Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Brat PAC

The Excel nerds covering the presidential campaign got their moment this weekend, when the latest batch of Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports went public. There was plenty to chew over. Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee raked in $43 million compared with $40 million for Romney and the Republican National Committee. Then there are the super PACs. Pro-Romney American Crossroads raised $1.8 million in April, edging out Priorities USA—the pro-Obama PAC that can't seem to locate George Soros' phone number—by $200,000. With Obama and Romney both on pace to fill a Scrooge McDuck-sized pool of contributions, each new dollar holds diminishing returns. But at the congressional level—for instance, in high-stakes races in Montana or Nevada—a few million here or there might be enough to upend an election. As The New York Times reported Sunday, there are plenty of funds for politicians campaigning for a legislative seat. Over $12 million in outside money has been funneled...

Message: I Am Amused

Mitt Romney yukking it up during a primary debate.
If any comedian ever gets around to producing a good Mitt Romney impression (the lack of which I've lamented before), Romney's laugh is going to have to be a key part of it. The laugh was probably best described by New York Times reporter Ashley Parker, who wrote , "Mr. Romney’s laugh often sounds like someone stating the sounds of laughter, a staccato 'Ha. Ha. Ha.'" Gary Wills wonders what exactly Mitt's laugh is meant to communicate (his possibilities include "I want to show I am just a regular fellow, so I'll try out my regular-fellow laugh"), but that's the easy question. Romney's laugh is meant to say, "I am amused." The more important question is, why does Mitt Romney laugh? I think I know the answer to that one too. But before I tell you, we should understand that there is more than one Romney laugh, even though they all come out suddenly, tiny explosions of unfelt mirth. Sometimes it's that "Oh my, that is crazy!", but at other times Romney's laugh sounds like he's surrounded...

Is Obama Condescending to Women?

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown had an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times , where she criticized Obama for condescending to women voters in his attempt to gain their support: It’s obvious why the president is doing a full-court press for the vote of college-educated women in particular. The Republican primaries probably did turn some women away. Rick Santorum did his party no favors when he spoke about women in combat[…]; when he described the birth of a child from rape as “a gift in a very broken way”; and how, if he was president, he would make the case for the damage caused by contraception. But Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on these issues, and many women understand that. […] The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else. Where Brown goes wrong, I think, is...

The "Vetting" Obsession

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
When the Washington Post story about Mitt Romney's high school years (including an incident in which the former Massachusetts governor forcibly cut the hair of a student whose commitment to conformism was insufficiently vigorous) came out, leading Republicans were fairly quiet about it. Whether the incident happened or not, they said, it tells us virtually nothing about the man Romney is today and the issues at stake in this election. That's a perfectly reasonable argument, but it isn't the one you would have heard from many of the foot soldiers in the Republican base. Among the troops, there was outrage, not so much about the Romney story, but about what they saw as a double-standard. As one e-mailed me after I wrote a piece on the topic, "I saw your article on CNN. When does the vetting of President Obama begin? Have you delved into his past? The next time I read an article about a young Barrack [sic] Obama will be the first." As I replied to this person, there were hundreds, maybe...

Obama's Trouble in North Carolina

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
CNN’s Peter Hamby describes the Obama campaign’s troubles in the Tar Heel State: [I]t’s hard to find a Democrat in the capital of Raleigh who believes the president, saddled with the burdens of governing and a sputtering economy, can stir the enthusiasm of 2008 and repeat his near-flawless North Carolina performance. “My heart says he will win here, but my head says it’s going to be awfully tough for him,” said Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic consultant and adviser to former Gov. Jim Hunt. “This is a tight state for him. Race is part of it. The economy is a big problem. Four years ago he was new, he was exciting. He was hope and change. That has worn off now. The glow is gone. It’s going to be tough for him to catch magic in the bottle again.” For my part, I would be very surprised if Obama won North Carolina again. There’s a good chance he’ll maintain his 2008 support from African American voters, but his support among white voters is almost certain to go down to the usual levels...

