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Obama's Food Definitely Beating Romney's in Polls

Obama's Food Definitely Beating Romney's in Polls


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Judging from all these election-themed dishes, Obama is in the lead

While we all know that Michelle Obama's cookies beat out Ann Romney's, there's still some decision-making left when comparing Obama- and Romney-themed foods. As it turns out, Obama might be winning.

7-Eleven recently polled their customers and found that President Obama's blue cup was beating out Romney's red cup, 59 percent to 41 percent, and in other restaurants, the numbers are looking the same.

BGR's Obama burgers are up 856 to 754, as more customers are buying the Chicago hot dog-inspired burger than Romney's hollandaise and lobster burger.

California Tortilla's Obama burrito bowl (with chicken teriyaki and pineapple) is also outselling Romney's burrito bowl (meatloaf and mashed potatoes) 54 to 46 percent.

Interestingly enough, BGR founder Mark Bucher tells the Washington Post that sale numbers are fluctuating with election events. "Following the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, the Romney Burger outsold the Obama Burger three to one in daily sales the following day," Bucher said. I guess we'll see how sales do tomorrow, following the town hall debate at Hofstra University.


Get Michelle Obama's winning chocolate chip cookie recipe

As their husbands battle each other in a mad dash for the White House, the two contenders for first lady waged a heated contest of their own in the kitchen.

On Tuesday, the incumbent claimed victory.

Michelle Obama has been declared the winner of the Family Circle Presidential Cookie Bake-Off. Her white and dark chocolate-chip cookies defeated the M&M cookies submitted by Republican rival Ann Romney.

Obama won with 51.5 percent of the nearly 10,000 votes submitted, compared to the 48.5 percent of the votes garnered by Romney.

Of the dozens of polls that forecast the next presidential election, this one has got to be the sweetest: The bake-off has gone on to accurately predict the general election outcome all but once since it began.

The first contest took place in 1992, when Hillary Clinton’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies trounced Barbara Bush’s classic chocolate chip recipe. Four years later, Clinton used the same recipe to defeat Elizabeth Dole’s pecan rolls.

In 2000, voters chose Laura Bush’s Texas Cowboy Cookies over Tipper Gore’s gingersnaps. They gave Bush another win in 2004 by selecting her oatmeal chocolate chunks over Teresa Heinz Kerry’s pumpkin spice cookies.

The only time the cookie test failed to accurately predict who would next claim the White House was in 2008, when Obama’s lemon zest shortbread cookie recipe lost to Cindy McCain’s oatmeal butterscotch cookie recipe. That win didn’t come without controversy — McCain was accused of copying the recipe from a Hershey’s website.

For this year’s bake-off, Obama submitted a “splurge” recipe created by the godmother of her daughters. Romney, a baking enthusiast, submitted a recipe for M&M cookies she claims her grandkids can’t resist.

In Washington, tasters at a restaurant located just two blocks away from the White House predicted the bake-off winner. Diners at the Occidental Grill & Seafood were given both cookies at the end of their meal and asked to submit their favorite by secret ballot. Obama had the lead in the ongoing contest, which will run through the election.

The winning recipe is below click here to make Ann Romney's treats. The results are also featured in Family Circle's November issue.

From Michelle Obama: Every evening, Barack, the girls and I sit down for a family dinner with good conversation and healthy food. If we want to splurge, these White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, created by the girls’ godmother, is the perfect special treat.

Mama Kaye’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 5 dozen cookies

Prep: 15 minutes

Bake at 375° for 12 minutes per batch

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup (2 sticks) unsaltedbutter, softened

1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

3. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.

5. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased baking sheets.

6. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes remove to wire racks to cool completely.


Fox News poll: Romney erases Obama's lead nationally after first debate

Mitt Romney now holds a narrow advantage over Barack Obama in the race for the White House -- 46 percent to 45 percent, if the election were held today, according to a Fox News national poll of likely voters released Wednesday.

That’s a six-point turnaround and a three-point “debate bounce” for Romney.

Before the first presidential debate in Denver last Wednesday, Romney had 43 percent to Obama’s 48 percent (September 24-26, 2012).

Romney’s edge comes mainly from independents, white voters and men. Just over half of men (51 percent) back Romney now, the highest level of support he’s received among this group.

