Mark Halperin of Time, who labors to appear fair-minded with his spirited, establishmentarian TV remarks, (a breezy, distracted, self-involved guest) makes the peculiar case that each Sunday that passes without the economy being the center of the election argument on TV is a Sunday that OFA wins. (Is this insight/spin direct from the email of David Axelrod or Jim Messina or perhaps the wannabees?) This week the topics are Joe Biden, Paul Ryan, Medicare, taxes and the Ryan plan. My observation is that the economy this week is not news and therefore not an item to book. The Sunday shows work all week long, recording interviews on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as the news presents itself and as guests become available. (E.g., the Rudy Giuliani interview with MTP was recorded on Thursday 16.) My challenge last week, with a daily show, was to cover the campaign while not repeating the obvious. The failed recovery and the fragile to failing economy is the obvious. The 1.5% GDP report for the 2Q will not improve. The homely phrase for electioneering is to say that the 1.5% is "baked in." Many conversations with Lara Brown of Villanova University convince me that the GDP is the determining metric for the voters, and this is true cycle after cycle. George W. Bush won a close re-election in 2004 with a 2.6% GDP. George H.W. Bush lost with 4.3% GDP; and Jimmy Carter lost with a recession, -7.9% GDP 2Q 1980. (See this most helpful presentation of the GDP and the elections by James E. Campbell, UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.) Candidate Obama's GDP is on the borderline of either losing or winning narrowly. The metrics from manufacturing and the Federal Reserve districts, especially New York and Philadelphia, show a marked slowdown starting in the Spring; and the jobless numbers are unlikely to move below 8% by Election day, with three more reports till the vote. The reason we are not talking about the economy is because everyone is completely informed. This likely explains why there is the general sense that the voters have already decided -- and why there are so few undecideds to find and convince.
The Vice-Presidency Matters Eventually.
The Joe Biden vs. Paul Ryan contest is entertaining. Rudy Giuliani comments on Joe Biden on MTP: "Oh, no, I don't think he's nuts..." The governors of Maryland and Virginia trade words on the Biden behavior (below), and Mr. O'Malley the Democrat and Mr. McDonnell the Republican come to a rough compromise that Biden is a burden. Biden loses the match-up with Ryan on energy, message, focus and confidence. It is worth noting that my correspondents who favor OFA often mention how the Ryan candidacy has shifted the ground profoundly, so that the election is now about the GOP and not the GDP. This is hollow. The OFA campaign since April has concentrated on the negatives of Romney, and now of RomneyRyan2012, in order to convince its own base supporters that their votes matter. The negative does not convince anyone but the people who are already voting for you. Does the negative get out the vote? No. History says that negative campaigning limits the voter turnout. Will it be different this time? Certainly it would be the first time in American history that the vice-presidency signified more than the GDP. Vice-presidents do matter, but long after the election: see the three once upon a time vice-presidents to the left, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and Harry Truman, at the Medicare signing ceremony, 1966.