Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

What Mitt Romney Was Really Saying

Whenever we get a glimpse of a candidate speaking in a place where he didn't know he was being recorded, there's a powerful temptation to conclude that the "real" person has been revealed. After all, campaigning is almost all artifice, and every other moment at which we see the candidate, he's acutely aware that he is on stage, with people watching his every expression and listening to his every word. This is how many people are interpreting Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comments we learned about yesterday, even though Mitt was certainly on stage, even if he didn't know he was being recorded. For instance, Jonathan Chait says , "the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party." McKay Coppins reaches the same conclusion, that "Romney seemed to give the closest thing to a candid description of his worldview...

Tue, Sep. 18 Electoral Vote Predictor

Romney: 47 Percent Dependent on Government In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama said people had been so beaten down by the (Bush) economy that they "get bitter and they cling to guns or religion," not realizing that it was being recorded. He took a tremendous amount of flack for that. Now it appears to be Romney's turn. Yesterday it came out that earlier this year he said : "47% of Americans are dependent on government." He added that there was no way he could win those votes and wouldn't try. He also said they "believe they are victims." Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, reacted immediately with: "It is hard to serve as President for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation." Romney made his comments openly to a group of wealthy donors, probably most of whom agreed with him. What he didn't realize, of course, was that someone in the audience was recording it. The video is now online . When it became clear this was going to be the dominant news story...

"Cling to Guns" vs. "the 47 Percent"

Quite a few commentators have compared Mitt Romney’s remarks to a private fundraiser—where he accused Americans who don’t pay income tax of not “taking responsibility for their lives”—to then-Senator Barack Obama’s comments on voters who “cling to their guns and religion.” The argument is straightforward—if Obama can escape damage for his comments, then Romney can make it through his. But the only thing these statements have in common is the fact that they were made to private audiences. Outside of that, there are crucial differences. Obama made his remarks before the primaries were over, before the public was familiar with him, and before the general election kicked into gear. What’s more, his eventual opponent—John McCain—saw no reason to capitalize on the remarks. After a brief flare, things calmed down and Obama escaped unscathed. There’s one other thing that kept Obama’s remarks from blowing up in his face. Here's the full text of his comment: But the truth is, is that, our...

Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

Audience members pray before the start of the Values Voters Summit in Washington, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
The Omni Shoreham, in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington D.C., is one of those hotels with décor that makes you feel like, as Holly Golightly said of a certain iconic jewelry store in Breakfast at Tiffany’s , “nothing very bad could happen to you there.” The chandeliers are crystal, the carpets are plush, the glow is golden. The wallpaper isn’t even wallpaper—it’s some kind of delicately brocaded fabric. One half expects Audrey Hepburn’s rendition of “Moon River” to pipe into the lobby; instead, there’s a constant stream of big band numbers. La Belle Epoche with an American twist—emphasis on the American, at least this past weekend, when the hotel bedecked with stars and stripes, played host to the Values Voter Summit, a yearly gathering of conservatives spotlighting social issues that is sponsored by, among others, The Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, and Liberty University. Like any good conference, the Summit had oodles of speakers, and Friday morning’s...

The Real (Awful) Romney

If you thought Mitt Romney had a rotten summer—failing to project a more appealing image of himself and his policies, failing to pin the country’s economic woes on the president, failing to get even the tiniest bounce from his convention—the home stretch is shaping up even worse. Fast on the heels of his aggressively wrong-headed response to the embassy attack in Libya (which gets terrible reviews from most Americans), Mother Jones today released a bombshell video of Romney speaking way too candidly to a small group of well-heeled campaign contributors. This is must-see footage—and even if you don’t want to see it, you won’t be able to help it over the next few days. These are words that will haunt Romney for the rest of the campaign—and the rest of his political career. He jokes that he’d have a better chance of being elected if he were of Mexican lineage; he insults Obama voters (and 47 percent of the country) in the most stereotypical and racially-tinged terms possible; he brags...

