Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Memo to Joe, Re: Debate

TO: VPOTUS FROM: Robert Reich RE: Debate Beware: Paul Ryan will appear affable. He’s less polished and aggressive than Romney, even soft-spoken. And he acts as if he’s saying reasonable things. But under the surface he’s a right-wing zealot. And nothing he says or believes is reasonable—neither logical nor reflecting the values of the great majority of Americans. Your job is to smoke Ryan out, exposing his fanaticism. The best way to do this is to force him to take responsibility for the regressive budget he created as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan won’t be able to pull a Romney—pretending he’s a moderate—because the Ryan budget is out there, with specific numbers. It’s an astounding document that Romney fully supports. And it fills in the details Romney has left out of his proposals. Mitt Romney is a robot who will say and do whatever he’s programmed to do. Ryan is the robot’s brain. The robot has no heart. It’s your job to enable America to see this. I suggest you...

Brown Versus Warren, Round III

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Unless you live in Massachusetts—or maybe even if you do—you probably missed the Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown debate last night. That’s too bad, because it was a kick-ass debate—a model for political debates—run by Jim Madigan, from Springfield, Massachusetts’s public television station. (I know, I know—like Big Bird, he has to be careful, lest Romney fire him.) Here’s the truly groundbreaking part: Madigan actually moderated. He asked substantive questions about policy, drawn from those voters sent in. He kept the candidates to strict time schedules, giving them 20 seconds here and 5 seconds there, forcing them to articulate their beliefs quickly and crisply. He actually cut Brown off mid-sentence as Brown meandered around one point. Imagine that! As the debate went on, they started speed-talking to beat the clock. There was no time for Scott Brown to hurl his ludicrous accusations about Warren’s ancestry, although he did go ad hominem as often as he could. But we actually heard...

Will the Munger Kids Kill California's Schools?

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Proposition 38 supporters from left: Marco Regil, television host for MundoFox, Molly Munger, civil rights attorney and the primary advocate behind Prop 38, Melissa Revuelta, bilingual high school teacher, and actor James Olmos, during a news conference in Los Angeles on September 26, 2012. Proposition 38, a State Income Tax Increase to Support Public Education, is on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California. This is the second in a Prospect series on the 174 initiatives and referendums up for a vote this November. A merica has the Koch brothers, and now California has the Munger kids. Unlike the right-wing Kochs, Molly Munger and her brother Charles Jr. entered politics from opposite directions—she’s a liberal Democrat and a champion of inner-city schools; he’s an economic conservative, a social moderate, and a Republican activist. But thanks to the vicissitudes of California politics and the self-absorption that wealth can bring (their father is Charles...

Stuck in Second-Class Debate Gear

(AP Photo/Laura-Chase McGehee)
The 2012 election is the fifth straight presidential election to feature no third-party candidates in the debates—and as a result, there's also a lack of engagement with issues that the two major-party candidates don’t want to discuss. The debates are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a 501(c)(3) organization created by the Democratic and Republican national committees and funded by corporate sponsors. This year, as usual, the commission extended invitations to only the Democratic and Republican candidates—much to the chagrin of third-party candidates and the handful of nonprofit organizations committed to including more voices in the debates. “The commission survives on deception. ... It sounds like a government agency, but of course, it’s not,” said George Farah, executive director of Open Debates, a group leading the charge to include third-party candidates in the presidential debates. “Every four years, it allows negotiators, the Republican and Democratic...

Could the VP Debate Be a BFD?

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) A banner made by a local middle school depicting Republican vice presidential candidate, Representative Paul Ryan, at left, and Vice President Joe Biden, at right, hangs on the wall inside the media center ahead of Thursday's vice presidential debate, Wednesday, October 10, 2012, at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. I f you find yourself moved to prepare for tonight's debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan by watching the 2008 vice-presidential debate , your first response will be, "Holy cow, I'd almost forgotten what a nincompoop Sarah Palin is." But after that, you'll be reminded that before he became the shirtless, Trans Am-washing guy so hilariously lampooned in The Onion , Biden was known as one of the most eloquent speakers in his party. He was well prepared for his meeting with Palin; not only did he talk fluidly about a range of issues, but he came armed with an array of factoids that he parceled out effectively and he was ready with practiced...

