The Three to Watch

Since 1960, no one has won the Presidency without winning two of these three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Combined these three states account for 67 Electoral College Votes, one less than they did in the 2008 election (Florida gained two ECVs while Ohio lost two and Pennsylvannia one). Nonetheless these three states, traditionally swing states, account for nearly a quarter of the total needed to win the Presidency.

Polls so far have put Obama far ahead in Pennsylvania so much that the Romney campaign seems to have conceded the Keystone state spending effectively little money. A landslide margin is considered to be ten points. In Pennsylvania, Obama has maintained this margin consistently throughout the summer. The current polls show give the President a twelve point lead.

Ohio and Florida have from the start of this electoral cycle been seen as tough battleground states where the contest would be won or lost. The latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News now point to widening leads for the President approaching landslide margins in both states. In Ohio, Obama leads Romney by ten points and in the even more critical Florida contest Obama leads by nine.

I think there are number of reasons why the President is doing well but in Ohio and Florida, two of those reasons are John Kasich and Rick Scott, the respective Tea Party governors of these two rich electoral prizes. 

The election remains as it has been for quite some time. A close election nationally in terms of the overall popular vote but continuing to move in Obama's direction in the Electoral College as voters in the battleground swing states continue to favor the President. In some of these states, the margin is within the margin of error but in Florida and Ohio, it is clearly not. And if Romney can't reverse this trend in these two states, he might as well start writing his concession speech.

It is clearly too early for Obama to write his victory speech but when that time comes a shout out to Kasich and Scott is clearly in order. 

DNC Day 2: Arithmetic

Thers:

In a sane world, Bill Clinton's speech would be some far right shit I'd be mad about.

It's not a sane world.

Watch the speech here.  Watch the hug that ruined Fox News' fun.  In the end?  Still just a convention speech with marginal influence.  But it went a long way toward further defining what the Democratic Party is pitching (or should be) and servering at very least as a reminder that you can talk smart and folksy together for one hell of a sell.  Krugman: Awesome, except for this.

Pre-Clinton stand outs: Judy Chu, Emanuel Cleaver (!!!), Sandra Fluke, an underwhelming and still amazing to listen to Elizabeth Warren.  Things to avoid unless you like being angry: Steny Hoyer, some talkers talking about the Senate races, and the early morning "let's make sure this gets more press, the President Said" voice vote.

Posting this late in the day (3) so better things have already been written here and here.  Overall another strong day for Democrats, especially in contrast.  And with the news of the Romney camp pulling money out of swing states a month earlier than McCain did the same, the media narrative of the campaigns could get interesting starting now.

On that front, Nate Silver is already looking ahead.

Tonight's prime time schedule.

 

Romney Tax Return Provides a Window to His Soul

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

When a craven of buffoons and bigots disguised in the bodies of Birthers figured that anyone with dark skin and a foreign name had to be born outside the U.S., Barack Obama provided a birth certificate. Not just the usual “short form,” but a state-certified copy of the “long form” that detailed he was born in Hawaii, which some birthers apparently think is a foreign territory, to a mother who was a natural-born U.S. citizen.  

That, of course, was not enough for the whackadoodles who claimed, among other things, that the President’s birth certificate was altered or forged. All of their claims have been debunked by scientific evidence. Of course, they produced their own poorly-forged birth certificate that they said “proved” President Obama was born in Kenya.

In February, billionaire Donald (Look-at-How-Wonderful I-Am) Trump, an unabashed Birther, stood next to multi-millionaire Mitt Romney in a Las Vegas casino and endorsed him for the Republican nomination. A few months earlier, Trump had gotten significant face-time in the media while flirting with the idea of running for the presidency while whining about Romney. “He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs,” Trump crowed. But now, with Romney running well ahead in the primary contests, Trump was trying to be relevant and stay in the political spotlight. Romney, for his part, smiled and said nothing to suggest that Trump could be wrong about pursuing the birther argument. Trying to have everyone like him, one of the most unlikable presidential candidates refused to repudiate Trump’s birther views.

Unlike Barack Obama, Mitt Romney does have a secret. This one is buried within what he either did or did not report to the IRS.

It’s traditional, but not required, that presidential nominees release copies of their tax returns. Most people have no idea how to read a tax return, especially one with dozens of amendments, filings, and schedules. But, the posting of the returns is a form of trust.

Barack Obama has released his returns. Romney’s father, George, former governor of Michigan and presidential candidate in 1968, released 12 years, thus setting a standard for future presidential candidates.

