The reason: “People really, really dislike politicians. They hate Washington. They think politics is broken — maybe irreparably. Congress’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll was at 17 percent — and that was an improvement (!) from where it’s stood for most of the past few years… Choosing someone who is seen as the favorite of party insiders then could erode rather than bolster the contrast Romney is trying to drive against the incumbent.”
An improving economy is “swinging the pendulum” in President Obama’s favor “in the 14 states where the presidential election will likely be decided,” the AP reports.
“What’s made the difference is that unemployment has dropped more sharply in several swing states than in the nation as a whole. A resurgence in manufacturing is helping the economy — and Obama’s chances — in the industrial Midwestern states of Ohio and Michigan. And Arizona, Nevada and Florida, where unemployment remains high, are getting some relief from an uptick in tourism.”
Just published: The Rude Guide To Mitt by Alex Pareene.
The New York Times looks at President Obama’s shift from a senator who criticized George W. Bush’s use of executive power to a president who increasingly uses those same powers.
“Branding its unilateral efforts ‘We Can’t Wait,’ a slogan that aides said Mr. Obama coined at that strategy meeting, the White House has rolled out dozens of new policies — on creating jobs for veterans, preventing drug shortages, raising fuel economy standards, curbing domestic violence and more. Each time, Mr. Obama has emphasized the fact that he is bypassing lawmakers… Aides say many more such moves are coming.”
“Mr. Obama’s increasingly assertive use of executive action could foreshadow pitched battles over the separation of powers in his second term, should he win and Republicans consolidate their power in Congress.”
For the last six months, Bill Clinton has argued that the Obama re-election campaign should stop attacking Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper, Politico reports.
“A more effective strategy, Clinton has told anyone who would listen, would be to focus almost exclusively on Romney’s description of himself as a ‘severe conservative,’ to deny him any chance to tack back to the center.”
USA Today: “Millions of dollars flowing to independent political groups dominating this year’s presidential and congressional contests have come from mystery and hard-to-find donors, newly filed campaign reports show… Using undisclosed or hard-to-track money in politics is legal, under the patchwork of court decisions, campaign-disclosure regulations and IRS rules that govern federal elections.”
An example: “More than $8 out of every $10 collected during the first three months of this year by two conservative groups associated with Republican strategist Karl Rove, for instance, went to a non-profit branch that does not have to reveal its donors.”
A USA Today survey of economists finds that “despite the headwinds of higher gas prices and Europe’s financial crisis” they think the U.S. economy will grow faster than expected this year.
Key findings: “The economy will grow 2.5% this year vs. their 2.3% forecast three months ago. Unemployment averaging 8% in the fourth quarter vs. 8.2% now.”
Mitt Romney’s effort to increase the amount of money wealthy backers can give to his campaign — by encouraging donations to state parties — “has hit a hurdle: new Securities and Exchange Commission rules that are making some Wall Street donors skittish about writing checks,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
At issue: “Presidential candidates in the past have asked donors to give money to state parties to help fund their election effort. But Mr. Romney’s inclusion of state campaigns has raised a red flag with some Wall Street firms because of new SEC rules enacted after ‘pay to play’ scandals.”
Jon Huntsman “took a battle axe to his own party, comparing it to China’s Communist Party and criticizing it’s standard bearer in a wide-ranging interview,” BuzzFeed reports.
He also “jokingly blamed his failed candidacy in part on his wife, Mary Kaye, who told him she’d leave him if he abandoned his principles.”
Said Huntsman: “She said if you pandered, if you sign any of those damn pledges, I’ll leave you. So I had to say I believe in science — and people on stage look at you quizzically as though you’re was an oddball.”
Huntsman added that Ronald Reagan would “likely not” be able to win the GOP nomination in this environment.
George Will says there’s no way Mitt Romney will pick former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) as his running mate:
“If Jeb Bush is to be Romney’s running mate, it would mean that in seven of nine presidential elections there would be a Bush on the Republican ticket. And it gets hard to argue that we’re not a tribal society at that point.”
French Socialist Francois Hollande won the most votes in the first round of the country’s presidential election, the BBC reports.
“He got about 28% of votes, according to projections based on partial results, against about 26% for centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. The two men will face each other in a second-round run-off on 6 May.”
But the Financial Times notes the “shock of the night” was the 20% received by the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who beat pollsters’ predictions.
Despite millions of dollars embezzled from her campaign and 21 challengers in a June primary, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) “isn’t a bit worried. Her campaign is on cruise control, her re-election all but certain — yet again,” the San Jose Mercury News reports.
“After holding elected office for all but five of the last 42 years, Feinstein is the doyenne of California Democrats. She’s so politically bulletproof that no A-list candidates are wasting their time and money trying to dethrone her.”
“I think a lot of Republicans in Congress want to cooperate and know better, but they’re in the thralls of this reign of terror from the Far Right that has dragged the party to the Right.”
— David Axelrod, in an interview on CNN.
“Romney’s speaking style, try as he might, often seems forced and
rather wooden… But if the economy gets worse, more Americans may be
drawn to a dry Mr. Fix-It, someone better suited to budgets than
banquets. Rousing oratorical skill is not something people require in a
good plumber or mechanic… Of course, Romney still needs to make his
audiences feel as well as think. He can achieve that by capitalizing on
frustrations that voters have about Obama.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is questioning the U.S. Secret Service about possible involvement of White House staff in the Colombian prostitution scandal, the Washington Times reports.
At issue: “Did the Secret Service reserve rooms at the Hotel Caribe or other hotels in Cartagena, Colombia for representatives of the WHCA or the White House Advance Team? If so, have records for overnight guests for those entities been pulled as part of the investigation? If not, why not?”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told CNN he’s not going to comment on Mitt Romney’s running mate selection process anymore.
Said Rubio: “Up to now it’s all been theoretical, we have a nominee now, and our nominee, Mitt Romney, the leader of the Republican Party, has a vice presidential process in place. And I think from this point moving forward, I think it’d be wise for all Republicans to kind of respect that process, myself included, and say moving forward, we’re going to let his process play itself out.”
However, he then suggested Jeb Bush would be a great pick.
John Edwards goes on trial Monday “on charges he used illegal campaign contributions to cover up an affair with a mistress who became pregnant during his failed bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination,” Reuters reports.