Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Seven State-Level Races to Watch

Quick—who's your state legislator? If you're like most people, you have no idea. (If you do know, well la-dee-da!) State legislative races don't usually get much attention, and in a big presidential year, they're lucky to get any. But who runs the legislature is crucial in setting policy. Two years ago, when Tea Party fervor swept across the nation, Republicans knocked Democrats out of power in 21 state House and Senate chambers. Twenty states had Republicans in charge of the Senate, House, and governor's mansion concurrently. The impact was swift. These new majorities slashed social programs and weakened reproductive rights. They passed new voter-ID laws and anti-union measures. This year the stakes are just as high—if not higher. As I wrote in a September column : States’ refusal to expand Medicaid could derail Obama’s health-care plan. Anti-immigration laws will continue to proliferate in the states while Congress hems and haws about comprehensive reform. Republican lawmakers will...

Thu, Nov. 01 Electoral Vote Predictor

New Batch of Polls Welcome News for Obama A new batch of polls released yesterday (see below for the numbers) spells good news for President Obama. With Obama leading in Wisconsin by 5-8 points, it looks like Paul Ryan has failed to do the running mate's main job: bring in your home state. In Ohio, four new polls show Obama leading by an average of 3.8%. Obama is also leading in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Two of the three polls put him ahead in Virginia and he is essentially tied in Florida and Colorado. It appears that Romney's post-debate momentum has now stopped, If the current numbers continue to hold over the weekend, the popular vote could be close but Obama is likely to win the electoral college because he needs to win only a few of the big swing states whereas Romney needs to win them all. Click here for full story

Ohio's Brown Revolution

(Flickr/SEIU)
United States Senator Sherrod Brown is wearing Velcro strap sneakers. They are distinctly geriatric in flavor, black and sturdy-looking, the sort that might be found in the “Mall Walking” section of the shoe wall at FootLocker. Brown is wearing them with a suit. On stage. At a big Teamsters rally a couple of weeks before Election Day. Say what you will about Brown—and plenty has been said about the liberal bête noire of national conservatives during this election cycle—but the man certainly has his own distinct brand of business casual. And in his fierce race to maintain his Senate seat against Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, it just might be Brown’s brand of who-gives-a-hoot sartorial schlump and off-the-cuff crankiness that is winning Ohio voters over. His opponent is a trim, smooth-faced 35-year-old Iraq War veteran who favors pin-neat suits and a crisp haircut reminiscent of a Marine buzz. Mandel stands in stark physical contrast to the 59-year-old Brown, who sports an...

Show Us Your Model

Nate Silver's latest electoral projection.
It might be easy to believe we're approaching Peak Trutherism, what with good old-fashioned birthers now being supplemented by BLS truthers and poll truthers . But just you wait—should Barack Obama win this election, we'll see an explosion of election trutherism that will be truly unprecedented in scope. In the meantime, we can content ourselves with the newest variant, Nate Silver trutherism, which isn't coming just from conservatives. In case you don't know, Silver runs the blog FiveThirtyEight , which after producing a series of highly accurate predictions during the 2008 campaign got swallowed up by The New York Times . Silver makes electoral projections by taking as many different polls as he can find and running them through an algorithm. Rather than just averaging the polls' results, the algorithm uses a series of variables, including state polls and each pollster's prior record, to produce a number of different estimates. As of today he gives Obama a 77.4 percent chance of...

Mitt's Parallel Universe

Last week, when the campaign was still trying to project momentum, Mitt Romney promised to close his campaign with “big ideas”: plans for jump-starting the economy, reducing the debt, and giving every American a pony. Of course, little of this was credible: Analysts have debunked Romney’s jobs plan (which simply takes credit for jobs that would have been created anyway), challenged his tax plan (doesn't add up), and noted the extent to which his proposals for tax cuts and higher military spending would explode the deficit . (The pony proposal has gone unscored, however.) This week, the tone from Team Romney is a little more somber. According to the polling averages, Obama is either leading or tied in every swing state other than Florida and North Carolina, and there, he’s gaining ground. Part of the problem is that, in Ohio especially, Obama has successfully run on the automobile bailout. Romney tried to argue against the bailout as unwise, but that didn't work. So instead, he’s just...

Will Undecided Voters Break Overwhelmingly to Romney?

One piece of zombie conventional wisdom—it comes up every election—is the idea that undecided voters will always break for the challenger. It’s what gives hope to Republicans in this race, who assume that the last-minute decisions of undecided voters will push Mitt Romney to the top. Unfortunately for Republicans, there just isn’t much evidence for this assertion. Yes, there are elections where undecided voters broke decisively for the challenger—1980 for Ronald Reagan, 1992 for Bill Clinton. But by and large, undecided voters tend to break evenly, with a slight advantage for the challenger. This past summer, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver tried to quantify this trend . What he found was that the incumbent party candidate—George H.W. Bush in 1988, or Al Gore in 2000—gains an average of 3.5 points between the September polls and his actual performance on Election Day. The challenger gains slightly more—3.9 points. Among true incumbents, like Obama, the numbers are a little better for...

Power and Privilege in the Workplace

Flickr/daysofthundr46
Today, Adele Stan uncovers another example of a big employer trying to bully their employees into voting for Mitt Romney. We've seen a number of these stories in the last few weeks, as one company after another sends out notices to their workers saying, Hey, we're not telling you whom to vote for or anything, but if that socialist Barack Obama gets elected, we might have to fire you. The twist in this case is that the company, home improvement retailer Menards, is using an online "civics" course as its means of persuasion. Employees who take the "voluntary" (which means you don't have to take it, but your bosses are keeping account of who did and who didn't) course are fed a bucket of anti-Obama propaganda. As this kind of thing becomes more common, there are a couple of things to remember. First, though the CEOs inevitably say they're just giving their employees the straight dope on business realities, this has absolutely nothing to do with business realities and much more to do with...

Richard Carmona, Centrist Avenger

United States Department of Health and Human Services
This is the first in a Prospect series on key U.S. Senate races. Richard Carmona might be new to campaigning, but he’s not exactly new to politics. In 2005, he was a recruiting target for Republican Senator Jon Kyl and his ally in the statehouse, then-secretary of state Jan Brewer. Phone calls were made, meetings were held, and Kyl even sent Carmona a handwritten note on his personal letterhead: “For someone who’s ‘not so political’ you sure leave an audience in awe,” Kyl wrote. “Thanks for all you did for me in Phoenix last week. I look forward to continuing our discussion at your convenience.” It’s not hard to see why Kyl—and by extension, the Republican Party—had an interest in Carmona. Just look at his biography: A Puerto Rican raised in Harlem, he dropped out of high school at 16, and shortly after enlisted in the Army. He earned his G.E.D, joined the special forces, fought in the Vietnam War, and received training as a combat medic. He’s received degrees in nursing, biology,...

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