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Politics Counts: Swing States Could Hinge on College Towns (May 4, 2012, 01:38 PM)
In recent weeks President Barack Obama’s travel schedule has taken on the appearance of a high-school senior on a college tour – of swing states.
He has visited Chapel Hill, N.C., Iowa City, Iowa and Boulder, Colo., talking about issues aimed at that particular constituency, like student loans. And on Saturday he plans rallies at Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth.
There’s a reason Mr. Obama seems particularly interested in rediscovering his mojo with the college set. The votes in those towns may be critical to him in a what’s shaping up to be a close campaign – much more important than they were four years ago. As he hops from quad to quad, however, he may find repeating his 2008 campus magic to be tougher.
The legend of the 2008 presidential campaign goes something like this. Candidate Barack Obama rode to victory with support from across America, but especially from a hyper-engaged “youth vote,” as kids on college campuses turned out in massive numbers.
There are a few assumptions in that version of the story. First, the college vote was especially motivated in 2008. Second, the college vote moved in different ways than the electorate as a whole. And on closer examination, there’s some mythology in those assumptions.
Patchwork Nation, our demographic/geographic breakdown of America’s counties, has a special category for communities that have larger college-age populations and that also tend to vote more Democratic as a whole, Campus and Careers. Those 76 counties don’t account for all university towns, but they hold some of the best-known big state universities – Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Penn. State – and serve as a reasonable proxy for the college-town vote. They are in dark green on the map below.
The vote in those Campus and Career counties was indeed up in 2008, but not dramatically – only by about 1 percentage point over 2004. In 10 states that look to be key in 2012 – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin – the increase in the Campus counties was about the same, about one percentage point.
OK, that’s colleges. But what about the larger pool of “youth voters”? They followed much the same pattern. Voters ages 18 to 29 made up about 18% of the 2008 electorate. They made up 17% in 2004. There was no flood of younger voters. So all those measures of “enthusiasm” among younger voters you are currently reading about may miss the point.
The real reason the president is spending so much time on college campuses isn’t turnout, it’s support. It was the margin in those counties that really mattered for Mr. Obama in 2008.
Sen. John Kerry won the Campus and Career counties in those 10 swing states by about 17 percentage points and 300,000 votes in 2004. Four years later, Mr. Obama won them by 28 percentage points and more than 500,000 votes.
In 2008, that wasn’t such a big deal. Mr. Obama saw big vote increases across the age and income spectrum compared with Mr. Kerry. In fact, the increase in Mr. Obama’s vote out of those Campus counties pretty closely tracked his increase in other places – suburbs, exurbs and rural locales. College-town voters were simply following a trend.
In 2012, the Obama team wants something more difficult to deliver. They want those Campus counties to buck the trend.
Most analysts project this election will be much closer than 2008 and a few hundred thousand Campus county votes out of those 10 swing states could mean the difference between capturing three of them, or five of them, or seven of them.
Look, for example, at the map below. Those two dark blue dots in the middle of North Carolina are Orange and Durham counties – home of the University of North Carolina and the Research Triangle area – and you could argue Mr. Obama won the state because of them.
Mr. Obama won the state of North Carolina by a narrow 34,000 votes in 2008. His margin of victory in those two counties alone was more than 100,000 votes. In 2004, Mr. Kerry also won Orange and Durham, but only by about 62,000 votes.
Of course, even if Mr. Obama can draw those same big margins out of those collegiate counties it’s not clear it would compensate for votes he will likely lose in other places. But the point is without those big college-town margins, he has essentially zero chance of winning the state.
That’s the arithmetic the Obama team is figuring in North Carolina and elsewhere.
The Obama victory margin was bigger in other swing states – 146,000 in Iowa, 415,000 in Wisconsin, 621,000 in Ohio – but those margins too will likely be much tighter this year. What’s more, a lot of those states don’t have many young people. In eight of the 10 less than 25% are between the ages of 18 and 34.
For Mr. Obama, the Campus counties, with their more liberal stances on social issues and their younger voters, are places draw a line in the sand and try to hold onto his 2008 margins.
Will it work? Bucking a trend is much harder than riding one. But you can expect to see Mr. Obama’s college tour rolling on through November.
