Bloomberg: From northern Michigan’s iron mines to Pennsylvania’s natural-gas fields, the industrial heartland of America is humming with jobs again as a region once left for dead recovers faster than the rest of the U.S. ….. The economies of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania have improved faster than that of the U.S. since the recession’s depth in April 2009 …. Michigan is expected to lead all 50 states during the next six months….
…. from Detroit and Pittsburgh to Peoria, Illinois, and the town of Mellen in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills, employers plan to add jobs and facilities …. Improvement in unemployment, which dropped 19% in Ohio and 29% in Michigan from April 2009 through the end of last year, is a key driver for the Midwest recovery …. The recovery isn’t just about autos and shale – it’s all sorts of related industries, said Steve Steinour, Huntington Bancshares Inc.’s chief executive officer. “We’re seeing now a revival that no one had expected in this sort of time frame”…
…. Michigan gained 66,000 jobs in 2011 ….. It was the first gain in the state since the turn of the century….. “We’ve always heard this Rust Belt thing about our region, even just a few years ago,” said Steinour, speaking of the disparaging image of closed factories and declining industry. “But you don’t hear it so much now, and we might not have to hear it much in the future.”
ABC: President Obama was expected to visit the Washington Auto Show on Tuesday, giving him another forum to talk about GM and Chrysler, along with the administration’s attention to manufacturers and efforts to boost fuel efficiency standards…..
Robert Shrum: …. lost in this year’s bloviating combat over the Reagan banner is another reality that will at first rile and finally infuriate Republicans as the opportunistic Romney runs and then stumbles toward a November showdown with Barack Obama. For on the evidence of history, it’s likely that Obama will be the Reagan of 2012.
The one is certainly not the ideological heir of the other. But this president is beginning to travel a path along an emerging political landscape that parallels Reagan’s in potentially decisive ways.
….. Obama, like Reagan before him, offers an overarching theme that resonates with the distinctive mood of his re-election year …. he has trumpeted his own overarching summons to an America “where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” …. the narrative can be summed up – and the president has done so – in the “Buffet Rule”…. It connects as well to Mitt Romney ….. Romney is the face of the Republican establishment – and he’s becoming the face of unfairness in America ….
….. in the politics of 2012, Gingrich isn’t the Gipper, and Romney isn’t Ronnie. It’s the other guy, the Democrat who in 2008 presciently – and controversially – praised President Reagan for “chang[ing] the trajectory of America.” He did so amid the winds of an economic storm that finally and slowly cleared. So, in his own landmark achievements, has Barack Obama – and this election year, the trajectory is turning for him as it once did for Ronald Reagan.
Richard Cohen (Washington Post): On Saturday night, at precisely 9:19 and 30 seconds, my iPhone, my iPad, my computer and, for all I know, my toaster were informed that Herman Cain had endorsed Newt Gingrich ….. it was just additional evidence that the Republican Party has become a circus: One clown endorsed another.
….. This has been an exceedingly silly political season … But it has also been a sad one. The Republican establishment acts as if this season’s goon squad of presidential candidates has come out of nowhere, an act of God …. it has only itself to blame. For too long it has been mute in the face of a belligerent anti-intellectualism, pretending that knowledge and experience do not matter and that Washington is a condition and not a mere city. The endorsement of Gingrich by Cain was not a bulletin. It was a feeble blip on a scope. The GOP is brain-dead.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney shakes hands with U.S. Senator John McCain at a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 4
Time: Announcing his support for Mitt Romney, Senator John McCain said, “The time has arrived for Republicans to choose a presidential nominee; a new standard bearer who has the ability and determination to defeat President Obama …. I’m pleased to have made my choice, and to endorse Governor Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for President.
Governor Romney offers us the commonsense reforms of government policy that are necessary to turn around our economy. His record of accomplishment in government and business are a testament to his leadership abilities…
“I had the privilege of running against Governor Romney for the nomination four years ago, and I know he is a tough competitor. I have no doubt he is the best candidate we can nominate. And I am proud to support him for President.”
President Barack Obama greets people outside the Eason home in Cleveland, Ohio, Jan. 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Paul Begala (Daily Beast): You gotta love a party in which Mitt Romney can do no better than virtually tie with the guy who compared gays to “man on dog” sex and thinks contraception is evil.
I would have never guessed Rick Santorum would be so happy about two men being tied up together….
So while the winner of Iowa in terms of expectations is Santorum, the story is the man he basically tied: Mitt Romney. Not to put too fine a point on it, but when you can’t beat the Man-on-Dog guy, who lost his home state by 18 percent, you stink. You really stink.
…. Four years ago, Romney received 25 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses. Unencumbered by the need for gainful employment, Romney has been running nonstop ever since, and, along with a pro-Romney super PAC, spent at least $4 million in Iowa in 2012. Yet he garnered – wait for it – 25 percent …. it seems to me that spending $4 million to gain zero points is a bad return on investment. That is one expensive treadmill. I’ve seen Astroturf with stronger growth…..
Steve Benen: It was easy to imagine Mitt Romney winning the Iowa caucuses. It was harder to imagine Romney winning Iowa and looking weaker at the same time.
And yet, that seems to be a fairly reasonable assessment of the race for the Republican presidential nomination this morning….
….. there’s not much for Romney to boast about here. After five years of near-constant campaigning, Romney managed to get fewer votes in Iowa last night than he did in his first campaign. He also picked up the dubious honor of the weakest win in the history of the caucuses – no victor has ever managed to finish first with less than 25% of the vote until last night.
After spending nearly $4.7 million, most of it towards the very end of the contest, these are not results Romney should be proud of.
