Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Emptiest Candidate in Presidential Election History

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

As the end of this election approaches, it's worth taking a step back and asking this question: In the entire history of the United States of America, from George Washington's election in 1789 on down, has there been a single candidate as unmoored from ideological principle or belief as Mitt Romney? I'm not just throwing an insult here, I ask this question sincerely. Because I can't think of any. There have been middle-of-the road candidates, candidates eager to compromise, candidates who would divert attention to issues that weren't all that important, and even candidates who at some point in their careers undertook a meaningful position change or two. For instance, early in George H.W. Bush's career he was an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, just as Al Gore was anti-choice early in his; both changed their positions to align with their parties. But Romney truly does stand alone, not only for the sheer quantity of issues on which he has shifted, but for the frequency with which wholesale shifts have taken place.

Why Richard Mourdock Matters for the Presidential Election

Richard Mourdock, the GOP candidate for Senate in Indiana, has joined the growing ranks of Republican men who openly oppose “rape and incest” exceptions in anti-abortion laws. For Mourdock, the reasoning is straightforward—every life is a “gift from God.” Here’s the full quote:

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said at a debate. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mitt Romney's Question Mark Economy

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)

As we close in on Election Day, the questions about what Mitt Romney would do if elected grow even larger. Rarely before in American history has a candidate for president campaigned on such a blank slate.

Yet, paradoxically, not a day goes by that we don’t hear Romney, or some other exponent of the GOP, claim that businesses aren’t creating more jobs because they’re uncertain about the future. And the source of that uncertainty, they say, is President Obama — especially his Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Act, and uncertainties surrounding Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.

In fact, Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy

Moderate Mitt Takes on Israel

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The final American presidential debate aired in the small hours of the Middle Eastern night. An Israeli who stayed up to watch was rewarded by learning some new facts from Mitt Romney: Iran is a land-locked country with access to the sea only through Syria. Romney believes America can push Israel and the Palestinians toward peace, and he faults President Barack Obama for failing to do so. An Israeli viewer could learn that Romney would not rush breakneck into war to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

First Ladies in Waiting

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore, Barack Obama for America)

Sure, it's fun to hate her. She's a dance mom to a high-priced horse. She crowed about her “real marriage” to Mitt during her RNC speech, which would count as a homophobic dog whistle if it weren’t loud enough for everyone to hear. She wears thousand-dollar t-shirts and still manages to dress like a modern-day June Cleaver. And this Fall she's taken to saying bafflingly tone-deaf things to reporters, like that she has “concern” for her husband’s “mental well-being” should he actually have to serve as president.

But all snark aside, why should we care about Ann Romney? The answers may seem obvious: If her husband is elected, she'll surely have the ear of the President of the United States in ways most cabinet members only dream of. She provides a window into a strange and often inscrutable candidate. And of course, the campaign has designated her a surrogate, so who are we to argue?

But none of these answers stand up to scrutiny. Governors and Senators often have wives who surely influence them in myriad ways. As for giving us insight into the candidate, what exactly do we learn from Ann Romney about Mitt, except that he seems capable of human emotion toward her, and that neither one of them is in possession of a particularly fine-tuned political ear?

The Belle of the Electoral College Ball

(Clare Malone/The American Prospect)

Soren Norris is pretty sure he’s just been spouse-blocked.

Norris, a canvasser for Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate, is walking away from a door that’s been slammed in his face by a rotund man in a polo shirt and khakis at the mention of Ohio’s incumbent Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown. He explains the phenomenon, common enough in this politically divided state to have been given a name by political professionals. “It’s when you want to talk to one, and the other one won’t let you talk to them. She might have been in the back. Who knows?” Norris shrugs off the encounter and is soon off to the next house on his list. He and his team of canvassers need to knock on 3,500 doors in Cuyahoga Falls, a city 45 minutes south of Cleveland, tonight—T-minus 25 days until Election Day in Ohio.

It’s no secret that every four years, in the full flush of autumn glory, this state becomes the prettiest girl at the Electoral College party. Pundits hang on her every anecdotal word, and pollsters won’t stop calling. For both candidates, Ohio’s the closest thing there is to a must-win. Obama for America has spent $54 million on ad buys here, and the Romney campaign has spent $55 million. You can’t turn on the television without seeing Barack Obama’s ears or Mitt Romney’s hair; the radio is awash in spots parodying the candidates to sell cars. For many Ohioans at this point, political ads have become white noise, making grassroots get-out-the vote efforts all the more crucial in the race’s final days.