Indiana Upset? Lugar Is Down 10 in Pre-Primary Poll (May 4, 2012, 11:45 AM)
Sen. Richard Lugar trails his Republican challenger by 10 points in a new poll, suggesting he’s in grave danger of ending his 36-year Senate career in next Tuesday’s Indiana GOP primary.
The Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll, conducted earlier this week, shows Mr. Lugar trailing State Treasurer Richard Mourdock 48%-38%. That’s a notable turnaround from a late March poll that showed Mr. Lugar leading by seven points.
In today’s poll, many voters said they could still change their mind in the campaign’s final 72 hours. But even if those voters are removed from the equation, Mr. Mourdock leads 43%-35%.
The survey, conducted by Republican pollster Christine Matthews and Democratic pollster Fred Yang, has a 3.7 percentage point margin of error.
“Today’s poll confirms what we have been hearing across Indiana,” said Mourdock spokesman Chris Conner. “Hoosiers are tired of Senator Lugar’s willingness to support liberal causes in Washington, they feel he is out of touch with the values they hold dear and they firmly believe it is time for a change.”
Mr. Mourdock has pounded Mr. Lugar, 80 years old, for ostensibly being out of touch with Indiana, and the senator had difficulty recovering from the revelation that he’d sold his Indianapolis home after winning his Senate seat in 1976 and moved to the Washington, D.C., area.
The race became in part a contest between more traditional Republicans and conservative activists who saw Mr. Lugar as too centrist. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Mr. Lugar, for example, while FreedomWorks and various tea party groups backed Mr. Mourdock.
It had become increasingly clear that Mr. Lugar would need the support of independents, who can vote in Tuesday’s Republican primary, to have a chance. But in a sign that his prospects were dimming, one group that was running ads for the senator, American Action Network, pulled out of the race several days ago.
A loss by Mr. Lugar, once his party’s leading voice on foreign policy, would be a dramatic end to a long career and a triumph for conservative activists, akin to the toppling of Sen. Robert Bennett (R., Utah) in 2010. Democrats say their candidate, Rep. Joe Donnelly, would fare better against Mr. Mourdock than against Mr. Lugar, and polls bear that out somewhat. But Republicans also note that Indiana is a conservative state and that Mr. Mourdock has been elected statewide, saying that would give him a big advantage in the general election.
The race is not over, of course, but Mr. Yang, the Democratic pollster, suggested Mr. Lugar is in deep trouble. “Our survey points to one conclusion: Richard Lugar is likely to be defeated next Tuesday,” he said.
Mr. Yang said Mr. Lugar’s fate was largely sealed when his opponents were able to coalesce around a single challenger, rather than splitting their vote as is happening in other Republican Senate primaries.
Romney Calls Job Report ?Terrible? (May 4, 2012, 09:21 AM)
Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney called Friday’s jobs report “terrible,” as he accused the president’s policies of slowing the economic recovery.
“It’s a terrible and very disappointing report this morning,” Mr. Romney said in an interview with Fox & Friends Friday morning. “We seem to be slowing down not speeding up. This is not progress.”
Unemployment ticked down to 8.1% in April from 8.2%, the Labor Department said Friday. But job growth slowed: The economy added just 115,000 new jobs in April, renewing concerns that the U.S. could be headed for its third-straight summer slowdown. The state of the U.S. economy is sure to remain a central argument in the fall election as both President Barack Obama and Mr. Romney try to shape voters’ views about economic conditions.
Mr. Romney said the economy should be experiencing growth of around 500,000 jobs a month after such a deep economic downturn. “The president’s policies have simply not worked,” he said.
Mixed Battleground Polls Ahead of Friday?s Jobs Numbers (May 4, 2012, 06:05 AM)
Heading into Friday’s monthly job numbers, polls out of on eve of the key data release show a mixed bag for President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in battleground states. The jobs data at 8:30 a.m. EDT will be closely watched as an indicator of whether the job market is improving or has stalled.
New polls out from Quinnipiac on Thursday show Mr. Romney pulled about even with Mr. Obama in the key swings states of Ohio and Florida, while Mr. Obama slightly widened his lead in Pennsylvania. (See these polls charted in the constantly updated WSJ polls center.)
