Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Ted Cruz's Deceptive Triumph

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Just about every national pundit has the same take on Ted Cruz's victory in Texas's Senate primary: Another Tea Party triumph! It's just like Florida in 2010, where "moderate" Governor Charlie Crist lost to insurgent Marco Rubio, or Indiana earlier this year, where "moderate" Senator Richard Lugar was dethroned by Tea Partier Richard Mourdock. The establishment loses again, and the new wave of the GOP continues its takeover of the party. On the surface, it sounds convincing. In the runoff for the U.S. Senate nomination, Cruz, running as a hard-core conservative, did upset David Dewhurst, who's been lieutenant governor—an unusually powerful position in Texas—for almost a decade. At the Washington Examiner , Conn Carroll summed up the almost-universal spin on the result: "Following the big-government excess of the Bush years, the Republican party was in desperate need of change," he writes. "The Tea Party has helped deliver it, and a victory in Bush’s home state would go a long way to...

2004 All Over Again

(Wikipedia)
Two historical analogues have been bounced around with regards to this election. Conservatives say we’re looking at another 1980, where a weak incumbent is felled by a resurgent Republican Party in a decisive victory. Liberals, with much less optimism, say that this is another 2004, where an embattled incumbent ekes out a small victory against a hapless and unpopular challenger. At the Wall Street Journal , Gerald Seib presents the case for both, but chooses not to take a side; at most, he invites his readers to speculate: There are important differences between today’s situation and these precedents. This time, there is no third-party candidate as there was in 1980, when John Anderson’s presence muddled the picture. And in 2004, Mr. Bush’s problem was a war in Iraq that was seen as his own choice, whereas Mr. Obama is more seen as somebody who inherited his problem, an economic crisis. Still, the precedents are intriguing: Will it be an incumbent who hangs on through adversity, or...

Obama: Not Like You or Me

(Flickr/SS&SS)
"He's not one of us" has long been one of the most common electoral arguments at all levels—every election features ads all over the country where one candidate is accused of not sharing "[insert state here] values." It's become almost a cliché that Democrats talk about issues while Republicans talk about values, building an affinity with voters as they construct a wall of identity between the electorate and their Democratic opponents. Yet it took some time for Mitt Romney to determine exactly how to show that Barack Obama was not “one of us.” The campaign tried out and then abandoned various attacks; for instance, faced with polling and focus groups telling them that voters basically like the president, the Romney campaign argued that Obama is "in over his head"—hardly the kind of attack that'll make people see your opponent as alien and threatening. But then deliverance came in the form of an infelicitous sentence Obama uttered, "You didn't build that," which they quickly ripped...

Mitt the Likudlican

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Four summers ago, when Barack Obama landed in Israel, one of the country's most popular papers headlined the event, "Obamania" and reported that he was greeted "like a rock star." This past weekend, Mitt Romney was not received in Israel as a rock star. The Hebrew headlines on his arrival noted his close friendship with Benjamin Netanyahu—and that he bombed in London. By the time he left, Romney managed to shift attention to his hawkish positions on Iran, but also to his breaches of American and Israeli political manners. His partnership with the Israeli prime minister was even more conspicuous than when he came. What Israelis learned about Mitt may seem tangential to the U.S. election. But a close read of Romney's visit matters—not just to that small number of Jewish voters whom Romney hoped to sway, but to...

No Such Thing As Good Luck

Flickr/Funchye
Now that we're having a real debate about the fundamentals of capitalism and success, it's worth considering another part of the now-infamous "You didn't build that" speech President Obama recently gave. When he was accused of taking Obama's words out of context, Mitt Romney's defense was that "The context is worse than the quote." As evidence, he cited not the actual context of "You didn't build that" but what Obama said a paragraph before, about the role of fortune in success. And it's that idea—that success has to do not only with hard work and talent but also with luck—that really got Mitt Romney steamed. Here's the passage in question: There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn't -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart...

Is Obama Misreading the Public?

In a new poll, Gallup asks voters to rank their priorities for the next president. Unsurprisingly, the top answer is “jobs,” followed by “reducing corruption in the federal government,” and “reducing the federal budget deficit.” Here are the full results: Writing at the Washington Examiner , Byron York cites this as evidence that the Obama campaign is out of step with the public: The point is that Americans prioritize what they want their political leaders to do, and right now, the things that are on top of the voters’ list — creating jobs, reducing corruption, and cutting the deficit — are issues that Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress have been stressing every day. And the goals the president has been stressing are simply not at the top of voters’ concerns. This might be true for reducing corruption, which is a key theme for Mitt Romney. But I’m not sure if it’s accurate to say that voters are genuinely concerned with cutting the deficit, and it’s simply wrong to claim that...

If Only the President Would Make Speeches, Everything Would Be Different

President Obama delivers a speech on health care to a joint session of Congress.
Yesterday, psychologist and political consultant Drew Westen had yet another op-ed in a major newspaper (the Washington Post this time) explaining that all of Barack Obama's troubles come from a failure to use rhetoric effectively. Don't get me wrong, I think rhetoric is important—in fact, I've spent much of the last ten years or so writing about it. But Westen once again seems to have fallen prey to the temptation of believing that everything would be different if only a politician would give the speech he's been waiting to hear. There are two problems with this belief, the first of which is that a dramatic speech almost never has a significant impact on public opinion. The second is that Barack Obama did in fact do exactly what Drew Westen and many other people say they wish he had done. This is only one part of Westen's piece, but I want to focus on it because it's said so often, and is so absurd In keeping with the most baffling habit of one of our most rhetorically gifted...

