Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

What's Next for Mitt?

(WEBN-TV/Flickr)
At The Washington Post , Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write a bit more about the planned advertising blitz by Republican Super PAC American Crossroads: The Crossroads ads, which began airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia and attack the incumbent for his handling of gas prices, are the first of what is expected to be an extended air assault on Obama by the conservative group. “We think it’s important to be a counterweight to President Obama’s bully pulpit and hold him accountable for the policy choices he’s made and the results he’s failed to deliver,” said Steven Law, the executive director of American Crossroads. “Obama is putting the full muscle of the White House into changing the subject from his track record to a new, bleak vision of America — and we aim to keep the focus of the debate where it belongs.” Like I said a few days ago, I’m not sure that these will have much effect; opinions on Obama are mostly set in stone, and a few million dollars in...

Mitt Romney: Catnip for the Jews

Hey Jews! You know you love me!
In every election season, each month or two will see some conservative discover that this is finally going to be the year when American Jews abandon the Democrats and flock to the GOP's presidential candidate. And it never happens. I've made this point before , but this column by Michael Medved has to be the most hilarious installment this reliable genre has ever seen. Why are Jews going to vote Republican this year? Because, Medved tells us, Jews love Mormons! Seriously. So even if Jews are overwhelmingly Democrats whose liberal ideals contradict pretty much everything Mitt Romney says he believes in, they'll surely cast that aside because of the strong personal connection they feel to members of his religion. After all, as Medved says, "Mormons and Jews frequently laugh together at our common use of the word 'gentiles' to describe the multitudes outside our minority religious communities." Oh, totally. If I had a dollar for every time I've thrown back my head and guffawed merrily...

Exit Right

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“Bye Bye Rick Santorum," Left in Alabama tweeted this afternoon. "Time to shake the Etch-a-Sketch.” But does Santorum’s exit from the GOP race really give Mitt Romney a chance to wiggle back toward the center? Not without a level of finesse that the presumptive nominee’s campaign has failed to show so far. The surprising staying power of the hardest-core conservative in the race made it tougher for Romney to take less-than-extreme positions on reproductive rights, immigration, or damn near anything else. And the base voters who backed Santorum must still be wooed and reassured. Romney has spent most of this campaign taking the "severest" stances possible to sooth these folks. Most remain unsoothed . How much room Romney has to maneuver also depends, to a lesser degree, on how Santorum decides to handle his loss to the man he declared was “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Obama.” Will he make nice and be a loyal soldier, endorsing Romney (whom he didn’t mention...

Obama Campaign Ready for General

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
The Obama campaign wasted no time trampling on Mitt Romney's apparent victory in the GOP primary Tuesday afternoon after Rick Santorum bowed out of the race . Campaign manager Jim Messina ripped into Romney for the barrage of negative ads he used throughout the primary campaign. “It’s no surprise that Mitt Romney finally was able to grind down his opponents under an avalanche of negative ads," Messina wrote in a press release. "But neither he nor his special interest allies will be able to buy the presidency with their negative attacks." As POLITICO noted this morning, squaring themselves to the reality that Republican super PAC funding is on pace to easily dwarf Democratic efforts, the Obama campaign has shifted its efforts to attacking the source of the conservative super PAC funds. The president's re-election team had already been treating the nomination contest as essentially over. Obama launched a blistering attack on Romney tying the presumed nominee to Paul Ryan's budget plan...

Rick Santorum Finally Calls It Quits

(AP Photo / Gene J. Puskar)
As far as challengers to a party establishment are concerned, Rick Santorum was unique. Unlike Ronald Reagan, Santorum didn’t lead an ideological faction. Unlike Gary Hart, he wasn’t the young and dynamic future of his party. He didn’t lead a marginalized wing of the party coalition, like Jesse Jackson did, and he wasn’t a media favorite, like John McCain was. Indeed, there’s a reason why every pundit, myself included, dismissed Santorum as a long shot in the race for the Republican nomination. As a candidate, Santorum combined doctrinaire conservative beliefs with a hostile, combative persona. He wasn’t just against gay rights or abortion; he thought they were destructive to the fabric of the country. It’s not that he opposed Barack Obama; it’s that he argued that the president would turn the country into a Marxist wasteland. But if Rick Santorum was completely unsuitable as a major party nominee, how exactly did he come from behind to stand as Mitt Romney’s most viable challenger?...

