Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Blame Obama for Romney's Mediocrity

It’s almost banal to say at this point, but Mitt Romney is not a strong candidate. His past ideological heterodoxy makes him a poor fit for the contemporary GOP, his constant attempts to position himself with the right makes him seem dishonest to ordinary Americans, and his chief personal characteristic—stiff awkwardness—puts him at a disadvantage against a president known for his likeability.

But as Kevin Drum reminds us, he was the best possible choice in a Republican presidential field that included luminaries like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and former pizza magnate Herman Cain:

Our Bipartisan Future?

Is that Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid? No. Definitely not. (Flickr/Go Splat)

Pretty much every presidential candidate in the last couple of decades has said that he was going to bring Republicans and Democrats together and end the partisan bickering in Washington that Americans so dislike. Bill Clinton said he would. George W. Bush said he would. Barack Obama said he would. All of them failed, and the one that tried hardest to do it—Obama—had a harder time than any of them. Despite the partisanship of their eras, both Clinton and Bush had significant pieces of legislation they passed with cross-party support, like Clinton's welfare reform and Bush's No Child Left Behind. But everything important Obama did was accomplished despite unified resistance from Republicans.

Conservatives might argue that the reason is that Obama is a uniquely partisan and vicious president, so cruel to Republicans that he's impossible to work with. But the real reason, as anyone who has been paying attention the last four years knows, is that Republicans made a decision upon his election that they would oppose anything and everything he wanted to do, and they've worked hard to make sure that their opposition is unanimous. After the 2010 election, in which a passel of Tea Party extremists was elected, whether or not to oppose Obama ceased to even be a question; the only question was whether they'd burn down the government to do so.

One unusual feature of this campaign has been that Mitt Romney hasn't said he's going to bring everybody together. Maybe it's because he thinks nobody would buy it if he did, or maybe it's because it's just not something he's interested in. But now he is saying it:

Warren and Brown Meet in Debate

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

On Thursday evening, Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic challenger in the Massachusetts Senate race, dusted off the debate skills that, in high school, won her a scholarship to George Washington University. Scott Brown, the Republican she wants to replace, raced from a Senate session in Washington, D.C., and polished up his Massachusetts accent—as if, after every line, he were going to pat some working Joe on the back with an “Amirite?”

Tim Kaine Tries His Hardest to Lose

Jamelle Bouie

Barack Obama’s 2008 win in Virginia came as a surprise to many observers, but his continued durability is not hard to explain. After four years, he still wins the overwhelming majority of African Americans, a large majority of Latinos, and a solid plurality of white voters.

But Obama’s advantage has not carried over to Virginia Democrats. Despite his long tenure in Virginia politics—mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor, and governor—Tim Kaine is performing at the level of a generic Democrat in the state. For most of the year he has been neck-and-neck with George Allen, the former governor turned former senator (Virginians tend to recycle their politicians) who lost his 2006 re-election race when he used an obscure racial slur to disparage a Democratic operative. That Kaine has been tied with an avowed neo-Confederate is, I’m sure, distressing for his campaign.

The Debates Won't Save Romney

Not gonna happen this year.

If you're a Romney partisan, and you've seen Barack Obama move ahead in the polls over the last couple of weeks, you may be saying to yourself, "Maybe the debates can save him." After all, the four debates (three presidential, one VP) are the the only planned events between now and election day. Though you never know what kind of unexpected events might occur, tens of millions of voters will be watching. And so many times in the past, the race has been transformed by a dramatic debate moment.

Except that's actually not true. As John Sides lays out quite well, after all the sound and fury, debates almost never change the trajectory of the race. Of course, something never happens up until the moment that it happens, but there's strong reason to believe that the debates will change nothing this year in particular. But before I get to that, here's Sides:

Romney's Negative Coattails

Former governor Mitt Romney’s serial gaffes seem to be doing cumulative damage not just to his own campaign, but to Senate and even House races.

In the days since Romney’s clumsy attempt to make political gain from the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Politico’s piece revealing ineptitude and finger-pointing at the Republican National Convention, and the leak of the infamous “47-Percent” video, Democratic Senate candidates in most contested seats have opened up leads, according to usually trustworthy polls.

