Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Bait and Convert

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

The 2012 Republican primaries were without question the most religious party contest in memory. Nearly all the major candidates put their religious beliefs at or near the center of their public personas, from the puritanical scold Rick Santorum, to the prayer warrior Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, producer of books and movies on the importance of God in American politics. As for the Almighty himself, He apparently told no fewer than three separate candidates (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Santorum) that they should run.

Sorry Republicans, Mitt Romney Is Just as Weak as He Looks

(NewsHour/Flickr)

Yesterday, at The Washington Post, Ezra Klein argued that Mitt Romney is a much stronger general election candidate than he might look at first glance. As Klein points out, there’s no way that a moderate governor of Massachusetts wins the nomination in a red-blooded GOP without some political skill. Moreover, Romney’s big weakness in the primary—his record for centrism—could become an asset in the fall; it gives him a place from which he can appeal to moderate and independent voters.

Romney Tries to Master His Problem With Women

(Flickr/Shannon Hurst Lane)

A minor kerfuffle emerged among the political chattering class yesterday over RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' statement that the allegations that his party is waging a war on women were as fictitious as a war on caterpillars. Democrats blasted out press releases, falsely indicating that Priebus had equated women's issues with insect issues, misconstruing an awkward metaphor. Yet the substance of what Priebus claimed was objectionable. The GOP's war on women didn't just spring from liberals' imaginations.

March's Disappointing Jobs Report

(Chrstopher/Flickr)

For the March jobs report, economists were expecting another month where the economy grew by more than 200,000 jobs. Instead, what we received—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—was a disappointing backslide into the anemic months of last fall. The economy created 120,000 jobs in March, a huge drop compared to previous months. At the same time, however, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent.

You're Gonna Make It After All

The 20th century's most important hat toss.

The first grownup television show I can remember watching as a wee pup in the 1970s was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a favorite of my mother's (and millions of other women's). It was pretty revolutionary for its time, a show built around a single working woman who was uncertain of herself and vulnerable (and the victim of constant casual sexism), but also smart, competent, and determined to be successful in a world ruled by men. It made Moore probably the central cultural icon of the feminist movement's key period. The show ended its run in 1977, but it was no surprise when Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980 recruited Moore to encourage women to vote for Carter. Here's the ad she did:

Playing the Harvard Card

(Flickr/Patricia Drury)

This fall’s presidential election will pit two candidates who have about as much populism in their veins as, say, Queen Elizabeth or John Kerry. But while President Obama has made a promising start at poking fun at his patrician Republican opponent—having a pointed chuckle at Mitt Romney for calling Paul Ryan’s budget “marvelous”—Mitt’s attempts to paint Obama as a “pointy-headed elite” could use a bit of fine-tuning. Today, Romney returned to a variation on his favorite dig at his rival, telling folks in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that the president's problem is that he spent “too much time at Harvard.” Obama did log three years there, getting his law degree.

Even More Dems Support Marriage Equality

(Flickr/Center for American Progress)

By this point, support for same-sex marriage isn't much of a question in Democratic politics. A Gallup poll from last May found that 69 percent of Democrats support marriage equality, a number that has probably only increased over the intervening year. Some of the hotshot young Democrats eying 2016—most notably Governors Andrew Cuomo and Martin O'Malley—have passed same-sex marriage bills in their states and tout them as major accomplishments.

What Does Romney Do Next?

(Flickr/World Affairs Council of Philadelphia)

Not that it really matters, but Rick Santorum's campaign is facing even more trouble than expected. While his fate as the runner-up was sealed weeks ago, that didn't become the prevailing narrative until Mitt Romney's clean sweep on Tuesday night. The presumption after those results was that Santorum would stick around for a few more weeks, hanging on until his home state Pennsylvania votes on the April 24 and then concede given Romney's insurmountable delegate lead.

Brand Newt In Trouble

Newt in happier times.

Since leaving Congress, Newt Gingrich managed to put together a souped-up version of the way congressional heavy hitters make a living after leaving the life of legislating. As befitting a world-historical figure like himself, simply signing on with one of Washington's elite law firm/lobby shops wouldn't be enough. Instead, Gingrich constructed what I like to call GloboNewtCorp, a network of quasi-think tanks, policy centers, and publishing enterprises whose role was to promote all things Newt. They worked symbiotically, each feeding off each other's work. So for instance, if you're a health-care company, you could pay six figures to Newt's Center for Health Transformation, you weren't only paying for Newt's access to powerful Republicans, you also saw your favored policy ideas show up in the products of other arms of GloboNewtCorp, like Newt's op-eds and books.

