Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Peeking In on Canada's Election

AlexSBurton Last year, Canada's Liberals—the party of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien, the party that held power for most of the 20th century—suffered a crushing electoral defeat. Its representation in the House of Commons was cut by more than half, and for the first time in its history, the Liberal Party fell to third place in the number of seats, behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives and the more leftist New Democratic Party (NDP). Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff immediately announced that he would step down, triggering a leadership campaign that officially begins this November. The early favorite is Trudeau's son Justin, but a number of other candidates have entered the race. We interviewed one of them, Alex Burton, a prosecutor and party activist from Vancouver, about his campaign to lead the Liberals, the differences between American and Canadian politics, and his views on his neighbors to the south. This year, Mitt Romney spent $233 million during the Republican...

Paul Ryan's Other Opponent

(Flickr/Rob Zerban for Congress)
Flickr/Rob Zerban for Congress) Rob Zerban giving a speech in early October as he delivered 50,000 petition signatures to Paul Ryan's office requesting a debate. Paul Ryan's congressional district should be prime swing territory for Democrats. The party held the seat from the 1970s through the mid '90s, and it switches its allegiances during presidential years, voting for Bush in '04 but flipping to Obama in '08. Yet for some reason Democrats haven't bothered lately to field a serious opponent against Ryan. Ryan—the boyish-faced Rage Against the Machine rocker who wears a backwards baseball cap to workout—might look like he just stepped out his college frat house before joining Mitt Romney on the Republican national ticket, but he's actually be in office since 1998, with nary a threat to his seat. This time, Rob Zerban just might be up to the task. Zerban, who formerly owned a catering business in the area, is a staunch liberal, supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget...

Fri, Oct. 26 Electoral Vote Predictor

Are We Heading toward a Split Decision? The closer we get to election day—and it is only 12 days away now—the more likely it becomes that the voters render a split decision with Mitt Romney winning the popular vote and Barack Obama winning the electoral college. A new WaPo /ABC national poll of likely voters puts Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent. This is the first time Romney has hit 50 percent in this poll. Both sides are enthusiastic, with 95 percent of the Obama supporters and 93 percent of the Romney supporters being somewhat or very enthusiastic. Noteworthy is that 52 percent of the respondents think Obama will win vs. 40 percent who think Romney will win. Yesterday's Gallup tracking poll also shows Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent, but this represents a 4-point gain for Obama in this poll in a week. Romney led by 7 points in Gallup's tracking poll a week ago. While it is difficult to compare results from different pollsters due to different methodologies, Gallup's...

And Best Supporting Zinger Goes To...

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. R ight, so the 2012 presidential debates are done with at last—triggering, as predictably as natural disasters produce fundamentalist sermons, a stew of grousing in Wonkland about their shallowness, triviality, and failure to articulate much of substance about whatever issues made the cut. Everybody had a laundry list of topics that never got broached at all (global warming and torture were just two of the big ones). But from my unwonky perspective, complaints of this nature reflect an either earnest or wilful inability to recognize the nature of the beast. All that counts—to the electorate, to the campaigns, and even to the outcome on November 6, which means to history—is whether they were good TV. If that sounds cynical, I don't mean it to be. I'm a pop critic,...

Mail In Your Ballot, Cross Your Fingers

(Flickr/Nadya Peek/Jenn Vargas)
Ohio's Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has been under fire now for months from Democrats. They’re angry, particularly, about his moves to limit early voting hours across the state—especially those on the weekend before the election. Poor and minority voters rely on the expanded hours. Black churches have used the last Sunday before election day to bring voters to the polls; low-income voters often have inflexible work schedules and childcare demands at home. After a lengthy court battle, Husted has now authorized county election boards to offer hours in the three days before election day. But he did limit early voting hours in the weeks before, with fewer evening hours and no weekend hours. But Husted insists he's no 2012 version of Katherine Harris or Ken Blackwell. He's repeatedly defended himself by pointing out that he's also done something to make voting easier for all Ohioans: expand mail-in voting. Anyone in the state can vote by mail and this year, for the first...

