Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Point of Super PACs: Looking Rich and Impressing the Ladies

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
Super PACs seem to be this election cycle's must-have accessory, on par with jelly bands and jeggings; not having one is clear sign that you're not hip with the times. For some election groupies, there is nothing much hotter than seeing the Federal Election Commission paperwork pile up in the wake of a Sheldon Adelson money tsunami, which is the only logical reason 593 of these committees raising unlimited amounts of dough for their candidate or issue of choice have been formed in the first presidential election since 2010's Citizens United decision. That, or the fact that being able to raise unlimited amounts of money— $318,988,070 so far —has been found to be an exceptionally potent and dangerous weapon in an election where just about every race, from the presidency to control of Congress, is nerve-wrackingly close. Not all super PACs are quite so terrifying, though. Take Joe Six PAC, which hasn't raised a cent since it was formed in February, and whose leaders are crossing their...

Dancing with The Mitt That Brung Ya

Afraid? I'm not afraid! What makes you say that? (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In the early days of the 2012 Republican primaries, many thoughtful commentators took the position that it was simply impossible for Mitt Romney to win his party's nomination. Despite all his evident strengths as a candidate—money, the most professionally run campaign in the group, the endorsement of many establishment figures—Romney simply would not find a way to get past the fact that as governor of Massachusetts he had passed a health care plan that became the model for the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans had come to see as the very embodiment of evil in the modern world. The party's base would never abide it. Yet he did. Without all that much trouble too. And he didn't deal with the health care issue through some brilliant strategy, either. He made no dramatic mea culpa, and never repudiated Romneycare, at least not directly. Whenever he was asked about it he would give a convoluted and utterly unconvincing argument about how what he did in Massachusetts was great, though...

The Return of "Welfare Queens"

Yesterday, Mitt Romney unveiled a new attack that—even by the standards of his campaign—was incredible in its dishonesty. First, a little background. A few weeks ago, after urging from both Republican and Democratic govenors, the administration allowed states more flexibility when it came to fulfilling welfare work requirements. The memo , issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, stipulates that states can receive a waiver as long as their programs achieve the same work goals as the original program. The hope is that, with flexibility to try new approaches, more recipients can be placed into jobs. This, it should be said, was a reform pushed by Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. Rather than praise the change, or ignore it, the Romney campaign went on the attack, accusing Obama of “ending the work requirement” and turning welfare into a cash grant. Here’s the ad: Today, the Obama campaign released its rebuttal, which hits Romney for flagrantly distorting the...

What's the Matter in Colorado?

This morning, The New York Times and CBS News, with Quinnipiac University, released their latest set of swing state polls, for Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado. In the Old Dominion, Obama leads Romney by four points—49 to 45—and in the Badger State, he leads the Republican nominee by six, 51 to 45. These numbers are in line with previous surveys; in both states, Obama has led in ten of the last 11 polls, with an average lead of 2.8 points for Virginia, and 5.8 points for Wisconsin. Colorado is a little different. According to the NYT , CBS News and Quinnipiac University, Romney leads there by 5 points, 50 to 45. This is out of line with previous surveys; for most of the summer, Obama has maintained a narrow but persistent lead in the state. Today marks the first time Romney has ever been ahead in Colorado: This should make us suspicious. If the race in Colorado were truly a toss-up, then Romney should be ahead as much as he is behind. Moreover, it’s unusual for a candidate to gain...

Red, White and Untrue: Romney's Big Lie about Military Voting

A soldier fills out an absentee ballot in Qatar.(Flickr/expertinfantry)
If Ferris Bueller taught us anything, it was this: If you're going to lie or mislead, do it in a big, over-the-top kind of way. At least it'll be memorable. It's a lesson Mitt Romney's campaign took to heart this past weekend. But instead of stealing a Ferrari or taking over a parade, they opted for something much darker. Halfway through the general-election campaign, attacks from both campaigns have been so relentless as to make each one fade into a low background buzz. Getting something to cut through the noise is hard. So when President Obama's campaign filed a lawsuit to restore the rights to all Ohio citizens to cast early ballots up until the Sunday before Election Day—a right that the Ohio legislature had restricted to active-duty military personnel casting their ballots in person—the Romney side decided to go all in with a charge so outlandish it was bound to capture attention. "President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women...

