Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

A Grand Unified Theory of Romney

Flickr/DonkeyHotey
In advance of Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gave a tepid endorsement to Mitt Romney, worrying that "Romney's finger-to-the-wind tacking across the political sea leaves us to wonder if he is anchored anywhere," but also citing his "moderate inclinations" and saying, "it's those moderate impulses that make Romney the best candidate. His challengers don't share the same sense of pragmatism or were woefully shortchanged on the temperament gene." But here's the question: What, exactly, is the evidence that Mitt Romney has moderate inclinations? Here's what we actually know. When Romney ran for Senate and then governor, he was a fairly liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay Republican—in other words, the only kind of Republican who would have had a chance to win in Massachusetts. Then when he ran for president, he became a fire-breathing conservative—the only kind of Republican with a chance to win his party's nomination. The only way you can conclude that he's a...

The Prodigal Son Returns

AP Photo
Barack Obama’s visit to Burlington today was a welcome surprise for Vermonters, who haven’t hosted a president since 1995. There’s a political reason for the visit: If there’s a state for liberals to call home, it’s Vermont. So why did Obama take a pit stop in the Green Mountain State instead of scavenging for swing votes? It comes down to money. Tickets for the luncheon Obama spoke at today started at $7,500 , and about 100 supporters showed up. Around 5,000 supporters paid $40-100 to attend a rally at the University of Vermont campus, enthusiastically chanting, “Four more years!” Tonight, Obama will speak to about 130 supporters at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, a state in which he is currently leading in the polls 58-35. Tickets for that event start at $5,000 a head. Today’s excited fans, which translate into plentiful donations, have a hopey-changey glow circa 2008 about them, but the fact that Obama needed to go to Vermont and Maine to find them is a reminder that this isn'...

Paul Ryan's "Smoke and Mirrors"

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Paul Ryan, the supposed champion of fiscal restraint among right-wing Republicans, has put his colleagues in an awkward bind. His budget includes a host of unpopular provisions, and if implemented, would eviscerate almost every part of the government except defense, health care, and Social Security by 2050 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yesterday, all but 10 House Republicans entered their name in the congressional record as supporters of the bill, providing Democrats with ample material for negative campaigning this fall. Ryan's proposal shows a reckless disregard for the country's less fortunate. Any social safety net for non-senior citizens would disappear, and while the plan would largely maintain Medicare for current retirees, the move to premium support would rob future generations of needed health care coverage, all to achieve lower taxes It might seem like Ryan has never run across a federal program he would like to destroy, but he debunked that...

Senate Dems in Trouble?

(Flickr/jacqueline.poggi)
Presidential elections tend to suck up all the air in an election season, and the (probable) Romney-Obama race is already the dominant plotline seven months away from Election Day. But as the tribulations of Obama's first three years and office made evident, the fate of Congressional races often dictate the direction of policy. Republicans' gains in the 2010 midterms paired with a year of redistricting has likely entrenched their House majority for at least another term. And Democrats entered the year with an uphill battle in the Senate. The party must defend 23 seats compared to just 10 for Republicans. Emory University political scientist and all-around smart dude Alan Abramowitz is out with a model predicting the upcoming Congressional elections that offers grim news for Democrats. Abramowitz predicts that Democrats will gain only a few seats in the House—two or three he says—but are on track to possibly lose the Senate majority. Abramowitz's model has Republicans with an "expected...

Paul Ryan Endorses Mitt Romney

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Now that Mitt Romney has effectively won the Republican presidential nomination, major figures within the party have come out to endorse him and push the other candidates out of the race. Romney’s latest endorsement comes from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who—on Fox and Friends this morning—warned that the GOP primary could become “counterproductive” if it doesn’t end soon: “We need to coalesce as conservatives” around a nominee, Ryan said. “The longer we drag it out the harder it is to win in November. … I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the skills, the tenacity, the principles and the courage to put America back on track." Even given the degree to which Ryan has convinced “official” Washington that he’s a wholesome defender of fiscal sustainability, I’m positive that Romney will walk away from this endorsement with his moderate reputation intact. But he shouldn’t. Two things lie behind Ryan’s endorsement. The first, as you can see above, is political expediency. The second,...