Paul Ryan Wants Democratic Friends

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Paul Ryan's budget has become a rallying cry for Democrats, and President Obama's re-election in particular. Republicans have long expressed an antipathy for the general concept of government services, but these were often expressed in the abstract or lone exceptions, with the party generally focusing on the starve-the-beast philosophy of reducing taxes so that government outlays would eventually have to be reduced. Ryan's budget gets that down on paper in crystallized form, codifying those ideas into a specific vision for the future that would gut all government services except health spending, Social Security, and an increased budget for defense, discarding the rest of discretionary spending. Earlier this morning, Ryan told a group of reporters in New York that his budget wasn't actually all that extreme because an anonymous selection of a dozen Democrats have told him they love his bill. From Buzzfeed: "There are a number of democrats but I don’t want to name their names, because I...

Romney to Santorum: You're a Loser

Screen cap from Romney ad.
Both political scientists and political professionals have known for some time that in presidential primaries, momentum matters a lot. Win, and you look like a winner; lose, and you look like a loser. This is manifested in multiple ways, from the tone of news coverage to the ease of fundraising. But seldom does one candidate attack another by saying, "My opponent lost an election, so he's a big loser." I've heard plenty of (mostly liberal) commentators note contemptuously that Rick Santorum lost his last Senate race by 17 points as a reason he ought not be elected president, which I never found particularly persuasive. What's far more important is why he lost by that margin, which is that he sold himself to Pennsylvania voters as a mainstream Republican with a populist streak but then became a venomous culture warrior once in office. But the Mitt Romney campaign has evidently decided it's going to play the loser card in Pennsylvania. What's notable about this ad is that there is no...

Romney Owns the War on Women

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
The latest poll from ABC News and The Washington Post provides another point in President Obama’s upward trend with voters. His approval rating has grown to 50 percent, and his likability—which you can read as an analogue for favorability—dwarfs Mitt Romney’s, 64 percent to 26 percent. The significance of this is still small, but in a head-to-head matchup with the former Massachusetts governor, Obama wins 51 percent to 44 percent. In the overall average, as tallied by Pollster , the president is still underwater—47.1 percent disapproval to 48 percent approval—but he’s still on the upswing. The big news out of this poll is that it provides further evidence that Republicans have deeply tarnished their brand with women by fighting a loud battle over contraception, defending conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh, and siding with GOP governors like Virginia’s Bob McDonnell as they pushed laws that forced invasive procedures on women. The damage is so strong, in fact, that it has...

What Does Romney Have To Hide?

(Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund)
The Democrats are putting all their emphasis on touting the Buffett Rule ahead of a Senate vote for next week to coincide with Tax Day. The push is ostensibly an effort to twist the arm of a few of the more moderate Republicans—say the two Maine Senators or running for reelection in Democratic territory Scott Brown—under the hope that they'll fear public backlash if they vote down the measure, a policy favored by over half of the country. However even if they peel off a few Republicans there is little hope that the bill would make any progress in the GOP-controlled House. Instead, as a conference call hosted by the Obama campaign Monday afternoon made clear, the push is an effort to focus attention on Mitt Romney's wealth as a viability as the Republican nomination contest begins to come to a conclusion. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin joined Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on the call. Messina used most of his time talking with the...

Today's Unnecessarily Violent Metaphor

Be veeewy quiet - Mitt Womney is about. (Flickr/theseanster93)
For a long time, the National Journal was known as the most staid and serious of Washington publications, chronicling the legislative and regulatory processes with reliable sobriety. Of late, however, they've been trying to liven things up. Which is all well and good, but really, is this kind of thing really necessary? I'm not squeamish or anything, and I know that political coverage is already full of martial metaphors (from "campaign" on down), but come on. "Kill shot"? What is Santorum, some kind of varmint whose brains will be spread across the Pennsylvania landscape?

