Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Donald Trump Endorses Mitt Romney

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Even if Mitt Romney hadn’t appeared on stage to collect it, there is nothing good that can come of Donald Trump’s endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor. Not only is the real-estate mogul unpopular with the country at large but he is thoroughly associated with the “birther” conspiracy—the belief that President Obama is not actually a natural-born citizen of the United States. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine why Romney would even want the endorsement—Trump isn’t a political force and doesn’t provide much in the way of supporters. At most, Trump has nice words to say about Romney, calling him “tough,” “sharp,” and “smart” in his remarks. That the likely Republican presidential nominee would actively court Trump—Huffington Post reports that the two have had several meetings—smacks of desperation more than anything else. The good news is that the public doesn’t actually pay attention to the presidential race at this stage of the game. By the fall, when the general election begins...

Super PAC's Little Guys

AP Photo
Federal Election Commission super PAC filings proved largely anti-climactic when the figures were released Tuesday. Suspicions were confirmed that Jon Huntsman's largest benefactor was his father, who chipped in 70 percent of the funds for the PAC supporting his son. And Wall Street bankers have poured millions of dollars into Mitt Romney’s campaign. Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney that pummeled Newt Gingrich in Florida, had, according to the commission’s figures, countless individual contributions of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The group raised $17,947,952.77 off 199 donors in the second half of 2011. That levels out to an average donation of more than $90,000 per person. But, interspersed among the six-figure donations, were eight checks written for $100 or less. Three more people donated between $100 and $1,000. Who exactly were these people who believed that their $100 donation would make a difference among contributions from Wall Street figures like John...

Forgive Mitt His Gaffes. Sort Of.

Flickr/Donkey Hotey
For a guy who is widely known as disciplined and methodical, Mitt Romney sure does utter a lot of gaffes. And I use the term "gaffe" not in the Michael Kinsley sense (when a politician inadvertently tells the truth), but in the sense of a statement that reinforces the supposed character flaw reporters have identified as the candidate's Achilles' Heel, whether the prevailing interpretation was actually what the candidate was trying to say or not. Romney can barely go a week without uttering some awful statement that makes his aides wince as it shows him to be just the patrician, out-of-touch capitalist overlord his opponents paint him to be (I listed a bunch here ). Since I'm on record arguing that gaffes almost never actually reveal anything new about a candidate, I suppose I should be defending Romney right now, since he has spent the last day being pummeled for saying, "I'm not concerned about the very poor," since "we have a safety net there." Mitt just makes it so hard. I'll give...

The Success of Romney's Health-Care Pander

Governor Mitt Romney signs Massachusetts health care reform in 2006.
Last year, at the University of Michigan, Mitt Romney gave a speech on health care to address his prior support for the individual mandate—the linchpin for the Affordable Care Act and Romneycare in Massachusetts. The core of his speech—and of his message on health care since then—was that it’s unacceptable for the federal government to require health insurance for its citizens. As he said : Our plan was a state solution to a state problem. And his is a power grab by the federal government to put in place a one size fits all plan across the nation. Of course, this isn’t true. The Affordable Care Act maintains the private health-insurance market and requires people to buy into it if they don’t have insurance or qualify for Medicaid. If the ACA is a “one size fits all" plan, than by dint of similarity, Romneycare is the same. It’s for that reason that, at the time, I was skeptical of this whole maneuver. There was no way that conservatives could really believe Romney when he made the...

Candidates in Glass Houses

AP Photo
ORLANDO, FLORIDA —No one—save perhaps journalists —is more disappointed than Democrats by Newt Gingrich's poor Florida finish. The former House speaker's continued relevance and attacks on Mitt Romney has provided great news fodder. As Romney's path to the nomination becomes easier by the day, Democrats have gone searching for new strategies to paint the Republican front-runner as a weaker candidate than he actually is. Their newest strategy is to suggest that Romney's success in Florida is nothing more than a monetary imbalance that he can't carry through to the general election. “Mitt Romney’s victory tonight in the Florida GOP primary comes as no surprise—Romney and his Super PAC outspent his nearest opponent by running 13,000 ads to Newt Gingrich's 200, carpet-bombing the airwaves with negative ads," Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote in a press release. "In fact, Romney’s campaign has already spent more on negative ads than John McCain did during...

