Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Party That Can't Shoot Straight

(Flickr/PBS Newshour)
By all accounts, this was the Republicans’ election to win: an economy stuck at a level insufficient to generate enough jobs or income gains; a somewhat disillusioned Democratic base; and a stunted generation of young adults who supported Barack Obama last time by a margin of 71-29 and are unlikely to do it again. Yet Obama’s lead keeps widening. It’s worth unpacking why. The most obvious reason, of course, is the sheer clumsiness of Mitt Romney, God’s gift to the Democrats. If a computer had been asked to generate a candidate guaranteed to alienate independents and divide his own base, it could not have done better. The far right’s effort to “let Ryan be Ryan” only shines a spotlight on the unpopularity of the GOP’s designs for Medicare and Social Security, while Romney’s serial gaffes lead Senate candidates in swing states to disparage their party’s nominee and right-wing commentators to weep. Another reason is that demographic trends are relentlessly moving in the Democrats’...

Obama Insufficiently Audacious for Press Corps

Barack Obama, lazing about. (White House/Pete Souza)
There are few deeper ironies than to hear campaign reporters complaining that candidates are not being substantive and detailed enough, and it seems that they now may be turning their wagging finger toward both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Don't get me wrong—I'm all for substance, and there are some kinds of vagueness that have to be confronted. For instance, the fact that Romney says he can cut taxes but keep things revenue neutral by also cutting loopholes, yet steadfastly refuses to say which loopholes he'll eliminate, is just absurd and should be called out. Yet if he came out tomorrow with a dozen new lengthy policy papers, would the campaign reporters on his bus stay up late studying them so they could produce one policy-dense analysis after another? No, they wouldn't. Just as candidates often want to seem substantive without actually being substantive, the reporters want to judge substance without having to actually examine substance. Which is why this Politico article is so...

In Florida, Romney Has Hit the Danger Zone

Jamelle Bouie
Mitt Romney has a few paths to victory, some more likely than others. He could repeat George W. Bush’s performance in 2004 and carry the White House with wins in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio. He could cede Virginia to Obama and take Colorado and New Hampshire. He could give up Colorado and New Hampshire but win Wisconsin and the single electoral vote in Omaha, Nebraska. He could lose Ohio and make up for it with Virginia, Colorado, and Wisconsin. But what Romney can’t do—under any remotely plausible scenario—is win the White House without Florida. Take Florida away from Romney, and he doesn’t have a path to 270 electoral votes that doesn’t involve winning a traditional blue state. Mitt Romney could run the table , win New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado, and still fall short of 270 electoral votes. To win, he’d have to overcome a year-long, seven-point deficit in Nevada, which—on top of everything else—is not something I’d bet...

Tue, Sep. 25 Electoral Vote Predictor

Ryan Became Romney Instead of Romney Becoming Ryan Conservatives who cheered Mitt Romney's selection of Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, as his running mate in the hope this indicated a more aggressive, more conservative stance for Romney have been sorely disappointed . They had expected Ryan's bold style to rub off on Romney. Instead, it is the other way: Ryan has become muted and vague, like Romney. The problem is certainly not Ryan. All vice-presidential candidates know who is the boss and Ryan is surely doing precisely what his boss wants: looking sharp but be vague about all the details. In the six weeks since he was tapped, Ryan hasn't given a single national press conference, although he has done interviews for local media outlets—which typically don't push the interviewee very hard. His stump speech rarely mentions his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Instead, he attacks President Obama and plays up his bow hunting abilities and working-...

We Never Liked You, Anyway

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
As often as not, parties nominate candidates for president that pretty much all their own partisans acknowledge are less than inspiring. Democrats were so excited about Barack Obama in 2008 partly because their previous two nominees, John Kerry and Al Gore, rode to the nomination on a stirring sentiment of "Well, OK, I guess." The same happened to Republicans, who adored the easygoing George W. Bush after the grim candidacies of Bob Dole and Bush's father. And now that Mitt Romney has suffered through an awful few weeks—a mediocre convention, an embarrassing response to the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, then the release of the "47 percent" video in which Romney accused almost half of America of refusing to "take responsibility for their own lives"—the knives have come out. First it was a widely shared Politico story full of intramural Romney campaign sniping, most directed at chief strategist Stuart Stevens (the article full of anonymous backstabbing is the hallmark of a struggling...

