Top Democratic strategist watch: Celinda Lake goes off!


Would you have a beer with this strategist: Monday evening, Chris Hayes guest-hosted for Rachel Maddow. At one point, he interviewed Celinda Lake, a well-known, high-ranking Democratic pollster and strategist.

Hayes asked a perfectly sensible question. Celinda Lake went off:
HAYES (2/6/12): One of the most robust polling results of President Obama’s tenure is how strong his personal favorability remains despite whatever economic situation we’re having. How important is that metric, “favorability,” how you feel about the person who is standing in front of you there in a suit, at a microphone, running for president when you get to election day?

LAKE: It matters a lot. And not only is Mitt Romney failing on the personal likeability, but he’s failing on “the guy you want to sit down who would understand your life.” It’s what we call, in the Democratic Party, the “have a beer with the guy” test?

Mitt Romney, by his own words and deeds, just seems completely out of touch with what’s going on for average people. When you make bets for $10,000. When you think income that is the value of people’s houses. When you have offshore accounts—and it’s on and on and on. You pay a lower percentage for your taxes than the average secretary in the United States. I mean, honestly, this man is the perfect candidate as a poster child for the 99 percent to 1 percent message. And he’s inflicting all of these wounds on himself.
Celinda Lake went on and on, playing around with the flubs. Two points:

It’s what we call, in the Democratic Party, the “have a beer with the guy” test.

Will someone just shoot us right now?

“You pay a lower percentage for your taxes than the average secretary in the United States.”

Does Romney pay a lower percentage for his taxes than the average secretary in the United States? We wouldn't bet the house. But we don’t think that’s accurate.

“Democratic strategists” like Lake have helped create the world in which Candidates Kerry and Gore got eaten alive by flub culture—and by the deeply insipid “who do you want to have a beer with” test.

Who do you want to have a beer with? On-line, liberals endlessly mock that standard. Lake just rattles it off.

These people have failed you for decades now. If they misstate basic facts to our faces, we'd say their misconduct persists.


  1. Revile it or not. Elections revolve around the question, is he one of them or is he one of us? Or variations. Will he work for him or for me? And I do believe that simplistic way of looking at things provides a useful frame for a lot of much more complicated issues. Mitt Romney clearly believes that policies that benefit his class, are beneficial for the economy as a whole. A lot of us don't, and that's pretty much one thing this election is going to be about.

  2. "Does Romney pay a lower percentage for his taxes than the average secretary in the United States? We wouldn't bet the house. But we don’t think that’s accurate."

    The matter has been explained to you several times now, so continued confusion remains puzzling. Perhaps the contrarian view is so very seductive, that it defeats the facts -- as the favored hobby-horse does for American punditry in general. Is this what a regular pulpit does to people?

    So let's try it one more time. If we count SS payroll taxes as "taxes" -- since Romney regards SS as a "tax", so will we -- then every American salaried worker earning up to just over $100K pays about 14% of her income in tax, BEFORE Federal tax. By contrast, "carried interest" income and capital gains (on which the Romney family subsides) are entirely free of the SS tax. So your secretary is already at 14%, and Romney is at zero, with respect to SS tax.

    Now, depending on how much she earns, her additional "effective Federal tax rate" may well be below 15% -- meaning her Federal (non-SS) tax paid divided by her gross income. However, as has already been pointed out at some length, she'll almost certainly be paying a marginal rate of 25%-28%, while Romney, who's earning, far, far more, will be paying a marginal rate of maybe 15%. And, in any event, we have to add what she does to pay, to the 14% in SS taxes. On this basis, virtually any secretary earning above the poverty line will be paying higher total rates than Romney.

    And of course we haven't yet come to effect of state and local taxes, which are highly regressive. For example, a secretary in NYC until recently paid the same marginal rate as a billionaire.

    So is it perfectly clear now? Virtually all gainfully secretaries pay much higher marginal rates than does Romney -- at least those working for Warren Buffett. Secretaries also pay total effective rates higher than Romney's, if we count SS.

    Is it so difficult to concede that occasionally an election year trope is accurate? Or must everything go the Bob Somerby way -- every word has to be literally true and we simply must offer the kinds of explanation that the public won't sit still for and which the opposition will be happy to exploit ("he was for it because he was against it")?

    1. Here Somerby is clearly guilty of the same kind of non-expert guesswork he decries on a regular basis.

  3. Why is Mr. Somerby pretending he doesn't know what a marginal tax rate is?

    Why is he ignoring Romney's cash being held in offshore accounts that isn't subject to taxes at all?

    Why is he ignoring a tax-free $100,000,000 transfer from Romney to his children?

    Only Mr. Somerby knows why he is playing us for rubes!!

  4. So Obama... (Occidental, Colombia, Harvard) is the guy "WE" consider to be "one of us"? (And that's the framing we're adopting now?)


    Where on earth do you sock puppet, astroturf clowns come from?

    Check these IP addresses Bob!!!

    1. Not even the founders thought the president should be "one of us."

      You'd probably criticize Washington for being one of the largest land owners and a successful military man to boot!!

      However, the question of how much a prospective president empathizes with or understands the plight of the middle class is a very valid one.

      I'm going to suggest Romney saying the housing market ought to be left alone to find its bottom and the investor class (whom he is a member of) then buy up the foreclosed properties and rent them back to the foreclosed shows he needs to buy a clue.

      History shows us feudalism wasn't too popular or particularly successful!!

    2. Of course the founders didn't think the president should be "one of us." They were wealthy land & people owners who were primarily worried that the rabble would start to get a clue and vote in their own interests, which is why they disenfranchised a majority of the country (women, blacks, young adults, and Indians) and let the states disenfranchise even more people (non-land owners).

      So when the first minority of America was allowed to vote, they naturally elected a multimillionaire (when adjusted for inflation). Did Washington "understand the plight of the middle class"? Probably not! That's why he and his buddies rigged the game right from the outset.

      I don't know why liberals like to make Jefferson, et al., out to be the MLKs of their time, but they were definitely products of their class, race, gender, and time. Which would make them mixes of conservative wingnuts and dirty hippies by today's standards, not one or the other.

    3. "I don't know why liberals like to make Jefferson, et al...."


      Were you asleep a few short years ago when a certain group of people funded by the far right fetishized the Boston Tea Party and were very fond of Jefferson's "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

      Listen, no liberal I know thinks the founders created a perfect union. That's purely the domain of those who would like to take us back a century and beyond.

    4. It's Columbia University in the City of New York. not "Colombia."

      It's been around since 1754.

      The Google, you know....

    5. I spelled it wrong, YOU GOT ME!!!!!

      *But do you have anything else to add?*

    6. So Junior Bush (Yale, Harvard B-School, never worked a day in his life) was touted by the "journalists" as a guy who people would like to have a beer with. How did that work out? (for the country, not for Junior).

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