Voters Getting Mixed Signals from the Market

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Until not long ago, there was a widespread assumption that the economy could well be Barack Obama's undoing. After all, no president since Franklin Roosevelt had been re-elected with unemployment as high as it is now, so if Obama were to prevail, it would take an unusual combination of factors that usually matter only on the margins—the skills of the respective candidates, a foreign crisis or two—to allow him to win.

Dire Straits for Mitt Romney

We’ll know for certain in a few weeks, but judging from the current round of polls—two weeks removed from the Democratic National Convention—we seem to have reached an inflection point in the election. Even including today’s Rasmussen tracking poll, President Obama is leading in every likely voter national survey taken at least a week after the convention.

Talking to Themselves

Fox with a thoughtful exploration of the topic, featuring Donald Trump.

Mitt Romney and his Republican allies thought they had a way to diffuse the fallout from his now-legendary secretly recorded fundraising video when somebody unearthed a tape of President Obama saying he favored "redistribution." Sure, the tape is 14 years old. And sure, as Jamelle pointed out yesterday, pretty much everybody favors redistribution in some form, even Mitt Romney (if he didn't, he'd be advocating removing all progressivity from the tax code). Romney is bringing it up whenever he can, as is Paul Ryan, and the Obama tape has been shown on Fox News approximately three million times in the last 24 hours. Are they a little desperate? Of course. But the fact that they think such a thing will have even the remotest impact on what people think of Barack Obama shows that they are existing within an ideological cocoon that makes it almost impossible for them to figure out what they're doing wrong.

It isn't just that the tape is 14 years old (and man, has Obama aged in that time), or that what he's saying is pretty innocuous. It's that they think there's any statement of Obama's that they can unearth that will change how voters think of him. As though some significant number of voters are going to say, "I've been watching this guy on television every day for the last four years, but this 14-year-old videotape that contains the word "redistribution" has finally made me realize that he's a dangerous socialist. I was undecided before, but now you've got my vote, Mitt."

Thu, Sep. 20 Electoral Vote Predictor

A third of Voters Less Likely to Support Romney Due to Video

A new Gallup poll shows that 36% of voters are less likely to vote for Mitt Romney as a result of the video in which he said that 47% of of Americans are dependent on government and consider themselves victims. In contrast, 20% said they were more likely to vote for him. The rest weren't swayed one way or the other. Among independents, 29% said they were now less likely to vote for him while only 15% were more likely.

Lucky Obama

Yesterday, surveying the Romney ruins in the aftermath of the Libya fiasco and the 47 percent flap, Nick Gillespie at Reason led his post by declaring, “President Barack Obama is one lucky bastard.” In a very narrow sense, he’s right: Obama has certainly been fortunate to draw two general-election opponents whose political savvy is no match for his. He was lucky in 2004, too, to end up running for U.S. Senate against the unhinged Alan Keyes. But these are the strokes of happy fortune—and propitious timing—that any politician needs to ascend to White House heights.

The Right's Nonsensical Attack on "Redistribution"

In response to public furor over Mitt Romney’s “47% remarks,” conservatives have seized on audio from 1998 where Barack Obama gives his support for redistribution.

Romney’s Bigger Lie


Lots of Republican conservatives, Paul Ryan and Bill O’Reilly among them, have taken the position that even if Mitt Romney’s rhetoric was clumsy, his point was basically right. Some Americans pay taxes; others collect benefits.

But his basic claim was total baloney. When you count income taxes, payroll taxes, excise taxes, and highly regressive state and local taxes, the typical lower income working American pays about one-fifth of his or her income in taxes—more than Mitt Romney!

According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, the bottom fifth of the income distribution paid 17.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The second-poorest fifth paid 21.2 percent.

Mitt Versus the Middle East

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Take a breath and think carefully. Was Mitt Romney's candid-camera comment on how he'd handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really as awful as it sounds at first?

Actually, yes. In fact, it's even worse, especially if you are listening to it in Israel, or the Palestinian territories, or anywhere else in the Middle East. The man who would be president of the United States has said that he would throw the entire region under the bus.