Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Santorum Disqualifies Himself for the Presidency

(John F. Kennedy/Library of Congress)
At this point, most people who cover the Republican presidential campaign—or Republican politics in general—are accustomed to Rick Santorum and his right-wing social conservatism. Even still, this deserves way, way more attention than it’s currently receiving. “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up,” Santorum told an audience at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen. In an ABC News interview Sunday, George Stephanopoulos asked Santorum why the speech would make him throw up, to which the candidate replied: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute,” he said. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.” The speech in question is John F. Kennedy’s famous address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, where he declared his belief “in an America where the...

Romney's Wealth Problem

(Flickr/401K)
Americans have come to expect a certain patrician baseline from their political class. Congress is stocked full of millionaires, and in the 2008 campaign Joe Biden was considered working class for riding Amtrak, despite having a net worth in the hundreds of thousands. No one bats an eye now when Rick Santorum whines about his meager means on the debate stage then releases tax returns revealing that he rakes in over $900K a year. Yet, Mitt Romney's wealth has served as an albatross to his campaign. We might be used to millionaires running for president, but Romney would rank among the richest handful of presidents if elected. His vast fortune is more than double the total worth of the past eight presidents combined. Newt Gingrich played on resentments of Romney's wealth to great success in South Carolina before dialing back his attacks once the Republican establishment turned on him, accusing the former speaker of employing leftist critiques of capitalism. Romney's campaign has danced...

Architects of Their Own Defeat

Jonathan Chait has a great feature in New York Magazine on the frantic fear among Republicans that this is their last chance to stop the leftward drift of the United States as it becomes younger, browner, and more educated. He zeroes in on the apocolyptic rhetoric of GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates, but his most important point, I think, is this: The most widely agreed-upon component of any such undertaking was a concerted effort to win back the Hispanic vote. It seemed like a pure political no-brainer, a vital outreach to an exploding electoral segment that could conceivably be weaned from its Democratic leanings, as had previous generations of Irish and Italian immigrants, without altering the party’s general right-wing thrust on other issues. […] In the wake of [John McCain’s] defeat, strategists like Karl Rove and Mike Murphy urged the GOP to abandon its stubborn opposition to reform. Instead, incredibly, the party adopted a more hawkish position, with Republicans in...

Santorum Goes For Gold In Oppression Olympics

(Flickr/Mike Jahn)
So Rick Santorum was being interviewed on "This Week" yesterday, and he said that when he read John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech in Houston to a group of Protestant ministers, he "almost threw up." The context for Kennedy's speech was that the man who would become America's first Catholic president was being subjected to a venomous campaign of religious hatred, in which people like the men in that audience were telling voters that if Kennedy were elected, he would be nothing but a tool of the Vatican, doing the Pope's dastardly bidding instead of what was in the best interest of Americans. So Kennedy gave this speech , in which he asserted that he believed in an absolute separation between church and state, for the protection of both. The ministers in attendance, most of whom considered the Catholic Church an un-Christian abomination, were unmoved. The Kennedy campaign quickly cut ads excerpting the speech, which they used to rally Catholic voters. But here's how Santorum described...

Where Does Obama Stand?

(AP Photo)
If you are a committed Democrat or partisan Republican, then it seems that, for today at least, you have two polls to choose from. Republicans can look with glee at a USA Today and Gallup poll of registered voters in swing states , where former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum holds a 50–45 lead over President Obama, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney takes first place at 48 to 46. By contrast, the new Battleground Poll from Politico and George Washington University—which focuses on the same swing states—is exceptionally favorable to Democrats and supporters of the president. In this survey, President Obama’s approval rating increased to 53 percent—up from 44 percent in November—and he leads Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum by 10 and 11 points, respectively. Indeed, against a generic Republican, this lead shrinks to a still-impressive 5 points. His greatest gain comes from voters who say they “approve strongly” of the president. In November, they represented 27 percent of...