“Overall, Obama is doing slightly better than Romney in these critical swing states today.” said Peter A. Brown assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement.
According to the polls, voters in the three states – which Mr. Obama won in 2008 — believe Mr. Romney would do a better job on the economy than Mr. Obama. On the current state of the economy, at least two thirds of voters in each state say the it remains in a recession, according to the poll, though at least 51% in each of the three states believe an economic recovery has begun.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post poll out late Thursday shows Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney in Virginia by 51% to 44% among registered voters.
The April employment report out Friday is one of many ahead of the November election. But it could take on outsize importance, partly because it’s the first to be released since Mr. Romney became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, note Laura Meckler and Sara Murray in the Journal. Moreover, the new data follow a disappointing March report, and will be studied by economists and political analysts looking to assess whether the economy is gaining or losing steam.
A report showing slow job growth last month would reinforce Mr. Romney’s case that President Obama has been a poor steward of the economy, with unemployment likely to remain around 8%. A strong report would bolster the Obama campaign’s message that the economy is mending slowly but steadily, after 18-straight months of job growth.
Mr. Romney’s chances would be boosted greatly by stronger showing in swing states. As Neil King Jr. and Laura Meckler report in the Journal, Mr. Romney will need to win at least six states that went for President Obama in 2008 in order to get enough electoral votes to claim the win this fall.
Even if Mr. Romney wins the five biggest swing states that Mr. Obama won four years ago—Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana—Mr. Romney still won’t claim the White House. Mr. Romney needs to carry all those states plus one more that went to Mr. Obama in order to win.
GSA: Tax Troubles, Too? (May 3, 2012, 07:12 PM)
It turns out the General Services Administration has a tax problem in addition to its spending problem.
On Thursday, congressional investigators said they’ve learned that the much-maligned agency last year demanded a share of the federal energy-efficiency tax breaks it was offering to contractors, in order to spend the money on other projects.
Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R., La.), chairman of a Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, said in a statement on Thursday that “requiring a cash payment in exchange for a tax deduction is a kickback, pure and simple.” He fired off a letter to a number of Obama administration officials, demanding more information.
Aides also released a copy of a form letter that suggests the GSA last year was trying to force private contractors to give back part of the cash value of an energy-efficiency tax break known as the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction, or 179D, that GSA was allocating to them during construction projects. The tax break provides a deduction to projects that significantly improve a building’s energy efficiency.
In the form letter, GSA offers to allocate the tax break to the contractor “upon payment to GSA of 19 percent of the deduction amount.” The letter adds that the funds would be “used by GSA to invest in additional energy-efficiency projects.”
Adopted in 2005, the 179D deduction allows for government building owners to allocate the benefit of the tax break to private contractors, even though government agencies don’t normally have to pay tax. But experts say the purpose was so government agencies could ask for price concessions on construction projects, not to raise extra cash for new ventures.
However, it’s not clear the GSA benefited from its effort. In a statement, a spokesman said the GSA had a “small pilot program” in 2011 that sought a share of the 179D tax break from contractors. The pilot program ended in December and in the seven months of its existence, “no contractors took part in the program and no money was paid to the GSA.”
The 179D deduction hasn’t worked very well, owing to its tough standards and other administrative problems. The GSA putting its hand out probably didn’t help.
Romney Camp Touts $2.3 Million Haul (May 3, 2012, 06:54 PM)
Mitt Romney’s supporters were unusually eager Thursday to boast that they raised more than $2.3 million Wednesday night at a fundraiser in Arlington, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C.
Although that’s certainly a notable chunk of change – Mr. Romney raised $12.7 million in all of March – the former Massachusetts governor’s bundlers appeared more concerned about beating back perceptions that Mr. Romney has fallen behind in the money race, as President Barack Obama boasts a 10-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over his likely GOP rival.
The event featured three policy roundtables and an exclusive dinner with the candidate for donors who contributed to the Romney Victory Fund. A pool report of the event estimated it raised at least $625,000, given the minimum donation was $2,500 and 250 people showed up. Donors were expected to give much more and raise additional funds from friends and associates.
