Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Mitt Romney Is Really Bad At Running For President

If you spend your time amongst politically-involved liberals these days, you've probably participated in a lot of head-shaking conversations, along the lines of, "Wow, is this Republican race awesome, or what?" It is, without doubt. And one of the things it has showed us is that, what political scientists call "candidate quality" is a more complicated factor than we usually think. And Mitt Romney turns out to be the most complicated candidate of all. Ordinarily, we tend to believe that while some candidates are good at some things and some are good at others, and a candidate may have one particular strength but be lacking elsewhere (e.g. Newt Gingrich usually performs well in debates but sucks at most other parts of campaigning), the political world is basically divided into good candidates, mediocre candidates, and bad candidates. You can go pretty far being mediocre—for instance, Al Gore and Bob Dole never knocked anybody's socks off, but both rose almost to the apex of their chosen...

Is the NRA's Electoral Power a Myth?

(Flickr/Alan Cleaver)
We all know that the National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, interest group in Washington. With their money and their committed supporters, they can carry candidates to victory or defeat as they choose, just as they've done in the past. Right? Well, maybe not. I'm doing a series of posts for Think Progress based on research I've done trying to address the question of the NRA's electoral effectiveness in a systematic way, something that has rarely been attempted before. Here's an excerpt from the first installment : To determine just how powerful the NRA really is on election day, in recent months I assembled a database covering the last four federal elections: 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. These years cover two presidential and non-presidential years, as well as two significant Democratic victories and two significant Republican victories. I gathered data on the outcome of every House and Senate election, including the margins of victory, the...

What the Anti-Contraception Conservatives Really Want

(Flickr/Jenny Lee Silver)
Let's stipulate at the outset that almost everyone on the right you hear talking about the issue of contraception coverage is cynically adopting this position for no other reason than they believe it to be a handy cudgel to bash the Obama administration. (One notable exception is Rick Santorum, who genuinely believes that contraception is wrong, since it unleashes our dirty, dirty thoughts and allows people to have sex without being punished for it. But Santorum is also pro-Crusades , so make of that what you will.) They may be right or wrong about the political wisdom of taking up this fight—a lot depends on whether the administration stands firm and makes sure everyone remembers that what we're talking about is birth control, for goodness' sake, something that outside the ranks of the celibate old men who run the Catholic Church is accepted by just about everyone, Catholics included. But we should keep in mind the principle for which conservatives are now arguing. Their argument is...

Maybe We Should Stop Talking about Media "Bias"

The Pew Research Center is out with one of its big reports about news use and politics, and as usual there's a lot of interesting stuff there, if this happens to be your thing. I want to point to one result, about perceptions of "bias" in the news. On one level, it's about what you'd expect: Republicans see a lot of bias in the news, particularly with Tea Party Republicans. That's because they're the most intense partisans, and they've spent 30 years marinating in an ideology that puts their oppression at the hands of a vicious liberal media at its center. But when Pew asked whether respondents prefer "news sources that have no point of view" or sources that "share your point of view," everybody agreed: 65 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of Democrats, and 71 percent of independents said that they liked sources that "have no point of view." Of course, there is no such thing as a news source that has no point of view. But it's pretty clear that to most people, "bias" means little...

Why Are America's Racist Political Ads So Crappy?

If you've been on the internet in the last day or so, you've no doubt seen discussion of Congressman Pete Hoekstra's ridiculous ad in which a young Asian woman with a straw hat around her neck rolls up on her bike next to a rice paddy and talks about incumbent Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow in broken English: "Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good." And so on, including bestowing the nickname "Debbie Spenditnow" on the senator. Zing! Yes, of course it's absurdly racist, trying to get Michigan voters to fear the yellow menace. But my problem is this: does it have to be so amateurish? First off, there's the fact that the ad appears to be set in...Vietnam. At least that's what Americans think when they see rice paddies and conical straw hats. And most egregious is the fact that the actress in the ad is obviously American. She doesn't have a noticeably regional accent - she could be from Michigan, or Los...