The GOP's Kamikaze Candidate

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
I spent most of July in the upper Midwest and was reminded that not everyone in America passes the summer fixated on politics. They go to the beach, catch fish, grill burgers, eat ice cream, try to stay cool, see The Dark Knight Rises without recognizing it as the fascist tract that shrewder observers from Rolling Stone do. In the Bear Lake Tavern where I would have dinner not far from Lake Michigan, the TV over the bar is set to the Olympics before being turned to CNN or Fox or occasionally NBC (but not MSNBC). I got a dose of the promiscuous political advertising that’s rarely glimpsed in New York or California but saturates the electorally competitive territories that stud the Atlantic seaboard just south of D.C., the Southwest just shy of the Rocky Mountains, and the stretch of Rust Belt states from Pennsylvania and Ohio to as far west as Iowa and as far north as Minnesota. At the moment Michigan politics is dominated by a more local matter: a peculiar episode involving something...

What Makes An Ad Harsh

Image from a Priorities USA ad.
Just what do we mean when we call a campaign ad "negative" or "harsh" or even "brutal"? That question is raised by an ad released today by the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, hitting Mitt Romney about a steel plant that Bain Capital closed in Kansas City. In the ad, Joe Soptic, a worker at the plant, tells how when he and his fellow workers lost their jobs, they also lost their health insurance. His wife got sick, but because they had no insurance she didn't see a doctor until it was too late, and she died of cancer three weeks after finally being diagnosed. While he doesn't actually say "Mitt Romney killed my wife," he ends the ad by saying, "I do not think that Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone. And furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned." Let's take a look, then we'll break it down: The first question is whether it's accurate. Is Romney responsible for what happened to this company? Although its eventual bankruptcy happened after Romney left Bain, the...

The Impolite Truth about Romney and Health Care

The latest ad from Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA Action features a former worker at GST Steel—one of the companies acquired by Bain Capital—who was then laid off in the Bain-led “restructuring.” As a result, he and his family lost their health care, and soon after, his wife developed cancer. Put another way, this ad all but accuses Mitt Romney of giving someone cancer: It’s a harsh message, but it does illustrate an important fact about this election. If Mitt Romney is elected, he will attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and if he succeeds, millions of people will lose health insurance. Indeed, if the Affordable Care Act were around when GST Steel was in business, it would have kept the narrator from losing his health insurance, and his wife could have had check-ups that caught her cancer before it spread. As a result of Romney’s promised return to the pre-ACA status quo, some people—who would have otherwise had access to health care—will develop ailments that could have...

Mitt Romney Doesn't Believe His Own Campaign

Yesterday, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait called attention to this clip from 2004, in which Mitt Romney defends George W. Bush’s economic record by saying—in no uncertain terms—that the president isn’t responsible for job losses that occurred at the beginning of his administration: In the video, Romney derides Kerry for blaming the recession of 2001 on President Bush, despite the fact that he just entered office and his policies hadn’t taken effect. Romney's defense sounds a lot like the rhetoric offered by Obama and his backers. Chait sees this as evidence of deep dishonesty: Romney’s whole campaign is based on an idea he doesn’t believe. If you held his current campaign to some standard of intellectual consistency and forced him to make arguments about the president’s economic responsibility without shaping those arguments to partisan self-interest, his entire rationale would collapse. It's true: Romney doesn’t actually believe the central claim of his campaign—that President...

Support Our Troops By Cynically Using Them As Props In a Dishonest Campaign Ploy

They didn't succeed. (Flickr/Barack Obama)
Let's get this out of the way first: Mitt Romney's smear of Barack Obama over the issue of early voting in Ohio is both shamelessly dishonest and utterly despicable. In case you haven't heard, Ohio voters used to be able to vote early in the three days before election day, then the Republican legislature passed a bill eliminating the early voting for everybody except active-duty military servicemembers. So the Obama campaign sued to restore early voting for everyone, which the Romney campaign rather predictably characterized as an attack on our brave fighting men and women. So yes, Romney is just lying. But let's put that aside and ask this question: just what kind of special privileges should members of the military be entitled to? We can start with things that come out of your service. I happen to think that if you got a leg blown off in Iraq or Afghanistan, you should never have to work again if you don't want to. And veterans benefits ought to be funded to a degree that no veteran...