One Romney fundraiser who attended the event called a number of Wall Street Journal reporters Thursday afternoon, seeking to set the record straight on the event’s total haul. Although political donors often chat about fund-raising numbers, rarely are they so eager to get them in print.
Bachmann Says Romney an Easy Choice vs. Obama (May 3, 2012, 03:26 PM)
Michele Bachmann proclaimed her support for Mitt Romney at a campaign stop here, endorsing her onetime rival in the Republican primaries despite some harsh criticism earlier in the race.
Mrs. Bachmann said she will “lend my voice and my endorsement to Mitt Romney as our president and take the country back.” She added: ”I think for all of America, this is a very simple proposition this November — President Barack Obama, President Mitt Romney. You decide. Very easy.”
Back in January, Mrs. Bachmann had said that she didn’t think Mr. Romney could beat Mr. Obama. The tea-party favorite ended her own campaign after she placed sixth in the Iowa caucuses.
Many of Mr. Romney’s challengers have taken their time endorsing the presumptive GOP candidate. On Wednesday, another primary challenger, Newt Gingrich, dropped out the race officially but didn’t endorse Mr. Romney.
The congresswoman wooed supporters last year with her willingness to go on the attack and stake out a clear space on the right. Those same attributes often limited her wider appeal.
Danny Yadron contributed to this article.
Sen. Mark Kirk Continues Recovery From Stroke (May 3, 2012, 02:53 PM)
By Janet Hook and Naftali Bendavid
Sen. Mark Kirk was sent home from a rehabilitation center Tuesday, a milestone in his recovery from a January stroke and brain surgery.
A statement from his family said the Illinois Republican would continue to work on rehabilitation on an outpatient basis, but that he has progressed enough to be able to move home with his family.
“He has begun a rigorous walking study program to further his mobility and independence while maintaining his schedule with staff,’’ the family’s statement said.
Mr. Kirk, 52, an Illinois Republican, checked himself into a Chicago hospital in Jan. 21 complaining of dizziness. Doctors found he’d suffered an ischemic stroke, caused by a blockage of blood to the brain. Surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago removed a section of Mr. Kirk’s skull to relieve swelling around the brain, and he’s been away from Washington ever since.
The stroke was on the right side of Mr. Kirk’s brain, so it was expected to affect activity on the left side of his body. At the time of the stroke, his surgeon said Mr. Kirk was expected to recover neurologically, but prospects for a full physical recovery were less certain.
According to a recent statement issued by his doctor, Mr. Kirk has continued to meet with his staff nearly every day “to discuss policy issues and global current events.”
The family statement said nothing about when Mr. Kirk might be well enough to return to Capitol Hill to work. The family did say it was “grateful for the wonderful doctors and personnel at the RIC for their care of Mark, and to the residents of Illinois who have given him privacy and time to heal. We also thank everyone who has shared their prayers and wishes for his return to the U.S. Senate as soon as possible.”
Mr. Kirk, whose lives in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, served 10 years in the House before winning President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.
In a body as small as the 100-member Senate, his absence has been felt. Mr. Kirk recently co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Act, but supporters had to get 61 co-sponsors instead of the usual 60 to ensure its passage, since Mr. Kirk was not there to vote for it.
Romney Blasts White House Over Chinese Activist (May 3, 2012, 02:36 PM)
Mitt Romney blasted the Obama administration for its handling of a Chinese activist who left the protection of the U.S. embassy earlier this week, saying that it was “a day of shame” for the White House if it turns out the U.S. didn’t work to assure the safety of him and his family.
U.S. officials were scrambling on Thursday to contain the diplomatic and public-relations fallout from the apparent collapse of a deal to keep blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng in China, as Chinese officials appeared to tighten their hold over Mr. Chen’s fellow activists.
In his remarks, Mr. Romney said: “Now just in the last day or two we’ve heard some disturbing things from across the world that suggest that, potentially, if the reports are true, some very troubling developments there. Where an individual, Mr. Chen, had sought freedom in a bastion of freedom, an embassy of the United States of America. Aren’t we proud of the fact that people seeking freedom come to our embassy to find it?”