High-Ranking Crazy

Arizona Secretary of State and certified nutball Ken Bennett
Astute readers may have noticed that over the past year or so, I've made an effort not to be too knee-jerk about my partisanship. Not that I've changed my beliefs about any substantive issues lately, but I've tried to be as thoughtful as I can about people on the other side, whether it's conservative writers or conservative politicians. I don't always succeed (the occasional insult still filters through now and then), but I'm doing my best. And I understand that writing about how the other side is evil can be satisfying. It's also popular; I've written or co-written four books, and the most partisan one sold the most, even though it's not a book I'd have much appetite to write again. That being said, there are times when it isn't enough to say that conservatives are wrong about a particular matter. Being truthful requires saying that many of them are, in fact, nuts. Not all of them, but many of them. And there are both qualitative and quantitative differences in the nuttiness. One of...

Mitt Romney Hits the Scene with His First General Election Ad

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
The Romney campaign is out with its first ad, a positive spot that highlights Keystone, health care, and tax cuts. The aim of the ad is to show Americans what President Romney would do in his first day of office, and to that end, it gets the job done, even if it’s mostly paint by numbers: Create jobs? Check. Repeal unpopular legislation? Check. Promise tax cuts? Check. It isn’t as blatantly dishonest as a significant amount of what comes from the Romney campaign, but it is misleading on two counts. First, experts are divided on how many jobs the Keystone pipeline would create. From the ad, the implication is that this would make a significant dent in our joblessness rate—otherwise, why would it concern the president? In the past, Romney has claimed that the pipeline would yield “tens of thousands of jobs,” but the independent estimate is that constructing the pipeline would result in five to six thousand jobs. That’s enough work to support a town, or even a small city, but not so much...

Mitt Romney Gets More Resolute All the Time

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
There are times when you can just see the wheels turning in Mitt Romney's head, as he cycles through the possible responses to a question, realizes there really is no good one, then spits out something that sounds like the least bad answer possible. It's almost sad. That frenzy of mental activity is what produces things like this bit of hilarity, after Romney got questioned about the story of a rich Republican thinking of running an ad campaign attacking President Obama with Jeremiah Wright: "I repudiate that effort," Mr. Romney told reporters at an impromptu news conference Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. "I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign." At the same time, Mr. Romney stood by remarks made in February on Sean Hannity's radio show that Mr. Obama wanted to make America "a less Christian nation." "I'm not familiar, precisely, with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was," Mr. Romney said. Oh, Mitt. You see, this is what happens when you're...

Bipartisan Watermelon Destruction

(Still photo from campaign ad)
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is out with his first campaign ad today, and it's about as bizarre as you would expect. The ad is reminiscent of Herman Cain's avant-garde commercials (even nabbing the same "any questions" tagline), though thankfully Johnson reserves his destruction for fruit and leaves any innocent animals alone. It's a nice bit of wrought political theater, but not particularly effective as an ad to introduce Johnson to the public. His face and name don't even appear until a minute into the spot, and then only as a still frame. Typically you'd want to have the candidate actually speak in the video—especially when he's largely an unfamiliar face such as Johnson. The low-budget ad is yet another indication that, despite being well credentialed, Johnson is unlikely to perform much above past libertarian presidential candidates.

Bill Clinton Is the GOP's New Favorite Democrat

(Sustainable_OS_2012/Flickr)
Bill Clinton has emerged as a player in the presidential election, but oddly, not as a surrogate for President Obama. Rather, Mitt Romney is using the former president as a +5 Amulet of Centrism—a way to assert moderate credentials without changing his policies or modifying his rhetoric. This was used to great effect in his speech yesterday , where he decried deficits and disparaged Obama for his “old school” liberalism: Even a former McGovern campaign worker like President Clinton was signaling to his own Party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. […] President Obama is an old school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero. It goes without saying that there’s an implicit aim to adopting President Clinton as an avatar for reasonable liberalism...

