Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Bain Isn't Going Anywhere

Image from Obama campaign ad.
Consider these two headlines. First, from the Atlantic Wire : " Bain Attacks Are Working In Swing States ." Then, from Business Insider : " POLL: Most People Have Never Heard of Bain Capital ." And here's the punch line: Both articles are about the same poll from NBC and The Wall Street Journal. So which is it? As for the latter, it's true that 53 percent of the people in the poll said they didn't have an opinion about Bain Capital, which is not quite the same thing as saying they had never heard of it (and 8 percent said they had a positive opinion of the company, while 20 percent had a negative opinion). But I doubt the Obama campaign really cares whether people remember the name of the company Mitt Romney worked for. The question they're trying to influence is the more basic one about Mitt Romney's business career: Did that career turn Romney into a skilled manager who understands the economy and can help it get back on track, or did it reveal Romney to be a ruthless vulture...

On "Owning" Health Care

These guys aren't too worried about owning health care.
In the search for silver linings to a Supreme Court decision striking down part or all of the Affordable Care Act, many people have suggested that should it happen, Americans will turn all their displeasure about the health care system on conservatives. Specifically, it is that that they will "own" the health care system. James Carville says that if the ACA is overturned on a 5-4 vote, "The Republican party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future." Former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger says , "If the court were to strike down this major reform effort, 40 years in the making, the court would own the resulting health care system for the next decade and beyond. It’s a slightly highbrow version of the universal rule: 'You broke it, you bought it.'" The Republican party is one thing, but the Supreme Court "owing" health care? What does that mean? That people will be protesting outside the Court when their premiums go up? First of all, they won't, and second of all, I...

The Obama Campaign's Rust Belt Strategy

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of Ohio illustrates my point this morning about the Obama campaign’s effort to keep Romney from consolidating disaffected white voters. Obama still leads Romney in the Buckeye State, 47 percent to 44 percent, but that lead has declined from 50 percent and 49 percent in previous polls. This decline has everything to do with white voters. Romney has opened up a 7 point lead among white voters, 49 percent to 42 percent. What’s more, he’s lost support from white Democrats. As PPP notes, he went from an 89–6 lead in early May, to 78–16 in June. In addition, Obama has a 9 percent approval rating among undecided voters—who, in Ohio, are disproportionately white. Obama’s saving grace is Romney’s unpopularity; his favorability is at 9 percent, and 61 percent say they hold a negative opinion of him. If Romney were to consolidate disaffected white Democrats, he would have a sizable lead over Obama. At the moment, however, he can’t, and the Bain Capital...

The Army's Bizarre Cover-Up

(AP Photo/ U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte)
Lieutenant General William Caldwell, a rising star in the Army who formerly oversaw the training of Afghan security forces, was recently accused of impeding a 2010 investigation of corruption in the Afghan military medical corps to avoid affecting the outcome of congressional elections, as reported by Danger Room . Caldwell, who now commands the U.S. Army North based in Texas, was supposedly worried that a revelation of mismanagement and neglect would hurt Democrats’ electoral chances, damaging the close rapport he enjoyed with Obama. “He calls me Bill,” Caldwell is said to have told his officers. As Danger Room notes, his fears weren’t without basis; after all, General Stanley McChrystal was relieved of his command for immature comments just a few months prior. Caldwell’s relationship with the President Obama may be about to take a turn for the worse. But don’t count on the president taking much heat from the voters. To begin, Americans don’t care much for foreign policy; in 2010,...

Our National Political Science Experiment

MSNBC’s First Read has an excellent take on the Romney campaign’s flexibility, or lack thereof: If there is a constant criticism about Mitt Romney and his campaign from both the left and right, it’s that they’re not nimble – especially when it comes to dealing with issues they’d prefer to ignore. […] We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Much of a president’s job is crisis management, and the only way to succeed is being nimble. That Team Romney seems to struggle with this aspect of the job is a potential warning sign for a challenger against an incumbent president. What compounds the problem is the fact that Romney is also evasive on those issues he wants to talk about. Despite his monomaniacal focus on economic growth, Romney has been reluctant to give details on what he would actually do to improve the short-term economic situation. In fact, when pressed for details, he gives a surprisingly candid answer on why he refuses to offer any meat to the public: “The media kept...

