Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Pop Goes the Center

(Pete Souza/The White House)
As it’s become clear that economic fairness will be a central theme of the Obama campaign, the forces of Democratic “centrism” are sounding their usual alarms. Last week, the group Third Way released a poll of “Swing Independents” (a group so coveted it must be capitalized) in 12 battleground states that showed Obama leading Romney among them, 44-38. Good news for Dems, yes? Not so fast! Third Way claims its data show that the “fairness argument falls short with Swing Independents”—for example, 57 percent of them said it was more important to “fix the budget deficit,” while 38 percent said it was more important to “reduce the income gap.” This is squirrely stuff, as such polls tend to be. But Third Way’s conclusion is emphatic: Obama will lose the swingers if he keeps up his quasi-populist talk about the Buffett Rule and such. He will win them if he talks about "opportunity" rather than "fairness." It's same gospel centrist Democrats have been preaching since the 1980s rise of the...

Republicans Invest in Senate Races

(Flickr/katieharbath)
There are a host of organizations that track congressional elections and offer lists of the most competitive Senate races. You can consult Real Clear Politics’ list , which is backed up by polling data, or peer into Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball for a political scientists’ perspective. But perhaps the best indicator for which elections are most competitive comes the parties themselves. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) committed itself to an early ad-buy this week, penciling in $25 million to spend on ads in six different Senate races. The blitz won’t start until after Labor Day, so the group still has time to cancel or reconfigure how that money is spent, but it provides an early glimpse at the seats at play. With the current breakdown in the Senate at a 53–47 advantage for Democrats, Republicans will need to swing four seats their way, or three seats if they win the presidency and the vice president’s tie-breaking vote. Here are the six races where the NRSC is...

Obama in the Balance

(Flickr/sheila_blige)
To anyone so foolish as to have persuaded himself otherwise, the past three weeks have been a reminder that Barack Obama is at best a slight favorite for re-election by a narrow margin. Rick Santorum’s exit on Wednesday from a Republican primary race that already was settled means that the de facto nominee of the party, former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has time for damage control that would have been too late three months from now. The odds are even or better that by June, the United States Supreme Court will overturn the president’s signal domestic accomplishment, the reform of the country’s health-care system. The second-degree murder case in Florida involving a self-designated vigilante who stalked an unarmed 17-year-old African American despite explicit instructions otherwise from police will be the most racially charged since the O.J. Simpson trial a decade and a half ago, except in this instance—if polling is to be believed—white rather than black Americans appear...

Live By the Comically Biased "News" Network, Die By the Comically Biased "News" Network

Won't be seeing him much there from now on.
Before he had to give up the job to run for president, Newt Gingrich was (among other things) a paid Fox News commentator. Well, it looks like he won't be getting that job back : DOVER, Del. -- During a meeting with 18 Delaware Tea Party leaders here on Wednesday, Newt Gingrich lambasted FOX News Channel, accusing the cable network of having been in the tank for Mitt Romney from the beginning of the Republican presidential fight. An employee himself of the news outlet as recently as last year, he also cited former colleagues for attacking him out of what he characterized as personal jealousy. “I think FOX has been for Romney all the way through,” Gingrich said during the private meeting -- to which RealClearPolitics was granted access -- at Wesley College. “In our experience, Callista and I both believe CNN is less biased than FOX this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of FOX, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of FOX. That’s just a fact...

Romney's Impatient Plan

(Flickr/Seansie)
Back in the brief window of time during which Newt Gingrich appeared to pose a threat to Mitt Romney’s candidacy, I spent a fair bit of time following him around Florida, crisscrossing suburbanized I–4, listening to Gingrich promote futuristic visions of space exploration and bemoaning the barrage of negative TV ads. Newt let things get to his head a little after his upset win in South Carolina; beyond overambitious pledges to build a moon colony by 2020, Gingrich began envisioning himself in the White House, spending more time talking about how he needed to have a Republican Congress alongside him rather than the urgent need to displace Romney. I began to track his most absurd claims of all: the exhausting list of items Gingrich would cross off on his first day in office before hitting the inaugural balls. Gingrich would ask Congress to convene that first afternoon to repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and Sarbanes-Oxley while issuing a host of executive orders ranging from one ordering...

Kerfuffle!

