Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Pundits and journalists have moved from denial about the possibility of Newt Gingrich winning the nomination right to the bargaining stage —it’s still unlikely that Gingrich will win, but, as John Cassidy asserts, “now it’s a real race!” However, Jonathan Chait argues that Mitt Romney should be more worried about the current frontrunner in the polls than pundits: The national media tagged Romney from the beginning as the party front-runner. Largely, this reflected the old campaign cliché that Republicans always nominate the candidate who is “next in line.” You know: Ronald Reagan finished second to Gerald Ford in 1976, and they picked him in 1980, George H.W. Bush finished second to Reagan in 1980 and they picked him in 1988, Bob Dole finished second to Bush in 1988 and they picked him in 1996. Romney finished second in 2008, so this must make him the new front-runner. The trouble with this theory is that it takes an overly literal interpretation of what “next” means. Republicans don’...

Hardly a Winning Performance

Of the anti-Romney ads I’ve seen from both Republicans and the Democratic National Committee, this—from Jon Huntsman—might be the most brutal: The striking thing is that this isn’t hard to do at all. If you include 2005, the year he began to prepare for a run in earnest, Mitt Romney has been a presidential candidate for the last six years . And in his quest to prove his conservative bona fides, he’s reversed himself on almost every issue under the sun. It’s no exaggeration to say that anyone with an Internet connection, a video editor, and an hour of free time could make an ad like this. Of course, the Huntsman ad doesn’t have much circulation outside of those who follow politics for a living. If there’s anything that will do actual damage to Romney's campaign, it’s the disastrous Fox News interview that Huntsman sampled for his ad. By simply asking questions about Romney's prior views, Bret Baier exposed him as a man willing to say anything for the sake of elected office. I’ve said...

Ain't Misbehavin'

Ginger White's apparently painful confession of having had a 13-year on-again, off-again affair with Herman Cain seems to have dealt the final blow to his tottering political campaign. I've heard conversations, since, in which political insiders are annoyed about that—believing that adultery should never be what brings a public person down. Here's the idea: Adultery is a private, consensual behavior. While it may violate a person's marriage, that's none of our business as citizens. Sexual harassment , on the other hand, is a public matter precisely because a) it is not consensual, and b) it is employment discrimination against women (or sometimes men), that makes it difficult for a person to earn a living. Violating another person's body and discriminating against them in the workplace is, in this view, completely relevant to governing, because it is an abuse of power that indicates someone may well abuse other power, and doesn't deserve to wield it. (Cf: Senator Bob Packwood : after...

Despite Previous Denials, Romney Is Competing in Iowa

Any lingering doubts on Romney's new commitment to winning the Iowa caucus can now be laid to rest. He's opened a new campaign headquarters in Des Moines, a campaign spokesperson said his " strategy is to win there," and starting tomorrow Romney will begin airing a new commercial, his first in Iowa since his 2008 presidential campaign: Even as Romney has hesitated to launch a full-fledged Iowa campaign, he's already light years ahead of his main competitors. The (likely temporary) surge of Newt Gingrich's campaign allowed him to open his state headquarters just this week and rehiring the staff members that had fled his campaign when money dried up over the summer. For all the handwringing about Romney's poor performance in 2008, he still finished in second place with 25 percent of the vote, nearly doubling Fred Thompson's third place vote. If current trends continue, there likely won't be any social conservative alternative who can capture the 34 percent that went to Mike Huckabee in...

Ignoring the Obama Presidency

Among liberals, and most political observers, it’s widely acknowledged that President Obama took a major political hit when he pushed for health-care reform against Republican intransigence and public opposition. The cost of winning comprehensive health-care reform—a longtime liberal dream—was a resurgent and powerful Republican Party. If political courage is defined by the willingness to suffer politically for the sake of good public policy, then Affordable Care Act stands as a testament to the president’s political courage. Which is why I also have no idea what National Journal ’s Josh Kraushaar is talking about when he writes the following : One of President Obama’s political weaknesses in his first term has been that he’s all-too-willing to avoid making tough decisions, hesitant to expend political capital for potential long-term gain. Throughout his first term in office, he’s had a cautious governing style, and has avoided taking on some of his party’s core constituencies…when it...

