An Election in Need of a Mandate

National Journal Staff

There are critical moments in every campaign that can shake up a race. But only one — the convention speech — offers each contender the chance to lay out a specific vision for his term in office and to ask the country for a mandate to carry it out.

In a year in which the White House race has revolved less around policy specifics and more around the food fight over social issues, taxes, bank accounts, and how the candidates treat their dogs, the party conventions stand out as moments for President Obama and Mitt Romney to stand before tens of millions of Americans and tell them what they would do with the most powerful office in the world.

However stage-managed and made-for-television they may be, the conventions offer the eventual winner a moment he will need to define himself and his agenda and to ask for the nation’s buy-in.

Given the challenges the country faces, from the so-called fiscal cliff looming at year’s end to the dilemmas facing entitlement programs to an economic recovery that continues to creep along, the winner will be in desperate need of a mandate. And yet, an election that is shaping up to be a choice between two evils, decided by an evenly divided electorate, seems unlikely to produce a mandate for either side.

It will be tempting to dismiss the stagecraft in Tampa and Charlotte as the dying vestiges of conventions that really mattered, made-for-television productions that amount to little more than hours-long commercials for either side.

But the conventions matter: Even if the events don’t move poll numbers, Obama and Romney will have their last unadulterated chance to make their pitches. Whether the next president seizes a mandate or spends the next four years fighting with Congress could depend on what they say. Read more

Reid Wilson, Hotline editor-in-chief



GOP Convention Lineup Showcases High-Level Elected Hispanics 
[National Journal, 8/23/12] The Republican National Convention in Tampa will showcase the GOP’s success electing Hispanics like never before, even as the Party is losing ground in that fastest growing part of the electorate. Speaking slots are reserved for high-profile Hispanics like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. 

The Bain Files: The Documents
[Gawker, 8/23/11] Gawker has secured a large cache of pages that they claim are confidential internal financial documents from Bain Capital during the Romney years. Expect plenty of crowd-source reporting in the coming hours.

Romney Unveils Energy-Jobs Plan in New Mexico
[National Journal, 8/23/12] Romney is rolling out new details of his energy  plan on Thursday in New Mexico, a battleground state home to hundreds of acres of oilfields drilled on federal land. Romney is making the case that aggressive new drilling will create jobs and grow the economy. 

Poll: Obama’s Lead Cut in Florida, Wisconsin
[National Journal, 8/23/12] Since the rollout of Rep. Paul Ryan as the GOP veep choice, Obama’s advantages in Florida and Wisconsin have been reduced to within the margin of error, new polls show, but Romney remains unpopular in Ohio. The polls show Romney with an advantage among seniors, but voters in each state think Obama would do a better job on Medicare.

The Real Strategy Behind Romney’s Welfare Ads
[The New Republic, 8/22/12] It’s been a while since welfare has been an issue, but Romney is presenting voters with new – albeit misleading – information on the subject. The reason, TNR's Nate Cohn argues, is to shore up the white working class vote.

Bill Clinton Featured in New Obama Ad
[National Journal, 8/23/11] Former President Bill Clinton is featured in a new Obama campaign ad released on Wednesday. Clinton touted Obama’s positions on investing in the middle class:  “That’s what happened when I was president,” he says. “We need to keep going with his plan.”

Debunking the Not-So-Swift Swiftboaters NEW!
[National Journal, 8/23/12] The Swiftboating of Democratic presidential candidates by aggrieved right-win retired military people is a phenomenon that’s not going to go away, as National Journal’s Michael Hirsh writes. But key figures behind Swiftboating are swiftly imploding on their own. 

Obama Campaign: Text Us Your Money
[CNN, 8/23/12] The Obama campaign announced on Thursday that it would be the first campaign in history to accept donations through text messaging. Cell phone users will be able to make small donations—less than $50 at a time.

Obama Faces Delicate Decision as Cyberattack Fears Rise
[National Journal, 8/23/12] With Congress looking unlikely to act anytime soon to fix vulnerabilities in the nation’s computer systems that leave them open to cyberattakcs, National Journal’s Josh Smith writes that Obama is weighing the pros and cons of using an executive order to do what Congress hasn’t.

Fear of a Black President
[The Atlantic, 8/23/12] The irony of Obama is that he has become the most successful black politician in American  history by avoiding the mention of race, and yet his indelible blackness irradiates everything he touches, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates writes.

RNC Protestors Vow to Carry on Despite Issac
[Tampa Bay Times, 8/23/12] Protestors expected in Tampa next week for the Republican National Convention – from members of the Occupy movement  to women’s protest group Code Pink – aren’t about to change their plans because of a little inclement weather. A massive march in downtown Tampa on the convention’s first day is expected to draw 5,000 people.

Limited Convention Coverage Will Leave Ann Romney Off-Air
[New York Times, 8/22/12] With the Internet, the sluggish economy, and the increasing nastiness of the presidential campaign, several big networks are scaling back their televised coverage of both conventions from four years ago.  Ann Romney is scheduled to take the stage on Monday night, but none of the networks will show her speech.

Team Obama Breaks Precedent to Try to Spoil Romney’s Convention
[The Hill, 8/23/12] Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and leading congressional Democrats have all scheduled high-profile events next week to counter-program the GOP gathering in Tampa. Even First Lady Michelle Obama is in on it, with an appearance on the “David Letterman Show.”

It’s Official, Wisconsin: You’re a Swing State
[CBS News, 8/23/12] The Badger State hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan’s reelection in 1984, but Romney’s decision to tap Janesville native Paul Ryan as his running mate effectively evaporated Obama’s longtime lead in Wisconsin.

A Super PAC-Politician Firewall? Not Quite
[Politico, 8/23/12] The intermingling of outside groups and politicians has become so routine that even a meeting in the Capitol led by a party’s top outside operative barely raises an eyebrow. The rules governing their interactions are in their infancy, so it’s all but pointless for either side to cry foul.


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