Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

The Last Word on Richard Mourdock

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock was already an extremist, not to mention not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, before he offered up his opinion on abortion and rape the other day. But I'm sure that even as he scrambles to contain the damage from his remarks, he can't quite understand what all the fuss is about. He expressed an opinion that is, among many millions of religious Americans, totally mundane: that God loves every baby and blastocyst, and therefore even a pregnancy that results from rape is good in His eyes. This episode reveals a couple of important things that are worth reiterating before we move on to the next campaign controversy, about both abortion and religion. Folks like Mourdock whose position on abortion is that the only reason it should be allowed is if the pregnant woman is going to die any moment without it—and there are lots of them, including 15 Republican Senate candidates —at least have a position that is consistent with the principle they...

Peeking In on Canada's Election

AlexSBurton Last year, Canada's Liberals—the party of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien, the party that held power for most of the 20th century—suffered a crushing electoral defeat. Its representation in the House of Commons was cut by more than half, and for the first time in its history, the Liberal Party fell to third place in the number of seats, behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives and the more leftist New Democratic Party (NDP). Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff immediately announced that he would step down, triggering a leadership campaign that officially begins this November. The early favorite is Trudeau's son Justin, but a number of other candidates have entered the race. We interviewed one of them, Alex Burton, a prosecutor and party activist from Vancouver, about his campaign to lead the Liberals, the differences between American and Canadian politics, and his views on his neighbors to the south. This year, Mitt Romney spent $233 million during the Republican...

Paul Ryan's Other Opponent

(Flickr/Rob Zerban for Congress)
Flickr/Rob Zerban for Congress) Rob Zerban giving a speech in early October as he delivered 50,000 petition signatures to Paul Ryan's office requesting a debate. Paul Ryan's congressional district should be prime swing territory for Democrats. The party held the seat from the 1970s through the mid '90s, and it switches its allegiances during presidential years, voting for Bush in '04 but flipping to Obama in '08. Yet for some reason Democrats haven't bothered lately to field a serious opponent against Ryan. Ryan—the boyish-faced Rage Against the Machine rocker who wears a backwards baseball cap to workout—might look like he just stepped out his college frat house before joining Mitt Romney on the Republican national ticket, but he's actually be in office since 1998, with nary a threat to his seat. This time, Rob Zerban just might be up to the task. Zerban, who formerly owned a catering business in the area, is a staunch liberal, supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget...

Fri, Oct. 26 Electoral Vote Predictor

Are We Heading toward a Split Decision? The closer we get to election day—and it is only 12 days away now—the more likely it becomes that the voters render a split decision with Mitt Romney winning the popular vote and Barack Obama winning the electoral college. A new WaPo /ABC national poll of likely voters puts Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent. This is the first time Romney has hit 50 percent in this poll. Both sides are enthusiastic, with 95 percent of the Obama supporters and 93 percent of the Romney supporters being somewhat or very enthusiastic. Noteworthy is that 52 percent of the respondents think Obama will win vs. 40 percent who think Romney will win. Yesterday's Gallup tracking poll also shows Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent, but this represents a 4-point gain for Obama in this poll in a week. Romney led by 7 points in Gallup's tracking poll a week ago. While it is difficult to compare results from different pollsters due to different methodologies, Gallup's...

And Best Supporting Zinger Goes To...

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. R ight, so the 2012 presidential debates are done with at last—triggering, as predictably as natural disasters produce fundamentalist sermons, a stew of grousing in Wonkland about their shallowness, triviality, and failure to articulate much of substance about whatever issues made the cut. Everybody had a laundry list of topics that never got broached at all (global warming and torture were just two of the big ones). But from my unwonky perspective, complaints of this nature reflect an either earnest or wilful inability to recognize the nature of the beast. All that counts—to the electorate, to the campaigns, and even to the outcome on November 6, which means to history—is whether they were good TV. If that sounds cynical, I don't mean it to be. I'm a pop critic,...

Mail In Your Ballot, Cross Your Fingers

(Flickr/Nadya Peek/Jenn Vargas)
Ohio's Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has been under fire now for months from Democrats. They’re angry, particularly, about his moves to limit early voting hours across the state—especially those on the weekend before the election. Poor and minority voters rely on the expanded hours. Black churches have used the last Sunday before election day to bring voters to the polls; low-income voters often have inflexible work schedules and childcare demands at home. After a lengthy court battle, Husted has now authorized county election boards to offer hours in the three days before election day. But he did limit early voting hours in the weeks before, with fewer evening hours and no weekend hours. But Husted insists he's no 2012 version of Katherine Harris or Ken Blackwell. He's repeatedly defended himself by pointing out that he's also done something to make voting easier for all Ohioans: expand mail-in voting. Anyone in the state can vote by mail and this year, for the first...

