Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Newt Gingrich, Bridge Burner

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

So much for a last stand. Newt Gingrich, who banked everything left in his shell of a presidential campaign on pulling off an upset victory in Delaware last night, failed utterly. With 27 percent of the vote, he garnered less than half of Mitt Romney’s Delaware vote share last night. Where does Newt go from here? On Wednesday, Gingrich hinted that he would turn his back on his pledge to campaign all the way through the Tampa convention. "You have to at some point be honest about what’s happening in the real world as opposed to what you would like to have happened," Gingrich said at a campaign stop this morning. It's hard to see any other path forward. Besides his surprise victory in South Carolina, Gingrich has only placed first in his home state of Georgia. At the same time, his campaign has been whittling away money with few new donations, putting the Gingrich campaign over $4 million in debt, according to finance disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission last week. Winning Our Future, the Gingrich-affiliated super PAC, still had $6 million floating around at the end of March, but its primary donor, billionaire Sheldon Adelson has moved on to other ventures.

The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, Focused Largely in Wisconsin

A 2009 Tea Party rally in Madison protesting then-Governor Jim Doyle. (Flickr/cometstarmoon)

Based on emails from the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, the Tea Party-affiliated political action committee seems more like the Campaign to Support Scott Walker. Daily—sometimes multiple times a day—the organization sounds out emails blasting the move to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 

The emails don't mince words. An April 15 email (subject line: Fox News + Wall Street Journal ALERT) tells subscribers that "If Obama's operatives and the union bosses win, they will export their tactic of million-dollar funded RECALLs against Republican governors across the country, and they will likely win Wisconsin's 10 Electoral Votes for Obama in November." 

Enough With "Only In America"

Word cloud of Mitt Romney's speech last night.

Last night, Mitt Romney gave what was billed as the opening speech of his general election campaign. Jamelle has explained how much Romney distorted the economic story of the past four years, while Ezra says accurately that "If this speech was all you knew of Mitt Romney -- if it was your one guide to his presidential campaign -- you'd sum his message up as, 'vote for me: I think America is great.'" Indeed you would—the speech included the word "America" a numbing 33 times. But there's something else I want to note from Romney's speech, something that both Republicans and Democrats do, and it drives me crazy...

Will Liberals Prove to Be the Real Anti-Mormons?

Flickr/More Good Foundation

When the potential for anti-Mormonism harming Mitt Romney's candidacy is discussed, it's usually evangelical Christians we're talking about, since they have traditionally had the greatest antipathy toward Mormonism (some of them, at least). But what about liberals? Peter Beinart argues that by the time this election is over, they're going to evince more anti-Mormonism:

One reason Democrats may be more anti-Mormon than Republicans is that Democrats, on average, are more secular. Devout Protestants, Catholics, and Jews may be more tolerant of Mormonism because they understand from firsthand experience the comfort and strength that religious commitment brings. Many secular Democrats, by contrast, may start with the assumption that religious orthodoxy produces irrationality and intolerance.

I'm a little skeptical...

Mitt Romney's Fantasy World

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

In a sane world, Mitt Romney would be laughed out of politics for the speech he gave celebrating his final wins (Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York) in the Republican nomination contest. The centerpiece of the address was a riff on the classic formulation, “Are you better of now than you were four years ago?”

Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump?

What’s frustrating about this is the fact that it ignores the last four years of political history in an attempt to put Barack Obama at the center of the country’s economic troubles.

I'll Take Republican Talking Points For $100 Alex

(Flickr/marabuchi)

As a fan of game shows and an avid trivia nerd, I was disappointed that I couldn't attend the Jeopardy tapings this past weekend when the show rolled into D.C. However after reading a Politico article describing Alec Trebek’s ideological inclinations, I’m glad I missed out on hearing him cavorting on politics:

“People [are] relying too much on the government,” the “Jeopardy” star said over the weekend while holding forth with the press during a day of taping in Washington.

Putting Romney In a Box

Mitt Romney applauds Dan Quayle for some reason. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

In the last week or so, a number of commentators have begun to debate whether the Obama campaign should paint Mitt Romney as an ideological extremist or as an inveterate flip-flopper. Bill Clinton is apparently advising that the answer should be "ideological extremist." But the real answer is, "Yes!" There's no reason Mitt Romney can't be a spineless, pandering flip-flopper who is also in thrall to the extremists in his party. One is an argument about who he is (flip-flopper), and the other is an argument about what he'll do (all kinds of horrible extremist things). There isn't a contradiction. And as Jonathan Bernstein tell us congressional Democrats are getting ready to lend the president a hand by forcing a whole bunch of votes designed to make Romney choose between taking a position widely popular with the general electorate and taking a position that will satisfy his party and his base:

Unpredictable Predictions

Nostradamus contemplating the impact of health care on Mitt Romney's primary candidacy.

