Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Mitt Romney, Language Cop

Mitt Romney, saying things.
There were a number of strange moments in last night's debate, the most substantively meaningful of which was almost certainly Mitt Romney's declaration that "when I’m president, we'll make sure we bring our troops out [of Afghanistan] by the end of 2014." For the last year, Romney has been criticizing Barack Obama for having precisely this position, saying that we can't tell the enemy when we're leaving and our departure has to be determined by events on the ground. In the foreign policy version of Moderate Mitt, that apparently is no longer operative. But the oddest thing Romney said had to be this: "I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it." As I've observed before , Romney's critique of Obama on foreign policy has always been primarily linguistic. He takes issue not with what the President has done, but what he has said. He apologizes for America! He didn't use the word "terror"! He...

A Good Debate, But Will Voters Notice?

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney shake hands following their third presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida. Obama did very well in the foreign-policy debate, but it remains to be seen if his success will change the trajectory of the race, which has been trending toward Romney. Several things about this debate were a surprise. The most surprising thing was the emergence of Mild Mitt. Romney sounded almost as if he were on downers. His campaign must have decided that he was coming across as too ferocious or two bellicose. But his performance tonight was underwhelming. Obama, by contrast, took the debate to Romney right from the first exchange. He was almost too aggressive, calling the former Massachusetts governor on his inconsistencies and policy recommendations that would have backfired. “Every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” the president said. But Romney did not take the bait. The other odd thing...

Horses and Bayonets and GIFs, Oh My!

The candidates agree we should build economies abroad. The candidates agree we should educate women. The candidates agree on how to handle Syria. The candidates agree we should build our economy at home. Like, they reeeeallly agree that the domestic economy is important. Wait, are we still watching the foreign policy debate? Is Bob Schieffer still here? Mitt refers us to his website to explain how he'd pay to grow the military. Horses and bayonets! Finally something worth tweeting about! But, uh, we need to be thinking about defending ourselves in space? The candidates agree they loooove Israel. Ok seriously, do they agree on everything? Crippling sanctions. Mitt loves crippling sanctions. Bob Schieffer asks, "What's the deal?" The candidates agree they both love drones. We all love teachers! Mitt says we should vote for him. Obama says we should vote for him. Thank god these debates are over.

Obama's Total Knockout

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. S o far, the conventional wisdom for the presidential debates has been on target. Pundits correctly saw the first debate as an outstanding victory for Mitt Romney, and the second as basically a draw, with Barack Obama winning a small victory and stopping the bleeding of the previous engagement. For the final presidential debate—a bout over foreign policy, held in Boca Raton, Florida—the conventional wisdom is that Obama won, handily, but that Romney proved himself capable of taking over as commander-in-chief. I’m not so sure. It’s not that Romney performed poorly—he was mediocre from beginning to end—as much as it is that he already passed that plausibility test. It seems that in the excitement of the debate, pundits have forgotten that Romney’s image as a...

Calm Down and Do the Math

Is President Obama ahead or tied in Ohio? If you look at the poll released this morning , from Quinnipiac University, the clear answer is that Obama has a solid lead—five points, as a matter of fact. But if you tuned in this afternoon and saw the poll from Suffolk University —which shows a tie between Obama and Mitt Romney—you’ll either be panicked (if you’re a Democrat) or thrilled (if you’re a Republican). All of which makes today a case study in why you shouldn’t give too much weight to individual polls. At this point in the election, dozens of companies are polling thousands of people in an attempt to get some sense of where the electorate stands. Each pollster will have a different methodology, a different strategy for getting respondents, and a different way of weighting the various answers. Some sample sizes will be incredibly small, others will be unusually large. All of these variables and all of this activity means that, every so often, polls will show mutually exclusive...

You Are Me and We Are All Together

I've written often in the past about appeals to tribalism, and the "He's not one of us" argument is something that 1) you almost always hear from Republicans, not Democrats, and 2) you hear much more often in the South than anywhere else. You're much more likely to see an ad saying that a candidate has "South Carolina values" or "Oklahoma values" than one saying a candidate has "Oregon values" or "New York values." Perhaps that will change as people from places dominated by liberals get a more clearly defined tribal identity linked to their geography, but in the past it's been the South where the lines between "us" and "them" are clearest. It's not necessarily racial in the strict sense that whites are part of "us" and blacks are part of "them," but race is almost always implicated. Someone who's a little too Northern in their history or their sympathies is part of "them" in part because they're too solicitous of the interests of blacks. All that notwithstanding, identity is a complex...

