Monday, October 8, 2012

Democrats really do have a shot at winning the House

Democrats remain quietly confident that they can take the House. Will Mitt's bumbling campaign work in their favor?

Democrats really do have a shot at winning the House

With most observers still predicting — though less confidently than before last week’s presidential debate — that Obama will secure a second term and Democrats maintain control of the Senate, it is the House that could determine the short-term future of the country and mean the difference between a fruitful or impotent second term for the president. Would it look like Obama’s first two years in office, when he and congressional Democrats pushed through sweeping reforms on healthcare and Wall Street, or the last two years, which were defined by bitter stalemate and unproductive battles over spending issues?  
Obama’s ambitious legislative agenda of unfinished work from the first term — immigration reform, climate change legislation, etc. — would be virtually dead on arrival if Democrats can’t take the House, blunting the victory of a reelection.
 If you ask most analysts, the question of whether Democrats can win the necessary 25 seats is not even worth asking.House majority remains out of Democrats’ grasp,” veteran handicapper Stu Rothenberg titled a blog post yesterday. Charlie Cook agrees. So does Kyle Kondik, the House editor for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, who wrote Thursday, “there’s very little indication that Republicans will lose their House majority.”

Democratic leaders have been saying publicly for weeks that they think they have a good shot of picking up the House, which pundits dismiss out of hand as empty posturing. Privately, some Democrats say they really believe the odds are better than 50-50 and that all the pundits and handicappers are a month behind — a month that’s seen a nose dive for Mitt Romney, with a potentially dire coattail effect for House Republicans. But Democrats are wary of making their case too strongly, they say, for fear that conservative super PAC money will abandon Romney and starting pouring into key House races, where a relatively little bit of money can make a huge difference. So for now, at least, they’re sitting back without pushing back too hard on the prevailing conventional wisdom.

Even the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol seems a bit concerned.  “IF the polls are right, and IF nothing much changes over the remaining six weeks, the House could well be in play,” he wrote recently. “Maybe Republicans will hold on in an even popular vote election with the help of incumbency advantages and post-2010 redistricting. But it’s also possible that an Obama +3 victory on Election Day would drag the Democrats to an edge in the congressional vote — and control of the House. In any case, based on current polling, I don’t think one can say that it’s now out of the question that we could wake up on the morning of November 7 to the prospect of … Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Indeed, there’s some reason for his concern in the polling. In early August, the Reuters/Ipsos poll House generic ballot test — which asks if respondents would vote for a generic Democrat or generic Republican — showed the parties tied at 46 percent.  In September, this same poll showed Democrats leading by 6 points, 49 percent to 43 percent. An NBC/Wall Street Journal generic poll from July had similar movement since July, as did an Economist/YouGov poll. The most recent generic poll comes from NPR, which shows Dems up 3 points. Another recent poll of exclusively battleground congressional districts, conducted by Politico and George Washington University, had Dems up 2.

Democrats need 25 seats to win, and internal polling shows there are 32 Democratic candidates leading or tied with their Republican opponent, according to a memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official body tasked with electing Democrats to the House. The committee claims a total of 75 races are “in play” across the country, and has put 53 districts in its Red to Blue program, which means they think there’s at least enough of a shot at winning in those seats to invest money and resources.

The DCCC has outraised its GOP counterpart, the NRCC, by about $10 million over the cycle and is prepared to spend about $18 million more on commercials. Democrats have reserved $65 million in airtime before Election Day, while NRCC has received just over $47 million. But that advantage could be easily wiped out by outside Republican super PACs, explaining why Democrats are hesitant to tout their optimism about the battle for the House. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and its affiliate Crossroads GPS spent $50 million on House races between Oct. 13 and Election Day alone in 2010.