The poll shows independents side with Romney by 44-32 percent. That’s a reversal from before the debate when it was 43-39 in Obama’s favor. One independent in four is undecided or will vote for another candidate.

Support for Obama is down a bit across the board -- most notably among young voters: Fifty percent of voters under age 30 back Obama, down from 58 percent two weeks ago.

According to the Fox News exit poll, 66 percent of young voters and 52 percent of independents backed Obama in the 2008 election.

Republicans (92 percent) are more likely than Democrats (83 percent) to be extremely or very interested in the election. Enthusiasm is higher on the Republican side as well: Those backing Romney (64 percent) are seven points more likely than those siding with Obama (57 percent) to say it is “extremely” important their candidate win.

Likewise, more Romney supporters (86 percent) than Obama supporters (81 percent) say they will “definitely” vote for their candidate.

Meanwhile, more people like Romney after the debate. Fifty-two percent have a favorable opinion of him, up from 48 percent two weeks ago. This is not only his highest favorable rating among likely voters, but also the first time it has been more than 50 percent. Plus, it’s the first time he has had a higher favorable rating than Obama -- albeit by just one percentage point. Fifty-one percent of voters view Obama favorably, unchanged from before the debate (September 24-26).

Also for the first time, by an 8-point margin, more likely voters trust Romney than Obama to improve the economy and create jobs (51-43 percent). Two weeks ago, Obama had a one-point edge on dealing with the economy.

Romney’s chipping away on other issues as well. Obama had an 11-point edge over Romney on handling foreign policy two weeks ago. That’s down to a 6-point advantage now. Similarly on health care, Obama’s previous 9-point lead is down to 2 points.

More voters trust Romney to reduce the deficit (+13 points), manage their tax dollars (+7 points) and handle illegal immigration (+3 points). More trust Obama to protect Medicare (+8 points), handle foreign policy (+6 points) and deal with terrorism (+4 points).

In addition, Romney is more trusted by voters to handle their personal finances, and fewer think he’ll raise their taxes. By a four-point margin (50-46 percent), more say they would trust Romney to manage their family’s money and bank accounts. By a 21-point margin, voters say they wouldn’t trust Obama (38-59 percent).

Half of voters (50 percent) think their taxes will go up if Obama is re-elected, while 41 percent think Romney will raise their taxes.

Meanwhile, by a narrow 3-point margin more voters want Romney than Obama to nominate the next Supreme Court justice (47-44 percent).

Last week had good news for both campaigns. For Romney, the good news was the debate. Most voters who saw some of last week’s debate think Romney won (76-14 percent). For Obama, it was economic news. On Friday, a favorable jobs report showed the national unemployment rate at less than 8 percent for the first time since Obama took office.

So far, the debate appears to have trumped the jobs report. Nearly half of voters -- 46 percent -- say they’ve heard or read something in the past week that makes them feel “more positive” about Romney, while 34 percent say “less positive.” The results are the opposite for Obama: 30 percent say they heard something that made them feel “more positive” and 46 percent “less positive.”

Voters are split over whether the job situation is getting better or worse (45-46 percent).

Still, more voters say the economy overall is getting better than getting worse by 49-42 percent.

Sentiment is divided when the question is taken from the national level to the individual: 43 percent say it feels like things are getting better for their family, while slightly more -- 45 percent -- say things are getting worse for them. Some 12 percent say things are staying the same.

One percent of likely voters rates economic conditions as “excellent,” while 15 percent say “good.” Most voters rate the economy negatively: 42 percent say “only fair” and another 41 percent say it’s in “poor” shape. Two years ago, 58 percent said “poor” (October 2010).

Just under half of voters say Obama’s economic policies aren’t working so it’s time to vote him out (48 percent). The remaining half says the president’s policies are working and he should be re-elected (32 percent) or they are hesitant to change presidents now even though Obama’s policies aren’t working (17 percent).

Some 28 percent of Democrats say Obama’s economic policies haven’t done enough, even if they think it’s too risky to change leadership right now.

Over half of voters -- 52 percent -- don’t trust the federal government, while 43 percent generally do. Voters who trust the government mostly back Obama, while those who don’t mainly side with Romney.

By a 2-to-1 margin, voters think Americans rely too much on the government (65-30 percent).

And by a wide 31 percentage-point margin, voters think Obama relies more than Romney on a teleprompter.

