U.S. Unemployment Rate At 11 Percent

If the GOP is able to effectively message this analysis by the Financial Times' Ed Luce on the "actual" unemployment rate, President Obama could find his re-election bid in real trouble at the ballot box in 2012. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein chimes in:

In particular, it's this sentence by the Financial Times' Ed Luce, who writes, "According to government statistics, if the same number of people were seeking work today as in 2007, the jobless rate would be 11 percent."

Remember that the unemployment rate is not "how many people don't have jobs?", but "how many people don't have jobs and are actively looking for them?" Let's say you've been looking fruitlessly for five months and realize you've exhausted every job listing in your area. Discouraged, you stop looking, at least for the moment. According to the government, you're no longer unemployed. Congratulations?

Since 2007, the percent of the population that either has a job or is actively looking for one has fallen from 62.7 percent to 58.5 percent. That's millions of workers leaving the workforce, and it's not because they've become sick or old or infirm. It's because they can't find a job, and so they've stopped trying. That's where Luce's calculation comes from. If 62.7 percent of the country was still counted as in the workforce, unemployment would be 11 percent. In that sense, the real unemployment rate -- the apples-to-apples unemployment rate -- is probably 11 percent. And the real un- and underemployed rate -- the so-called "U6" -- is near 20 percent.

There were some celebrations when the unemployment rate dropped last month. But much of that drop was people leaving the labor force. The surprising truth is that when the labor market really recovers, the unemployment rate will actually rise, albeit only temporarily, as discouraged workers start searching for jobs again.

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Newt Gingrich May Endure - If He Survives Critics

Newt Gingrich the history professor could teach a semester-long course on the improbable fall and rise of Newt Gingrich the presidential candidate, who is leading the polls in Iowa and key early primary states like South Carolina and Florida.

The midterm exam assignment would focus on the next few days - three weeks ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses - to see if the former House speaker survives the recent barrage of attacks by everyone from San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi to conservative former George H.W. Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu, a supporter of rival Mitt Romney.

If Gingrich survives the attacks - and his own propensity for self-immolation - analysts say he could have more staying power than the past few Republican flavors-of-the-month who have all melted under the front-runner's spotlight.

Even though Gingrich raised less money than all but one of his GOP rivals through September, analysts say if he performs well in the early states he could get enough of a fundraising bump to compete in the Jan. 31 Florida primary.

But first he must survive December.

And while Gingrich enjoys a healthy lead in Iowa, two-thirds of the likely GOP caucus voters in a recent CBS News/New York Times poll said they hadn't made up their minds yet.

Unlike past years, when social issues were the top concern in the GOP caucus, this year it is the economy, the poll found. And on that score, voters were evenly divided over who would serve them best, Gingrich or Romney.

"But Romney still hasn't made his case to voters," said Ford O'Connell, a national Republican strategist who is unaffiliated in this campaign.

Read more from Joe Garofoli at the San Francisco Chronicle

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Romney Attack On Gingrich Effective?

The Tin Man actually has a pulse. To be perfectly honest, Mitt Romney has shown more enthusiasm in his attacks on Newt Gingrich than he has on all other issues combined in this campaign cycle. If Romney can successfully triangulate this new found emotion to other issues, he will be well positioned to win the GOP presidential nomination.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Politics And The Social Web

Re-Posted From Campaigns & Elections magazine

2012 promises to be a banner year for money, mudslinging and media frenzy. Unless you are Barack Obama or the last candidate standing at the end of the GOP nominating process, you aren’t likely to be the one dominating media coverage next year. Add in the money that will be flowing through independent expenditure groups and other organizations pushing their own thousand points of view and your chances of getting heard above the din are as good as former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer getting invited to participate in a Republican presidential debate.

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Why Mitt Romney Is Like Jan From 'The Brady Bunch'

Re-Posted From FoxNews.com

Less than one month until the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, Mitt Romney finds himself again in the uncomfortable position of looking over his shoulder at the candidate with momentum.

In 2008, that candidate was Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) and now it is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).This time, though, Team Romney should be scared.

Counting on Gingrich to self-destruct, like the other candidates who preceded him, is not a sound campaign strategy if Romney wants to eventually garner the necessary support needed to win the nomination.

Having spent the better part of the last half-decade campaigning for the Oval Office with relentlessness and a single-minded focus, one would think that Mitt Romney would be hitting his stride right about now.

However, although Romney has significant advantages over the rest of the GOP presidential field in terms of fundraising and campaign operations, this is simply just not the case.

Nowhere was this more evident than last week's interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. In the exchanges between Romney and Baier, the former Massachusetts governor became angry and increasingly uncomfortable as Baier asked direct, but pertinent questions about his record, particularly RomneyCare.

When Romney quipped, "This is an unusual interview," and broke out into an awkward laugher, it was quite clear that Romney was failing to hide his contempt for being asked about his own record. At that moment, he was uncomfortable in his own skin and it showed.

If Romney wants to win the nomination, he will need to do more than just continually tout that he is the best-positioned candidate in the GOP field to take on President Obama.

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Time For Mitt Romney To Take On Newt Gingrich?

To attack more forcefully or not? That’s the dilemma former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faces as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surges in polls and threatens Mr. Romney’s grasp on the Republican presidential nomination.

