Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The County that Swings Wisconsin

(Flickr/David Wilson)
Patrick Caldwell Working America's Wisconsin offices are on the second floor of the state AFL-CIO headquarters in Milwaukee. O n a chilly evening in early October, Jay Ferus stood waiting in the Family Dollar store's parking lot in Racine, Wisconsin. By the time I pulled up, Ferus was already an hour into his 4-9 p.m. shift as a canvasser for Working America, the labor group he represents. A chipper 49-year-old with black rectangular glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, he spends most of his time traversing the suburbs of Milwaukee, but on this Wednesday he'd driven an hour south to Racine. He held an iPad on top of a clipboard thick with sheets of paper listing the reasons why Working America had endorsed Barack Obama for president and Tammy Baldwin for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat. "Who stands with America's working families?" blared a headline at the top of each side of the flyer. Ferus looked out of place with an iPad in front of the discount store, which sits on an unglamorous...

Is Persuasion Over?

Obama volunteers out registering voters. (Flickr/Barack Obama)
If you read only one article about the respective ground games of the Obama and Romney campaigns, it should be this one , from Molly Ball of The Atlantic . As Ball says, it's long been axiomatic that a superior organizing operation can get you about an extra 2 percent on election day. The 2012 presidential election looks to be one where 2 percent will make the difference between victory and defeat, and almost everyone on both sides has acknowledged for some time that Obama has the better ground operation, not only because of their superior use of technology and social media but because they've been building it for four years. Ask Republicans today and they'll say they've nearly caught up, enough so that they can fight the Obama campaign to a draw. But that's not what Ball found. Visiting both campaigns' offices in different states, she saw a pattern: not only does the Obama campaign have nearly three times as many offices as the Romney campaign, the offices of the two camps look very...

In Michigan, a High-Stakes Game for Labor

(Flickr/CedarBendDrive)
Sixth in a series on the 174 ballot measures going before voters on November 6. There's no question these are tough times for the American labor movement. In the Rust Belt, where unions once reigned, we've watched as Wisconsin's anti-labor governor handily won a recall effort and as Indiana became the first Midwestern state to embrace so-called "right to work" laws, which cripple unions by prohibiting mandatory membership and automatic dues-collection from non-members who are benefitting from a unionized industry. To quote Harold Meyerson's blockbuster Prospect feature on labor's past and future, "In much of America, unions have already disappeared. In the rest of America, they’re battling for their lives." Now in Michigan, a state where unions once wielded tremendous power, the battle for labor's survival has moved to the ballot. Several measures could bolster unions' strength in the state—or weaken it. One measure provides more protections and bargaining rights for home health-care...

The Emptiest Candidate in Presidential Election History

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
As the end of this election approaches, it's worth taking a step back and asking this question: In the entire history of the United States of America, from George Washington's election in 1789 on down, has there been a single candidate as unmoored from ideological principle or belief as Mitt Romney? I'm not just throwing an insult here, I ask this question sincerely. Because I can't think of any. There have been middle-of-the road candidates, candidates eager to compromise, candidates who would divert attention to issues that weren't all that important, and even candidates who at some point in their careers undertook a meaningful position change or two. For instance, early in George H.W. Bush's career he was an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, just as Al Gore was anti-choice early in his; both changed their positions to align with their parties. But Romney truly does stand alone, not only for the sheer quantity of issues on which he has shifted, but for the frequency with which...

Why Richard Mourdock Matters for the Presidential Election

Richard Mourdock, the GOP candidate for Senate in Indiana, has joined the growing ranks of Republican men who openly oppose “rape and incest” exceptions in anti-abortion laws. For Mourdock, the reasoning is straightforward—every life is a “gift from God.” Here’s the full quote: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said at a debate. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” That Mourdock is not a victim of rape or incest—and biologically unable to become pregnant—seems not to have factored into his “struggle” on the issue. That aside, there’s nothing surprising about Mourdock’s view. It was echoed in Todd Akin’s now-infamous statement about “legitimate rape,” and Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh’s claim that no woman would ever need an abortion to save her life. It forms the basis for bills like the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would grant...