There are few things working against Republicans this year. The problem with any wave election is you then have to defend your gains the next cycle. These gains, by definition, come mostly from swing districts previously occupied by Democrats, so it doesn’t take huge shifts in public opinion to swing things back the other way. Redistricting, the decennial process of redrawing congressional districts, was expected to give Republicans a huge boost, thanks to their massive gains in state Houses across the country, which control the process. But the end result will probably have little net effect. “Add up all the numbers and you get Democrats +1 seat, Republicans -1. In other words, redistricting has been something of a wash,” Rothenberg wrote earlier this year. For the dozens of states where Republicans effectively gerrymandered districts, there are other, larger states where Democrats did the same, especially in California and Illinois. These states are so big and have so many congressional districts that anybody’s list of the top House races is dominated by these two states.

The key, Democrats say, is Mitt Romney and his lackluster performance. “In August, the pick of Congressman Paul Ryan made his Medicare-ending budget the ticket mate for every Republican running for Congress and gave us the nationalized Medicare debate we’ve wanted all year. Then Congressman Todd Akin’s offensive comments reminded voters how extreme Republicans are,” the DCCC memo states. It’s still unclear whether Romney would bring the House down with him if he lost, but it’s certainly possible. Even with all this, Democrats’ chances of capturing the House are still shy of 50 percent — 25 seats is a tall order — but probably better than a lot of pundits think.

Will SCOTUS make it illegal to resell your stuff?

A case that could jeopardize eBay, Craigslist and your garage sale 

Wow, talk about infringing on our rights, what is happening to our free market existence. Our right to sell or exchange products we purchased, used and now want to get rid of.  We need to watch this case closely. It could effect more than we now know.

Will SCOTUS make it illegal to resell your stuff? (Credit: Shutterstock)
If you buy an iPod or a phone, a book or a DVD, it’s currently legal to resell it, as thousands of eBay and Craigslist posts attest.
However, as Jennifer Waters at MarketWatch reports, a little-known case “tucked into the U.S. Supreme Court’s agenda this fall could upend your ability to resell everything from your grandmother’s antique furniture to your iPhone 4.”
Under current law — on the books since 1908 — copyright holders only have control over the first sale, so while I cannot take iPhones straight off the factory line and sell them, I am able to sell a device that I first bought from a retailer.
This, Waters reports, is being challenged:
If the Supreme Court upholds an appellate court ruling, it would mean that the copyright holders of anything you own that has been made in China, Japan or Europe, for example, would have to give you permission to sell it.
… The case stems from Supap Kirtsaeng’s college experience. A native of Thailand, Kirtsaeng came to America in 1997 to study at Cornell University. When he discovered that his textbooks, produced by Wiley, were substantially cheaper to buy in Thailand than they were in Ithaca, N.Y., he rallied his Thai relatives to buy the books and ship them to him in the United States. He then sold them on eBay, making upward of $1.2 million, according to court documents.
Wiley, which admitted that it charged less for books sold abroad than it did in the United States, sued him for copyright infringement. Kirtsaeng countered with the first-sale doctrine. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that anything that was manufactured overseas is not subject to the first-sale principle. Only American-made products or “copies manufactured domestically” were.
There would be serious implications for manufacturers and online giants like Craigslist and eBay were SCOTUS to uphold the ruling. Firstly, it would become an incentive to manufacture overseas so that all resales could then be controlled and charged for by the copyright holder. Secondly, the entire of eBay and Craigslist’s business would be jeopardized. “If sellers had to get permission to peddle their wares on the sites, they likely wouldn’t do it,” Waters notes.

Dueling Conspiracy Theories on Jobs Numbers, Debate Cheating

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday, October 5th is turning into conspiracy theory day on the campaign trail, with both sides suspicious of each other after a potentially game changing debate Wednesday night. First up, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch set off a firestorm by tweeting an accusation that the Obama campaign manipulated the sub-8% unemployment rate announced this morning. The narrative was quickly adopted on Fox News.

ᔥ ThinkProgress
On the other side, there's a video that appeared on YouTube last night showing slow-motion footage of Mitt Romney slyly pulling notes out of his pocket and dropping them on his debate podium. Debate rules state: "No props, notes, charts, diagrams, or other writings or other tangible things may be brought into the debate by any candidate."

Published on Oct 5, 2012 by
Is Romney pulling a cheat sheet from his pocket at the start of the debates? You decide!

Published on Oct 4, 2012 by
Romney's Amazing Sleight of Hand Performance!

