Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

A Truly Ideological Campaign?

Are you ready for some campaignin'? (Flickr/Obama campaign)
Barack Obama's re-election campaign has finally begun in earnest, with a TV ad hitting Mitt Romney as an ally of the oil industry and a speech coming up later today in which he'll attack Paul Ryan's budget, which almost every Republican in the House voted for and Mitt Romney endorsed. Ryan's budget won't ever pass, but it's a pretty forthright ideological statement, and the Obama campaign is endeavoring to make sure everyone understands where it's coming from. And in doing so, he's offering more hints that his campaign could actually turn this into more of a real debate about fundamental values, and less of a clown show about things like who loves America more. Here are some advance excerpts : Disguised as deficit-reduction plan, it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It's nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism. It's antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it — a place where...

Paul Ryan's Great Gift to Obama

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Easter is a minor gift-giving holiday in the American calendar, and for the last year—and counting—President Obama’s Easter gift has come in the form of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Last year, Ryan penned the “Roadmap,” a budget document for House Republicans that laid out their priorities for the long-term: deep cuts to existing social programs, deep cuts to Medicare, and big tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans. With the Tea Party at the height of its power, Republican lawmakers were eager to sign on to Ryan’s “right-wing social engineering” (to borrow a phrase), even if it was anathema to public opinion. For a president who was floundering in the eyes of liberals—who wanted to see a little more fight—this was a godsend. In a speech at George Washington University, Obama posed his vision of “balanced” deficit reduction against Ryan’s plan to funnel money away to the richest Americans. He didn’t attack the Wisconsin congressman by name, but he challenged his ideas, and the...

Romney's Veep Calculations

(Flickr/Halsey Hemingway)
It's GOP primary day once again, the first major day of competition on the calendar since Mitt Romney won the Illinois primary two weeks ago. If polls are to be believed, Romney is on track toward a clean sweep tonight in D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin, with the last state as the only contest whose results are not a sure bet (the latest polls have Romney up 7 percent). No matter what happens, the primary campaign is coming down to its final days. A second mini-Super Tuesday on April 24—with a lineup heavily tilted to the Northeast—will strongly favor Romney and serve as the likely death knell for Rick Santorum's campaign. One of the easiest ways to note that the real primary season is a thing of the past has been the start of the veepstakes as journalists begin to question who might slide into the second spot behind Romney. New York 's John Heilemann knows a thing or two about how presidential campaigns select running mates after he reported on the process by which Sarah Palin was...

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