Mitt "Ayn Rand" Romney

Jamelle has already blogged about the devastating video of Mitt Romney speaking to a fundraising event that Mother Jones’s invaluable David Corn posted today . For those of you who may have missed it, here’s a partial text of what Mitt said in answer to a question about Obama voters: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. […] [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. The only thing I’d add to Jamelle’s observations...

The "Real Issue" Behind Voter Fraud

This, from the New York Times public editor, is an amazing example of what happens when journalists attempt to balance two unequal sides: In his article, which led last Monday’s paper, the national reporter Ethan Bronner made every effort to provide balance. Some readers say the piece, in so doing, wrongly suggested that there was enough voter fraud to justify strict voter identification requirements — rules that some Democrats believe amount to vote suppression. Ben Somberg of the Center for Progressive Reform said The Times itself had established in multiple stories that there was little evidence of voter fraud. “I hope it’s not The Times’s policy to move this matter back into the ‘he said she said’ realm,” he wrote. The national editor, Sam Sifton, rejected the argument. “There’s a lot of reasonable disagreement on both sides,” he said. One side says there’s not significant voter fraud; the other side says there’s not significant voter suppression. “It’s not our job to litigate it...

What Romney Left Behind

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
One of the common misconceptions about the presidential candidate version of Mitt Romney is that he disavowed his greatest achievement in public office, health care reform, in an attempt to appeal to his party's base. The truth is that he never actually disavowed it or said it was a failure or a mistake. What he did was tell primary voters that Romneycare was really nothing at all like Obamacare, and anyway Romneycare shouldn't be tried in any other state. His comments were utterly unconvincing, but since they were always accompanied by a thunderous denunciation of Obamacare, Republican voters were assuaged enough to let it slide. Which means that had he wanted to, Romney probably could have entered the general election making a positive case on health care beyond "Repeal Obamacare!" By continuing to maintain that Romneycare was in fact a good thing when he was challenged on it (even if he didn't want to talk about it all that much), he gave himself enough rhetorical room that he...

Two-Faced on Taxes

Chart of economic growth from New York Times.
A lot of the debate we have in America about economics (like many issues) ends up being statements of principle masquerading as analysis of empirical reality. And maybe this is my bias talking, but it seems like most of this comes from the conservative side. For example, it's now become disturbingly common to hear conservatives say that when you cut taxes, total tax revenues actually go up, since the tax cutting creates an explosion of economic growth that brings in lots of new revenue. This idea has zero empirical support. It isn't that cutting taxes can't increase growth somewhat, it's just that it doesn't increase it enough to make up for the lost revenue. Yet no matter how many times economists demonstrate that cutting taxes doesn't actually increase revenue, Republican politicians continue to claim that it does. This is widely known as the " Tax Fairy ," since believing in it makes about as much sense as believing in the Tooth Fairy. But conservatives would certainly like it to...

Don't Blame Mitt

It’s not unusual for a flailing presidential campaign to air its dirty laundry ahead of the election; staffers will use the media to place blame where they think it resides, to avoid responsibility for losing the White House, and leave themselves room for future employment. What is unusual is for this to happen in September, when voters are just beginning to tune in to the election and both candidates have a chance to convert new supporters and energize old ones. Which is why it was a shock to see Politico headlined by a clear attempt to blame adviser Stuart Stevens for the campaign’s string of missteps and stumbles. I don’t have words in defense or support of Stevens, and there isn’t much to glean from an anonymously sourced piece on the campaign; given the difference between where Romney is, consistently behind President Obama, and where Republicans thought he’d be—well ahead—it’s no surprise that there are angry staffers and disgruntled allies. But buried in all of this is a...