"No props, notes, charts, diagrams or other writings can be used by the candidates; however, they can take notes on the type of paper of their choosing.The candidates cannot ask each other direct questions, but can ask rhetorical questions.The candidates cannot address each other with proposed pledges.Each candidate can use his own makeup artist.No candidate is allowed to use risers or any other device to make them look taller.The Coin Toss: At least 72 hours before the first debate, there will be a coin toss on the order of questioning and closing arguments."


Sunday best: Chuck Todd loses it

He blasts Jack Welch for "corroding trust in our government" while Paul Krugman drives Mary Matalin insane VIDEO

Sunday best: Chuck Todd loses it

What use are Sunday morning news shows in our post-truth political era? Four days after Mitt Romney lied his way through his debate with a listless, diffident President Obama, and two days after former GE CEO Jack Welch ousted Donald Trump to become Mayor of Crazytown on Foursquare, journalists and campaign surrogates had a lot of decisions to make: Would conservatives escalate, backing Romney and Welch? Would liberals fight back more effectively than Obama (OK, that’s an easy one)? And would reporters on the panels lapse into easy “both sides do it” equivalence and ignore the way the Republican campaign, including Welch and Romney himself, has ratcheted up the prevarication and character assassination to new levels?

To keep from drowning in despair and nihilism over what the Sunday shows tell us about the bankruptcy of American politics, Salon is bringing you Sunday Best: Our choice of the best moment of all on the top Sunday shows. (We may occasionally have to turn to MSNBC’s “Up With Chris” or “Melissa Harris-Perry,” but if we put them in the mix every week, it wouldn’t be a fair fight. We’ll mainly focus on the productions of the big networks.)
This Sunday, there were plenty of good moments.

Predictably, Democrats fought back better than Obama did, with Robert Gibbs calling Romney’s performance “fundamentally dishonest” and his budget math “absolutely crazy” on ABC’s “This Week.” On Fox, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told Chris Wallace, “The fact of the matter is in this debate we saw Big Bird meet the big lie.” Also on “This Week,” Paul Krugman told the panel, “The press just doesn’t know how to handle flat-out untruths,” which led Mary Matalin to absolutely lose her shit and call Krugman himself a liar.
You have mischaracterized and you have lied about every position and every particular of the Ryan plan on Medicare, from the efficiency of Medicare administration, to calling it a voucher plan, so you’re hardly credible on calling somebody else a liar.
Actually, Mary, Romney himself admitted it was a voucher program on Wednesday night. Someone’s lying here, and it’s not Krugman. Digression: Paul Krugman probably deserves the Sunday Best award for simultaneously fighting off Peggy Noonan’s gauzy, shimmery fantasies and untruth, along with Matalin’s sharp and ugly lie-daggers, on the very same show. But Krugman would probably win it every week, which wouldn’t be fair.

Things got even more interesting when it came time for Republicans to defend Romney and Welch.  On “Meet the Press,” Newt Gingrich took the unusual strategy of declaring, “I think it’s clear he changed” his tax policy, a change he described as “good politics.” Yet Romney hasn’t come out and said he’s changed his tax policy; he’s only saying that his tax cuts won’t cost $5 trillion because of all those loopholes and deductions he’ll close – you know, the ones he won’t tell us about.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy, also on “Meet the Press,” didn’t deny Romney’s tax-slashing plans, he took the tack of defending Romney’s refusal to enumerate the loopholes and deductions he’d eliminate in order to raise the tax burden of the rich – because such details would hurt Romney politically.
Here is the problem. You guys won’t give him any credit for closing loopholes, because like you guys, he won’t name the loopholes. Why? Because you’ll attack him for doing it. You attack him for not giving you a little target… and then you attack him when you get the target.
Remember, that’s also why Romney told us he won’t inform the voters which federal programs he plans to cut. So Murphy and Romney are basically admitting that the Republican nominee’s actual policies are so unpopular that if he told us what they were, he wouldn’t get elected.

