Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Wisconsin, an "Elastic" State

(OldOnliner/Flickr)
The results of the Wisconsin recall election weren’t surprising; for the last month, polls had shown Walker with a solid lead over his Democratic opponent. What was interesting—and a little surprising—was the extent to which President Barack Obama has maintained a strong position in the Badger State. Among the 2.4 million people who voted in last night’s election—a slight decrease from presidential turnout— 52 percent support Obama. Obama’s performance is down from 2008 , when he captured 56 percent of the vote, but Mitt Romney hasn’t captured the difference. As with John McCain, only 43 percent of Wisconsin voters support Mitt Romney. Even still, that’s a significant swing, and indicative of a point Nate Silver made last month. In an excellent post , Silver offered a different way to evaluate swing states. Rather than categorize states on the basis of their vote margins—how close the two parties' numbers are—Silver rated them on the basis of their "elasticity" or electoral...

What the Affordable Care Act Decision Will Mean

President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act.
Sometime soon—probably in three weeks or so—the Supreme Court is going to hand down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Given what happened at the oral arguments, there aren't too many people predicting that the ACA will be upheld, although that of course remains a possibility. Those oral arguments now seem like someone smacking us awake out of a dream in which we believed that the Republican-appointed justices might have something in mind other than the partisan and ideological advantage of their side. It was a weird dream, so weird that in the days before the arguments, some people seriously discussed the possibility that Antonin Scalia might be bound by the logic he had followed in previous cases involving the commerce clause and vote to uphold the law. What a joke. But it seems that the only real question is whether the Court will strike down the individual mandate alone, or strike down the law in its entirety. The former will mean one gigantic problem, namely what to do about...

Obama, Post-Post-Partisanship

(Flickr/Matt Ortega)
Over the past month or two, as the president’s political position has continued to erode and he becomes more vulnerable, an extraordinary and vaguely preposterous conversation has taken shape. Variations on it have been advanced by everyone from former presidents chatting with Hollywood moguls on news cable TV to esteemed Sunday-morning newspaper columnists picking their way through the racial bric-à-brac of the presidential psyche. In a way, it’s the corollary of the birther discussion at the other end of the spectrum, which is to say that it’s a conversation we’ve never had about any other president. The upshot of this conversation is whether it would be a betrayal of everything for which the president has been a metaphor, and of all the attendant mythologies that have accompanied his election and time in office, if he should offer a critique of the record of the man running against him who is running on that same record. In short, as we debate fundamental matters having to do with...

Inconsistent Mandate

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's stances on health insurance mandates stand as one of the great ironies of the 2012 presidential race. At various points both have opposed the mandate and both have advocated for the idea, successfully forcing the measure into legislation. The only problem is that they have evolved in opposite directions. The Obama campaign made the strategic decision to carve out a niche as the anti-mandate candidate during the 2008 Democratic primary. "It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it, and you pay a penalty if you don't," said one ominous ad from the 2008 campaign that Obama used to attack Hillary Clinton. That staunch opposition of course changed once Obama assumed office and faced the realities of crafting legislation. His team realized any measure that prevented insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions would collapse without a mandate, as healthy individuals would flee the market, leaving only the...

Mitt Romney Pretends to Court Hispanic Voters

A Romney ad shows how Hispanics have fallen into a dirty, yellowish pit of human misery under Obama.
Before 2008, there was a story I used to tell about how presidential campaigns have been waged over the last few decades. It goes like this: The Democrat comes before the voters and says, "If you examine my ten-point plan, I believe you will agree that my ten-point plan is superior to my opponent's ten-point plan." Then the Republican comes before the voters, points to the Democrat, and says, "That guy hates you and everything you stand for." It may not have applied to every election in our lifetimes (Bill Clinton was pretty good at running for president, you may remember), but it rang true enough that when I said it, liberals tended to chuckle and nod their heads. That changed in 2008, when Barack Obama ran a campaign in both the primaries and general election that reflected a profound understanding that politics is much more about identity than issues. His opponent understood it too, but the statement of identity that a vote for McCain represented just couldn't garner a majority of...