Lockheed Martin's Creative Lobbying

Lockheed Martin federal contracts.
When the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, many people predicted that big corporations would start buying elections, now that they were allowed to spend as much money as they wanted on campaigns. While that certainly might happen in the future, it hasn't happened so far, probably because they're worried about the PR backlash that could result from too much partisan activity. Instead, the ones donating millions have been extremely rich individuals, most of whom are Republicans. But that doesn't mean corporations don't have clever ways of playing the political game. To wit : Lockheed Martin is contemplating a pre-election move that could shake up the political landscape. Right before Election Day, the company is likely to notify the "vast majority" of its 123,000 workers that they're at risk of being laid off, said Greg Walters, the company's vice president of legislative affairs. Walters's comments are some of the most specific threats yet from an industry that's...

The Misery of the Romney Spokesperson

Your questions frighten me. Please speak to my press secretary. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Mitt Romney adopted a clever "strategic vagueness" strategy on yesterday's immigration ruling, which so far hasn't seemed to get anyone too angry at him (although I doubt it will do anything to stanch the bleeding of Latino votes away from him). As somebody tweeted yesterday, if you asked Romney what kind of pizza he wanted, he'd reply that Barack Obama has failed to lead on pizza choices. We've often talked about how uncomfortable Romney is when he gets questioned about his policy positions, but we should take a moment to extend our sympathies to the people who actually have to do most of the talking at times like this, the beleaguered campaign flaks whose job it is to say the things Mitt Romney would say if he were talking to reporters, and not say the things he wouldn't say. One of those flaks, Rick Gorka, found himself surrounded by reporters after the ruling and had to deliver one of the most painful dances of evasion you'll ever see. It went on and on, but here's a taste . You...

The Latest Attack on Bain Capital

Thanks to recent stories by The Washington Post and The New York Times , Bain Capital is back in the news. In particular, there’s a renewed focus on outsourcing; both newspapers found that Bain “pioneered” outsourcing during the 1990s, when it was led by Mitt Romney. This is an irresistible target for any political campaign, and it comes as no surprise to see that it's the core of a new ad from the Obama team in which the campaign asks—pointedly—“Does America need an outsourcer-in-chief?” Of course, Barack Obama, like most Democrats, isn’t opposed to outsourcing. Like his criticism of NAFTA in 2008—which disappeared after winning the Democratic nomination—this is little more than a cynical political gambit. But for what the campaign is trying to accomplish, this doesn’t matter. From the beginning, the Obama campaign’s assault on Bain has been dismissed as unfair and ineffective. East Coast Democratic elites are unhappy with the attack on Wall Street, and D.C. pundits aren’t convinced...

How Vague is Too Vague?

This was clearly the question in the Mitt Romney camp this morning, as the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law came down: How little can we get by with saying ? When it comes to practically any issue beyond the economy, the clear challenge for the Romney campaign has become how to say something that offends no one, while still giving all sides of the issue a fig leaf to latch onto. Also, of course, how to make everything a referendum on Obama, so that maybe it won’t matter that Romney says nada . Hence the intentionally forgettable but also very telling statement from the Republican candidate, in full: Today’s decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President. I believe that each state has the duty–and the right–to secure our borders...

Romney Faces a Tough Choice on Immigration

Two weeks ago, President Obama put Mitt Romney in a tough position with his DREAM Act by executive action—with a policy on the table, Romney was forced to respond, and his opposition to humane immigration reform came to the forefront of the election. With today’s ruling on Arizona’s immigration law, the Supreme Court has put Romney in another perilous spot that may damage his attempt to win back Latino voters–or at least stem the bleeding. As my colleague Scott Lemieux notes in an excellent piece on the ruling, a 5–3 majority on the Court stuck down three of the major provisions in Arizona’s infamous immigration: [T]he imposition of a state penalty for failing to “complete or carry an alien registration document” in violation of federal law; a provision making it a state crime for an undocumented alien to seek employment; and a provision allowing state law enforcement officials to arrest anyone without a warrant if they have “probable cause” to believe that a person has “committed any...

