Gay Advocacy Needs Restraining Too

Although saying that about the GOP needing to restrain the rhetoric of some of its activists on the same-sex marriage issue (see post below), gay advocates would be wise to counsel their supporters, too, if they have not already done so, to restrain their rhetoric.

Groups such as the New Civil Rights Movement lump together all those who oppose same-sex marriage, hardly the way to win friends and influence people. You don’t have to be anti-gay or hate gays to disagree with same-sex marriage.

For some the word “marriage” is what is problematic rather than the recognition of monogamous civil union between same-sex couples, for example.

Obviously, neither of the parties nor the candidates can or should be held responsible for the bile individual activists on either side of this issue are hurling. But, of course, they will, and with possible electoral consequences.

 

Gay Marriage More Dangerous For Romney

The same-sex marriage issue is going to get complicated for both presidential candidates but Barack Obama is likely to benefit from a more consistent message than Mitt Romney has so far been able to craft.

The President’s position is reasonably simple and can be summed up in a sentence: He is now for same-sex marriages but believes it is up to the states to decide. Romney appears to be attempting to triangulate the issue in a bid both to avoid offending sensitivities that run through the GOP coalition and to steer clear of distracting from his economic pitch to independents.

At first glance, the former Massachusetts governor appears consistent on the issue: he is against same-sex marriage. But then his position starts losing clarity when he’s pressed.

First, he risks irritating states-rights Republicans by his readiness to endorse a federal amendment banning same-sex marriages, while at the same time offending libertarians suspicious of government intrusion in private life.

Second, while opposing same-sex marriage he says he is not against gays adopting children, a position that offends Christian and social conservatives and undermines a key argument that some opponents of gay marriage trot out – namely, that marriage is there for raising children.

And third, Romney opposes not just same-sex marriage but civil unions while at the same time agreeing that same-sex couples should be afforded benefits that heterosexual married couples enjoy, such as being able to pass on pension rights and employee-based health-care coverage.

Romney’s convoluted position is far more demanding to make – and complexity is a real liability in the cut and thrust of election campaigns.

Since Obama’s declaration this week that he has “evolved” to a position of being for same-sex marriage – a strange evolution indeed in that he had been “for” years ago and then back-tracked and has now reversed again – Romney for the first time since he launched his campaign was presented the opportunity of benefiting from energized Christian conservative support. But his contortions on the issue risk sapping much of that energy.

There are risks, too, for President Obama. The majority of states – 30 – have passed gay-marriage bans and his position remains unpopular with significant numbers of black and Latino Democrats. But Romney clearly faces greater challenges. A key one will be to restrain the GOP’s conservative base from going over-the-top in the run-up to the election in lambasting Obama’s position.

When Obama came out with his “evolved” position, his aides were at pains to talk up the bravery of his declaration. And in some ways it is. But it is hard to believe that the President and his advisers refrained from making some political calculations of how this could all play out. As Steve Schmidt, a McCain strategist in 2008, has noted: Obama’s announcement has spotlighted some very tricky divisions within the GOP coalition.

Mr Flip and Mr Flop

Aren’t they both playing a game of bait and switch? Yesterday, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, who would now seem to have a lock on the Republican nomination following his primary wins this week, accused President Barack Obama of running a “hide-and-seek campaign.

And the Republican has some justification for hurling the accusation in the light of Obama’s side remark at a meeting in South Korea on March 25 to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about the issue of missile defense.  He urged Medvedev to tell incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin not to press him on the issue, saying that after the election he would have more room for maneuver.

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama was heard to remark by a Russian TV crew in an unguarded moment.

Obama added: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Romney picked up on the remark last week, claiming, “President Obama signaled that he’s going to cave to Russia on missile defense, but the American people have a right to know where else he plans to be ‘flexible’ in a second term.”

And speaking before newspaper editors conference in Washington DC yesterday he pushed the theme again, saying Obama will “state his true position only after the election is over.”

Romney’s attack would seem to be justified but arguably here we have a case of double standards, after all the former Massachusetts governor is no stranger to flip and flop or indulging in Etch a Sketch campaigning himself.

Almost Enthusiastic

This quote in the Washington Post from a Republican voter in Illinois about Mitt Romney about sums it up. “I’m almost enthusiastic.”

Romney’s Illinois win last night  confirms that he’ll get the GOP nomination but Rick Santorum is unlikely to drop out, even though his campaign’s most optimistic projection has him short by nearly 150 of the necessary delegates to secure the nomination himself.

So, Romney’s less than triumphant progress to the convention is likely to have some more setbacks on the way, courtesy of Santorum wins.

 

GOP and Wealth: The Party of Main Street, Not Wall Street

Posting my latest City Focus piece published by the Daily Mail yesterday. It examines Mitt Romney’s private-equity past – did he destroy jobs or create them? And it looks at the attacks by his rivals, notably Newt Gingrich, on his time as head of Bain. It suggests also that his economy policy is vague in some key areas — e.g. how he would pay for income taxes.

Tea Party: Putting God In Government

Last year, I wrote a piece for the Daily Caller suggesting that libertarians and economic conservatives would be unwise to align with the Tea Party. My point was that what underlines the Tea Party movement is social conservatism.

In short, the Tea Party isn’t a movement full of supporters of gay marriage, immigration reform, etc, I suggested.

Last weekend, academics David Campbell and Robert Putnam disclosed in the New York Times some of their long-running research into national political attitudes. They used interviews with 3000 people going back to 2006 to identify the type joining the Tea Party. Their research enabled them to “look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later.”