Central Florida's Corridor of Power

(Flickr/Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau/Express Monorail)
An aerial photograph of Disney World in Kissimmee, Florida I f you want to know what’s different about Florida, both in general and in this election cycle, just ask José López. The organizer and leader of a laundry workers’ union that’s part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), López has been walking precincts as part of SEIU’s campaign to re-elect President Obama since mid-summer. One day, as he was chatting with an elderly man on his doorstep, his canvassing partner interrupted and asked López, “How much do you know about snakes?” A rather large snake, it seems, had slithered between López’s legs. The elderly gentleman, who, like hundreds of thousands of new Florida voters, had migrated from Puerto Rico to the Orlando metropolitan area, excused himself, returned carrying a machete and proceeded to hack the snake not entirely to death. “The machete was too dull,” says López, shaking his head. “He ended up just beating that poor snake to death with that thing.” “Old...

Calling Bullshit

So it seems that President Obama got a little salty in an interview Rolling Stone will publish tomorrow. According to Politico, the prez says of Mitt Romney, “You know, kids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.’” The high-pitched sound you can hear now in the distance? It’s the keening wail of shocked, dismayed, flabbergasted, and mortally offended Republicans—mixed with the low murmur of apology from Team Obama. "What is true is that trust is a very important part of the election," Obama spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer told reporters as Obama Romnesia-ed his way today through Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. "The president is someone who says what he means and does what he says and Governor Romney's answers in the debates on domestic issues and foreign policy raise real questions about that." Pfeiffer urged folks to not be "distracted by the word," but to "focus on the issue.” Good luck with that! If there’s one thing we know from...

Is the Democratic Party Too Diverse?

Writing for The Daily Beast , John Avalon makes an odd complaint about the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party writ large—that they're focusing too much on attracting non-white voters. To be fair, the bulk of the column is devoted to explaining the dangers of a strategy that relies on high turnout and support from African Americans and Latinos; if Obama underperforms with those voters in states like Colorado and Virginia, he will have considerably narrowed his path to reelection. But the alternative, greater appeal to white voters—and particularly working-class whites—just isn’t tenable. No Democratic nominee has won a majority of the white vote since 1964. Indeed, at this point, it's good if Democrats manage a moderate plurality of the white vote—Obama will be doing well if he captures 40 percent. There are a variety of reasons for this—for one, ethnocentrism among white voters drives skepticism for government programs—but the result is the same: Democrats consistently struggle...

Virginia Is Still a Toss-Up—and Romney Should Be Worried

In my dispatch from Virginia Beach, I wrote that the state was a toss-up: At the time, President Obama was tied with Mitt Romney at 47.4 percent, down from 48.5 percent before the first presidential debate. In recent days, however, Obama’s star in the commonwealth has brightened, if only by a little bit. The last ten polls, stretching back to the middle of the month, after the vice presidential debate, show a small move in Obama’s direction: Virginia, 10/14 - 10/24 Pollster Obama Romney Margin Public Policy Polling (D) 51 46 O+5 Zogby 49 46 O+3 Mellman Group (D) 46 45 O+1 Wenzel Strategies (R) 47.1 49.2 R+2.1 Public Policy Polling (D) 49 47 O+2 Rasmussen 47 50 R+3 Old Dominion University 50 43 O+7 Public Policy Polling (D) 49 48 O+1 Pulse Opinion Research 47 46 O+1 American Research Group 47 48 R+1 Average 48.2 46.8 O+1.4 The most recent poll comes from Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, which shows Obama with a five-point lead and strong performance with women (57–41),...

Why Obama Has an Ad Advantage

One thing overlooked in discussions of campaign fundraising is who controls the money. Over the summer, Team Romney raised enormous sums, but large portions of it were either for affiliated super PACs or the Republican National Committee. The upside for the Romney campaign is that they had many different ways of raising money. But there was a big downside as well: Television ads—one of the largest line items for any campaign—were more expensive as a result. Under federal election law, campaign committees qualify for lower advertising rates than either party committees or independent groups. In practical terms, this makes ad spending more expensive for Romney than Obama. Given the limited effectiveness of advertising—even good ads lose their power within days of airing—this difference can become an important tactical advantage in the waning days of a campaign, when both sides are trying to influence as many voters as possible. Indeed, this is exactly what we’re looking at: As a recent...

Did the Tea Party Win or Lose?

