Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Pennsylvania's Other Voter ID Battle

(Photo of Voting poster from Flickr/kristin_a; Photo of Independence Hall from Flickr/harshlight)
When Pennsylvania Republicans passed the nation's most restrictive voter ID law in March, requiring all voters to show government-issued photo identification, it was less than eight months before the November elections. It was going to be a sprint to train state workers and election workers on the new law, and to inform the public and help those who needed to get new IDs. Fortunately, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, the state's election chief, had assured everyone during the legislative debate that 99 percent of voters already had a valid ID ready to go . For the other 1 percent, the state would make the new voter IDs free , and would advertise the new law widely to make sure everyone who had lost their eligibility would know what to do. After all, proponents argued, the point of a voter ID law wasn't to prevent folks from voting; it was to guard against voter fraud, even if that hadn't yet become a problem in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. Now, three months before Election...

Should Mitt Romney Be Winning?

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
While it’s overstating the case to say that presidential elections are predictable, it’s fair to describe them as strongly influenced by a consistent set of conditions. These “fundamentals” are straightforward: Is the economy moving in a positive direction? Is the president an incumbent, or is this an open election? For how long has the incumbent party controlled the White House? What do people think of the president and his party? Elections aren’t determined by the answers to these questions, but to a great extent, they shape the dynamics of the contest. In this election, despite the close polls, it’s clear that the fundamentals are on the side of President Obama. Yes, the economy is bad, but it’s better than it was when he took office, and it’s moving in the right direction. Obama is an incumbent, and so public attitudes about him and his administration are just about set in stone; a majority of Americans like Obama, and his approval rating is just below 50 percent. This is the...

Romney's Cruel Joke on the Middle Class

In response, it seems, to criticism of his economic plan—which will raise taxes on the vast majority of Americans in order to cut taxes for the wealthiest taxpayers—Mitt Romney has released a one-page “ plan for a stronger middle-class .” The provisions are what you would expect: Increase domestic drilling, reduce regulations on the coal industry, and complete the Keystone XL pipeline. Sign new trade agreements and “curtail the unfair trade pracices of countries like China.” Devolve federal programs, like Medicaid, to the states, cut spending on an existing agencies and social programs, and institute a larger, long-term cut by capping federal spending at below 20 percent. Cut taxes, repeal the Affordable Care Act, reduce regulations, and make it more difficult for unions to organize. Romney’s cuts to Medicaid, Pell Grants and other social services—the inevitable outcome of capping federal spending while drastically reducing revenue—would shred the social safety net and make financial...

Mitt Romney Passes Wind

Flickr/Steve Abraham
Mitt Romney was in Colorado yesterday, where some people aren't too pleased with him. This week he came out in opposition to an extension of the wind-power production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of the year. The tax credit helps make wind power competitive and is credited with enabling the creation of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and construction. This is almost certainly not going to be a huge issue in the campaign, but it does reveal some interesting things about where Romney is vis-a-vis the Republican Party. On one side, you have the parochial economic interests of many Republican members of Congress and some very well-heeled Republican economic constituency. On the other, you have the purely knee-jerk reaction of Tea Party types to anything hippies might like. Guess where Mitt comes down? Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee passed an extension of the credit with bipartisan support. The PTC has support from members of Congress from both parties...

Rick Perry Preemptively Outsmarts Most Pundits

When it comes to the significance of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice, Texas Governor Rick Perry seems to have more sense than most political pundits: “There are great and talented people out there, but vice presidential candidates are interesting choices that will probably only make two or three days worth of news, unless they make some huge gaffe,” Perry told CNN in an interview at the Republican Governors Association retreat in Aspen, Colorado. “As long as it’s not me, I’ll be cool.” Perry invoked another famous Texan, John Nance Garner, to make his point. “I think it was ‘Cactus Jack’ Garner, who was VP under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said that being vice president is not worth a bucket of warm spit,” he said. Because of its obsession with the horse race, the media will flip out when Romney announces his vice presidential choice, even if it’s someone as bland as former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty or Ohio Senator Rob Portman. But while it’s true that presidential...

