“President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up, investing in innovation, education, and job training. It only works if there is a strong middle class,” says former President Clinton in an Obama television ad out today, the Big Dog having been unleashed on an unsuspecting electorate to label the election “a clear choice” rather than the more Romney-friendly “referendum” that Republicans are pushing.
The problem with Clinton’s argument is that the notion of “a strong middle class” appears to be largely chimerical. Politicians in neither party are eager to admit that, because “middle class” is tidy code for the American dream, it’s how many Americans choose to define themselves, and a lot of votes come from those people.
But the Pew Research Center study released on Wednesday shows that the middle class, as defined by Pew, has fallen from 61 percent of adults 40 years ago to 51 percent today. Its net worth is about where it was two decades ago, and its median household income has fallen more than $3,000 in the last decade. Eighty-five percent believe it’s more difficult to maintain their lifestyles now than 10 years ago.
Those figures hardly describe a robust middle class. Instead, they point to a galloping disconnect between the voters themselves and the campaigns that purport to be trying to reach them. Obama and Romney both cheer the middle class and promise to reveal its true glory, but more and more that message appears misdirected, and aimed at a swath of the electorate that can’t recognize itself in those words.
-- Jim O'Sullivan
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
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 Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
The Bain Files: The Documents
[Gawker, 8/23/11] Gawker has secured a large cache of pages that it claims 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 today 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] In a new Obama campaign ad, Bill Clinton touts 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
[National Journal, 8/23/12] The Swiftboating of Democratic presidential candidates by aggrieved right-wing 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 today 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 cyberattacks, 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 Protesters Vow to Carry on Despite Isaac
[Tampa Bay Times, 8/23/12] Protesters 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 rise of 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 Late Show With David Letterman.
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.