Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Obama's Town Hall To-Do List

Here’s what President Obama needs to do tonight: Show leadership, resolve, and toughness Directly call Romney on his evasions and deceptions Demolish several of Romney’s outright lies Not pass up several opportunities to make points, as he did in the first debate Not make any major mistakes Take advantage of any Romney blunders Specifically: Refute Romney's claims that the Benghazi attack was Obama’s failure, and shame Romney for trying to make political hay of it Destroy Romney’s credibility on the budget, tax cuts for the wealthy, and Social Security Press Romney directly on which tax loopholes he’d close Remind voters that Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy, whose new-found identification with regular working people is a sham Associate Romney with Republican blockage of Obama’s efforts to promote a stronger economic recovery Push Romney hard on issues where he has changed his position or denies his real current position, such as abortion rights Demolish Republican talking points...

What Does Obama Need to Do Tonight? Defend His Record.

(Jamelle Bouie)
Ahead of tonight’s town hall debate, the Obama campaign has released a direct-to-camera video featuring Bill Clinton, who—as president—thrived in town hall-style environments. The video, which is meant to clarify the issues around Mitt Romney’s tax plan, is a partial restatement of Clinton’s acclaimed speech at the Democratic National Convention. Take a look: I get the reasoning behind this video: to remind voters of Mitt Romney’s absolute commitment to the interests of the wealthy, and to call to mind the last round of upper-income tax cuts, which did little to boost economic growth but insured a decade of gains for the richest Americans. Still, I think it’s a mistake. The genius of Mitt Romney’s vague tax plan is that it allows him to mount any defense that sounds plausible. Indeed, if there is anything Romney is ready for, it’s attacks on his tax proposals. And as we saw in the last presidential debate, he’s adept at twisting any criticism into an opportunity to extol the claimed...

All Due Respect

Find out what it means to me.
As I was going through old presidential debates in writing this piece , I came across a moment in the 2004 town hall debate in which John Kerry got asked by a woman in the audience what he would tell someone who thought abortion was murder and wanted reassurance that their tax money wouldn't be going to abortion. He began his answer in the way we have come to expect Democratic politicians to: "First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins." He then went on to explain how he was an altar boy, religion is very important to him, but he won't impose his personal beliefs on others. At the end of it, he wrapped up with a discussion of the importance of family planning, and said, "You'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it." Which got me thinking: When was the last time you heard a Republican express their deep, deep respect for the moral...

Obama and the Vision Thing

President Obama’s first challenge in tomorrow night’s town hall debate has been crystal clear ever since he allowed Mitt Romney to Etch A Sketch his way through their first encounter: Follow Joe Biden’s lead by calling out Romney on his inconsistencies and lies, while highlighting the radicalism of the Republicans’ real agenda. The Prospect ’s Paul Waldman offers some sage advice : “He needs a single phrase that he will repeat every time he's refuting a Romney falsehood. It could be something slogan-y, like ‘That's another Romney Reinvention,’ or could be something simple, like ‘Once again, Governor Romney thinks he can fool you and get away with it.’ It almost doesn't matter what it is, so long as he repeats it every time.” But there’s another, broader challenge for Obama—and it’s one that relates to the central flaw of the president’s entire campaign. While some voters understand what will be lost if Romney wins (Medicaid, Medicare, health-care reform, sane foreign policy, the list...

Five Fool-Proof Tips for Winning a Town Hall Debate

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File) In this October 15, 1992 file photo, Moderator Carole Simpson, background center, presides over the Presidential debate between, from left, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton, Independent candidate Ross Perot, center, and Republican candidate, President George H.W. Bush, at the University of Richmond, Virginia. The every-four-years ritual of a national "town hall" style debate began as a nerve-racking experiment in live television. Simpson was so nervous about turning over the microphone to regular folks and their questions that she spent days mapping out the presidential candidates and their issues on "a zillion 3-by-5 cards," in case she had to take over the questioning herself. T uesday night, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will meet in a "town hall" debate, which doesn't actually much resemble a town hall, but does provide an opportunity for ordinary voters to ask the candidates questions. So does this kind of forum actually give us any...