The Fox News poll is based on live telephone interviews on landlines and cell phones from October 7 to October 9 among 1,109 randomly chosen likely voters nationwide. Likely voters are registered voters who are considered most likely to vote in the November presidential election. The poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. The poll is weighted by age and race it is not weighted by party identification.


Michelle Obama beats Ann Romney in cookie bake-off

As President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney go head to head tonight in the first presidential debate, their wives have been competing for an entirely different title.

Family Circle magazine recently announced first lady Michelle Obama as the winner of their Presidential Cookie Bake-Off.

More than 9,000 readers cast their votes in the contest between Mrs. Obama’s white and dark chocolate chip cookies and Ann Romney’s M&M’s cookies. Mrs. Obama won with 51.5 percent of the votes.

For the last five elections, the magazine has asked candidates’ spouses to submit family cookie recipes for readers to compare. Readers then try the recipes and cast their votes for the best one.

The informal poll has accurately predicted the next first lady every time except once. In 2008, Michelle Obama’s lemon zest shortbread cookies were beat by Cindy McCain’s oatmeal butterscotch recipe, but McCain did not win the presidential election.

Take a look at the first lady’s winning recipe below.

From Michelle Obama: Every evening, Barack, the girls and I sit down for a family dinner with good conversation and healthy food. If we want to splurge, these White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, created by the girls’ godmother, is the perfect special treat.

Mama Kaye’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 5 dozen cookies
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake at 375° for 12 minutes per batch

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsaltedbutter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)
2 cups chopped walnuts

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

3. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.

5. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased baking sheets.

6. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes remove to wire racks to cool completely.


How Mitt Romney's missteps kept Obama in the presidential race

The 2012 campaign began before the campaign of 2008 had finished. In February of that year, while Barack Obama was still locked in an epic struggle for the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney summoned his closest allies to a Boston office to work out why his effort to be the Republicans' standard-bearer of 2008 had failed so badly. He handed out a memo he had written about himself, detailing his strengths and weaknesses, assessing his own defeated candidacy as if it were one of the businesses he once assessed as a hotshot management consultant. This was no mere exercise in navel-gazing. Romney was determined to learn the lessons of defeat in 2008 in order to win in 2012.

Thus began a long march that ended today. The visible miles came last winter, when Romney trudged through the pig farms of Iowa and the snows of New Hampshire in his search for the Republican nomination. But that followed an invisible primary, an endless round of closed-door fundraisers to fill up a war-chest he hoped would scare off the most fearsome potential rivals.

Whether money was the explanation or not, Romney was indeed rewarded by the decision of several big-beast Republicans not to challenge him for the nomination. The New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Indiana's Mitch Daniels and others, including Sarah Palin, skipped the race, leaving the path open for Romney.

When ambitious politicians duck a presidential contest, that's usually because they suspect the incumbent will be too hard to dislodge. In the summer of 2011, that looked like the smart decision. For Obama had just done what George W Bush had failed to do: he had removed – killed – Osama bin Laden. Many Republicans concluded that, given the US economy was bound to at least slightly improve by November 2012, the scalp of Bin Laden made the president tough to beat.

The course for Romney ran anything but smooth. Instead of warming to the former Massachusetts governor as the obvious choice – a successful businessman who looked like Hollywood's idea of a president – Republican primary voters seemed ready to fall in love with almost anyone but him. The field of rivals included outlandish characters who seemed absurd to outsiders: pizza magnate Herman Cain, evolution-denying congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, Texas governor Rick Perry, who could not remember which three government departments he planned to shut down. Former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt said: "The Republican primary resembled a reality-TV show. All these guys might as well have been living in a tree house with Simon Cowell."

And yet each of those candidates enjoyed a moment in the sun, a surge in support that made them – rather than Romney – the frontrunner. It was as if Republicans were desperate to find someone else to nominate. Accordingly, former senator Rick Santorum and the former House speaker Newt Gingrich won enough states between them to ensure the primary race dragged on.

That long, bruising primary battle cost Romney dear, and not just financially (it forced him to spend money defeating his fellow Republicans rather than saving it for the fight against Obama). The greater cost was political.

