Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Javelin Takes Down a Saint

(Flickr/NewsHour)
Secret Service names, while irrelevant for the actual election, are always a good source for a little amusement. In 2007 Barack Obama was designated the "Renegade" as he sought to takedown "Evergreen"—the name given to Hillary Clinton back when she was first lady. Gerald Ford's "Pass Key" seemed to presage his early departure from the White House. George H.W. Bush's "Timberwolf" seems a little rough and tumble for the demure president. Personally I'm preferential to the evocative "Rawhide" that Reagan went by. Now that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are being guarded by our nation's finest they've picked up new monikers for themselves. GQ nabbed the exclusive reveal last night. Romney will go by the handle "Javelin," one presumably directed to fell the incumbent president. For the few remaining months Santorum is in the race he'll be labeled "Petrus." The first results from Googling indicate that Petrus is Gordon Ramsey restaurant or a wine of the Bordeaux variety, but Santorum would...

Romney Gets Abstract On the Economy

President Obama in a Chevy Volt (official White House photo by Pete Souza)
For a long time, commentators noted that Barack Obama was going to have a hard time persuading the public with his argument about the economy, since it would come down to, "It could have been worse." Saying that unemployment may still be over 8 percent, and it peaked at 10 percent in October of 2009, but if it hadn't been for the stimulus we passed things would have been much, much worse, isn't going to be a consolation if you're unemployed. The fact that most economists say that the stimulus did in fact have a substantial positive effect on the economy doesn't really matter when it comes to getting people to vote for your re-election. When times are bad, "It could have been worse" is small comfort. That was the story up until recently. But the last few months have shown strong job growth, and most everyone is expecting that the economy will continue its upward trajectory. And guess what that has done to Mitt Romney: made him argue the mirror image of what everyone said Obama couldn't...

A Remarkable Work of Staggering Dishonesty

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
As Greg Sargent , Steve Benen , and others have amply demonstrated, Mitt Romney has a problem with the truth. Throughout his campaign, he has openly lied about his previous positions, his beliefs, and the records of his opponents, Republican or otherwise. In a speech today on economic freedom at the University of Chicago, Romney continued the trend, building a mostly substanceless case against President Obama on the basis of half-truths and falsehoods. You can read the whole speech if you’d like. For now, I’d like to highlight a few passages that sum up Romney’s case against Obama in fact-free aplomb. First, there’s this: For three years, President Obama has expanded government instead of empowering the American people. He’s put us deeper in debt. He’s slowed the recovery and harmed our economy. There are a few things missing from this account. First is the fact that the Great Recession began in 2008 and was already on its way to reach its nadir by the time Obama took office. By the...

Election 2012, the Movie

(Photo courtesy of the Daily Show/Comedy Central)
It was back during Pat Buchanan's bumptious 1996 primary campaign that my better half glanced up from CNN with a bemused look on her face. "You know what this is about?" she asked. "Little boys in this country used to dream about growing up to run for president. Now they just run for president." Right she was, and maturity hasn't exactly been on the political upswing since then. That's why one way to get a handle on the 2012 race is by figuring out which movies the candidates' fantasy lives are goading them to privately star in, from Newt Gingrich—the first six-year-old with a super PAC—to long-vamoosed riot grrl Michele Bachmann (c'mon, can't you already picture her watching The Hunger Games with tears in those unnerving baby blues of hers?). The guesses below are provisional and also confined to those still in the running, so feel free to chime in with your own picks for everybody's inner Cinemascope epic. Movie Ron Paul Thinks He's Starring In: The Old Man and the Sea. He is a very...

Obama Doesn't Have a Small-Donor Problem

(Flickr/401K)
Mitt Romney's struggle to attract small-dollar donors has been well documented . Just 10 percent of his money has come from donations of less than $200, while the vast majority of his money has come from nearly maxed-out contributions. Even though Newt Gingrich lags by a wide margin in overall funding, he's managed to gather more money from small donors, $8.8 million to Romney's $6.4 million. The fundraising gap is large enough thanks to wealthy donors that Romney should be fine for the remaining primaries, but it could spell trouble for the general election. Romney has a smaller base of donors to turn to for further contributions, and the tepid rate of small checks is an indication that Romney has failed to trigger much excitement among regular voters. Now that's being flipped by The Washington Post , which ran an article speculating that Obama is in trouble by relying too much on small-figure donors: But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing...

