Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Takin' Akin to the Curb

Republicans desperately want Todd Akin to pull an Ayn Rand, go Galt, and drop out of the Missouri Senate race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already released a statement threatening to withdraw financial support “if he continues with this misguided campaign.” Mitt Romney, demonstrating his characteristic political courage by echoing every other person in the Republican Party, has called for Akin to leave the race. Despite this, Akin says he's staying in.

Barack Obama's Billionaire Problem

Barack Obama working when he ought to be calling donors. (White House/Pete Souza)

One complaint that has been around privately (and occasionally publicly) since the beginning of the Obama administration is that they haven't paid enough attention to "donor maintenance." Most (not all, but most) big donors are egotistical and self-important, and part of the reason that they give money is to feel important,. They want to know that the candidate, in this case the president, knows them and values their input. It does seem that the administration has fallen down on this score, and as Jane Mayer explains, it's partly a result of Obama's staff not doing the things they should, and partly the fault of Obama himself. Apparently, he just can't stand this part of the job, and that led him to do things like not pose for pictures with donors. "It's as easy as falling off a log!" one fundraiser complained. "They just want a picture of themselves with the President that they can hang on the bathroom wall, so that their friends can see it when they take a piss." I think the President's distaste for this kind of thing speaks quite well of him as a human being, but there are some times when you just have to suck it up.

The resulting question is how much of the fact that Obama is trailing Romney so bad in fundraising can be explained by this sort of thing. I think the answer is, probably not much. Don't forget that Obama has in fact raised a spectacular amount of money for his re-election; according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama has raised $348 million for his campaign. That's quite a bit! The problem is that Romney is raising even more; for instance, in July Romney raised $100 million and Obama raised $75 million. And Romney's real advantage will come from the superPACs and 501c(4) organizations, who which rich donors can give unlimited sums. Nevertheless, reading the following passage made me think of an old story that illustrates the politician's art...

The GOP's Crazy Core

The pragmatic Republican establishment (despite the Tea Party, there still is one) is frantic to jettison Representative Todd Akin’s toxic comments on conception and rape, and to quarantine the scientifically-challenged congressman.

Much of the commentary has been about how Akin’s clumsiness connects to Republican vulnerability on other issues important to women. But this raises a larger question: Why is the Republican lunatic position politically toxic only on this particular issue?

The GOP Wants to Make this Todd Akin's World

Yesterday morning, before the GOP completely turned its back on Todd Akin, I noted that—despite their harumphing—few Republicans disagreed with the substance of Akin’s remarks. In Congress and across the country, GOP lawmakers have supported a raft of bills designed to restrict or end abortion, as well as most forms of contraception. Look no further than the Republican platform, which—as CNN reports—will include radical and restrictive language on abortion:

Todd Akin's Place In History

When something like the Todd Akin "legitimate rape" controversy comes up, it can be hard to look at the case objectively and determine if the crime is worthy of the consequences. As a liberal, I found Akin to be a pretty awful character even before yesterday. And his comments were, by any standard you can come up, both spectacularly stupid and morally vile. This kind of thing is where misogyny and anti-intellectualism converge, though my favorite part of his comment is that he began it by saying, "From what I understand from doctors..." as though he came to this conclusion only after consulting with a number of physicians on the question of the ladypart lasers that are presumably activated to zap unwanted sperm when it arrives in those legitimate rape cases. It's the same thing that you hear from Republicans who say, "My reading of the science is that global warming is a giant hoax," as though they've actually been perusing climate journals. Akin later clarified his doctor consulations in an interview with Sean Hannity, saying, "Well, my only point in that was I had heard from medical reports that rape is such a traumatic type of thing that, um, that it, uh, that there is a reaction." He did admit that "that's wrong," but he didn't say if the problem was that he misread the "medical reports," or if the "medical reports" were themselves erroneous, or if maybe the "medical reports" are figments of his imagination.

In any case, as someone who has written a lot about how stupid "gaffe" coverage usually is and how ridiculous it is when partisans say, "Ignore everything else our opponent ever said—this comment is the one that reveals his twisted soul!", I suppose I should try to give Akin the benefit of the doubt. But it's pretty hard...

Democrats' Last Great Hope?

Republicans up for election in 2012—from Mitt Romney down to the most junior member of Congress—don't want to talk about social issues. Their success is predicated upon talking about the economy—and then talking about the economy some more—and making arguments about why they deserve a shot at trying to jump-start the job market. But when a member of Congress says that in instances of "legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," the narrative is bound to veer wildly off-course.