When $1 Million Isn't Rich Enough

(Flickr/Fortune Live Media)
Democrats are doing everything they can to make the Buffett Rule as the predominant issue of the week before it is subjected to a Senate vote on Tax Day. The rule—named after Warren Buffett's frequent refrain that his secretary pays a higher effective tax rate than the multi-billionaire investor—would force multimillionaires to give up some of their tax breaks until they pay at least a minimum rate of 30 percent. Obama is headed to Florida tomorrow to promote the bill, while his campaign is highlighting the rule as a campaign issue in contrast to Mitt Romney's tax disclosures he released earlier this year, which revealed that the probable Republican candidate paid taxes of just 13.9 percent on his $21.7 million in income in 2010. I'm sure many of us at the Prospect will have more to say about the bill over the course of the next week, but one minor detail in the New York Times write up of the push is worth highlighting : The Senate legislation would establish a minimum 30 percent tax...

Don't Worry about the Super PACs

(401K/Flickr)
Writing for the New York Times , Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg report that American Crossroads—the largest of the Republican super PACs—will soon begin its advertising blitz against President Obama: With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month. But they said they would focus the bulk of the first phase from May through July, which they believe is a critical period for making an impression on voters, before summer vacations and the party conventions take place. Steven J. Law, the group’s leader, said the ads would address the challenge of unseating a president who polls show is viewed favorably even though many people disapprove of his handling of the economy. Basically, Mr. Law said, “how to dislodge voters from him.” Independent of a declining economy, or any other disaster, I have my doubts about whether this would be effective. President Obama is already well-defined in the...

Bait and Convert

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
The 2012 Republican primaries were without question the most religious party contest in memory. Nearly all the major candidates put their religious beliefs at or near the center of their public personas, from the puritanical scold Rick Santorum, to the prayer warrior Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, producer of books and movies on the importance of God in American politics. As for the Almighty himself, He apparently told no fewer than three separate candidates (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Santorum) that they should run. Awfully sneaky of Him not to tell them they were going to lose, but who has time to consult the fine print when you're hearing messages from above? Yet in the end, the candidate who prevailed was the one least interested in talking about his religion. That's not because Mitt Romney isn't devout, but because he's all too aware that his Mormonism presents some political complications. Many evangelicals consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) a...

Sorry Republicans, Mitt Romney Is Just as Weak as He Looks

(NewsHour/Flickr)
Yesterday, at The Washington Post , Ezra Klein argued that Mitt Romney is a much stronger general election candidate than he might look at first glance. As Klein points out, there’s no way that a moderate governor of Massachusetts wins the nomination in a red-blooded GOP without some political skill. Moreover, Romney’s big weakness in the primary—his record for centrism—could become an asset in the fall; it gives him a place from which he can appeal to moderate and independent voters. And above all else, Klein notes, is the fact that external factors—the economy, or foreign policy—could take their toll on Obama and elevate Romney to the White House. On each count, I’m skeptical. For starters, I’m not sure that Romney won the nomination as much as it is that Republicans resigned themselves to Romney’s candidacy, and organized around him once it became clear that there were no other alternatives. As it stands, Romney took real damage from Rick Santorum, a failed former senator who ran a...

Romney Tries to Master His Problem With Women

(Flickr/Shannon Hurst Lane)
A minor kerfuffle emerged among the political chattering class yesterday over RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' statement that the allegations that his party is waging a war on women were as fictitious as a war on caterpillars. Democrats blasted out press releases, falsely indicating that Priebus had equated women's issues with insect issues, misconstruing an awkward metaphor. Yet the substance of what Priebus claimed was objectionable. The GOP's war on women didn't just spring from liberals' imaginations. It developed when the party decided to turn reproductive rights into a contentious issue, proposing bills in Congress that would have allowed any employer to refrain from providing women with birth control, Mitt Romney declaring his intention to ruin Planned Parenthood, and the tepid response to Rush Limbaugh's offensive descriptions of Sandra Fluke. That disdain for women has been born out in polls; Romney, for example, now trails Obama by 18 percent among women. I might be reading too...

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