Let's Talk about Climate, Mr. President

(PRNewsFoto/American Electric Power)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Drought-stricken corn crops bake in the sun as temperatures continue to hover around 100 degrees Monday, July 25, 2011, in Tomball, Texas. Very little rain has fallen across the state this year. About 70 percent of Texas rangeland and pastures are classified as in very poor condition, which means there has been complete or near complete crop failure or there’s no food for grazing livestock. T he night of the first presidential debate, I showed up at a watching party unusually sweaty. It was a heavy, humid night in New York City—too hot for October, reminiscent of an evening in late June. I know that weather’s not climate , but I couldn’t help wondering: without climate change, how likely could it be that a night a few weeks into the fall would feel like this one? Was I experiencing the creep of days hotter than they should be, nights that just won’t cool down? Most Americans, it turns out, are asking themselves similar questions. The latest research from...

Medicaid Is the Real Target

Since August, when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, the two campaigns have fought a fierce battle over who is the most stalwart protector of Medicare. In the first presidential debate, Romney assailed President Obama for his $716 billion in Medicare cuts, and Ryan did the same in last week’s vice presidential face-off. Likewise, the Obama campaign has hit Team Romney for the Ryan plan and its Medicare “premium support”—which, if implemented, would gradually replace traditional Medicare with subsidized, regulated private insurance. The irony is that—in the short term, at least—Medicare will stay unchanged, regardless of who wins the election. Seniors are among the most mobilized voters in the electorate, and there’s too much political risk involved in making big, immediate changes to Medicare. For that reason, Medicare reform plans on both sides are backloaded and will take time to unfold. The same isn’t true of Medicaid, the other major federal health-care program. The...

(Fiscal) Cliffs Notes

(Flickr/Matthew Wilkinson)
The most bizarre thing about the deficit and the campaign is the fact that the risk of a fiscal cliff—which everyone agrees will crash the economy—is being used to justify a slightly smaller fiscal cliff. There are several players here, so the arguments are worth sorting out. Herewith, some Cliffs Notes: What is the fiscal cliff? It comes in three parts. On January 1, the Bush tax cuts expire. This means that in the first pay period of the new year, more taxes are taken out of everyone’s withholding. Second, the temporary two-point cuts in payroll taxes expire too, so everyone’s Social Security and Medicare taxes go up as well. Third, the dreaded “sequester” of automatic budget cuts, the toxic fruit of the Republican blockade of a normal budget deal back in 2011, kick in. Oh, and extended unemployment benefits expire, too. What would all this fiscal tightening do to the recovery? It would create a new recession, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Fed Chairman Ben...

Time to Try the "Romney Is Lying" Debate Strategy

You're getting sleepy...
One of the triumphs of Mitt Romney's performance in the first debate was that he told an enormous number of outright falsehoods ( see here ) with virtually no response from Obama, or at least no effective response. So one of Obama's challenges tomorrow night—perhaps the key challenge—is how to handle it when Romney says things that aren't true. What he can't do is what he did in the first debate, offer a muttering response filled with details and failing to emphasize his central point. I realize there's at least some chance that the President is too busy to be reading this blog today. But just in case, let me offer a suggestion. What Obama needs is a set of responses that cover the topic at hand, but that all follow a single theme . He needs, to put it bluntly, a single phrase that he will repeat every time he's refuting a Romney falsehood. It could be something slogan-y, like "That's another Romney Reinvention," or could be something simple, like "Once again, Governor Romney thinks...

True the Vote's True Agenda

(AP Photo/Matt Houston)
This is the second and final part of our series on True the Vote. Check out our earlier piece on just how effective the group will—or won't—be on election day. I n 2010, before most reporters had heard of True the Vote, the group put out a video introducing itself. As epic battle music plays, far-right activist David Horowitz comes on screen. “The voting system is under attack now,” he says. “Movements that are focused on voter fraud, on the integrity of elections are crucial. This is a war.” Horowitz goes on to claim: “A Democratic party consultant once told me that Republicans have to win by at least 3 percent to win any elections.” Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s founder, recounts that True the Vote poll watchers went out and “saw corruption everywhere.” "The left has been focused on this now for decades,” says Horowitz, as photographs of black voters lining up to cast ballots flash by. “Obama’s very connected to ACORN, which is a voter-fraud machine. ACORN is the radical army...

