Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Will Marco Rubio Win Latino Votes? Probably Not.

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
It’s obvious that the GOP is beginning to panic about their poor performance with Latino voters. The Hill , for example, reports that Senate Republicans are working on a watered-down version of the DREAM Act, in an attempt to win back some Hispanic support. Senators Jon Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchinson are working on one variation, while the GOP’s Great Latino Hope—Senator Marco Rubio of Florida—is working on another. Both are expected to be unveiled when Mitt Romney official wins the Republican presidential nomination. But given the degree to which Latinos are extremely disdainful of the GOP’s five-year battle against comprehensive immigration reform, its routine attacks on immigrants, and its smear campaign against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, it will take much more than an off-brand DREAM Act to build support. There’s a fair chance that Republicans will try to rehabilitate their brand by giving Rubio the vice-presidential nod, but even that relies on the assumption that...

Americans Want Out of Afghanistan

(Flickr/The U.S. Army)
The Afghanistan War is on shakier ground with each passing day. The Obama administration has been eying the conflict warily for some time, and the massacre of Afghani citizens by an errant soldier has forced the White House and its NATO allies to re-evaluate the conflict and its potential end date. According to reports, the Obama administration is weighing if it should speed up the withdrawal of the troops before the 2014 exit date. The 33,000 sent over as part of the surge in 2010 are scheduled to depart next summer, but that will leave 68,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is still considering whether to heed the advice of military leaders to leave the troops in place or to pack up and admit that the fight has become an impossible quagmire. The doves in the administration have growing public sentiment on their side. A New York Times /CBS News poll released Monday revealed an American public increasingly weary of the conflict. A 69 percent majority said that the country...

One Nation, Not Under God

(Flickr/djwhelan)
Picture this scene: A recently elected president announces that he will decline to place his hand on a Bible when taking the oath of office. When people object, he replies that he doesn't believe in God, so it wouldn't make much sense for him to go through the motions of a religious ritual when he does not share that religion's beliefs. Chances are you think such a thing is unlikely. After all, the politician would never have gotten elected in the first place without proclaiming his belief in God. It has happened, however—just not in America. The current prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, is forthright about her atheism and did not put her hand on a Bible at her 2010 swearing-in, generating a meaningful but not outsize controversy . Back here in the United States, however, our politics seem to be consumed more with religion than they have been in quite a while. That's partly because we're in the midst of a contentious Republican primary in which candidates are competing to...

Most Voters Aren't Stupid

(Flickr / Columbia City Blog)
During the February 22 Republican primary debate in Arizona, moderator John King of CNN set up a question about global instability and the president’s ability to affect gas prices by noting that “the American people often don't pay much attention to what's going on in the world until they have to.” The next day, Politico media blogger Dylan Byers flagged the question , describing it “as a comment that warranted explanation” even though it was “not necessarily wrong.” Later that day, King sent Byers a statement defending his question, claiming that he “did not ‘suggest’ and would never suggest Americans are uninformed .” Truth is, the public is poorly informed about politics and public policy, something that has proved true since the start of election survey research. In a 2007 survey , the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press quizzed the public on an array of public affairs questions. Translating the results into a common grading rubric, they found “Americans did not...

Drop Out Like It's Hot

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
The GOP primary is finally starting to fall into the groove reporters and pundits have insisted it was in all along. Romney is comfortably ahead in delegates, endorsements, and attacks from Democrats, and his current opponents are having a harder and harder time proving their relevance. Newt Gingrich is finally starting to fade from the limelight; his insistance that his campaign will make it to Tampa falls increasingly on deaf ears as embedded reporters flee his side with alacrity. And Rick Santorum—the conservative point man in the race—is starting to buckle under pressure to cede the nomination to Romney so the party can turn its attention to beating Barack Obama. Romney is trying to pretend his opponent no longer exists—in an interview with Wolf Blitzer today, he said, “I'm not going to worry too much about what Rick is saying these days,” which is basically the tack that all the party elite have taken with the Santorum campaign. As pressure mounts, so does Santorum’s anger, as...

