
The two leaders took note of the close cooperation and coordination between the Governments of the United States and Israel regarding the threat posed by Iran – its nuclear program, proliferation, and support for terrorism – and agreed to continue their regular consultations on this issue going forward.
Netanyahu is also going to talk to Mitt Romney on the phone today, to talk about what, who knows?
Updated at 6.47pm BST
For the third day in a row, Gallup’s daily tracking poll has Barack Obama on 50% and Mitt Romney on 44%.
Mitt Romney makes an unusual campaign pledge:
Since he may have a lot of spare time after 6 November, it’s good to have a hobby.
Top candidate for worst article of the day is this effort by Noam Schreiber in the New Republic, who provocatively argues that Mitt Romney‘s naming of Paul Ryan was a bigger mistake than his 47% gaffe.
In summary: Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
Alternative thesis! Mitt Romney was doing better in the polls during summer. Now the weather is cooling down, his poll ratings have fallen. Conclusion: Yellow.
Updated at 5.56pm BST
The latest swing state (and Pennsylvania) polls, via the Political Wire:
Michigan: Obama 50%, Romney 46% (Gravis Marketing)
New Hampshire: Obama 50%, Romney 45% (American Research Group)
Pennsylvania: Obama 49%, Romney 42% (Morning Call/Muhlenberg College)
Virginia: Obama 49%, Romney 47% (American Research Group)
Let’s see, any good news there for Mitt Romney? Michigan‘s closer than you’d think, and Virginia is not so bad. But otherwise, Mitt’s 0-5.
Updated at 5.43pm BST
For all the precriminations and jockeying for an exit-row seat and life jacket amid the Romney campaign and its Republican allies, let’s not lose sight of the one fact that might explain Mitt Romney‘s performance: voters just don’t like him:
A review of Pew Research Center and Gallup favorability ratings from September finds that Romney is the only presidential candidate over the past seven election cycles to be viewed more unfavorably than favorably.
Currently, 55% of registered voters express a favorable opinion of Obama, while just 45% say the same of Romney.
The bizarre pre-debate reverse-marathon that the Obama and Romney campaigns are conducting – proclaiming that their candidate can barely speak in full sentences while their rival is a hybrid reincarnation of Cicero, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill – continues.
Exhibit Z in this comedy cavalcade is a "leaked memo" from Mitt Romney‘s chief of staff Beth Myers:
President Obama is a uniquely gifted speaker, and is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history. This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his political career. For Mitt Romney, it will be his first.
Eighth? They must be counting Obama’s one-on-one primary debates against Hillary Clinton.
In truth, here are two key points to bear in mind:
1. Neither Romney or Obama are particularly good debaters.
2. It’s not true that "debates don’t change anything," as the conventional wisdom is fond of saying nowadays. They can and they do. But while they can turn corners, they can’t do U-turns for a campaign.
Oh man. Republican congressman Allen West – who does indeed make Michele Bachmann look like a hippie, maybe even a sane and rational hippie – is in an election fight with his Democratic rival Patrick Murphy.
West’s campaign just dropped this attack ad, which is so successful that even your own mother might have trouble voting for you:
There’s more to the story, however. Roll Call reports that Murphy’s campaign hit back hard:
“Allen West is now opening up what his military record was in 2003,” said Eric Johnson, a senior adviser to Murphy’s campaign. “In 2003, he was criminally charged by the military with assault and for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice and was subsequently kicked out of the military. I find it odd that he’s trying to brag about that particular year of service. And he’s attacking Patrick Murphy for drinking as a teenager, which I think is a silly attack.”
West actually resigned from the military with full benefits after an Article 15 proceeding in which he was fined for his conduct with an Iraqi prisoner, which included firing a gun near the prisoner’s head.
Regardless, it’s one of the most brutally effective ads of 2012 so far.
There’s a rejoinder to Charles Krauthammer‘s "We’re doooomed!" commentary, from Jacob Heilbrunn in the National Interest:
The truth is that the ruination of the Romney campaign has in part been the handiwork of neoconservatives such as Krauthammer. Yes, Romney is a middling politician. Yes, his campaign has struggled to find its footing. But part of the reason … is that the GOP itself is becoming an antediluvian party, stuck with a host of orthodoxies that no longer comport with new realities.
Heilbrunn’s solution is that Romney should "find his voice" in the coming debates, to solve the problem "that Romney is a bad liar, trying to sell policies that he knows are bogus".
Has Mitt Romney‘s 47% gaffe applied the kiss of death to his campaign? Mike Smithson of the British site Politicalbetting.com makes the case using betting figures from Betfair and swing state polls.
While it’s true that Mitt Romney still has a chance of winning the presidency, the veteran political analyst Charlie Cook warns that voters’ opinions are becoming ossified and time is running out:
If the presidential race stays on its current course for another week or 10 days, Romney faces the very real prospect that Republican donors, super Pacs, and other parts of the GOP support structure will begin to shift resources away from helping him and toward a last-ditch effort to win a Senate majority — which once seemed very likely — and to protect the party’s House majority.
It’s an excellent piece.
The journalist Michelle Goldberg is an expert in the more unsavoury parts of the far right and the extreme fringes of the Republican party, and she reports on the latest and most outrageous slurs being propagated against Barack Obama:
For a while now, pictures purporting to show Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, modeling in 1950s bondage and fetish porn have been floating around the darker corners of the Internet. Now, though, they’ve made their way into a pseudo-documentary, Joel Gilbert’s Dreams From My Real Father, which is being mailed to voters in swing states, promoted by several Tea Party groups and by at least one high-level Republican. At the same time, Dinesh D’Souza’s latest book, Obama’s America—the first of all his works to hit the top spot on The New York Times bestseller list—has a chapter essentially calling Dunham a fat slut. If Obama is reelected, it’s hard to imagine where the right goes from here.
