Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Reaping What Elections Sow

(Flickr/ BKM_BR)
In 2010, Tea Party mania influenced elections at every level—congressional races and governorships, most famously. But the biggest impact was on state legislatures, where 21 house or senate chambers flipped from Democratic to Republican control. In states like Texas, Republican majorities turned into supermajorities; in the Texas House, Democrats were no longer needed to make up a quorum. All the legislative energy was on the side of Tea Party Republicans. They made sweeping, historic changes—to labor laws, to health care, to reproductive rights, and, most of all, to state budgets and public school funding. In a few weeks, voters in most states will be choosing new lawmakers again. They'll make their decisions based in part on how they believe the incumbents governed over the last two years. But because of the massive scale of changes ushered in by Tea Party Republicans, it's going to be extremely difficult—if not downright impossible—for voters to judge the effects of those changes...

Guess Who's More Popular than Mitt Romney? George W. Bush

Wikipedia
This is incredible: According to the most recent Bloomberg national poll, President George W. Bush—the man whose administration left us with two wars, crushing debt, a broken economy, and a tattered reputation—is more popular than Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Bush receives a favorable rating from 46 percent of those surveyed, and an unfavorable rating from 49 percent. By contrast, Romney receives a 43 percent favorable rating, and a 50 percent unfavorable. This makes Bush more popular than Vice President Joe Biden (42–45) and the Republican Party as a whole (41–46). Two observations: First, if this result is accurate—and given Mitt Romney’s low favorability ratings across polls, there’s no reason to think it isn’t—then it’s partly a reflection of current conditions. The economy is worse now than it was at any point during the Bush administration. Even if Bush bears plenty of responsibility for the economic crisis, voters still look to the past as a better time, because in a narrow...

Who's to Blame for Mitt Romney?

Old white conservative guys pretending to be excited about Mitt Romney. (Flickr/Newshour)
Who's to blame for Mitt Romney? That seems to be the question of the day out there on the interwebs. Politico tells us that the answer conservatives give when you ask them is, Mitt Romney is to blame: "Slowly and reluctantly, Republicans who love and work for Romney are concluding that for all his gifts as a leader, businessman and role model, he's just not a good political candidate in this era." Steve Kornacki counters that the problem isn't so much Mitt himself, it's the Republican party, which "never actually bothered to create a comprehensive post-Bush blueprint." Jonathan Chait notes that although some conservatives are now claiming Romney was foisted upon them by the establishment, nobody within the GOP really wanted Romney: "He won by default." So who's right? They all are! Every factor has worked against a Republican victory this fall. Terribly unlikeable candidate? Check. Paucity of plausible primary alternatives? Check. Absurdly unpopular party dominated by crazy people?...

"You Didn't Build That" vs. the 47 Percent

Remember when "you didn't build that" was going to be the ticket to the White House for Mitt Romney? Seems like a long time ago, but for a while there the entire Romney campaign reoriented itself around this alleged gaffe that Barack Obama had committed. They printed banners about it, they organized events about it, they made TV ads about it, they made it the theme of their convention. And what happened? It just didn't work. The contrast with the Obama's campaign's favorite Romney gaffe, the secretly recorded "47 percent" video, is so striking it sums up everything that has gone wrong for the Romney campaign and right for the Obama campaign. Let's start with "you didn't build that." The first reason the attack failed was that it relied on ripping Obama's words from their context and giving them a reading that was so tendentious it bordered on the absurd. Could anyone who didn't already think Obama is a socialist believe that he said to himself, "I'm going to go out and say that people...

A Bright Spot in Nevada

(Thomas Hawk/Flickr)
President Obama’s margin in national polls hasn’t diminished at all this week—he still maintains a strong position among registered voters and likely voters. What is interesting, however, is his position in Nevada and Arizona. Thursday, September 27 Pollster State LV/RV Obama Romney Margin Reuters/Ipsos USA RV 49 42 O+7 Fox News USA LV 48 43 O+5 Gallup USA RV 50 44 O+6 Rasmussen USA LV 46 46 Tie Suffolk/WWBT Virginia LV 46 44 O+2 NBC/WSJ/Marist Nevada LV 49 47 O+2 NBC/WSJ/Marist New Hampshire LV 51 44 O+7 NBC/WSJ/Marist North Carolina LV 48 46 O+2 Rasmussen Arizona LV 52 42 R+10 Moore Information Arizona RV 42 46 R+4 As Nate Cohn points out , it’s been long assumed that Nevada will fall easily into Obama’s column this year. He won with a 12-point margin in 2008, and his strong performance with Latino voters is a sign that he holds the advantage. On the other hand, Nevada was hard hit by the housing collapse, and has one of the weakest economies in the country—unemployment continues to...

