Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Marco Rubio Is Already Tired of the Senate

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Marco Rubio spent much of the past year denying his ambitions to attain higher office. He would shoot down reporters every time they questioned his desire to join the 2012 Republican ticket as vice president, claiming his intent was solely to learn the ins and outs of the Senate. "I don't want to be the vice president right now, or maybe ever. I really want to do a good job in the Senate," he said in an interview last month. But now that the veepstakes has kicked, off Rubio's adopted a far different tone. From a speech in D.C. yesterday: Too often times in the United States Senate especially, most of the votes we take are nothing but messaging points," Rubio said in a speech at the Latino Coalition's Annual Economic Summit in Washington. "Bills are brought to the floor, that people know are not going to pass, for one purpose alone, and that's to give people talking points on the Sunday evening shows. "Our people deserve better. It's not like we don't have major issues to confront, but...

What Romney Won't Do On Health Care

Maybe you don't want to know.
Despite what the average voter probably thinks, presidential candidates keep the overwhelming majority of the promises they make. And most of the ones they don't keep aren't because they were just lying, but because circumstances changed or they tried to keep the promise and failed. But that's in the big, broad strokes, while the details are another matter. It's easy to put out a plan for, say, tax reform, but even if you achieve tax reform, it's Congress that has to pass it, and they will inevitably shape it to their own ends. This happened to a degree with President Obama's health care reform: it largely resembles what he proposed during the 2008 campaign, but not entirely. He had said he wanted a public option, for instance, but eventually jettisoned that, and had rejected an individual mandate, but eventually embraced it as unavoidable. Which brings us to Mitt Romney's health care plan. In its details, it's quite horrifying. Jonathan Cohn has done us the service of giving it a...

Mitt Romney Gets Specific

Mitt Romney is unsettled by your questions. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
I've been on a long crusade, which began before this campaign and will probably continue after it, to get everyone to think more clearly about what it means when a politician says "I'm not a politician, I'm a businessman." It's particularly important this year, of course, because one of the major party candidates is putting forward his business experience as the primary rationale for his candidacy. I don't know if that's ever happened before, and it certainly hasn't happened in the modern era. We're still waiting to hear what stunning business insights Mitt Romney will bring to the White House that no other person could possibly have. And yesterday, Time 's Mark Halperin — himself the target of a lot of well-deserved derision over the years—made an admirable effort to try to pin Romney down on this question in an interview . Unsurprisingly, he failed. Let's read an excerpt: Halperin : The President says that your experience at Bain Capital will be central in this election. He says it...

Between "Nauseating" and Fair Game

(Flickr / Gage Skidmore)
There’s been a growing sense over the last month that Barack Obama is winning battles but losing the war—until this past week, when he lost the battle too. Governor Mitt Romney, repudiating an effort by the former chairman of a major online brokerage firm to underwrite a $10 million advertisement that raises anew questions about the president’s former minister, equated the tactic to the “character assassination” represented by questions about Romney’s experience with the private-equity company Bain Capital. Aided by a media chronically paranoid about accusations of liberal bias, and then the even more vivid assistance of Obama supporter Newark Mayor Cory Booker along with other Democrats whose ethical logic apparently is as clear-headed as their political logic, Romney’s gambit successfully complicated beyond all due reason the matter of what’s “fair game” in a campaign. Anything is fair that both is true and has a plausible bearing on how one might conduct his presidency. Even as it’...

What We Don't Need to Know About Bain Capital

Mitt Romney, capitalist.
The debate over Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital has moved through a number of phases, from "Did Mitt Romney do awful things at Bain Capital?" to "Should the Obama campaign be criticizing Mitt Romney for what he did at Bain Capital?" and now, "Is private equity a good thing or a bad thing?" Shockingly, people in the private equity business think the answer to the last is that it's quite good. The predominant opinion from other people is that it's sometimes good and sometimes bad, which from what I can tell it's a pretty good summation of Romney's PE career. At times, he helped start companies that went on to thrive, or helped companies perform better and survive. And at other times, he acted as what Rick Perry called a "vulture capitalist." But while it may be an interesting discussion for economists and economic writers to mull over, "Is private equity good or bad?" really isn't a question we need to answer in the context of this presidential campaign. The question we need to...

