Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Who Won the Week? (July 1-7)

In comparison to the week prior, last week could never live up to the drama that was brought with the ruling on Obamacare.  However, the Justices' decision is what drove the news this past week; in fact, it was one small word in Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion: tax.

For years, Gov. Romney has been arguing that his mandate in Massachusetts is not a tax, but instead a penalty for not buying insurance.  So it would seem natural for this issue to be one of the few positions on which Mr. Romney agrees with the President.  However, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision and most importantly Roberts’ majority opinion, the Republican Party was branding the mandate as a tax.

Romney was then stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Luckily, his staff was ready by Monday for an answer to the tax/penalty question.  Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior advisor to Mitt Romney, told the media that Mr. Romney disagrees the mandate imposes a tax, and they agree with the President that it’s a penalty after all.

This is clearly not what Republicans wanted to hear, and by Thursday, Mitt Romney had again clarified that Obamacare was a tax but Romneycare was a penalty.  Clear now?

To be sure, Mr. Romney’s campaign had a miserable beginning of their week.  Even right-leaning publications and political commentators such as the Wall Street Journal, William Kristol, and Rupert Murdoch were urging Mitt to shake up the staff and the message.

But in the end, the election is going to come down to jobs and the economy.  On Friday, the monthly jobs report from June was released, and it wasn’t good.  The U.S. economy added a less-than-expected 80,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained at 8.2%. 

To be fair, economists and forecasters were only anticipating 90,000-100,000 jobs to be added, but in reality, the President needs an increase of something like 150,000 jobs per month, as Nate Silver argued in February.  So, in that respect, the jobs report was a disaster for the White House and it completely halted the negative narrative for the Romney campaign that had been building throughout the week. 

All this is not to say that President Obama can’t win because he had another poor jobs report; in June, pundits began writing off his campaign after a lower-than-expected 69,000 jobs were added to the campaign, and Obama ended the month looking better than ever. 

Polling:  Relatively few polls were conducted last week, probably because of the holiday.  Polls from Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania all gave the President a sizable lead against Mitt Romney, and those are the states that will truly matter.  Further, Mr. Obama maintained his small lead over Romney nationally, though that again is the product of a small number of new polls. 

Who Won the Week?  Mitt Romney

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