The GOP Is Losing the Battle of Ideas

When Mitt Romney announced his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate in August, conservatives swooned for two distinct reasons. First, Ryan was existentially one of them. Second, they exulted, Ryan’s selection meant that the presidential contest would be a battle of ideas, pitting their vision of a radically shrunken state and diminished social benefits against the Democrats’ support for social guarantees and a mixed economy. The Republicans got their battle, all right. And they’re losing it catastrophically. What’s brought the Republican ticket down most, other than Romney’s casual slander of everyone who’s ever received government benefits, has been Ryan’s advocacy of ending Medicare as a guaranteed benefit and converting it to a voucher system. Republican support among seniors—the one age group that supported John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008, and the one that had preferred Romney over Obama in all the pre-Ryan polling—has eroded sharply. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released...

Fri, Sep. 28 Electoral Vote Predictor

You Are the 100 Millionth Visitor When I started this site in 2004, it was a bit of a lark and just for a few friends. Yesterday it passed the 100-million visitor mark . Thanks for coming by! Swing-State Voters Oppose Changes to Medicare A new Kaiser poll in Florida among registered voters shows that 80% think Medicare is very important or extremely important for their vote and by a margin of 53% to 38% they prefer Obama rather than Romney to handle the matter. Recent polls have shown Obama with a small but consistent lead in Florida, no doubt due in part to Florida's many seniors (in 2008, 20% of Florida's voters were at least 65). In retrospect, Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate may have been a mistake, since his plan to change Medicare from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program is wildly unpopular in Florida, the most important swing state of all. Furthermore, Ryan's plan is also unpopular in Ohio and Virginia, the second and fourth biggest...

The Fable of 1980

As Mitt Romney’s poll numbers keep sagging, the 1980 election has become a kind of magical talisman for Republicans desperately seeking reasons to hope for a miraculous comeback win on November 6. (So has "poll-denial," the new birtherism; see Daily Meme, below.) In the summer, Rush Limbaugh helped revive the old legend of the Reagan Miracle. “I want to remind you of some history,” he told his listeners . “In June of 1980, Jimmy Carter led Ronaldus Magnus 39 to 32.” As summer 2012 turned to fall, and Romney swooned in the polls, a new reference point was discovered. The story now goes like this: Two days before 1980’s lone debate, little more than a week before the election, Ronald Reagan trailed Jimmy Carter by eight points in one poll. (Never mind the other polls, some of which had Reagan leading.) Then, after charming and convincing America that he wasn’t all those scary things Carter had said he was, Ronaldus Magnus won a near-landslide over the incumbent Democrat. It’s a...

Should You Vote for Barack Obama?

(Flickr/Jonathan Mcintosh)
If you were to judge them against the records of previous Democratic presidents, it’s clear that President Obama is the most liberal president since Lyndon Johnson. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act prevented a second Great Depression and invested billions in education, clean energy, and future technologies. The Affordable Care Act has put the United States on the path toward universal health coverage, and a more sustainable health care system. Dodd-Frank is the most important piece of financial regulation in a generation. It’s not perfect, but—all things considered—it’s pretty good. National security is a different story. Obama campaigned as someone who push back against the civil liberties abuses of the Bush era. As president, he has doubled-down on them. The drone war in Pakistan, expanded by the Obama administration, has claimed hundreds of innocent lives, and is conducted under a veil of secrecy. The “militants” targeted by the United States are often just military-aged...

"47 Percent" Is Destroying Romney's Candidacy

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
At a certain point, it’s a little boring to say that Mitt Romney is suffering in the polls. But here we are, and Mitt Romney is still losing support nationwide. As always, the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls show a much tighter race than the larger surveys commissioned by media outlets. Bloomberg has President Barack Obama up six among likely voters, compared to the tie registered by Rasmussen. Gallup also has Obama ahead by six, but this is among registered voters; his margin is certain to narrow once Gallup screens for likely voters. The big news, as you can see, is in the swing states. The latest poll from CBS News, The New York Times , and Quinnipiac University has Obama with a 9-point lead in Florida and a 10-point lead in Ohio. Public Policy Polling gives Obama a 7-point advantage in Iowa, and the Florida-Times Union has Obama with a more modest lead of 49 to Mitt Romney’s 46. September 26 Pollster State LV/RV Obama Romney Margin Bloomberg USA LV 49 43 O+6 Gallup USA RV 50...