Bald-Faced Romney

One of the most dramatic moments of the three presidential debates occurred during Monday night’s  foreign-policy finale. In a back-and-forth over diplomacy with Iran, Mitt Romney threw Barack Obama a bone by repeating his persistent claim that the president had gone on an “apology tour” in 2009. The baseless notion of Obama “apologizing for America” has been a central theme from the start of Romney's campaign, and his opponent was ready to jump on it: "Nothing Governor Romney just said is true," Obama said. "Starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has probably been the biggest whopper told during this campaign." 

Let's Hold Off on the Champagne, Team Romney

One way to win any close contest is to project an aura of confidence. This is exactly what we’re seeing right now from the Romney campaign. From Politico, you have a campaign advisor declaring that Mitt Romney would win 305 electoral votes on Election Day. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell says that he has a “permanent sustainable” lead, and Romney strategist Stewart Stevens declared that “The majority of Americans don’t want to vote for Barack Obama.”

The "Apology Tour" Lives On

Flickr/micagoto

During last night's debate, when Mitt Romney started to go off on his usual "apology tour" line, President Obama got a little smile on his face. Here it comes, I thought—he knew Romney might say this, and he's got a killer response ready. After all, there may be no single falsehood Romney has repeated more often than this one. It's simply a lie, Mitt Romney knows it's a lie, it's been fact-checked to death so every journalist knows it's a lie, and now at last Obama would smack it down and we wouldn't have to hear it anymore.

No such luck. Obama's response was to simply assert that Romney's charge is false ("This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign") without explaining why or finding a way to shame Romney for his shamelessness. And the Romney campaign was so pleased they actually put out an ad today revisiting the moment:

The Neocons' Long Game

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(AP Photo/Pool, Win McNamee)

President Barack Obama answers a question as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida.

Are Pollsters Undercounting Latinos?

In the most recent national poll from Monmouth University, Mitt Romney leads President Obama by three points, 48 percent to 45 percent. If you dip into the internals, however, you’ll see something odd: Obama has a small six-point advantage over Latinos, 48 percent to 42 percent. What’s unusual about this is that it runs counter to every other survey of Latino voters, which—on average—show Obama with a 48.4 percent lead over Romney among the group.

Bellwether by the Sea

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Jamelle Bouie

This is part two of the Prospect’s weeklong series on the swing districts that could determine the national outcome on November 6.

Mitt Romney, Language Cop

Mitt Romney, saying things.

There were a number of strange moments in last night debate, the most substantively meaningful of which was almost certainly Mitt Romney's declaration that "when I’m president, we'll make sure we bring our troops out [of Afghanistan] by the end of 2014." For the last year, Romney has been criticizing Barack Obama for having precisely this position, saying that we can't tell the enemy when we're leaving and our departure has to be determined by events on the ground. In the foreign policy version of Moderate Mitt, that apparently is no longer operative. But the oddest thing Romney said had to be this: "I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it."

As I've observed before, Romney's critique of Obama on foreign policy has always been primarily linguistic. He takes issue not with what the President has done, but what he has said. He apologizes for America! He didn't use the word "terror"! He isn't strong and resolute! But forced for the first time to actually have his foreign policy arguments probed and criticized, all of Romney's attacks on Obama fell away, and he ended up saying over and over that he agreed with Obama's policies.

So Romney's pledge about Ahmadinejad was perfectly in keeping with his language obsession

A Good Debate, But Will Voters Notice?

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Obama did very well in the foreign-policy debate, but it remains to be seen if his success will change the trajectory of the race, which has been trending toward Romney.

Several things about this debate were a surprise. The most surprising thing was the emergence of Mild Mitt. Romney sounded almost as if he were on downers. His campaign must have decided that he was coming across as too ferocious or two bellicose. But his performance tonight was underwhelming.

Obama, by contrast, took the debate to Romney right from the first exchange. He was almost too aggressive, calling the former Massachusetts governor on his inconsistencies and policy recommendations that would have backfired. “Every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” the president said.

Horses and Bayonets and GIFs, Oh My!

The candidates agree we should build economies abroad.

 

The candidates agree we should educate women.

 

The candidates agree on how to handle Syria.

 

The candidates agree we should build our economy at home.

 

Like, they reeeeallly agree that the domestic economy is important.

 

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