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
As I've often said before ( see here ), an absurd percentage of every campaign is taken up by one side attacking the other side for something the other side's candidate said. In almost every case, it's something the candidate wishes he could take back the moment it came out of his mouth. Sometimes, we even get campaign kerfuffles about something a campaign advisor said, as we did when Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom's unfortunate Etch A Sketch remark. And now, we've got something even more ridiculous: a kerfuffle about something said by a political professional who isn't even working for a campaign. In case you haven't checked your Twitter feed this morning, last night on CNN, Democratic consultant and talking head Hilary Rosen mocked Mitt Romney for saying he understands what women are going through, because his wife Ann tells him what they care about. In the course of making that argument, she said Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life." Cue the faux outrage! It's quite plain...

Today in Looney Tea Party Theories

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
With Rick Santorum finally out of the picture, the Romney campaign is reportedly starting its VP hunt, but there's no announcement on the immediate horizon. Recent hire Ed Gillespie will lead the search, according to Buzzfeed, and it will likely be a long process to make sure the party doesn't repeat its 2008 mistake in selecting someone ill-prepared for the national spotlight. A freshman congressman seems unlikely to pass that muster, but Florida Representative Allen West has received a bit of buzz thanks to support from the far right wing of the Republican Party. Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, and Nikki Haley had previously touted him as a possible running mate. "He is well-spoken, he is direct, people in Florida love him, he has a huge following," Cain said in a radio interview. It could be the start of a groundswell of support to force Romney to select a more conservative running mate than he would naturally prefer. But it won't go anywhere when West goes around making claims like this...

The Weakness of the Buffett Rule

Pete Souza/The White House
Now that America's burning hunger for Mitt Romney has overflowed, and he really is the Republican nominee-to-be, the Obama campaign must settle on its anti-Romney strategy. Or more properly, they will reveal to us the anti-Romney strategy they settled on many months ago. One central component will be an argument about taxes, contrasting Obama's approach with the Republican one, and the cornerstone of that argument looks to be the "Buffett Rule." Which is kind of unfortunate. The Buffett Rule is, I'm quite sure, good politics. Believe you me, the Obama campaign wouldn't be going whole-hog on it if they hadn't already polled and focus-grouped it within an inch of its life. What it isn't is particularly good policy. The fairness principle at play—that rich people shouldn't pay lower tax rates on their income than the rest of us—is perfectly sound. The problem is the way they've decided to implement that principle. I use the term "implement" loosely, because the chances that the Buffett...

What's in a Name?

(Flickr/LaDawna's pics)
Liberals often complain about the Democrats’ seeming inability to message their ideas with the same consistency and verve as conservatives. It just never seems like the party has the same discipline in its talking points. Congressional Dems' messaging during the health-care reform legislation in 2009 is a case in point. Rather than taking their cues from Republicans (despite the atrocious polices it entailed, naming a bill the PATRIOT Act immediately after 9/11 was a genius tactic), Democrats went for the unmemorably named "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." It’s not like Democrats are clueless to such tricks—the campaign finance disclosure bill they’ve proposed after Citizens United had the fitting acronym DISCLOSE—they just didn’t bother in this instance. The party soon paid the price, as Republicans called it "Obamacare" and said it was the living symbol of a tyrannical president imposing his socialist visions for the rest of the country. It was a term Democrats battled...

What's Next for Mitt?

(WEBN-TV/Flickr)
At The Washington Post , Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write a bit more about the planned advertising blitz by Republican Super PAC American Crossroads: The Crossroads ads, which began airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia and attack the incumbent for his handling of gas prices, are the first of what is expected to be an extended air assault on Obama by the conservative group. “We think it’s important to be a counterweight to President Obama’s bully pulpit and hold him accountable for the policy choices he’s made and the results he’s failed to deliver,” said Steven Law, the executive director of American Crossroads. “Obama is putting the full muscle of the White House into changing the subject from his track record to a new, bleak vision of America — and we aim to keep the focus of the debate where it belongs.” Like I said a few days ago, I’m not sure that these will have much effect; opinions on Obama are mostly set in stone, and a few million dollars in...