On Jack Welch’s claim that Obama’s “Chicago” campaign cooked the BLS numbers to make unemployment go down – he famously tweeted, “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers” – Gingrich took the position that Welch’s charge was “plausible,” at least. “It rings true to people. You have a president of the United States so deeply distrusted by people like Jack Welch — who is hardly a right-winger, Welch is one of the most successful businessmen in America — that Welch instantaneously assumes this is the Chicago machine.”

Not surprisingly, Peggy Noonan, also on “This Week,” took a similar dreamy “reality has a well known liberal bias” approach to what James Carville termed “economic birtherism.” Noonan proclaimed from on high, “I don’t think anyone in America looks at that number and thinks ‘that’s reality in America.’” Really, Peggy? You’re the arbiter of reality? Reality is what Peggy Noonan feels America feels? We’re all in trouble.

But Gingrich’s spew inspired our Sunday Best, when NBC’s Chuck Todd lashed back. Todd can sometimes seem a captive of the Beltway, but on Sunday he staged a prison break, going off on Welch and Donald Trump and formerly respectable business leaders for their vicious insanity. See the video below, starting at 09:00:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

“This is really making me crazy,” he told his “Meet the Press” friends. ” The Federal Reserve gets questioned now for politics these days. The Supreme Court and John Roberts get – we have got, we have corroded – what we’re doing, we are corroding trust in our federal government in a way. And, one-time responsible people are doing it. And the idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch, rich people with crazy conspiracy theories, can get traction on this is a bad trend … We have mainstreamed, ‘when did you stop beating your wife.’”

Certainly I’m not endorsing putting the politics of the Federal Reserve or Supreme Court off limits, but it was great to see Todd object to the mainstreaming of crazy by “one-time responsible people.” That’s the Sunday Best for this week.

One final debate note: I’m not a fan of “both sides do it” journalism, but to be fair, while there’s no equivalent of economic birtherism on the left, there is a kind of  ”debate trutherism,” where fervent Obama supporters, especially on Twitter, explain that the president was once again playing 18th-dimensional chess and intentionally blowing the debate only to win it somewhere down the line, drawing out Romney’s lies with his somnolent performance. Um, no. Obama blew it, big time.

Thankfully, the campaign rejects debate trutherism. “The president is his harshest critic,” David Axelrod told “Face the Nation.” The debate about the debate is over. If we don’t want to say Romney “won” because lying should disqualify you from a win, let’s just say Obama lost. And move on.

Photo of the Day:

Photo of the Day: A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft taxis to its parking spot on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012. The Globemaster III is a regular visitor to Bagram Airfield, transporting troops, equipment and supplies in and out of the country. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

Photo of the day: Meet seven-year-old Eric Smith. This first-grader has a deep appreciation for those who have served our country and wanted to express his gratitude—so he set up a hot-cocoa stand. With the help of his family, Eric raised $500 (donations are still coming in) and he plans to present a check to the Bedford VA Medical Center in Massachusetts. Thank you for your support, Eric!

On Fund-Raising Tour, Obama Admits Poor Debate Showing

LOS ANGELES – President Obama joined the chorus of critics who have been slamming his debate performance, acknowledging on Sunday night before a star-studded fund-raiser that he may have flubbed the face-to-face standoff with Mitt Romney last week.

Appearing at the Nokia Theater after a concert where Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Jennifer Hudson, Katy Perry and Jon Bon Jovi performed, Mr. Obama complimented the entertainers for their flawless presentations. Then, he added, “I can’t always say the same.”
The joke at his own expense comes as Mr. Obama and his campaign continue to try to recover from the debate. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012
Obama Jokes About Debate Performance at Los Angeles Fundraiser
I just got home from this event at the Nokia Theater in downtown LA and can confirm that the crowd there absolutely ate up President Obama's self-deprecating joke. I can also say that Stevie Wonder was flawless.

