The Edge: Is Obama Losing His Base?

National Journal Staff
National Journal

The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

Is Obama Losing His Base?

Through the highs and lows of his two terms, President Obama has always maintained rock-solid approval ratings with his base. He won a second term in surprisingly comfortable fashion by rallying young voters, single women, and minorities to his side. But the controversy over the administration's surveillance techniques is exposing, for the first time, a potential soft spot with one of those core groups.

In a new CNN/ORC poll, Obama's job approval dropped 8 points in the last month to 45 percent. Among Americans age 18-29, that number slipped 17 points. Democratic pollsters told National Journal's Ron Fournier they are seeing similar trend lines emerging.

Obama won't be on the ballot again, but his legacy is critical for his party. Build a growing base of Democratic voters and exploit the GOP's weakened brand, and voilà: Any future Democratic nominee should capitalize. But if the Obama brand loses its luster in a second term, the call for change could sound a lot different than it did in 2008.

Josh Kraushaar


SNOWDEN DEFENDS NSA LEAKS; NEW DOCS SUGGEST WIDER INTERNATIONAL SCRUTINY. Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden discussed his decision to leak information on agency surveillance programs, as well as the implications of that decision, in an online Q&A session with readers of The Guardian today. "I did not reveal any U.S. operations against legitimate military targets," Snowden said. "I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target." Meanwhile, a fresh disclosure indicates that U.S. and British intelligence officials monitored the communications of international leaders during a 2009 conference in London. Read more

  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying characterized as "completely groundless" claims that Snowden could be spying for the People's Republic of China. Read more

G-8 MEETING OPENS IN IRELAND; TALKS TO BEGIN IN JULY ON U.S.-EU TRADE PACT. President Obama and European leaders opened the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland today with the announcement that negotiations on a U.S.-European Union trade agreement will begin next month, The New York Times reports. "The U.S.-E.U. relationship is the largest in the world—it makes up almost half of global G.D.P.," Obama said. "This potentially groundbreaking partnership would deepen those ties." French President Francois Hollande voiced concern over comments made by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in which he characterized a French effort to limit the scope of the talks as "part of this anti-globalization agenda that I consider completely reactionary." Obama met with Putin for 90 minutes Read more

  • Leaders at the summit are pushing back against Russian President Vladimir Putin for his support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over opposition forces, Reuters reports. Obama met with Putin today. Read more

REPORT: WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS DEEPLY INVOLVED IN IMMIGRATION BILL. The White House is playing a larger role than publicly recognized in helping craft the immigration legislation making its way through Congress, The New Yorker reports. An unnamed senior White House official told reporter Ryan Lizza regarding Senate "Gang of Eight" negotiations: "No decisions are being made without talking to us about it," adding: "This does not fly if we're not O.K. with it, because everyone knows this is going to pass with some Republicans but with a majority of Democrats…." And, as The Atlantic's Elspeth Reeve notes regarding the article, the one member of the "gang" who has needed the most managing is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is seen as the legislation's linchpin. Read more

  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., told World Net Daily that Rubio "has given up his rightful place to advise any of us in Washington what to do, and he's given up any right to be trusted by the American people." Read more

SCOTUS RULES AGAINST ARIZONA VOTER ID LAW. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the state of Arizona may not require voters to present documentary proof of citizenship, The New York Times reports. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which asks voters to answer the question, "Are you a citizen of the United States?" under penalty of perjury, supersedes the state rule. Read more

  • The Court has yet to rule on Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, which address California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, respectively. Read more

CORNYN REVEALS THREE PUBLIC PENSIONS ATOP SALARY. Texas Republican John Cornyn supplemented his Senate salary with a trio of public pensions last year from his days as a Texas judge and elected official—a practice some fiscal watchdog groups have attacked as "double dipping." Cornyn, who is the minority whip and the No. 2 ranking Republican in the Senate, reported collecting $65,383 in public retirement benefits in 2012 in addition to his $174,000 salary as a U.S. senator. Cornyn's office did not respond to requests for comment. Elected to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn is a former district judge, Texas Supreme Court justice, and state attorney general. In 2012, he collected pensions from three separate state retirement programs, National Journal's Shane Goldmacher reports. Read more

IS SCOTT WALKER THE GOP'S SLEEPER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE? Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker polls near the bottom of would-be presidential contenders. Unlike potential rivals, you won't find him on the cover of Time magazine or slow-jamming the news with comedian Jimmy Fallon. But he's a conservative Republican who won election in a blue state, survived a brutal recall campaign, and now posts approval ratings over 50 percent. A budget-slashing chief executive and son of a Baptist minister who straddles the fiscal and social conservative camps. A proven fundraiser who has put his thumb in the eye of Obama and big labor. He's poised to be the sleeper Republican presidential candidate of 2016, National Journal'sBeth Reinhard reports. Read more

