Obama, Romney looking angry

Image Credit: Associated Press

According to the poll released yesterday by Fox News, President Obama is currently leading challenger Mitt Romney by a 9-point margin. The poll shows Obama taking 49 percent of the vote, while Romney would only take 40 percent if the election were held today.

 

This is a significant increase from Fox News’ June horse-race poll, which showed Obama at 45 percent and Romney at 41 percent.

 

Obama’s advantage in this latest poll is mostly a result of increased support from independent voters, who now favor him over Romney by an 11-point margin. 30 percent of independents remain undecided.

 

54 percent of those polled said that they had a favorable view of the candidate, his highest favorability rating in this poll in over a year. According to the poll, this is nearly as high as the 59 percent approval rating reported shortly after the 2008 election.

 

CNN’s Thursday presidential poll has also shown strong support for the president, with 52 percent of registered voters indicating that they would choose President Obama, while 45 percent said they would vote for Romney if the election were held today.

 

The CNN poll also showed that Obama’s approval rating is staying relatively constant at 50 percent. 47 percent of those polled disapproved of the President’s job performance.

 

56 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the President in the CNN poll, while only 42 percent were unfavorable. These numbers did not look as good for Romney, who had a 47 percent favorability rating and a 48 percent unfavorable rating.

 

These poll results seem to indicate that the President is making inroads with independent voters. The percentage of voters that would pick Obama over Romney has steadily increased over the last month.

 

RealClearPolitics now shows an Obama lead of 4.4 points in its polling average. This estimate includes the CNN and Fox polls.

The FiveThirtyEight estimate is now showing that Obama has a 73.3 percent chance of winning the general election, up significantly from a month ago.

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Firey Olympic Rings at the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games

Image Credit: Ian MacNicol, Getty Images

I live in Colorado, which is a swing state in the upcoming Presidential Election. On Friday, I was watching the Olympics opening ceremony with a friend, and we were amazed at how many pro-Romney ads we saw during the ceremony.

So yesterday (July 31), I decided to count how many pro-Romney and pr0-Obama ads were run during the prime time “Olympic Zone” coverage on NBC.

In the 40 minutes between 6:25 PM and 7:05 PM (Mountain Time), I counted eight pro-Romney ads and two pro-Obama ads. That’s an average of one pro-Romney ad every five minutes. Pro-Romney ads ran back-to-back in two of the six commercial breaks during that time (these weren’t typical commercial breaks – some were much longer than others).

In this timespan, there were five different pro-Romney ads, funded by the Crossroads and Restore Our Future super PACs, the Republican National Committee, and the Romney campaign. The most common ad was “Where Did All the Money Go?” (embedded below) funded by the Romney campaign.

In the same timeframe, there were two different pro-Obama ads, both funded by the Obama campaign. The ad titled “The Choice” was more common throughout the evening.

I was fortunate to be watching these ads with a friend of mine who has a Master’s degree in Communication with a concentration in Media and Culture. Her opinion was that the Obama ads were generally more positive and higher quality than the Romney ads. She felt that the overwhelming frequency of the Romney ads, coupled with their negativity, would likely lead to “over saturation” – most viewers would simply ignore the ads.

Think about it this way; if you were watching TV and saw an ad for the same product every five minutes, sometimes twice in a row, would you be more likely to buy that cereal, or would you just be annoyed?

Apparently, Romney and (un)associated super PACs have chosen a “quantity over quality” swing-state advertising strategy, while the Obama campaign has chosen to run positive, higher quality advertisements but not as many of them.

While it is obvious that Romney and his supporters have a significant advantage when it comes to ad spending, they should be careful about running too many negative ads, especially during the Olympics. In 2008, John McCain followed a similar strategy, running negative ads during the Olympics while Obama ran positive ones. 

According to the Washington Post, “McCain’s choice to go negative during a moment of national unity was controversial. Viewers found McCain’s ad far more memorable, but many were turned off by it.”

On a final note; regardless of party, people should always fact-check the political ads they see. There were some truly outlandish statements made in many of the ads, but the claim that really struck me was in the “Olympics” ad funded by Restore Our Future. It claimed, “after September 11th, Romney delivered the Olympics safe and secure.”