Accentuate the Negative

What real negativity looks like.
Campaign reporters are often conflicted. You could say hypocritical, but that might be unnecessarily judgmental. For instance, they condemn rigorous adherence to talking points, but any display of candor is severely punished with the kind of coverage that makes what are widely known as "Kinsley gaffes" (i.e. inadvertently telling the truth) far less likely. They despise the culture of the political consultant, with its emphasis on style over substance and perception over reality, but simultaneously embrace that culture as their own, focusing relentlessly on appearances and how things are going to play with the public, acting like theater critics evaluating the show of politics. And they condemn negative campaigning, while at the same time they hunger for negativity, since nothing is more boring than a campaign in which the contestants are polite to each other. One of the ways this is apparent is in how any bare-knuckled move by Barack Obama is greeted by tut-tutting that he has turned...

Clinton as Veep Wouldn't Change the Election

(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)
Polls remain essentially tied between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the campaign heads into the pre-convention summer slog. That gives pundits plenty of time to chew over various scenarios for how each candidate could reconfigure their campaigns before the general election. The veepstakes is already the dominant story on Romney's side, but some have also begun speculating about Obama's running mate. At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky says the way for Obama to win in November is by dumping Biden and adding Hillary Clinton to the ticket: Now bring in Hillary. Forget about it. The most consistently admired woman in America over the last 20 years? The gender gap would be 20 points. And the Obama and Clinton machines fused like that—it’s like Secretariat and Zenyatta breeding. And the signal sent to Democrats and women across the country that the whole thing is being teed up for her in 2016. This would be a blowout. Tomasky's argument is predicated on a recent New York Times poll that...

Winning Was Always a Possibility

(NewsHour/Flickr)
Politico ’s latest scoop is the discovery, after interviews with party leader and activists, that Republicans think Mitt Romney can win the election: Margin-of-error polling, fundraising parity last month, conservative consolidation around Romney and a still-sluggish economy has senior GOP officials increasingly bullish about a nominee many winced over during a difficult primary process. Interviews with about two dozen Republican elected officials, aides, strategists and lobbyists reveal a newfound optimism that with a competent, on-message campaign, Romney will be at least competitive with a weakened incumbent. That’s a dramatic shift from the fatalistic view many party stalwarts shared mere weeks ago. If you have the good fortune to be a major party nominee for president then, by definition, you have a significant chance of winning the presidency. This was true for John Kerry, it was true for John McCain, and it is true for Romney. That doesn’t mean that a win is likely , but it’s...

GloboNewtCorp Meltdown Update

Newt in happier times.
A month and a half ago, we learned that in contrast to what usually happens to a not-entirely-unsuccesful presidential contender, the candidacy of one Newton Leroy Gingrich had seriously hampered the former Speaker's ability to get people to give him money for doing very little other than spout off his opinion on things. You see, Newt had carefully constructed a network of organizations whose main purpose was getting people to give him money for being Newt. In the course of the campaign, however, the world learned just how much people gave him, and how little they got for it, most notably in the case of Freddie Mac, which paid Newt $1.6 million for "strategic consulting" that consisted of little more than giving a couple of speeches and having a couple of meetings. It'll now be awfully hard for Newt to run that scam on anyone again, and as a result, GloboNewtCorp is well and truly disintegrating. The Center for Health Transformation, one arm of GloboNewtCorp, went bankrupt, and the...

The Soft Sell

This woman's dreams were destroyed, and her hair turned grey, by Obama's broken promises.
According to The New York Times , American Crossroads, Karl Rove's super PAC, has decided that trying to make the American people hate and fear Barack Obama just isn't going to work. So their advertising is going to use a softer sell, a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger approach to convincing Americans to vote for Mitt Romney in the fall. It seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do—I've been arguing for some time that it's absurd to believe that large numbers of voters are going to radically alter their view of the president they've been watching for the last three years because of some television ads they saw—and it's backed up by Crossroads' own opinion research: Behind the story of the ad’s creation rests one of the greatest challenges for Republicans in this election: how to develop a powerful line of attack against a president who remains well liked even by people who are considering voting against him. The concept for the newest advertisement and even some of the lines in the...

