Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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. He can’t use this against Romney, though, after the presumptive Republican nominee came out in support of the extension yesterday. Romney’s pivot to the center doesn’t mean the issue is settled. This marks the first point of disagreement between Romney and his party since he cleared the primary competition. How congressional Republicans respond over the...

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: When you look at fifty percent of the kids coming out of college today can’t find a job or can’t find a job which is consistent with their skills, how in the world can you be supporting a president that’s led to that kind of an economy? […] “I think this is a time when young people are questioning the support they gave to President Obama three and a half years ago. He promised bringing the country together; that sure hasn’t happened. He promised a future with good jobs and good...

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. “Particularly with the number of college graduates that can’t find work or can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans,” he said . Egads! This seems exactly like the scenario conservatives have feared all year. Now safely in the general-election cocoon, might Romney wildly deviate from right-wing dogma and betray the promises he made in the primaries? Not so much. Student loans were never a...

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. I spent many years designing and executing this kind of study, and hands down, the most difficult thing to assess in an objective, reliable way is whether coverage is "positive" or "negative" for a particular figure. There are some stories that are obviously damaging ("Candidate Caught Smoking Crack"), which can be "negative" even though they are reported in a completely neutral way. There are some stories that are obviously helpful ("Candidate Wins Primary By Large Margin"), but which are also simply...

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. While that does look like a purposeful shift in tone after his string of denials over the past year, I don’t think it amounts to much. Everyone hems and haws until it becomes more than a hypothetical. The only person I’ve believed fully thus far is Suzanna Martinez, who said she would decline the VP spot because of family considerations. But for everyone else, it will be easy to change tone if Romney does offer them the spot. “I know I said I would never be vice president under any situation, but Mitt...

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. What's different is that Barack Obama's campaign seems frightened of its own shadow and is trying hard to convince Americans that Obama is actually some kind of pro-gun president. Which, for all intents and purposes, he is. A week and a half ago...

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: America’s collection of minority special-interest groups is now bigger, more mobilized and richer than ever, while all the mechanisms to enforce the will of the majority are weaker than ever. The effect of this is either legislative paralysis or suboptimal, Rube Goldberg-esque, patched-together-compromises, often made in response to crises with no due diligence...

In the Air and On the Ground

Obama volunteers in 2008 (Flickr/Barack Obama)
In recent years, a series of studies by political scientists have demonstrated that the most effective means of winning votes and getting your voters to the polls is one of the oldest: in-person contact. Having neighbors knock on doors and talk to people gets you significantly more votes per dollar of investment than direct mail or television ads. The only trouble is that putting together a comprehensive ground operation is really difficult. You need people, lots of them, and you need them to be devoted, enthusiastic and willing to put in long and frustrating days calling people and trooping from house to house. Over the weekend, The New York Times had a good article explaining how the Obama campaign's allies, particularly labor unions, will be putting their focus on the ground game in this November's election, while the Romney campaign's allies will be focusing on the airwaves. It's going to be a pretty stark contrast: With just more than six months to go before the November...

Liberal Bias at Fox News?

Mitt Romney on Fox News.
Over at The New York Times , Nicole Hemmer has a nice piece explaining some of the history of the right's "liberal media bias" charge and how it has left them incapable of seeing anything that happens in the media—even their own media—clearly. It turns out that supporters of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (not to mention Gingrich and Santorum themselves) were shocked to find that their favorite news sources didn't validate everything they believed, including who should win the Republican primary: "this role reversal is the end product of a process that was set in motion by the conservative media. Having spent decades promoting the charge of bias, they have helped strip it of meaning. These days, bias translates roughly to 'reporting something I don't like,' a reflexive defense against stories that cut against conservative interests." Conservatives got so used to seeing bias everywhere that it reached the point where some of them began accusing Fox News of being "liberal" because it...

A Third-Party Spoiler?

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
I mentioned this in last night’s Ringside Seat—the Prospect ’s daily e-mail on the 2012 campaign; read ! subscribe !—but I want to dig a bit more into an unexpected result in a PPP national poll released yesterday. Way down in the poll’s crosstabs, Buzzfeed spotted the results of an Obama-Romney matchup if you include Gary Johnson as a third-party candidate. You may recall Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, from his brief stint as a GOP presidential candidate last year, culminating in one lone primetime debate performance in which he scored laughs for making a joke about dog excrement (sadly the political conversation hasn’t improved much since that time). Johnson was never granted entrance to another debate and ended his Republican run to declare his intention of running for the Libertarian Party’s nomination, a more natural home for his ideology. He barely placed in Republican primary polls, but if included in the general-election field, he would siphon off 6 percent of the...