Floors and Ceilings In Health Care

Flickr/Francis Bijil
When Rick Santorum said during the campaign that inequality is a good thing, a lot of people were surprised. Santorum was attacking a straw man—he was arguing that everyone shouldn't have precisely the same income, while no one actually believes that they should—but it was revealing. One of the questions that we've neglected to ask in our health care debate is just how much inequality we are willing to tolerate—or in the case of conservatives, want desperately to maintain—in this particular arena. Conservatives like Santorum have an ideological commitment to inequality, the idea that some people simply deserve to have more than others. While conservatives used to believe that the identity of those who get more should be determined by birth (inherited membership in a favored class), these days they say that it should be determined by merit , which they tend to define tautologically as the state of being wealthy. Wealth is determined by merit, so if you're wealthy, it's because you're a...

Blame the Supreme Court!

(Flickr/IslesPunkFan)
It’s a virtual certainty that, if the Supreme Court overturns the individual mandate or the Affordable Care Act wholesale, liberals will find a way to blame each other—or the administration—for its failure to anticipate the constitutional challenge. Yesterday, both The Washington Post and The New York Times ran stories in which critics and observers laid blame on the administration for its tactical strategy, and the bill’s authors for using the mandate to achieve near-universal health-care coverage. Here’s the Times : With the benefit of hindsight, some advocates said they would have been better off framing the law more explicitly as a tax, although doing so would have been politically explosive. Short of that, some said, strategy alternatives like slowing down the case still might not have made a difference. This strikes me as misguided. Underlying the assumption that the Court will strike down the individual mandate—or the Affordable Care Act as a whole—is the idea that the current...

100 Days, 50 Different Schedules

This week, Mitt Romney joined the pantheon of presidential candidates who have vowed to show up Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 100-day marathon legislation-passing session. But those first 100 days look pretty different depending on which swing state you're in. In ads in North Carolina, Iowa, and Virginia, Romney announces that his first priority is repealing Obamacare—no surprise given that 46 percent of North Carolina residents think Congress was wrong to pass it. No mention of Obamacare in Ohio, though. In this ad, Romney’s first priority is getting the Rust Belt rocking and rolling again. The Virginia ad makes a passing reference to offshore drilling and the Iowa ad mentions the deficit. Taken together, Romney’s different promises fill up the first few weeks of his hypothetical presidency pretty quickly. And given past presidents’ poor track record of following up on their 100 days campaign promises, the likelihood that Romney would cross off even a fraction of his to-do list is...

The Benefits of Medicaid

The Affordable Care Act
In tomorrow's New York Times , Annie Lowrey has an interesting story about a study researchers were able to do in Oregon when the state had to hold a lottery to give people Medicaid coverage, leading to the perfect conditions for a randomized field experiment on what effect obtaining insurance could have. The results were pretty encouraging: In a continuing study, an all-star group of researchers following Ms. Parris and tens of thousands of other Oregonians has found that gaining insurance makes people healthier, happier and more financially stable. The insured also spend more on health care, dashing some hopes of preventive-medicine advocates who have argued that coverage can save money — by keeping people out of emergency rooms, for instance. In Oregon, the newly insured spent an average of $778 a year, or 25 percent, more on health care than those who did not win insurance. For the nation, the lesson appears to be a mixed one. Expanded coverage brings large benefits to many people...

Obama on Immigration: "There Are Solutions, and Republicans are Blocking Them"

The core of Mitt Romney’s attack on President Obama’s immigration policy is process-related. “For two years, this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate—he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system,” said the Republican nominee in his speech yesterday to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. Today, before the same group, Obama offered a response to Romney’s accusation–blame Republicans. “The problem is not the lack of technical solutions,” Obama told the crowd, “We know what the solutions are to this challenge.” Rather, he explained, the problem is that congressional Republicans have blocked every effort to pursue immigration reform. “When it came up for a vote year and a half ago, Republicans in Congress blocked it,” he said, “The bill hadn’t changed. The need had not changed. The only thing that changed was politics” Obama even reached back to the failed comprehensive...

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