The president, seeking to add to his already strong fund-raising totals last month, exhorted wealthy and staunchly Democratic donors to continue their support, painting a picture of an economy in the United States that is making a comeback.
“On Friday we found out the unemployment rate has fallen from the height of 10 percent to 7.8 percent, the lowest since I took office,” Mr. Obama said, to cheers. “Manufacturing is coming back.”
Mr. Obama is on a two-day fund-raising swing in California, a state he has visited only recently to raise money for Democratic coffers. At a posh party at the home of the Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, Mr. Obama, joined by former President Bill Clinton, mingled with a small group of wealthy donors, ostensibly to thank them, campaign aides said, for all the money they’ve given this election cycle.

Then it was on to the Nokia Theater. From there, the president headed to a $25,000 per person party for 150 supporters held at Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 in the Ritz Carlton. On Monday, Mr. Obama will do the same, this time in San Francisco.

Still stinging from the president’s lackluster showing in the debate, the Obama campaign is beginning this week with a full frontal assault on Mr. Romney, who is due to deliver a foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday.

Aboard Air Force One en route to California, a campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, ridiculed Mr. Romney’s foreign policy experience. “We are not going to be lectured by someone who’s been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he sticks his toe in the foreign policy waters,” Ms. Psaki said, referring to Mr. Romney’s European trip this summer, which received poor reviews both at home and abroad.

But the Obama campaign is clearly nervous about the next presidential debate, which is scheduled for next week in Long Island. Mr. Obama will hole up in Williamsburg, Va., this weekend for debate preparation, aides said, and Ms. Psaki even joked that a childhood friend of the president’s from Punahou School in Hawaii, Mike Ramos, who was along for the ride on Air Force One on Sunday, was actually on the plane to act as Mr. Obama’s new debate coach.

  UnSkewed Political Projections


Now Even the "Unskewed" Polling Has Obama out in Front


Mitt Romney arrives on the stage during a campaign rally at the Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pa., Friday
Mitt Romney arrives on the stage during a campaign rally at the Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pa., Friday

Photograph by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

As we explained in yesterday's Slatest PMnewsletter, some conservatives are becoming increasingly vocal regarding their doubts about recent polls that show President Obama pulling out in front of Mitt Romney. In short, they contend that pretty much everyone but the conservative pollsters over at Rasmussen are relying on turnout models that unfairly favor Democrats. If the models were tweaked appropriately, they say, Mitt Romney would have a substantial lead coming down the home stretch.
Or at least that's what their "unskewed" polls had been showing up until yesterday when Fox News released its latest survey, which showed Obama up by 5 points, 48 percent to Romney's 43.
Dean Chambers, who runs, quicky worked his usual magic on the Fox data but this time his "unskewing" wasn't enough to move the numbers in the GOP's favor. The result: Obama up by 2 points. While that's obviously less than the gap the Fox News poll showed, it's nonetheless noteworthy because it's a major departure from the past dozen or so of Chambers' "unskewed" polls that claimed to have Romney well on his way to a historic victory this fall.
We'll let Chambers explain what he did:
"When the data from the Fox News poll is unskewed by weighting their reported percentages between Romney and Obama to the partisan affiliations showed by Rasmussen's extensive data results on that issue, the overall picture of the race is different. With Republicans weighted 34.8 percent, Democrats at 35.2 percent and Independents at 30.0 percent, the results calculate to Obama leading but by a smaller 46 percent to 44 percent margin over Romney"
It's also worth pointing out again that the major pollsters who keep tabs on the race for a living obviously don't see eye to eye with Chambers. Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief over at Gallup, penned a forceful response to the polling critics yesterday, explaining that their main beef with the numbers—what the doubters say is an oversampling of Democrats—actually is just further proof that the president is out in front. More info on that here.

Hey liberals, you're right: The polls are telling us something

Mitt Romney Delivers Major Foreign Policy Speech

Mitt Romney Delivers Foreign Policy Address (right-click to copy direct link)

Lexington, Virginia
Monday, October 8, 2012

In a foreign policy speech Monday, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said President Obama is passive in the Middle East and that “it is time to change course” in the region. He made these remarks at the Virginia Military Institute’s Hall of Valor in Lexington, Virginia where he laid out his foreign policy vision. Foreign policy will be the focus of the third and final presidential debate on October 22nd.