Really? Republicans complained bitterly that Obama failed to give credit to the Navy SEALs and intelligence services (which he actually did) when he announced the death of Osama bin Laden, but it’s ok for Romney to take credit for preventing an imaginary terrorist attack at the 2002 Olympics? What about the police, security guards, FBI, and intelligence agencies that were involved in security for the Salt Lake Olympics? Don’t they deserve any credit?

Take a minute to compare the two most common ads:

 

 

What do you think?

A recent Fox News poll of 912 registered voters conducted  on June 24-26, before the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling, shows President Barack Obama leading challenger Mitt Romney 45-40, with 10% undecided.

In addition, the poll found that 47% of respondents thought Obama “will do a better job looking out for you and your family during tough economic times,” compared to only 36% who felt that way about Romney.

Obama also lead Romney by a 14-point (41-27) margin when asked which candidate had a clear plan to improve the economy.

The poll also showed a presidential approval rating of 48% and a disapproval rating of 43% with 9% undecided.

Finally, the poll found that 54% of respondents favored the Obama administration’s recent decision to stop deportation and grant work permits to undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought here as children. Only 36% opposed this decision.

The poll was conducted among randomly selected landline and cellular phones and had a 3-point margin of error.

I’ve mentioned before that I find national presidential polling to be somewhat pointless. However, I always find it interesting when Fox News releases a poll that shows Obama with a wider lead than the averages of respected poll aggregators like Real Clear Politics (3.6-point lead) or the Huffington Post (1.5-point lead).

United States Supreme Court upholds Obamacare

Image Credit: dbking via Flickr

As everyone is no doubt aware by now, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld nearly every provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) earlier today in a 5-4 ruling.

Despite many predictions to the contrary, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate. The Court ruled that the mandate is constitutional as a tax, but not under the Commerce Clause.

“In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”

Republicans are desperately scrambling to put a favorable spin on the Supreme Court ruling, insisting that the ACA is nothing more than a new tax that must be repealed. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) went so far as to say that “Obamacare is a malignant tumor that feeds on America.”

Republican attempts to paint the Affordable Care Act as a tax increase rather than a healthcare bill are patently absurd.  The ACA is far from a mandatory tax increase — anyone can choose to opt out of the tax, simply by buying health insurance.

Furthermore, unlike nearly every other Federal tax, there are no real penalties associated with not paying this tax. According to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax cannot be enforced with liens or property seizures, interest cannot be assessed, and civil or criminal penalties cannot be imposed for non-compliance.

The Supreme Court also ruled that the Federal government cannot withhold Medicaid funds from states that opt out of the Medicaid expansion proposed in the Affordable Care Act.

All things considered, this is a much better outcome than many pundits expected. However, many are concerned that states with conservative governments will refuse to participate in the Medicaid expansion.

At least one Republican governor, Bob McDonnell (R-VA), appeared to indicate that his state will implement the Medicaid expansion.

“This is going to be a huge expansion of Medicaid,” he said. “In coming months, Virginia’s health care leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the health care needs of our citizens.”

While this is far from an explicit assurance that Virginia will implement the Medicaid expansion, it is strongly suggestive that it will.

Gov. McDonnell also claimed that the Medicaid expansion would cost Virginia $2.2 billion over the next 10 years, while conveniently forgetting that the vast majority of Medicaid funding will come from the Federal government.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Specifically, the federal government will assume 100 percent of the Medicaid costs of covering newly eligible individuals for the first three years that the expansion is in effect (2014-16). Federal support will then phase down slightly over the following several years, and by 2020 (and for all subsequent years), the federal government will pay 90 percent of the costs of covering these individuals. According to CBO, between 2014 and 2022, the federal government will pay $931 billion of the cost of the Medicaid expansion, while states will pay roughly $73 billion, or 7 percent.

Many of the states that would benefit most from the expansion, such as Texas and Florida, are also states with severely conservative governments. Expanding Medicaid in these two states alone will extend health insurance coverage to approximately 2.8 million more people, according to the Urban Institute.

