Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Don't Blame Mitt

It’s not unusual for a flailing presidential campaign to air its dirty laundry ahead of the election; staffers will use the media to place blame where they think it resides, to avoid responsibility for losing the White House, and leave themselves room for future employment. What is unusual is for this to happen in September, when voters are just beginning to tune in to the election and both candidates have a chance to convert new supporters and energize old ones. Which is why it was a shock to see Politico headlined by a clear attempt to blame adviser Stuart Stevens for the campaign’s string of missteps and stumbles. I don’t have words in defense or support of Stevens, and there isn’t much to glean from an anonymously sourced piece on the campaign; given the difference between where Romney is, consistently behind President Obama, and where Republicans thought he’d be—well ahead—it’s no surprise that there are angry staffers and disgruntled allies. But buried in all of this is a...

How We Should (Voter) Roll

(Flickr/crownjewel82)
David Becker is unusual in national politics. He talks about inaccuracies in voting rolls, dead people still registered, and the like. He says the bad information is a big problem. But he's not on the far right talking about voter fraud or the need for major purges to the states' rolls before an election. Instead, he's the director of election initiatives for the non-partisan Pew Center on the States. And his research tells him that better data would actually help more people vote—and make elections a smoother, more efficient process that should please folks on both sides of the political divide. Far-right groups argue that voter fraud is rampant, and demand that states do more to delete names on the lists. The left brushes off the fraud claim (citing facts), focusing instead on voter registration drives. There's not much common ground. But an investment in better tools to manage voter registration—and allow for online registration—would make a huge difference to both camps: It would...

Warren Maintains Lead in Senate Race

Two new polls over the weekend showed Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren maintaining her post-convention lead over Scott Brown. One poll by the Springfield Republican newspaper shows a six-point lead, with Warren at 50 percent to the Republican incumbent Scott Brown's 44 percent. Public Policy Polling shows her with a two-point edge among likely voters, at 48 percent to 46 percent. The race has been a true toss up, with both popular candidates holding a lead at various times in what is, overall, a close race. The problem for Warren as a challenger has always been that voters like Scott Brown, and generally approve of the job he's doing. She's had to make them like her better, which is a challenge for any newcomer, even a naturally good candidate like Warren. When I spoke to a few volunteers in July, they were worried about Brown's appeal—they had knocked on a number of doors of voters who felt Brown was a nice man, and they didn't know Warren. These polls show, more than anything...

Mon, Sep. 17 Electoral Vote Predictor

Americans Think Obama Will Win A new Wapo/ABC poll shows that 59% of the voters think President Obama will be reelected vs. 34% who think Mitt Romney will win. Note that this is a completely different question than who the voter supports. The polling data on who people will vote for gave Obama a mere 3% lead, 49% to 46%. In other words, there are millions of voters who want Romney to win but don't expect him to do so. Another take on this is to look at the betting site intrade.com where bettors are giving Obama a 67% chance and Romney a 33% chance. That is 2 to 1. Romney's problem is that he has tanked in the past week, presumably due to the furor around his criticism of President Obama, before he knew all the facts concerning the riots in Egypt and Libya, where four American diplomats were killed. Here is a chart of Romney's chances for the past 30 days. Click here for full story

Today in Obama Trutherism

On the heels of the conspiracy theory about the liberal media and pollsters “inventing” President Obama's post-convention bump—which has turned out to be quite reality-based —the wingers have a brand-new fractured fairy tale. This one features the former George W. Bush adviser and appointee, Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke, sporting an Obama campaign button and laughing maniacally as he orders the money-printing machines cranked up to top speed. (“Forward, pussycat! Forward!”) Yesterday, Bernanke announced a new, open-ended policy of “quantitative easing”—pumping huge sums of money into the economy, as the Prospect ’s Robert Kuttner explains , in order to fuel growth by driving down interest rates, particularly on home mortgages. The Fed’s action was a bracing rebuke to deficit hawks like JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and the Norquist GOP. But that’s not what’s got the right wing buzzing. After all, why would a Federal Reserve chair want to stimulate a stagnant economy—unless he was doing...