How We Should (Voter) Roll

(Flickr/crownjewel82)
David Becker is unusual in national politics. He talks about inaccuracies in voting rolls, dead people still registered, and the like. He says the bad information is a big problem. But he's not on the far right talking about voter fraud or the need for major purges to the states' rolls before an election. Instead, he's the director of election initiatives for the non-partisan Pew Center on the States. And his research tells him that better data would actually help more people vote—and make elections a smoother, more efficient process that should please folks on both sides of the political divide. Far-right groups argue that voter fraud is rampant, and demand that states do more to delete names on the lists. The left brushes off the fraud claim (citing facts), focusing instead on voter registration drives. There's not much common ground. But an investment in better tools to manage voter registration—and allow for online registration—would make a huge difference to both camps: It would...

Warren Maintains Lead in Senate Race

Two new polls over the weekend showed Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren maintaining her post-convention lead over Scott Brown. One poll by the Springfield Republican newspaper shows a six-point lead, with Warren at 50 percent to the Republican incumbent Scott Brown's 44 percent. Public Policy Polling shows her with a two-point edge among likely voters, at 48 percent to 46 percent. The race has been a true toss up, with both popular candidates holding a lead at various times in what is, overall, a close race. The problem for Warren as a challenger has always been that voters like Scott Brown, and generally approve of the job he's doing. She's had to make them like her better, which is a challenge for any newcomer, even a naturally good candidate like Warren. When I spoke to a few volunteers in July, they were worried about Brown's appeal—they had knocked on a number of doors of voters who felt Brown was a nice man, and they didn't know Warren. These polls show, more than anything...

Mon, Sep. 17 Electoral Vote Predictor

Americans Think Obama Will Win A new Wapo/ABC poll shows that 59% of the voters think President Obama will be reelected vs. 34% who think Mitt Romney will win. Note that this is a completely different question than who the voter supports. The polling data on who people will vote for gave Obama a mere 3% lead, 49% to 46%. In other words, there are millions of voters who want Romney to win but don't expect him to do so. Another take on this is to look at the betting site intrade.com where bettors are giving Obama a 67% chance and Romney a 33% chance. That is 2 to 1. Romney's problem is that he has tanked in the past week, presumably due to the furor around his criticism of President Obama, before he knew all the facts concerning the riots in Egypt and Libya, where four American diplomats were killed. Here is a chart of Romney's chances for the past 30 days. Click here for full story

Today in Obama Trutherism

On the heels of the conspiracy theory about the liberal media and pollsters “inventing” President Obama's post-convention bump—which has turned out to be quite reality-based —the wingers have a brand-new fractured fairy tale. This one features the former George W. Bush adviser and appointee, Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke, sporting an Obama campaign button and laughing maniacally as he orders the money-printing machines cranked up to top speed. (“Forward, pussycat! Forward!”) Yesterday, Bernanke announced a new, open-ended policy of “quantitative easing”—pumping huge sums of money into the economy, as the Prospect ’s Robert Kuttner explains , in order to fuel growth by driving down interest rates, particularly on home mortgages. The Fed’s action was a bracing rebuke to deficit hawks like JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and the Norquist GOP. But that’s not what’s got the right wing buzzing. After all, why would a Federal Reserve chair want to stimulate a stagnant economy—unless he was doing...

The Simple Question That Never Gets Asked

Flickr/Alexander Drachmann
Yesterday, conservatives got all outraged because a microphone picked up a few journalists discussing with each other what questions they would ask Mitt Romney at what turned out to be his disastrous press conference on the events in Cairo and Benghazi. Aha! they shouted; Michelle Malkin told the Mensa convention that is "Fox & Friends" that "If it looks, sounds, talks like journo-tools for Obama, it is what it is." As Erik Wemple patiently and carefully explained , in contexts like press conferences—by both Democratic and Republican politicians!—reporters often plan out what questions they'll ask. And you know what? They ought to do it more often. Maybe they wouldn't ask so many dumb questions. It's certainly a problem that politicians are so sneaky and evade the questions journalists do ask. And the reporters don't really have time to sit down and engage in a process of deliberation so they can use their collective knowledge and wisdom to arrive at the questions that will prove...

Pages