Coming off a widely reported success in last week's domestic policy-focused Presidential debate, Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan held rallies in Virginia on Thursday and Friday. The Presidential candidates have a week off before the next debate, which is a town hall format. The final debate, which focuses on foreign policy, will take place October 22.

Romney has previously struggled in the foreign policy arena, with an overseas trip this summer for which he received mixed reviews, and a hasty statement about the recent uprisings in the Middle East, which came shortly before the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Updated: 24 min. ago

Comedians poke fun at debate

The Situation Room|Added on October 5, 2012

Late-night comedians have some laughs at the presidential candidates' expense. 

The BLS Just Discovered Almost 400,000 Missing Jobs in Its Rebenchmarking

A protestor holds a sign during a demonstration against unemployment benefit cuts in Oakland, Calif.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

When it comes to economic data, as with much else in life, the media tends to overweight the new relative to the true. So each monthly jobs report is scrutinized, but later revisions tend to get ignored. Yet today the Burea of Labor Statistics did a rebenchmarking and found 386,000 new jobs.
As you'd expect, that doesn't utterly transform our understanding of the economy. The job market is still weak, all things considered. But it's not as weak as the data we've been seeing imply. And that can help us explain things like "why has the unemployment rate been falling despite weak payroll growth?" or even "how can Mitt Romney be losing with the economy doing so poorly?" The payroll growth maybe wasn't quite as weak as we thought, and the economy overall was perhaps doing a bit better.
And these are just revisions through March. We won't have the real data story of what was going on this fall and summer until long after the election is done, and by then probably it'll just get ignored.
Note that the benchmarking added a net of 386,000 jobs. In gross terms it actuallysubtracted 67,000 government jobs so the rebalancing of the American economy away from government employment and toward the private sector has actually gone somewhat further than we realized. Note that this also means that the Obama Era has crossed the symbolically important zero line. More Americans are employed today than were when he took office.
BLS reports today that the economy added 114,000 new jobs (with, I remind you, a +/- 100,000 confidence interval) in September. Upward revisions to July and August data found a total of 86,000 new past jobs. Separately the household survey reports a fall in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent, which brings joblessness below the politically salient threshold of 8%.
I'm going to look deeper and do some more analysis, but I do have to say that the recent rebaselining exercize that discovered almost 400,000 missing jobs was a reminder that the online press has started paying too much attention to this monthly data. It's based on a statistical sample with a large margin of error. It gets revised twice through the sampling data, and then is subject to further revisions as per the rebaselining. A strong number is better than a weak number, but there really isn't a ton that can be inferred from month-to-month fluctuations until they're well in the past and we have more accurate data.