Romney Cookie Apology Coming In 3...2...1...

Mitt Romney sneers at you, cookies! (Flickr/Dana Robinson)
Every time some candidate airs a negative ad, you can reliably turn on cable news and hear some "strategist" or other say, "This is going to be the most negative campaign in history!" But I'm still waiting for someone to say, "This is going to be the dumbest and most trivial campaign in history!" The 2012 campaign will not be the most negative in history, trust me. But it might be the dumbest. So what do we bloggers do when confronted with the latest bit of campaign idiocy? You can ignore it, of course. You can say, "This is actually quite revealing...", in which case you're full of it. Or you can say, "This is inane." I'm opting for number three. If you haven't heard about Mitt Romney's cookie gaffe, then behold: Egad! This obviously demonstrates ... absolutely nothing about what kind of man Mitt Romney is. He just meant that the cookies looked store-bought and not homemade. He may have been trying to rib his own people, saying to the folks around the table, I realize this whole set-...

Republicans Keeping Anti-Gay Views in the Closet

(Flickr/Willamor Media)
As polls in favor of marriage equality trend upward, politicians are pushed into an awkward corner. The Prospect 's Paul Waldman explained earlier this morning how the incentives just aren't there yet for Democrats to go out on a limb and support same-sex marriage; favoring civil unions probably captures enough of the vote. But at the same time, Republicans have to struggle with the divide between their base, which wants constitutional amendments barring any legal recognition for LGBT couples, and the wider public, whose views soften each passing month. As I noted earlier this week, it's already created a divide between Romney and some of his high-dollar donors. Now it looks like an issue state-level Republicans will have to grapple with as well. North Carolinians will vote next month on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The Charlotte Observer reports that one major candidate has done his best to duck the issue: He’d rather talk about something else – say, the...

President Romney and the Republican Congress

The Congressional Tea Party Caucus. In the rear, Rep. Louie Gohmert appears to be about to swallow a small child whole.
As we've discussed here many times, there a number of factors that make it more likely than not that Barack Obama will win re-election in November. But it's also quite possible that Obama will lose, and Mitt Romney will become president in January. If Romney does win, chances are that he'll come into office with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. That's because whatever conditions produce a Republican win at the top will also probably allow Republicans to hold on to the House and take the Senate. It's even possible that Obama could win and Republicans wind up with both houses, since Democrats right now hold only a 53-47 lead in the upper chamber, and they are defending 23 seats in this year's election, while Republicans are defending only ten. There's an outside chance that a big Obama win could allow Democrats to hold the Senate and take back the house, but for now let's focus on the possibility of a Romney win, which will probably leave him with the benefit of total...

Mitt Romney Passes the Competence Test

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
For all the focus on President Obama’s narrow lead over Mitt Romney in the latest poll from Quinnipiac University, the more interesting numbers are in the full results, where you can find a better account of how voters perceive the two men. Independents, for example, are neither thrilled nor satisfied with the president. His favorability rating is 19 points underwater at 37/56, while his job-approval numbers are 17 points in the negative at 39/56. Overall, 47 percent of voters approve of Obama’s performance, while 48 percent disapprove. For now, this is the number to watch. If it goes up, and reaches 50 percent by the fall, then Obama stands a good chance of being re-elected, even if it is a tight race. But if it declines from its current place—to the low 40s—then Obama will likely finish the year as a one-term president. More important, this will be true even if Romney stays unpopular with the large plurality of Americans—for challengers to an incumbent president, popularity or...

Why More Democrats Aren't Coming Out for Marriage Equality

One of the few pro-marriage-equality Senate candidates. (Flickr/Edward Kimmel)
American public opinion on same-sex marriage has been steadily moving in the direction of support for marriage equality for some time, and recently some polls have shown a majority of the public in favor ( see here for example). Politicians, however, have lagged the public on this issue, none more visibly than Barack Obama, who is famously "evolving" on the issue. One presumes that evolution will reach its higher stage some time after he gets re-elected, but you'd think that candidates running for lower offices might be a little more willing to come out in favor of marriage equality, particularly since it's so obvious that such a position will only become more popular over time. But as Jonathan Bernstein tells us , that doesn't seem to be happening, at least when it comes to Democratic Senate candidates. "The web sites of the 10 Democratic candidates running as challengers or for open seats show that very few of these candidates are eager to jump on this particular bandwagon. Only two...

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