A Decision Is Coming

A crowd of protesters outside the Supreme Court on the first day of ACA hearings (Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
The Supreme Court opened hearings today on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—PPACA if we're going to be technical—but more commonly known as Obamacare. The six hours slotted for oral arguments are spread out across three days, and while the constitutionality of the individual mandate is the main issue at stake, there will be a host of other topics discussed, ranging from severability (whether the rest of the law can stand if the mandate is struck down) to whether Congress was within its bounds when it redefined Medicaid eligibility to include swaths of new people currently uninsured. I was outside the court this morning talking with protesters rallying for and against the bill (more on that to come later) but Prospect alum Adam Serwer was inside for Mother Jones listening to the judges debate the first issue at hand: can they even decide on the qualms with the law or do they need to wait until after 2014 when ACA is fully in effect? According to the 1867 Tax Anti-...

Dogs and Cats Living Together

Santorum isn't saying Obama personally kidnapped and murdered this child. But kind of.
It often happens that when campaign negativity reaches a fever pitch, a candidate will take a small step back from the vitriol and say something like, "My opponent is a nice guy—he's just wrong about everything." What they almost never do, however, is say, "My opponent is wrong about a lot of things, and if he gets elected, things won't be good. I'm not saying it'll be a disaster, but it'd be better if you elected me." The imperatives of campaigning lead candidates to spin out the most disastrous scenarios and apocalyptic warnings. And there's no doubt that some people believe them; you wouldn't have to interview too many Republican voters to find a few who sincerely believe that if Barack Obama is re-elected, within a few months freedom will disappear, Christianity will be outlawed, everyone's guns will be confiscated, and so on. But usually, presidential candidates—who know they must appeal to people who retain a grip on reality—try to keep these arguments within limits. But not all...

The Party Has Decided on Romney

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Rick Santorum won the Louisiana primary on Saturday by a huge margin. Despite the breathless media coverage, it doesn't mean much for the Republican nomination contest. What was true last week is still true now: Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee, and all that's left is for him to accumulate the delegates he needs to make that official. As we go through the remaining primaries, there are a few things you should look for. The first, and most obvious, is what party leaders have to say about the candidates. With Romney the unofficial winner, party leaders will want to begin to move to the general election, but that won't be possible if Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul are still contesting the eventual Romney nomination. As such, you should expect influential Republicans to try to push the remaining candidates out of the race. Already, Tea Party leader Jim DeMint has encouraged the other candidates to re-evaluate their decision to stay in: "We all need to look at this...

Engaging on Philosophy

Even imperial stormtroopers know we're all in it together. (Flickr/kalexanderson)
As the Republican party has moved farther and farther to the right in recent years, I've often felt that practical discussions of the effects of policy have gotten less and less important. The true believers who now dominate the GOP—and the politicians who feel the need to pretend they're true believers—are much more comfortable talking about the role of government than they are talking about how you solve actual problems, so they make practical arguments almost half-heartedly. Listen to a Republican talk about how they'd solve the problem of over 50 million Americans without health insurance, for instance, and you'll hear something like, "Well, we need free market solutions that don't infringe on freedom, because Obamacare represents the most profound expansion of government since Joe Stalin, and big government kills freedom…" Ask them why the free market will work better than government when in this case the opposite has proven true again and again, and they'll quickly move back to...

Party Planning

(Flickr/vinylmeister)
Mitt Romney is ready to shake off the GOP primary and move on to the general election, and so is most of his party. He picked up Jeb Bush’s endorsement this week, and even the Tea Party has been tepidly giving its OK to the front-runner. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is taking a page from the Obama 2008 playbook by getting a head start on general-election prep before the primaries conclude. Waiting until McCain won the nomination in 2008 left them unequipped to keep up with the Democratic campaign behemoth, a mistake the party isn’t going to repeat. The RNC plans to have staff in 10 of the 12 big swing states by the end of April, and 750,000 voter contacts have been made since the start of the year. The Republican Party can’t copy the 2008 Obama campaign magic completely, though, given their little problem in the peanut gallery. Unilke the Obama-Clinton contest, the 2012 primary squabbles have delved into deeper questions about what the Republican Party should represent...

