Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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,...

Fighting With or Without the President

(Flickr/IowaPolitics.com)
Eight years ago, following his Democratic primary defeat, Howard Dean and some of his supporters formed Democracy for America (DFA). Among them was Howard’s brother Jim Dean, who now serves as chair of the million-member activist group. The Prospect sat down with Jim Dean to discuss the left’s lack of leverage in Washington, Occupy’s lessons for activists, and why—with a presidential election looming—DFA has shifted its focus to the states. Some of the DFA’s most prominent Obama-era national campaigns—like the public-option push and the Employee Free Choice Act efforts—have been unsuccessful. Should progressives have taken a different approach? That’s tough. I don’t think Obama’s a horrible guy or anything. But there’s a great deal of frustration with him. It’s not about the “what,” because they’ve actually gotten a lot done—it’s the “how.” Everyone thought his election was a game changer, and Washington needed a cultural change. There’s a sense that it wasn’t his thing—that he was...

Olympia Snowe and Americans Elect

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
New York 's Jon Chait has speculated , with his characteristic perspicacity, that Olympia Snowe’s statement of non-candidacy for the Senate may have also been a statement of candidacy for the Americans Elect presidential slot . He further noted that the endorsement yesterday of Wall Street’s favorite third party by former Oklahoma Senator David Boren (D-Exxon Mobil) sets up a proper Americans Elect ticket, since the group stipulates that its ticket must be made up of one Democrat and one Republican (or two independents). Still, it seems to me that Americans Elect can only make a sizable impact on this year’s election if the Republican Party anoints the champion of Goyishe Sharia, Rick Santorum, as its nominee. A Santorum nomination would send a considerable number of Republicans in search of a more socially moderate Republican alternative, and Snowe most surely fits that bill. But in the more likely eventuality of a Mitt Romney nomination, the political space that an Americans Elect...

Ron Paul Kicks His Opponents in the Shins

Ron Paul, the itsy-bitsy candidate
There's a time-tested formula in advertising sometimes called "Get 'em sick, then get 'em well." You show viewers a terrible problem, getting them worried and uneasy ("Do you have eyelid fungus? Probably!"), then introduce the product that solves the problem ("Thanks to EyeFungAway, I'm fungus-free!"). It works for politicians too—or at least it can. This new ad from Ron Paul is a great example of getting 'em sick without quite having the product that gets 'em well: The music is intense, the visuals are fast and kinetic, and as everything swells to its climax, we await the warrior-hero who will run through these awful men with his broadsword and save us all ... and here comes a tiny 76-year-old man in a suit two sizes too big for his wee frame. Most of the ad's remaining shots barely bother to show him, though he's in there somewhere if you squint. The best part is when after all that intensity, Paul's chirpy little voice comes on at the end to tell you that he approved this message...

Soft Bigotry, Meet Low Expectations

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, greets supporters at his election watch party after winning the Michigan primary in Novi, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. T he only way Michigan could not have hurt Mitt Romney's bid for the GOP nomination was if he surpassed expectations and won big. An eight- or nine-point margin would have shown that Romney wasn't as weak as he looked; as with his win in Florida, in which the former Massachusetts governor won by 14.5 percentage points, it would have assured GOP leaders that despite weeks of bad news and worse performance, Romney can still turn himself around. Last night, Romney won Michigan with 41 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum’s 38 percent—a narrow win, but a larger margin of victory than polls had predicted. This was a godsend for the former Massachusetts governor. Thanks to the three-point margin, Romney will avoid what would have been a hellish week of terrible media...

Playing With Fire

When Michigan Democrat Crystal Larson voted today in Dearborn Heights, she told CNN it “felt like I made a deal with the devil.” The devil, in this case, is Rick Santorum, whose quest to upset Mitt Romney in his native state is getting a boost from Operation Hilarity, the Daily Kos effort to convince Democrats like Larson to throw a wrench into the GOP campaign. “Do you want this primary season to be over, or do you want this primary season to be hilarious?” asks a cheeky video at Kos, recommending a vote for the former Pennsylvania senator. With its open primaries, Michigan has a long tradition of crossover voting designed to trip up the other party—including yuk-fests that helped Democrat George Wallace win the state in 1972, and helped Republican John McCain temporarily slow George W. Bush’s momentum in 2000. In the latter primary, Democrats made up 17 percent of the vote. Today, the numbers aren’t expected to be so high—despite Santorum’s own robo-call urging Democrats to support...

