Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

No, There's No Poll Trutherism On the Left

Ahhh! Panic panic panic!

Today, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing Mitt Romney rocketing ahead of Barack Obama to a 4-point lead among likely voters. Needless to say, this is pretty remarkable. Is it true? Well...maybe, maybe not. Just a few weeks ago Pew showed Obama ahead by 8 points among likely voters, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who found that unlikely. But referencing the recent "poll truther" insanity on the right, Slate tech writer Farhad Manjoo tweeted, "Watch for liberals to start questioning Pew's methodology/sampling/etc in 3, 2, 1...." Well, you can keep waiting. I have seen some liberals express the belief that these results may be inaccurate, particularly since they show the two candidates tied among women. I don't even think Ann Romney thinks her husband is going to be tied among women. But there aren't any liberals, as far as I can tell, questioning Pew's methodology or intentions.

Better Know a Ballot Measure

(Flickr/radarxlove and jamelah e.)

When Oregon voted on the nation’s first ballot initiative in 1904, the idea—as high-school civics teachers have told students ever since—was to take power away from the industries that ran the state legislature through bribes and corruption and return it to the people. In those days, corporate interests dominated and corrupted state politics all across the United States. Mining and railroad companies loomed particularly large, buying off entire legislative chambers and putting lawmakers on their payroll.

Obama and Romney's Proxy Debaters Take the Stage

Saturday’s “Rumble 2012” debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly shared one key feature with last Wednesday’s presidential debate: a bipartisan meta-loser. While Wednesday’s title went to moderator Jim Lehrer, Rumble 2012’s was Nox Solutions LLC, a third-party venue hired to host the streaming website, which failed miserably.

However, that was pretty much where the similarities ended.

Why Do the Sunday Shows Suck So Much?

I know you're dying to know what these two have to say.

In the American media landscape, there is no single forum more prestigious than the Sunday shows, particularly the three network programs and to a slightly lesser extent "Fox News Sunday" and CNN's "State of the Union." The Sunday shows are where "newsmakers" face the music, where Washington's most important people are validated for their importance, where issues are probed in depth. So why do they suck so much?

I live and breathe politics, yet I find these programs absolutely unwatchable, and I can't be the only one. On a typical episode, there is absolutely nothing to learn, no insight to be gained, no interesting perspective on offer, nothing but an endless spew of talking points and squabbling. Let's take, for instance, yesterday's installment of "This Week With George Stephanopoulos"...

Romney Versus the People

(AP Photo/Scott Applewhite)

There's no question that Mitt Romney did very well in his first debate with Barack Obama. Indeed, it couldn't have gone much better, so much so that almost any performance in their meeting next week will seem like a let-down. But the second debate poses real dangers for Romney, and an opportunity for Obama to wipe away the memory of his poor performance in the first. Next week's will be a "town hall"-style debate, and that format plays right into Romney's weaknesses. The town hall debate will be challenging for Romney for two reasons, both of which have to do with the fact that it will feature not journalists or a moderator asking questions, but ordinary people.

Mitt Romney Finally Gets a Bounce

(Jamelle Bouie)

This weekend, the questions for everyone tracking the election was straightforward: Has Mitt Romney received a bounce in the polls on the strength of his debate performance? And has it turned the race into a toss-up? The national pollsters have yet to release their live-interviewer surveys from the last several days, but swing-state polls show signs of improvement for the former Massachusetts governor.

Mighty Morphin Mitt

The oddest thing happened after Mitt Romney finally, emphatically, Etch A Sketched himself from flinty-hearted Ayn Randian into the spitting image of "compassionate conservative" George W. Bush in Wednesday’s debate: The right wing didn’t squeal one bit. Au contraire! The same folks who celebrated Romney’s vicious "47 percent" rant, the ones who’ve been policing his every syllable to check for apostasies, the ones who’ve spent years howling at Bush for betraying conservative principles—these same people reacted to the reemergence of “moderate Mitt” like Baby Boomers at a Springsteen show.