Only time will tell which states decide to implement the Medicaid expansion. In the years to come, it’s likely that even the most conservative states will recognize the overwhelming benefits this expansion will have for their residents.

Neil Bush – Photo Credit: Kiev Ukraine News Blog

On Thursday, May 31, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stood outside the abandoned headquarters of Solyndra, a bankrupt solar company that was backed by some $500 million in federal loan guarantees, and said, “free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

What he didn’t say is, to the Republican Party, free enterprise is exactly that.

The very next day, Konarka, a Massachusetts-based solar manufacturer, announced that it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and would lay off all its employees.

That marks the second bankruptcy of a solar company that was backed by Governor Romney’s administration. The other company, Evergreen Solar, declared bankruptcy in August 2011.

Maybe Obama and Romney’s administrations should have been a little more careful about who got these loans, but that’s also part of free enterprise. Romney’s experience at Bain has undoubtedly taught him that sometimes bad investments happen.

Even so, the administrations didn’t do anything wrong by making these loans. It is common practice for federal and state governments to provide loans and loan guarantees to companies in fledgling industries such as renewable energy.

It is, however, downright hypocritical for Romney and the Republicans to try to make Solyndra into a campaign issue.

At this point, the more conservative among you are probably saying that it’s not the same because “Solyndra’s chief backer was George Kaiser, an oilman who made billions of dollars and was a big donor and fundraiser for the Obama 2008 campaign.”

Or they might point to Romney’s claim that Solyndra funds were steered to “friends and family, to campaign contributors.” This claim, by the way, was debunked in detail by ABC.

But it would be hypocritical for Romney and the Republicans want to talk about steering federal funds to friends and family if they’re guilty of the same thing, right?

Does anyone remember the Silverado Savings and Loan bailout? From Wikipedia:

Silverado Savings and Loan collapsed in 1988, costing taxpayers $1.3 billion. Neil Bush, son of then Vice President of the United States George H. W. Bush, was on the Board of Directors of Silverado at the time. Neil Bush was accused of giving himself a loan from Silverado, but he denied all wrongdoing…

As a director of a failing thrift, Bush voted to approve $100 million in what were ultimately bad loans to two of his business partners. And in voting for the loans, he failed to inform fellow board members at Silverado Savings & Loan that the loan applicants were his business partners.

Neil Bush paid a $50,000 fine, paid for him by Republican supporters, and was banned from banking activities for his role in taking down Silverado, which cost taxpayers $1.3 billion. A Resolution Trust Corporation Suit against Bush and other officers of Silverado was settled in 1991 for $26.5 million.

So Neil Bush almost single-handedly destroyed Silverado Savings and Loan, costing American taxpayers $1.3 billion under the Reagan administration’s savings and loan bailout program.

…And the Republicans accuse President Obama of “crony capitalism”?

What Romney should have said is, “free enterprise to the Republicans means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to their families.”

Image Credit: Defense Images

Earlier today, I read “Learning to Kill: President Obama’s Evolution in the War on Terror“, a post by fellow blogger and Coloradan newsofthetimes that really got me thinking. The post below was originally going to be a comment on that blog, but it got a little long, so I decided to put it here instead.

I’ll admit that I, like many progressives, was much more willing to criticize President Bush for his actions in the “war on terror” than I have been to criticize President Obama for his.

Obama ran, more or less, as an anti-war candidate, so the fact that he has continued many Bush-era policies regarding the “war on terror” has led many on the left to declare that Obama has broken his campaign promises about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and on the war on terror in general.

However, I think it’s probable that the shift away from those promises indicates that there are national security concerns that Presidents Bush and Obama are privy to that most other politicians and regular Americans aren’t. These are national security concerns that Obama was likely not aware of as a presidential candidate in 2008, and once he became aware of them he may have come to view some of his campaign promises as hopelessly naive.

