Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Winning Was Always a Possibility

(NewsHour/Flickr)
Politico ’s latest scoop is the discovery, after interviews with party leader and activists, that Republicans think Mitt Romney can win the election: Margin-of-error polling, fundraising parity last month, conservative consolidation around Romney and a still-sluggish economy has senior GOP officials increasingly bullish about a nominee many winced over during a difficult primary process. Interviews with about two dozen Republican elected officials, aides, strategists and lobbyists reveal a newfound optimism that with a competent, on-message campaign, Romney will be at least competitive with a weakened incumbent. That’s a dramatic shift from the fatalistic view many party stalwarts shared mere weeks ago. If you have the good fortune to be a major party nominee for president then, by definition, you have a significant chance of winning the presidency. This was true for John Kerry, it was true for John McCain, and it is true for Romney. That doesn’t mean that a win is likely , but it’s...

GloboNewtCorp Meltdown Update

Newt in happier times.
A month and a half ago, we learned that in contrast to what usually happens to a not-entirely-unsuccesful presidential contender, the candidacy of one Newton Leroy Gingrich had seriously hampered the former Speaker's ability to get people to give him money for doing very little other than spout off his opinion on things. You see, Newt had carefully constructed a network of organizations whose main purpose was getting people to give him money for being Newt. In the course of the campaign, however, the world learned just how much people gave him, and how little they got for it, most notably in the case of Freddie Mac, which paid Newt $1.6 million for "strategic consulting" that consisted of little more than giving a couple of speeches and having a couple of meetings. It'll now be awfully hard for Newt to run that scam on anyone again, and as a result, GloboNewtCorp is well and truly disintegrating. The Center for Health Transformation, one arm of GloboNewtCorp, went bankrupt, and the...

The Soft Sell

This woman's dreams were destroyed, and her hair turned grey, by Obama's broken promises.
According to The New York Times , American Crossroads, Karl Rove's super PAC, has decided that trying to make the American people hate and fear Barack Obama just isn't going to work. So their advertising is going to use a softer sell, a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger approach to convincing Americans to vote for Mitt Romney in the fall. It seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do—I've been arguing for some time that it's absurd to believe that large numbers of voters are going to radically alter their view of the president they've been watching for the last three years because of some television ads they saw—and it's backed up by Crossroads' own opinion research: Behind the story of the ad’s creation rests one of the greatest challenges for Republicans in this election: how to develop a powerful line of attack against a president who remains well liked even by people who are considering voting against him. The concept for the newest advertisement and even some of the lines in the...

A Middling Result for Obama

(White House/Flickr)
Depending on how you look, the most recent poll from ABC News and the Washington Post shows Obama in either a precarious position, or a decent one given the circumstances. If you’re inclined to take the former view, the evidence is clear: 55 percent of voters disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy, and 83 percent describe the economy as "not so good" or "poor." Thirty percent say they are not so well-off since Obama became president, and 47 percent say they trust Mitt Romney to handle the economy—a statistical tie with the president, and a sign that voters have faith in Romney’s ability to get things done. If you’re bullish on Obama, there’s evidence for your view as well. His approval rating is 47 percent, with 49 percent disapproval. According to the Washington Post ’s election forecaster , if Obama maintains that approval rating through the summer—and if economic growth holds steady at an average rate of 2 percent—then he has an 84.4 percent chance of winning the majority...

Missing Massachusetts

Remember this place? (Image from U.S. Census)
In all this back-and-forth about Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital (which, by the way, I think is a very good thing for the public, but that's a topic for another post) there's one other subject that has been crowded out, seemingly by a tacit agreement by both campaigns. And that's this place called Massachusetts. You might remember it. Mitt Romney lived there for a time. Ordinarily, when a former governor runs for president, the two sides engage in a vigorous debate about the former governor's state. He says it's the most dynamic, exciting, splendiferous state in the union, and his opponent says it's actually a little slice of hell on earth. My favorite example of the latter is this ad from George H.W. Bush's 1992 campaign, which portrayed Bill Clinton's Arkansas as a post-apocalyptic hellscape where the only living thing in evidence is a vulture looking for the last few scraps of gristle it can pull off the carcass of little children's dreams. You can almost see Mount Doom in the...