Missouri Republican Senate Primary Today

Three Republicans are going head to head today for the Missouri Republican nomination to face off against Senator Claire McCaskill in November. They are former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (who has the backing of Sarah Palin), Representative Todd Akin (whom McCaskill clearly prefers because he is the most conservative of the trio) and wealthy businessman John Brunner. A new PPP poll puts Brunner first at 35 percent, Akin second at 30 percent, and Steelman last at 25 percent. But with 10 percent of the voters undecided, an upset is certainly possible.

The Voting Rights Act: A 20th Century American Revolution

(Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum/Wikipedia)
Today is the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 by a bipartisan (if sectional) majority of Congress, and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. With the fight over who deserves to vote having been reignited by the partisan push for voter identification, and with conservatives mounting legal attacks on key provisions of the Act, it’s worth noting the degree to which the VRA was a milestone for democracy in this country. Prior to the VRA, African American voting in the South was close to nonexistent. A minority of blacks were registered to vote, and small percentages made it to the polls, but the overwhelming majority were kept disenfranchised through taxes, tests, onerous registration requirements, and outright violence—in 1873, to name one especially bloody example, a group of whites murdered over 100 blacks who'd assembled to defend Republican lawmakers from attack in Colfax, Louisiana. It was during this time that the Democratic Party emerged as the chief...

Bracing for a Hit from Europe

(Flickr/Juan Carlos García Lorenzo)
It may be the peak of vacation season in Europe, but the continent’s fiscal crisis has not taken a break. Last week, Wolfgang Schäuble, the powerful German finance minister, took time out from his holiday to have a sit-down with his American counterpart, Tim Geithner, in the North Sea island of Sylt. The last-minute meeting was organized at Geithner’s request. Less than a hundred days from the U.S. presidential election, it highlighted—as if more evidence were necessary—the Obama administration’s concern about how developments in the Eurozone could affect the vote come November 6. The crisis calendar between now and then is certainly packed; if a week is a long time in politics, three months is an eternity in economics. Below, the Prospect sketches out a road-map of the pitfalls ahead. Greece We start, unsurprisingly, in Greece. The recently elected coalition government there is putting the final touches on a new austerity program—a condition for its second bailout. The program calls...

Will We Ever Get to See Romney's 2011 Tax Return?

Flickr/Images of Money
I don't know about you, but this year I filed my taxes just before the April 15 deadline. Most people do. But if you need to, you can file for an extension from the IRS. That's what Mitt Romney did. And if you look around the discussion about his taxes, you'll find that everyone keeps referring to the "two years of tax returns" Romney has agreed to release. But what people don't mention is that Romney hasn't actually released two years of tax returns. He released one year, his 2010 return (and even that was incomplete ). But we haven't seen his 2011 return. He keeps saying he'll release it when it's ready, but is it going to be ready before November? In fairness, Mitt Romney's taxes are really, really complicated. He has so many different income streams and accounts and pass-throughs and roundabouts and double-flipping financial McTwists that it takes a team of accountants to prepare the documents. His 2010 return ran to more than 200 pages. But it's August. Maybe someone should ask...

Romney: Still Caught in the Tea Party Vise

Every presidential candidate has to oscillate between courting moderates and energizing his core supporters, but the arc is unusually wide for Mitt Romney. On most issues, there’s a huge gap between his conservative base and the median voter. Most voters want a short-term plan to fix the economy, lower health care costs, higher taxes on the wealthy to lower the defict, lower spending on the military, and higher spending on education and other investments. The conservative base wants none of those things. Its priorities, as articulated in Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” and Romney’s own economic plan, are large upper-income tax cuts, significant increases to military spending, massive cuts to non-defense government services, and a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They also want a better economy, but these policies are more likely to cause a recession than improve the recovery. Even for a gifted politician, squaring this circle would be difficult—imagine a world where Bill Clinton had to...

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