“The reports are, if they’re accurate, that our administration willingly or unwittingly communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family. And also probably sped up, or may have sped up, the process of his decision to leave the embassy because they wanted to move on to a series of discussions that Mr. Geithner and our secretary of state are planning on having with China.
“It’s also apparent, according to these reports, if they’re accurate, that our embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family. If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration. We are a place of freedom, here and around the world and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”
U.S. officials acknowledged Thursday after speaking with Mr. Chen that he and his family now want to leave China, effectively squelching a deal that had persuaded him to leave the protection of the U.S. embassy on Wednesday. Mr. Chen had initially told supporters he wanted to stay in China, but he told reporters Wednesday night he had changed his mind after learning of threats of violence against his family.
Keith Johnson contributed to this article.
Letter Excerpts: What al Qaeda Thought of Fox News, CNN, ABC (May 3, 2012, 11:28 AM)
In a letter written in January 2011 to an unknown recipient, American al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn discussed al Qaeda’s media strategy for the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Here is an excerpt from the letter in which the spokesman discusses how to approach American media, critiques the various networks, and whether to offer a television network an exclusive interview with Osama Bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al Qaeda’s second-in-command.
Here is the excerpt below. See the full letter starting on page 76 of our searchable compilation of the report and letters. Also, read the related WSJ story on the ‘Letters from Abottabad” report and letters released Thursday.
As far as the American channel that could be used to deliver our messages, whether on the tenth anniversary or before or after, in my personal opinion there are no distinct differences between the channels from the standpoint of professionalism and neutrality. It is all as the Shaykh [Osama Bin Laden] has stated (close to professionalism and neutrality) it has not and will not reach the perfect professionalism and neutrality, only if God wants that.
From the professional point of view, they are all on one level except (Fox News) channel which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks neutrality too. As for the neutrality of CNN in English, it seems to be in cooperation with the government more than the others (except Fox News of course). Its Arabic version brings good and detailed reports about al-Sahab releases, with a lot of quotations from the original text. That means they copy directly from the releases or its gist. It is not like what other channels and sites do, copying from news agencies like Reuters, AP and others.
I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit, but is has lately fired two of the most famous journalists –Keith Olberman and Octavia Nasser the Lebanese – because they released some statements that were open for argument (The Lebanese had praised a Shia Imam Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah after is death and called him “One of the marvels of Hizballah” it seems she is a Shia.)
CBS channel was mentioned by the Shaykh, I see that it is like the other channels, but it has a famous program (60 Minutes) that has some popularity and a good reputation for its long
In conclusion, we can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages. I may ignore them, and even the channel that broadcast them, probably it would distort them somehow. This is accomplished by bringing analysts and experts that would interpret its meaning in the way they want it to be.
Or they may ignore the message and conduct a smearing of the individuals, to the end of the list of what you know about their cunning methods.
But if the display -in the next anniversary for example- of a special type, like a special interview with Shaykh Usama or Shaykh Ayman [al-Zawahiri], and with questions chosen by the channel, and with a good camera, we might find a channel that would accept its broadcasting. But they would accept this time, so as to get an exclusive press scoop: The first press interview of Shaykh Usama or Shaykh Ayman since 10 years ago! Particularly if the Shaykh is the one to be interviewed. This is because of the scarcity of his appearance during the last nine years. Because of the poor photographic quality of the last two releases –I do not know the photo quality this time- this led those believers in conspiracy theory to speculate if the person was the Shaykh, and you may have seen the program (Ben Ladin, alive or dead?) that was broadcast by Al Jazeera.
Accordingly, a high quality speech (HD) may receive some interest by some channels in the tenth anniversary. If the quality of the new Shaykh’s speech is high, relative to the two previous speeches, you may think to compress it or take some measures to decrease the quality, to be similar to the previous ones, and I am talking seriously.
In general, and no matter what material we send, I suggest that we should distribute it to more than one channel, so that there will be healthy competition between the channels in broadcasting the material, so that no other channel takes the lead. It should be sent for example to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN and maybe PBS and VOA. As for Fox News, let her die in her anger. That is if there was no agreement with a specific channel to publish a specific material, or conduct an interview, or the like.
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