Greg Sargent: The President is set to hold another event today urging the House GOP to support the Senate payroll tax extension compromise…. A White House official emails that Obama today “will be joined by Americans who would see their taxes go up if the House Republicans fail to act”.
Washington Post: House Republicans faced mounting pressure Wednesday from critics inside and outside Congress who worry that their standoff with President Obama over whether to extend a payroll tax cut could do lasting damage to the GOP.
… The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board captured the frustration among Republicans in the paper’s Wednesday editions, asking whether the GOP’s handling of the tax debate “might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the House GOP must get past the issue. “Are Republicans getting killed now in public opinion? There’s no question,” he said Wednesday on CNBC. “Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that this is going to happen, and probably the best thing to happen now is just to get it over with.”
Marketwatch: The number of Americans filing initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 364,000 in the week ended Dec. 17, reaching the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected that claims would rise to 375,000, while remaining at levels historically associated with an improving labor market.
The four-week average of initial claims – a smoother gauge than the weekly data – fell 8,000 to 380,250, the lowest level since June 2008.
Steve Benen: It’s generally wise to avoid sweeping conclusions about week-to-week changes in data like this, but when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly.
Michael Tomasky: President Obama has had an awful year. But thanks to the politically asinine miscalculations of House Republicans, he’s ending 2011 with a bang.
For a bunch of people who don’t believe that Barack Obama celebrates Christmas, Republicans sure are going out of their way to make sure the president has a merry one. The short-sighted stupidity of the House Republicans is hardly to be believed. The presidential nomination contest is as unsettled as ever and still features a bunch of candidates who are about as appealing to most Americans as Aunt Gladys’s fruitcake.
…. It’s all a reminder that Obama won’t be running just against a Republican candidate. He’ll be running, as he has been, against a Republican Congress. And the public is finally getting the message that they are breathing a different kind of air from the rest of us.
Paul Krugman: David Roberts reports on the EPA’s decision, finally, to regulate mercury from coal plants … it will save tens of thousands of lives every year and prevent birth defects, learning disabilities, and respiratory diseases. This is actually a much bigger issue, when it comes to saving American lives, than terrorism.
…. The point that strikes me most, however, is that this shows that it matters who holds the White House. You can complain about Obama’s lack of a strong progressive agenda, which I sometimes do, or wonder what good it is to hold the White House when the other side blocks every attempt to do good through legislation. But mercury regulation would not have happened if John McCain were president.
Elections have consequences, and this is one delayed consequence of 2008 that will make a big difference.
President Obama speaks during a news conference on Republican obstruction of Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the CFPB, Dec 8
Steve Benen: Two months after the Senate Banking Committee approved Richard Cordray as the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Senate leadership brought the nomination to the floor this morning. Republicans refused to allow a vote …. It’s hard to overstate how outrageous today’s filibuster really is.
…. It’s all part of the normalization of extortion politics. Traditionally, if the GOP wanted to alter the powers of the CFPB, it would write legislation, send it to committee, bring it to the floor, send it to the other chamber, etc. But that takes time and effort, and might not work. Instead, we see the latest in a series of GOP extortion strategies: Republicans will force Democrats to accept changes to the agency, or Republicans won’t allow the agency to meet its legal mandate…..
The President is pre-taping interviews with WISH (Indianapolis, IN), KSNV (Las Vegas, NV), WREG (Memphis, TN) and WCHS (Portland, ME) today
Steve Benen: We generally look to the first Friday of every month for new unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but every Thursday morning, the Department of Labor releases a report on initial unemployment claims.
And this morning, the news is very good:
The number of people filing for state unemployment benefits for the first time fell 23,000 to the lowest level since late February, the government said Thursday. The Labor Department said claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 381,000 last week. The level of initial claims in the week ended Nov. 26 was revised up by 2,000 to 404,000.
The consensus expectations were for a slight drop, which makes the sharp drop that much more encouraging…..
Steve Benen: Politico has a piece today on Senate Democrats’ outrage over Republican obstructionism, as evidenced by Tuesday’s filibuster of judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan and today’s expected filibuster of CFPB nominee Richard Cordray. As Dems see it, GOP abuses are setting a new standard — which Democrats will take advantage of the next time they’re in the minority.
…. Republicans respond that these current tactics aren’t new, and the Politico article tells readers the GOP argument is sound.
…. This isn’t a subjective question on which the parties are entitled to different opinions. There are objective, often quantifiable, answers to the points Politico and Republicans are raising: are GOP senators “replicating” Democratic tactics? Were Dems abusing Senate rules in the Bush era to the same degree that Republicans are abusing them now?
The answer to both is “no,” and the false equivalence does little to advance the discussion.
Steve Benen: Most of the Affordable Care Act won’t take effect for a few years – and if court rulings and the 2012 elections go a certain way, it may not take effect at all – but there’s already evidence that the reform law is working.
It’s making a big difference in providing coverage for young adults; it’s providing treatment options for women like Spike Dolomite Ward; and it’s slowing the growth in Medicare spending.
It’s also, as Jonathan Cohn explained, saving seniors quite a bit of money on prescription medication…..
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrive to speak in the South Court Auditorium on the White House, Dec. 7
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada talk backstage at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building following their joint press conference, Dec. 7, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
CBS: President Barack Obama will appear on “60 Minutes” in an interview with Steve Kroft to be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Steve Kroft interviewed the president on Tuesday in Kansas after he delivered an economic speech in the small town of Osawatomie. President Obama will talk to Kroft again tomorrow at the White House for Sunday’s report.