Mitt Romney's Question Mark Economy

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
As we close in on Election Day, the questions about what Mitt Romney would do if elected grow even larger. Rarely before in American history has a candidate for president campaigned on such a blank slate. Yet, paradoxically, not a day goes by that we don’t hear Romney, or some other exponent of the GOP, claim that businesses aren’t creating more jobs because they’re uncertain about the future. And the source of that uncertainty, they say, is President Obama — especially his Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Act, and uncertainties surrounding Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy. In fact, Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy For example, Romney says if elected he’ll repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else. He promises he’ll provide health coverage to people with pre-existing medical problems but he doesn’t give a hint how he’d manage it. Insurance companies won’t pay the higher costs of insuring...

Moderate Mitt Takes on Israel

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The final American presidential debate aired in the small hours of the Middle Eastern night. An Israeli who stayed up to watch was rewarded by learning some new facts from Mitt Romney: Iran is a land-locked country with access to the sea only through Syria. Romney believes America can push Israel and the Palestinians toward peace, and he faults President Barack Obama for failing to do so. An Israeli viewer could learn that Romney would not rush breakneck into war to stop the Iranian nuclear program. An Israeli, that is, could conclude along with Americans that Mitt Romney has an identical twin whom he sent to debate in his place. In their views of the world, Mitt and his look-alike share only one thing: a blurred map of the Middle East in which Syria has borders with both Iran and the West Bank. Unlike Mitt, the brother is not bound to policies designed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and multi-national campaign funder Sheldon Adelson. Obama regularly, forcefully reminded...

First Ladies in Waiting

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore, Barack Obama for America)
(Flickr/Gage Skidmore, Obama for America) S ure, it's fun to hate her. She's a dance mom to a high-priced horse. She crowed about her “real marriage” to Mitt during her RNC speech, which would count as a homophobic dog whistle if it weren’t loud enough for everyone to hear. She wears thousand-dollar t-shirts and still manages to dress like a modern-day June Cleaver. And this Fall she's taken to saying bafflingly tone-deaf things to reporters, like that she has “concern” for her husband’s “mental well-being” should he actually have to serve as president. But all snark aside, why should we care about Ann Romney? The answers may seem obvious: If her husband is elected, she'll surely have the ear of the President of the United States in ways most cabinet members only dream of. She provides a window into a strange and often inscrutable candidate. And of course, the campaign has designated her a surrogate, so who are we to argue? But none of these answers stand up to scrutiny. Governors and...

The Belle of the Electoral College Ball

(Clare Malone/The American Prospect)
Clare Malone This is part three of the Prospect ’s weeklong series on the swing districts that could determine the national outcome on November 6. S oren Norris is pretty sure he’s just been spouse-blocked. Norris, a canvasser for Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate, is walking away from a door that’s been slammed in his face by a rotund man in a polo shirt and khakis at the mention of Ohio’s incumbent Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown. He explains the phenomenon, common enough in this politically divided state to have been given a name by political professionals. “It’s when you want to talk to one, and the other one won’t let you talk to them. She might have been in the back. Who knows?” Norris shrugs off the encounter and is soon off to the next house on his list. He and his team of canvassers need to knock on 3,500 doors in Cuyahoga Falls, a city 45 minutes south of Cleveland, tonight—T-minus 25 days until Election Day in Ohio. It’s no secret that every four years,...

Bald-Faced Romney

One of the most dramatic moments of the three presidential debates occurred during Monday night’s foreign-policy finale. In a back-and-forth over diplomacy with Iran, Mitt Romney threw Barack Obama a bone by repeating his persistent claim that the president had gone on an “apology tour” in 2009. The baseless notion of Obama “apologizing for America” has been a central theme from the start of Romney's campaign, and his opponent was ready to jump on it: "Nothing Governor Romney just said is true," Obama said . "Starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has probably been the biggest whopper told during this campaign." There was more, and it was damning for Romney. But in the aftermath, the Republican’s response set a bold new standard for shamelessness (not an easy thing for a politician to do). This morning, his campaign blasted out a brand-new “Apology Tour” ad —containing zero evidence to support the lie he won’t let die. Both Romney and his campaign have made it abundantly...

