Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The GOP Is Losing the Battle of Ideas

When Mitt Romney announced his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate in August, conservatives swooned for two distinct reasons. First, Ryan was existentially one of them. Second, they exulted, Ryan’s selection meant that the presidential contest would be a battle of ideas, pitting their vision of a radically shrunken state and diminished social benefits against the Democrats’ support for social guarantees and a mixed economy. The Republicans got their battle, all right. And they’re losing it catastrophically. What’s brought the Republican ticket down most, other than Romney’s casual slander of everyone who’s ever received government benefits, has been Ryan’s advocacy of ending Medicare as a guaranteed benefit and converting it to a voucher system. Republican support among seniors—the one age group that supported John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008, and the one that had preferred Romney over Obama in all the pre-Ryan polling—has eroded sharply. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released...

Fri, Sep. 28 Electoral Vote Predictor

You Are the 100 Millionth Visitor When I started this site in 2004, it was a bit of a lark and just for a few friends. Yesterday it passed the 100-million visitor mark . Thanks for coming by! Swing-State Voters Oppose Changes to Medicare A new Kaiser poll in Florida among registered voters shows that 80% think Medicare is very important or extremely important for their vote and by a margin of 53% to 38% they prefer Obama rather than Romney to handle the matter. Recent polls have shown Obama with a small but consistent lead in Florida, no doubt due in part to Florida's many seniors (in 2008, 20% of Florida's voters were at least 65). In retrospect, Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate may have been a mistake, since his plan to change Medicare from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program is wildly unpopular in Florida, the most important swing state of all. Furthermore, Ryan's plan is also unpopular in Ohio and Virginia, the second and fourth biggest...

The Fable of 1980

As Mitt Romney’s poll numbers keep sagging, the 1980 election has become a kind of magical talisman for Republicans desperately seeking reasons to hope for a miraculous comeback win on November 6. (So has "poll-denial," the new birtherism; see Daily Meme, below.) In the summer, Rush Limbaugh helped revive the old legend of the Reagan Miracle. “I want to remind you of some history,” he told his listeners . “In June of 1980, Jimmy Carter led Ronaldus Magnus 39 to 32.” As summer 2012 turned to fall, and Romney swooned in the polls, a new reference point was discovered. The story now goes like this: Two days before 1980’s lone debate, little more than a week before the election, Ronald Reagan trailed Jimmy Carter by eight points in one poll. (Never mind the other polls, some of which had Reagan leading.) Then, after charming and convincing America that he wasn’t all those scary things Carter had said he was, Ronaldus Magnus won a near-landslide over the incumbent Democrat. It’s a...

Should You Vote for Barack Obama?

(Flickr/Jonathan Mcintosh)
If you were to judge them against the records of previous Democratic presidents, it’s clear that President Obama is the most liberal president since Lyndon Johnson. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act prevented a second Great Depression and invested billions in education, clean energy, and future technologies. The Affordable Care Act has put the United States on the path toward universal health coverage, and a more sustainable health care system. Dodd-Frank is the most important piece of financial regulation in a generation. It’s not perfect, but—all things considered—it’s pretty good. National security is a different story. Obama campaigned as someone who push back against the civil liberties abuses of the Bush era. As president, he has doubled-down on them. The drone war in Pakistan, expanded by the Obama administration, has claimed hundreds of innocent lives, and is conducted under a veil of secrecy. The “militants” targeted by the United States are often just military-aged...

"47 Percent" Is Destroying Romney's Candidacy

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
At a certain point, it’s a little boring to say that Mitt Romney is suffering in the polls. But here we are, and Mitt Romney is still losing support nationwide. As always, the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls show a much tighter race than the larger surveys commissioned by media outlets. Bloomberg has President Barack Obama up six among likely voters, compared to the tie registered by Rasmussen. Gallup also has Obama ahead by six, but this is among registered voters; his margin is certain to narrow once Gallup screens for likely voters. The big news, as you can see, is in the swing states. The latest poll from CBS News, The New York Times , and Quinnipiac University has Obama with a 9-point lead in Florida and a 10-point lead in Ohio. Public Policy Polling gives Obama a 7-point advantage in Iowa, and the Florida-Times Union has Obama with a more modest lead of 49 to Mitt Romney’s 46. September 26 Pollster State LV/RV Obama Romney Margin Bloomberg USA LV 49 43 O+6 Gallup USA RV 50...

