This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

If unemployment was the only factor driving this presidential election, Mitt Romney would not be spending much time campaigning in Iowa, where the agricultural economy is relatively healthy and the unemployment rate is a 5.2 percent, the lowest of any battleground state.

But spending and debt are big issues in the American heartland, too. And that's why Romney spent time in Des Moines this week, delivering a speech decrying excessive government spending.

It was concern over federal spending that brought the tea party movement into existence in 2009, and it's an issue that hasn't gone away. It's also what is behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's momentum in next month's gubernatorial recall, with a deficit-conscious GOP base showing high levels of enthusiasm.

When pollsters ask voters to cite their most important issue, the catch-all "jobs and the economy" comes first. But the number of voters naming the deficit rose in 2010 and has remained largely constant, and the issue is driving conservatives to the polls. It's also a way for Romney to criticize President Obama on the economy in states that haven't suffered the brunt of the downturn.

Although New Hampshire is another place with a solid economy, it's receptive to Romney's small-government message. Indeed, the Republican National Committee held a conference call featuring former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Rep. Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire to decry Obama's record on debt and deficits.

If Obama needs high levels of youth and minority turnout to win a second term, Romney needs a restive base anxious about the country's fiscal future to show up in big numbers. That's the ticket to a Romney victory in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Virginia, where the economy is pretty good but voter dissatisfaction still runs high.

Josh Kraushaar

 

MINORITIES' VIEWS ON GAYS SHIFTING

One potential complication for the president's embrace of gay marriage is that minority voters at the core of the modern Democratic electoral coalition have usually resisted the idea more than whites. That gap, however, is narrowing.

In the latest Pew Research Center measure from April, for instance, attitudes toward gay marriage converged among whites and nonwhites: In each group, 47 percent supported it and 43 percent opposed it.

In both communities, that represented enormous movement from as recently as 2004, when President Bush's reelection campaign encouraged state-ballot initiatives to ban gay marriage as a means of mobilizing conservative voters. At that point, just 31 percent of whites and nonwhites alike supported gay marriage in Pew polling. Through 2010, support grew more rapidly for whites than nonwhites, Pew found, but in the past two years, the minority numbers have increased more quickly, producing the intersection evident in the latest survey.

To understand the dynamics of the shift in the minority community, Michael Dimock and Jocelyn Kiley of Pew provided data to National Journal showing the changes in attitudes toward gay marriage among African-Americans and Hispanics by age. To create samples large enough to analyze, they averaged the results from surveys over two-year periods.

That exercise showed steady gains for gay marriage among African-Americans of all ages, with the most rapid increase among the young. In the 2003 and 2004 surveys, a combined 32 percent of African-Americans ages 18 to 29 supported gay marriage; that rose to a 51 percent majority in the 2011 and 2012 surveys.

With Hispanics, figures are available only for the recent polls and an earlier set in 2007 and 2008. Over that brief period, support for gay marriage among 18- to 29-year-old Hispanics rose from 50 percent to 58 percent. It also increased from 35 percent to 45 percent among Hispanics ages 30 to 49. Only among Hispanics older than 50 did attitudes remain essentially frozen.

Probably because of the deep influence of religious beliefs in the two communities, in each age group, African-Americans and, to a smaller extent, Hispanics still support gay marriage to a lesser degree than whites. But support for same-sex marriage is growing in both of those minority communities as well — and the pattern of generational attitudes that each group is exhibiting suggests that, just as among whites, support will almost certainly continue to grow.

Ronald Brownstein

 

MITT-MENTUM?

Narratives can be stubborn things. For most of this election, Obama has been cast as the more likable candidate, while Romney has been stereotyped as the candidate likely to pander. But two new polls show that those perceptions may be off-base.

The latest USA Today/Gallup poll finds that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it's Romney who has an edge over Obama on personal favorability. Romney's favorable/unfavorable rating is 50/41, an edge over the president's 52/46 score. It's proof that favorability is a volatile data point, especially when it comes to a lesser-known presidential challenger.