It exposed the future Republican nominee to sustained attack from his own side. The notion of Romney as a ruthless plutocrat, coldly laying off American workers, did not come from the Democrat attack machine. Romney was not seen as embodying the 1% because of the Occupy movement. Rather, that portrait was drawn by Gingrich, who aired an extended commercial, "When Mitt Romney came to Town", that tore apart Romney's tenure at the helm of the private equity firm Bain & Co. It depicted him as a corporate raider, willing to shutter factories and shatter working lives if it made him richer. That critique lingered all year, eagerly picked up and advanced by the Democrats. But it originated with the Republicans.

Still, the damage of the primaries went deeper. To push aside Santorum, Bachmann and the others, Romney was obliged to adopt positions that would endear him to the Republican faithful – but which stored up trouble for later. So Romney reversed his previous support for abortion rights and gun control, called on undocumented migrants to "self-deport" and rebranded himself from a Massachusetts moderate, who as governor had passed healthcare reform, into the "severe conservative" who now promised to repeal "Obamacare".

Those reverses left him doubly wounded. For one thing, he could now be slammed as a serial flip-flopper, just another politician who believed in nothing and would say whatever it took to be elected. For another, he had been boxed into a series of positions bound to alienate core blocs of the electorate that had long been tough for Republicans to reach – the young, Latinos and suburban women among them.

Sure enough, through the summer months he was on the receiving end of an air assault from Obama, in the form of saturation TV ads in key states, which portrayed Romney as part boardroom vulture, part unprincipled phoney. Obama, who had faced no primary challenge of his own, had the money to do it – defining Romney before he had a chance to define himself.

Yet Romney could not just blame Obama. Much of his trouble was of his own making. He helped colour in the cartoon of himself as an out-of-touch one percenter when he boasted that his wife had "a couple of Cadillacs" or when his tax returns – showing that he paid a meagre 14% – had to be dragged out of him. In July, he botched an overseas tour meant to boost his credentials as a potential world leader by offending America's most easily pleased ally, Britain, when he suggested the London Olympics could be a flop and by travelling to Jerusalem to offer his view that cultural inferiority might be the cause of Palestinian suffering.

What should have been a moment to relaunch his candidacy and make Americans look at him anew – his party convention in Tampa in August – also had little effect. His speech was overshadowed by a moment of Dadaist theatre, as Clint Eastwood harangued an empty chair standing in for an imaginary Obama. Romney was on his way to becoming a joke figure.

In September, he went from being ridiculed to being hated. A leaked video showed him addressing fellow millionaires at a fundraising event in May, where an unplugged Romney candidly wrote off 47% of the electorate as parasites, non-taxpaying dependents who would never vote Republican because they would not "take responsibility for their own lives". Even many on his own side believed it was an act of self-destruction so complete that no candidate could possibly survive it.

But Romney had one more chance. The first TV debate in Denver on 3 October was, for many Americans, the first time they had paid close attention to the election. What they saw was an incumbent president who looked exhausted, listless and disengaged. With his head down, his answers sluggish, it seemed he either was too tired to be president or no longer really wanted the job.

Romney, by contrast, was spirited and energetic. Above all, he came across as a human being rather than the caricature of Obama propaganda: all he had to do was not seem like a rapacious capitalist bloodsucker and, in an instant, he had broken the core message of the Obama campaign. The immediate bounce that Romney enjoyed in the polls suggested that a small chunk of the electorate, disenchanted with the president, had been waiting to see if the Republican was a plausible replacement. In Denver Romney crossed that threshold.

That change revealed what had always been the structural reality of this race. By rights, it should always have been close. Here was an incumbent president who had struggled to lift his approval rating above 50%, who had seen the number of Americans saying the US was on the "wrong track" become a majority and, most crucially, had watched as the unemployment rate had remained stuck at 8% for almost his entire presidency, shifting below that figure only a matter of weeks ago. The last president to be re-elected with a jobless percentage that high was Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, in what were rather different circumstances.

So the election should never have been a cakewalk for Obama. That it had seemed that way, until Denver, attested to the deeply flawed candidacy of Romney. By raising his game at that first debate, he restored politics to something like normal service.

Obama conceded that he had messed up, joked that he had been napping in the first encounter and sharpened up for the next two, where he remained clear, focused and unafraid to confront his opponent: in Denver he had failed even to mention Romney's 47% remark. Now he made it his closing argument.

But October was a tough month for the president. He was hobbled by accusations that he had bungled or even deceived the public over the September killing of four US diplomats in Benghazi, an issue unlikely to go away. Still the end of the month brought some unlikely and helpful allies.

