Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Sat, Sep. 22 Electoral Vote Predictor

Obama Leads in Poll of Swing States A new Purple Strategies poll of 12 swing states shows President Obama with a lead of 49% to 44% over Mitt Romney. In August, the same poll had Romney ahead by 1%, so this is a sharp swing towards Obama. Part of Romney's problem is that only 38% of the voters see him in a favorable light vs. 52% who regard him unfavorably. Obama's favorability is above water with 49% to 46%. Romney Releases 2011 Tax Return, Paid 14% Willard M. Romney has released his 379-page tax return . His income was $13.69 million, of which $450,740 was earned (business) income. The rest was mostly interest, dividends, and capital gains. He paid $1.9 million in federal tax. Below is the income portion of Romney's tax return. Click here for full story

Nine Is the Loneliest Number

(Flickr/Paul Downey)
I try to resist the temptation to argue that any particular statement a candidate makes represents his "true" self, revealing what he wants to conceal the rest of the time. This is something that campaigns say whenever their opponent makes a "gaffe," but in general what matters isn't what someone says once off the cuff, but what they repeat multiple times. That's why I have pointed to something Mitt Romney said repeatedly when asked about his taxes, that "I don't pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president." He really seemed to be saying that if you don't game the system as much as you can, then you're a sucker, a chump, and you wouldn't want a chump to be president. This quote—and he said variations of it on more than one occasion, remember—is now coming back to haunt him, because Romney is releasing his 2011 tax returns, and his team of accountants and tax lawyers has fashioned them in a very...

Could Romney Have Been a Different Candidate?

Flickr/Donkey Hotey
Mitt Romney has made a lot of mistakes in this campaign, not all of which came in the last couple of weeks. Now that we've moved into the "Is he doomed?" phase of campaign coverage, the always thoughtful Ron Brownstein wonders if Romney sowed the seeds of his own undoing by the way he ran his primary campaign: Romney's biggest general-election problem is that he did not believe he could beat a GOP primary field with no competitor more formidable than Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich without tacking sharply right on key issues. Romney repeatedly took policy positions that minimized his risks during the spring but have multiplied his challenges in the fall. His fate isn't sealed, but the choices he made in the primaries have left him with a path to victory so narrow that it might daunt IndianaJones. "To secure the nomination, they made … decisions about immigration, tax cuts, and a whole host of other issues that had no strategic vision," said John Weaver, a senior strategist...

The Democrats Have a Lot of Governors' Mansions to Protect

(Flickr/Kevin Hutchinson)
Republicans already dominate governors' mansions around the country. Twenty-nine states have GOP governors, thanks largely to 2010, when the party took 11 governorships away from the Democrats. Given those numbers, it might not seem like there's much left for Democrats to defend. But, as it happens, this Democrats must play defense in all but three of this year's gubernatorial elections. Of the 11 states electing governors this year, eight currently have Democrats doing the job. (That's Delaware, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.) A Stateline report offers a handy rundown. Many of the races will be competitive, and with a serious disadvantage in fundraising, Democrats face an uphill battle to simply hold their ground. As I argued in my latest print column , many national debates are currently getting fought at the state level, and who controls the legislative and executive branches of a state has huge implications for the...

Blame Obama for Romney's Mediocrity

It’s almost banal to say at this point, but Mitt Romney is not a strong candidate. His past ideological heterodoxy makes him a poor fit for the contemporary GOP, his constant attempts to position himself with the right makes him seem dishonest to ordinary Americans, and his chief personal characteristic—stiff awkwardness—puts him at a disadvantage against a president known for his likeability. But as Kevin Drum reminds us , he was the best possible choice in a Republican presidential field that included luminaries like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and former pizza magnate Herman Cain: Mitt Romney was pretty unanimously considered the strongest candidate in the Republican field—by a large margin. He was, without much question, the most electable of the primary bunch and the toughest opponent for Barack Obama. He was disciplined, well-funded, and had a moderate background that appealed to independents. He was, in short, the very best the...

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

Pages