Slatest PM: The Unemployment-Rate-Trutherism Edition

7.8 PERCENT: That was the nation's unemployment rate last month, according to the latest jobs report released today by the Labor Department. That figure is down three ticks from August's 8.1 percent, and represents the lowest unemployment level since President Obama took office in 2009.
JOBS, NEW AND FOUND: The government data shows that employers added roughly 114,000 jobs last month, largely in line with analysts' predictions. The real surprise came in the form of revisions to July and August's jobs numbers, which together added a combined 86,000 more jobs than previous estimates.
THE GOOD NEWS FOR DEMOCRATS: Slate's Matthew Yglesias: "[O]ver the past two weeks the world has added two great new talking points for Obama. One is that per this month's BLS household survey, the unemployment rate is now back down to where it was in January 2009 before he took office. The other is that between the rebaselining of the first quarter and the upward revisions to July and August it's now clear that more people are at work today than were when Obama was inaugurated—with the net private sector gains even stronger."
THE GOOD NEWS FOR THE ECONOMY: The Washington Post: "Unlike in August, the number improved for the right reason: not because people gave up looking for jobs, but because far more people reported having one."
ANYONE WANT TO DISPUTE THE NUMBERS? Yes, you in the back there, Jack Welch. "Unbelievable jobs numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can’t debate so change numbers,” the former CEO of General Electric tweeted, quickly finding support in some conservative circles that included at least one GOP congressman.
PUTTING THAT IN PERSPECTIVE: Slate's Dave Weigel: "Let's hope that's a joke, because the idea of an administration doing black magic to Labor statistics in the 24 hours before a report comes out is up there with assuming WTC Building 7 was brought down with controlled demolitions. The Romney campaign, naturally, is smarter and more slippery."
SO, MR. WELCH, WERE YOU JOKING? “I wasn’t kidding,” he told the Wall Street Journal. "I am doing nothing more than raising the question."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BLS: The New York Times: "The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the Labor Department but has no political appointees at the moment, computes the numbers from two surveys, one of businesses and one of households. By definition, the data in both surveys are not precise and are subject to regular revisions. Recently, those revisions have showed a strengthening labor market, suggesting that if anything the economy may be improving more than initially reported."
NOT EXACTLY A SURPRISE: The Washington Post: "The fact is that there’s not much that needs to be explained here. We’ve seen drops like this—and even drops bigger than this—before. Between July and August the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent—two-tenths of 1 percent. November-December of 2011 also saw a 0.2 percent drop. November-December of 2010 saw a 0.4 percent drop. This isn’t some incredible aberration. The fact that the unemployment rate broke under the psychologically important 8 percent line is making this number feel bigger to people than it really is."
IN PRAISE OF THE BLS: Slate's Matthew Yglesias: "The real story about BLS data is how enormously credible it is. Financial markets, the press, opposition politicians, and everyone else almost uniformly takes it seriously. If anything, the national pathology is taking the month-by-month errors a little too seriously and not wrestling with sample error, modeling error, and the relatively large scale of revisions. Conspiracy theorists are rare enough to be newsworthy, and widely dismissed as conspiracy theorists."
LAST WORDS: Romney: “This is not what a real recovery looks like,” he said in a statement. “We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office.” Obama: "Every month reminds us that we've still got too many of our friends and neighbors who are looking for work. ... But today's news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now."
HAPPY FRIDAY and welcome to The Slatest PM, where your afternoon host is happy to report he's returned to his rightful spot atop Slate's Ken Jennings News Quiz office leader board: 1) Josh Voorhees 444; 2) David Plotz 426; 3) Rachael Larimore 406; 4) Emily Yoffe 397; 5) Seth Stevenson 394; 6) June Thomas 380; 7) Matt Yglesias 379; 8) Dan Kois 369; 9) Allison Benedikt 361; 10) Bryan Lowder 359. Last week's winner couldn't repeat his magic this time: Farhad Manjoo 282. (Revenge is oh-so sweet!)
FOLLOW the entire @slatest team and @JoshVoorhees on Twitter, or bring your host back down to earth by reminding him his job description gives him a teeny, tiny advantage in each week's quiz with an email to
MORE DEBUNKING: No, Mitt Romney didn't use a cheat sheet during Wednesday's debate, no matter what the Internet tries to tell you. Full story here. Also, while we're on the subject, the president's supporters can't blame his debate performance on the altitude either. Mini-explainer here.
"JUST COMPLETELY WRONG": That's what Romney now says about his controversial comments suggesting that 47 percent of the electorate see themselves as "victims." In the immediate wake of the tape's release, you likely remember, the Republican said he meant what he said, even if he should have said it better.
ON A RELATED NOTE: Weigel explains why Republicans suddenly love their candidate—even if he sounds like a moderate governor from Massachusetts.
AP: "A deadly meningitis outbreak rose to 47 cases in seven states Friday, as clinics scrambled to notify patients across the country that the shots they got for back pain may have been contaminated with a fungus."
Reuters: "The British government's imminent move to extradite five prominent Islamic militants to the United States for trial could trigger security and political headaches for President Barack Obama and his administration."
NYT: "Hugo Chávez, a polarizing president who has led Venezuela for nearly 14 years, has many advantages over the opposition candidate trying to unseat him on Sunday, from the airwaves he controls to the government largesse he doles out with abandon. But one especially potent weapon in Mr. Chávez’s arsenal is what might be called the fear factor."
WSJ: "South African gold and platinum producers begin a collective effort next week to resolve strikes over pay that have shut down much of the country's vital mining sector and raised doubts about its economic stability."