Romney Escapes Punishment for Lying, Continues Lying

You can't see from this angle, but his pants are actually aflame.

We may be talking a lot about Medicare, but on the airwaves, Mitt Romney is just not giving up on the welfare attack. As you should know by now, over the last couple of weeks Romney has been airing ads featuring an unusually brazen lie about the Obama administration, claiming that Obama has eliminated work requirements from welfare. It's just false, as every fact-checker has attested and anyone who is not actually in Mitt Romney's employ will tell you. Romney has been repeating this lie on the stump as well. Everybody understands the racial subtext underneath the welfare attack, so we needn't dwell on that at the moment. But what's remarkable is that despite the judgment of journalists, Romney just keeps on telling the lie. Here's the third ad his campaign has produced about it:

Running Mate Runner-Ups

(AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Joe Mahoney)

Representative Paul Ryan's rise to the second-slot of the Republican presidential ticket has everyone in a frenzy. Democrats think the right-wing rock star will poison Romney's campaign, while the GOP applauds Mitt Romney's vice-presidential choice as a much needed dose of excitement—and a sign that the presidential running mates are deeply wedded to the right. But there's one thing everyone can agree upon: Paul Ryan is going to be an A-lister on the political stage for a long time, even if Romney loses. Here's a look back at vice-presidential candidates who never reached the hallowed halls of the White House.

The Radicalism of Akin and Romney

Since yesterday morning, political conversation has been dominated by the comments of Todd Akin, a (formerly) obscure Missouri congressman and Republican candidate for Senate. "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told local reporters, explaining his absolute opposition to abortion, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

And if these natural defenses fail? “Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Romney's Race-Based Initiative

"There's a woman in Chicago," Ronald Reagan told an audience in New Hampshire while campaigning in 1976. "She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veterans benefits on four nonexisting deceased husbands. And she's collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income alone is over $150,000." The story—an exaggerated account of a 47-year-old black woman on the South Side of Chicago—played on racial stereotypes that struck a chord with white, suburban voters. The specter of the “welfare queen” has been with us ever since. 

Trickle-Down Ryanomics

Republicans have already gone through the five stages of grief over Paul Ryan in the week since he was chosen to be the Little John to Mitt's Romney Hood, but their outsized emotions seem to have been a waste of energy. Romney's standing in the polls is … exactly the same as it was prior to the "game-changing" announcement. It seems that, just as history and political science teach us, the veep isn't going to determine the fate of the 2012 presidential election—much to Bill Kristol's chagrin.

Takes One to Know One

Just keep smiling. (Flickr/Donkey Hotey)

Ask a political consultant, and she'll tell you that if you're a candidate running for something like the House, there's no point in putting out position papers. Sure, you want to let people know you're substantive and have thought seriously about policy, but putting it down on paper only brings you grief. Nobody will be convinced to vote for you because of something in a position paper, but people may well find therein a reason to vote against you. And your opponent will go through it and find things to take out of context and attack you with.

Presidential campaigns, however, are supposed to be different. A new congressman can coast through a term without anything much resembling an agenda, but a president is supposed to have a whole slate of policies he wants to implement. So presidential campaigns employ people whose job it is to devise and refine plans that can be put into practice in the White House. But now, Mitt Romney and the people who work for him are coming out and saying more explicitly than presidential candidates are supposed to that there's just not much point in telling people in any detail what the man who would be president wants to do...

Does America Get the Campaigns It Deserves?

Undecided voters

I have some bad news. Chances are Mitt Romney doesn't care about you. OK, you knew that, but Barack Obama probably doesn't care about you either. Because if you read the Prospect, you're not an undecided voter, and even if you were an undecided voter, unless you live in one of a handful of states (Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and a few others), they couldn't care less what you think. Today the New York Times has a nice article about that tiny portion of the electorate that the presidential campaigns in all their glory are trying to persuade. Although the piece doesn't address this question, it's good from time to time to step back and acknowledge that the fate of our nation basically rests with some of the least informed among us, and the system is designed to maximize their power. But first...

Romney's Tax Break

After a week of constant criticism on his Medicare proposals, Mitt Romney decided to fall back to something a little less contentious: his tax returns!

The Worst-Ever Attempt at Swiftboating

(White House/Flickr)

The “swift boat” attacks in the 2004 presidential election were effective, in part, because they played on real public anxiety: “We’re fighting two wars, is now a good time to change leaders?” For a critical number of Americans, the answer was no, and John Kerry couldn’t overcome the sense that we shouldn't change horses in midstream (to use a cliché).