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt: The only thing the video doesn't have is an explicit mention of Gingrich's marital history, with its multiple infidelities and trading in of wives for younger mistresses. But most everything else is there, including the famous ad he made with Nancy Pelosi supporting action on climate change, his prior support of an individual health-insurance mandate, his criticism of the sainted Paul Ryan, and...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

This election will be decided on the economy . It's easy to forget about that with the current obsession with the sex lives and relative truthiness of candidates, as well as the focus on the deficit and the Super Committee, but voters are worried about the economy. The person who wins next November will have convinced voters that they are the best chance at improving the economy. Obama and his eventual Republican opponent have tough hurdles to jump in order to prove they are the solution to our country's woes—Obama needs to explain that the relationship between Congress and the White House is not like a child and a parent but instead like warring siblings. He can't boss them around , and it's not his fault . Republicans will need to explain why they are completely against raising taxes as a way of helping the economy when polls show that the public is in favor of these measures, when they are accompanied by spending cuts. Actually, they'll need to explain why a majority of their...

Rick Perry's Last-Ditch Anti-Immigration Pitch

In hindsight, the likely failure of Rick Perry's presidential ambitions shouldn't have been all that surprising. Despite appeal among party elites, late-entry candidates like Wesley Clark in '04 and Fred Thompson in '08 have historically struggled to catch up to the rest of the field. The candidates in the race from the beginning have a chance to work out all the kinks before the spotlight glares at the debate stages, an experience that would have proved especially crucial in Perry's case. He's always been a loose-cannon campaigner with, shall we say, a less than thorough grasp on his material. It was a problem his campaign staff could mitigate by limiting his media exposure in Texas elections but couldn't avoid on a national stage. After just four debates during his decade as Texas' governor, Perry was bound to produce a series of gaffes during the tiring slog of presidential campaigning. None of that should have been a surprise. What has been shocking to watch is the process under...

What Gingrich and Dubya Have in Common

Talking Points Memo sheds some light on Newt Gingrich’s ongoing effort to appeal to Hispanic leaders: As Benjy Sarlin reported back in 2009, Gingrich was using social networking and TV appearances on Spanish language TV to ingratiate himself with the Hispanic community and attempt to grow the GOP base there. Republicans have long felt they have a real chance to grab big swaths of the Latino vote, which they say is naturally more socially conservative and open to Republican ideas. Gingrich continued the outreach early into his campaign. As Time’s Michael Scherer reported in May, Gingrich gave one of his first post-campaign announcement interviews to Univision, where he took questions on immigration and previewed the path to legal status for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the US that’s led to attacks from his Republican rivals. Given the extent to which Latino voters are well-aware of the Republican Party’s hostility toward their interests—from efforts to help the economy...

Did Obama Lose Votes Because He Was Black?

Back when Barack Obama was still fighting to become the Democratic nominee for president, there was worry—from supporters and opponents—that the “Bradley effect” would take hold once he moved to the general election. Were white voters voicing support for Obama out of a sense of obligation to egalitarian norms? Would that change when they actually had to cast a vote? In other words, could Obama poll well in the lead up to the election, but then lose as a result of bias on part of voters? Of course, those fears were unfounded. Obama handily won the 2008 election with a solid majority of the popular vote. What’s more, when it came to white voters, Obama improved on the performance of John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 . But we shouldn’t think that this rules out a racial bias effect in the final election results. It’s possible that Obama underperformed relative to where he could have been absent racial animus. In a newly published paper , Seth Stephens-Davidowitz—a political...

