Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Mitt Romney Gets More Resolute All the Time

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
There are times when you can just see the wheels turning in Mitt Romney's head, as he cycles through the possible responses to a question, realizes there really is no good one, then spits out something that sounds like the least bad answer possible. It's almost sad. That frenzy of mental activity is what produces things like this bit of hilarity, after Romney got questioned about the story of a rich Republican thinking of running an ad campaign attacking President Obama with Jeremiah Wright: "I repudiate that effort," Mr. Romney told reporters at an impromptu news conference Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. "I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign." At the same time, Mr. Romney stood by remarks made in February on Sean Hannity's radio show that Mr. Obama wanted to make America "a less Christian nation." "I'm not familiar, precisely, with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was," Mr. Romney said. Oh, Mitt. You see, this is what happens when you're...

Bipartisan Watermelon Destruction

(Still photo from campaign ad)
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is out with his first campaign ad today, and it's about as bizarre as you would expect. The ad is reminiscent of Herman Cain's avant-garde commercials (even nabbing the same "any questions" tagline), though thankfully Johnson reserves his destruction for fruit and leaves any innocent animals alone. It's a nice bit of wrought political theater, but not particularly effective as an ad to introduce Johnson to the public. His face and name don't even appear until a minute into the spot, and then only as a still frame. Typically you'd want to have the candidate actually speak in the video—especially when he's largely an unfamiliar face such as Johnson. The low-budget ad is yet another indication that, despite being well credentialed, Johnson is unlikely to perform much above past libertarian presidential candidates.

Bill Clinton Is the GOP's New Favorite Democrat

(Sustainable_OS_2012/Flickr)
Bill Clinton has emerged as a player in the presidential election, but oddly, not as a surrogate for President Obama. Rather, Mitt Romney is using the former president as a +5 Amulet of Centrism—a way to assert moderate credentials without changing his policies or modifying his rhetoric. This was used to great effect in his speech yesterday , where he decried deficits and disparaged Obama for his “old school” liberalism: Even a former McGovern campaign worker like President Clinton was signaling to his own Party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. […] President Obama is an old school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero. It goes without saying that there’s an implicit aim to adopting President Clinton as an avatar for reasonable liberalism...

Repeal and Pretend to Replace

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Maybe Republicans aren't so opposed to health care reform after all. After grandstanding against the Affordable Care Act for the past few years, Republicans aren't ready to let the entire bill die should the Supreme Court overturn the law later this summer. Congressional Republicans are crafting a contingency plan to reinstate some of the popular elements of the bill in that scenario, according to Politico . It's a clear indication that the GOP has learned the same lesson as Democrats: while the all-encompassing idea of Obamacare may fair poorly in the polls, voters typically support individual elements of the bill. The Republicans would reportedly like to maintain the provision that allows young people to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26 and rules that close a donut hole on Medicare's prescription coverage. Most notably, they would also reinstate the ban on insurance companies denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. That last part reveals why these...

Rich People: Not That Smart

Previously unseen video of shadowy character nobody has ever heard of.
Most of us would agree that Citizens United has been bad for democracy, with corporations and wealthy people now permitted to spend as much as they want to buy the kind of representatives they prefer. But there is one factor that we didn't really anticipate, something that mitigates the harm they can do: it turns out that rich people aren't necessarily that smart with their money. So during the presidential primaries, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent $16.5 million to help out the campaign of Newt Gingrich, whom you might have noticed is not the GOP nominee. And in today's New York Times , we get an interesting story about Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, who is preparing to spend $10 million to defeat Barack Obama. And what is the magic bullet Mr. Ricketts has located, the zinger that will bring down this incumbent president? Jeremiah Wright! Seriously. Jamelle discussed the racial aspect of this story, but I equally interesting is just how naive this demonstrates that...

