Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Getting to 270

2008 electoral college map
Four years ago, Barack Obama won the electoral college over John McCain by a comfortable margin of 365-173. He picked up not only every swing state except Missouri, but also a few states that hadn't gone Democratic in some time, like North Carolina and Indiana. There are a number of reasons for Democrats to feel optimistic this year, but one that hasn't yet gotten much attention is this: the electoral map looks awfully unfriendly to Mitt Romney. Barack Obama could lose not only Indiana and North Carolina, but also some big prizes like Ohio and Florida, and still win re-election. Over the weekend, the Associated Press offered one of what will no doubt be a long line of electoral college projections, and they rate 186 electoral votes as solid Democratic and another 56 as leaning Democratic, for a total of 242 of the 270 needed to win. They have 159 votes as solid Republican and another 32 leaning Republican, for a total of 191. The rest—Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico...

Mitt Romney Declares his Conservatism, and It's Time to Believe Him

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
After today’s speech to the National Rifle Association, there should be no speculation about Mitt Romney’s ideological positioning in the general election. More than running as a conservative, Romney has positioned himself as an absolutely stalwart defender of conservative values, and his rhetoric leaves room for an abrupt move to the center. As John Whitehouse joked on Twitter, the former Massachusetts governor “appears to be running for the Continental Congress.” On the question of economic freedom, he believes that the American people have been the “victim[s] of unbounded government appetite – and so is economic growth, job growth, and wage growth.” The only way to improve the economy, according to Romney, is to drastically reduce the size of government. On the question of religious freedom, Romney portrays the Obama administration as a crew of secular sectarians out to quash the freedom of believers (read: conservative Christians) to worship as they please: In all of America,...

Mapping the ACA

(Flickr/GenBug)
Via Sarah Kliff, here's a great graphic from Kaiser Family Foundation laying out how funds from the Affordable Care Act are being distributed across the country: In total, over $12 billion has been handed out to state governments and private entities to implement the provisions of the ACA. Breaking it down by state, California—the first state to setup their own health exchange—has received the lion's share of funding, taking in over $1.1 billion. Other population heavy states such as New York, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio have taken in large sums as well. These funds aren't just being channeled to state governments; rather the lion's share has been directed to assist private entities. In Michigan, for example, $184 million in federal funds have gone to the state government but $630 million has been directed to private entities, mostly business to help with the costs of providing care. You can look at the full breakdown of funds on Kaiser's interactive map here .

Mitt Goes Hunting

A potential Romney voter. (Flickr/drewish)
Today, Mitt Romney will address the National Rifle Association, and we can be fairly sure he won't be telling them anything they don't want to hear. That's not just because telling people things they don't want to hear is something Mitt Romney doesn't do, but also because he's still transitioning from the pander-to-conservatives phase of his campaign to the pander-to-independents phase of his campaign. What's really notable is the fact that this is practically the first time Romney has had to address the issue of guns in this election. You would have thought that his primary opponents would have added guns to the litany of Romney flip-flops and hit him hard for it. I'm not sure why they didn't, but it's never too late. As on so many other issues, Romney did a pretty clear 180 on guns between his runs for Senate and governor in Massachusetts and his runs for president. In Massachusetts he was a supporter of the state's relatively strict gun laws, and promised not to undermine them...

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...

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