Newt Just Wants to Help TV Networks

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Even with his own sense of grandiosity, I doubt even Newt Gingrich truly believes a brokered convention is on the horizon. Mitt Romney, while still a weak candidate for the general election, is working his way steadily up to the required delegate count, and the leaders of the Republican Party—such as possible White Knight Jeb Bush—are throwing their lot behind Romney. But Gingrich isn't quite ready to drop the line, and his reasoning for why a brokered convention would help his party has become specious to a hilarious degree. Yesterday he suggested that it'd help Republicans because a brokered convention would just be so much darn fun to watch. Via GOP12, here's what Gingrich said on CNN: "That would be the most exciting 60 days of civic participation in the age of Facebook and Youtube. ... the convention would be the most exciting convention in modern times, and whoever became the nominee would have the highest attendance, the highest viewership in history for their acceptance speech...

The Attack that Will Stick to Romney

(mediafury/Flickr)
Like Greg Sargent, I think Mitt Romney’s Etch A Sketch gambit will work in the general election (though not so much if he’s elected president). Yes, his rhetoric is identical in substance to that of his opponents, but through tone and demeanor, Romney has managed to keep his moderate credentials, and few people within the mainstream media have bothered to challenge them. It’s for this reason that Romney won’t have to worry about the “flip-flopper” charge. No one actually believes that he’s as conservative as he’s portrayed himself in the primaries, and pundits are likely to accept the general-election permutation of Romney as the “real Romney.” So, is there anything from the primaries that will stick to the former Massachusetts governor? At the Washington Monthly , Ed Kilgore argues that the flip-flopper charge might actually have wings, if Democrats hammer it home over the next seven months. John Sides crunches the numbers and finds that voters aren’t too receptive to the flip-flop...

Etched In Stone, Before Long

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Yesterday, I wrote a post sticking up for Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom on the whole Etch A Sketch thing. But in the 24 hours since, it has only gotten bigger. It isn't, we should be clear, "taking on a life of its own," because saying that is a way of excusing the individual decisions involved in the growth and spread of a meme like this one. The fact is that actual people—Romney's primary opponents, Democrats, and reporters—are making the choice to drop the Etch A Sketch comment, and what it is supposed to represent, into discussions, speeches, news stories, and ads. And at this point it's looking more and more like this is a metaphor that's going to stick around. Why? Let me offer some suggestions. It's both novel and clever . How many different ways can you say Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper? However many there are, they've been utterly exhausted by now. But Fehrnstrom, in a perfectly reasonable attempt to describe the way a general election campaign differs from a primary...

The Energy Trap

(Flickr/Gibsongolfer)
Republicans have been owning the energy narrative the past few weeks—what with Newt Gingrich’s science-fiction-worthy calls for $2.50 a gallon gas and Rick Santorum’s pockets full of shale —but now the ball’s back in the White House’s court. President Obama has taken a new tack on energy to compensate for the fact that voters blame him for high gas prices, but the change in tone is likely to leave his base squirming. He’s currently on a whirlwind trip to spread the administration’s new gospel: that the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is "a priority” and that "we're drilling all over the place right now.” In the end, more drilling is far from a panacea, as analysis of gas prices and domestic oil production shows, so Obama’s sudden love for Keystone and drilling sounds like pure electoral pandering. But the alternative—being his cool and responsible self and explaining the reality of gas prices—might suffer in execution although it sounds smart in theory. "Is...

Making The Most of $36 Million

Karl Rove might end up with the bulk of that money (Flickr/Sachyn)
The Wall Street Journal caught up with Harold Simmons for a profile yesterday. Simmons—the Contran Corp. owner worth an estimated $10 billion—is primed to be one of the more influential figures of the 2012 campaign. He's not running for public office nor is he working for any particular campaign. Instead he'll be among the small batch of elite billionaires pouring vast sums into Republican races. Simmons told the Journal that he intends to spend $36 million before the end of the year. He's already spent $18 million on super PACs so far, easily making him the highest dollar donor of the current campaign. The only reason he's not getting the same level of scrutiny devoted to Newt Gingrich's funder Sheldon Adelson or Rick Santorum's Foster Friess is because Simmons has no real stake in the primary: It isn't particularly important which man wins the nomination, for Mr. Simmons simply wants to defeat the president and reduce the reach of government. "Any of these Republicans would make a...

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