The first was a former nemesis, Bill Clinton, who in 2008 had dismissed Obama's presidential bid as a "fairytale". In the campaign's closing days, Obama let the man they call the big dog run – as the country's most beloved Democrat grew hoarse making the case for his successor. Obama didn't just exploit Clinton's ability to connect to the white, male blue-collar Americans who remain beyond the current president's reach – he all but ran on Clinton's record, arguing that "We know my plan works because we've tried it," referring to Clinton's success in the 1990s.

The second ally was a genuine surprise. Some pollsters doubt that Superstorm Sandy really made a big difference for Obama, noting that Romney's surge, "Mittmentum", had already stalled before the weather changed. But few deny that Obama benefited from the chance to be seen doing the job of president, while Romney was sidelined, and profited especially from the bearhug he received from the Republicans' rising star, Chris Christie. His gushing praise for Obama, and refusal to campaign at Romney's side in Pennsylvania, was precious validation for the president – and it came at just the right time.

And so the two men duelled to the very last, Romney making two campaign convention-breaking stops on election day itself. The campaign had finished, but the politics is anything but over.


Crunching the numbers shows how Obama and Romney were polls apart

L ast week, we learned from Mark Blumenthal the story behind the internal polling of President Obama's re-election campaign. Obama's team was serious about its numbers and had an understanding about polling that stunned even me.

The Obama campaign combined three levels of data to peg the state of the race against Mitt Romney. The campaign conducted aggregated battleground polls for message testing, individual state tracking polls by multiple pollsters to understand where the campaign was standing in each state, and individual state parallel surveys to refine micro-targeting.

Notice how Obama's team utilized multiple pollsters at three different levels, to ensure any one survey error wouldn't affect them too much. This shows a keen mind for utilizing modern research that says no one poll is always best or worst.

The Obama analytics team made one other key correct judgement. It has become sport for campaigns to trash public polling. But as they said some public polling was wrong, (which it was), the Obama team recognized that it was still useful in figuring out where the horse race stood.

All of this well thought-out planning worked, predictably, and Obama's campaign team now look like geniuses.

Today, we know from Noam Scheiber that Romney's team seemingly went the opposite way. Most of the attention has been paid to the fact that the Romney polls underestimated Obama in all the states in Scheiber's piece. That's true. Yet what I'm more interested in is how the Romney team made its projections.

First, the Romney team relied on a two-day tracking poll in each state. There's a reason no public tracking poll was done over less than three days. Two days of data, even if you call a lot of people, will have plenty of noise. You often have difficulty getting tougher-to-reach voters (ie: minority and younger voters with cellphones) in a two-day period.

The Romney campaign also read far too much into one-day changes in their data. They thought they were seeing momentum, as many of their Sunday before the election numbers were better than their Saturday data, even as their pollster warned them about reading too much into one-day numbers. If you think two-day data has a lot of noise, then imagine one day with no call backs to those who don't answer the phone the first time. Just look at the daily breakdowns from publicly available polling.

Second, the Romney team seemingly tossed away older polling as if it were useless. I'll admit I'm addicted to polling data and am always looking for my new fix. I also know that the research indicates that any polling done within the last 25 days of a general election campaign is going to be very solid. From 2006 to 2010, this 25-day average was as accurate as more complicated methods. In 2012, it also did as well as the final-week averages.

The reason for this is that campaigns just don't have as big of an effect as people think. Obama's campaign noted that after the first debate the polling was consistent. Obama held a three- to four-point edge that never abated. The fact that Romney's team seemingly thought otherwise is something I don't quite get. If Romney and company had just averaged all their data over the last few weeks, they would have had a more realistic picture.

Third, the Romney team did not comprehend that it was a presidential year and that in presidential years, everyone votes. A lot was made of Romney voters' enthusiasm and how that among the most "interested" voters Romney was running strongly. This demonstrates a seeming lack of knowledge of solid research which shows that this type of modeling just doesn't work in presidential elections anymore.

People who pick up the phone and say they are going to vote will vote. That's why the method of just asking people if they will vote is working now, even if it hadn't in the past. It's the screen that the highly successful Marquette and Public Policy Polling surveys utilized.

Fourth, the Romney campaign apparently didn't care to look at the public polling. I have no idea how many pollsters Romney's team had as part of the campaign, beyond their chief pollster. I hope they were getting their data from more than one internal source they should have looked at public polling too.

