July 22, 2012

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In the Intellectual Activist, Robert Tracinski gives background on why Romney will win.

… I have been speculating for some time—and others have begun to say the same thing—that Romney’s election strategy can be described as “rope-a-dope.” This was a sports reporter’s coinage for Muhammad Ali’s strategy in the famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman. Foreman was a large man known as a hard hitter, so Ali’s strategy was to goad Foreman into throwing a frenzy of punches while Ali adopted a protective position and leaned against the ropes so they would help absorb the energy of the blows. Foreman fell for it and punched away in a fury, tiring himself out in the early rounds only to find himself fatigued while Ali was still fresh. Ali dominated the later rounds and knocked Foreman down long enough for the referee to call him out.

The analogy here is that Romney is letting the Obama campaign punch itself out, spending like crazy on a blitz of negative advertising early on, before swing voters have made up their minds or even paid much attention to the race. Meanwhile, Romney has been holding his fire and money, saving it for when it will really count.

Why is the Obama campaign falling for this? Because they have no other option. Here we have to refer back to the established rules of the horse-race analysis. When a president is running for re-election, it is inherently a referendum on the incumbent, so if his approval ratings are below 50%, he’s in trouble. If a majority disapproves of his performance, that means they are going to be likely to cast their votes for the challenger. Obama is below 50% now. He’s been around 47% in the RealClearPolitics average for a long time now, and since some of the polls tend to overestimate support for Democrats, the real number is probably a few points lower.

But this just means that voters are willing to consider the challenger, and you can still convince them to stop considering him. Which means that an embattled incumbent has only one way to win: convince voters that the challenger is not an acceptable alternative.

Hence the negative campaign against Romney. He needs to be made out as a corporate Snidely Whiplash who lays off workers, outsources their jobs to China, hides his profits in Swiss bank accounts, and lies about it to cover it all up. So that is exactly the story Obama’s negative ads have been trying to tell. The attack ad in which Romney ties the girl to the railroad tracks is coming next.

There is no evidence that these negative ads have worked so far …

… Obama started out with a distinct money advantage, since he could start raising money for the general election while Romney was still spending money on the primaries. But he is rapidly blowing his money advantage. In recent months, he has raised less than Romney and spent a lot more, particularly on his huge spree of negative ads.

Jack Wakeland first pointed this pattern out to me and speculated that Obama is running his campaign finances about as well as he has been running the nation’s finances. The result is that it now looks as if Romney and his supporters will be able to outspend Obama by a significant margin in the final months of the race. …

Andrew Malcolm does a piece on presidential photo-ops and ends with a warning for Mitt.

… Mitt Romney’s communications staff are well-experienced pros. But apparently they’ve been unable to convince their no-nonsense guy to perform in these charades to warm his image. He’s been pretty disciplined on the primary economy-jobs message. He’s fighting back harder now on the silliness over Bain, which was such an evil empire that Obama’s campaigns routinely accepted many thousands in its donations.

Romney does do rope-line handshakes, waves to distant fans and wears jeans, like us. Exciting stuff. But that’s pretty much it for how-ya-doin’ spontaneity.

Over July 4th, imaginative photographers rented a boat and caught an unrehearsed picture of Romney, riding shotgun on a jet-ski with wife Ann. That image would be great for a woman’s magazine, adoring hubby happy with independent wife taking the wheel. For someone auditioning as commander-in-chief, however, such a photo of leading from behind might not be the first-choice image. But his campaign planned nothing else to fill the need for ‘news.’

So far, no county fair cotton-candy for Romney. No merry-go-round rides with grandchildren. No impromptu Little League stops to work the grandstands, praising sun-screened parents for dutifully bearing witness to their youngsters’ positive activities.

Still five weeks of summer left. Romney may loosen up to get in the proactive image game and may win come Nov. 6.

Or he may not. And will not.

Charles Krauthammer has a column on “you didn’t build that.”

… The ultimate Obama fallacy, however, is the conceit that belief in the value of infrastructure — and willingness to invest in its creation and maintenance — is what divides liberals from conservatives.

More nonsense. Infrastructure is not a liberal idea, nor is it particularly new. The Via Appia was built 2,300 years ago. The Romans built aqueducts, too. And sewers. Since forever, infrastructure has been consensually understood to be a core function of government.

The argument between left and right is about what you do beyond infrastructure. It’s about transfer payments and redistributionist taxation, about geometrically expanding entitlements, about tax breaks and subsidies to induce actions pleasing to central planners. It’s about free contraceptives for privileged students and welfare without work — the latest Obama entitlement-by-decree that would fatally undermine the great bipartisan welfare reform of 1996. It’s about endless government handouts that, ironically, are crowding out necessary spending on, yes, infrastructure.

What divides liberals and conservatives is not roads and bridges but Julia’s world, an Obama campaign creation that may be the most self-revealing parody of liberalism ever conceived. It’s a series of cartoon illustrations in which a fictional Julia is swaddled and subsidized throughout her life by an all- giving government of bottomless pockets and “Queen for a Day” magnanimity. At every stage, the state is there to provide — preschool classes and cut-rate college loans, birth control and maternity care, business loans and retirement. The only time she’s on her own is at her grave site.

Julia’s world is totally atomized. It contains no friends, no community and, of course, no spouse. Who needs one? She’s married to the provider state. …

David Bernstein in Volokh has the germ of a good idea we hope will be expanded soon.

… But I did want to point out that government also provides a great deal of what one might call “public bads,” and that these “public bads” often fall heavily on small businesspeople who lack the political power of the crony capitalists (witness the example of my grandfather), who because they often have fixed business assets and roots in their communities often make a tempting target of exploitation by governments (as with my father and the “we’ll find a violation even if you don’t have one or else” protection racket), and who, moreover, don’t have the economies of scale to treat complicated government regulations as a minor business expense. (Public bads tend to fall even more heavily on poor people, but that’s a subject for a different post.)

Kimberley Strassel on the government thugs who divine and act on the president’s wishes.

This column has already told the story of Frank VanderSloot, an Idaho businessman who last year contributed to a group supporting Mitt Romney. An Obama campaign website in April sent a message to those who’d donate to the president’s opponent. It called out Mr. VanderSloot and seven other private donors by name and occupation and slurred them as having “less-than-reputable” records.

Mr. VanderSloot has since been learning what it means to be on a presidential enemies list. Just 12 days after the attack, the Idahoan found an investigator digging to unearth his divorce records. This bloodhound—a recent employee of Senate Democrats—worked for a for-hire opposition research firm.

Now Mr. VanderSloot has been targeted by the federal government. In a letter dated June 21, he was informed that his tax records had been “selected for examination” by the Internal Revenue Service. The audit also encompasses Mr. VanderSloot’s wife, and not one, but two years of past filings (2008 and 2009).

Mr. VanderSloot, who is 63 and has been working since his teens, says neither he nor his accountants recall his being subject to a federal tax audit before. He was once required to send documents on a line item inquiry into his charitable donations, which resulted in no changes to his taxes. But nothing more—that is until now, shortly after he wrote a big check to a Romney-supporting Super PAC.

Two weeks after receiving the IRS letter, Mr. VanderSloot received another—this one from the Department of Labor. He was informed it would be doing an audit of workers he employs on his Idaho-based cattle ranch under the federal visa program for temporary agriculture workers. …

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