Four weeks before the first nominating contest – the Iowa caucuses – differing views are emerging. Some Romney supporters quoted in the media say it’s time for the mild-mannered Romney to get more aggressive. He can’t count on Mr. Gingrich to self-destruct or on other candidates to take Gingrich down for him, the thinking goes.

He needs to show he’s a fighter, because that will demonstrate he’s up for the task ahead: taking on President Obama in what will surely be an epic battle against a highly organized incumbent.

But others suggest Romney has to be careful. He has kept his message focused on the economy, his strong point as a former businessman, and he doesn’t want to take his eye off the ball. He also doesn’t want to bathe himself in negativity right as many GOP voters are beginning to pay attention to the race in earnest.

When asked Tuesday whether it’s time for Romney to attack Gingrich, one Romney adviser said no. “I don’t think that he fundamentally changes his strategy in the direction of an attack on Newt,” former Rep. Vin Weber (R) of Minnesota told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. “He’s building a campaign capable of defeating President Obama.”

In particular, Gingrich’s rocky personal past – marital infidelities, two messy divorces – is best left for others to discuss, says Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University.

For Romney to go there “lowers him a notch in the eyes of voters,” says Mr. Wayne. “He’s got an economic focus going against Obama, and he should stay on that route. The moment people turn from the economy to social conservatism or other issues, Romney loses his advantage.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell agrees that Romney has to be careful.

“Romney’s caught between a rock and a hard place,” says Mr. O’Connell, head of the CivicForumPAC. “He can’t rely on Newt being Newt. But if he goes after him, he looks like a whiner and out of character. He’s got to hope another person or organization comes up with information on Gingrich.”

Romney surrogates have also made polite attacks on Gingrich, without getting too deep into the weeds on Gingrich’s professional past.

Mr. O’Connell suggests that it matters how new information comes out on Gingrich. If it comes from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi or a pro-Romney super political action committee, voters are likely to discount it.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena On Herman Cain's Primary Exit

Herman Cain should be applauded for the outsider enthusiasm he brought to the GOP presidential primary and to the issue of tax code reform, but Cain's: “I am innocent until you have proof” shtick was wearing thin with Republican voters. Mr. Cain will have an extremely lucrative career as a television talking head. I wish him and his family the best.

Read more from Ford O'Connell At Politico's "The Arena"

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Republicans Face Potential Hard Sell To Women

After a poor showing among female voters in the 2008 presidential election, the Republican Party might again have a women problem.

Sexual misconduct accusations against Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich's treatment of his ex-wives, and harsh rhetoric during debates have raised concerns among some Republicans about the party's ability to attract women in next year's presidential race.

American women have generally favored Democratic presidential candidates for decades, but some strategists thought Republicans could take advantage of "buyer's remorse" over the bad economy in 2012 and win back women independents who helped Barack Obama win the White House in 2008.

Instead, some of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination could alienate women.

"I think the Republican party has done a disservice because it should be making more of an effort to attract female voters," said strategist Ford O'Connell, an aide to the John McCain/Sarah Palin campaign in 2008.

Appealing to women voters will be particularly important in the general election fight against Obama, who won the White House in 2008 with the biggest margin ever recorded by a Democrat among female voters.

Because he was backed by 56 percent of women, Obama won the White House with only a minority, 49 percent, of the male vote. More women than men also participate in general elections. Data show that 10 million more women cast ballots in 2008 than men.

Cain has been hit by charges that he harassed women employees when he led the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, accusations he has repeatedly denied. After an allegation that he conducted a long extra-marital affair, the businessman said this week he was reassessing his campaign.

Some women have also raised questions about Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Running as an experienced elder statesman with conservative ideas, the 68-year-old Gingrich replaced Cain as Republican front-runner last month. But he has admitted to adulterous affairs in his previous two marriages, which could put off some women.

"That does affect the level many people do trust a candidate," said Maureen Olsen, president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women, said of Gingrich. "I think it still is an issue particularly in the more conservative parts of the party."

Cain has also been criticized for comments such as referring to Nancy Pelosi, the leading Democrat in the House of Representatives, as "Princess Nancy" during a debate.

Strategists said such talk can alienate women voters as can harsh tones on issues from immigration and abortion to Iran's nuclear policy.

"They are going to have to couch some of their positions in more friendly terms. The combative nature of some positions seems to turn off women," O'Connell said.

Studies show women generally tend to favor candidates who are seen as compromisers.

Read more from Patricia Zengerle at Reuters

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Romney In A Defensive Crouch?

Thanks to significant advantages in fundraising, organizing and general campaign discipline, Mitt Romney is still the odds-on favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination next year. But Gingrich could conceivably pull it out.

Gingrich's sizeable polling leads in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida coupled with Romney's declining popularity among GOP primary voters should be a troubling sign for Team Romney. What Team Romney needs to understand is that GOP voters are looking for a fighter who will keep one eye on the economy and one eye on government reform, not a candidate who is just better than Obama on paper.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Payroll Tax A Winning Argument For Dems?

On this issue, congressional Republicans have gotten themselves crosswise from a messaging perspective. What the president is pushing for is great from a PR perspective, but the surtax is terrible policy given that it negatively impacts small business owners.

If Congressional Republicans don't quickly find an adequate solution coupled with a unified message, I fear they will be forced to compromise or else they risk being bested by the president at a very critical time.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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