This again goes back to a fact that the Obama campaign understood. Pretty much any poll is useful in some way. Some polls are going to be right more often, but no one poll is going to be right all the time. Obama's team built a model that took into account public polling. They used statistical equations (ie: math) to weight the polling to see what picture of the electorate made most sense, given what they knew. Romney's team would have been far better off if they had done the same.

Fifth, the Romney campaign somehow came away with the belief that their candidate would win, even as their own optimistic surveys showed him only getting to 267 electoral votes. It came from their belief that they had momentum in Ohio, which, as discussed, was based on the faulty notion that you see big dips and dives in polls outside major campaign events.

As I noted in the lead-up to the election, Romney didn't lead in a single public Ohio poll in the final weeks. Historically, this has always been a death knell. Romney didn't lead in a single internal Ohio survey, either.

When that was combined with Romney's lack of leads in other swing states that would have put him over the top, such as Wisconsin, Romney's team should have realized that they were dead in the water.

Indeed, if you believe the reporting, it's fairly clear that Romney's pollsters were in another world. The way they organized their polling data is not something that will be done by any successful campaign going forward.


McManus: Romney’s pain, Obama’s gain

The rest of the country may be tiring of it, but the drawn-out, high-decibel battle for the Republican presidential nomination is just fine with the Obama campaign.

Why? Because the president’s strategists still expect to be facing Mitt Romney in the general election, and his unexpectedly tough fight to sew up the nomination has forced him to keep emphasizing his credentials as a conservative instead of moving toward the center, where the swing voters are.

“The long primary fight is driving independent voters away from Romney,” the Obama campaign’s senior strategist, David Axelrod, told me last week.

In general, the Obama campaign is feeling warily confident these days, with the economy improving (though slowly) and the president’s standing in opinion polls rising. One national poll last week even showed Obama beating Romney by 52% to 43%.

But the Obama camp knows that the Republican primary campaign can’t last forever, much as they’d like it to. And they worry that the economy could still hit a speed bump before the November election.

So here’s what they’ve been up to while the Republicans have dominated center stage:

They’ve raised more than $130 million of a war chest that may eventually exceed $750 million — and they’ve already spent more than $50 million, some of it for a massive database of voters who might be persuaded to vote for Obama this fall.

They’ve also been running what might be called an invisible Democratic primary campaign, seizing chances for Obama to reconnect with his party’s base. In recent months, the president has softened U.S. policy on deporting illegal immigrants, pleasing Latinos. He has refused permission for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, pleasing environmentalists. He has called for more federal student loans and lower college tuition, pleasing young voters. And he has struck an increasingly confrontational posture in dealings with Republican leaders in Congress, pleasing liberal Democrats of all stripes.

Probably most important, aides say, Obama has settled on a central message on the economy that, in their view, should resonate with many independent voters as well as Democrats. Unveiled in a series of speeches last year and continued in his State of the Union address last month, it’s a populist “middle class” message, heavy on calls for tax increases on the wealthy.

The message resonates with liberal Democrats, and the campaign is also hoping it will appeal to independents and even to some of the middle-income white voters who have become the core of the Republican electorate.

“There’s a misapprehension that people in the middle, independents, are somehow less concerned about the economy and the yawning gaps in the economy than Democrats,” Axelrod said. “They’re not.”

White voters without a college education are still a tough sell for Obama in 2008, he won only 40% of their votes against John McCain.

But there again, the GOP has provided inadvertent help, not only by forcing its front-runner to answer questions about his career as a venture capitalist and his investment accounts in the Cayman Islands, but also by making capital gains tax cuts — which, in most candidates’ versions, would go mostly to upper-income taxpayers — a central tenet of its economic program.

Going forward, expect to hear still more from Obama about his “Buffett Rule,” a proposal (named after billionaire Warren Buffett) that taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year should face a tax rate of at least 30%.

That’s the Democrats’ version of a wedge issue, a proposal designed to divide the other side. Polls show that the Buffett Rule is widely popular in every income group except the very rich — but Romney and his competitors in the GOP race all oppose it.

Does all this preparation guarantee an Obama victory this fall? Far from it.

The president’s standing with voters is still fragile. A Gallup Poll last week reported that only 46% approve of the job he’s doing, an improvement over his standing for most of last year but still short of the 50% he would need to feel secure in his job. (Only one incumbent president has been reelected with less than 50%: George W. Bush in 2004. His job approval rating at the time was 48%.)

