Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Our Bipartisan Future?

Is that Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid? No. Definitely not. (Flickr/Go Splat)
Pretty much every presidential candidate in the last couple of decades has said that he was going to bring Republicans and Democrats together and end the partisan bickering in Washington that Americans so dislike. Bill Clinton said he would. George W. Bush said he would. Barack Obama said he would. All of them failed, and the one that tried hardest to do it—Obama—had a harder time than any of them. Despite the partisanship of their eras, both Clinton and Bush had significant pieces of legislation they passed with cross-party support, like Clinton's welfare reform and Bush's No Child Left Behind. But everything important Obama did was accomplished despite unified resistance from Republicans. Conservatives might argue that the reason is that Obama is a uniquely partisan and vicious president, so cruel to Republicans that he's impossible to work with. But the real reason, as anyone who has been paying attention the last four years knows, is that Republicans made a decision upon his...

Warren and Brown Meet in Debate

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
On Thursday evening, Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic challenger in the Massachusetts Senate race, dusted off the debate skills that, in high school, won her a scholarship to George Washington University. Scott Brown, the Republican she wants to replace, raced from a Senate session in Washington, D.C., and polished up his Massachusetts accent—as if, after every line, he were going to pat some working Joe on the back with an “Amirite?” Brown began the night with opening comments needling Warren about the Cherokee “controversy.” (Full disclosure: Amelia Warren Tyagi, Elizabeth Warren's daughter, is chair of The American Prospect ’s board of directors and is chair of the board of the magazine’s publishing partner, Demos.) The claim is that, at some point in her career, she checked off a box to identify herself as a Native American. “Clearly she’s not,” he said. How will we know if it affected her acceptance to law school or her hiring as a professor at Harvard? Only if she releases all...

Tim Kaine Tries His Hardest to Lose

Jamelle Bouie
Jamelle Bouie Tim Kaine speaks at a Democratic rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. B arack Obama’s 2008 win in Virginia came as a surprise to many observers, but his continued durability is not hard to explain. After four years, he still wins the overwhelming majority of African Americans, a large majority of Latinos, and a solid plurality of white voters. But Obama’s advantage has not carried over to Virginia Democrats. Despite his long tenure in Virginia politics—mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor, and governor—Tim Kaine is performing at the level of a generic Democrat in the state. For most of the year he has been neck-and-neck with George Allen, the former governor turned former senator (Virginians tend to recycle their politicians) who lost his 2006 re-election race when he used an obscure racial slur to disparage a Democratic operative. That Kaine has been tied with an avowed neo-Confederate is, I’m sure, distressing for his campaign. Indeed, it explains his decision to buck...

Fri, Sep. 21 Electoral Vote Predictor

Conservatives Working on Their Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign Conservative groups are getting ready for a massive get-out-the-vote campaign on (and before) election day. Groups such as the National Rifle Association and College Republicans, as well as billionaire-backed superPACs are setting up a highly sophisticated operation to match or surpass what the Democrats set up in 2008. The effort has many facets. In Florida, a new law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature inhibited Democratic registration efforts. In Wisconsin, the Democrats' attempt to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) allowed conservative groups to test their house-by-house voter outreach strategy. In Ohio, 10,000 churches in rural areas have been enlisted to distribute two million voter guides. The Citizens United decision is allowing the Republican effort to be far better funded and organized than anything John McCain could have even dreamed about in 2008. Billionaire David Koch is spending $125 million in the 2012...

The Debates Won't Save Romney

Not gonna happen this year.
If you're a Romney partisan, and you've seen Barack Obama move ahead in the polls over the last couple of weeks, you may be saying to yourself, "Maybe the debates can save him." After all, the four debates (three presidential, one VP) are the the only planned events between now and Election Day. Though you never know what kind of unexpected events might occur, tens of millions of voters will be watching. And so many times in the past, the race has been transformed by a dramatic debate moment. Except that's actually not true. As John Sides lays out quite well, after all the sound and fury, debates almost never change the trajectory of a race. Of course, something never happens up until the moment that it happens, but there's strong reason to believe that the debates will change nothing this year in particular. But before I get to that, here's Sides: Why are presidential debates so often inconsequential? After all, many voters do pay attention. Debates routinely attract the largest...

