N2K Presidential Race: The Politics of Specificity

National Journal

The half-hearted vigor with which Democrats jumped on Mitt Romney’s suggestion at a fundraiser that he might eliminate the Housing and Urban Development Department signaled not just their (probably accurate) surmise that, as an issue, it’s thin gruel.

It’s also evidence that the Romney strategy of not showing his hand on policy is actually proving successful: A Gallup tracking poll out today shows Romney with a two-point edge among registered voters and a six-point lead among independents.

Less important than Romney’s suggested targets—direct beneficiaries of HUD programs aren’t exactly wheelhouse Republican voters—is the point underscored by Romney’s specificity: namely, that his usual insistence on avoiding it has worked for him.

Sound familiar? Candidate Barack Obama in 2008 was excoriated—memorably, in fact, by his now-chum, President Clinton—for failure to nail down policy details. And, where Obama did, he’s fallen short on a few memorable promises, primarily ones made to what his adviser Robert Gibbs termed “the professional left.”

Nondisclosure of policy intentions might be a prescription for shaky governing, not to mention fairly shoddy treatment of the body politic. But it’s swell campaigning.

Jim O’Sullivan


Romney to Obama: 'Start Packing' NEW!
[National Journal, 4/16/12] In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Romney struck a confident tone, saying that Obama should get ready to leave the White House and insisting that he was the right candidate to tackle the economy.

Poll: Voters Doubt Romney Can Beat Obama NEW!
[National Journal, 4/16/12] There's even doubts among Romney supporters -- the poll shows an 8-point gap between voters who support Romney (43 percent) and the percentage who think he'll win (35 percent).

Romney at Private Fundraiser: I Might Eliminate HUD 
[Washington Post, 4/16/12] Romney’s campaign said on Monday that the candidate’s remarks at a Florida fundraiser about which tax loopholes he would close and what federal agencies he would ax—including HUD and the Education Department—were just ideas from the campaign trail, not policy announcements. Romney also signaled intentions to do away with a mortgage deduction for people with second homes. 

How Romney Should Talk About Religion
[Washington Post, 4/16/12] Romney has shied away from discussing his religion on the campaign trail, but it might be worthwhile for him to discuss with voters. The Washington Post's Jacques Berlinerblau offers a few suggestions for how Romney should -- and shouldn't -- attack this particularly controversial topic.

Why Ann Stayed Home NEW!
[BuzzFeed, 4/16/12] Though Ann Romney's choice to stay home has found its way into a discussion on class and working mothers, her choice may have had less to do with the amount of money her husband made and more to do with the way the Mormon religion portrays motherhood and stay-at-home moms.

Romney Woos Conservative Leaders NEW!
[Wall Street Journal, 4/16/12] Following his effective win of the nomination, Romney has reached out to conservative leaders in an effort to shore up support with a group that will be key to his election efforts but who have been skeptical of him since his 2008 run.

Mitt Romney’s Tax Return Problem
[Washington Post, 4/16/12] The Romney campaign's choice to not release his returns at this time, and to remain vague about when they'll do so, was a politically expedient one -- it allows them to release what will certainly be fodder for the Obama campaign at a time when voters won't be paying much attention.

First Gallup Daily Tracking Poll Shows Obama, Romney Deadlocked
[National Journal, 4/16/12] Romney has 47 percent support and Obama has 45 percent support in the newest Gallup daily tracking poll.

Boehner Inching Toward Romney Endorsement NEW!
[National Journal, 4/16/12] When asked by reporters why he hadn't yet endorsed Romney, Boehner said, cryptically, he was "talking about it" and declined to elaborate further.

A Summer Slump Would Shape Election
[Wall Street Journal, 4/16/12] This election may not be decided by attack ads or stump speeches, but rather the economy -- and if it slows down this summer, that could bode poorly for Obama.