The unemployment rate has improved but still stands at 8.3%, and forecasts of sluggish economic growth suggest that it will probably remain at or above 8% on election day.

The best thing Obama has going for him may be the Republican primary race, and that won’t last forever. And as soon as the GOP nomination is sewn up, all of the party’s attention can be focused on tearing down Obama.

Axelrod says he’s optimistic. But he acknowledges it will be a tough campaign — and, in all likelihood, a close election. “We’re not just running against the other candidate we’re running against the times in which we live,” he said. “We’re running against impossible expectations.”


Michelle Obama beats Ann Romney in cookie contest

Forget the presidential debate tonight. The nation's most important face-off has already happened.

The contest to see who has the best cookie recipe has already netted a winner.

Michelle Obama’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies won over Ann Romney’s M&M's Cookies in the Family Circle magazine's quadrennial Presidential Cookie Bake Off.

About 9,000 people voted after baking both types of cookies at home to taste test them. According the magazine, it was a close race, as the first lady’s recipe won by only 297 votes.

Obama winning cookie recipe, handed down by the godmother to Obama's two daughters Malia and Sasha, probably wouldn't pass the new public school lunch regulations, which the First Lady championed. The recipe calls for two sticks of butter and a stick of Crisco's butter-flavored shortening -- as well as two kinds of chocolate chips.

Romney's cookie isn't too heart healthy either. And since it calls for peanut butter, there is no way it would be served in public schools either. The recipe, which she says her grandchildren go gaga over, uses rolled oats, peanut butter, M&Ms and chocolate chips.

For those worried that the outcome of next month’s presidential election will be decided on cookie cred alone, fear not. In 2008, Michelle Obama lost to Cindy McCain. But Family Circle notes that in four out of five recent cookie contests, the winner has gone on to become first lady.


Obama calls Romney a ɻullshitter' – the election just got a whole lot coarser

Truth be told, Barack Obama has probably already lost the votes of that portion of America scandalised by bad language. For one thing, his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, makes copious use of the word "motherfucker" – while his rival, linguistically speaking, seems to inhabit a 1950s sitcom set among the clean-cut patrons of a milkshake parlour. (As governor of Massachusetts, one former colleague told the New York Times recently, Romney used to tell people to "go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks", though he does indulge, the paper conceded, in "the occasional 'crap'.")

But now the coarseness chasm has widened. As an interview team from Rolling Stone were leaving the Oval Office earlier this month, that magazine reveals, "executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president … She said: 'Tell him: You can do it.'" Obama replied: "You know, kids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell'." "Bullshitter" may not be "motherfucker" – but as an insult directed at one presidential candidate by another, it's this campaign's high, or low, point, which makes it, in the immortal words of Joe Biden, "a big fuckin' deal." "The president is someone who says what he means and does what he
says," Obama's spokesman Dan Pfeiffer tried to clarify, urging
reporters not to get "distracted by the word".

We can expect Romney's media surrogates, in the coming days, to paint the president as classless and foulmouthed, though Romney himself was apparently simply too gosh-darned shocked by the news to comment, preferring to drown his sorrows, according to unconfirmed reports, in a delicious ice-cream soda. (With Diet Coke.)

A recurring theme of the campaign has been the vigorous efforts, by some Republican supporters, to find ways to deny the reality of Obama's narrow but steady lead in numerous swing-state polls and electoral college predictions. First came Unskewed Polls, a website that nudged results in Romney's favour by – and I'm simplifying, but only slightly – adding a few more points to his totals.

Then came the rise of the "Nate Silver Truthers", sceptics determined to find bias in the methods of the New York Times's in-house polling geek, whose numbers are crunched almost entirely by (an evidently left-leaning) computer.

And now please welcome Townhall.com commentator Matt Towery, who's convinced the polls are biased towards Obama because … some of them take 20 minutes to answer. "And what hardworking, productive member of a family, taking care of a business, house or family, has time to spare for such an opus? Likely not the type that fits the profile of a Romney voter." Never mind that good models iron out such hypothetical biases by adjusting for polls' past performance in predicting results. This new angle seems unassailable: polling itself is biased towards layabout Democrats! Next month: why "voting" isn't really a trustworthy measure of how people vote.