The Third Debate: New Topic, Same Empty Taste

(AP Photo/Mario Tama, Pool)
(AP Photo/David Goldman, File) President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney exchange views during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. B arack Obama and Mitt Romney will meet tonight to discuss foreign affairs, and there's one thing I can predict with near-certainty: This discussion will be just as vacuous as the rest of the campaign. Which is too bad, because on foreign policy, the president's own personal interests, beliefs, and biases matter much more than they do on domestic policy. An inordinate amount of time is spent during the campaign trying to pin down who the candidates are deep in their hearts, when in so many areas it doesn't matter at all. In the domestic realm, presidents are constrained by what Congress is willing to do and by their own party's priorities. Mitt Romney will seek to cut taxes, roll back regulations protecting the environment and workers' rights, cut...

In Minnesota, Voting Blind on Voter ID

(AP Photo/The The Hutchinson News, Travis Morisse, File)
The fifth in a Prospect series on the 174 ballot measures up for a vote this November. Across the country, most voter-ID wars have unfolded in legislative chambers and courtrooms. But in Minnesota, a whole new battleground has opened as voters decide whether to put a photo ID-requirement into the state constitution. The constitutional amendment passed through the Republican-controlled legislature, but was foiled by a veto from Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. Now, it's up to voters to decide whether they want to put new burdens on themselves and fellow voters. The catch? Voters won't get any say about what those burdens will look like—flexible, with several forms of photo ID allowed, or super-strict, with only one or two kinds acceptable? Whichever party wins the state legislature in November will likely get to set the rules. If the Democrats win, the law could be relaxed, whereas conservatives would likely push to make the law as restrictive as they possibly can without incurring...

White Democrats Disappear from the Deep South

"These are my guns now, and ain't nobody gon' take 'em away."
John Barrow is fighting for his life. The Georgia representative is that most politically endangered of species, a white Democrat in the Deep South. When the state's Republicans redrew the district lines, they not only made his district more Republican, they also made sure his own home was outside his new district, just to stick it to him. Barrow was always conservative— National Journal rates him as the eighth-most conservative Democrat in the House—but in this election, he's got to really turn on the juice if he's going to survive. And what better way than with some belligerent paranoia on guns? After proudly showing off his father's and grandfather's guns (and snapping the bolt back and forth on the latter to provide the very sound of freedom), Barrow says in this ad, "I approved this message because these are my guns now. And ain't nobody gon' take 'em away." Well that's a relief. There are a number of black Southern Democrats in Congress, representing districts that are...

Will 2000 Happen Again?

In the last week or so, conventional wisdom has begun to settle on the possibility of an Electoral College/popular vote split. The situation is straightforward: Thanks to a persistent lead in Ohio, Obama ekes out a victory in the Electoral College, but Romney wins a bare majority of the popular vote. Setting aside the question of politics— i.e. , how the parties and public would react to the second such split in just over a decade—just how likely is this scenario? If you go by current polling, it looks like a solid possibility; just this morning , the pollsters at Quinnipiac University found Obama with a five-point lead in Ohio. If you take an average of the three major polling averages—Talking Points Memo, Real Clear Politics, and Pollster—Obama has a 2.4-percent lead over Mitt Romney in Ohio. By contrast, that same average of averages shows a slight 0.2 percent lead for Romney nationally. If this holds, we could have the split. Of course, in addition to accepting this is as a...

The Mile-High Question

(Flickr/Snap Man)
(Monica Potts/The American Prospect) A front lawn in Littleton, Colorado This is part one of the Prospect ’s weeklong series on the swing districts that could determine the national outcome on November 6. G reg Archuleta lives in Golden, Colorado, where he worked for the Coors brewery for 34 years until he retired in 1999. Archuleta, who is 73, volunteers for the Democratic Party in the larger Jefferson County area, 778 square miles of suburbs just west of Denver that holds half a million people. On a recent Saturday drive, Archuleta was worried. For the past few months, he’s been asking property owners with backyards facing the highway if they would hang giant signs for President Barack Obama and the local congressman, Democrat Ed Perlutter, who’s in a tough battle for re-election. Now, some of the Obama signs had come down; more and more signs for Mitt Romney were up. Archuleta drove between shopping malls and new condos and subdivisions, investigating the grassy tracts between road...

Too Close for Comfort

This was supposed to be about a six-point race in Obama's favor. That's sure how it looked on the eve of the first debate. But now it's dead even. What happened? First, of course, Romney cleaned Obama's clock in the first debate. Obama came back strong in debate number two, but evidently a lot of swing voters formed their impressions in that deadly first encounter. But there is a more fundamental problem here. The narrative of the past four years should have revolved around free-market ideology, Wall Street plunder, Republican rule, and the fact that Republicans first crashed the economy and then blocked a recovery. Obama did not hit any of those themes as forcefully as he needed to. The Tea Partiers, despite their billionaire backers, became agents of populist backlash. Obama was too conciliatory for far too long. The Republican Congress was able to persuade public opinion that the failure to make progress on everything from jobs to the budget was a symmetrical failure rather than...

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