Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Mitt Romney Is Not An Unusually Negative Candidate

This kid knows negative campaigning. (Flickr/mdanys)
Is Mitt Romney an unusually negative candidate? The New York Times tries to make the case : As successful as the strategy has been, though, it has raised questions about Mr. Romney's role in turning the primary process into something akin to a civil war, even as it has demonstrated a ferocious, whatever-it-takes style that could hearten Republicans if Mr. Romney ends up in a general election matchup against Mr. Obama. "It's clear the negative ads are what's keeping this guy alive," said Nelson Warfield, a Republican strategist who worked for Mr. Perry. "It seems like Republican primary voters will not vote for Mitt Romney unless they are forced into it. And the way they're forced into it is when he beats the other guy senseless." Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney has also been on the receiving end of attacks from his Republican rivals as well as Democrats. But his aggressive style has been apparent since his first days in politics. For all that he can appear stiff and scripted at...

In Ohio, the Underlying Facts Look Great for Santorum

(jcburns/Flickr)
The first post-Michigan poll of Ohio Republicans is out, and Mitt Romney has closed the gap. According to Quinnipiac University, Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely primary voters to Romney, who takes 31 percent. Because of the poll’s margin of error, ±4.3 percentage points, Quinnipiac presents this as too close to call. But the survey shows native advantages for Santorum that could propel him to victory, as long as he avoids another weekend of national controversy. Santorum leads Romney 36–27 among voters without a college degree, as well as voters with an annual income below $100,000. As Quinnipiac notes, “he leads Romney 34–28 percent among men and 37–33 percent among women, 40–27 percent among self-described conservatives and 42–25 percent among Tea Party members. Romney leads Santorum 46–26 percent among self-described moderates.” This wouldn’t matter much if these voters were a small percentage of the electorate, but if the 2008 Republican primary is any indication, these are...

Mittgoguery

The longer he must battle Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination, the less time Mitt Romney will have to edge back toward the political mainstream for the general election. Romney continues to make that repositioning unnecessarily tricky by going farther—much farther—to the right than necessary, apparently in a desperate attempt to persuade the hardcore right that he really is “severely conservative.” That effort is now luring Romney into the land of straight-up demagoguery. For a month now, he’s been perpetuating the fallacy that the Obama birth-control mandate is an assault on “religious liberty” and First Amendment rights. Yesterday in Fargo, North Dakota, he laid a whole 'nother whopper on top of that: Asked how he would protect Second Amendment rights, Romney endorsed the conspiracy theory that Obama is itching to come after everybody’s guns in his second term. If the president will “violate the conscience of the church” on contraception, Romney said, his next move is sure...

GOP Senators Opt to Support Another Piece of Unpopular Legislation

(Talk Radio News Service/Flickr)
Despite the defection of Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Ben Nelson, Senate Democrats (with the aid of Olympia Snowe) were able to block a Republican-sponsored measure that would give employers the right to reject any health care coverage for any reason. Sahil Kapur gives a rundown of the fight at Talking Points Memo : The close Senate vote reflects a strong GOP effort to contain the political consequences of pushing the controversial amendment before the public had a chance to weigh in. After a concerted whip effort, only one Republican — Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) — defected. All other waffling GOPers, including Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), and Dean Heller (NV) fell into line. Indeed more Democrats (three in total) crossed the aisle to vote for the Blunt amendment than vice versa. But there’s a good reason Dem leaders pushed anyway: on issues like contraception, they’re confident they’ll win the broader battle for public perception. I remain amazed by Mitch McConnell’s ability to...

Blunt Amendment Fails in the Senate

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)
For a brief moment yesterday it looked as though some GOP senators were ready to step back from the ledge, and reject their party's assault on women's rights. A handful of Republican senators were hesitant to endorse the controversial Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer—both secular and religious—to reject covering individual aspects of health insurance they find morally questionable, not just contraception. Even Mitt Romney expressed opposition to the bill when an Ohio reporter explained the implications before his campaign quickly realized they had defied party doctrine, and issued a clarification, which reversed Romney's earlier statement. Any qualms with the legislation evaporated when it was put to a vote this morning. The measure failed 51-48, but Republicans voted with their usual lockstep discipline. Soon retiring Senator Olympia Snowe was the lone Republican opposing the measure and three Democrats—Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, and Bob Casey—crossed the aisles to join...