Will Wednesday Be a Game Changer? That's Debatable.

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
(AP Photo) Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts, rivals for the presidency, engaged in an informal discussion in the television studio in Washington on October 8, 1960, after going off the air on their nation televised debate. Nixon holds a handkerchief in his hand as he talks with Kennedy. The debate was the second in the pre-elect series to discuss campaign issues. T he first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern. To get everyone ready, we answer some questions you may have. How did we get here? For most of American history, the idea of two presidential candidates debating was unheard of, though candidates for lesser offices did debate. James Madison and James Monroe traveled Virginia together debating for a House seat in 1788, and of course Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated during their 1858 Senate campaign, though the Lincoln-Douglas debates resembled a pair of speeches much more than the debates...

The Comeback Mitt

Even for the flintiest of liberals, it was hard to watch the sad spectacle of Mitt Romney yesterday, after touching down for a rally in Dayton, Ohio, and not feel a little sad for the guy. Here was a beaten-up (and self-harmed) candidate coming off two catastrophic weeks, his poll numbers tanking in key battleground states, now forced to team up with his number two, Paul Ryan, because the campaign reportedly felt the ticket-topper wasn’t generating enough “excitement” on his own. Looking unusually worn and frazzled, standing in front of a banner proclaiming “America’s Comeback Tour,” Romney followed Ryan’s introduction by enthusing, in his best Mitt style, “Wow, that’s quite a guy, isn’t it, Paul Ryan, isn’t that something!” The folks assembled on the tarmac began to chant: “Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!” Romney quickly corrected them: “Romney-Ryan! Romney-Ryan!” The chant died away. The best reaction to the clip came from Joe Scarborough this morning; burying his head in his hands, he cried out...

How the Tea Party Could Cost Republicans the Senate, Again

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson built his reputation as a moderate, policy-oriented Republican. But in his Senate race against Democrat Tammy Baldwin, he has had to go through the same uncomfortable shift to the right faced by other Republicans who made their names in a less dogmatic GOP. To wit, this video—filmed in June—shows Thompson telling a Tea Party group that he is best suited to “come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare,” as the conservative governor who pioneered welfare reform in the 1990s. Take a look: In a state where 13.9 percent of the population is over the age of 65, it’s not a good idea to bill yourself as the guy most qualified to end the most popular program administered by the federal government. More broadly, if Thompson loses—Baldwin currently leads by an average of 5 points—it will be another instance where complete adherence to GOP orthodoxy cost the party a shot at winning the Senate. Indeed, if Democrats hold the Senate this fall...

The Ohio Problem

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, September 26, 2012, in Westerville, Ohio. I wrote yesterday that President Obama is building a solid margin over Governor Romney in the state. The picture is similar in Ohio—where Obama has led in every poll since the Democratic National Convention—and Nevada, where he's led in almost every survey since the beginning of the year. Tuesday's polls reinforced both trends, and highlighted the extent to which Romney is on something of a downwards trajectory. September 25 Pollster State LV/RV Obama Romney Margin RAND USA LV 50.18 42.83 O+7.35 Gallup USA RV 48 45 O+3 Rasmussen USA LV 47 46 O+1 Washington Post Florida LV 51 47 O+4 Washington Post Ohio LV 52 44 O+8 Gravis Marketing Ohio LV 45 44 O+1 Retail Association of Nevada/POS Nevada LV 46 46 Tie Public Policy Polling Nevada LV 52 43 O+9 Monmouth University New Jersey LV 52 37 O+15 Talk Business...

Dems and Reproductive Rights: BFFs

(Flickr/Progress Ohio)
Guest-posting at Nate Silver's 538, Mark Smith makes a point that is not made nearly often enough. Pundits talk about the potential costs of Roe v. Wade and the Democratic Party's embrace of womens' reproductive freedom—lost votes among social conservatives who might otherwise be more sympathetic to Democratic economic policies. But as Smith points out, there's another side to it: relatively affluent states such as Washington that have gone from swing states to solid blue states in large measure because of Republican positions on cultural issues. In 1980, as Smith notes, "Ronald Reagan over-performed in Washington relative to his margin of victory in the nation as a whole." But a Republican Party committed to overruling Roe v. Wade is simply not going to be competitive in Washington. It's not just Washington. Democratic liberalism on social issues is a crucial reason why states like California and New York—both of which Reagan carried twice—have become electoral college locks for the...

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