Will GOP Centrists Come Back?

If the Democratic drift in the polls—not only toward President Obama but down-ticket Dems as well—turns out to be more than a blip, the results on November 6 will surely cause the Republicans to rethink their right-wing extremism. At least that’s the view of commentators like Andrew Sullivan, whose Newsweek cover story (headlined “President Obama: The Democrats’ Ronald Reagan”) lays out a dream scenario for all who long for a saner, less obstinate Republicanism. “[T]here must remain somewhere in the GOP a residual instinct to prefer playing a part in a solution to intensifying the problem for partisan gain,” Sullivan writes, his heart full of hope. “But this last gasp of civic responsibility will most likely revive only if the current GOP loses decisively this November. Defeat is the only thing fanatics understand. And defeat is something the remaining Republican moderates can build on.” Sounds logical, yes? Except for two little problems: First, who are these “moderates” Sullivan...

Mon, Sep. 24 Electoral Vote Predictor

Can Romney Duplicate Bush's 2004 Path on the Electoral College? In 2004, George Bush won 31 states and 286 electoral votes. An obvious question is: "Can Romney follow Bush's path?" The answer appears to be no. If Romney were to win all the Bush states, he would have 292 electoral votes due to changes from the 2010 census. For starters, New Mexico looks hopeless and Iowa not much better bringing Romney from 292 to 281, still enough to win though. Increasingly, Ohio looks tough for him. Without its 18 electoral votes, he is down to 263 and a loss. Furthermore, Virginia is looking ever more Democratic. Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina are tossups now. Unless something changes quickly, the Bush path is not going to work for Romney. Republicans Advise Romney to Be Himself in Debates Mitt Romney has changed his positions so many times that nobody knows who he is and what he stands for. Republican operatives are advising him to just be himself in the debates. He should claim to...

The Republicans' Foreign Policy Problem

textsfromhillaryclinton.tumbler.com
Pop quiz: if you had to describe the Obama foreign policy in one sentence, what would you say? Not easy, is it? Back in 2008, it was pretty simple: "Not Bush." Now back then, there was something called the "Bush doctrine," which may have had a subtle meaning to those working in the administration, but as far as the public was concerned mostly meant "invading lots of countries and making everyone in the world hate us." So it was easy to imagine Obama as a breath of foreign policy fresh air. He'd use a less-bumbling combination of diplomacy, "soft power," and carefully restrained force. He'd get us out of Iraq. Things would change for the better. But now that Obama has been president for four years, "Not Bush" has lost its relevance. Obama's actual foreign policy is too complicated to sum up easily, and probably therefore too complicated for most voters to understand. We did get out of Iraq, but things don't seem to be going too well in Afghanistan; Obama has dramatically increased the...

What Will Obama Do about Income Inequality? Not Much.

New data from the Census Bureau shows that the tepid recovery is exacerbating income inequality and pushing ordinary Americans into tougher economic circumstances. Here is the Los Angeles Times with more detail : The median household income, after adjusting for inflation, dropped 1.5% in 2011 from the previous year to $50,054. That is now 8.1% lower than in 2007, when the recession began late that year. […] The share of people falling below the poverty line—$11,702 for a single person under age 65 and $23,201 for a family of four—had increased steadily since 2006, when the rate was 12.3%. The census report said there were about 46 million poor people in the U.S. last year, essentially the same as in 2010. […] The latest census report showed that households with incomes in the 20th to 60th percentile saw their share of overall incomes fall last year to 23.8% of total income. Meanwhile, households in the top 20% saw their share of the total pie climb to an all-time high of 50%. With the...

Romney's Wrong Right Move

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at D’Evelyn High School in Denver, Colorado over the weekend. Once it became clear that President Barack Obama received a significant bounce from the Democratic National Convention, the next question was whether this bounce would translate to an enduring advantage for his campaign. On Friday, polls from National Journal and Reason magazine gave Obama a 7-point lead over Mitt Romney, 50–43 and 52–45, respectively. Saturday was a quiet day for national polling, but Sunday saw the release of two tracking polls by Rasmussen and Gallup. Rasmussen was unchanged from the last few days ; Romney and Obama remain tied with 46 percent support, though Obama’s job approval has ticked down: 48 percent approve, 50 percent disapprove. Obama began last week in a similar position with Gallup, but both his approval—and performance against Romney—improved in yesterday’s tracking poll. He now earns 48 percent support to...