It’s also important to note that Obama officially ended several Bush-era policies, including torture, early in his presidency. He also had significant reservations about the use of drone strikes. According to an excerpt from Daniel Klaidman’s Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, printed in Newsweek,

Obama remained unsettled. “The president’s view was ‘OK, but what assurances do I have that there aren’t women and children there?’” according to a source familiar with his thinking. “‘How do I know that this is working? Who makes these decisions? Where do they make them, and where’s my opportunity to intervene?’”

That said, I think his decision to redefine combatant to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone” sets a particularly dangerous and terrifying precedent. Even if the majority of people being killed are militants (or terrorists or whatever you want to call them), I think there’s too much potential for similar policies to be abused by future presidents, even if it isn’t being abused by the current one. And how can anyone really know if Obama is abusing it or not?

In all the fuss about Obama’s definition of ‘militant’, it’s easy to forget that he has displayed a great deal of concern for civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Again, as Newsweek reported,

The president had come a long way in a short time. Schooled as a constitutional lawyer, he had had to adjust quickly to the hardest part of the job: deciding whom to kill, when to kill them, and when it makes sense to put Americans in harm’s way. His instincts tilted toward justice and protecting the innocent, but he also knew that war is a messy business no matter how carefully it is conducted. He saw the drones as a particularly useful tool in a global conflict, but he was also mindful of the possibility of blowback.

As Journalist Peter L. Bergen reports in his recent book Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for Bin Laden, the President chose a special ops raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound partly because of the reduced possibility of civilian casualties, even when Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Panetta, and several of Obama’s top military advisors advocated a drone strike.

The AP reports that the UN recently released a study that said that civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2012 have dropped by 36% compared to last year. (Something tells me the UN is not using Obama’s “militant” criteria here, but I could be wrong.) That report also states that the Taliban and its allies bear the responsibility for about 79% of civilian deaths, while the Afghan government and foreign powers (including the US) are responsible for about 9%.

It leaves 12% of civilian casualties unexplained. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that these deaths were caused by US military action, including drone strikes. Is it possible to argue that, while civilian casualties are never acceptable, the US is probably doing more to reduce the total number of civilian casualties by killing Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders with drone strikes than it would by not targeting those commanders?

Granted, many drone strikes also occur in the tribal areas of Pakistan, which were not included in the UN report. But it’s reasonable to assume that if civilian casualties are down in Afghanistan, they are also down in Pakistan. Should we judge the President and his policies by the fact that civilian deaths have decreased, or by the way the administration has chosen to define “militant” and the potential ramifications thereof?

There is also evidence that the drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are contributing to the severely negative view of the US in those areas. As the Washington Post reported, “Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.”

I’m not suggesting we should ignore the threat posed by al-Qaeda and its allies, but maybe we need to find a better way to address that threat, if such a way exists. Is the legacy of the Bush and Obama drone campaign in these countries going to be a new wave of anti-American sentiment that fuels the same organizations that we’re trying to eradicate?

Honestly, I’m torn. Are drone strikes worth the cost? I don’t dispute that the targets of these strikes pose a threat to US national security, but what are we achieving if we’re driving Afghan, Pakistani, and Yemeni people into the arms of terrorist organizations?

I’d really appreciate your input.

Image Credit: Project New America

According to the May 29 Project New America/Keating poll, the latest presidential polling done in Colorado, President Obama currently has a 4-point lead over Mitt Romney in Colorado. Based on the 4% margin of error, this is a statistical tie.

The most surprising aspect of the poll was that the significant lead the President has among independent voters. The poll showed that 57% of registered independents support Obama, while only 30% support Romney, leaving 13% of independents undecided.

The gender gap continues to be an asset for the Obama campaign in Colorado; women support the President 51-40, according to the poll.

Finally, the poll showed a significant 43-point Obama lead among Hispanic voters, who support him 67-24. Hispanics are Colorado’s fastest growing demographic group and have been hit especially hard by the recession. This may indicate that “Romney’s economic message is not resonating” among these voters, according to Jason León, PNA’s Director of National Outreach.

The support of these groups will likely determine the outcome of the election in Colorado, which is one of the few swing states in play for the 2012 presidential elections.

The poll surveyed 601 likely voters in Colorado from May 21-24 and had a margin of error of +/- 4%.