Will Wednesday Be a Game Changer? That's Debatable.

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
(AP Photo) Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts, rivals for the presidency, engaged in an informal discussion in the television studio in Washington on October 8, 1960, after going off the air on their nation televised debate. Nixon holds a handkerchief in his hand as he talks with Kennedy. The debate was the second in the pre-elect series to discuss campaign issues. T he first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern. To get everyone ready, we answer some questions you may have. How did we get here? For most of American history, the idea of two presidential candidates debating was unheard of, though candidates for lesser offices did debate. James Madison and James Monroe traveled Virginia together debating for a House seat in 1788, and of course Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated during their 1858 Senate campaign, though the Lincoln-Douglas debates resembled a pair of speeches much more than the debates...

The Comeback Mitt

Even for the flintiest of liberals, it was hard to watch the sad spectacle of Mitt Romney yesterday, after touching down for a rally in Dayton, Ohio, and not feel a little sad for the guy. Here was a beaten-up (and self-harmed) candidate coming off two catastrophic weeks, his poll numbers tanking in key battleground states, now forced to team up with his number two, Paul Ryan, because the campaign reportedly felt the ticket-topper wasn’t generating enough “excitement” on his own. Looking unusually worn and frazzled, standing in front of a banner proclaiming “America’s Comeback Tour,” Romney followed Ryan’s introduction by enthusing, in his best Mitt style, “Wow, that’s quite a guy, isn’t it, Paul Ryan, isn’t that something!” The folks assembled on the tarmac began to chant: “Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!” Romney quickly corrected them: “Romney-Ryan! Romney-Ryan!” The chant died away. The best reaction to the clip came from Joe Scarborough this morning; burying his head in his hands, he cried out...

How the Tea Party Could Cost Republicans the Senate, Again

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson built his reputation as a moderate, policy-oriented Republican. But in his Senate race against Democrat Tammy Baldwin, he has had to go through the same uncomfortable shift to the right faced by other Republicans who made their names in a less dogmatic GOP. To wit, this video—filmed in June—shows Thompson telling a Tea Party group that he is best suited to “come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare,” as the conservative governor who pioneered welfare reform in the 1990s. Take a look: In a state where 13.9 percent of the population is over the age of 65, it’s not a good idea to bill yourself as the guy most qualified to end the most popular program administered by the federal government. More broadly, if Thompson loses—Baldwin currently leads by an average of 5 points—it will be another instance where complete adherence to GOP orthodoxy cost the party a shot at winning the Senate. Indeed, if Democrats hold the Senate this fall...

The Ohio Problem

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, September 26, 2012, in Westerville, Ohio. I wrote yesterday that President Obama is building a solid margin over Governor Romney in the state. The picture is similar in Ohio—where Obama has led in every poll since the Democratic National Convention—and Nevada, where he's led in almost every survey since the beginning of the year. Tuesday's polls reinforced both trends, and highlighted the extent to which Romney is on something of a downwards trajectory. September 25 Pollster State LV/RV Obama Romney Margin RAND USA LV 50.18 42.83 O+7.35 Gallup USA RV 48 45 O+3 Rasmussen USA LV 47 46 O+1 Washington Post Florida LV 51 47 O+4 Washington Post Ohio LV 52 44 O+8 Gravis Marketing Ohio LV 45 44 O+1 Retail Association of Nevada/POS Nevada LV 46 46 Tie Public Policy Polling Nevada LV 52 43 O+9 Monmouth University New Jersey LV 52 37 O+15 Talk Business...

Dems and Reproductive Rights: BFFs

(Flickr/Progress Ohio)
Guest-posting at Nate Silver's 538, Mark Smith makes a point that is not made nearly often enough. Pundits talk about the potential costs of Roe v. Wade and the Democratic Party's embrace of womens' reproductive freedom—lost votes among social conservatives who might otherwise be more sympathetic to Democratic economic policies. But as Smith points out, there's another side to it: relatively affluent states such as Washington that have gone from swing states to solid blue states in large measure because of Republican positions on cultural issues. In 1980, as Smith notes, "Ronald Reagan over-performed in Washington relative to his margin of victory in the nation as a whole." But a Republican Party committed to overruling Roe v. Wade is simply not going to be competitive in Washington. It's not just Washington. Democratic liberalism on social issues is a crucial reason why states like California and New York—both of which Reagan carried twice—have become electoral college locks for the...