Mon, Oct. 15 Electoral Vote Predictor

Obama Leads in Early Voting Early voting has started in over 40 states and 7 percent of the voters have already cast their ballots. These votes have broken strongly for President Obama, 59 percent to 31 percent, according to a new Ipsos poll . Both campaigns are urging their supporters to vote early because a vote banked early can't change, even if the candidate stumbles later. Typically, strong partisans are the ones who vote early. Fence sitters tend to wait until the last minute. Click here for full story

Sat, Oct. 13 Electoral Vote Predictor

Another Poll Shows Biden Won the Vice-Presidential Debate An Ipsos poll released yesterday gave Joe Biden a victory over Paul Ryan of 42 percent to 35 percent, with the rest undecided. Biden also won the CBS snap poll 50 percent to 31 percent but lost the CNN snap poll 44 percent to 48 percent. So the bottom line seems to be that Biden had two large wins and one small loss among the three major polls of the debate. Click here for full story

Laughing All the Way

The most pressing question that Joe Biden faced, heading into Thursday night’s debate, was a tricky one: How do you handle an opponent who’s going to be lying his well-defined buttocks off for 90 minutes? The lack of a strategy for dealing with serial dishonesty had left President Obama dumbfounded in his first debate with Mitt Romney. He shouldn't have been taken aback: The Republican ticket-mates know perfectly well that being honest about their policies and platform would make it impossible for them to win a general election. You can’t advocate deficit-reduction and a $5 billion tax cut and a few extra billion in defense spending and be up front about what all that would actually mean—or whether it’s even mathematically possible. You can’t say that you’ll do everything possible to see that Roe v. Wadeis overturned. You can’t say what replacing Medicare with “premium support” really means. Which means Romney and Ryan can’t not lie—unless they want to spend election night wondering...

Does Mitt Romney Want to Raise Taxes on the Wealthy?

Mitt Romney, not sharing with job creators what he's really proposing to do to them.
At last night's debate, the mathematical impossibility of the Romney tax plan came up, just as it did during the first Obama-Romney debate, and just as it surely will in the second Obama-Romney debate on Tuesday. The real problem with Romney's proposal, though, isn't just that it's mathematically impossible, but that it's logically strange in one important way nobody seems to have noticed yet, namely that Romney seems to be proposing big tax increases for the wealthy. I'll get to why that is in a minute, but before I do let's review the problem. Since Kevin Drum gave a nice explanation , I'll just steal it: Romney has promised a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut, which includes people making over $200,000 per year. This would reduce tax revenues by about $251 billion per year. But wait! What about the economic growth this will unleash? That's mostly mythical, but let's bend over backwards here. If you incorporate the growth estimate of one of Romney's advisors, Greg Mankiw, Romney'...

Watching the Debate with Paul Ryan's Constituents

Patrick Caldwell
Patrick Caldwell T he debate got off to a bumpy start, with the bartender struggling to sync the audio between each of the bar's four TVs. City Haul Lounge in Racine, Wisconsin isn't the type of drinking hole where you'd typically find a crowd straining to hear politicians gab. A dive bar in the true Midwestern sense, City Haul is the sort of place with an unironic Pabst Blue Ribbon sign on the side of the building, a place for cheap drinks and few frills, with mixed drinks served in small clear plastic cups. Yet on Thursday night, a dedicated contingent from Paul Ryan's home district trekked past the old warehouse across the street to this small bar to watch the debate, and they didn't need crystal-clear audio to know their opinions on Ryan. "Yes Joe! Fuck you Ryan!" one middle-aged, slender woman wearing a black blazer shouted as she kneeled on a barstool, flipping her congressman the middle finger as he walked onto the debate stage. I was at City Haul for a viewing party hosted by...

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