While political junkies are tracking every move of the candidates, most Americans are just beginning to tune in to the campaign coverage and form their opinions of Romney. Meanwhile, the CBS/New York Times survey shows that voters overwhelmingly believe that Obama decided to come out in favor of gay marriage for political reasons and not out of principle. Two-thirds of those said that the president made the decision "mostly for political reasons," with just 24 percent saying "because he thinks it's right." This, as the Obama team has cast his decision as a historic one that took much political courage.

Obama's campaign has been throwing the kitchen sink at Romney lately, taking advantage of the Washington Post story portraying him as a high school bully and airing ads casting him as a heartless capitalist — yet his favorable numbers haven't yet suffered. It's a reminder that Romney's ratings were being held down earlier by conservatives who hadn't yet warmed to him as the nominee in the middle of the primary fight. Now that they're on board, Obama and Romney look to be on similarly favorable footing.

Josh Kraushaar

MINORITIES' VIEWS ON GAYS SHIFTING

One potential complication for the president's embrace of gay marriage is that minority voters at the core of the modern Democratic electoral coalition have usually resisted the idea more than whites. That gap, however, is narrowing.

In the latest Pew Research Center measure from April, for instance, attitudes toward gay marriage converged among whites and nonwhites: In each group, 47 percent supported it and 43 percent opposed it.

In both communities, that represented enormous movement from as recently as 2004, when President Bush's reelection campaign encouraged state-ballot initiatives to ban gay marriage as a means of mobilizing conservative voters. At that point, just 31 percent of whites and nonwhites alike supported gay marriage in Pew polling. Through 2010, support grew more rapidly for whites than nonwhites, Pew found, but in the past two years, the minority numbers have increased more quickly, producing the intersection evident in the latest survey.

To understand the dynamics of the shift in the minority community, Michael Dimock and Jocelyn Kiley of Pew provided data to National Journal showing the changes in attitudes toward gay marriage among African-Americans and Hispanics by age. To create samples large enough to analyze, they averaged the results from surveys over two-year periods.

That exercise showed steady gains for gay marriage among African-Americans of all ages, with the most rapid increase among the young. In the 2003 and 2004 surveys, a combined 32 percent of African-Americans ages 18 to 29 supported gay marriage; that rose to a 51 percent majority in the 2011 and 2012 surveys.

With Hispanics, figures are available only for the recent polls and an earlier set in 2007 and 2008. Over that brief period, support for gay marriage among 18- to 29-year-old Hispanics rose from 50 percent to 58 percent. It also increased from 35 percent to 45 percent among Hispanics ages 30 to 49. Only among Hispanics older than 50 did attitudes remain essentially frozen.

Probably because of the deep influence of religious beliefs in the two communities, in each age group, African-Americans and, to a smaller extent, Hispanics still support gay marriage to a lesser degree than whites. But support for same-sex marriage is growing in both of those minority communities as well — and the pattern of generational attitudes that each group is exhibiting suggests that, just as among whites, support will almost certainly continue to grow.

Ronald Brownstein

 

MITT-MENTUM?

Narratives can be stubborn things. For most of this election, Obama has been cast as the more likable candidate, while Romney has been stereotyped as the candidate likely to pander. But two new polls show that those perceptions may be off-base.

The latest USA Today/Gallup poll finds that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it's Romney who has an edge over Obama on personal favorability. Romney's favorable/unfavorable rating is 50/41, an edge over the president's 52/46 score. It's proof that favorability is a volatile data point, especially when it comes to a lesser-known presidential challenger.

While political junkies are tracking every move of the candidates, most Americans are just beginning to tune in to the campaign coverage and form their opinions of Romney. Meanwhile, the CBS/New York Times survey shows that voters overwhelmingly believe that Obama decided to come out in favor of gay marriage for political reasons and not out of principle. Two-thirds of those said that the president made the decision "mostly for political reasons," with just 24 percent saying "because he thinks it's right." This, as the Obama team has cast his decision as a historic one that took much political courage.

Obama's campaign has been throwing the kitchen sink at Romney lately, taking advantage of the Washington Post story portraying him as a high school bully and airing ads casting him as a heartless capitalist — yet his favorable numbers haven't yet suffered. It's a reminder that Romney's ratings were being held down earlier by conservatives who hadn't yet warmed to him as the nominee in the middle of the primary fight. Now that they're on board, Obama and Romney look to be on similarly favorable footing.

Josh Kraushaar

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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