The Great Polling Conspiracy of 2012

Around this time in 2004, liberals were panicking. The Democratic nominee for president, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, was lagging behind George W. Bush, who appeared to be on his way to a second term. This was baffling , and not in a Pauline Kael kind of way. It wasn’t so much that liberals couldn’t imagine the person who would vote Bush—at the time, it wasn’t hard to find a Bush voter—but that conditions were terrible, and it was a stretch to believe that America would re-elect a president who brought the country into two messy wars and the most sluggish economy since WWII. Obviously, these liberals decided, the problem was the polls. A cottage industry of liberal bloggers and pundits arose to explain how “biased” sampling had skewed the polls. If you weighted Republicans and Democrats correctly, they argued, then John Kerry would be ahead. But that was missing the point. Pollsters don’t weight the partisanship of the electorate in one way or another. They simply survey a large...

No, We Can't All Get Along

Change - get it? (Flickr/Rakka)
Mitt Romney seems to have decided to run an entire presidential campaign on quibbling semantic arguments, which is certainly a novel approach, but not one I'd recommend for future candidates. It's not that every campaign doesn't spend way too much time complaining about the words their opponent says, but he really has taken it to a totally different level; every day seems to bring a new expression of feigned outrage at something Barack Obama said. Over at MSNBC's "Lean Forward" blog, I have a new piece about one of these inane back-and-forths that happened last week, when Obama said he learned you couldn't change Washington from the inside, and Romney got really peeved and promised he would change it from the inside. My point was essentially that if I hear one more pundit talk about the good old days when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill would argue during the day, then share a beer and bellow some old Irish sea shanties in the evening, I think I'm going to lose it: Let's look at the...

The Party That Can't Shoot Straight

(Flickr/PBS Newshour)
By all accounts, this was the Republicans’ election to win: an economy stuck at a level insufficient to generate enough jobs or income gains; a somewhat disillusioned Democratic base; and a stunted generation of young adults who supported Barack Obama last time by a margin of 71-29 and are unlikely to do it again. Yet Obama’s lead keeps widening. It’s worth unpacking why. The most obvious reason, of course, is the sheer clumsiness of Mitt Romney, God’s gift to the Democrats. If a computer had been asked to generate a candidate guaranteed to alienate independents and divide his own base, it could not have done better. The far right’s effort to “let Ryan be Ryan” only shines a spotlight on the unpopularity of the GOP’s designs for Medicare and Social Security, while Romney’s serial gaffes lead Senate candidates in swing states to disparage their party’s nominee and right-wing commentators to weep. Another reason is that demographic trends are relentlessly moving in the Democrats’...

Obama Insufficiently Audacious for Press Corps

Barack Obama, lazing about. (White House/Pete Souza)
There are few deeper ironies than to hear campaign reporters complaining that candidates are not being substantive and detailed enough, and it seems that they now may be turning their wagging finger toward both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Don't get me wrong—I'm all for substance, and there are some kinds of vagueness that have to be confronted. For instance, the fact that Romney says he can cut taxes but keep things revenue neutral by also cutting loopholes, yet steadfastly refuses to say which loopholes he'll eliminate, is just absurd and should be called out. Yet if he came out tomorrow with a dozen new lengthy policy papers, would the campaign reporters on his bus stay up late studying them so they could produce one policy-dense analysis after another? No, they wouldn't. Just as candidates often want to seem substantive without actually being substantive, the reporters want to judge substance without having to actually examine substance. Which is why this Politico article is so...

In Florida, Romney Has Hit the Danger Zone

Jamelle Bouie
Mitt Romney has a few paths to victory, some more likely than others. He could repeat George W. Bush’s performance in 2004 and carry the White House with wins in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio. He could cede Virginia to Obama and take Colorado and New Hampshire. He could give up Colorado and New Hampshire but win Wisconsin and the single electoral vote in Omaha, Nebraska. He could lose Ohio and make up for it with Virginia, Colorado, and Wisconsin. But what Romney can’t do—under any remotely plausible scenario—is win the White House without Florida. Take Florida away from Romney, and he doesn’t have a path to 270 electoral votes that doesn’t involve winning a traditional blue state. Mitt Romney could run the table , win New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado, and still fall short of 270 electoral votes. To win, he’d have to overcome a year-long, seven-point deficit in Nevada, which—on top of everything else—is not something I’d bet...

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