At first the flip-flopping Romney said he didn’t plan to release the returns. Then he said, “Maybe.” Then he declared he’d release only the previous two years’ returns. Then he said that because of the complexity of the return, he filed for an extension from the IRS so he could file after the April 15 deadline for the 2011 return. Then this past week before a fundraiser he said he “never paid less than 13 percent. . . . So I paid taxes every single year.” He expected us just to believe him. He never defined whether that was just income taxes, or included all taxes paid, including social security, local, and state taxes, thus making the federal income tax even lower.

Let’s pretend he meant income taxes. Even at 13 percent, it’s one of the lowest tax rates. In 2011, Romney had a gross income of about $21 million, according to a partial return Romney finally allowed to be posted. The effective tax rate for persons with incomes over $1 million, according to the Tax Foundation, averages about 25 percent.

But, most of Ann and Mitt Romney’s reported income in 2011 was based on capital gains. In 2003, the Bush–Cheney administration had lowered capital gains taxes to only 15 percent, primarily benefitting the wealthy. If the Romneys did not take most of their money from investment capital, their tax bracket would be 35 percent.
There are a number of questions that need to be answered.

The first questions are about that extension for the 2011 taxes. With a fleet of lawyers and accountants, why did the Romneys need at least a five month extension to file a return? Was it to massage the data for public consumption? Equally important, if he needed this extension to file a personal income tax return, what does that say about his ability to govern a nation with a $2.3 trillion budget?

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints tithe to the church. The Romneys acknowledge donating $2.5 million in cash to the church in 2011. Were they overly generous? Or, does that contribution reflect that the Romneys’ income may have been about $25 million. If that is the case, where did the rest go? Ann Romney told NBC News, “We also give 10% of our income to charity.” According to a partial return in 2011, the Romneys claim they donated about $4 million to charity. If Ann Romney is a accurate, that would be a $40 million income, twice what is claimed.

Why Romney won’t release tax returns prior to 2010 may be because secrets are buried in 2009. According to BuzzFlash’s Mark Karlin, citing Lawrence O’Donnell’s pointed queries, “Romney may have taken advantage of a 2009 IRS amnesty period to disclose hidden income in offshore accounts but subject to US taxation. The amnesty offer allowed such persons to escape potential criminal prosecution for tax evasion.” It would be nice to know how much income was diverted to off-shore accounts in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland, and into various tax-shelters the average American has no idea even exist.
That leads to an obvious question. How much of the Romneys’ income over the past decade, not just the two years when he was planning to run for president, had deductions that might be questionable to the average person who doesn’t have lawyers and accountants on retainer? Certainly, taking a $77,000 write-off in 2010 for a show horse isn’t something the average American can do. Working with an onerous tax code, loaded with myriad special interest loopholes, the Romneys know how to take everything wealthy Americans are entitled to receive. It may be legal, but is it ethical?

Frankly, it doesn’t make much difference how much Romney earned, how he earned it, what he did with it, or how he and some extremely bright tax advisors took advantage of the system created by lobbyists and Congress. What does matter is that by stonewalling, obfuscating, and refusing to give full disclosure, he appears to have something to hide. And upon that—and that alone—the people and the media need to pursue why Romney is reluctant to release financial data. It’s a matter not of how rich he is, but a matter of trust and a window into his soul.

[Walter Brasch has been covering local, state, and presidential political races for almost four decades. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow, which looks at the American counter-culture and media of the ’60s as a base to understand today’s social issues.]

 

 

 

What Did Obama Mean by Change?

No reporter has ever asked him as far as I know. I don't know if any will ask this time around. What did you mean by "Change" anyway? He ran a whole campaign on it and does anyone really know what Barack Obama meant he was going to change?

 

I'm in the camp that he hasn't changed a damn thing. People will counter with Lilly Ledbetter. It's a lovely law, but does anyone really believe that's what was meant by the grandiose statement "Change"?

Of course I use Lilly Ledbetter as a symbol. President Obama obviously has more accomplishments than that. He really did change the laws and many people's perceptions on gay rights for example. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is history. The government is no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act. And the President of the United States is finally for gay marriage. But did people really think Senator Obama meant he would change gay rights legislation? Is that what the 2008 election was about?

A little bit of financial reform (which so far has proven to be as ineffectual as progressive critics predicted) certainly doesn't qualify as "Change." Thirty million more Americans insured -- maybe, hopefully, by 2014 -- is a good thing. Is it transformational? Has Washington changed as we know it? Have we gotten "Change"?