Why Ohio Matters for Mitt Romney

This week, Michigan was the “must win” state for Mitt Romney. Next week—according to the world of punditry— it’s Ohio , where Romney has to win over a similar electorate—downscale, blue-collar workers—without the help of name recognition or family ties. There, his tendency to remind voters of his massive wealth ( in the worst way possible ), could prove fatal. But what would actually happen if Romney lost Ohio? He wouldn’t lose the nomination; even with the setbacks of the last month, the fact remains that Romney is advantaged by overwhelming resources and the support of GOP leaders. Moreover, he’s up against an opponent—Rick Santorum—whose popularity with the base of the Republican Party hasn’t been enough to make up for his lack of cash and poor public performances. It’s much easier to beat a candidate who can’t help but disparage college, rail against birth control, and attack the religious beliefs of millions of Americans. The most obvious consequence of a loss in Ohio is that the...

Mitt's Instincts Lead Him Astray, Again

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Yesterday, Mitt Romney demonstrated once again why he has such trouble with his party's base. The issue was a bill in Congress sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt, which would allow any employer who has any objection to any medication, procedure, or treatment—not just objections to ladies doing dirty things with their ladyparts, which is where this all started—to deny their employees insurance coverage for it. Let's say your boss thinks people with diabetes are fatties who deserve to get their feet amputated—no diabetes coverage! Or your boss is one of the nincompoops who thinks immunizations give kids autism—no coverage for immunizations! Obviously, it's a truly awful idea, and when Romney was asked about it by an Ohio television host, he said , "I'm not for the bill. But, look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I'm not going there." What happened next was predictable:...

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Despite his phobia of higher education, Rick Santorum showed on Tuesday night that he is capable of learning. But the lightbulb in his head may have clicked on a little too late. Conceding his narrow defeat in Michigan, Santorum set aside the culture-war logorrhea that likely cost him a narrative-changing win over Mitt Romney, wore a beaming smile that proclaimed “Hey, I’m no angry prophet of doom!” and began the proceedings with a warm tribute to the “independent women” in his life—a far cry from Satanic warnings and dire concerns about women serving in combat and using birth control. “My 93-year-old mom,” Santorum said, was an “unusual person for her time.” She got a college education in the '30s, you see, and then a graduate degree. Heck, “She was a professional who actually made more money than her husband.” (Wait—he’s proud of this?) And there was more: He didn’t call Romney a “joke” or a “bully” as he had done in the frantic final days before the Michigan and Arizona primary...

Santorum Beats Dan Savage

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum came up short in Michigan on Tuesday night, but it was of no matter. After months of turmoil he'd achieved a primary goal of his presidential campaign: his Google problem. That's right. When normal, God-loving Americans direct their web browsers to Google and type in the former Pennsylvania senator's last name they are no longer greeted by spreadingsantorum.com as the first result. Created by sex columnist Dan Savage in response to Santorum's comparison of homosexual relationships to man-on-dog sex, the Web site coined a sexual neologism, redefining Santorum's last name as " The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex." Thanks to enthusiastic fans, the simple webpage sat atop the Google rankings for years, bedeviling the politician at every turn. "Savage and his perverted sense of humor is the reason why my children cannot Google their father's name," Santorum wrote in a letter last year, and his eldest daughter Elizabeth told...

Are Republicans Backing Away from the Contraception Fight?

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)
Senate Democrats think they have Republicans backed into a corner. In response to the hullabaloo around the Obama administration's decision on covering contraception in health-care plans, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has offered an amendment to allow any employer—not just religiously affiliated organizations—to refuse to cover any health-care service—not just contraception—based on "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The battle over reproductive rights has already allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as antagonistic to women and, needless to say, Senate Dems are gleefully forcing a vote on the measure tomorrow to get their opponents' extremist take on the record. The Washington Post 's Greg Sargent checked in with a few Republican senators and found that some are hesitant to endorse the amendment ahead of tomorrow's vote: A spokesman for Senator Susan Collins confirms to me she’s still undecided — with less than 24 hours until tomorrow’s vote. On MSBNC just now, Senator Olympia...