States Lag on Health Exchanges

(Flickr/GenBug)
Once the law is fully implemented, health care exchanges will be the part of the Affordable Care Act we likely notice most. The exchanges were designed to turn health insurance into something approximating a real market—unlike the current system which creates a myriad of blocks that prevent the consumers from purchasing health insurance as they would any good, forcing families to either receive insurance through their employer, pay exorbitant costs for individual, or go without any coverage. The exchanges—along with subsidies for low and middle-income Americans—will ease that burden, allowing consumers to select a plan from a central hub without worrying about pre-existing conditions affecting their coverage. Liberals shouldered a number of defeats in 2009 and early 2010 as the Affordable Care Act snaked through the grind of congressional dysfunction. The failure of a public option ate up most of the attention at the time, but a minor shift in how the exchanges would operate might...

Brat PAC

The Excel nerds covering the presidential campaign got their moment this weekend, when the latest batch of Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports went public. There was plenty to chew over. Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee raked in $43 million compared with $40 million for Romney and the Republican National Committee. Then there are the super PACs. Pro-Romney American Crossroads raised $1.8 million in April, edging out Priorities USA—the pro-Obama PAC that can't seem to locate George Soros' phone number—by $200,000. With Obama and Romney both on pace to fill a Scrooge McDuck-sized pool of contributions, each new dollar holds diminishing returns. But at the congressional level—for instance, in high-stakes races in Montana or Nevada—a few million here or there might be enough to upend an election. As The New York Times reported Sunday, there are plenty of funds for politicians campaigning for a legislative seat. Over $12 million in outside money has been funneled...

Message: I Am Amused

Mitt Romney yukking it up during a primary debate.
If any comedian ever gets around to producing a good Mitt Romney impression (the lack of which I've lamented before), Romney's laugh is going to have to be a key part of it. The laugh was probably best described by New York Times reporter Ashley Parker, who wrote , "Mr. Romney’s laugh often sounds like someone stating the sounds of laughter, a staccato 'Ha. Ha. Ha.'" Gary Wills wonders what exactly Mitt's laugh is meant to communicate (his possibilities include "I want to show I am just a regular fellow, so I'll try out my regular-fellow laugh"), but that's the easy question. Romney's laugh is meant to say, "I am amused." The more important question is, why does Mitt Romney laugh? I think I know the answer to that one too. But before I tell you, we should understand that there is more than one Romney laugh, even though they all come out suddenly, tiny explosions of unfelt mirth. Sometimes it's that "Oh my, that is crazy!", but at other times Romney's laugh sounds like he's surrounded...

Is Obama Condescending to Women?

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown had an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times , where she criticized Obama for condescending to women voters in his attempt to gain their support: It’s obvious why the president is doing a full-court press for the vote of college-educated women in particular. The Republican primaries probably did turn some women away. Rick Santorum did his party no favors when he spoke about women in combat[…]; when he described the birth of a child from rape as “a gift in a very broken way”; and how, if he was president, he would make the case for the damage caused by contraception. But Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on these issues, and many women understand that. […] The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else. Where Brown goes wrong, I think, is...

The "Vetting" Obsession

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
When the Washington Post story about Mitt Romney's high school years (including an incident in which the former Massachusetts governor forcibly cut the hair of a student whose commitment to conformism was insufficiently vigorous) came out, leading Republicans were fairly quiet about it. Whether the incident happened or not, they said, it tells us virtually nothing about the man Romney is today and the issues at stake in this election. That's a perfectly reasonable argument, but it isn't the one you would have heard from many of the foot soldiers in the Republican base. Among the troops, there was outrage, not so much about the Romney story, but about what they saw as a double-standard. As one e-mailed me after I wrote a piece on the topic, "I saw your article on CNN. When does the vetting of President Obama begin? Have you delved into his past? The next time I read an article about a young Barrack [sic] Obama will be the first." As I replied to this person, there were hundreds, maybe...