Here is the common sense interpretation of what "Change" is -- changing the way Washington works. In fact, this is exactly what was promised, specifically by Barack Obama. He even made a campaign ad about it: http://www.youtube.com/...

That's an example of the same old game playing in Washington. I don't want to learn how to play the game better; I want to put an end to the game playing.

And by God, what have you done to that effect? I would venture to say, almost without refutation, absolutely nothing. Even the most ardent Obama supporter can't in good conscience or sound mental state argue that President Obama has changed the way Washington works. He's just played the game a little better, if you're being charitable on how you keep score on that count.

But here's what should really burn you up -- he hasn't even tried. Not even close. Has there been a single piece of legislation backed by the White House that would stop the way lobbyists or big corporate interests or any special interest groups buy our politicians? In 93% of the cases, the person with more money wins their Congressional race. Democrat or Republican. Obviously the controlling factor is not ideology, party or even votes. It's money. And it's obvious.

And the president has done what to "Change" that?

Nonetheless, I'm insanely optimistic and naïve. So, I say we give him one more chance. But there is no way you should just trust him and hope for the best. He has to actually do something this time instead of just hanging a campaign placard up.

Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky has introduced a bipartisan bill that would amend the constitution to say that money cannot control our elections. Will the president make this one of his top priorities? Will he campaign on it? Will he do everything in his power to pass it if he is re-elected?

If he does, then we should let bygones be bygones. The slate is wiped clean and God bless second terms and the concept of redemption. If the president makes a real effort on the campaign trail to emphasize this as one of his core issues, then progressives should turn out to do everything they can to get him elected, whether it's voting, donating or volunteering. We're not asking for much in return -- just deliver on your original promise.

On the other hand, if he can't even do this, then it's obvious that the Democrats will never, ever help us. It will be painfully clear that they are part of the same corrupt system and have no interest in ever changing it. In fact, they love that system because it is what keeps them in office.

But this is not a decision for me to make. It is for the president. Which way will he go? Will he continue to play small-bore politics? Will he continue his rhetorical games and hope we don't realize that he is being too clever by half? Will he play the same old Washington games and hope to play them just a little better? Or will he actually lead and bring us real change?

Despite all the broken promises and all the cute political tricks, I still have the audacity of hope. I'm just waiting for President Obama to put it out one last time, so we can really go to war against Washington -- all of it. Democrats and Republicans alike. The public has a pox ready for both of their houses and only one man has the antidote. Let's see what he does.

Watch The Young Turks Here and Here

 

An Interesting Way in Which Barack Obama’s Race Helps Him

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be an election highly focused on economics and class. It seems that one of the main themes of the election will be class, or the gap between the rich and the poor. At this point, it’s pretty likely that the main Democratic attack on Mitt Romney will be an attack based on class. Mitt Romney will be portrayed as rich and out-of-touch, a Wall Street banker.

Now what does this have to do with the title of this post?

Well, obviously this critique of Mitt Romney wouldn’t work if his opponent was also a billionaire businessman. The attack against Mitt Romney relies on the fact that Barack Obama is not rich, is not out-of-touch, and is not a Wall Street banker.

Except one of these things is false. Barack Obama is rich. His income level squarely puts him in the top one percent.

One can make a good argument, of course, that Obama’s wealth is a very different thing from Romney’s wealth. Obama is wealthy mainly due to the success of his books. He has never been and will never be rich in the way Mitt Romney is. Before gaining political success, Obama was pretty heavily indebted. Not to mention that he deliberately chose to be a community organizer after college, not the most high-income of jobs.

But more importantly than all these facts, there is the fact that Barack Obama just doesn’t look very rich. The typical American does not think of Obama as belonging to the top one percent when they look at him. Obama just doesn’t exude wealth in the way Mitt Romney’s very presence does.

Why is this? The answer is pretty simple: it’s because Obama’s black.

Despite the occasional successful black entertainer or athlete, the black community is still very strongly associated with poverty. Think about, for instance, the first image that usually comes to mind when people talk about poverty in America (and especially urban poverty).

The result is that Americans almost never associate Barack Obama with being rich, even though today he has become quite wealthy. This is one of those subconscious things which most people don’t even realize is happening in their minds. Nor even do many political experts realize this. Nor did I for the longest time.

But the fact that Obama is African-American, and the fact that very few people associate African-Americans with wealth, will end up making a huge difference in the 2012 presidential election.

 

 

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