Mitt Romney Thinks You're a Sucker

Mitt Romney tells ABC's David Muir he's no sucker.
Back in January, when he was asked during a primary debate about the taxes he pays, Mitt Romney made the somewhat odd assertion that "I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don't think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes." As I've written before , this would seem to indicate that Romney believes that if you don't have a team of accountants who can ferret out every last loophole to minimize your tax bill then you're just a sucker, so pathetic that you are unworthy of occupying the highest office in the land. But maybe I was being unfair. After all, I've been critical of the campaign habit of reading too much into any particular statement a candidate makes. We all say things that upon reflection we'd like to put another way or take back completely, so maybe Romney didn't quite mean it the way it sounded. But once you repeat a statement like that more than once, we can be pretty sure you do in fact mean it. And...

You Can't Beat Voter ID with Facts

(Ted Polumbaum Collection / Newseum)
The most recent episode of the Prospect podcast is a conversation with my colleague Abby Rapoport on voter-identification laws. One thing that we begin to talk about, but don’t spend enough time on, is the normative argument against voter identification. So far, liberals have devoted their time to showing the rarity of in-person voter fraud—the kind ostensibly prevented by voter ID—and the low likelihood that it would affect the outcome of an election. Tactically, this makes a lot of sense. The push for voter ID includes stories of massive voter fraud that play on public distrust toward government. If you can counter those stories with facts, you can make people think twice about implementing an additional burden to voting. Strategically, however, it’s a weak approach. Conservatives benefit from the the fact that their position sounds reasonable—if identification is required to buy beer and drive cars, then why isn’t it required for elections? Everyone agrees that voting is one of the...

Have Republicans Ever Hated a President More Than Barack Obama?

Which one do Republicans hate more?
The widespread belief on the right that Barack Obama is a Muslim is one of the stranger features of this period in history. There are some of them who know that Obama says he's a Christian but are sure that's all an act designed to fool people, while he secretly prays to Allah. But there are probably a greater number who haven't given it all that much thought; they just heard somewhere that he's a Muslim, and it made perfect sense to them—after all, he's kinda foreign, if you know what I mean. Rather remarkably, that belief has grown over time; as the latest poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows, fully 30 percent of Republicans, and 34 percent of conservative Republicans, now believe Obama is Muslim. These numbers are about double what they were four years ago. You can bet there aren't too many who think there's nothing wrong with it if he were. For many of them, it's just a shorthand for Obama being alien and threatening. So it leads me to ask: Can we say, finally...

It's Not about the Gaffes

Mitt Romney delivers his patented fake laugh to NBC's Brian Williams.
Mitt Romney is getting a lot of grief for the not-so-auspicious beginning to his first overseas trip as leader of the Republican party. In case you've been trapped in a well for the last two days, when he was asked by Brian Williams how, in his expert opinion, he thought London was doing in preparing for the start of the Olympics, instead of offering the expected polite banality ("I'm sure it's going to be terrific"), Romney said something a bit more honest, saying that there were "a few things that were disconcerting" about the preparations. The Brits were not amused , and he got very public pushback from both Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson. It's all well and good to enjoy Romney's misfortune on this score. But let's not forget: The real problem with Romney isn't what he blurts out by accident, it's what he says when he has plenty of time to consider his words. As I've written a zillion times, running for president is very difficult, and one of the...

Romney's Disastrous Trip Abroad

At the beginning of this week, I argued that Mitt Romney had nothing to gain from going abroad. If voters put him into the Oval Office, it will be because of discontent with the country's economy. Few people, especially undecided voters, are interested in what Romney has to say about foreign policy. Insofar as they even have opinions on it, they are most likely to agree with President Obama’s approach. For Romney, I argued, a foreign trip was high risk, low reward. So far, everything in Romney’s trip has confirmed that assessment. In less than 72 hours, Romney and his team have offended British prime minister David Cameron over the country’s Olympics preparations, lied about or revealed confidential conversations with the Australian foreign minister, confused Russia with the “Soviet Union,” attacked President Obama with an oddly racialized criticism, and suffered the ridicule of 60,000 Britons. The Romney team began this trip with hopes that Romney would emerge as the picture of a...

Who's Affected by Pennsylvania's Voter-ID Law?

Viviette Applewhite, one of the ACLU's plaintiffs (ACLU)
As the first big lawsuit against the Pennsylvania's voter-ID law starts its third day at trial, arguments about the legality of the law have focused largely on who's impacted by it. First, the secretary of the commonwealth estimated as many as 758,000 Pennsylvanians lacked the most common form of ID —those issued by the state Department of Transportation. A political scientist's study showed that number to be around a million. Either way, it's a lot of people, and we know a disproportionate number of them are poor, nonwhite, and elderly. Still, those supporting strict voter-ID laws, which require citizens to show government-issued identification before voting, often cast suspicion on anyone without an ID. They argue that you need photo identification for pretty much anything these days, and people without them must be freaks or criminals—people we don't want voting anyway. Republican Texas state Representative Jose Aliseda exemplifies this position; he recently said that anyone...

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