Romney's Negative Coattails

Former governor Mitt Romney’s serial gaffes seem to be doing cumulative damage not just to his own campaign, but to Senate and even House races. In the days since Romney’s clumsy attempt to make political gain from the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Politico’s piece revealing ineptitude and finger-pointing at the Republican National Convention, and the leak of the infamous “47-Percent” video, Democratic Senate candidates in most contested seats have opened up leads, according to usually trustworthy polls. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is up by six points over Scott Brown. Tim Kaine leads George Allen by seven or eight points in Virginia. Tammy Baldwin is at least even with Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin. And in Florida and Ohio, incumbents Ben Nelson and Sherrod Brown have benefitted from the swing of support to Obama and are holding solid leads. Once long shot Democratic senate candidates in Missouri and North Dakota now seem competitive, partly due to local gaffes by their...

Voters Getting Mixed Signals from the Market

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Until not long ago, there was a widespread assumption that the economy could well be Barack Obama's undoing. After all, no president since Franklin Roosevelt had been re-elected with unemployment as high as it is now, so if Obama were to prevail, it would take an unusual combination of factors that usually matter only on the margins—the skills of the respective candidates, a foreign crisis or two—to allow him to win. But then something strange happened. The political scientists who think about these things began releasing their forecasts (all of which rely heavily on economic variables), and it turns out that most of them project that Obama will win after all. According to these models, the economy isn't doing so bad after all. It's enough to make Republicans tear their hair out. James Carville may have been right when he put a sign reading "It's the economy, stupid" on the wall in Clinton campaign headquarters in 1992. But what we mean when we say "the economy" is good or bad, up or...

Dire Straits for Mitt Romney

We’ll know for certain in a few weeks, but judging from the current round of polls—two weeks removed from the Democratic National Convention—we seem to have reached an inflection point in the election. Even including today’s Rasmussen tracking poll , President Obama is leading in every likely voter national survey taken at least a week after the convention. The New York Times and CBS News have Obama leading 49% to Mitt Romney’s 46%. The Pew Research Center has him at 51% to Romney’s 43%. He reaches 50 percent in polls from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal , as well as the latest Public Policy Polling survey of likely voters. At 48%, Monmouth University gives him a 3 point advantage over Romney, and the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll places him at 48% but with a 5 point margin over the Republican nominee. Only Rasmussen and the Associated Press give him narrow leads—2 points for the former and 1 point for the latter. If you prefer to count swing states, he’s ahead in every contested...

Talking to Themselves

Fox with a thoughtful exploration of the topic, featuring Donald Trump.
Mitt Romney and his Republican allies thought they had a way to diffuse the fallout from his now-legendary secretly-recorded fundraising video when somebody unearthed a tape of President Obama saying he favored "redistribution." Sure, the tape is 14 years old. And sure, as Jamelle pointed out yesterday, pretty much everybody favors redistribution in some form, even Mitt Romney (if he didn't, he'd be advocating removing all progressivity from the tax code). Romney is bringing it up whenever he can, as is Paul Ryan , and the Obama tape has been shown on Fox News approximately three million times in the last 24 hours. Are they a little desperate? Of course. But the fact that they think such a thing will have even the remotest impact on what people think of Barack Obama shows that they are existing within an ideological cocoon that makes it almost impossible for them to figure out what they're doing wrong. It isn't just that the tape is 14 years old (and man, has Obama aged in that time...

Thu, Sep. 20 Electoral Vote Predictor

A third of Voters Less Likely to Support Romney Due to Video A new Gallup poll shows that 36% of voters are less likely to vote for Mitt Romney as a result of the video in which he said that 47% of of Americans are dependent on government and consider themselves victims. In contrast, 20% said they were more likely to vote for him. The rest weren't swayed one way or the other. Among independents, 29% said they were now less likely to vote for him while only 15% were more likely. An Ipsos poll also just released has similar results: 43% of the registered voters view Romney less favorably as a result of the video. Only 26% felt better about Romney. While the details of the video will be forgotten in a few weeks, the lingering image of Romney as someone who does not care about half the country could remain and hurt him. Click here for full story

