The Obama campaign resumes the tax fight. Can it persuade the electorate?

Obama campaign surrogates launched coordinated attacks on Romney’s investments in foreign tax havens, a Swiss bank account, and unwillingness to release more than one year of tax returns, while President Obama called for a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for people making less than $250,000.

The two-pronged tax offensive places Romney in a delicate position. He will be forced to oppose extending tax cuts for the middle class and defend tax cuts for affluent Americans immediately after a relentless effort to define Romney as a self-interested plutocrat who prioritizes personal wealth over middle class job security.

— Nate Cohn, “Obama Transitions to Taxes

Ed Kilgore on Louisiana’s foray into free-market education

We all got a good laugh at the recent befuddlement (reported at TNR by Amy Sullivan) of a conservative Republican legislator from Louisiana who withdrew her support from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program when she realized that its open door to public support for religious schools was not limited to those catering to Christians.

But the underlying principle of Jindal’s initiative—and arguably of Mitt Romney’s little-discussed proposal to convert the bulk of federal K-12 education dollars into vouchers—is no laughing matter. No-strings vouchers based on the idea that “the market” or the wishes of parents are an adequate or even ideal form of “educational accountability” could reflect a sharp U-turn in the standards-and-accountability trend in U.S. education that Republicans and conservatives until recently championed. Indeed, Jindal’s (and Romney’s?) agnosticism about the quality of schools receiving public funds represents an abandonment of the very idea of “public education” other than as a mechanism for subsidizing private choices.

—Ed Kilgore, “How the GOP’s New Education Policy Embraces the Market and Abandons Objective Standards

Timothy Noah on the GOP’s misdirected Obamacare anger

Republicans would rather kick up a fuss about a pipsqueak tax on health-insurance-shirkers, most of them probably lower-income, which means they’re an unlikely bet to vote Republican. Maybe it’s because they don’t really think of payroll taxes as taxes. (Grover Norquist has said he has no problem with raising them.) Maybe it’s because they got burned fighting with Obama over his payroll (i.e., OASDI) tax cut late last year, which possibly left them never wanting to speak the words “payroll tax” ever again, even if it’s to point out that Obama is now raising them (albeit only on people in the top 5 percent of incomes nationwide; but it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Republicans to leave that part out). For whatever reason, the GOP is spending remarkably little effort on fighting Obamacare’s most significant tax hike. As a liberal, I find this pleasing. As a journalist, I find it puzzling.”

–– Timothy Noah, “The Real Obamacare Tax Increase

“If the Romney campaign’s internal numbers are similar to the public polls, then their decision to invest more heavily in Florida is unsurprising. After a wave of favorable polls following Romney’s triumph in the GOP primary, Obama appears to hold a modest lead in most surveys over the last 45 days. Representatively, two Quinnipiac polls conducted in June show Obama leading by 4 percentage points after the same firm showed Romney leading by an average of 3 or 4 percentage points in May.
Much of the change appears to be driven by a collapse in Romney’s favorability ratings among white working class voters—precisely the effect predicted by advocates of attacks on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Romney’s favorability rating among white voters without a college degree dropped by a net-15 points between the May and June Quinnipiac polls and Romney’s standing in the horse race declined by a net-10 points.”
—Nate Cohn, “Does Romney Have a Florida Problem?”
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If the Romney campaign’s internal numbers are similar to the public polls, then their decision to invest more heavily in Florida is unsurprising. After a wave of favorable polls following Romney’s triumph in the GOP primary, Obama appears to hold a modest lead in most surveys over the last 45 days. Representatively, two Quinnipiac polls conducted in June show Obama leading by 4 percentage points after the same firm showed Romney leading by an average of 3 or 4 percentage points in May.

Much of the change appears to be driven by a collapse in Romney’s favorability ratings among white working class voters—precisely the effect predicted by advocates of attacks on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Romney’s favorability rating among white voters without a college degree dropped by a net-15 points between the May and June Quinnipiac polls and Romney’s standing in the horse race declined by a net-10 points.”

—Nate Cohn, “Does Romney Have a Florida Problem?

Why the Obamacare decision was terrible for Romney

Judging this the better outcome for Romney means seriously understating just how brutal the law’s rejection would have been for Obama. It would have allowed Romney to argue—to crow to the skies, surely—that Obama’s entire first term had been a giant zero: not only had he been unable to bring the economy back to full strength, but the issue he chose to focus on for the first two years of his term, when the economy was at its worst, had been proven a fool’s errand.

-Alec MacGillis, “No, This Was Not The Better Outcome For Mitt

Shouldn’t Republicans be in a far stronger position right now?

The new Bloomberg poll showing Barack Obama up 13 points over Mitt Romney is an obvious outlier. But it is prodding me again to a question that has been nagging at me the past few weeks: how is that Obama is not in truly serious trouble? All the talk recently has been of Obama’s prospects slipping, with him now only a couple points ahead of Romney, at best, in most polls. But he should be slipping! The economy, after showing signs of a solid recovery just a few months ago, is gasping for air again, and there may be worse on the way. This should be disastrous for the incumbent. Yet he’s very much in this thing. Part of this surely has to do with the dynamic that Team Obama is dearly banking on: many voters still blame Obama’s predecessor for the hard times. Part of it also has to do with Obama’s personal likability (which defies the deathless Beltway caricature of him as distant and aloof.)

But there’s no getting around it: a huge part of it must have to do with his lackluster opposition.”

- Alec MacGillis, “How Lucky is Obama in His Opponent?

Syria and the 2012 Election

“This year, both Republicans and Democrats are obliged to try to manipulate the events in Syria to the same end: winning the election. And so Romney and McCain have denounced the White House’s reliance on economic sanctions to alter the behavior of the Assad regime, suggesting that Obama doesn’t have the fortitude to resolve the crisis and protect U.S. interests in the region. But what they don’t always articulate is what is implicit in that critique: namely, that they are essentially proposing American military intervention in Syria, whether in the way of a no-fly zone or the deployment of ground troops. Needless to say, for an American public weary of fighting wars in the Middle East, this is not a popular course of action. Here, Obama’s more cautious policy clearly has the upper hand.”

-Robert Dallek, “Yes, Obama’s Election Campaign is Affecting His Syria Policy. No, That’s Not a Bad Thing.

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Mitt Romney’s Throwback Verbal Stylings

"It’s the G-words. ‘This was back, oh gosh, probably in the late ’70s,’ he reminisced to a radio host about a steak house. Or, Romney surmised how his Mormonism would play out during his campaign with, ‘Oh, I think initially, some people would say, ‘Gosh, I don’t know much about your faith, tell me about it,’ ’ as if his G-word fetish were the way just anyone talks these days. Or: Chris Wallace asked whether said faith might be a disadvantage in voter perceptions of him, and Romney exclaimed, ‘Gee, I hope not!’ Then, Romney on carried interest—one is to ‘say, gosh, is this a true capital investment with a risk of loss?’"

- John McWhorter, “Gosh, Golly, Gee