Today in Anti-China Rhetoric

Mitt Romney’s dwindling chances depend on outsized support from working-class whites in industrial states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Which is why, in recent weeks, he’s taken a harder line against Chinese economic practices. But his latest ad, “Stand Up to China,” crosses the line and moves into straight-up xenophobia. Take a look: It’s unfortunate—given the extent to which Americans are helped by a good working relationship with the Chinese—but anti-China rhetoric is par for the course in American elections. Both Democrats and Republicans indulge, despite the fact that neither party wants to harm our trade relationship with China (or be blamed for more expensive everything as a result of protectionist policies). But this ad—with its accusations of theft and shadowy insinuations of a Chinese conspiracy—goes beyond the pale. It also continues the Team Romney strategy of hitting President Obama with misleading economic statistics. Yes, there are fewer jobs than there were...

What? There's a Nonpartisan Way to Run Elections!?

(AP/Eric Schultz)
Ask any kid who's played Monopoly—if the banker isn't a fair one, the whole outcome of the game can change. That can lead to two different conclusions: either the kids come up with a fair set of rules or everyone fights to be banker the next game. When it comes to elections, partisans have long struggled with a similar problem: Who should set the rules governing elections? Rather than investing in a nonpartisan solution, for the most part, the parties have fought to be the banker—or in this case, the secretary of state. In 33 states, an elected, partisan secretary of state is responsible for running elections. In eight others, the chief election official is appointed by a partisan elected official. This election cycle has furnished plenty of evidence why that can be a problem: Ohio's secretary of state has come under intense fire for limiting early-voting hours, while in Florida and Colorado, attempted purges of the voting rolls raised concerns that legitimate voters could be...

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

She's getting a bit displeased. (Flickr/Josh Janssen)
Seven months ago, I wrote a column explaining that my increasing irritation with Mitt Romney had made me understand how Republicans probably felt about Al Gore 12 years ago. The politician with the "authenticity" problem whose goals you share just seems awkward—undesirable from a strategic perspective, but hardly morally blameworthy—while the one from the other party seems irredeemably phony and dishonest. But I'm guessing lots of liberals, maybe most, feel the way I do, which is that is seems I like this guy less and less every day. This has happened before. Before John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, he seemed like a fairly reasonable person for a Republican, extremely conservative to be sure, but with an admirable willingness to buck his party every now and again and a refreshing honesty. But by the end of the race, I couldn't stand him, and I'm sure most liberals felt the same way. He had revealed himself to be unprincipled, petty, mean, and a whole bunch of other things. I...

Puncturing Myths about the White Working Class

A new survey and report from the Public Religion and Research Institute—entitled “Beyond God and Guns”—is a valuable corrective to so many stereotypes of the white working class. Particularly noteworthy in this report are the large and important differences within the white working class—by age, region, gender, and party, to name a few. For example, consider this: In mid-August, Romney held a commanding 40-point lead over Obama among white working-class voters in the South (62% vs. 22%). However, neither candidate held a statistically significant lead among white working-class voters in the West (46% Romney vs. 41% Obama), Northeast (42% Romney vs. 38% Obama), or the Midwest (36% Romney vs. 44% Obama). The report amplifies some of the findings I discussed in my “zombie” post —not only how different the white working class is within and outside the South, but how much more social issues affect the political choices of the white college-educated more than the white working class. Along...

Sun, Sep. 23 Electoral Vote Predictor

Polls Aren't Moving, Both Sides Worried The bounce President Obama got from the Democratic convention shows no sign of fading and both sides are worried. One reason the polls are not moving is that people have made up their minds and there are hardly any voters left to swing. A large fraction are not really strongly for either candidate but are strongly against one of them. One voter said he'd vote for Saddam Hussein before he'd vote for Barack Hussein but another called Romney the devil. Not much motion is likely there. Romney's team can read the handwriting on the wall and the pixels on the monitor and is trying to put on a brave face, saying : "We've got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president [of] the United States." The team knows that in the national polls, it is fairly close, but in this graph of the electoral college Romney has been behind all year and is now down 122 electoral votes. They feel that some fundamentals (such as the poor jobs situation) put them in a...

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