Waiting for the Real Romney

Flickr/DonkeyHotey
Apparently, Mitt Romney's supporters are concerned that the real Mitt isn't coming through, and some of them are practically begging him to show us the true heart beating beneath the finely tailored suits and presidential hair: YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The voters were pleading with Mitt Romney to share personal details of his life. They stood at town-hall-style meetings and chatted before rallies, clamoring for a story or an anecdote that would help them connect with the real Mitt Romney. "I wish that you would speak more to a lot of the things that I think you should speak about — the fact that you were pastor at your church, the fact that you were a missionary, the fact that you do speak about helping with the Olympics," Mary Toepfer, 40, of Warren, Ohio, said at a recent event. Without these kinds of stories, she added, "it's hard for us, who are trying to support you, to address them when trying to explain to them why you would be the better candidate." I feel bad for them, and I...

Goodbye To All That?

(Flickr / akosikenet)
The GOP primary has been as long as a Wagner opera, but we might finally be at the curtain call. We’ve heard for ages that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee, but the other candidates and the party’s base have doggedly challenged this from the start. But this week, Romney collected some of the final puzzle pieces that he needs to quash his remaining opponents. He won a long-awaited endorsement from Florida Senator and Republican darling Marco Rubio yesterday, a move the potential vice-presidential candidate said he wouldn’t make until the race was over . Gingrich downsized his cash-strapped campaign this week, and Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson have both said that the former speaker has no chance of winning. The last six Ron Paul groupies have run out of money and are heading home. Santorum’s campaign infrastructure is incredibly small , and he's being outspent by Romney in every state. The Republican National Committee has already started prepping for the general...

A Good Old-Fashioned Campaign

Don't you people get it? (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In 2008, Barack Obama ran what was in some ways a revolutionary campaign. He took advantage of the possibilities of social media more than any candidate before him, allowing supporters to connect with each other without (too much) involvement or guidance from the campaign itself. They could design their own signs, set up their own meetings, figure out how to connect with the people they knew on their own. As a result, Obama volunteers felt a sense of ownership over the campaign in a way volunteers seldom do, leading them to work all the harder. But as far as I remember, Obama didn't go around saying, "This campaign is revolutionary" all that often. He may have talked about the campaign in lofty, poetic terms as something unique, but he didn't spend too much time talking about how special the campaign was specifically as an organizational effort. In fact, when a candidate starts saying how unique his campaign is, it's usually because he's failing at the traditional measures by which...

Get Ready for Iowa 2016

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
I'm of the same mindset as Salon 's Alex Pareene: it's far, far too early to begin 2016 speculation. Political prognosticating is a dangerous game; it's hard to know what lies on the horizon several months from now, let alone several years. A few years ago a star governor of South Carolina seemed like a probable Republican candidate until he took a few too many hikes on the Appalachian trail. Or six years back, when the junior Illinois senator seemed like a far more likely Democratic candidate in 2012 or even 2016. Hell, we don't even know if the Republicans will have a competitive primary in 2016 or if Mitt Romney will gather the forces for a reelection bid. I'm not sure every politician shares my wariness of long-term political forecasts. I received a pair of emails in my inbox yesterday afternoon alerting me of scheduled appearances by two hotshot Republicans in that harbinger of presidential campaigns, the Hawkeye State. Senator Rand Paul will headline the Iowa Faith and Freedom...

In Fact, Obama is Stronger Than He Looks

(White House/Flickr)
Lately, whenever I note a poll showing good results for President Barack Obama, I feel compelled to include a note about the reliability of polls this far out from the election—they're not particularly reliable—and the fact that other presidents who have been polling well have nonetheless gone down in defeat come November. The most salient example for this is President George H.W. Bush, who rode high in public opinion after the Gulf War, but was brought down by a rapidly deteriorating economy. It has never been hard to imagine a similar trajectory for Obama; the post-Osama bump, followed by a prolonged slide. On the other side of things, and to make another analogy to the 1992 election, Mitt Romney isn’t the only presidential candidate to finish a divisive primary with high unfavorability ratings, nor is he the only one to inspire distrust among his base. Bill Clinton faced a similar scenario, and he went on to defeat the first President Bush in the fall. Both sets of facts are...