Rich Republicans Seek to Bring Back Jeremiah Wright

(Floyd Brown/Flickr)
In general, I’m not too concerned with civility in politics, but it’s hard not to be shocked by the nastiness and aggression of today’s Republican Party. Congressional Republicans routinely accuse Democrats of treason, or worse, with little rebuke from party leaders. Reliably conservative lawmakers—like Bob Inglis and Dick Lugar—are challenged nonetheless for their insufficient hatred of Democrats. President Obama, as most people know, has been subject to a constellation of outlandish attacks, from false claims about his “foreign” birth to attacks on his patriotism—Mitt Romney, to use a prominent example, often trumpets the falsehood that Obama has gone around the world to apologize for America. All of this is why I wasn’t surprised to learn that wealthy Republican donors plan to launch a salvo of personal attacks on the president, in order to hurt his standing with a public that still likes him, even if they are divided on his presidency. Writing for The New York Times , Jeff Zeleny...

Tie Goes to the President

(Flickr/acqueline.poggi)
The basic odds make it fairly unlikely that the Democrats will maintain their Senate majority. They only hold a narrow 53-47 edge after the 2010 midterms, and the party must defend 23 seats in 2012, compared to just ten for Republicans. Their troubles only increased when moderate Democrats hailing from conservative states—Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad as the most notable—decided that now was the time to retire, all but ceding their spots to the GOP. Every scenario looked doom and gloom for their chances. But then Republicans decided to sabotage those odds. First Olympia Snowe announced her retirement, after growing tired of her party's partisan rancor. Her seat is expected to go to the independent—but Democratic friendly—candidate Angus King. Last week, Indiana Republicans booted out longtime Senator Dick Lugar in favor of a Tea Party challenger, while Nebraskans selected the right wing candidate in their primary earlier this week. Polling maestro Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight is out...

Mitt Romney, Servant of the Right

(Victor Juhasz)
T he defining feature of the Republican presidential primaries was the constant Sturm und Drang over Mitt Romney’s ability to win Republican voters. Pundits claimed that Romney had a “ceiling” with conservatives in the party, and opponents like former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum routinely assailed the front-runner as a candidate whose commitment to conservatism was short-lived and inauthentic—a human “Etch A Sketch,” in the words of Romney’s own campaign spokesperson. But when Romney locked up the nomination after months of bitter fighting, the party promptly came together behind him. Santorum, Romney’s main competitor, dropped out of the race on April 10. One week later, polls showed that 90 percent of Republican voters supported Romney against Barack Obama—identical to the number of Democrats who said they backed the president. What drove the quick embrace of the former Massachusetts governor? It wasn’t love; conservatives aren’t thrilled with Romney, even as they prepare to...

Crazy and Crazier

Fear this baby, America!
In the last few years, many different kinds of communication technologies have been democratized. For instance, up until not too long ago, making a film that didn't look amateurish was impossible without a whole bunch of equipment whose expense made it out of reach for almost everyone, not to mention the technical expertise required. But today, you can buy a professional-quality HD video camera for a couple thousand dollars and video editing software like Apple's Final Cut Pro for a couple hundred, and presto, you can make what looks to be a "real" movie. That means that a kid with a dream to be the next Steven Spielberg can see that dream realized. It also means that a crazy person with a conspiracy theory can see his dream realized. Which brings us to two new movie previews for anti-Obama films that, when you look at them, seem remarkably like "real" movies. The first, called "2016," is based on Dinesh D'Souza's nutty book "The Roots of Obama's Rage." It explains how Barack Obama is...

Bush Endorses Romney

(White House photo by Eric Draper. Via Wikimedia Commons)
Mitt Romney clearly coveted the endorsement of George H.W. Bush. He first met with Bush the Elder in December at the former president's Texas home in an appearance everyone assumed equaled a full endorsement. However Romney staged a second event in March for the official endorsement as another photo-op with Bush 41. Meanwhile the other Bush who once occupied the oval office was nowhere to be seen, never rolled out as a public endorser even though Romney clearly wrapped up the nomination weeks ago. George W. Bush finally entered the fray Tuesday to let the country know whom he plans to vote for this fall: “I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home — the White House. Yeesh, talk about lackluster. The string of Republicans reluctantly supporting Mitt Romney has become one of the dominant tropes of the 2012 election, with each seemingly unable to muster any kind of verve...