Romney Aide Myers on Vetting Romney's VP: 'He Is the Decider' NEW!
[National Journal, 4/16/12] Beth Meyers, a longtime confidante to Romney, has been tapped to lead his vice-presidential search. She insists, however, that he'll be the one to make the final choice.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Slaps Santorum, Endorses Romney
[Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/15/12] Writing that a protest vote for Rick Santorum against Romney in the Pennsylvania primary next Tuesday would be a “mistake,” the newspaper goes on to say of its former senator: “This state owes him nothing.” They also argue that Santorum’s exit from the race will cause some state Republicans to lose since many voters who might have otherwise gone to the polls will stay home.

$800 Million Target for Romney Campaign and Republican Committee NEW!
[New York Times, 4/16/12] That amount is part of what Romney's campaign believes will be $1 billion spent against Obama. The campaign is also hoping to raise $300 million in low-dollar donations.

Obama and Democrats Raise $53 Million in March
[National Journal 4/16/12] The Obama campaign and other Democratic organizations raised a combined $53 million in March, according to a campaign video released on Monday. The Romney camp has not released its March fundraising numbers yet.

Why Mitt Romney Should Get Out From Behind the Backyard Fence
[Time, 4/16/12] The Romney campaign has raced to deny that the overheard policy specifics Romney mentioned at a closed-door fundraising meeting had much to do with his actual policies. But Romney's secrecy on policy may hurt him in the general election campaign, so the best option would've been for him to elaborate upon one of the few bits of specific information the public has, writes Time.

Romney and GOP Face a Delicate Tango
[New York Times, 4/15/12] Romney and House Republicans diverge on some legislative issues, but the GOP says Romney must understand that Congress is driving the policy agenda for the party now. If Romney is considering a quick pivot to the center as he heads into the general, he will find House Republicans an imposing impediment.  

A Few States Could Decide the Romney-Obama Battle
[Los Angeles Times, 4/15/12] Romney and Obama are set to wage a costly, brutal, and negative fight over a narrow slice of voters in a limited number of states. Romney is almost certain to sweep most of the Great Plans and Southern states, while the president should prevail along the West Coast, New York, Illinois, most of New England, and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Could Obama Lose the Popular Vote But Win the Electoral College? NEW!
[The Atlantic, 4/16/12] Though a Gallup poll released today shows Romney leading Obama but within the margin of error, that may not matter much, as Obama has an edge in electoral votes.

Obama Camp, Seeing Shift, Bets on Long Shot in Arizona  
[New York Times, 4/15/12] Arizona has voted for a Democrat just once since president Harry Truman was in the White House, but that hasn’t deterred the Obama team: they’ve dispatched workers across Arizona’s colleges and Latino neighborhoods in a three-month push to put the state in play for November.

Gingrich’s Billionaire Backer Turns Sights to House 
[National Journal, 4/16/12] Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has spent millions to boost Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, donated $5 million in February to a super PAC for House Republican candidates.

Obama Still Has Electoral Advantage in Swing States
[Washington Post, 4/15/12] Four years ago, Obama swept to victory with wins in states Democrats hadn’t won in decades. Today, the 2012 map is more likely to resemble the 2004 map, with states that Obama once carried expected to go Republican. But Obama still retains a major electoral advantage.

Romney Raises More Campaign Cash in Michigan Than Obama 
[Detroit Free Press, 4/16/12] Michigan native Mitt Romney is outraising the president in the Great Lakes State by about $400,000. Even though the Obama administration is taking credit for the revitalization of the auto industry, it hasn’t translated into campaign donations quite yet. The Romney campaign has about $2 million from the state.

Colorado Further Evidence Ron Paul Will Challenge Romney in Tampa
[Washington Times, 4/15/12] Colorado has provided some evidence that the Paul campaign’s demise has been greatly exaggerated, as The Times’ Thomas Mullen argues, saying there’s a chance that unpledged delegates in various states could muddy matters ahead of the convention.

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