Obama Rallies the Planned Parenthood Troops

(Photo: screenshot from Planned Parenthood video)
Republicans haven't been quite as eager to moralize against contraception after Rush Limbaugh gave voice to their true feelings, but Democrats aren't ready to let their argument that the GOP is waging a war on women slip by the wayside. Mitt Romney, a candidate who rarely seems comfortable when the discussion strays from the economy, is hoping that the issue will become a non-factor once he officially dismisses Rick Santorum and heads to the general election. Barack Obama clearly has a different view. The president issued a new subtle attack yesterday in a video where he directly addresses supporters of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "For you and for most Americans protecting women's health is a mission that stands above politics," Obama says in the two-minute video. "And yet over the past year you've had to stand up to politicians who want to deny millions of women the care they rely on, and inject themselves into decisions that are best made between a woman and her doctor." The...

Superfan Snoozefest

(Flickr / sethdickens)
Joe McCutchen isn’t your average Mitt Romney supporter. When it comes to the Republican front-runner, the seventy-two-year-old former carpet mill owner “is just so fired up, [he] can’t even sleep at night,” and makes sure to wear a campaign sticker on his lapel every day. McCutchen is what The Washington Post called one of the “sasquatches of American politics: rumored, hoped-for, so elusive that they can seem imaginary … Mitt Romney’s superfans”—of which only 346 have been found in the wild. Most Romney supporters are a bit more tepid. According to a Gallup poll from March 8-11, only 35 percent of Republicans would vote enthusiastically for Romney. The halfhearted approval for the former Massachusetts governor continues as you move up the echelons of the party—the candidate has only won the endorsement of 91 GOP members of Congress so far. As a result, primary turnout has lagged, a trend that some Republicans fear will translate to the general election. But things aren’t looking too...

Republican Grassroots Trust Establishment Over Themselves

(Flickr/BlueRobot)
Reporters and Republicans alike have finally come to their senses and begun to treat Mitt Romney as the presumptive nominee. Republican officials such as Jeb Bush and Kevin McCarthy have recently endorsed Romney, and a Rick Santorum victory in a southern state (Lousiana this past weekend for those keeping track) no longer sets off a round of speculation on whether Romney might be derailed. Thankfully that shift has also largely put an end to talk of a brokered Republican convention. I've written in the past that even if Romney fails to secure the required 1,144 delegates, the party wouldn't have been inclined to overturn the popular vote, and the ranks of possible saviors are thinning as Bush and others throw their lot behind Romney. A CNN poll this week found that a majority of Republican voters have also tuned out Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum's fantasy of a brokered convention. But it was only a slight 53 percent majority. A whopping 43 percent said they would prefer to have the...

Voters Pre-Disappointed In Mitt Romney

I'm not so bad, am I? (Flickr/davelawrence8)
As Jamelle noted , a new Washington Post /ABC News poll reinforces what other polls have shown, that folks haven't really taken a cotton to Mitt Romney. Most worrying for him is that only 35 percent of independent voters view him favorably. The good news for him is that voters, having already been disappointed with him, won't go through that inevitable period of a presidency in which your unreasonably high hopes are dashed and you turn against the president. The creation of those unreasonable hopes requires two things: an inspiring individual and an inspiring story. Sometimes "change" is enough of an inspiring story, but without the inspiring individual, change doesn't sound poetic and glorious. And all along, Romney has presented himself primarily as an effective manager, which might be what you need, but it won't make your heart go all aflutter. Nevertheless, the Post has also managed to find a few people who are nuts for the Mittster: These are the sasquatches of American politics...

The Best Signs from Yesterday's Tea Party Rally

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
Tea Partiers descended on the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to voice their disapproval of Obamacare as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require citizens to purchase health insurance or else face a nominal fee once the bill has been fully implemented in 2014. Initially a conservative solution—originating at Bush's favorite think tank The Heritage Foundation—the mandate has come to symbolize conservative distaste with the bill that will expand coverage to millions of currently uninsured Americans. The rally on a lawn north of the Capitol was hosted by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers' political arm that has funded many of the Tea Party's major gatherings. AFP president Tim Phillips kicked off the proceedings, leading the crowd in chants of "repeal the bill." A sea of over a thousand Tea Partiers—largely middle-aged or elderly, and almost all white—in red "Hands Off Health Care" t-shirts were in attendance from across the...

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