At least someone is talking up Mitt Romney‘s chances. Interviewed on MSNBC this morning, Newt Gingrich describes Romney as "the best debater since Reagan".
Way to talk him up ahead of next week’s presidential debate. As my Guardian colleague Ewen MacAskill notes: Gingrich must really want Romney to lose.
Politico this morning piles on to Mitt Romney with a host of anonymous quotes on his perceived failings as a candidate
Politico has talked to dozens of Republicans about this topic, many working on the campaign or raising massive amounts of money to support it. Few would talk on the record to discuss their candid appraisals of Romney.
“You have to know the room, and he doesn’t know the room,” said a top Republican in D.C. who has donated to Romney and wants him to win. “He’s missing the normal-guy gene.” That’s self-evident: Just look at his painful references to athletics as “sport,” or his call Tuesday for experienced referees to return to “the NFL playing fields.” It’s just not how factory workers in Toledo, Ohio, talk.
And as if on cue, Mitt Romney this morning on the campaign trail is asked about the NFL referees lock-out, which ended yesterday:
How bad have things got for Mitt Romney? This bad: he’s now less popular than George Bush. Seriously:
For all the talk about whether Mitt Romney should distance himself from George W. Bush –and the policies of the last GOP White House — a new survey shows that the former president actually has better favorability ratings than the Republican nominee.
A Bloomberg News National Poll released Wednesday has Bush receiving a favorable rating from 46% of those surveyed and an unfavorable rating from 49%. That’s compared to Romney’s 43% favorable and 50% unfavorable.
Updated at 4.37pm BST
Byron York of the Republican-leaning Examiner newspapers offers perhaps the best insight into the Republican psyche, and he hears wistful regret for Rob Portman as Mitt Romney‘s VP pick:
Amid all the talk among conservatives that Romney is not making good use of Ryan – that Romney’s campaign team is muzzling Ryan, keeping him from stressing the budget and entitlement reforms that are his life’s work – listening to Portman on the stump is a reminder that Romney could have chosen a different path. Especially since Portman, whose presence conveys experience and dependability, is a known commodity in a state that is at or near the top of Romney’s must-win list. Ryan, whose youth often overshadows other impressions he makes on voters, understandably doesn’t have the same status in Ohio as its home-state senator.
Still on Todd Akin and his bid to win a US Senate seat in Missouri: some excellent on-the-ground reporting from the Guardian’s Karen McVeigh, who meets the women who aren’t repelled by Akin’s "legitimate rape" remarks:
Akin has attracted a small but determined band of female supporters who believe they can stem the tide of resentment against him. Missouri Women Standing with Todd Akin (MWSTA) began with eight women in a suburban living room a month ago, and launched last Tuesday with a rally in Chesterfield in Akin’s St Louis congressional district, attended by 300 people.
His supporters refer to Akin’s "mistake", his apology and their frustration with the Republican party "throwing him under the bus". But a deeper look reveals some also share Akin’s disregard for science and a staunch pro-life view at odds with the vast majority of Americans, who support legal abortion in the case of rape or incest.
More shockingly unladylike behaviour from Claire McCaskill, the incumbent US senator from Missouri who had the temerity to question her Republican opponent Todd Akin in their debate.
Akin yesterday described McCaskill’s debate performance and "unladylike" and compared her to a "wildcat", which suggests Akin’s manners are redolent of an earlier era. Possibly the 16th century.
Now McCaskill got to have her say on cable news this morning:
This is someone who kind of makes Michele Bachmann look like a hippie.
McCaskill was speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe slot:
Joe Scarborough: Claire, he calls you a wildcat. And now he is saying you are not ladylike. Where do you begin? You’re not being ladylike and you debated like a wildcat. Where do you begin with this, Claire? Where do you begin?
Claire McCaskill: I don’t know, Joe, what do you think. I mean, I’m at a loss. I don’t know exactly what his accusation that I’m not ladylike means. I’m a former courtroom prosecutor, and I try to be strong and informed. And I think the debate was tough for Todd because I went through the list of his very, very extreme positions. And I think that maybe he wasn’t prepared to answer to some of that.
And so they went back to that old, you know, "Gosh, she was mean and unladylike."
And I’m hoping this motivates my supporters even more. It seems to have.
Updated at 7.17pm BST
It might not be a full-blown civil war within the Republican party but the first shots have been fired by disgruntled GOP supporters, unhappy at the inept and bumbling campaign being run by Mitt Romney and his team.
The Washington Post’s conservative grandee Charles Krauthammer lashed the Romney campaign in a broadside dripping with sarcasm
It makes you think how far ahead Romney would be if he were actually running a campaign. His unwillingness to go big, to go for the larger argument, is simply astonishing.
For six months, he’s been matching Obama small ball for small ball. A hit-and-run critique here, a slogan-of-the-week there. His only momentum came when he chose Paul Ryan and seemed ready to engage on the big stuff: Medicare, entitlements, tax reform, national solvency, a restructured welfare state. Yet he has since retreated to the small and safe.
Yet other Republicans are questioning the choice of Paul Ryan as Romney’s vice presidential choice, with some praising Rob Portman as a more effective campaigner without Ryan’s baggage, and pointing out that Portman would help Romney to win in his home state of Ohio.
And then there’s the Romney campaign’s strategy: having its two principals spending the day in states where they don’t have a chance.
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