Click Your Talking Points Together Three Times, and You're Home

The third Massachusetts Senate debate between Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren Wednesday night showed one thing: how good a debator any politician can be after three chances to say the same things. Unlike the last debate , the two candidates were unfailingly polite to each other. When Brown said that Warren's regulatory policies would hurt the middle class, Warren responded, "I'm glad you mentioned regulations!" (She then went on to mention that her support of regulations led to a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.) Brown complimented Warren on the creation of the CFPB (but then, of course, he mentioned that he was the deciding vote in the Dodd-Frank bill that created it.) The moderator, New England public television's Jim Madigan, apologized when he had to mention the candidates were out of time. The hullaboo came from the audience that—despite being told several times not to respond to their candidates—clapped or booed when...

Can Biden Stop The Bleeding?

Vice presidential debates are usually mere sideshows. But tomorrow’s face-off in Kentucky might be quite different. Barack Obama’s disastrous performance last week was the boost Mitt Romney needed to erase the president’s post-convention gains and turn the race into a genuine toss-up. The Republican has the momentum, and he’s shifted to more moderate rhetoric in an attempt to appeal to independent and undecided voters. Obama doesn’t get another crack at Romney until next week, so it’s up to Joe Biden to stanch the bleeding and resuscitate Democratic hopes. Biden has a reputation for blundering, but history suggests that he’ll be up to the task. This is the man, after all, who managed to destroy Rudy Giuliani’s presidential hopes with a single phrase—“a noun, a verb, and 9/11”—and was a more-than-capable debater in the Democratic primaries and against Sarah Palin. His populist style connects with a wide swath of voters; his Democratic National Convention speech was widely watched and...

What's the Truth about True the Vote?

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Gage Skidmore Catherine Englebrecht of True the Vote speaking at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. This is part one of a two part series on True the Vote. Next, we’ll examine allegations that the group has partisan goals. T wo years ago, the week before Election Day, I drove to Harris County, Texas. More specifically, I drove to the Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, a polling location for early voting in one of Houston’s poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. After alleging that Harris County had a widespread problem with voter fraud, a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots had launched a project called True the Vote, which had trained hundreds of volunteer poll watchers. As the early-voting period began, reports had begun to trickle out about white poll watchers arriving at minority precincts and intimidating voters. In Texas, poll watchers, appointed by a political party to watch the proceedings, aren’t allowed to do much; they’re barred...

Romney Lunges to the Center on Abortion

If there’s any one issue that is emblematic of Mitt Romney’s core malleability, it’s abortion. Over the last 16 years , Romney has called himself “unequivocablly pro-choice,” pro-life (but unwilling to change the status quo), “delighted” to sign a national abortion ban, eager to extend the 14th Amendment to unborn children, and willing to turn abortion over to the states. Yesterday, Romney made another transformation: In an interview , he told the Des Moines Register, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Anyone familiar with the Romney of eight months ago knows that this runs counter to his stated positions. In a February interview, he said that he would cut Planned Parenthood, block foreign aid from going to abortion services, and appoint Supreme Court judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade . The problem here, of course, is the same problem he’s had with all of his positions; they’re popular with Republican...

Get Ready for Real Zingers

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Lack of proper preparation can be costly. That's one of the main lessons to be learned from the first presidential debate, with Romney taking a slight poll lead following his matchup with Obama last week. In advance of Thursday's vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, the Prospect has been speaking with past debate stand-ins, the politicians campaigns select to act as their opponent during practice sessions. Yesterday we posted an interview with Jennifer Granholm about stepping into Sarah Palin's shoes to prep Joe Biden for his last appearance on the debate stage. We also spoke with Thomas Downey, a former House member from New York, who played Jack Kemp during prep session with Al Gore in 1996. Downey impressed Gore enough that the vice president tapped him to for further sparring sessions in 2000, this time as Bill Bradley. Downey was set to help again in the general election. He was already studying George W. Bush when he received a dossier of secret Bush debate...

