Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Lipstick on a Wonk

(AP/Scott Applewhite)
I t’s official : Mitt Romney has picked Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to join him as his running mate. I’ve already written why I think Ryan is a terrible choice . In short, his plan to cut taxes on the rich and gut the welfare state is one of the most unpopular proposals in American politics. Conservatives love Ryan, but seniors, young people, women, nonwhites, veterans, the disabled, and the poor might feel differently about a man who wants to make the federal government an ATM for the wealthy. In terms of the election, it’s hard to see how Romney gains from this choice. Because of its large population of working-class whites, Wisconsin has the potential to become a swing state, but for now, Obama has a solid lead . Yes, vice presidential nominees provide a home-state boost, but it’s small— on average, two points . Barring a major change in the race, the most Ryan will do is help Romney lose Wisconsin by a somewhat smaller margin than he would have otherwise. With that said, a...

Paul Ryan: Obama's Dream Opponent

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
UPDATED : Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. As Beltway anticipation builds for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential announcement, conservative pundits have re-upped their calls for a “bold” and adventurous choice. This morning, the Wall Street Journal editorial page took the lead with a plea to add House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan to the ticket. The Journal acknowledges the appeal of VP frontrunners Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman—working-class roots and high-level experience, respectively—but says that Ryan is the only politician with the gravitas and vision to campaign on a presidential level. Here’s the op-ed: Too risky, goes the Beltway chorus. His selection would make Medicare and the House budget the issue, not the economy. The 42-year-old is too young, too wonky, too, you know, serious. Beneath it all you can hear the murmurs of the ultimate Washington insult—that Mr. Ryan is too dangerous because he thinks politics is about things that matter. That dude really...

Romney's Health Care Dilemma Returns

One of these things is...not like the other?
Mitt Romney has been so busy securing his Republican base that he hasn't had time to court independent voters, the ones who will actually decide this election. But now, probably by accident, he has an opportunity to show them that he's something other than a slave to his party's right wing. Will he take it? When Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul committed the apparently unpardonable sin of praising the health care law Mitt Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts, was she making a horrible mistake that made everyone in Romney headquarters gasp in horror, or was she just reflecting what her candidate actually believes? The answer to that question would tell us where Romney is going to go from here on health care, and whether he may at long last try to find some issue on which he can convince voters he's something more than a vessel for whatever his party's right wing wants to do to the country. Most everyone, myself included, initially assumed that Saul just spoke out of turn. After...

Why Mitt Romney Can't Help But Flounder

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Romney’s task for this summer was to reintroduce himself to the public as a competent moderate—someone who could get the economy back into shape by sheer dint of his business experience. But since Team Obama began its savage attacks on Bain Capital, the Romney campaign has been on the defensive. Revelations about Bain-led outsourcing, his “shadow years” at the company, and his opaque tax returns have wreaked havoc with his favorability ratings. Romney’s unfavorability is higher now than it’s been since the GOP primaries. Romney’s 40 percent favorability is the lowest mid-summer rating for a presidential nominee since 1948. This, to put it lightly, is a big problem for Team Romney. Contrary to what the campaign seems to think, the economy isn’t bad enough to guarantee a defeat for President Obama. As Nate Cohn points out at The New Republic , Obama’s disapproval rating has hovered at 47 percent—the same as his approval rating. Americans are divided on the president’s tenure, but aren’t...

Lies Are the New Truth

Newt Gingrich explores new frontiers of truthiness.
Being a campaign surrogate isn't easy. You have no say in what the candidate you favor or his campaign decides to say or do, yet you're called upon to defend their words and actions. That can put you in an extremely uncomfortable position, unless you're Newt Gingrich. Yesterday, Newt went on Anderson Cooper 360 to talk about Mitt Romney's new welfare attack ad, which falsely accuses Obama of ending work requirements in welfare, and what he said was truly remarkable, even for him. Now, let me be absolutely clear about something. I've been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I've watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952. I've seen ads that were more inflammatory than this one, and ads that were in various ways more reprehensible than this one (not many, but some). But I cannot recall a single presidential...

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...

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