Base Problems

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller looks at the Obama campaign’s attempt to bring health-care reform into the spotlight for the first time since the “shellacking” Democrats received in the 2010 midterm elections: The new case, though, is less factual, and more emotional. It emerged first in the 17-minute “documentary” the campaign released last week, narrated by Tom Hanks. […] The campaign also commissioned a pair of “Face of Change” videos portraying ordinary Americans helped by the reform bill. One includes a North Carolina mother, Rebecca Freiert, retelling the story of having to reduce her infant son’s insurance coverage in the face of a $100 premium hike, which the Affordable Care Act reversed. Miller correctly notes that this is partly out of necessity and partly a response to opportunity. By virtue of taking the case, the Supreme Court has placed the Affordable Care Act in the public eye and forced the administration to defend it in a big way. What’s more, the recent fight over...

Don't Believe the Hype

(Flickr/NS Newsflash)
It wasn't much of a surprise that Mitt Romney waltzed to victory in the Puerto Rico caucus yesterday. Rick Santorum had campaigned minimally in the territory and tried his best to offend the region's majority Spanish speaking population while he was there, whereas Romney had the backing of the island's major political figures, including popular governor and potential rising GOP star Luis Fortuno. But in many ways, it still represents a big win. Romney won 88 percent of the vote, shutting out Rick Santorum from collecting any new delegates. The estimated 22 delegates Romney collected in Puerto Rico are three more than Santorum won in Alabama and 13 more than he reaped in Mississippi. Yet scan the newspapers this morning, and you'll find scant coverage of the caucus. Unlike the states Santorum won last week, Romney's dominating victory hasn't triggered a series of articles questioning whether the state of the race has been overturned. Instead, you get thoughts like Jeff Zeleny's in the...

SuperObama

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Aside from the fans who still faint at his events, the thrill is long gone for most of those who were enraptured by Barack Obama in 2008. The Road We’ve Traveled , the Obama campaign video released last night, is a glossy, high-production effort to rekindle the flame. The story it weaves is inspiring. Things were wretched in January 2009, we’re reminded: the economy in freefall, health care costs skyrocketing, auto companies nearly bankrupt, Osama Bin Laden on the loose. And Obama, intrepidly sacrificing political expediency at every turn, made one “tough call” after another and saved the day. The message for disillusioned progressives couldn’t be clearer: See? He really has kicked ass! The problem is that this portrait of a resolute, take-charge, damn-the-critics president doesn’t jibe with Obama’s image. Or with reality. He’s had genuine successes. He has virtues that have served him, and us, well. But he is not the sort of presidential superhero, or Oval Office Braveheart, that The...

Pennsylvania Shouldn't Have Any Senators

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Earlier this week Rick Santorum decided he didn't want to win Puerto Rico's upcoming GOP primary. "They'd have to speak English, that would be a requirement." Santorum said as a stipulation for Puerto Rico attaining statehood. "That's a requirement we put on other states. It's a condition for entering the union." Santorum walked the comment halfway back Thursday, but continued to insist on the supremacy of English in state law. "English should be taught here, and everyone should speak English here," he said . Santorum recognizes that he is going to likely lose Puerto Rico—the popular governor of the island has endorsed Mitt Romney—so he's trading in some dog whistling for xenophobic GOP voters in the rest of the country. What's amusing though is Rick Santorum's clear lack of understanding in U.S. law. If, as he first insisted, English had to be on the books as official state law, Santorum would have never been able to enter the United States Senate. His home Pennsylvania is one of 19...

Where Does Rick Santorum Go When the Campaign Is Over?

Not the future leader of the GOP (Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Rick Santorum has benefited from excellent timing. Unlike the other not-Romneys who ran for president this year, he had the good fortune of not catching the imagination of the Republican base until late in the primaries, after Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich had all had their brief moments as the alternative to the likely eventual nominee. By the time the voters got around to Santorum, there was just nobody else left, which has enabled him to have his moment in the sun at the end of the primaries, just where you'd want it to be if you're going to parlay your loss into a lucrative and influential career opportunity. Today The Washington Post makes the case , without much in the way of evidence, that "Santorum has, after ten weeks of contests, all but claimed the title of leader of the conservative wing of the GOP." I don't buy it. First of all, conservatives in the GOP aren't a "wing." If anything, it's the establishment that's a "wing," in that it...