Is the Tea Party dead and gone? To a great degree the answer is yes. There are no longer any Republicans with national ambitions, and precious few with even local ambitions, who will proclaim themselves Tea Partiers (Mitt Romney was smart enough to see this coming, so he carefully avoided saying "I'm a Tea Partier" on tape, though he certainly expressed his agreement with their views). The movement has come to be associated with extremism and recklessness, particularly after Tea Partiers in Congress forced a showdown over the debt limit that let to a downgrading of the nation's credit rating. The Tea Party has also become synonymous with a particular brand of Republican politician, those ideologues so dumb and uninformed they barely realize how crazy their views are. This started in 2010 with the likes of Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell, continued through the briefly successful presidential candidacy of Michele Bachmann, and can now be seen with Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock...

News Flash: This Was Always a Close Election

(Flickr/dinodressed2)
(Flickrdinodressed2) A two-term Obama presidency wasn't a sure thing four years ago. And it definitely isn't one now. F rom the beginning, this presidential campaign has been about discontent with the incumbent versus distrust of the challenger, and about which would trump the other less than two weeks from now on Election Day. Clearly Governor Mitt Romney’s shambles of a summer—during which unease grew over a wealthy nihilist disinclined to reveal anything credible about his finances or beliefs who is contemptuous of half the country at the other end of the economic and social spectrum—was offset for some voters by 90 minutes in early October when the Republican Party nominee forcefully berated a debate opponent who dithered between bemusement and narcolepsy. To what extent in that first debate the President of the United States’ performance sucked all light and gravity out of the surrounding cosmos, as breathless punditry would have it, is now irrelevant. I remain struck by the fact...

Todd Akin: Warrior for the Right

(AP Photo/Mike Derer)
Todd Akin, the Republican challenger for Claire McCaskill’s U.S. Senate seat representing Missouri, has made himself a national figure so far this election season by declaring that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” and claiming that abortion clinics routinely perform abortions on women who aren’t actually pregnant. But what’s garnered less attention, until this week, has been Akin’s history of not just saying but also doing disturbing things. His history shows a lifelong dedication to a misogynist right-wing ideology that flirts with using force to get its way when persuasion fails. Akin has friends in high places. He spent his time in Congress working with vice-presidential candidate and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan , with whom he crafted anti-choice legislation that would—surprise—redefine rape narrowly to eliminate many rapes that don’t involve overt violence to subdue the victim. This would better reflect Akin’s belief that many to most rapes are not “legitimate...

The County that Swings Wisconsin

(Flickr/David Wilson)
Patrick Caldwell Working America's Wisconsin offices are on the second floor of the state AFL-CIO headquarters in Milwaukee. O n a chilly evening in early October, Jay Ferus stood waiting in the Family Dollar store's parking lot in Racine, Wisconsin. By the time I pulled up, Ferus was already an hour into his 4-9 p.m. shift as a canvasser for Working America, the labor group he represents. A chipper 49-year-old with black rectangular glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, he spends most of his time traversing the suburbs of Milwaukee, but on this Wednesday he'd driven an hour south to Racine. He held an iPad on top of a clipboard thick with sheets of paper listing the reasons why Working America had endorsed Barack Obama for president and Tammy Baldwin for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat. "Who stands with America's working families?" blared a headline at the top of each side of the flyer. Ferus looked out of place with an iPad in front of the discount store, which sits on an unglamorous...

Is Persuasion Over?

Obama volunteers out registering voters. (Flickr/Barack Obama)
If you read only one article about the respective ground games of the Obama and Romney campaigns, it should be this one , from Molly Ball of The Atlantic . As Ball says, it's long been axiomatic that a superior organizing operation can get you about an extra 2 percent on election day. The 2012 presidential election looks to be one where 2 percent will make the difference between victory and defeat, and almost everyone on both sides has acknowledged for some time that Obama has the better ground operation, not only because of their superior use of technology and social media but because they've been building it for four years. Ask Republicans today and they'll say they've nearly caught up, enough so that they can fight the Obama campaign to a draw. But that's not what Ball found. Visiting both campaigns' offices in different states, she saw a pattern: not only does the Obama campaign have nearly three times as many offices as the Romney campaign, the offices of the two camps look very...

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