Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

It's Done

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
We can officially call the GOP nomination, or so sayeth a team of experts at The New Yorker . Teaming with political scientist Josh Putnam of the blog Frontloading HQ, Ryan Lizza and Andrew Prokop gamed out the remaining primaries and caucuses, using demographic data from the states that have voted thus far to project vote totals in next several months of contests. They go through their extensive calculations in the post, but the gist of their conclusion is as follows: Romney currently has 504 delegates. And so, according to our model, he is projected to end the contests on June 26th with 1,122 delegates. So what does this all mean? Romney will be 22 delegates short of the 1,144 he’ll need to win the nomination. That might sound like good news for Rick Santorum, but according to Putnam’s count there will also be 598 unbound delegates remaining at this point. These delegates can support any candidate, either because they are chosen in non-binding caucuses or conventions, or because...

Just Can't Hide It

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
Mitt Romney's struggles to win over the conservative wing of the GOP base have often been dismissed as a problem for the general election. Even if evangelicals and social conservatives in Alabama want to vote for Rick Santorum over Romney, they're unlikely to turn around and cast their ballot for Barack Obama in November. Still, enthusiasm plays a role in elections. On that mark, the Democrats are in the lead, at least for the moment. According to national numbers from Public Policy Polling, 57 percent of Democrats describe themselves as "very excited" to vote this year, compared with just 46 percent of Republicans. Back in January, there was just a three-point spread between the parties, but it's grown steadily over the intervening months except for a momentary jump in excitement for both parties in March. The biggest change has come on the Republican side. In January, 54 percent listed themselves as "very excited," but as the primary continues to drag on, Republicans, much like the...

4,446 Lonely D.C. Republicans

Flickr/DonkeyHotey
One of the strange things about living in Washington, D.C. is the ongoing presence of lots and lots of Republicans. In my adult life I've lived in two other large cities (San Francisco and Philadelphia), and in both of those members of the Grand Old Party are not only few in number but nearly invisible. Sure, there are a few cities where Republicans are plentiful (Dallas, I hear), but on the whole the more urban the area you're in, the more likely Democrats are to dominate the place's political, cultural, and social life. But here in the nation's capital, Republicans are plentiful. You see them going in and out of think-tank offices, traipsing about Capitol Hill, even walking down the street in broad daylight. Famous ones, ordinary ones, ones in all sizes and ages and genders. They're everywhere. Except almost none of them actually live in the District of Columbia. Anyone who's been here for any time knows this; if you're a Republican in these parts, you live in Virginia. You can...

The Nightmare Scenario

Flickr/DonkeyHotey
"We won without winning!" So said longshot candidate George Wallace after taking a surprising 34 percent of the vote in the 1964 Wisconsin primary, but it might as well be a prediction of how Rick Santorum will try to frame today's primaries. Mitt Romney is comfortably ahead in Maryland and the District of Columbia (where Santorum isn't even on the ballot), and the front-runner is currently ahead 7.5 percent in Real Clear Politics' average of the polls in Wisconsin. Nate Silver predicts that Santorum will copy Wallace's low-thirties haul, but Rick has passed the point of the primary where he can convincingly claim that as a win. Unless Santorum wins in Wisconsin, it's a big lose for him and a big win for the party elite, which is eager to put a bow on the Romney nomination. If Santorum did manage to squeak out a surprise victory in the Badger State, it would be a big headache for the Grand Old Party, a bigger headache than any of the former senator's previous insubordinate victories...

Obama Runs Anti-Romney Ad

(Photo: Screenshot from Obama campaign ad)
It’s clear that the Republican elite no longer wants to see this nomination contest drag on any longer. Sought after endorsers such as Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio have finally lent their support to Romney, and on Sunday Senator Ron Johnson said that he had been selected by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to coordinate the message between the Romney campaign and Senate Republicans. The early calls for Santorum’s departure will become an avalanche if, as largely expected, Romney runs up the delegate score in tonight’s primaries. You know who else seems ready to put this primary campaign behind him? None other than Romney’s general election opponent Barack Obama. The president’s reelection campaign has been gearing up to face Romney all year, and, at certain moments, have injected themselves into the Republican primary to pester Romney while he was still fending off Santorum or another conservative challenger. Now they’re going a step further and running an ad against Romney in a handful...

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