The Simple Question That Never Gets Asked

Flickr/Alexander Drachmann
Yesterday, conservatives got all outraged because a microphone picked up a few journalists discussing with each other what questions they would ask Mitt Romney at what turned out to be his disastrous press conference on the events in Cairo and Benghazi. Aha! they shouted; Michelle Malkin told the Mensa convention that is "Fox & Friends" that "If it looks, sounds, talks like journo-tools for Obama, it is what it is." As Erik Wemple patiently and carefully explained , in contexts like press conferences—by both Democratic and Republican politicians!—reporters often plan out what questions they'll ask. And you know what? They ought to do it more often. Maybe they wouldn't ask so many dumb questions. It's certainly a problem that politicians are so sneaky and evade the questions journalists do ask. And the reporters don't really have time to sit down and engage in a process of deliberation so they can use their collective knowledge and wisdom to arrive at the questions that will prove...

Today in Chutzpah

Speaking of that Mitt Romney interview with George Stephanopoulos, it contained this hilarious bit of chutzpah : Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom Democrats have charged is too loose with his facts, predicted that President Obama would lie in the October debates. “I think he’s going to say a lot of things that aren’t accurate,” Romney said in an interview ABC News’ “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos. Here’s what the Romney campaign had to say about “accuracy” and “facts” just two weeks ago : “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” I remain astounded by the sheer laziness of Team Romney’s dishonesty. They just don’t care anymore. As it stands, according to the latest poll from ABC News and The Washington Post , President Obama has a serious advantage on the question of honesty. By a seven-point margin—49 percent to 42 percent—more voters believe the Obama campaign is “saying things it believes to be true” rather than “...

Both Romney and Obama Are Wrong about Who Is "Middle Class"

If Mitt Romney began this week with a misstep over foreign policy—accusing President Barack Obama of “sympathizing” with the people who attacked the American embassy in Cairo—then he has ended it with a misstep over class. In an interview with Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos, he said that “middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.” Here’s the full context: “I said that there are five different studies that point out that we can get to a balanced budget without raising taxes on middle income people,” he continued. “Let me tell you, George, the fundamentals of my tax policy are these. Number one, reduce tax burdens on middle-income people. So no one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.” Pundits and partisans have jumped on this quote because it fits perfectly into two narratives of the Republican presidential nominee. First, that he’s an aloof plutocrat, and...

Obama's Decisive Bump

President Obama’s convention bounce shows no sign of subsiding. Yesterday’s Fox News poll shows him with a five-point lead over Romney among likely voters—48 to 43 percent—and he continues to lead in the Gallup tracking poll, which shows him with a six lead over the Republican nominee, 50 to 44 percent. It’s hard to overstate how dangerous this is for Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency. Conventions are one of the few points when candidates can shift the race and make meaningful gains. This makes sense—they’re little more than long, effusive advertisements, broadcast by major media outlets and seen by tens of millions of Americans. But while conventions can do a huge amount to change the dynamics of a presidential race, things tend to stabilize afterward. In their new book The Timeline of Presidential Elections , political scientists Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien explain the extent to which conditions harden in the post-convention period: It is easy to imagine that many...

The Return of the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics

In need of just a bit more Romneystrength. (Flickr/Jason Means)
Until a few days ago, few people cared all that much what Mitt Romney thought about foreign policy. It isn't an area where he has any experience, or, let's be honest, anything in particular to say. His denunciations of President Obama's record have a kind of rote quality. There's nothing really substantive there, no attacks on any particular decisions Obama has made or initiatives he has undertaken. What it all consists of is the idea that Obama is weak, and "apologizes for America" (I'm not going to bother debunking that one again). But when Mitt goes off on that stuff, you can tell he's just doing it to satisfy the Sean Hannitys of the world and assure the Republican base that yes, I hate him as much as you do, and now let's talk about the economy. But in every presidential race, there are external events that force the candidates to change their agenda, which is what has happened now. And yesterday The Washington Post published this article , in which we learn just how powerful...

