Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Fix the Debt, Destroy the Recovery

(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
David Walker announced his endorsement of Mitt Romney this week. The name might not ring a bell, but Walker was head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the number one funder of deficit-hawkery in the United States. Walker, a former Comptroller General, has described himself and his crusade as bipartisan, and it is actually helpful that he has come out of the closet as a Republican. Lately, Walker has been deeply involved with the efforts to levitate the late Bowles-Simpson Commission as a template for deficit-reduction, and has been working closely with the corporate-funded “Fix the Debt” campaign of more than 100 CEOs lobbying for an austerity grand bargain. It’s worth unpacking the economics and the politics of the austerity lobby. The Fix the Debt campaign, much like the Bowles-Simpson Commission and the propaganda of the Peterson Foundation generally, contends that the projected national debt is depressing business willingness to invest now. Presumably, businesses are worried...

One View of the Brown-Warren Race

Last spring, I wrote for The Nation on the Elizabeth Warren campaign for U.S. Senate. At the time, I would've bet against her winning. This month, I checked in to see how the campaign is doing—and came away, to my surprise, believing she may very well eke out a victory over Brown. She's got three things going for her: a well-organized ground campaign that is deploying a flood of volunteers effectively and in coordination with the local, state, and national Democrats; her calm and personable performance in the debates; and the fact that many Massachusetts voters who might otherwise have ignored the Senate race are enthusiastic about reelecting President Obama. For more, I hope you'll take a look at my reporting for The Nation— before you come back here, of course!

Romney Versus Our Better Angels

As "Frankenstorm" churns up the East Coast, it brings into relief the central argument of the 2012 campaign. Beneath all the minor squabbles and distractions, Obama vs. Romney is a contest between two starkly different views about the proper role of government. It’s Lincoln’s concept that informs the president’s approach: "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves,” the 16 th president famously said. Romney, meanwhile, has run as the faithful representative of the anti-government strain that, as Frank Rich recently wrote , has infected American politics from the git-go. One of Romney's most pointed articulations of the government-hating strain came in a primary debate last June, when he was asked about a more localized version of what millions are facing today—the devastation in Joplin, Missouri. Should the states deal with such things rather than the federal...

Higher Taxes Hurt Job Creators? That's Malarkey.

As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded—and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down—the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes. President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring those with high incomes to pay in taxes at least 30 percent of any income over $1 million (the so-called “Buffett Rule”). Mitt Romney says emphatically no. He proposes cutting tax rates by 20 percent, which would reduce taxes on the rich far more than anyone else. He also wants to extend the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, and reduce or eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains. Romney says he’ll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their share of total taxes remains the same as it is now, although he refuses to specify what...

The Politics of Frankenstorm

(Flickr/ NASA Goddard Photo and Video)
Between checking The Weather Channel and dashing out to buy new batteries for flashlights, most folks along the Eastern Seaboard are already hunkered down in preparation for the Storm, a.k.a. Frankenstorm, a.k.a. Hurricane Sandy. Making their way to the polls is probably not at the top of anyone's list. But thousands of elections officials and campaign workers—not to mention the Romney and Obama campaigns—have had their well-laid plans turned upside down, at least for the next couple of days. Four battleground states will feel some of the storm's brunt—Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Election officials hope there will be enough time to clear debris and get power to polling places before November 6. But while elections officials are scrambling to ensure that people will be able to cast ballots in spite of flooding and power outages, pundits and strategists are left grappling with a key question: Just how might Frankenstorm and its lingering effects affect the...

Considering an Electoral-Popular Vote Split

In this final stage of the presidential race, the tension grows with each passing day, even as the campaign itself ceases to be interesting at all. There might be some kind of October Surprise, as happened in 2000, when five days before the election it was revealed that George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving at age 30. But barring something like that, between now and election day nothing much will happen. There will be lots of rallies and ads and door-knocking and phone calling, of course, but reporters are going to have a hard time coming up with new things to talk about. Which is why this is the time when we start spinning out "what if" scenarios. What if there's an Electoral College tie? Let's join Wolf over at the virtual reality dome to game out the possibility for the next ten minutes! But this year there is a real possibility that we could get a crazy scenario, one in which Mitt Romney wins the popular vote, but Barack Obama wins the Electoral College. If that...