Why Can't Candidates Bring Notes to the Debates?

(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Apparently, there are a few liberals out there concerned (or maybe just bored) that Mitt Romney brought some kind of a cheat sheet to the debate the other night, because he was seen taking something out of his pocket and putting it on his podium. The participants aren't supposed to bring any notes with them, but his campaign assures us that it was just a handkerchief. I'm not even going to get into the George W. Bush suit bulge affair, because I wouldn't want to encourage any tedious Zapruder-style analysis, but here's my question: Why the hell shouldn't they be allowed to bring notes?

Obama's Other War

What’s weighing President Obama down? In a brilliant essay, Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic (and a Prospect alumna) argues that the emotional toll of his job—particularly, of presiding over two wars and having to reckon with their casualties—has emotionally “shut down” the president.

The Sound of Crickets: Conservative Sites Silent about GOP Voter-Registration Fraud

(Flickr/ Schristia)

What began last week as a trickle—a report from the Palm Beach Post that the Florida Republican Party was cutting ties with a firm that turned in "questionable" voter-registration forms in one county—has now grown into a pretty ugly flood. Turns out the Florida GOP paid the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, to do voter registration, while the Republican National Committee paid the same firm millions to register voters in four other battleground states: Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, and Colorado.

We're All Values Voters

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

As recently as last month’s convention, Democrats were getting their narrative back. They were uniformly praised for their message discipline and for laying out an inspiring vision for the country, reflected in a string of rousing speeches that told a story and signaled (instead of concealed) their values. After last night’s debate, Dems risk falling back into the lost decades when the party could offer only a grab bag of policy goodies to its fragile coalition instead of a coherent governing philosophy. If Barack Obama’s debate performance is any indication, they seem poised to forget a key lesson from the last three elections: We’re all “values voters.”

David Brooks, the World's Most Gullible Man

Flickr/Newshour

A couple of weeks ago, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a scathing piece about Mitt Romney's "47 percent" video, saying "It suggests that Romney doesn't know much about the culture of America." But now that Romney has moved to the center, not only is Brooks back on board, he's here to testify that this new moderate Mitt is the "authentic" one. I kid you not:

But, on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself...

Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity. And, having taken this step, he's broken the spell. Conservatives loved it! They loved that it was effective, and it was effective because Romney could more authentically be the man who (I think) he truly is.

And what do you know, the "authentic" Romney just happens to be the one who adopts a perfectly Brooksian version of conservatism, one in which you say nice things about bipartisanship and compassion, then pursue dogmatic right-wing policies.

Let me repeat what I've said before: There is no "authentic" or "real" Mitt Romney. Neither the moderate we saw in the debate, nor the Randian of the "47 percent" video spewing contempt on society's moochers, nor the "severely conservative" candidate (his own words) of the primaries is the real Romney, because there is no real Romney. He is whoever he believes the political requirements of the moment demand him to be. His persona is always in flux, changing as the political situation changes. And he obviously surmised—quite accurately, as it turned out—that with conservatives growing increasingly desperate over his campaign's prospects, he could unveil a newly moderate persona at the debate and they would silence their objections.

If there had ever been a single moment in his political career in which Romney took an unpopular stand, assuming a real political risk out of conviction, you might say that he had revealed the "authentic" Romney. But he never has. Yet David Brooks apparently believes that when Romney changes his identity once again, in a way that just happens to improve his political fortunes, that he has brought forth his true self. I suppose if Brooks were some kind of Hannityesque partisan hack, you could assume that he's only saying this because it helps Romney. But that's not who Brooks is. He actually believes it.

Fri, Oct. 05 Electoral Vote Predictor

Obama Approval Reaches 3-Year High

While President Obama turned in a lackluster debate performance that was panned by Republicans and Democrats alike, he got some good news yesterday: According to a new Gallup poll, his approval rating now stands at 54 percent—the highest it has been in three years. Historically, presidents with an approval rating above 50 percent have been re-elected while those under 50 percent have struggled and often lost.

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