In Pennsylvania, Voting Rights on Trial—Again

(Flickr/loop_oh)
Hey—remember Pennsylvania's voter-ID law? The really strict one that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters? The controversy over the law died down in mid-August, when a commonwealth court ruled the law would stand . Since then, however, the voting rights advocates who'd filed suit appealed to the state's Supreme Court. There, on Thursday, justices heard the case. But it garnered little in the way of headlines. That's probably because Pennsylvania no longer looks up for grabs in the presidential race. The state's strict voter-ID law, which require voters to show a government-issued photo ID, disadvantages Democratic candidates, since the law disproportionately affects poor and nonwhite voters—those more likely to vote Democratic. When the presidential race was tight, the outcome in Pennsylvania seemed like it might be up for grabs, and many worried the voter-ID law would determine which candidate would receive Pennsylvania's electoral votes—or win the whole election,...

Following in Chris Stevens's Footsteps

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
(AP Photo/John Minchillo) Supporters of slain U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens hold a candlelight vigil outside the Libyan Embassy, Thursday, September 13, 2012, in New York. Stevens was killed by an angry mob during an assault on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi that stemmed from the widespread anger generated by an American-made anti-Muslim film. T he Middle East has a propensity for producing both the tragic and the absurd, two qualities that converged in appallingly consummate fashion with the attacks this week that killed U.S. diplomats in Libya and threatened American embassies across the region. The deaths of Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three of his colleagues at the American consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday represent a profound tragedy on many levels. First and foremost is the loss of such brave and dedicated individuals, who served their country in a place wracked by chaos, uncertainty, and violence. Stevens had a well-deserved reputation as a...

Stimulated

The big news today wasn’t Mitt Romney’s continued fumbling over foreign policy (for which Team Romney is surely grateful). It was the Federal Reserve’s decision to embark on a new round of quantatative easing. For the uninitated, quantatative easing—or QE to the cool kids—is a strategy for generating growth in the economy. Right now, the problem in the economy is a lack of demand. Consumers aren’t spending, and so businesses aren’t hiring, and so banks are not lending, and so on. One way to deal with this is to provide income to people, throw out benefits, tax cuts, or public works—i.e., stimulus. But that requires congressional action, and as we’ve seen for the last two years, Republicans are not interested in spending money to generate growth—or in letting President Obama do any more of it. That leaves the Federal Reserve. It can’t give money to people, but it can create incentives to spend. With quantatative easing, the Fed purchases bonds back from the government, holds interests...

Do Reporters Dislike Mitt Romney?

Dont' come any closer! (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Do reporters dislike Mitt Romney? And if so, what kind of a difference might that make? I'm prompted to ask by this post from Andrew Gelman at the Monkey Cage, in which he expresses doubt that back in 2000, reporters disliked Al Gore and liked George W. Bush. I won't spend time on that question—it has been extensively reported over the years, with not only quantitative analyses of the press coverage the two received, but plenty of on-the-record comments from reporters who were there at the time testifying that they and their colleagues found Bush to be a friendly fellow and thought Gore was a pedantic, phony liar. (In his post, Gelman confesses to not owning a television, which obviously calls into question his standing as a true American.) But the more interesting question now is the one about Romney. This is sometimes difficult to assess clearly, since we all have a tendency to see press coverage that reinforces our beliefs as fair and objective, and coverage that contradicts our...

Defenders of the Vote

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)
(AP Photo/Michael Perez) Joe Michetti holds a sign to demonstrate the opposition of Pennsylvania's new voter-identification law during the NAACP voter-ID rally, Thursday, September 13, 2012, in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court justices are scheduled to hear arguments over whether a new law requiring each voter to show valid photo identification poses an unnecessary threat to the right to vote. Y ou know you’re in a fledgling campaign office the moment you step off the street and into one of the plainest buildings in Germantown, a mostly black Philadelphia neighborhood that contains several Colonial landmarks. Along garish, peach-colored walls are maps of every inch of the city: council districts, wards, divisions, recreation centers. Mismatched tables sit empty, waiting for soon-to-be-installed phones that volunteers will use to call number after number. In one corner of the back office, there’s even a double megaphone ready to perch atop a van and spread the message. Rather...

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