Let's Hold Off on the Champagne, Team Romney

One way to win any close contest is to project an aura of confidence. This is exactly what we’re seeing right now from the Romney campaign. From Politico , you have a campaign advisor declaring that Mitt Romney would win 305 electoral votes on Election Day. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell says that he has a “permanent sustainable” lead, and Romney strategist Stewart Stevens declared that “The majority of Americans don’t want to vote for Barack Obama.” The spin here is dizzying, and unfortunately, political journalists—and not just at Politico —seem to be buying it. In his debate analysis, for example, ABC’s Rick Klein declared that “Mitt Romney may have done more to actually boost his chances of being elected.” Chris Cilizza maintains that Romney is still rising in the polls, and a whole host of Republicans outside the Romney campaign have declared the race over for Barack Obama. The polls paint a different picture. A quick glance shows a race that has stabilized, and begun to shift...

The "Apology Tour" Lives On

Flickr/micagoto
During last night's debate, when Mitt Romney started to go off on his usual "apology tour" line, President Obama got a little smile on his face. Here it comes, I thought—he knew Romney might say this, and he's got a killer response ready. After all, there may be no single falsehood Romney has repeated more often than this one. It's simply a lie, Mitt Romney knows it's a lie, it's been fact-checked to death so every journalist knows it's a lie, and now at last Obama would smack it down and we wouldn't have to hear it anymore. No such luck. Obama's response was to assert that Romney's charge is false ("This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign") without explaining why or finding a way to shame Romney for his shamelessness. And the Romney campaign was so pleased they put out an ad today revisiting the moment: Point out to conservatives that Obama has never apologized for America, and they'll say, "Nuh-uh! What about that time he said...

The Neocons' Long Game

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Pool, Win McNamee) President Barack Obama answers a question as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. M ost of the snap polls taken after last night's foreign policy debate, the last before the November 6 election, gave the win the President Obama—if not an outright knockout then at least a TKO on points. But beyond the candidates themselves, the debate did have one clear loser: neoconservatives. During the many years Mitt Romney has been running for president, he's taken a number of fluid positions on foreign policy. In addition to reflecting Romney's character as an eager-to-please shape-shifter, the changing positions also represent a genuine—and growing—policy tension among foreign policy factions within the GOP establishment. Even though old school realists like Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft retain some influence, and more isolationist voices...

Are Pollsters Undercounting Latinos?

In the most recent national poll from Monmouth University, Mitt Romney leads President Obama by three points, 48 percent to 45 percent. If you dip into the internals, however, you’ll see something odd: Obama has a small six-point advantage over Latinos, 48 percent to 42 percent. What’s unusual about this is that it runs counter to every other survey of Latino voters, which—on average—show Obama with a 48.4 percent lead over Romney among the group. It’s possible that Monmouth’s result won’t matter much for the accuracy of the topline number—because of small sample sizes for particular groups of voters, a poll can still be accurate, even if it has an unusual demographic breakdown. But there’s room for disagreement, and as Matt Barreto explains in a must-read post at the Latino Decisions blog, this missampling of Latino (and African American) voters could have a hugely distortionary effect on perceptions of the presidential race. He explains: Let’s examine how these faulty Latino numbers...

Bellwether by the Sea

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Jamelle Bouie This is part two of the Prospect ’s weeklong series on the swing districts that could determine the national outcome on November 6. I n a tiny Virginia Beach office belonging to Scott Rigell, an auto dealer who swept into Congress on the 2010 Tea Party Republican wave and is running for re-election, volunteers for Mitt Romney gather for a morning of voter outreach. Dunkin Donuts and coffee are available for those interested—namely, kids there to help their parents. “Vaaah Beach” (as its known to locals) is my hometown, but I’m unfamiliar with this particular neighborhood, a development of McMansions in a wealthy area called Bayside, since it’s 20 miles north of Pungo, the rural patch of town where I went to high school. Yes, 20 miles. One of the odd things about Virginia Beach is its vast size. Located in the southeast corner of Virginia and part of the larger metropolitan region called Hampton Roads, it touches the ship-building city of Norfolk and the mouth of the...

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