Meanie Mitt Pulls Ahead

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's improbable moment atop the GOP field seems likely to fade away just as quickly as his anti-Romney predecessors. A pair of new numbers from Public Policy Polling point toward tomorrow being a triumphant day for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor leads by an insurmountably wide margin in Arizona. He's up 43-26 percent over Santorum, and carried early voters—which will constitute nearly half of Arizona's total vote count—by 48-25. And after trailing Santorum by as much as 15 percent three weeks ago, Romney has reopened a slight Michigan lead of 2 percent. Again, PPP found that Romney dominated early voters (62-29 over Santorum), though they represent a far smaller share of the Michigan bloc. It looks as though Romney's negative assault on his opponents' record and character has worked yet again. Santorum's favorability numbers plummeted over the past several weeks. One week ago PPP had Santorum with a +44 net favorability in Michigan; today, that number is...

The Republican Al Gore

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore and his running mate, vice presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman, of Connecticut, wave to supporters as they take the stage at the start of a campaign rally in Jackson, Tenn., Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 25, 2000. I have a confession to make: Mitt Romney is really starting to get on my nerves. It's nothing I'm proud of. I try to be as rational as possible in my writing and analysis of politics, marshaling facts to support my claims and avoiding impugning people's motives as much as possible. But I think I'm beginning to understand how Republicans felt about Al Gore in 2000. I don't mean what they thought or believed, like the phony story that Gore claimed to have invented the internet ( he didn't ). And I don't mean the simple displeasure we get from having to listen to someone we disagree with talk for a long time. I mean how they felt on an emotional, visceral level, whether those feelings were...

Romney, Santorum, and God

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay) Elizabeth Santorum, left, listens to her father, Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, right, during a campaign rally on Sunday in Traverse City, Michigan. I n February 1849, Brigham Young, the man who unified the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, declared that the black man’s color is the mark of Cain—the manifestation of the first capital crime, Cain’s murder of his brother. These days Mormon revisionism doesn’t so much contest as ignore Young’s decree, implying that it’s urban legend. What the Church can’t dispute is that until three decades ago, African Americans were prohibited from playing any role in the Church, and the extent to which they’ve done so since is minimal. Governor Mitt Romney, a lifelong practicing Mormon, never has been keen to discuss this, and one of the ironies of the last few weeks is that he might not have to, if his candidacy continues to deteriorate courtesy of former senator and...

The Republicans' Primary Problem

The wrong analogy. (White House/Pete Souza)
Every presidential nominee faces a similar problem: In the primaries, you have to appeal to your base voters, tickling the tender parts of the ideological true believers, but in the general election, you need to appeal to independents, necessitating a move to the center. The transition from one to the other can be awkward. In the last few days, I've heard a number of Republicans give the same answer when this question is brought up. Isn't their eventual nominee being hurt by the fact that their primaries involve a lot of things like immigrant bashing and coming out against contraception? Nah, they reply, it'll all be OK—after all, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had a hard-fought primary in 2008, and he still won easily in the fall. I suspect we'll be hearing this many times over the next few months, so let me explain why it's completely mistaken. Obama and Clinton did indeed have a hard-fought primary. It was vigorous, at times even a little ugly. But there's one thing it never was...

Romney's Clunker

“This is not exciting and barn-burning,” Mitt Romney admitted as he stood today amid 65,000 empty seats at Detroit’s Ford Field to deliver what was billed as a major economic address, “but it’s important.” He was right, at least, about the first part. The awful optics—the 1,200 supporters who showed up didn’t even fill the rows of chairs that stretched to the end zone—occasioned derision from just about every politico with a Twitter account. (See “Daily Meme,” below.) But what did Romney actually say? Nothing surprising. He called for cutting income tax rates by 20 percent, anticipating that economic growth and curtailing some (unspecified) tax breaks will keep the deficit from skyrocketing. He announced his intention to raise the minimum age for Social Security and to create a voucher system for Medicare. And he reiterated that he would drop the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, the rate that Obama’s new tax plan reserves for manufacturers. Along the way, the “resolute” Romney...

