Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Chris Christie's Sly, Futile Move

(Flickr/New Jersey National Guard)
Once again, Barack Obama has proven to be the luckiest politician alive. Just when the race was tightening to a dead heat in the election’s closing days, one spectacular betrayal and one rank miscalculation on the Republican side have turned the contest back in Obama’s favor. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who will tour his storm-ravaged state today with President Obama, was all over the networks Tuesday telling what a wonderful leader his president was. “I spoke to the president three times yesterday,” Christie boasted, calling Obama “outstanding.” When Fox co-host Steve Doocy meekly asked Christie if he planned any events with Romney, Christie snarkily replied, “I have no idea nor am I the least bit concerned or interested.” Christie’s caper, of course, is so opportunist that it almost makes Mitt Romney look principled—almost. What a swell party of back-stabbers is our GOP. For Christie, who is up for re-election next year in a blue state, this caper accomplishes three things:...

Romney's Continent-Crossing Coattails

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP PHOTO/Nati Harnik) Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu, left, glances at Prime Minister Shimon Peres during a ceremony at the Knesset in Jerusalem Monday, June 17 1996. Netanyahu is expected to present his new government to the Knesset Monday, and reportedly is shaping a cabinet which will exclude or sideline his rivals in the right-wing Likud party. S himon Peres, just 89 years young, is under pressure "from politicians and ex-generals" to run again for prime minister of Israel against Benjamin Netanyahu, or so say unsourced news reports. Peres, in politics since the time of King David or at least of FDR, denies he'll give up his ceremonial post as Israel's president for another run. Ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert, according to other unreliable reports, awaits the outcome of the U.S. election before deciding whether he'll return to politics in a bid to unite Israel's fragmented center and left and save the country from Netanyahu. As the American campaign heads toward a...

Anti-Obamacare Ballot Measures: Purely Symbolic, Sometimes Ironic

(Flickr/Fibonacci Blue)
This is the seventh in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year. Ever since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed, Republicans have been desperate for ways to gut it. They hoped the Supreme Court might do the dirty work, but the Court ruled this summer that the law was constitutional. They hoped to pass new legislation, but as long as Democrats have the White House and the Senate, that's a non-starter. So instead, for the time being, they are turning to purely symbolic acts of defiance. Four states have ballot measures on November 6 that, if passed, would directly conflict with the ACA. In Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Wyoming, voters can ostensibly decide to ban any and all mandates that residents get health insurance. But these "bans" would exist in name only. That's because the measures would violate Obamacare, which requires that the state's residents get health insurance or pay a fine (which the Supreme Court calls a tax). These measures will have no...

Obama to the Rescue

When Chris Christie delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in August, he had some choice words for President Obama. “It’s time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House,” Christie thundered . If he ever genuinely believed that Obama was an “absentee leader,” the New Jersey governor has certainly had a dramatic change of mind. With his state confronting a historic level of destruction courtesy of Superstorm Sandy, Christie has been full of praise for his "pro-active leadership." This morning, he said , “The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president; personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area. The President has been outstanding in this and so have the folks at FEMA.” Obama has indeed appeared to be at his calm, commanding best during this crisis. He has made the case not only for himself but...

Fix the Debt, Destroy the Recovery

(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
David Walker announced his endorsement of Mitt Romney this week. The name might not ring a bell, but Walker was head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the number one funder of deficit-hawkery in the United States. Walker, a former Comptroller General, has described himself and his crusade as bipartisan, and it is actually helpful that he has come out of the closet as a Republican. Lately, Walker has been deeply involved with the efforts to levitate the late Bowles-Simpson Commission as a template for deficit-reduction, and has been working closely with the corporate-funded “Fix the Debt” campaign of more than 100 CEOs lobbying for an austerity grand bargain. It’s worth unpacking the economics and the politics of the austerity lobby. The Fix the Debt campaign, much like the Bowles-Simpson Commission and the propaganda of the Peterson Foundation generally, contends that the projected national debt is depressing business willingness to invest now. Presumably, businesses are worried...

One View of the Brown-Warren Race

Last spring, I wrote for The Nation on the Elizabeth Warren campaign for U.S. Senate. At the time, I would've bet against her winning. This month, I checked in to see how the campaign is doing—and came away, to my surprise, believing she may very well eke out a victory over Brown. She's got three things going for her: a well-organized ground campaign that is deploying a flood of volunteers effectively and in coordination with the local, state, and national Democrats; her calm and personable performance in the debates; and the fact that many Massachusetts voters who might otherwise have ignored the Senate race are enthusiastic about reelecting President Obama. For more, I hope you'll take a look at my reporting for The Nation— before you come back here, of course!

Romney Versus Our Better Angels

As "Frankenstorm" churns up the East Coast, it brings into relief the central argument of the 2012 campaign. Beneath all the minor squabbles and distractions, Obama vs. Romney is a contest between two starkly different views about the proper role of government. It’s Lincoln’s concept that informs the president’s approach: "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves,” the 16 th president famously said. Romney, meanwhile, has run as the faithful representative of the anti-government strain that, as Frank Rich recently wrote , has infected American politics from the git-go. One of Romney's most pointed articulations of the government-hating strain came in a primary debate last June, when he was asked about a more localized version of what millions are facing today—the devastation in Joplin, Missouri. Should the states deal with such things rather than the federal...

Higher Taxes Hurt Job Creators? That's Malarkey.

As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded—and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down—the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes. President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring those with high incomes to pay in taxes at least 30 percent of any income over $1 million (the so-called “Buffett Rule”). Mitt Romney says emphatically no. He proposes cutting tax rates by 20 percent, which would reduce taxes on the rich far more than anyone else. He also wants to extend the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, and reduce or eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains. Romney says he’ll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their share of total taxes remains the same as it is now, although he refuses to specify what...

