Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Sandy, Why Are You So Blue?

(Flickr/ds_leeter/NASA Goddard Photo and Video)
For all the speculation about the effect of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath on the election, one important aspect has gotten surprisingly little attention: How many people will be unable to vote because of power outages, floods, and impaired transportation systems? How many will be deterred from voting because they are dealing with serious dislocations in their lives? And what new forms of Republican mischief will all this invite? Other things being equal, President Obama seems to have been the winner so far because of his impressive handling of the crisis. Chris Christie surely helped on the image front. But other things are not equal. Four days before the election, at least three million Americans are without power . And so are thousands of neighborhood polling places. Bus and subway lines are not fully operating, and there are gas shortages, especially in New Jersey. Both factors raise obstacles to people getting to the polls. Hundreds of thousands of people—conceivably more than...

America's Dumbest Voters

As the Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie noted earlier today, the most ludicrous ad of the election cycle has to be the latest from the conservative super PAC, Empower Citizens Network, that tries to sway African American voters to the GOP by pointing out that Abraham Lincoln was a member of the party. But that’s not all! Republicans also founded the NAACP, the ad informs us, and they voted for the Civil Rights Act. So what if there’s been nothing to recommend the party to black voters since 1964? Let history be your guide, folks! Republicans are forever grumbling about how African Americans form an unthinking Democratic bloc—if they’re not just plain insulting them, like Congressman Allen West does, by saying they’re enslaved on the “Democratic plantation.” But as Jamelle notes, “the fact of the matter is that blacks are well aware of their political and economic interests,” and they vote accordingly. If only the same could be said of non-wealthy whites. White people have a long, rich...

Wisconsin's Red-State Scare

(Flickr/James Morey)
(The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Tammy Baldwin speaks to supporters at the Democratic headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. O n a rainy Sunday night in Madison, Wisconsin, 30 energized volunteers turned out at the Democratic headquarters on State Street to register University of Wisconsin students to vote. Tammy Baldwin, sporting a magenta blazer, milled about, chatting with the constituents she represents in the U.S. House. Come January, she'll either be out of Congress or representing a larger swath of the state in the U.S. Senate. Facing former four-term Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, Baldwin is locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country. Most recent polls have her favored by a slim margin, with Real Clear Politics' average putting her up by just 0.3 percent. It's been a brutal few years for Democrats in Wisconsin. The state elected and re-elected one of the nation's most right-wing governors, launched Paul Ryan into the national spotlight, and voted out...

Conservatives to Black People: "Remember Abe Lincoln!"

I’m not sure that this is the most hilarious advertisement of the 2012 election cycle, but it surely comes close: A conservative super PAC called the Empower Citizens Network asks African American voters to abandon President Obama—who, obviously, has failed them—and choose Mitt Romney. Why? Because Romney belongs to the same party as the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. Here’s the ad: All of these things are true, but they’re also irrelevant to the question of who African Americans should support in 2012. Given Republican hostility to social insurance programs, aid for lower-income Americans, and a general willingness to tolerate anti-black prejudice (see: the continued popularity of figures like Rush Limbaugh), there’s every reason for blacks to continue their support for the Democratic Party and, in particular, President Obama. This ad doesn’t deserve a serious treatment, but—with that said—it is reflective of an attitude that seems common among conservatives, or at least those...

Just When You Started to Relax—More Ohio Voting Problems

(Flickr/kristin wolff)
It's no secret that the presidential race could come down to Ohio. The Buckeye State has loomed large for months, and word is, both Romney and Obama will be in Columbus on Election Night. According to Nate Silver, there’s a nearly 50-percent chance that the state will determine the election outcome. All eyes seem to be there—when WaPo ’s The Fix shifted it from “leans Democratic” to “toss up” yesterday on the electoral map, half the internet seemed to respond with either cheers or jeers. But while everyone's been watching the polls and political rallies, the chances that the election will be mired in confusion and controversy increased this week. Thousands of requests for mail-in ballots across the state may have been unfairly rejected, thanks to a technical glitch in the data-sharing software between the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State's office. The idea is that when a voter updates her address at the BMV, it also gets updated at the Secretary of State's...