Poor Winner

Mitt Romney sure knows how to celebrate a triumph. This morning, on his victory lap after thumping Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary, he spoke with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and volunteered the following: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net out there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” Noting this might “sound odd” to millions of poor Americans, O’Brien kindly threw the former Massachusetts governor a lifeline to explain himself. He proceeded to make matters worse: “There’s no question: It’s not good being poor,” he said, foot traveling ever nearer mouth. “You can focus on the very rich; it’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor; it’s not my focus.” This latest example of Romney’s lack of empathy for the non-privileged was guaranteed to raise richly deserved howls of outrage from progressives, but it proved equally unpopular with conservatives. “Romney's remark isn't merely tone-deaf, it's also un-conservative,” wrote John McCormack in The Weekly...

Gingrich Campaign Math

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —"I think Florida did something very important coming on top of South Carolina," Newt Gingrich said last night after the results of his loss had already been confirmed. "It is now clear that this will be a two person race between the conservative leader Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate." This is Gingrich's new line of defense: Mitt Romney may win elections but he has yet to prove he can win a majority of Republican votes. Gingrich used a similar variation during his press briefing on Sunday, arguing that the combination of support for him and Santorum dwarfed Romney's polling lead. Once Santorum dropped out, Gingrich implied, he would gain the full backing of the true conservative vote, and any remaining messy details would be sorted out through a brokered convention. The finals results bore out a different story. As expected, Romney won Florida by a wide margin. But it was such a wide margin that he did manage the feat that Gingrich had termed impossible less...

The Public Likes Populism

At the same time that liberals have praised President Obama for his embrace of populist rhetoric, mainstream pundits have attacked him for “divisiveness.” In October, David Brooks criticized Obama’s newfound populism as “ misguided ”—“It repels independents,” he wrote—and more recently, William Galston warned that his focus on inequality “may well reduce his chances of prevailing in a close race.” And while it’s true that the Democratic base loves this rhetoric, it’s also true that it has a home among moderate and independent voters, who are increasingly uncomfortable with the income stratification of American society. In a recent poll from CBS News and The New York Times , 55 percent of Americans agreed with the Democratic contention that the rich pay less than their fair share in taxes. And while 52 percent of Americans believe that capital gains and dividends should be taxed at the same rate as ordinary income, this amounts to a significantly higher tax rate than the status quo—...

Must Be the Money

The GOP candidates who made it through the invisible primary (the months before any vote has taken place but contenders campaign like crazy) and lasted through Florida can thank super PACs, the shadowy political action committees that can take unlimited donations from corporations and rich donors. Once the primary ends and the general election showdown begins, get ready for super PAC spending and donations to skyrocket for both parties. After yesterday’s Federal Election Commission filing deadline, we can now attach concrete numbers and faces to the dark money fueling the 2012 election. Here’s the scoop on the super PACs you should keep an eye on for the rest of the race (we'll be updating with more stats throughout the day). Priorities USA Log in or register to post comments Candidate : Barack Obama Total Raised 2011 : $4.4 million Percent donations of $25,000 or more : 99 percent Spending in South Carolina (according to ProPublica figures) : $96,555 (all on ads opposing Mitt Romney...

His Own Worst Enemy

If Mitt Romney has a big problem in the Republican primary, it’s himself. The former Massachusetts governor can’t seem to keep his foot out of his mouth, and has—through misstatements—portrayed himself as a cold and heartless shill for the 1 percent. Here are some of the greatest hits: “ Corporations are people , my friend.” “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake !” “I like being able to fire people .” “I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed .” When heard in their full context, most of these aren’t as bad as they sound. But, as John Kerry learned in 2004, voters aren’t that attuned to the context of politicians, especially when they say things that leave a bad first impression. On CNN last night, Romney deepened this problem with another tone deaf comment which, fairly or not, will reinforce the image that he is a defender of the wealthy: “ I’m not concerned with the very poor . We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich,...