And what did they find? Their analysis cast doubt on the idea that the movement was fueled by “nonpartisan political neophytes”. In fact, Tea Party supporters were highly partisan Republicans. “More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.”

The academics conclude: “The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.”

 

 

 

Dollar or Pound?

A relative wrote me to ask whether she should change pounds for dollars on the grounds that the dollar has weakened during the debt ceiling showdown and would likely increase in value once a compromise had been struck in Washington DC. This is what I replied:

“I am glad you are so confident that a last-minute deal will avert a technical default. I think a lot could go wrong before then. And if a deal is struck, it will be the two-part Reid-Boehner compromise that in effect will kick the can down the road and will merely delay the reckoning. In other words, this failure of mature government is to be repeated in a few months time.

On the macro-level, I agree with Mohamed el-Erian (PIMCO’s CEO) that long-term damage has already been caused to the U.S. and that international investor confidence has been shaken by what has been taking place in the past few weeks. It is quite likely that the rating agencies will downgrade the U.S., even if the Reid-Boehner compromise is agreed. That will knock the value of the dollar.

Despite the awfully slow economic growth in the UK the last quarter, I still believe that the Coalition is basically on the right track – UK debt reduction is essential and more necessary than debt reduction in the U.S.. For example, the U.S. deficit could disappear with an increase in government revenue, i.e. tax increases. That is off-the-table, alas, at present because of the economic illiterates in the GOP House caucus, who believe incorrectly that any tax increase will restrain economic growth.

In other words, I think the pound is a better bet than the dollar in the medium term. Could you make a small profit by buying dollars now and maybe in a few days time, if a deal is struck, see a dollar value rise and be able to exchange back to pounds beneficially? Maybe you could, but it is a risk and I am not sure that you should be risking your capital.”

And what happens if a deal is not done, even the Reid-Boehner plan? I know there is a temptation to risk but I myself would avoid it.”

 

Far From Over

Interesting analysis in Politico today suggesting that the House race is far from over. The suggestion is that everything has to break right for the GOP to secure the lower chamber. The Democrats still have a chance but it will depend on three factors, I suspect:

* Can the White House reframe the mid-terms into not just being a referendum on Obama and a more even contest on what the GOP is or is not offering?

* While Tea Party enthusiasm can drive conservatives to the polls will it also turn off independent and swing voters and drive them into the hands of the Democrats?

* Will Tea Party involvement energize the Democrat base?

Obama May Open a New Front But Needs Delicacy

The New York Times is reporting today that President Obama and his aides are weighing up shifting their communications tactics and to focus in the final weeks before the mid-term elections on the Tea Party. Among the ideas being considered is to launch national advertisements casting the GOP as having been taken over by the insurgency.

Speaking as a media adviser, this is, of course, exactly what they should be doing. Making out that Minority Leader John Bohener is an ogre is just not cutting it.

But if the White House does decide on this tactic it needs to be delicate.  The tone and focus has to be right. They should concentrate on some of the leaders, especially on some of the wilder social conservatives who have been successful in primary races, such as Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell. The tone has to be ridiculing and not blood-curdling. The ads also need to be understanding of the economic frustrations of ordinary Tea Partiers.

Boehner the Ogre?

What on earth are White House strategists thinking by seizing on the GOP”s House leader, John Boehner, as the Republican scary pin-up to attack ahead of the mid-term elections? The Republican Minority Leader may not be to everybody’s taste but he is “a hard man to demonize,” as The Economist has pointed out. He is a mild-mannered country-club-type Republican, who even back in the mid nineties when he aligned with Newt Gingrich wasn’t one of the trusted members of the praetorian guard.

Convivial and clubby, Boehner is sociable with Democrats in the Capitol Hill watering holes. His style is not dissimilar from Bob Dole’s, another Midwestern conservative able and willing when circumstances demanded to make deals across party lines. In some ways Boehner comes across as your dad’s genial brother, ready with a crack and the offer of a drink and a cigarette. He’s also not that well-known nationally. So painting him as the ogre moderate Republicans, centrists or independents should flee from at the polling booths is unlikely to secure the Democrats much advantage.

And if the the GOP does capture the House, as opinion polls suggest consistently the party will, then Boehner is someone the Whte House will need to be able to negoiate with – that is if there isn’t going to be another nineties-style government shut-down.

Targeting Boehner strikes me as another major misstep by the White House when it comes to strategy and thinking things through. Strategic and communication errors have marked this administration almost from the start. In the first summer of this administration, President Obama and senior aides neglected to sell the health-care reform – something that still hasn’t been sold to most Americans.

From the beginning they failed to focus on the economy. No FDR-style “fireside chats,” no trying to manage expectations and to explain that recovery from the financial crisis would not be speedy (as is the case always from recessions caused by financial crashes), no preparing Americans for the long haul and no cheering of them up.

Only belatedly has the President and his senior aides started to talk about the economy. Too little and too late.

So who should the White House target? Surely, they should be highlighting the civil war underway in the GOP, pitching Republican moderates and a new generation of Tea Party-aligned ideologues. Boehner is a small-government conservative while a lot of the likely GOP freshmen are more “no-government” and this, from a strategic point-of-view, is surely what the White House should be emphasizing. Earlier this week, I argued that the GOP primary results were a godsend for the White House and Democrats but they seem to want to throw away what the Republicans give them.