Harry Reid Gets Under Mitt's Skin

Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund
Harry Reid has always been an unusual character. He's often dismissed as a lightweight by Republicans (Senator Tom Coburn recently called him "incompetent and incapable"), but he is also an adept legislative maneuverer who has notched some extraordinary victories, perhaps none more notable than getting every Democrat in the Senate, even ones like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman who live to make trouble for their own party, to vote for the Affordable Care Act. He's very soft-spoken, speaking most of the time in a near-whisper, but he's also willing to wield a shiv with an enthusiasm few in his party can muster. And now, Reid is doing the kind of work that surrogates are supposed to do for presidential candidates: go out and make the kind of biting, maybe even questionable attack on the opponent that the candidate himself doesn't want to be seen making. Reid has charged that a source at Bain Capital has told him privately that Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years, and that's why...

Four Things to Know About the July Jobs Report

(Wools/Flickr/Creative Commons)
Today is the first Friday of a new month ( i.e. , Christmas for wonks and political junkies), which means the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released its monthly report on employment . The economy created 163,000 net jobs in July, an increase over projections—which hovered around 100,000 —and a substantial increase over June, when the economy added a scant 80,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.25 percent (up from 8.21), but was rounded up to 8.3 percent for the purposes of the report. This isn’t a good number—a more rapid recovery would require up to 300,000 jobs a month—but it is a sign that the United States is not about to fall into another recession. Beyond the topline number, here are a few key things to take away from this month’s report. The revisions were … meh : The BLS revises its job statistics as it gets more accurate information. Today, job growth for May was revised from 77,000 to 87,000, but job growth for June—the most abysmal month of the...

Pennsylvania Voters: Dazed and Confused

(Flickr/richiec)
This is going to sound crazy, but in Philadelphia, plenty of voting-rights activists are hoping plaintiffs lose their case against the state voter-ID law—at the lower court level, that is. Pennsylvania's voter-ID law, one of the most restrictive in the country, requires a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, and would disenfranchise a significant number of voters , particularly those who are poor, elderly, and nonwhite. It's a scary prospect, and the lawsuit brought by several voting-rights groups on behalf of ten plaintiffs seeks to get the law suspended. Closing arguments ended yesterday, and Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has promised to rule on the measure by August 13. So why would any voting-rights activist hope that Simpson rules in favor of the state? Because if Simpson decides to grant an injunction, it will complicate the message of voting-rights activists who are urging people to get the new ID. Some worry that if the headlines say the lack is struck down,...

Potlandia

(Flickr / pbump)
This November, voters in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have the chance to do something radical: legalize marijuana for recreational use. In all three states, activists secured enough petition signatures to place initiatives on the ballot to essentially treat cannabis like alcohol, regulating its distribution and taxing it. The three states already allow patients with ailments like cancer and AIDS to use marijuana; Colorado allows dispensaries, which make for a bigger and broader semi-decriminalized system. But if these initiatives pass, they would be the first allowing anyone who doesn't have (or claim to have) a medical need to use marijuana. One poll shows the Washington initiative passing by a 13-point margin, while a poll in Colorado predicts an even bigger margin in favor. These polls should be read skeptically, but they suggest the strong possibility that at least one of these initiatives could succeed. If that happens, it will raise a whole slew of questions for the country...

The Question Rove Should Be Asking

The most recent conservative attack on the Obama campaign has been around the efficacy of its spending, i.e., “they are outspending us on ads, without any movement in the polls.” J.T. Young made this argument in the American Spectator a few days ago , and GOP guru Karl Rove made it today in the Wall Street Journal : His cash advantage over Mr. Romney was probably gone as of July 31, in large measure because (according to public records at TV stations) Team Obama has spent at least $131 million on television the last three months. These ads have not moved him up in the polls. The race is tied in the July 30 Gallup poll at 46%. Neither have the ads strengthened public approval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, which is stuck at 44% in the July 22 NBC/WSJ poll, nor have they erased Mr. Romney’s seven-point lead in that poll regarding who has “good ideas for how to improve the economy.” Rove’s problem is that this goes both ways. When you tally the spending from all groups, Team...