Anti-Romney, with a Side of Grits

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The implications of Mitt Romney's Michigan win are still being parsed, but the calendar leaves little time for the campaigns to rest. Super Tuesday is in less than a week, and a total of 437 delegates in 10 states is at stake. The media have coalesced around the idea that Ohio is the only race that matters. The candidates have followed their lead—this morning Romney was campaigning in Toledo, and Rick Santorum called in to a Dayton radio station. To a certain degree, the focus on Ohio is understandable. It's a general-election swing state, and polls indicate it's also teetering between Santorum and Romney ahead of Super Tuesday. The primary results in other states are more easily predicted: Newt Gingrich should carry his home state of Georgia, Santorum should fare well in the other Southern states, Romney will clean up in the Northeast and Virginia, and everyone will ignore the few delegates up for grabs in the caucus states out West. I'm far more interested to see how things play out...

Santorum Finds Fertile Ground in Tennessee

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
According to the most recent survey by Middle Tennessee State University, Rick Santorum is leading the pack among Republican voters in the Volunteer State. 40 percent of voters say that they favor the former Pennsylvania senator, compared to the 19 percent who prefer Romney. Another 13 percent back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while Ron Paul takes 11 percent. Because Tennessee’s 58 delegates are handed out proportionally , however, Santorum will have to win big in order to close his 80-delegate gap with Romney. Of course, as we saw with Santorum’s lead in Michigan, this advantage could disappear within the next week if Romney decides to contest the election with a barrage of negative advertisements. As it stands, however, the focus is on Ohio—by and large, the political world has determined that the Buckeye State is make-or-break for the former Massachusetts governor. Like Romney and his win in Arizona last night, Tennessee will matter a lot if Santorum wins Ohio, and recede to...

May the Best Candidate Win?

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
The Nate Silvering of election analysis—the endless and addictive parsing of exit polls and demographics and historical precedents and outliers and predictive models and Intrade odds—has made campaigns increasingly look, to politicos at least, more like science than art. But there is one “predictive model” that matters more than any other—and it’s entirely the province of unmeasurable, flesh-and-blood, gloriously subjective intangibles. It’s also refreshingly simple: In general elections, the best campaigner wins. Think about it: When was the last time the superior campaigner of either party lost the presidency? Barack Obama out-talked, out-charmed, and out-disciplined John McCain by a country mile in 2008. George W. Bush, despite his oratorical handicaps, communicated more warmly and stayed on message more relentlessly (and repetitiously) than Al Gore or John Kerry. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were, of course, masterful on campaign stumps and television screens alike. George H.W...

The Single Worst Thing That Could Happen to Liberalism

(Jonas Tana/Flickr)
Greg Sargent outlines one “nightmare” scenario should Republicans win the White House and take the Senate: If Republicans regain the Senate, will they seek to reform the filibuster, sweeping away an obstacle that bedeviled Dems and making it far easier for them to enact their own agenda with a simple Senate majority? […] “Here is a once in a lifetime chance to implement real revolutionary change, and once we do it it will be years before it can be undone by a Democratic president,” [Norm] Ornstein says, characterizing likely GOP thinking. “If you believe that Americans will love deregulation and budget cuts once they get them, you’re going to take the big long term hit to get the short term gain.” There’s no question that Republicans would use a narrow Senate majority to end the filibuster in the event of a Republican presidency; the current GOP has never had much use for rules or norms that don’t advance their priorities. The filibuster was perfect for blocking Obama and obstructing...

It's All About Newt

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista, speaks at Peachtree Academy, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Covington, Ga. F or all the Sturm und Drang of the last few weeks, Mitt Romney will begin March in the same way that he began February—as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Rick Santorum is at his heels as the latest avatar of the conservative movement, Ron Paul is the libertarian gadfly of the race, and Newt Gingrich has receded to the background as a virtual non-factor. Except that he isn’t. Unlike Paul, who pulls from the younger ranks of GOP voters, Gingrich draws his remaining strength from the same Tea Party voters who delivered a strong showing for Santorum in Michigan and might give him a win in Ohio next week. The exit polls suggest as much. Gingrich fared best among groups Santorum won: voters who never attended college, union members, households with union members,...

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