Extortion Politics

As others have noted , it’s not hard to see the Keynesian case for Mitt Romney’s presidency. Because of Republican opposition, there’s little chance that President Obama could pass stimulus in his second term. Instead, it’s more likely that we’ll stay on the current path of deficit reduction and inaction with regards to the employment crisis. By contrast, if elected president, Mitt Romney would enjoy a cooperative Republican majority that might be willing to pass stimulus if Romney proposed it. What’s more, Romney has made a clear promise to begin his term with large tax cuts, and delay his spending cuts for subsequent years, which is just another way of promising Keynesian stimulus if he’s elected. If you assume that most Republicans are insincere about their opposition to spending, then in the short-term, at least, a Romney presidency might actually be better for the economy. This argument makes perfect sense, but it’s bothered me for a while. In his take on the Keynesian case for...

Feel the Romney

Mitt Romney shares an emotional state with fellow humans.
Mitt Romney has always been a candidate more of the head than the heart. He looks presidential enough, and particularly for Republicans, his resume as a successful businessman is admirable. He certainly seems smart and competent. But no rock stars are going to be putting together songs like this one about the Romney candidacy. Not even songs like this one . Nobody is moved to tears by a Mitt Romney speech. In years hence, Republicans will not be telling their grandkids about how the 2012 campaign was the one that meant the most to them, the time when they felt that politics could be uplifting and inspiring, the one that made them feel like citizenship was something participatory and meaningful. All that seems pretty plain. But the Romney campaign isn't willing to go down without giving that whole "inspiring" thing a shot. Here's their latest ad: The ad promises that, of course, on the first day of his presidency Mitt Romney will start creating jobs, what with all his job-creating job...

All Local Politics Are National

After what seems like forever, it’s finally Wisconsin Recall Eve. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, one thing’s certain: If you’ve had any doubts about the growing nationalization of elections, wash them away now. All politics may be local, but people in D.C.—whether journalists, politicians, or billionaire dilettantes—have found that they can have an outsized influence on the national stage by investing in state and local races. The recall election has proved to be the most expensive in Wisconsin’s history— $30.5 million coming from outside groups—and although locals have insisted time and time again that “It's a Wisconsin-specific moment, not a national referendum,” 80 percent (rough approximation) of news coverage on Monday will focus on the national implications of the race—even though this is not a referendum on President Obama. There is one real big-picture implication. The Wisconsin recall election’s transmogrification into a national circus over the past year will affect...

Are Donors Less Enthusiastic About Obama?

Are Obama donors less enthusiastic than they were in 2012? Writing for Buzzfeed , Ben Smith says yes : In 2008, more than 550,000 gave more than $200 to Barack Obama, entering their names in the longest list of individual donors ever seen in American politics. […] But now, as Obama struggles to keep pace with his 2008 fundraising clip, that list offers a cross-section of Democratic disappointment and alienation. According to a BuzzFeed analysis of campaign finance data, 88% of the people who gave $200 or more in 2008 — 537,806 people — have not yet given that sum this year. And this drop-off isn’t simply an artifact of timing. A full 87% of the people who gave $200 — the sum that triggers an itemized report to the Federal Elections Commission — through April of 2008, 182,078 people, had not contributed by the end of last month. It’s absolutely true that donations have dropped off from 2008, and while Smith has mustered plenty of quotes from dissatisfied Democrats, it’s not clear that...

Why Obama Can't Be Hopey-Changey This Time Around

Flickr/Will Merydith
It's sometimes said that the most optimistic presidential candidate is inevitably the one who wins. If that's true, Barack Obama is a shoe-in, considering what he said on Friday about the "fever" of Republican intransigence. "I believe that if we're successful in this election," the President mused, "that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that. My hope, my expectation, is that after the election, now that it turns out that the goal of beating Obama doesn't make sense because I'm not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again." And if you believe that, I've got some mortgage-backed securities you might be interested in. But Obama doesn't have much choice. He can't exactly come out and say, "If I'm re-elected, it'll be pretty much the same excruciating, maddening, ridiculous partisan thunderdome we had in my first term, with every accomplishment coming only at the tail end of a horrific legislative...