Central Florida's Corridor of Power

(Flickr/Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau/Express Monorail)
An aerial photograph of Disney World in Kissimmee, Florida I f you want to know what’s different about Florida, both in general and in this election cycle, just ask José López. The organizer and leader of a laundry workers’ union that’s part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), López has been walking precincts as part of SEIU’s campaign to re-elect President Obama since mid-summer. One day, as he was chatting with an elderly man on his doorstep, his canvassing partner interrupted and asked López, “How much do you know about snakes?” A rather large snake, it seems, had slithered between López’s legs. The elderly gentleman, who, like hundreds of thousands of new Florida voters, had migrated from Puerto Rico to the Orlando metropolitan area, excused himself, returned carrying a machete and proceeded to hack the snake not entirely to death. “The machete was too dull,” says López, shaking his head. “He ended up just beating that poor snake to death with that thing.” “Old...

Calling Bullshit

So it seems that President Obama got a little salty in an interview Rolling Stone will publish tomorrow. According to Politico, the prez says of Mitt Romney, “You know, kids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.’” The high-pitched sound you can hear now in the distance? It’s the keening wail of shocked, dismayed, flabbergasted, and mortally offended Republicans—mixed with the low murmur of apology from Team Obama. "What is true is that trust is a very important part of the election," Obama spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer told reporters as Obama Romnesia-ed his way today through Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. "The president is someone who says what he means and does what he says and Governor Romney's answers in the debates on domestic issues and foreign policy raise real questions about that." Pfeiffer urged folks to not be "distracted by the word," but to "focus on the issue.” Good luck with that! If there’s one thing we know from...

Is the Democratic Party Too Diverse?

Writing for The Daily Beast , John Avalon makes an odd complaint about the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party writ large—that they're focusing too much on attracting non-white voters. To be fair, the bulk of the column is devoted to explaining the dangers of a strategy that relies on high turnout and support from African Americans and Latinos; if Obama underperforms with those voters in states like Colorado and Virginia, he will have considerably narrowed his path to reelection. But the alternative, greater appeal to white voters—and particularly working-class whites—just isn’t tenable. No Democratic nominee has won a majority of the white vote since 1964. Indeed, at this point, it's good if Democrats manage a moderate plurality of the white vote—Obama will be doing well if he captures 40 percent. There are a variety of reasons for this—for one, ethnocentrism among white voters drives skepticism for government programs—but the result is the same: Democrats consistently struggle...

Virginia Is Still a Toss-Up—and Romney Should Be Worried

In my dispatch from Virginia Beach, I wrote that the state was a toss-up: At the time, President Obama was tied with Mitt Romney at 47.4 percent, down from 48.5 percent before the first presidential debate. In recent days, however, Obama’s star in the commonwealth has brightened, if only by a little bit. The last ten polls, stretching back to the middle of the month, after the vice presidential debate, show a small move in Obama’s direction: Virginia, 10/14 - 10/24 Pollster Obama Romney Margin Public Policy Polling (D) 51 46 O+5 Zogby 49 46 O+3 Mellman Group (D) 46 45 O+1 Wenzel Strategies (R) 47.1 49.2 R+2.1 Public Policy Polling (D) 49 47 O+2 Rasmussen 47 50 R+3 Old Dominion University 50 43 O+7 Public Policy Polling (D) 49 48 O+1 Pulse Opinion Research 47 46 O+1 American Research Group 47 48 R+1 Average 48.2 46.8 O+1.4 The most recent poll comes from Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, which shows Obama with a five-point lead and strong performance with women (57–41),...

Why Obama Has an Ad Advantage

One thing overlooked in discussions of campaign fundraising is who controls the money. Over the summer, Team Romney raised enormous sums, but large portions of it were either for affiliated super PACs or the Republican National Committee. The upside for the Romney campaign is that they had many different ways of raising money. But there was a big downside as well: Television ads—one of the largest line items for any campaign—were more expensive as a result. Under federal election law, campaign committees qualify for lower advertising rates than either party committees or independent groups. In practical terms, this makes ad spending more expensive for Romney than Obama. Given the limited effectiveness of advertising—even good ads lose their power within days of airing—this difference can become an important tactical advantage in the waning days of a campaign, when both sides are trying to influence as many voters as possible. Indeed, this is exactly what we’re looking at: As a recent...

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