Incompetent Presidential Campaigns Aren't the Exception, They're the Rule

If there's one thing the Politico is good at, it's channeling the feelings of Washington insiders, and today they give us a taste of what those insiders on the Republican side think of Herman Cain. In short, the Cain Train is a train wreck, "what many political professionals say is political malpractice on a grand scale": That familiar Keystone Kops performance is a reflection of an organization staffed by few operatives with presidential experience, working for a political neophyte who’s proven himself ill-equipped for a national campaign. The combination of a supremely self-assured candidate — speaking in the third person and convinced of his own ability to talk himself out of any jam — surrounded by a group of not-ready-for-prime-time aides making it up as they go along has resulted in a campaign meltdown for the ages. It isn't as though we haven't seen inept primary campaigns before, but what we haven't seen before is inept campaigns that rocket to the front of the pack. And we...

Will Iowa Conservatives Sit Out the Election?

Iowa's much-vaunted evangelical conservative base is nowhere to be seen. After propelling Mike Huckabee to the top of the field in the last presidential nomination contest, the common assumption among political pundits has been that the state's Christian right would coalesce around a similar candidate again this year. But, less than five weeks out from the caucuses, all of Iowa's evangelical leaders are still holding off on making a decision. Just yesterday, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's president announced that the organization would not endorse any candidate for 2012. "I believe that it is the role of our members and supporters to endorse the candidate of their choice," Steve Scheffler wrote in a press release. "There are many strong conservative candidates running and while none of them are perfect, our October 22nd Banquet highlighted for me just how blessed we are to have so many strong pro-life, pro-family, pro-national security and pro-freedom candidates running for...

Queering Congress

(AP Photo/Russel A. Daniels) Tammy Baldwin, center, and Jared Polis, right, both openly gay members of Congress, answer questions from Jonathan Capehart, left, at the International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco, Saturday, December 5, 2009. Both spoke optimistically about key legislative agenda items sought by LGBT advocates. W hen California teacher Mark Takano ran for Congress 15 years ago, he lost to Republican challenger Ken Calvert by a scant 519 votes. Two years later, things looked more promising. Police had caught Calvert with a prostitute; Takano should have easily clinched a win. But just three months before the election, Ray Haynes—a Calvert supporter in the state assembly—outed Takano as gay. "I said quite clearly I personally don't want a homosexual representing me in Congress," Haynes said at the time. Takano's opponents sent a late mailer, which asked voters in pink letters to consider whether Takano should be "A Congressman for Riverside … or...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Recent Prospect alum Pema Levy thinks that Newt Gingrich has a shot at stealing Iowa, if the evangelicals learn to stop worrying and give up trying to love the Rom. Which shouldn't be too hard, because it is now proven that there is an inverse relationship between Romney's likeability and voters' exposure to the former Massachusetts governor. This relationship has become the only thing unwaveringly true about the Romney campaign. Gingrich's chances will also be much improved once Cain drops out of the race (which will happen soon), because the voters getting off the Cain Train will most likely defect to the Gingrich camp, as Jamelle Bouie points out. Speaking of things that seem to be heading to an inevitable end, the Euro Zone is not looking too good. Daily Intel reminds us that there are other candidates who shouldn't have ever run for the presidency, namely Rick Perry, who "made the mistake of...talking...out loud...about stuff." Fox News predicts that Obama will win in 2012! But,...

Should We Bring Back the Smoke-Filled Rooms?

The National Interest ’s Robert Merry isn’t happy with the current presidential nomination process. It’s too long, too costly, and places too much faith in the ability of ordinary voters to control the process. Other than luck, he argues, there’s nothing to keep an unqualified or vulnerable candidate from winning the nomination. It almost happened with the Democratic Party in 2008 (see: John Edwards), and it could happen with this year’s Republican nomination contest. Moreover, the vetting that does exist isn’t foolproof; if a single candidate wins the early primaries, is there any doubt that the game would be over in short order? For an alternative to the current system, Merry offers a return to the “ smoke-filled rooms ” of yore: It worked like this: The party pros in what were colloquially called “smoke-filled rooms” (party caucuses and conventions) would make the decisions based on conviction, political log rolling, compromise, friendship patterns and, shall we say, party...

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