Mitt Romney: Catnip for the Jews

Hey Jews! You know you love me!
In every election season, each month or two will see some conservative discover that this is finally going to be the year when American Jews abandon the Democrats and flock to the GOP's presidential candidate. And it never happens. I've made this point before , but this column by Michael Medved has to be the most hilarious installment this reliable genre has ever seen. Why are Jews going to vote Republican this year? Because, Medved tells us, Jews love Mormons! Seriously. So even if Jews are overwhelmingly Democrats whose liberal ideals contradict pretty much everything Mitt Romney says he believes in, they'll surely cast that aside because of the strong personal connection they feel to members of his religion. After all, as Medved says, "Mormons and Jews frequently laugh together at our common use of the word 'gentiles' to describe the multitudes outside our minority religious communities." Oh, totally. If I had a dollar for every time I've thrown back my head and guffawed merrily...

Exit Right

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“Bye Bye Rick Santorum," Left in Alabama tweeted this afternoon. "Time to shake the Etch-a-Sketch.” But does Santorum’s exit from the GOP race really give Mitt Romney a chance to wiggle back toward the center? Not without a level of finesse that the presumptive nominee’s campaign has failed to show so far. The surprising staying power of the hardest-core conservative in the race made it tougher for Romney to take less-than-extreme positions on reproductive rights, immigration, or damn near anything else. And the base voters who backed Santorum must still be wooed and reassured. Romney has spent most of this campaign taking the "severest" stances possible to sooth these folks. Most remain unsoothed . How much room Romney has to maneuver also depends, to a lesser degree, on how Santorum decides to handle his loss to the man he declared was “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Obama.” Will he make nice and be a loyal soldier, endorsing Romney (whom he didn’t mention...

Obama Campaign Ready for General

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
The Obama campaign wasted no time trampling on Mitt Romney's apparent victory in the GOP primary Tuesday afternoon after Rick Santorum bowed out of the race . Campaign manager Jim Messina ripped into Romney for the barrage of negative ads he used throughout the primary campaign. “It’s no surprise that Mitt Romney finally was able to grind down his opponents under an avalanche of negative ads," Messina wrote in a press release. "But neither he nor his special interest allies will be able to buy the presidency with their negative attacks." As POLITICO noted this morning, squaring themselves to the reality that Republican super PAC funding is on pace to easily dwarf Democratic efforts, the Obama campaign has shifted its efforts to attacking the source of the conservative super PAC funds. The president's re-election team had already been treating the nomination contest as essentially over. Obama launched a blistering attack on Romney tying the presumed nominee to Paul Ryan's budget plan...

Rick Santorum Finally Calls It Quits

(AP Photo / Gene J. Puskar)
As far as challengers to a party establishment are concerned, Rick Santorum was unique. Unlike Ronald Reagan, Santorum didn’t lead an ideological faction. Unlike Gary Hart, he wasn’t the young and dynamic future of his party. He didn’t lead a marginalized wing of the party coalition, like Jesse Jackson did, and he wasn’t a media favorite, like John McCain was. Indeed, there’s a reason why every pundit, myself included, dismissed Santorum as a long shot in the race for the Republican nomination. As a candidate, Santorum combined doctrinaire conservative beliefs with a hostile, combative persona. He wasn’t just against gay rights or abortion; he thought they were destructive to the fabric of the country. It’s not that he opposed Barack Obama; it’s that he argued that the president would turn the country into a Marxist wasteland. But if Rick Santorum was completely unsuitable as a major party nominee, how exactly did he come from behind to stand as Mitt Romney’s most viable challenger?...

Paul Ryan Wants Democratic Friends

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Paul Ryan's budget has become a rallying cry for Democrats, and President Obama's re-election in particular. Republicans have long expressed an antipathy for the general concept of government services, but these were often expressed in the abstract or lone exceptions, with the party generally focusing on the starve-the-beast philosophy of reducing taxes so that government outlays would eventually have to be reduced. Ryan's budget gets that down on paper in crystallized form, codifying those ideas into a specific vision for the future that would gut all government services except health spending, Social Security, and an increased budget for defense, discarding the rest of discretionary spending. Earlier this morning, Ryan told a group of reporters in New York that his budget wasn't actually all that extreme because an anonymous selection of a dozen Democrats have told him they love his bill. From Buzzfeed: "There are a number of democrats but I don’t want to name their names, because I...

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