Unemployment Ticks Up—And That's a Good Thing

The economy gained 171,000 jobs in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The previous two months’ job gains were also revised upward, with the BLS now estimating that an additional 50,000 jobs were created in August and 34,000 in September. With the revisions, we finally have more jobs than in early 2009, when the economy was in full collapse and President Obama took office. Job growth is important, but what might be even more exciting news is that the unemployment rate went from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent. Wait—isn’t unemployment the number we want to go down immediately? Unemployment is a measure of people looking for work. As people are unemployed for longer periods of time, they become discouraged and give up on trying to find a job. When they do this, they are no longer counted as unemployed, which leads to an artificial decline in the unemployment rate—it’s not that the economy has added jobs; it’s that there are fewer people looking for them. The BLS tracks the...

Conservatives Confidently Predict Romney Victory

Flickr/kpishdadi
There's a case to be made that people who write about politics should just avoid making predictions altogether. There are plenty of substantive matters to talk about, and one's readers aren't much enlightened by your average opinion-monger's call on what's going to happen on Election Day, or whether a particular bill will pass, or which country we'll invade next. There is certainly value to be had in systematic examinations of polling data, but is there really anything to be gained from your average ideological writer's call on what will happen on Tuesday? Maybe it's best left for the office pool. Yet the temptation is so strong. There's an equally powerful temptation to have your assessment of what is likely to happen be colored by what you want to happen. We're all extremely good at convincing ourselves that unlike everybody else, we've looked at things objectively. Yet if you look around at all the pundits and bloggers making predictions about the election, you'll find that almost...

Unions Fighting Two-Front War on California Ballots

Flickr/quinn.anya
This is the eighth in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year. It’s been a bad year for California unions. Republicans have never been fans of the labor movement , and now state Democratic support is waning. In September, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a pension reform plan that will force union members to work longer for fewer benefits, and vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights , an AFL-CIO-backed bill that would have given labor rights to domestic workers. And earlier this month, Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed child care workers to unionize . In cities like San Jose and Los Angeles—both Democrat-leaning cities with Democratic mayors—unions are fighting more losing battles against pension reform. In this election, state unions were forced to open a new front—at the ballot box. California ballot Proposition 32 puts labor in even deeper trouble, and could leave the movement effectively silenced. And even if labor kills the...

I Can Haz Recovery?

Jamelle Bouie
Jamelle Bouie For this month’s jobs report , don’t pay attention to the top-line number. Yes, unemployment increased to 7.9 percent, but that’s because the economy is creating more jobs, and more people are looking for work. Not only did the economy create 171,000 new jobs—beating expectations by a significant amount—but labor-force participation is up, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics added 50,000 more jobs to the total for August (bringing it up to 192,000) and 34,000 to the total for September (bringing it up to 148,000). If this were unusually good—250,000 new jobs, for instance—or unusually bad, then it could have a significant effect on the presidential race. As it stands, it’s just solid, and it won’t bend the needle in one direction or the other. President Obama can cite it as evidence that the economy is moving forward and we need to continue on the current path; Mitt Romney will hammer it as an example of the president’s “failed leadership.” In fact, right on time, that’s...

Fix the Debt or Save the Coasts?

(Flickr/Chris Amelung)
One of the casualties of Hurricane Sandy is the premise that America’s biggest economic problem is deficit reduction. That’s because the United States just became a much larger version of the Netherlands. Once we get through the election, official Washington may be willing to talk about this. President Obama’s leadership in helping flooded communities cope with the damage nicely positions him to lead an effort to prevent future super-storm damage. As events like Sandy become more common, and the ocean levels rise even in the absence of hurricanes, the communities of the Eastern and Gulf seaboard will increasingly be at risk of regularly being underwater—unless we build a massive system of seawalls, dikes, levees, storm-surge barriers, and pumping facilities, as the Dutch have done for centuries. The immediate damage from Sandy will cost upwards of $50 billion. But looking forward, America’s seaboard cities will need to spend serious money not just on seawalls, but on public...