If Romney Loses in November, Will the GOP Move to the Center?

It's not too early to start speculating about what a Mitt Romney loss in November will do to the Republican party, a charge the New Yorker 's George Packer takes up . Will they move to the center or to the right? The simple answer is, of course they'll move to the right. That's what they do. But in this case, the simple answer is probably the right one. Packer points to 1972, when the Democrats nominated the most liberal guy they could find, George McGovern, and were pushed by this loss to move to the center. If the Republicans were to nominate the guy they now perceive as the real conservative (Newt Gingrich) and lose big, then something similar might happen. But since they're actually going to nominate the guy they think of as a moderate, they'll naturally conclude that less moderation is what they need. As Ezra Klein says : "You can write the post-mortem now: ' Of course America wasn't going to vote for a liberal Republican from Massachusetts who had passed the country's first...

Behold the Power of Newt

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich has publicly pledged to have the single most productive day in presidential history. Gingrich has taken to listing his first-day proposals during recent stump speeches, but he promised to take it a step further when he spoke last night. He promised to release a new Contract With America during his non-concession speech— "a personal one between me and you"—that would detail his plans once he enters office. "We're going to put this together in a way that you will be able to see in writing with my signature, and you'll be able to hold me accountable," Gingrich said. For Gingrich, it's not enough to promise voters that you'll bring change to Washington—you have to bring about that change in the span of a few hours. By my assessment, it seemed like far too ambitious of a plan, just given the taxing schedule of inauguration, what with changing tuxedos between each ball and whatnot. But Gingrich offered a rebuke to my timekeeper's cynicism last night. "All of...

Primary Battle Weary

Last night’s victory speech was familiar terrain for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Instead of asserting his conservative credentials or swiping at his Republican rivals, Romney focused his fire on Obama, with an extended attack on his leadership. “Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way," Romney said. This speech was his pivot to the general election—a generic message that can appeal to disgruntled voters and disaffected supporters of the president. And with his big, double-digit win in the Florida Republican primary, it makes sense to return to this terrain. Romney has regained the momentum he lost in South Carolina, and reestablished himself as the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president. The problem for Romney is that this should have happened much sooner. The conventional wisdom surrounding presidential primaries—at least, since 2008—is that competitive contests make for a better general election...

Gingrich, Party of One

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich didn't look broken when he stepped up to the podium at the Rosen Centre Hotel's Grand Ballroom last night. "Everybody here has been so positive in every part of the state," he said after ticking off a laundry list of thank-yous. While the event was billed as a "Newt 2012 Victory Party," there was little reason to celebrate. The major networks had all called the Florida primary for Mitt Romney shortly after polls in the western panhandle closed at 8 p.m. But Gingrich—who ended the night with 32 percent of the vote—took the stage with blustery confidence. "[We're] designing and putting together a people's campaign—not a Republican campaign, not an establishment campaign, not a Wall Street funded campaign," he said, reprising the populist rhetoric he had rolled out the previous day against "Massachusetts moderate" Mitt Romney, who won 46 percent of the vote in last night's primary. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Republican presidential candidate former House...

Hurricane Mitt Flattens Newt

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney beams during his victory celebration after winning the Florida primary election Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012, in Tampa, Florida. M itt Romney and the Republican elite unleashed their full arsenal against Newt Gingrich in Florida—and it paid off big. In a near-total reversal of the results in South Carolina ten days earlier, the former Massachusetts governor won an emphatic, double-digit victory on Tuesday. With a five-to-one spending advantage, and a coordinated media assault on Gingrich, the Romney forces went all in for a devastating beat-down in Florida. With their candidate outperforming Gingrich in two debates last week, and with the Georgian muddling his anti-establishment message, they got it. Most GOP primary-goers said their most important consideration was which candidate could beat President Obama, and exit polls showed Romney winning that group by 25 percent. Republican women gave...

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