ARE WE REACHING A SEQUESTER TIPPING POINT? When $85 billion in broad spending cuts went into effect in March, the world didn't end. Kids weren't kicked out of school en masse, hundreds of thousands weren't laid off, the economy didn't tank. Sequestration was overhyped and the deluge never came. But it may begin to pour this summer. The across-the-board cuts may gain more visibility this summer largely as big defense cuts go into effect. Starting in early July, the Defense Department will begin 11-day furloughs for hundreds of thousands of its civilian employees nationwide, and the local reports are rolling in, National Journal's Niraj Chokshi reports. Read more

YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IRAN'S NEW PRESIDENT ON TWITTER. Iran's new president is quite the tweeter. Just on Monday morning, Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani tweeted around 50 times, mostly in English. The tweeting blitz coincided with a press conference, where he said he will work to end the sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy by attempting to negotiate with the United States and its allies. He is expected to take office in early August. The Western-educated cleric is clearly attempting to get the attention of the outside world and bolster hope for a resolution on the country's nuclear program. If Rouhani comes off as more moderate and sensible, U.S. and European officials might be willing to engage with the new leader, National Journal's Matt Vasilogambros reports. Read more


OBAMA TO CONTINUE G-8 TALKS. Obama will be in Northern Ireland on Tuesday as part of the G-8 Summit. He will be part of a session on counter-terrorism, another on trade, tax and transparency, and a working lunch that will include leaders of African nations and heads of international organizations. Read more

POLICY DISCUSSION ON FUTURE OF AMERICAN ENERGY, TRANSPORTATION NEEDS. National Journal will host "Fueling the Nation: The Transportation Transformation," an in-depth policy summit on the future of American energy and how the nation will continue to meet its transportation fuel needs. Speakers, including Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., and several industry experts and advocates, will explore a range of issues that are central to future transportation planning decisions. The event, held from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Newseum, will be live-streamed online here. To RSVP, please click here. Follow along with the Twitter hashtag #NJFuelingNation.

SENATE COMMITTEE TO VET OBAMA GSA PICK TANGHERLINI. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to consider Obama's nomination of Dan Tangherlini to head the General Services Administration. Tangherlini has been acting GSA administrator since shortly after 2012 revelations of wasteful spending at the agency.

PRICE TRANSPARENCY, HIGH COST OF HEALTH CARE UNDER REVIEW. The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on price transparency and high cost in health care. The latter received a lot of attention after a recent article by Time magazine's Steven Brill, who will be among those testifying. Newly released hospital price data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed a wide variation in the charges of common procedures among hospitals in the same area and brought price-transparency issues into focus this spring.


"Ask yourself: If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now." —Edward Snowden, during a question-and-answer session, about if he had, or would, provide intelligence to the Chinese government in exchange for asylum. (The Guardian)


DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SNOWDEN, ELLSBERG GETS AT NATION'S REACTION TO LEAK. The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta breaks down the differences between Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and tries to get at what's driving the reaction to his actions. Unlike Ellsberg, Snowden was a relatively low-level contractor, leaving him without the type of Beltway connections that helped his predecessor. Also, unlike Ellsberg, the threat Snowden says is coming is theoretical, a "turn-key tyranny," versus something that has a direct effect of physical harm. Franke-Ruta also pushes back on Snowden's argument that government is the biggest threat to privacy by noting that "the only reason there is private information for the government to ask for is because we have volunteered it already to corporate third parties." Read more


REPORT: McDONNELLS BILL VIRGINIA FOR PERSONAL ITEMS. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have billed the state for items including "body wash, sunscreen, dog vitamins, and a digestive system 'detox cleanse' " and used state employees to run errands for their adult daughters, The Washington Post reports. Records obtained by ThePost through a FOIA request include 16 sales receipts for purchases including "college stuff" for the McDonnell children at Bed Bath and Beyond. While a spokesperson indicated that the McDonnells have reimbursed the commonwealth for their purchases of personal items, the limited information provided in response to the FOIA request makes this difficult to verify. Read more


OBAMA ON 'CHARLIE ROSE' Before heading out to Northern Ireland for the G-8, Obama sat down for a 45-minute interview with PBS's Charlie Rose, touching on a wide range of subjects including the Iranian elections, Syria, China, NSA, and drones, according to Politico. The interview will air tonight, at 11 p.m. and will re-air globally on Bloomberg Television on Tuesday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

CORRECTION: An item in the Friday edition of The Edge incorrectly identified the party affiliation of Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska. She is a Republican.

Subscribe to The EdgeSee The Edge Archive