Scott Brown: Pro-Choice for Limiting Abortion Access

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown, left, shakes hands with his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren prior to debate sponsored by the Boston Herald at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, Massachusetts, Monday, October 1, 2012. M itt Romney launched a new strategy to position himself as a moderate Republican during the first presidential debate, a move that has already reaped moderate successes in the polls. But, the strategy has a forerunner. Senator Scott Brown, the two-year Massachusetts incumbent facing a strong challenge from Democrat Elizabeth Warren, claimed the mantle of "Last Remaining Sane Republican" while Romney was still trying to outdo Rick Santorum in a contest of who had the least respect for women’s basic health care rights. (Full disclosure: Warren's daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, is a member of The American Prospect ’s board of directors and is chair of the board of the magazine’s publishing partner, Demos.) One of the linchpins of...

Breathe In, Breathe Out

It’s time to declare a national moratorium on Obama supporters watching poll numbers. Seriously: Nothing would do more to improve the nation’s collective mental health, right about now, than a mass tune-out of Nate Silver, Real Clear Politics, and every other outlet that spews and compiles and analyzes the data Obamians have taken to following with a maniacal and hysteria-inducing obsessiveness since last Wednesday's Worst Debate in the History of Mankind. To lead the boycott, we’d like to nominate poor dear Andrew Sullivan, the president’s most devout conservative admirer. Nobody has a more desperate need to step away from the mounting evidence that Mitt Romney’s post-debate chances of winning are much improved. Yesterday, when the notably reliable pollsters at Pew released a post-debate survey showing Romney leading by four points among likely voters, Sullivan had a good old-fashioned conniption fit on his blog, The Dish , concluding that "Obama has instantly plummeted into near-...

Some Bounces Just Fade Away

The least interesting part of the latest Gallup poll is the fact that it shows Mitt Romney with a 2-point lead over President Obama among likely voters, 49 percent to 47 percent. Given the extent to which Gallup has shown a close race through most of the year, this was expected. What’s more interesting is the evidence, buried in the article, that Romney’s post-debate bounce was short-lived and is subsiding. Here’s the full range of post-debate polls among registered voters: This is in line with my earlier analysis: Romney received a sizable post-debate bounce, which leveled off on Saturday and declined on Sunday. Together with polls from Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen, there’s a chunk of evidence to suggest that this race will stabilize by the end of the week, and Obama will regain his slight advantage over the Republican nominee. Indeed, the fact that Obama’s approval rating went up —to 53 percent—is a sign he is still well-positioned to win reelection, even as the race tightens...

Non-Religious Voters Getting Even More Democratic

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new report on the increasing numbers of people who don't identify with any religion, and while the headline is that the number of such people has maintained its steady growth—now up to 20 percent of the population, and concentrated more heavily among younger adults—there's something else notable, about the political affiliations of this group. Some people have pointed out that only some of these "nones" will actually say they're atheist, while many define themselves as "spiritual but not religious," which could mean anything and nothing, from "I believe in God but organized religion is corrupt, to "I get a profound sense of our interconnectedness when I look up at the stars." We also shouldn't forget that there are many people who continue to identify with a religion but are actually non-believers. I know too many Jewish atheists to count, and nearly all of them would say their religion is "Jewish" if you asked; I'm sure there are...

Romney's Tax Plan Still Makes No Sense

For my part, the most incredible exchange of the first presidential debate came in the first 20 minutes, when President Obama hit Mitt Romney on his tax plan—which would implement across-the-board cuts to marginal rates—and the Republican nominee responded by denying its existence . Romney insisted that his plan would not cut upper-income taxes ( it calls for a 20 percent reduction ) and, in fact, would end breaks for upper-income taxpayers (he has yet to give any detail on this score). The Tax Policy Center, on the other hand, found that there was no way for Romney to accomplish his goals—tax cuts, fewer loopholes, revenue neutrality—without significant tax increases on some group of taxpayers. The Romney campaign has repeatedly dismissed the study. Today, the co-director of the Tax Policy Center, William Gale, offers a response : Suppose Governor Romney said that he wants to drive a car from Boston to Los Angeles in 15 hours. And suppose some analysts employed tools of arithmetic to...

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