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. Awfully sneaky of Him not to tell them they were going to lose, but who has time to consult the fine print when you're hearing messages from above? Yet in the end, the candidate who prevailed was the one least interested in talking about his religion. That's not because Mitt Romney isn't devout, but because he's all too aware that his Mormonism presents some political complications. Many evangelicals consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) a...

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. And above all else, Klein notes, is the fact that external factors—the economy, or foreign policy—could take their toll on Obama and elevate Romney to the White House. On each count, I’m skeptical. For starters, I’m not sure that Romney won the nomination as much as it is that Republicans resigned themselves to Romney’s candidacy, and organized around him once it became clear that there were no other alternatives. As it stands, Romney took real damage from Rick Santorum, a failed former senator who ran a...

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. It developed when the party decided to turn reproductive rights into a contentious issue, proposing bills in Congress that would have allowed any employer to refrain from providing women with birth control, Mitt Romney declaring his intention to ruin Planned Parenthood, and the tepid response to Rush Limbaugh's offensive descriptions of Sandra Fluke. That disdain for women has been born out in polls; Romney, for example, now trails Obama by 18 percent among women. I might be reading too...

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. This looks good, but it isn’t; the employment to population ratio dropped a tenth to 58.5 percent, and if labor force participation had remained steady from February, then the unemployment rate would have grown to 8.4 percent. On the bright side, the composition of the unemployed has begun to change. Fewer are people who lost their jobs, and more are people who chose to leave them . In other words, a growing number of people feel confident enough about the job market that they will choose a brief period of unemployment to find a better deal. This is in line with the latest measure...

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: If Moore was the central cultural feminist icon of the 1970s, the central political/activist icon was Gloria Steinem, who is still going strong 40 years after she co-founded Ms. magazine. And she's now doing ads for Barack Obama. As Ari Melber observed , the Obama campaign on YouTube is...

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. Romney’s two Harvard degrees took four years to attain, however. Perhaps those years gave him a deep distaste for the place? Sure: so deep that he sent three of his sons there, has donated more than $50,000 to the school, and has more than a dozen Harvard advisers. In 2006, he told C-Span his time there was “ terrific .” Was it...

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. Now, a collection of former Democratic National Committee chairs has endorsed adding support for same-sex marriage to the party's platform. Per Huffington Post : "We are proud that the Democratic Party fights for working families, economic justice, and equal opportunity for all," said Howard Dean, Donald Fowler, Steve Grossman and David Wilhelm in a joint statement. "Times change but our principles must always remain strong. That is why, as former chairs of the Democratic National Committee, we stand with Freedom to Marry, 22 Democratic senators...

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. But new poll numbers from Pennsylvania suggest Santorum should drop out before the next vote. According to Public Policy Polling, Romney leads Santorum 42-37 percent in Pennsylvania. That wouldn't be quite as embarrassing of a loss as the last time Santorum campaigned there (least you forget, Pennsylvanians cast him out of his Senate seat in 2006 by an 18-point margin), but it would still be a setback—one that could hinder Santorum should he try to run again in 2016. On the other hand, Pennsylvania presents a new...

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 world of legislating. As befitting a 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...

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.” I don’t have any particular insight into whether this is true or not, and I imagine that most members of the Republican establishment—insofar that it exists—would deny anything but the utmost confidence in Romney’s ability to win. But, if we assume for a moment that Scarbourough is right, and Republican leaders are skeptical that Romney will beat Obama, then this has important implications...

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...

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. Romney, in his victory speech last night and in today’s address to the Newspaper Association of America, made his boldest stab yet at defining the central clash of the general election. It’s Obama’s “government-centered society,” which “leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages,” versus “free enterprise,” which “has done more to lift people out of poverty,...

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...

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 seven-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...

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: “The president has pledged to ‘transform America,’ and he has spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society,” Romney said in Wisconsin. “I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of our Opportunity Society, led by free people and free enterprises.” I have no insight as to whether this message will appeal to independent voters. But because it runs counter to observable reality, my hunch is that it has limited utility. What’s more important is the fact that Romney has made an explicit turn away from the...

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