"We've Heard it All Before"

(Wikipedia)
The latest Obama campaign ad—which will air mainly in swing states—continues the attack on Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts: This attack goes directly to the heart of Romney’s presidential campaign. The Republican nominee has based his entire on argument on the claim that—by dint of his business experience—he is uniquely qualified to lead the country into a more robust recovery. Indeed, private sector experience has totemic properties in Romney’s narrative; Obama is a failure because he’s “ never met a payroll ” and “doesn’t understand the economy,” while Romney sees business as the most important qualification a president can have. But, with a quote from Romney’s gubernatorial campaign—“I know how jobs are created”—the Obama campaign raises a basic question: When Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts he used his business experience as proof he could create jobs for Massachusetts, instead, he led the state to the bottom of the pack for job creation. Now, running for president...

Letting the Right People Vote

(Flickr/Bettina Neufeind)
For some years, the Republican party has tried to convince Americans that they have put their ugly legacy on issues of race behind them, that Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and Willie Horton have no relationship to the GOP of today. They call themselves the "party of Lincoln," hoping people will forget that the Republican and Democratic parties were very different in 1864 than they are today. (Consider: If the likes of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the leading lights of the GOP had been alive 150 years ago, which side would they have been on? The answer seems pretty obvious.) Sometimes, they may even go as far as the National Review did recently, publishing an unintentionally hilarious cover article claiming that Republicans are the real civil-rights heroes, because the Democratic party was once home to white Southern segregationists, so there! Never mind that those folks, like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, eventually found their...

As Wisconsin Goes...

Only five more days till the Wisconsin recall, and surprisingly—given Governor Scott Walker’s advantage thus far on the money and polling front—it looks like it’s going to be a tight match. But as exciting as the race will be, that doesn’t mean it’s time to crown it the Great Predictor of the 2012 Presidential Election. This isn’t a referendum on President Obama, and the petri dish of local politics on display in Wisconsin isn’t translatable to the national level in the way political journalists and commentators want it to be. However, there is one way the Wisconsin recall can be seen as the pre-party to November. If Democrat Tom Barrett squeaks out a victory, there’s a persuasive argument to be made that all the big money being funneled into conservative super PACs and groups by Mary Poppins-pocketed billionaires doesn't necessarily determine the outcome. Democrats have been scared by the prospect of being outspent on races all across the board thanks to the heavy lifting of Karl...

Mitt Romney's Howard Dean Strategy

Flickr/John P. Hoke
In March 2003, a then fairly obscure former Vermont governor and presidential candidate named Howard Dean stood up in front of a meeting of the California Democratic Party, opened his speech by criticizing the timidity and fearfulness of Democrats in Washington, and said to hearty cheers, "I'm Howard Dean, and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party!" Rank-and-file Democrats were amazed and excited. Dean perfectly captured their frustration with national leaders whom they felt were wimps and capitulators, failing to stand up to a Republican president whom they disliked more than any other in their lifetimes. In short order Dean became the candidate of the most partisan Democrats, and the news media portrayed him as some kind of wild-eyed liberal busting into the race from the extreme fringe. But the truth was that Dean was actually a moderate Democrat. He had opposed the Iraq War from the start, that was true. But he had also been endorsed by the National...

Mitt Romney's Personal Is Not Political

Flickr/Donkey Hotey
Conservatives used to say that a conservative was a liberal who had been mugged. In other words, your abstract political ideology has to shift when it bumps up against unpleasant reality. Something similar can happen with politicians—not that they undergo wholesale ideological shifts, but many have some issue on which they have personal experience that leads them away from their ideology. For instance, Alan Simpson, a staunch conservative in almost every way, has advocated against harsh sentences for minors who commit crimes, because he himself grew beyond his run-ins with the law as a teenager. As you've probably heard, Ann Romney suffers from multiple sclerosis. In a new video on the Romney campaign's web site, the Romneys talk about how they've dealt with the disease, and encourage people to donate to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Which is good, but when you run for president, your own personal life is necessarily political. It's important to be sensitive in how we talk...

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