If you're in the punditizing business, it's almost impossible to resist the temptation to make predictions. That's in large part because so much of politics involves furious but finite conflicts, where the outcome is what matters. Who'll win this next primary? Who'll be the nominee, and win the election? Is this bill going to pass? We care about these questions, and so it's hard not to answer them, particularly if this is the business you're in and you like to think that you know what you're talking about. The trouble with predictions, of course, is that if you make a lot of them, you're going to be wrong a good deal of the time. Which is really a reflection of what makes politics interesting: things can change quickly, there are always a huge number of variables at play in anything like an election or legislative battle, new personalities emerge all the time, and you just never know what's going to happen.

Romney vs. Congressional Republicans

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)

President Obama was prepared to spend his week contrasting himself with Republicans on students loans, but Mitt Romney deflated that argument yesterday afternoon. The 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act lowered the interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent for federal student loans, but comes with an expiration date: this July. A one-year extension would cost just $6 billion dollars, but would benefit over 7 million young people with student loans. The Obama campaign has highlighted the lack of action from congressional Republicans on the issue, and the president will speak at three college campuses today and tomorrow.

Romney Shifts His Target to Young People

(Merrimack College/Flickr)

Mitt Romney’s recent rhetoric on student loans is a sure sign that we’ve moved to the general election. In addition to distancing himself from the congressional GOP on student loans—like the president, he wants interest rates to stay low—Mitt Romney has adapted his overall message for the under–30 set, blaming President Obama for high unemployment among young people and a poor job market for recent college graduates. Here’s how he presented the issue at a press availability in Aston, Pennsylvania yesterday:

Mitt Feints to the Middle

Moderate Mitt reared his head on Monday afternoon to contradict his party. The Obama campaign was prepared to make this week all about House Republicans' refusal to extend lower interest rates on student loans, with Obama scheduled for campaign stops at college campuses Tuesday and Wednesday. But now they won't be able to paint Romney as the anti-student boogeyman. During his first media availability in more than a month, the presumptive Republican nominee called on Congress to extend the current interest rates.

Media Bias Revealed

Frame of Romney coverage during the primaries, from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism is out with their latest report on news coverage of the primary campaign, and the big headline is that, surprise surprise, the tone of coverage varied pretty much exactly with whether candidates were winning or losing. Does that mean reporters had a pro-Romney bias when he was winning primaries, and a pro-Santorum bias when he was winning primaries? Of course not. It shows, instead, just how ridiculous most discussion of ideological bias is.

Marco Rubio Hedges

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

In the latest installment of Will He, Won’t He, Florida Senator Marco Rubio opened the door just a crack for the possibility of accepting the Republican vice-presidential slot should Mitt Romney offer it to him. In an interview with CNN yesterday morning, Rubio said:

“Up to now, it’s all been theoretical,” Rubio explained, but now the party has a nominee who has begun the process of finding a running mate.  “Moving forward, we’re going to let his process play itself out,” Rubio said.

Shooting Blanks

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

In many ways, this presidential election features a reversal of a pattern we've gotten used to in recent campaigns. More often than not, it's the Republican who is self-assured and ideologically forthright, while the Democrat apologizes for what he believes, panders awkwardly, and generally acts terrified that the voting public might not like what he has to say. This time around, Barack Obama is the confident candidate, and Mitt Romney is the worried one (which says far more about these two men than it does about this particular historical moment). But there is one major exception to this pattern, on an issue that has re-emerged after being dormant for a decade and a half: guns. It isn't that Romney isn't pandering unpersuasively on the issue.

Note to GOP: Grow Up

(Flickr/DonkeyHokey)

I’ve grown so used to dismissing Tom Friedman’s work for The New York Times that when he writes something genuinely good, it comes as a surprise. To wit, in his column for the Sunday paper, he aruges that our political system has devolved into a “vetocracy”—a system where “no one can aggregate enough power to make any important decisions at all.”

The culprits, according to Friedman, are polarization, broken institutional norms—in particular, filibuster abuse—the massive proliferation of special interests, and the growing importance of money in politics. The ultimate outcome of this, says Friedman, is governmental paralysis:

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