The Comeback Kids

Six months ago, liberals were preparing for the worst. After a winter of fast growth, the economy had begun to slow down and unemployment had begun to creep back up. Mitt Romney was close behind in the race for the White House, and there was little indication that President Obama could pull ahead and win. And the Senate, a stronghold for Democrats over the last six years, looked vulnerable. For most of the last eighteen months, the conventional wisdom on congressional elections was straightforward: Due to large majorities, Republicans would hold onto their House majority, and bolster it with a slim majority in the Senate. It wasn’t hard to see why; of the 33 contested seats this year, 21 belonged to Democrats and two were held by Independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders. It would be one thing if Democrats were only defending safe seats in blue states; they would be assured of holding the Senate. But the senators up for reelection won their seats in the Democratic wave of 2006. As...

Colorado: The Florida of 2012?

(Flickr/Chris&Rhiannon)
Unlike 10 other states this year —the most strict of which are Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kansas—Colorado has no law that will require voters to show up at the polls with photo identification* on Election Day. Voting-rights activists say such laws will disenfranchise the poor, young, or very old—voters that tend to lean Democratic—and point out that the in-person vote fraud these laws are intended to address is exceedingly rare. But voter-ID laws are only the most obvious way to make it harder to vote. Colorado’s current Republican secretary of state, Scott Gessler, was elected in 2010, and it wasn’t long before he started to implement new rules that go after Democratic voters. “For the first time I can remember, we’re getting e-mails from everyday citizens saying things like, ‘I’m afraid my votes aren’t going to count, that the machines aren’t going to work,’” says Olivia Mendoza, executive director of CLLARO, a civic-engagement organization for Latinos in the state. “There’s a...

The Most Mysterious Man in the Election

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
It's often said that the way a candidate runs his campaign gives insight into the way he'll run the government, but unfortunately it usually isn't true. A campaign has a few similarities to a government, but not many; likewise, while there are similarities between running for president and being president (lots of speeches, for instance), most of the really important things couldn't be more different. As the presidential election nears its end—a vote of tremendous consequence preceded by a campaign of unusual triviality—is there anything left to learn about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Despite the fervid hopes of those on the extreme right that there is some secret revelation waiting to be unearthed about Obama, we know most of what we need to know about his potential second term just by taking stock of his first. We know that domestically, where he needs Congress's cooperation he'll pursue the policies his party supports, just as Mitt Romney will. In foreign policy and national...

Nate Silver, Artist of Uncertainty

(Flickr/Randy Stewart)
(Flickr/handcoding) W e’re heading into the last week of a tight presidential campaign, and polls are coming in too fast to count. Partisans everywhere are desperate for omens. But at moments like these, it’s people who care most intensely that the “right outcome” occur who run a high risk of getting it wrong—picking out positive polls for comfort, or panicking over an unusual and unexpected result they don’t like. Fortunately, our most prominent number cruncher has been giving us the straight story instead of capitalizing on this anxiety. In 2008, Nate Silver correctly predicted the results of all 35 Senate races and the presidential results in 49 out of 50 states. Since then, his website, fivethirtyeight.com (now central to The New York Times ’s political coverage), has become an essential source of rigorous, objective analysis of voter surveys to predict the Electoral College outcome of presidential campaigns. Publishers lined up to offer Silver a chance to write a blockbuster, and...

Have White Voters Been Taken for Granted?

Have white voters been taken for granted? That’s the basic thesis of a recent piece from Politico ’s John Hohmann, who argues that if Mitt Romney wins, it will be proof that “white voters still matter.” This, we suppose, is true. Mitt Romney is winning by historic margins among white voters, and Barack Obama's re-election depends on his ability to win over at least 40 percent of them. The problem with Hohmann’s argument, of course, is that no one has said otherwise! There is no one in American politics arguing that white voters somehow “don’t matter.” In fact, the exact opposite is true. At the moment, the campaigns are obsessed with winning voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado. What do these states all have in common? They are fairly white compared to the rest of the country. Obama has been campaigning with Bill Clinton in an explicit effort to increase his margins among the “Bubbas” of American politics. African Americans are nearly taken for granted by Democratic...

The Last Word on Richard Mourdock

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock was already an extremist, not to mention not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, before he offered up his opinion on abortion and rape the other day. But I'm sure that even as he scrambles to contain the damage from his remarks, he can't quite understand what all the fuss is about. He expressed an opinion that is, among many millions of religious Americans, totally mundane: that God loves every baby and blastocyst, and therefore even a pregnancy that results from rape is good in His eyes. This episode reveals a couple of important things that are worth reiterating before we move on to the next campaign controversy, about both abortion and religion. Folks like Mourdock whose position on abortion is that the only reason it should be allowed is if the pregnant woman is going to die any moment without it—and there are lots of them, including 15 Republican Senate candidates —at least have a position that is consistent with the principle they...

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...

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