Obama's Trouble in North Carolina

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
CNN’s Peter Hamby describes the Obama campaign’s troubles in the Tar Heel State: [I]t’s hard to find a Democrat in the capital of Raleigh who believes the president, saddled with the burdens of governing and a sputtering economy, can stir the enthusiasm of 2008 and repeat his near-flawless North Carolina performance. “My heart says he will win here, but my head says it’s going to be awfully tough for him,” said Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic consultant and adviser to former Gov. Jim Hunt. “This is a tight state for him. Race is part of it. The economy is a big problem. Four years ago he was new, he was exciting. He was hope and change. That has worn off now. The glow is gone. It’s going to be tough for him to catch magic in the bottle again.” For my part, I would be very surprised if Obama won North Carolina again. There’s a good chance he’ll maintain his 2008 support from African American voters, but his support among white voters is almost certain to go down to the usual levels...

High-Ranking Crazy

Arizona Secretary of State and certified nutball Ken Bennett
Astute readers may have noticed that over the past year or so, I've made an effort not to be too knee-jerk about my partisanship. Not that I've changed my beliefs about any substantive issues lately, but I've tried to be as thoughtful as I can about people on the other side, whether it's conservative writers or conservative politicians. I don't always succeed (the occasional insult still filters through now and then), but I'm doing my best. And I understand that writing about how the other side is evil can be satisfying. It's also popular; I've written or co-written four books, and the most partisan one sold the most, even though it's not a book I'd have much appetite to write again. That being said, there are times when it isn't enough to say that conservatives are wrong about a particular matter. Being truthful requires saying that many of them are, in fact, nuts. Not all of them, but many of them. And there are both qualitative and quantitative differences in the nuttiness. One of...

Mitt Romney Hits the Scene with His First General Election Ad

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
The Romney campaign is out with its first ad, a positive spot that highlights Keystone, health care, and tax cuts. The aim of the ad is to show Americans what President Romney would do in his first day of office, and to that end, it gets the job done, even if it’s mostly paint by numbers: Create jobs? Check. Repeal unpopular legislation? Check. Promise tax cuts? Check. It isn’t as blatantly dishonest as a significant amount of what comes from the Romney campaign, but it is misleading on two counts. First, experts are divided on how many jobs the Keystone pipeline would create. From the ad, the implication is that this would make a significant dent in our joblessness rate—otherwise, why would it concern the president? In the past, Romney has claimed that the pipeline would yield “tens of thousands of jobs,” but the independent estimate is that constructing the pipeline would result in five to six thousand jobs. That’s enough work to support a town, or even a small city, but not so much...

Mitt Romney Gets More Resolute All the Time

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
There are times when you can just see the wheels turning in Mitt Romney's head, as he cycles through the possible responses to a question, realizes there really is no good one, then spits out something that sounds like the least bad answer possible. It's almost sad. That frenzy of mental activity is what produces things like this bit of hilarity, after Romney got questioned about the story of a rich Republican thinking of running an ad campaign attacking President Obama with Jeremiah Wright: "I repudiate that effort," Mr. Romney told reporters at an impromptu news conference Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. "I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign." At the same time, Mr. Romney stood by remarks made in February on Sean Hannity's radio show that Mr. Obama wanted to make America "a less Christian nation." "I'm not familiar, precisely, with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was," Mr. Romney said. Oh, Mitt. You see, this is what happens when you're...

Bipartisan Watermelon Destruction

(Still photo from campaign ad)
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is out with his first campaign ad today, and it's about as bizarre as you would expect. The ad is reminiscent of Herman Cain's avant-garde commercials (even nabbing the same "any questions" tagline), though thankfully Johnson reserves his destruction for fruit and leaves any innocent animals alone. It's a nice bit of wrought political theater, but not particularly effective as an ad to introduce Johnson to the public. His face and name don't even appear until a minute into the spot, and then only as a still frame. Typically you'd want to have the candidate actually speak in the video—especially when he's largely an unfamiliar face such as Johnson. The low-budget ad is yet another indication that, despite being well credentialed, Johnson is unlikely to perform much above past libertarian presidential candidates.

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