Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

In Pennsylvania, a Victory for Voting Rights—Sorta

(Flickr/whiteafrican)
It's a lot easier to talk about a law—and pass one—than to implement it. Just ask Pennsylvania lawmakers—and Pennsylvania citizens, and judges, and voting-rights activists. The state's voter ID law, passed by Republican lawmakers in March, is best known for threatening to disenfranchise more voters than laws in any other stae. But in mid-August, Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson refused to grant an injunction to stop the state from implementing the law in November. The judge said that he believed state officials' assurances that they had plans in place (though some were still not in action) to prevent widespread disenfranchisement. Those promises are not enough for the state supreme court. On Tuesday, in a 4-2 decision, the court vacated Simpson's decision. The justices sent the case back to the commonwealth court judge, requiring him to use a much higher bar than the one the state had to meet in his courtroom the last time around. Simpson originally ruled that the burden fell to the...

Wed, Sep. 19 Electoral Vote Predictor

Romney Gets Three Pinocchios for 47% Remark The Fact Checker has carefully examined Mitt Romney's statement that 47% of the population is "dependent on government" and awarded it three Pinocchios, meaning it is a "Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions." The worst possible rating is four Pinocchios. In a very literal sense, everyone is dependent on government. Without the police--a government function--America would be Sudan, with roving bands of criminals stealing and marauding in broad daylight. But Romney was not talking about police protection or roads built by the government. He has often said there are two kinds of people: makers and takers and he was implying that 47% of the population are takers, essentially mooching on the other 53%. The number, 47%, is the number of people who pay no federal income tax for various reasons. It includes elderly people who live entirely on social security, students who earn too little to pay, and multimillionaires whose income...

Romney in Wonderland

The world has rarely seen a more fiercely determined smile than the one that stayed fixed on Mitt Romney’s face throughout his Tuesday-afternoon interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto. Scrambling furiously to rescue his already-floundering campaign after Mother Jones’ s release of the mother of all secret campaign tapes , the beleaguered candidate must have figured that ten minutes on Fox, his more-or-less official propaganda network, was the safest (or only) option. Instead, the segment with Cavuto provided irrefutable evidence that there is no safe ground for Romney right now. He could not, would not, so much as attempt to directly answer any of the host’s gently prodding questions about his catastrophic remarks to a $50,000-dollar-a-plate group in Boca Raton. You know, the ones about those shiftless no-hopers who just happen to make up half of the country he’s running to lead. The surest sign that Romney has truly got nothing— nothing —with which to counter the perception he’s now...

How Can Romney Bounce Back?

National Review editor Rich Lowry is not kind to Mitt Romney’s instantly infamous comments from a private gathering with fundraisers: “The overall impression of Romney at this event is of someone who overhead some conservative cocktail chatter and maybe read a conservative blog or two, and is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read.” On that note, I’m increasingly convinced that the Romney campaign is beset by a clueless overconfidence about the election. How else do you explain a campaign that did nothing to sell its candidate as a positive figure, and is unable to respond to new attacks or crises? They have the skill, but it’s obvious they don’t see the necessity. After all, their operating assumption has been that, once voters tune in to the election, they’ll flock to Romney on account of the poor economy. When the campaign continues to insist that “the reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama Presidency, and Mitt Romney...

What Mitt Romney Was Really Saying

Whenever we get a glimpse of a candidate speaking in a place where he didn't know he was being recorded, there's a powerful temptation to conclude that the "real" person has been revealed. After all, campaigning is almost all artifice, and every other moment at which we see the candidate, he's acutely aware that he is on stage, with people watching his every expression and listening to his every word. This is how many people are interpreting Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comments we learned about yesterday, even though Mitt was certainly on stage, even if he didn't know he was being recorded. For instance, Jonathan Chait says , "the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party." McKay Coppins reaches the same conclusion, that "Romney seemed to give the closest thing to a candid description of his worldview...

Tue, Sep. 18 Electoral Vote Predictor

Romney: 47 Percent Dependent on Government In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama said people had been so beaten down by the (Bush) economy that they "get bitter and they cling to guns or religion," not realizing that it was being recorded. He took a tremendous amount of flack for that. Now it appears to be Romney's turn. Yesterday it came out that earlier this year he said : "47% of Americans are dependent on government." He added that there was no way he could win those votes and wouldn't try. He also said they "believe they are victims." Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, reacted immediately with: "It is hard to serve as President for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation." Romney made his comments openly to a group of wealthy donors, probably most of whom agreed with him. What he didn't realize, of course, was that someone in the audience was recording it. The video is now online . When it became clear this was going to be the dominant news story...

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