Where now for multimillionaire self-embarrasser, journalist-manipulator and Scotland-annoyer Donald Trump, after yesterday's heartless announcement that he'd be withholding $5m from deserving charities unless the president did something he'd obviously never do? The New York property news site The Real Deal reports that Trump, who enjoys pretending to "fire" people, has been fired in a non-pretend fashion, after the board of one of his flagship buildings, Manhattan's Trump Place, voted to replace the Trump Organisation as the building's manager.

Still, he'll always have the gossip columnists and the conservative rabble-rousers, right? Maybe not: the Fox News talking head Michelle Malkin responded to his latest stunt by calling him a "clown", which is a bit like being called a "cantankerous vegetarian indie rock pioneer" by Morrissey and now the veteran gossip writer Lloyd Grove has had enough, too. "At long last, you have made yourself irrelevant," he writes, and vows, on behalf of his employer the Daily Beast, no further coverage of Trump's antics for the foreseeable future. "Or, at the very least, before the November 6 election." So a week and a half, then.


CNN Poll: Perry still at top but Romney stronger vs. Obama

Washington (CNN) - Despite his performances in the two most recent Republican presidential debates, a new national survey indicates that Texas Gov. Rick Perry remains on top of the field in the race for the GOP nomination.

But a CNN/ORC International Poll also indicates that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney does better than Perry in hypothetical 2012 general election matchups against President Barack Obama and matches evenly with the president on the issues and on personal characteristics.

According to the survey, which was released Monday, 28 percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they support Perry as their party's presidential nominee, with Romney at 21 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at ten percent, with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third bid for the White House, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, all at seven percent. The poll indicates that Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is at four percent, with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at three percent and former Utah Gov. and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at one percent.

Palin has flirted with a bid for the GOP nomination, but the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has not taken any concrete steps towards launching a campaign. Taking Palin out of the mix produces a similar result: 30 percent for Perry, 22 percent for Romney, 11 percent for Gingrich, and all other candidates in single digits.

The poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, after last Thursday's debate in Orlando, Florida. Pundits and analysts rate Perry's performance in that debate, and in a debate one a week and a half earlier in Tampa, Florida, as uneven. Perry's distant second showing at a much-watched straw poll of Florida GOP activists this past weekend may be a reflection of his debate performances, and his stance on illegal immigration and border security, which were spotlighted in both debates.

"Did Perry's performance in the most recent debate affect the horse race? Maybe yes, but maybe no," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Perry's support is down just two points, and Romney is up only one to three points - and since all those numbers are well within the sampling error, it doesn't look like much has changed, possibly because average voters aren't as plugged into the debates as political junkies are. If the debates have had an effect, it may be mostly in favor of Gingrich, whose support went from 5 percent in mid-September to 10 percent now."

According to the poll, the president's overall approval rating, at 45 percent, is essentially unchanged since July. Fifty-two percent of all Americans disapprove of his job performance to date.

The 2012 election will not be an up-or-down vote on Obama, but rather a choice between the president and another candidate, so head-to-head match-ups against the top GOP candidates are a better test of Obama's electoral strength.

The survey indicates that Romney fares best against Obama. It's basically all tied up with 49 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Romney in a hypothetical two-way match-up. According to the poll, Obama holds a five point margin over Perry, 51 percent to 46 percent.

In a hypothetical matchup between Paul and Obama, the president holds a four point margin, 51 percent to 47 percent. Obama handily beats Bachmann and Palin in two-way match-ups. But keep in mind, as always, that polls taken more than a year before the election have little or no predictive value.

Obama's ace-in-the-hole remains the fact that he is personally more popular than his policies. According to the poll, his favorable rating, which measures reactions to him personally, is eight points higher than his job approval rating. Fifty-two percent of all Americans disagree with him on issues, but 58 percent believe he has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have. And by a 49 to 43 percent margin, Americans say that personal qualities are more important than issues to their vote for president.

Only Romney matches up well with Obama on both of those measures. Six in ten Americans say Romney has the personal qualities a president should have, compared to only 45 percent who feel that way about Perry.

Forty-six percent of Americans agree with Romney on issues. "That doesn't sound like much, but it's far better than the 39 percent who say they agree with Perry. That 46 percent is also ten points higher than the number who agreed with Romney in his first run for the White House in 2008," adds Holland.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from September 23-25, with 1,010 adult Americans, including 447 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.