PRICE OF POLITICS, ETC: Questions, Questions, Questions

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Welcome to Iowa, the Hawkeye State, the land of hogs and pigs, and, of course, election 2012. That new NBC/Marist poll this week only reaffirms the state’s place among battleground elites. Sure, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado are bigger. And they dwarf Iowa’s measly 6 electoral votes (Florida has 29). But as the cable chatterers salivate over an every-vote-matters election, Iowa will get more than its size-share of attention.

Back to that poll…it’s June and Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are even. Wow. Now, that’s close. Sure, there’s a long way to go here. But let’s look at a few factors to watch during the presidential campaign’s final 5 months. 

For Obama:

That last jobs’ report was less pleasant than a root canal (no offense to my dentist, who made my root canal painless). The economy added 69,000 jobs last month. That’s probably a third of what the campaign really wants, although, it would gladly take at least twice that. Unemployment ticked up another 1/10th of a point to 8.2%. And that’s not counting the numerous people who gave up looking or who are underemployed with part-time work. The president can keep saying “hey, it could have been a lot worse”. But don’t voters want to see better?

Hope and Change. Republicans love to mock candidate Obama’s 2008 slogan. How will the president win back the overcaffeinated young vote that surged him to an easy win? It’s no coincidence the president’s making frequent comments about pushing Congress to stop the student loan interest rate from doubling in July. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley scoffed at the last-minute push, wondering why the president didn’t make this a priority months ago. But at the least, will this push let younger voters know the president’s still on their side?

For Romney:

What role will the president’s public affirmation of same-sex marriage have on this race? It could help him with the younger voters, who tend to be more socially libertarian than their parents and grandparents. However, we’ll also see if it could actually help Romney with those skeptical conservatives who probably still wouldn’t pick him up if they saw his car broken down on the side of the highway. Is their strong anti-gay rights passion stronger than their lack of passion for Romney?

What about Romney’s money? There’s another report that shows Romney is worth about $255 million out this week. Seems like we’ve heard this story before. But Democrats continue to push the storyline that he’s a rich out-of-touch moneymaker. I just saw a tweet for former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

He wrote: Willard is worth a quarter of a billion, he discloses, but not by making a new product or service. He made his money by making money.

As Politico points out, Romney doesn’t do himself any favors by saying $374,000 in speaking fees “is not that much”.  But, the president’s not exactly digging through the dumpsters for his meals. His wife made a very comfortable 6-figure salary before they moved to the White House. The Obamas are now said to have $10 million in assets. So how much will voters, especially the Independents, punish Romney for being rich?