Dreams Never End

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Even after losing the Deep South primaries, Newt Gingrich refuses to back down from his bid for the Republican presidential nomination: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says there’s probably no circumstance that would lead him to pull out of the Republican presidential sweepstakes before the party’s August nominating convention. “I’ll be with you in Tampa,” Gingrich tells CBS’s “This Morning” show, when asked about his plans. The former congressman from Georgia has won primaries in only two states, South Carolina and Georgia. But when asked Friday what conditions could lead him to withdraw from the race, he says, “Probably none.” If you believe that there is a path for Rick Santorum to win the nomination, then there are two ways you can look at this. The first is to say that Santorum doesn’t have a chance; both him and Gingrich are vying for the same set of conservative voters, and by splitting the electorate, they allow Mitt Romney to eke by with slight wins and small delegate...

No News For Santorum Out of Missouri

(Flickr/paparutzi)
The next jaunt on the wild Republican roller-coaster is this weekend. Missouri voters head to their local polling locations for the second time this cycle. They first expressed themselves back in early February in a nonbinding primary, a vote won by Rick Santorum but that has no bearing on the delegates that will be sent to Tampa this summer. Missourians vote once again tomorrow, this time in caucuses that will eventually, down the line, help select who is sent to the GOP convention, and by extension, whether the state votes for Santorum or Mitt Romney. Like every caucus, the local meetings held tomorrow are nonbinding. Delegates elected from those meetings are sent on to the district convention. The actual Republican delegates are later selected at the state convention (that's for the statewide delegates, ones representing the various Congressional districts are selected at a separate meeting). That's not too different from how Iowa or other caucus states have worked thus far. But...

Axelrod to Republicans: Let My People Vote

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
Barack Obama's former right-hand man accused Republicans of passing laws to shut out Democrats from voting in the next presidential election. "There's no doubt that Republican legislatures and governors across this country have made an attempt to try to win the elections in 2012 and 2011 by passing laws that are restrictive, that are meant to discourage participation, particularly by key constituencies that have voted Democratic in the past," said David Axelrod, former White House official and current senior advisor to the Obama campaign. The comments were made in an online Q&A following the premiere of "The Road We Traveled," a 17-minute film directed by David Guggenheim and produced by the Obama campaign. Questions were submitted over Twitter, and the topics ranged from how the president will handle Iran to whether Axelrod ever got in arguments with fellow senior advisor David Plouffe. The final question posed to Axelrod was about the string of laws Republican state legislatures...

More on Mitt Romney's Lies

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Is Mitt Romney a guy who tells a bunch of lies, or is he a liar? That the question Jonathan Chait asks, and he winds up sort-of defend ing Romney, saying that his lies, many of which revolve around his effort to deny his own history, have been practical in nature. "It's Romney's bad luck that fate has dictated his only path to the presidency lies in being a huge liar," Chait says, so those lies don't tell us much about what's deep in Romney's character. There are two problems here. The first is that Romney lies about President Obama as often as he lies about himself. It's just that when he does the former, he does it with actual squirming (if he's sitting down), the phoniest smile you've ever seen, and panic in his eyes, so it's really obvious. The second problem is that Chait's distinction applies to pretty much every political liar in history. There's always a reason why a politician lies. The biggest lies come when they get caught doing something they shouldn't have (Nixon with...

The Anti-Women VP Choice

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
As Paul Waldman noted earlier this morning, Mitt Romney will be in a tight spot once he's finally clinched the nomination and has to pick a vice-presidential candidate for his ticket, a decision that gets trickier by the day thanks to the elongated primary season. On one side he'll be pressured to appease all of Rick Santorum's supporters, either by granting the second slot on the ticket to the runner-up or another social conservative of his ilk. On the other hand, Romney will have just finished a nomination that has pushed him further and further to the right, so he'll need someone who won't alienate the broader general-election voter base. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's name is often near the top when people list possible VPs. He's popular among the conservative grassroots, but falls under the category of typical bland white guys that voters are accustomed to and will receive little notice. It doesn't hurt either that he is the sitting governor for an important swing state. Yet...

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