A Middling Result for Obama

(White House/Flickr)
Depending on how you look, the most recent poll from ABC News and the Washington Post shows Obama in either a precarious position, or a decent one given the circumstances. If you’re inclined to take the former view, the evidence is clear: 55 percent of voters disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy, and 83 percent describe the economy as "not so good" or "poor." Thirty percent say they are not so well-off since Obama became president, and 47 percent say they trust Mitt Romney to handle the economy—a statistical tie with the president, and a sign that voters have faith in Romney’s ability to get things done. If you’re bullish on Obama, there’s evidence for your view as well. His approval rating is 47 percent, with 49 percent disapproval. According to the Washington Post ’s election forecaster , if Obama maintains that approval rating through the summer—and if economic growth holds steady at an average rate of 2 percent—then he has an 84.4 percent chance of winning the majority...

Missing Massachusetts

Remember this place? (Image from U.S. Census)
In all this back-and-forth about Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital (which, by the way, I think is a very good thing for the public, but that's a topic for another post) there's one other subject that has been crowded out, seemingly by a tacit agreement by both campaigns. And that's this place called Massachusetts. You might remember it. Mitt Romney lived there for a time. Ordinarily, when a former governor runs for president, the two sides engage in a vigorous debate about the former governor's state. He says it's the most dynamic, exciting, splendiferous state in the union, and his opponent says it's actually a little slice of hell on earth. My favorite example of the latter is this ad from George H.W. Bush's 1992 campaign, which portrayed Bill Clinton's Arkansas as a post-apocalyptic hellscape where the only living thing in evidence is a vulture looking for the last few scraps of gristle it can pull off the carcass of little children's dreams. You can almost see Mount Doom in the...

States Lag on Health Exchanges

(Flickr/GenBug)
Once the law is fully implemented, health care exchanges will be the part of the Affordable Care Act we likely notice most. The exchanges were designed to turn health insurance into something approximating a real market—unlike the current system which creates a myriad of blocks that prevent the consumers from purchasing health insurance as they would any good, forcing families to either receive insurance through their employer, pay exorbitant costs for individual, or go without any coverage. The exchanges—along with subsidies for low and middle-income Americans—will ease that burden, allowing consumers to select a plan from a central hub without worrying about pre-existing conditions affecting their coverage. Liberals shouldered a number of defeats in 2009 and early 2010 as the Affordable Care Act snaked through the grind of congressional dysfunction. The failure of a public option ate up most of the attention at the time, but a minor shift in how the exchanges would operate might...

Brat PAC

The Excel nerds covering the presidential campaign got their moment this weekend, when the latest batch of Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports went public. There was plenty to chew over. Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee raked in $43 million compared with $40 million for Romney and the Republican National Committee. Then there are the super PACs. Pro-Romney American Crossroads raised $1.8 million in April, edging out Priorities USA—the pro-Obama PAC that can't seem to locate George Soros' phone number—by $200,000. With Obama and Romney both on pace to fill a Scrooge McDuck-sized pool of contributions, each new dollar holds diminishing returns. But at the congressional level—for instance, in high-stakes races in Montana or Nevada—a few million here or there might be enough to upend an election. As The New York Times reported Sunday, there are plenty of funds for politicians campaigning for a legislative seat. Over $12 million in outside money has been funneled...

Message: I Am Amused

Mitt Romney yukking it up during a primary debate.
If any comedian ever gets around to producing a good Mitt Romney impression (the lack of which I've lamented before), Romney's laugh is going to have to be a key part of it. The laugh was probably best described by New York Times reporter Ashley Parker, who wrote , "Mr. Romney’s laugh often sounds like someone stating the sounds of laughter, a staccato 'Ha. Ha. Ha.'" Gary Wills wonders what exactly Mitt's laugh is meant to communicate (his possibilities include "I want to show I am just a regular fellow, so I'll try out my regular-fellow laugh"), but that's the easy question. Romney's laugh is meant to say, "I am amused." The more important question is, why does Mitt Romney laugh? I think I know the answer to that one too. But before I tell you, we should understand that there is more than one Romney laugh, even though they all come out suddenly, tiny explosions of unfelt mirth. Sometimes it's that "Oh my, that is crazy!", but at other times Romney's laugh sounds like he's surrounded...

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