Romney Is Not Trying to Please Policy Wonks

The Romney plan for the middle class, in its entirety.
Campaign plans are a little overrated. On one hand, it's good to tell people exactly what you want to do if you're elected. On the other hand, whatever you do on the really big issues is going to have to go through the legislative sausage grinder, so the degree to which what eventually gets produced resembles what you proposed is a function of how close you were to your party's desires in the first place. For instance, the Affordable Care Act ended up looking a lot like Barack Obama's 2008 health-care proposal. There were important exceptions—his proposal didn't include an individual mandate and did include a public option—but the contours reflected the elite Democratic consensus of the moment. That's why his plan didn't differ much from those offered by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. So if you want to know what Mitt Romney is going to do, the best thing is probably to examine Paul Ryan's plans—as Ryan Lizza argues —because that's where the Republican Party is now. But Romney...

Team Obama Flanks Romney on Taxes

This morning, the Obama campaign came out swinging against Mitt Romney’s tax plan, which will raise taxes on 95 percent of households, according to the Tax Policy Center . Here’s the ad: The Romney campaign has pushed back, accusing the Center of bias—one of its analysts has ties to the Obama White House—but that ignores the extent to which the Center was quite generous in its evaluation of Romney’s plan. They assume a world where Romney cuts tax incentives for the rich—including the charitable giving deduction—and ends all deductions for any income over $200,000. They also assume that the plan will generate economic growth, providing funds to offset the cost of the tax cuts that form the centerpiece of the plan. But these implausibly optimistic assumptions aren’t enough to square the circle of Romney’s tax plan. The only way Romney can keep the Bush tax cuts, cut taxes by 20 percent on top of that, and keep revenue at its current level is to borrow huge sums of money or raise taxes...

Mitt Romney Doesn't Realize the Primaries Are Over

Come on down, Mitt!
Let it not be said that William Kristol—magazine editor, Fox News commentator, all-around uberpundit and man-about-town—is not a man with practical solutions for the strategic challenges that face a Republican presidential campaign. Today he gives the Romney advance team an important heads-up: "Mitt Romney's hosting a campaign event at Jeffco Fairgrounds in Golden, Colorado around lunchtime today, and a quick scan of Chick-fil-A's website shows several locations within fifteen miles or so of the Romney event. So it should be easy for Romney to stop at a Chick-fil-A for a photo-op (and a sandwich!) on his way there." Is Romney going to take the advice? I'd bet my bottom dollar he is. Because Chick-fil-A has become the right's culture war emblem of the moment , Mitt won't be able to resist. It would be just the latest sign of something rather remarkable: the election is only three months away, and almost everything Mitt Romney does seems geared not toward persuading undecided voters,...

Ted Cruz Is Not a Ticket to Latinos

(Wikipedia)
The first time I saw Ted Cruz in action was last year at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. He was seven months into his campaign for the Senate nomination in Texas and had already been the subject of a glowing cover story for National Review . His speech to the Values Voter crowd was the usual blend of partisan red meat and personal anecdote: He railed against Obama’s “socialism,” promised to restore free enterprise, decried abortion, told the story of his family’s journey to America—he’s the son of Cuban immigrants—and issued a cry for “change” conservatives could “believe in.” The usual, in other words. But there was something ironic in Cruz’s performance. For as much as he denounced Barack Obama, he shared the president’s flair for public speaking. His speech was slow-building, but by the time he made his pitch—“We need to take back the Senate!”—the crowd was with him 100 percent, chanting back his lines and even adopting the “yes we can” call-and-response of Obama’s...

A Tight Race in Florida

If there’s any state that’s key to Mitt Romney’s strategy, it’s Florida. You can imagine a GOP win without Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, or other traditionally Republican-leaning states—but Florida has 27 electoral votes, nearly twice as many as the other swing states, and without them, Republicans can’t score an Electoral College victory. At the beginning of this year, Florida looked like a sure thing for the Republican side. Demographically, the Sunshine State favors GOP candidates. In 2008, an excellent year for Democrats, 49 percent of Florida voters were above the age of 50, and 71 percent were white. Among whites, Obama lost every single age group by double digits; his best performance was among whites ages 18 to 29, whom he lost by 10 points. He lost by 12.5 among whites over the age of 45, and 22 points for whites 30 to 44. In a close election, it seemed clear that Republicans would win Florida, and early polls bore that out. Over the last two months, however, the outlook for...

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