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Washington, DC, image from Google Earth
Journalist Marc Ambinder is leaving DC, and on his departure he wrote a pretty good listicle on what he's learned in his time here. His piece goes relatively easy on our nation's capital when it comes to its moral and spiritual depravity, but he makes some excellent points, including this: Consistency is not a terribly interesting or useful proxy for effectiveness in a politician, and yet it seems to be the value held most high—or the value that, because someone is most easily able to convince you that someone else lacks it, becomes important. Politicians and the media haven't developed the vocabulary to explain how positions evolve. Marc is absolutely right about this. You don't have to be a flip-flopper of Romnulan (I'm trademarking that word, by the way; feel free to contact me for licensing opportunities) proportions to fear the consequences of anything that looks like inconsistency; even the slightest deviation from what you've said previously can be punished. Yet how many of us...

Big Sky's the Limit

(AP/Andrea Helling)
M ontana knows all about buying elections. In 1899, just ten years after it became a state, William Andrews Clark, known as the Copper King, spent an estimated $400,000—the equivalent of $11 million today—to buy the votes of state legislators to send him to the United States Senate. After a lengthy investigation, Clark resigned before the Senate could boot him out. The scandal turned from shocking to farcical when Clark, who bragged that he “never bought a man who wasn’t for sale,” returned to Montana and the lieutenant governor reappointed him to the position from which he’d just been removed. The governor later revoked the appointment, but Clark's third attempt at higher office proved the charm: After spending enough on political campaigns to ensure a state legislature amenable to his re-re - election, he prevailed and sat in the Senate until 1907. Mark Twain said of the affair that Clark had “so sweetened corruption that in Montana it no longer has an offensive smell.” In the early...

What Romney's Medicare Plan Actually Does

(Flickr/Images of Money)
DC journos have spent much of the 2012 election trying to answer the question of how exactly a President Romney would governor. On one side, there are the skeptics who never bought into Romney’s rhetoric during the Republican nomination. They argue Romney is, at heart, still a moderate northeastern governor, a businessman unsuited for the extremism that has come to dominate his party. Others are equally convinced that Romney must be taken at face value. Sure he might have positioned himself in the middle while he governed a state dominated by Democrats, but he has spent the past five years running for president full-time, aligning himself with every right-wing whim over the course of his two campaigns. He’s the Republican who sought the endorsement of Ted Nugent, discarded a gay spokesman, and calls corporations people. Lest we forget, it was Romney who was poised to run as the right-wing challenger to John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in 2008 before Mike Huckabee swooped in to steal the...

Bombs Away

There’s no arguing that the Romney campaign’s formula for winning the GOP nomination—attack and destroy, attack and destroy—worked. But it also meant that their man left little or no positive impression with voters. The “pro-Romney” ads were overwhelmingly anti-Gingrich or anti-Santorum. In Florida alone, his campaign and super PAC spent a head-spinning $15.4 million on ads; exactly one of them was positive. Combine the negativity with Romney’s rich-and-poor gaffes and terminal social awkwardness, and you end up with one of the most startling poll numbers heading into the general election: Sixty percent of Americans find President Obama likeable, but only 31 percent say the same of his Republican opponent. You can debate how much likeability should matter to voters; today the Prospect ’s Paul Waldman reminded us that Democrats weren’t so crazy about the whole “who would you rather have a beer with?” question in 2000 and 2004. But the Obama campaign knows that it does matter—a lot—and...

Is Mitt Romney a Job Creator or a Job Destroyer?

Mitt Romney creating, or possibly destroying, jobs.
The Obama and Romney campaigns have released competing ads, both concerning Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital. The Obama ad, which Jamelle posted here , attacks Bain Capital for buying, eviscerating, and then selling off a company called GST Steel in Kansas City, leaving the good hard-working people there jobless and desperate. The Romney ad, on the other hand, tells an entirely different story, that of Steel Dynamics, a company that employs thousands of good hard-working people, thanks to Mitt Romney. So which story should we believe? I'll give you the answer in a moment, but first, let's look at the Romney ad: So who's right? Is Mitt Romney a job-creator, or a job-destroyer? The answer is ... yes! Obama would like people to believe that Romney's work in private equity consisted of buying companies, tearing them to pieces, and selling off bits of the carcass, perhaps running over a child's toe with his limousine as he drove away from the shuttered plant. Romney would like people to...

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