Chart of the Day

It’s always useful to have the proper context when evaluating the popularity of a presidential candidate. Otherwise, it’s hard to know if you’re looking at a deviation, or the usual pattern. Mitt Romney’s high unfavorables are unusual, for example, but the real question is how unusual? To that end, Talking Points Memo has a chart comparing the favorability of presidential candidates over the last decade: As it turns out, Mitt Romney isn’t just kind of unpopular for a presidential candidate in the February before the election, he’s extremely unpopular, to a degree that’s unprecedented in recent memory. The key question for his campaign—and the Republican Party writ large, if he wins the nomination—is whether he can recover by the fall. After all, even with a united party, it’s hard to see how anyone could turn these numbers around.

Obama's Michigan Pitch

As Republicans blanket the Michigan airwaves with negative ads haranguing each other before Tuesday's primary, Barack Obama's reelection campaign has released a Michigan-centric spot touting the success of the auto bailout. Titled, "Made in America," the ad takes a similar tone to the Chrysler/Clint Eastwood "Halftime in America" Super Bowl commercial, both filled with nostalgic tinged images of past American manufacturing greatness before highlighting car production as a means to restore the country's economy. "Made in America. For generations of Michigan autoworkers it's more than a slogan, it's a way of life," the ad's gruff narrator intones. The ad starts off with the positive take on those hardworking Michiganders and the success of the bailouts, but also mixes in attacks for Republican opposition to the president's plan. After flashing an image of all the candidates on the debate stage, the commercial highlights Mitt Romney's "let Detroit go bankrupt" quote, a clear indication...

How To Make Romney Look Popular

(Ford Field/Kevin Yezbick)
Mitt Romney is set to speak before the Detroit Economic Club later this morning to expound upon his recently unveiled tax policy. Befitting the importance his campaign has placed on the event and his self-perceived status as the frontrunner, Romney will address the group at Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions, a stadium which seats 65,000. The only problem for the Romney campaign is that there isn't a throng of thousands interested in turning out during lunch for a lesson on fiscal policy. As the Detroit Free Press reported , the stage and audience will be situated to make the 1,200 attendees look as if it's as packed as any NFL game: The Romney campaign and the Economic Club think they've solved the problem. The guests will be seated at one end of the playing surface, roughly between the end zone and the 30-yard line, while Romney will speak from a stage in front of them. About 100 news media representatives and 50 or so TV cameras will set up behind the guests, so that it will be...

This Fall's Media Bias Complaints, Explained Today

Mitt Romney pretends to enjoy hanging out with the press (Flickr/Paul Chenoweth)
It's only February, but I have a pretty good idea about how the election is going to proceed from this point forward. Mitt Romney is going to struggle through the primaries, eventually dispatching Rick Santorum. But unlike many nominees, instead of being strengthened by the primary process, he will have been weakened by it, demonstrating his persistence, but not much else. As the economy slowly improves, President Obama's approval rating will continue to inch up, and the Obama campaign will begin its assault on Romney's character, one that will be largely successful. The Romney campaign, meanwhile, will struggle in the face of that improving economy to come up with a compelling critique of the President, trying in vain to alter opinions about the incumbent that have been formed and solidified over the past four years. Obama will lead the tracking polls pretty much throughout, culminating in a win that is fairly close, but not uncomfortably so. In this it will resemble the 1996...

Republican Women Still Like Rick Santorum

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Yet another poll shows Rick Santorum with a lead among Republican women; according the latest survey from ABC News and The Washington Post , 57 percent of Republican women have a favorable view of the former Pennsylvania senator, compared to the 61 percent who have a favorable view of Mitt Romney. What’s more, as The Post notes, Romney has higher negative ratings among GOP women than Santorum does—28 percent to 18 percent. There is at least one reason to be suspicious of this result; the sample of Republican women in this poll—137 people, or 13 percent of all respondents—isn’t large, and the margin of error on the survey is ±9.5 percentage points. But even if we take the lower bound as the actual result, it still comes as a surprise to learn that, among Republicans at least, there isn’t much of a gender gap between the two candidates. Indeed, the same is also true as far as their unpopularity is concerned. Santorum is viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of Democratic women and 36 percent...

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