Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Tue, Sep. 25 Electoral Vote Predictor

Ryan Became Romney Instead of Romney Becoming Ryan Conservatives who cheered Mitt Romney's selection of Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, as his running mate in the hope this indicated a more aggressive, more conservative stance for Romney have been sorely disappointed . They had expected Ryan's bold style to rub off on Romney. Instead, it is the other way: Ryan has become muted and vague, like Romney. The problem is certainly not Ryan. All vice-presidential candidates know who is the boss and Ryan is surely doing precisely what his boss wants: looking sharp but be vague about all the details. In the six weeks since he was tapped, Ryan hasn't given a single national press conference, although he has done interviews for local media outlets—which typically don't push the interviewee very hard. His stump speech rarely mentions his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Instead, he attacks President Obama and plays up his bow hunting abilities and working-...

We Never Liked You, Anyway

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
As often as not, parties nominate candidates for president that pretty much all their own partisans acknowledge are less than inspiring. Democrats were so excited about Barack Obama in 2008 partly because their previous two nominees, John Kerry and Al Gore, rode to the nomination on a stirring sentiment of "Well, OK, I guess." The same happened to Republicans, who adored the easygoing George W. Bush after the grim candidacies of Bob Dole and Bush's father. And now that Mitt Romney has suffered through an awful few weeks—a mediocre convention, an embarrassing response to the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, then the release of the "47 percent" video in which Romney accused almost half of America of refusing to "take responsibility for their own lives"—the knives have come out. First it was a widely shared Politico story full of intramural Romney campaign sniping, most directed at chief strategist Stuart Stevens (the article full of anonymous backstabbing is the hallmark of a struggling...

Will GOP Centrists Come Back?

If the Democratic drift in the polls—not only toward President Obama but down-ticket Dems as well—turns out to be more than a blip, the results on November 6 will surely cause the Republicans to rethink their right-wing extremism. At least that’s the view of commentators like Andrew Sullivan, whose Newsweek cover story (headlined “President Obama: The Democrats’ Ronald Reagan”) lays out a dream scenario for all who long for a saner, less obstinate Republicanism. “[T]here must remain somewhere in the GOP a residual instinct to prefer playing a part in a solution to intensifying the problem for partisan gain,” Sullivan writes, his heart full of hope. “But this last gasp of civic responsibility will most likely revive only if the current GOP loses decisively this November. Defeat is the only thing fanatics understand. And defeat is something the remaining Republican moderates can build on.” Sounds logical, yes? Except for two little problems: First, who are these “moderates” Sullivan...

Mon, Sep. 24 Electoral Vote Predictor

Can Romney Duplicate Bush's 2004 Path on the Electoral College? In 2004, George Bush won 31 states and 286 electoral votes. An obvious question is: "Can Romney follow Bush's path?" The answer appears to be no. If Romney were to win all the Bush states, he would have 292 electoral votes due to changes from the 2010 census. For starters, New Mexico looks hopeless and Iowa not much better bringing Romney from 292 to 281, still enough to win though. Increasingly, Ohio looks tough for him. Without its 18 electoral votes, he is down to 263 and a loss. Furthermore, Virginia is looking ever more Democratic. Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina are tossups now. Unless something changes quickly, the Bush path is not going to work for Romney. Republicans Advise Romney to Be Himself in Debates Mitt Romney has changed his positions so many times that nobody knows who he is and what he stands for. Republican operatives are advising him to just be himself in the debates. He should claim to...

The Republicans' Foreign Policy Problem

textsfromhillaryclinton.tumbler.com
Pop quiz: if you had to describe the Obama foreign policy in one sentence, what would you say? Not easy, is it? Back in 2008, it was pretty simple: "Not Bush." Now back then, there was something called the "Bush doctrine," which may have had a subtle meaning to those working in the administration, but as far as the public was concerned mostly meant "invading lots of countries and making everyone in the world hate us." So it was easy to imagine Obama as a breath of foreign policy fresh air. He'd use a less-bumbling combination of diplomacy, "soft power," and carefully restrained force. He'd get us out of Iraq. Things would change for the better. But now that Obama has been president for four years, "Not Bush" has lost its relevance. Obama's actual foreign policy is too complicated to sum up easily, and probably therefore too complicated for most voters to understand. We did get out of Iraq, but things don't seem to be going too well in Afghanistan; Obama has dramatically increased the...

What Will Obama Do about Income Inequality? Not Much.

New data from the Census Bureau shows that the tepid recovery is exacerbating income inequality and pushing ordinary Americans into tougher economic circumstances. Here is the Los Angeles Times with more detail : The median household income, after adjusting for inflation, dropped 1.5% in 2011 from the previous year to $50,054. That is now 8.1% lower than in 2007, when the recession began late that year. […] The share of people falling below the poverty line—$11,702 for a single person under age 65 and $23,201 for a family of four—had increased steadily since 2006, when the rate was 12.3%. The census report said there were about 46 million poor people in the U.S. last year, essentially the same as in 2010. […] The latest census report showed that households with incomes in the 20th to 60th percentile saw their share of overall incomes fall last year to 23.8% of total income. Meanwhile, households in the top 20% saw their share of the total pie climb to an all-time high of 50%. With the...

Romney's Wrong Right Move

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at D’Evelyn High School in Denver, Colorado over the weekend. Once it became clear that President Barack Obama received a significant bounce from the Democratic National Convention, the next question was whether this bounce would translate to an enduring advantage for his campaign. On Friday, polls from National Journal and Reason magazine gave Obama a 7-point lead over Mitt Romney, 50–43 and 52–45, respectively. Saturday was a quiet day for national polling, but Sunday saw the release of two tracking polls by Rasmussen and Gallup. Rasmussen was unchanged from the last few days ; Romney and Obama remain tied with 46 percent support, though Obama’s job approval has ticked down: 48 percent approve, 50 percent disapprove. Obama began last week in a similar position with Gallup, but both his approval—and performance against Romney—improved in yesterday’s tracking poll. He now earns 48 percent support to...

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