Repeal and Pretend to Replace

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Maybe Republicans aren't so opposed to health care reform after all. After grandstanding against the Affordable Care Act for the past few years, Republicans aren't ready to let the entire bill die should the Supreme Court overturn the law later this summer. Congressional Republicans are crafting a contingency plan to reinstate some of the popular elements of the bill in that scenario, according to Politico . It's a clear indication that the GOP has learned the same lesson as Democrats: while the all-encompassing idea of Obamacare may fair poorly in the polls, voters typically support individual elements of the bill. The Republicans would reportedly like to maintain the provision that allows young people to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26 and rules that close a donut hole on Medicare's prescription coverage. Most notably, they would also reinstate the ban on insurance companies denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. That last part reveals why these...

Rich People: Not That Smart

Previously unseen video of shadowy character nobody has ever heard of.
Most of us would agree that Citizens United has been bad for democracy, with corporations and wealthy people now permitted to spend as much as they want to buy the kind of representatives they prefer. But there is one factor that we didn't really anticipate, something that mitigates the harm they can do: it turns out that rich people aren't necessarily that smart with their money. So during the presidential primaries, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent $16.5 million to help out the campaign of Newt Gingrich, whom you might have noticed is not the GOP nominee. And in today's New York Times , we get an interesting story about Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, who is preparing to spend $10 million to defeat Barack Obama. And what is the magic bullet Mr. Ricketts has located, the zinger that will bring down this incumbent president? Jeremiah Wright! Seriously. Jamelle discussed the racial aspect of this story, but I equally interesting is just how naive this demonstrates that...

Rich Republicans Seek to Bring Back Jeremiah Wright

(Floyd Brown/Flickr)
In general, I’m not too concerned with civility in politics, but it’s hard not to be shocked by the nastiness and aggression of today’s Republican Party. Congressional Republicans routinely accuse Democrats of treason, or worse, with little rebuke from party leaders. Reliably conservative lawmakers—like Bob Inglis and Dick Lugar—are challenged nonetheless for their insufficient hatred of Democrats. President Obama, as most people know, has been subject to a constellation of outlandish attacks, from false claims about his “foreign” birth to attacks on his patriotism—Mitt Romney, to use a prominent example, often trumpets the falsehood that Obama has gone around the world to apologize for America. All of this is why I wasn’t surprised to learn that wealthy Republican donors plan to launch a salvo of personal attacks on the president, in order to hurt his standing with a public that still likes him, even if they are divided on his presidency. Writing for The New York Times , Jeff Zeleny...

Tie Goes to the President

(Flickr/acqueline.poggi)
The basic odds make it fairly unlikely that the Democrats will maintain their Senate majority. They only hold a narrow 53-47 edge after the 2010 midterms, and the party must defend 23 seats in 2012, compared to just ten for Republicans. Their troubles only increased when moderate Democrats hailing from conservative states—Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad as the most notable—decided that now was the time to retire, all but ceding their spots to the GOP. Every scenario looked doom and gloom for their chances. But then Republicans decided to sabotage those odds. First Olympia Snowe announced her retirement, after growing tired of her party's partisan rancor. Her seat is expected to go to the independent—but Democratic friendly—candidate Angus King. Last week, Indiana Republicans booted out longtime Senator Dick Lugar in favor of a Tea Party challenger, while Nebraskans selected the right wing candidate in their primary earlier this week. Polling maestro Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight is out...

Mitt Romney, Servant of the Right

(Victor Juhasz)
T he defining feature of the Republican presidential primaries was the constant Sturm und Drang over Mitt Romney’s ability to win Republican voters. Pundits claimed that Romney had a “ceiling” with conservatives in the party, and opponents like former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum routinely assailed the front-runner as a candidate whose commitment to conservatism was short-lived and inauthentic—a human “Etch A Sketch,” in the words of Romney’s own campaign spokesperson. But when Romney locked up the nomination after months of bitter fighting, the party promptly came together behind him. Santorum, Romney’s main competitor, dropped out of the race on April 10. One week later, polls showed that 90 percent of Republican voters supported Romney against Barack Obama—identical to the number of Democrats who said they backed the president. What drove the quick embrace of the former Massachusetts governor? It wasn’t love; conservatives aren’t thrilled with Romney, even as they prepare to...

Pages