Mitt Romney crossed the 1,144 delegate threshold to officially claim the GOP presidential nomination via Texas’ May 29 primary. As planned, his campaign launched an attack on the president’s fiscal and economic policies, focusing initially on “failed stimulus projects” and then featuring a surprise visit by the candidate to the site of the bankrupt Solyndra facility, which received a $535 million “clean energy” loan guarantee from the DoE.
But the Romney “pivot” was overshadowed by bad publicity from his strangely timed, May 29 Las Vegas fundraiser, starring Donald Trump (at Trump’s Vegas hotel). The “Trump” made it vastly worse by releasing a barrage of statements reopening the Obama birth certificate “issue.” The big question today is whether the latest not-so-good news on the economic front—a BLS May “jobs report” showing a downward revision of the last two months’ jobs gains and an underwhelming 69,000 new jobs for May—will dominate the presidential campaign for the period just ahead.
Polling in the presidential race is relatively stable, with most surveys showing a tight race (RealClearPolitics current polling average gives Obama a 2.3% lead. A battery of NBC/Marist surveys of three key battleground states—Colorado, Iowa and Nevada—showed all three virtually tied. But a useful reminder of the limited relevance of polls at this juncture was provided yesterday by Larry Sabato, who noted that Gallup’s June polls in the last eight presidential races had only shown the ultimate winner ahead twice (in 1984 and 1996). At this point in 1992, Bill Clinton was running a poor third behind Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush; even in 2008, McCain was slightly ahead of Obama in June.
Democrats, however, are beginning to become seriously concerned about the growing advantage Republicans will likely enjoy in Super-PAC funding. One new report suggested that total pro-GOP Super-PAC spending on all 2012 general election contests could reach a billion dollars. So far Democratic donors remain reluctant to contribute to “outside” groups. While the consensus of political science research is that paid media—the basic function of Super-PAC spending–is an overrated factor in presidential general elections. But that assessment assumes both sides are at least competitive financially. Meanwhile, paid media can make a big difference in downballot races where the candidates are not typically as well known.
Aside from giving Romney his official nomination victory, Texas Republicans denied long-time Senate front-runner, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the majority needed to avoid a runoff against former state solicitor general Ted Cruz, a self-styled “conservative insurgent” backed by the Club for Growth and Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservative Fund (Cruz was also endorsed by Sarah Palin, and most right-wing opinion-leaders and bloggers). With an unusually long two-month runoff campaign, the Senate battle is likely to get even more expensive and nasty. Dewhurst has heavy in-state financial backing, and the support of Gov. Rick Perry, whose political reputation could use a boost after his disastrous presidential campaign.
Democrats will also hold a runoff between former state legislator Paul Sadler and a perennial candidate, Grady Yarbrough, who appears to have finished second because voters associated him (for no good reason) with the late Sen. Ralph Yarborough, a liberal hero who last held office 42 years ago. No one gives Sadler (the presumed runoff winner) much of a chance in November.
In House races, the incumbent Democratic Congressman from El Paso, Silvestre Reyes, lost his seat to challenger Beto O’Rourke in a campaign where the “border war” and drug policy were big issues; O’Rourke favors legalization of marijuana and de-militarization of the border.
The next big downballot contest will be next Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin. Polls continue to show Gov. Scott Walker holding a mid-single-digit lead and a very large financial advantage (Walker has spent nearly $30 million, aside from heavy Super-PAC spending on his behalf) over Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett (whom Walker defeated in 2010). Democratic hopes mainly rely on a superior union-led “ground game.” Former president Clinton is campaigning for Barrett in Wisconsin today.
Photo Credit: Donkey Hotey