GOP Leaders Desperate to Rip the Party in Two

(Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr)
(Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr) Mother Jones ’ Andy Kroll reports that top Republicans continue to “whisper” about a campaign to draft a new candidate into the presidential race should Mitt Romney falter in Michigan: On CNN Tuesday morning, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chair of the House homeland security committee, hinted at a whisper campaign among “top Republicans” who want a GOP favorite such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to enter the race if Romney loses the Michigan or Arizona primaries or struggles on Super Tuesday, when ten states controlling 437 delegates hold GOP primaries on March 6. “I think there’s going to be more of an interest, more of an emphasis on having someone ready if on Super Tuesday… Mitt Romney does not manage to break loose, and to have that candidate ready to come in,” King said. He added, “Again, I have no inside knowledge. Just whispering and mumbling here among top Republicans who are concerned that Governor Romney has not been...

Liberal Troublemakers in Michigan

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's newfound frontrunner status can primarily be attributed to the weakness of Mitt Romney's candidacy. The former frontrunner has bobbled away his advantage through unforced errors and an inability to convince Republican voters that he truly is one of them. Santorum was just in the lucky position of being the last plausible Romney alternative. Though most of the credit lies on Romney's shoulders, the shift in political rhetoric over the past month has helped Santorum. The resurgence of culture-war issues like birth control arrived at a prime moment for a candidate whose career has been predicated on appealing to the social values of the religious right. We’ll have a better sense on just how Republicans are responding once the results from the Michigan and Arizona primaries come in tonight. With Arizona an assured win for Mitt Romney, the attention is centered on the Wolverine State. A few weeks ago, Rick Santorum had opened a wide lead in Michigan; now Romney has clawed...

The GOP's White Men Problem

The GOP base (Flickr/BlueRobot)
You know the parable of the scorpion and the frog: The scorpion asks the frog to carry him across the river, and the frog says, "But what if you sting me?" The scorpion replies, "Why would I sting you? If I do that we'll both drown." Then midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. "Why?" the frog cries, as they begin to sink to their doom. "It's my nature," replies the scorpion. I keep thinking of this as in one election after another Republicans lash out at one large group of American voters after another in the hopes of holding on to the affections of the older white men who form the party's base. The people who run the party know that their continual efforts to stir up resentment, bitterness, and at times outright hatred at people who are not older white men do profound long-term damage to the party. But as a collectivity, the GOP just can't help itself. It's their nature. This is a topic Jonathan Chait takes up in an essay in New York magazine, in which he argues that...

Romney Just Don't Understand

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally at the Royal Oak Theater in Royal Oak, Mich., Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. Mitt Romney makes his final pitch to Michigan: “Sen. Santorum has shown himself to be an economic lightweight,” Romney said. “And I don’t think people want to nominate an economic lightweight to go up against the president, who also is an economic lightweight and has it made it hard for America to get working again.” This is a perfect summation of Mitt Romney’s problem in the Republican presidential primary. There’s no doubt that Romney has a better handle on economic issues than Rick Santorum, just as there was never any doubt that the former Massachusetts governor was more competent than his previous competitors. But Republican voters aren’t looking for a consultant-in-chief; they want someone who can communicate their values. On a good day, Romney can fake it well, and if this were a less...

Just Your Average Marriage

(Flickr/sushiesque)
The national media hasn't paid much attention to Iowa since Rick Santorum's caucus victory, but numbers released over the weekend tell an important story for national progressives. The Des Moines Register —the most respected state pollster during caucus season—asked Iowans about their feelings on same-sex marriage and found that a 56-percent majority are just fine with the state's current laws on same-sex unions and oppose any effort to amend the state's constitution. Only 38 percent would support an amendment to overturn the 2009 state Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the Hawkeye State. It was more of a wash when the Register asked whether Iowans personally opposed the court's decision. A slight plurality oppose it—36 percent opposed to 30 percent in favor. But 33 percent don't have particularly strong feelings about the issue and oppose efforts to change the law by a 3:1 margin. The numbers have largely remained steady since the last time the Register asked...

Santorum's Snobbery

With Michigan’s crucial Republican primary looming on Tuesday, Rick Santorum was doing his best George Wallace impression over the weekend, gunning for Tea Party votes by denouncing those “pointy-headed intellectuals” who always think they know better than real folk. “President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college,” Santorum said at an Americans for Prosperity rally. “What a snob!” The president has actually called for a substantial investment in worker training—not for everybody to attend a four-year university. But no matter: Santorum’s campaign is targeted at culturally fretful whites in industrial and Southern states—places where college often seems like a fine idea except that it turns people into liberals and atheists. “There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor,” Santorum said. “That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want...

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