The Politics of Frankenstorm

(Flickr/ NASA Goddard Photo and Video)
Between checking The Weather Channel and dashing out to buy new batteries for flashlights, most folks along the Eastern Seaboard are already hunkered down in preparation for the Storm, a.k.a. Frankenstorm, a.k.a. Hurricane Sandy. Making their way to the polls is probably not at the top of anyone's list. But thousands of elections officials and campaign workers—not to mention the Romney and Obama campaigns—have had their well-laid plans turned upside down, at least for the next couple of days. Four battleground states will feel some of the storm's brunt—Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Election officials hope there will be enough time to clear debris and get power to polling places before November 6. But while elections officials are scrambling to ensure that people will be able to cast ballots in spite of flooding and power outages, pundits and strategists are left grappling with a key question: Just how might Frankenstorm and its lingering effects affect the...

Considering an Electoral-Popular Vote Split

In this final stage of the presidential race, the tension grows with each passing day, even as the campaign itself ceases to be interesting at all. There might be some kind of October Surprise, as happened in 2000, when five days before the election it was revealed that George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving at age 30. But barring something like that, between now and election day nothing much will happen. There will be lots of rallies and ads and door-knocking and phone calling, of course, but reporters are going to have a hard time coming up with new things to talk about. Which is why this is the time when we start spinning out "what if" scenarios. What if there's an Electoral College tie? Let's join Wolf over at the virtual reality dome to game out the possibility for the next ten minutes! But this year there is a real possibility that we could get a crazy scenario, one in which Mitt Romney wins the popular vote, but Barack Obama wins the Electoral College. If that...

The Comeback Kids

Six months ago, liberals were preparing for the worst. After a winter of fast growth, the economy had begun to slow down and unemployment had begun to creep back up. Mitt Romney was close behind in the race for the White House, and there was little indication that President Obama could pull ahead and win. And the Senate, a stronghold for Democrats over the last six years, looked vulnerable. For most of the last eighteen months, the conventional wisdom on congressional elections was straightforward: Due to large majorities, Republicans would hold onto their House majority, and bolster it with a slim majority in the Senate. It wasn’t hard to see why; of the 33 contested seats this year, 21 belonged to Democrats and two were held by Independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders. It would be one thing if Democrats were only defending safe seats in blue states; they would be assured of holding the Senate. But the senators up for reelection won their seats in the Democratic wave of 2006. As...

Colorado: The Florida of 2012?

(Flickr/Chris&Rhiannon)
Unlike 10 other states this year —the most strict of which are Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kansas—Colorado has no law that will require voters to show up at the polls with photo identification* on Election Day. Voting-rights activists say such laws will disenfranchise the poor, young, or very old—voters that tend to lean Democratic—and point out that the in-person vote fraud these laws are intended to address is exceedingly rare. But voter-ID laws are only the most obvious way to make it harder to vote. Colorado’s current Republican secretary of state, Scott Gessler, was elected in 2010, and it wasn’t long before he started to implement new rules that go after Democratic voters. “For the first time I can remember, we’re getting e-mails from everyday citizens saying things like, ‘I’m afraid my votes aren’t going to count, that the machines aren’t going to work,’” says Olivia Mendoza, executive director of CLLARO, a civic-engagement organization for Latinos in the state. “There’s a...

The Most Mysterious Man in the Election

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
It's often said that the way a candidate runs his campaign gives insight into the way he'll run the government, but unfortunately it usually isn't true. A campaign has a few similarities to a government, but not many; likewise, while there are similarities between running for president and being president (lots of speeches, for instance), most of the really important things couldn't be more different. As the presidential election nears its end—a vote of tremendous consequence preceded by a campaign of unusual triviality—is there anything left to learn about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Despite the fervid hopes of those on the extreme right that there is some secret revelation waiting to be unearthed about Obama, we know most of what we need to know about his potential second term just by taking stock of his first. We know that domestically, where he needs Congress's cooperation he'll pursue the policies his party supports, just as Mitt Romney will. In foreign policy and national...

Nate Silver, Artist of Uncertainty

(Flickr/Randy Stewart)
(Flickr/handcoding) W e’re heading into the last week of a tight presidential campaign, and polls are coming in too fast to count. Partisans everywhere are desperate for omens. But at moments like these, it’s people who care most intensely that the “right outcome” occur who run a high risk of getting it wrong—picking out positive polls for comfort, or panicking over an unusual and unexpected result they don’t like. Fortunately, our most prominent number cruncher has been giving us the straight story instead of capitalizing on this anxiety. In 2008, Nate Silver correctly predicted the results of all 35 Senate races and the presidential results in 49 out of 50 states. Since then, his website, fivethirtyeight.com (now central to The New York Times ’s political coverage), has become an essential source of rigorous, objective analysis of voter surveys to predict the Electoral College outcome of presidential campaigns. Publishers lined up to offer Silver a chance to write a blockbuster, and...

Have White Voters Been Taken for Granted?

Have white voters been taken for granted? That’s the basic thesis of a recent piece from Politico ’s John Hohmann, who argues that if Mitt Romney wins, it will be proof that “white voters still matter.” This, we suppose, is true. Mitt Romney is winning by historic margins among white voters, and Barack Obama's re-election depends on his ability to win over at least 40 percent of them. The problem with Hohmann’s argument, of course, is that no one has said otherwise! There is no one in American politics arguing that white voters somehow “don’t matter.” In fact, the exact opposite is true. At the moment, the campaigns are obsessed with winning voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado. What do these states all have in common? They are fairly white compared to the rest of the country. Obama has been campaigning with Bill Clinton in an explicit effort to increase his margins among the “Bubbas” of American politics. African Americans are nearly taken for granted by Democratic...

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