Lucky Obama

Yesterday, surveying the Romney ruins in the aftermath of the Libya fiasco and the 47 percent flap, Nick Gillespie at Reason led his post by declaring, “President Barack Obama is one lucky bastard .” In a very narrow sense, he’s right: Obama has certainly been fortunate to draw two general-election opponents whose political savvy is no match for his. He was lucky in 2004, too, to end up running for U.S. Senate against the unhinged Alan Keyes. But these are the strokes of happy fortune—and propitious timing—that any politician needs to ascend to White House heights. The idea that Obama’s astonishing political rise has been characterized mostly by luck is patently absurd—and it’s this very absurdity that may end up dooming the Republicans’ chances of unseating him in November. The “Lucky Obama” myth has dominated conservatives’ view of the president from the git-go. Either the guy had to have gotten a ridiculous number of long-shot breaks to become president, their thinking goes, or (in...

The Right's Nonsensical Attack on "Redistribution"

In response to public furor over Mitt Romney’s "47 percent" remarks, conservatives have seized on audio from 1998 where Barack Obama gives his support for redistribution. Listen: The relevant quote comes at the end: “I believe in redistribution, at least a certain level, to make sure that everybody has got a shot.” If you listened carefully, you’ll notice that this is preceded by a fair amount of skepticism about government’s ability to help the poor, and acknowledgement that there’s truth to conservative attacks on the welfare state: “Some of it has been deserved. The Chicago Housing Authority has not been a model of good policymaking. And neither necessarily have been the Chicago public schools.” Obama is also concerned with designing programs that work well, so that—presumably—they maintain the trust and support of their beneficiaries and the wider public. These are sensible and mainstream views. They’re held by the bulk of the Democratic Party, and the large majority of our...

Romney’s Bigger Lie

Lots of Republican conservatives, Paul Ryan and Bill O’Reilly among them, have taken the position that even if Mitt Romney’s rhetoric was clumsy, his point was basically right. Some Americans pay taxes; others collect benefits. But his basic claim was total baloney. When you count income taxes, payroll taxes, excise taxes, and highly regressive state and local taxes, the typical lower income working American pays about one-fifth of his or her income in taxes—more than Mitt Romney! According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, the bottom fifth of the income distribution paid 17.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The second-poorest fifth paid 21.2 percent. There are in fact about 18 percent of Americans who pay neither federal payroll nor income taxes. They are overwhelmingly the unemployed and the low-income elderly, neither of whom pay payroll taxes. As pollster Celinda Lake observes, Romney’s big lie is very important to refute. Even if voters reacted negatively...

Mitt Versus the Middle East

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) A Palestinian woman walks past a section of Israel's separation barrier to cross a checkpoint on their way to pray for the holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, Sept. 19, 2008. T ake a breath and think carefully. Was Mitt Romney's candid-camera comment on how he'd handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really as awful as it sounds at first? Actually, yes. In fact, it's even worse, especially if you are listening to it in Israel, or the Palestinian territories, or anywhere else in the Middle East. The man who would be president of the United States has said that he would throw the entire region under the bus. "The pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish," Romney says in the now-famous video of his May 17 campaign event, uncovered by Mother Jones . Put aside the candidate's struggle with English diction, and forget the ignorance of geography that allows him to...

We Are the 47 Percent

(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) The former Massachusetts governor speaks to delegates at the New Hampshire Republican Convention in Concord, N.H Saturday. Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats. The ancient Greeks had word for it—a phrase, actually: Character is Fate. In one misstep after another, Mitt keeps revealing his true character. What we’re learning about him is that he is another rich guy who is disdainful of ordinary people; that he can’t speak off the cuff without blundering; and that he is clueless when it comes to foreign policy—not to mention ordinary diplomacy. A lovely pattern has set in. Mitt says something truly dumb and alienating to ordinary Americans. The campaign goes into panic mode, and can’t decide whether to walk it back or double down. Meanwhile, some militant conservatives insist that their clueless candidate had it exactly right, as Bill O’Reilly tried to do on Fox News last night. Romney was statistically correct, O’Reilly insisted. 47 percent...

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