One Speech, Two Speech, Red State, Blue State

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
(AP Photo/The Greeley Tribune, Joshua Polson) Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan makes his way through the crowd shaking hands and greeting attendees individually after his speech at Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, Colorado on November 1, 2012. Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is criticizing President Barack Obama's suggestion of creating a secretary of business. I n Colorado, polling shows that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are still neck and neck. Both campaigns are fighting for every vote, and held campaign events only 50 miles apart Thursday. In the morning, Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan visited Greeley, a city of almost 93,000, where local county commissioner Sean Conway warmed up the crowd. By the time early in-person voting ends today, the secretary of state estimates that 80 percent of voters will already have voted, either at the booth or by mail. Conway asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had already voted, and said, “Well...

Fri, Nov. 02 Electoral Vote Predictor

Both Candidates Back on the Campaign Trail After an awkward pause due to Hurricane Sandy, both President Obama and Mitt Romney are back where they belong--at each others' throats. Obama campaigned in Wisconsin and Romney was in Virginia yesterday, In the final 100 hours, Obama is planning to visit three states a day from now on. In practice, that means he'll spend almost the entire day in the air on the phone. Romney has said he will make a push to win Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, but the proof of the pudding will be in seeing how much time he spends visiting those states. Click here for full story

No He Didn't!

Apparently we don’t need to wait five days to find out who’ll be president for the next four years. All we need to do is check out, say, The Boston Herald , for a headline confidently proclaiming : “Romney set to win, maybe by a mile.” Or National Review Online , where we learn that “the size of Romney’s victory could be the biggest surprise of all.” Or The Wall Street Journal , where that most disinterested of political observers, Karl Rove, proclaims : “It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney.” Then there’s The Hill , where Dick Morris prophecies , “Here comes the landslide.” And if we still have any lingering doubts—or fanciful hopes for President Obama—they will be shattered by UnSkewedPolls.com, which has “The Updated Definitive Projection of the race: Romney wins 54 percent and 359 EVs.” That’s right, people: This sucker is—to coin a phrase—signed, sealed, and delivered for the...

Heckuva Job, Barry

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Although some may find it crass to speculate on the political impact of The Storm, I'm going to go ahead and do it, for two reasons. First, I've earned the right , and second, because complaints that things are "politicized" are almost always misconceived. Politics is important. It concerns choices that affect all our lives. And campaigns ought to be connected to the actual business of governing, so when an event occurs that implicates our government, it should be talked about. Problems sometimes arise not from the fact that something is politicized, but the way it's politicized. For instance, when in the 2002 election, Republicans charged that Democrats were on the side of al Qaeda because those Democrats favored a different bill establishing the Department of Homeland Security than the bill Republicans favored, it was despicable not because September 11 had been "politicized," but because of the manner in which it was politicized. Anyhow, back to the storm. This morning, an editor...

How to Poll

California’s venerable Field Poll released the first in its final series of pre-election polls today, and in the process provided a wonderful example to all its fellow pollsters. At a moment when a number of polls have come under criticism for not employing interviewers who can speak Spanish, the Field Poll responded to California’s growing diversity by conducting its interviews in English and Spanish—and Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese. The funding for these Asian-language interviews was provided by New American Media, which itself had received a grant for this project from the San Francisco Foundation. The poll itself measured support for the two rival tax hike/school spending measures on the California ballot next week—Proposition 30, backed by Governor Jerry Brown and teachers unions, among others, which would raise income taxes on the wealthy and impose a quarter-cent sales tax hike to provide $6 billion yearly to the state’s K-12 schools and its public colleges and...

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