Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect



Recent Articles

Bloomberg Meets the Law of Diminishing Returns.

A week ago, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported that he had raised (from himself) $85 million dollars, while opponent William C. Thompson had raised about $9 million. And yet Thompson, an uninspiring candidate with no message and no real base, came within four percentage points of defeating Bloomberg. What is the big lesson here? Certainly it's that Bloomberg was more vulnerable than most recognized, especially all the potential candidates who were so intimidated that they not only gave up their candidacies but even backed his scheme to undo term limits. But more significantly, it is further proof of a rule of thumb in campaign finance that is often forgotten: After a certain point, more money doesn't do you any good. (Political scientists Jonathan Krasno and Donald Green showed this in a 1988 paper I can't find online.) There are rapidly diminishing returns to greater spending, as self-financed candidates before Bloomberg, whose names you might not remember because they...

Governors Matter, Not Elections.

If for a moment you're tempted to believe Michael Steele 's spin that yesterday's gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey were referenda on the Obama administration, let me remind you of the Democratic victories in those same two states in 2001. Remember how the elections of Mark Warner and Jim McGreevey marked a rejection of George W. Bush and the Republican agenda, and the conservative power structure never recovered from the blow? Don't remember that? Me neither. So, no, gubernatorial elections are never referenda on the president, Congress, or national parties. They are always their own thing, involving the circumstances of the state and the individual candidates. Political parties mean something different at the state level, and states that will not go Democratic in a national election in this century, like Wyoming and Oklahoma, nonetheless have popular Democratic governors, while Rhode Island and Connecticut, states Obama carried with more than 60 percent of the vote...

The Obstacles to Real Health-Care Reform

How a series of roadblocks and compromises shaped the health-care debate -- and why the battle doesn't end when Obama signs a bill.

(AP Photo)
American presidents have tried seven times to bring us into the community of nations that provide health care to all citizens. Seven times the effort failed. More accurately, it was blocked. In the 1940s, the anti-reform movement was led by doctors, through the American Medical Association. In the 1990s, it was led by the insurance and small-business lobbies. This time everything has been different. The town hall meetings and right-wing distortions of this summer drew attention away from a far more significant fact: Most of the traditional enemies of reform have been quiet, absent, or divided. Many -- including the conservative American Medical Association -- are almost supportive of reform. Large and small businesses understand that reducing their health-care costs and making them predictable will be good for their bottom line, and the chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Josten, has said, "The reality with the business community is that we want reform." Even the...

Title IX Dad

Title IX, with all its limits, was a nudge that set off a chain of social transformations.

(Flickr/Sister 72)
When it's her long-awaited turn to play an inning behind the plate, I rush over to my daughter and help her strap on her leg guards, chest protector, and mask and then watch as she does her best imitation of Jorge Posada, crouched unsmiling behind the batter. When there's a chance of a play at the plate, she whips off the mask and positions her glove exactly where it's supposed to be. It still brings a tear to my eye. I didn't expect to be much of a Little League dad -- I never played organized baseball myself and don't have much of a competitive streak. But I'm very much a Title IX dad. My 8-year-old is the only girl on her team this year, but that's mostly a trivial fact. She's hardly conscious of it, and the only time I've ever heard any of her teammates mention it was to worry about whether she was going to switch to softball, as other girls have done -- something she has no intention of doing. She was thrilled when she learned that there was no actual rule or law against women...

God Consults The Almanac of American Politics.

Whenever I hear Republicans like Michelle Bachmann , Sean Hannity , or Michael Steele say that they will run for President if God tells them to, I wonder how God would make the pitch. Would He promise to raise a certain amount of money? Does He have a PAC? Are there superdelegates He could deliver? Does He have a grassroots organization? And would He demand some sort of quid pro quo ? Now we know: God has data. Via Dave Weigel at the Washington Independent, here's what He told Vicki Hartzler , who is considering challenging Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton next year: “Through prayer we were just crying out for our nation,” Hartzler told a small group of supporters at the How To Take Back America conference in St. Louis last month. “And I just felt like God said — you! It’s time! You’re sitting here, in one of the most Republican districts in the country that’s held by a Democrat. You’re sitting in a district that’s being led by a man who, right now–he’s a good man, but whether he’s lost...