One would imagine that a presidential campaign could only aid GloboNewtCorp in acquiring new clients and new income, heightening Newt's visibility and reputation as a visionary, knowledgeable insider. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. This morning we learn that the Center for Health Transformation, one of the cornerstones of Newt's empire (the "for-profit think-tank" raked in $55 million over the last decade), has filed for bankupcy protection. And I predict that it won't be the last arm of GloboNewtCorp that suffers because of Gingrich's presidential campaign...

Has the Republican Establishment Given Up on Romney?

(Mitt Romney/Flickr)

Via Mike Allen’s Playbook, here’s Joe Scarbourough on yesterday’s Morning Joe with a few candid thoughts on what Republican leaders actually believe about Mitt Romney’s candidacy:

“Nobody thinks Romney’s going to win. Let’s just be honest. Can we just say this for everybody at home? Let me just say this for everybody at home. The Republican establishment – I’ve yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year. They won’t say it on TV because they’ve got to go on TV and they don’t want people writing them nasty emails.”

Romney's Pivot to the Center Postponed Indefinitely

(AP Photo / Steven Senne)

In a new tactic that TPM appropriately called the "I'm rubber, you're glue" strategy, Mitt Romney has decided to accuse President Obama of being too vague in his plans for a second term. Once you get past the absurdity, there's something meaningful going on. But first, to Mitt's charges: "Nancy Pelosi famously said that we would have to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. President Obama has turned that advice into a campaign strategy: He wants us to re-elect him so we can find out what he will actually do. With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign." Riiiiight.

This probably seems to you like a weird accusation to make. After all, Obama's plans for a second term seem pretty clear: more of the same! You may think that'd be great, or you may think that'd be a hellish nightmare, but either way it's not like it's some big mystery. It isn't as though he's going to come out and really shock us with some new policy turn that is totally different from the kind of things he's been doing for the past three years. But that's what you think only if you don't reside deep in the heart of the Republican base, which is where the key to this appeal lies...

The Great Debate

(Flickr/davelawrence8)

You’ve no doubt heard last night’s big news already: Barack Obama clinches the Democratic nomination for president! It was just a tad bit quicker and cleaner than in 2008. Meanwhile, the other party also held primaries in Maryland, D.C., and Wisconsin—and Mitt Romney swept them, as expected, relegating Rick Santorum’s longshot hopes to the dustbin. So what, pray tell, will the political punditsphere find to chatter about while we wait for the fall? There’s always the old faithful vice-presidential speculation (see Daily Meme, below). There’s also—dare we dream?—a meaningful debate beginning to percolate.

Why Do Reporters Think Mitt Romney Is a Moderate?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

I'm sorry, but I refuse to let this one go, even if I have to repeat myself. Time's Alex Altman writes, "A very conservative party is on the verge of nominating a relative moderate whom nobody is very excited about, largely because none of his rivals managed to cobble together a professional operation." I beg you, Alex, and every other reporter covering the campaign: If you're going to assert that Mitt Romney is a "relative moderate," you have to give us some evidence for that assertion. Because without mind-reading, we have to way to know whether it's true.

What we do know is that when he ran in two races in the extremely liberal state of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was a moderate. Then when he ran in two races to be the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney was and is extremely conservative. There is simply no reason—none—to believe, let alone to assert as though it were an undisputed fact, that the first incarnation of Romney was the "real" one and the current incarnation of Romney is the fake one.

Republican Pessimism Growing

Joe Scarborough, gloomy gus. (Flickr/WEBN-TV)

As gloomy as liberals can sometimes be, it's been a long time since there was a presidential election in which Democrats actually thought their presidential candidate was certain to lose. The last one would have to be 1984, and before that, 1972. But in the 28 years since Ronald Reagan got re-elected, there hasn't been a Democrat who has been totally blown out of the water, an election in which even his own partisans thought he had little or no chance. The closest would have been Michael Dukakis, who famously had a 17-point lead after his convention, even if he did end up losing by a healthy 7-point margin.

But if you listen to Joe Scarborough, Republicans have basically given up on winning in November. He's not the first person to say it (George Will suggested a month ago that the time to give up on the presidential race was coming), but we haven't heard anyone of his prominence say so vociferously that Republicans are all thinking this one's over, as Scarborough did on today's "Morning Joe"...

Romney's Wins Can't Hide His Fatal Flaw

(World Affairs Council of Philadelphia/Flickr)

The good news for Mitt Romney is that the Republican presidential primaries are effectively over; with his decisive win in Wisconsin—and his victories in Maryland and Washington, D.C.—he has established himself as the presumptive nominee. To wit, his victory speech was light on red meat, and heavy on his critique of the Obama administration, with a new variation on his claim that the president sought a society of equal results:

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