Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Ohio a Game Changer? Please.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Zanesville, Ohio, Monday, March 5, 2012.

Coronation Tuesday

Super Tuesday once was super. Progressives of a certain age will never forget the fun of the first edition in 1988. Conservative Democrats had dreamt up a March day of nine Southern primaries that would guarantee no “unelectable” liberal could win the party’s nomination. The geniuses forgot, though, that most Southern Democrats were not actually white moderates or conservatives. The scheme backfired spectacularly, with the Reverend Jesse Jackson emerging as a viable contender and Michael Dukakis also faring well. Since then, the role of Super Tuesday has been considerably more banal: It almost always clinches the nomination for at least one party’s frontrunner. Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, George W.

GOP Successfully Alienates Latino Voters

The most you can say about the Republican Party’s performance with Latino voters right now is that it isn’t in the single digits. Eight years after George W. Bush won 44 percent of Latino voters—and four years after John McCain nabbed 31 percent of the overall Latino vote—the GOP has seen the bottom drop out of its reputation with Latinos.

Romney's Problem with Health Care is that He Actually Believes in Reform

In a scoop that demolishes a year’s worth of rhetoric from the Romney campaign, Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski discovers three separate videos in which Mitt Romney urges Barack Obama to adopt Massachusetts-style health care reforms as a model for the rest of the country. Here is one of the more damning videos:

Somewhere, a Romney staffer is shaking his fist at those “meddling kids” at Buzzfeed.

No Longer A Lost Cause

(Flickr/Cosmic Smudge)

Liberals weren't too excited about their 2012 electoral chances a few months ago. Even if Barack Obama managed to hold onto the White House, simple math made it tough to imagine Democrats keeping their current majority in the Senate. Democrats will need to defend 23 seats this November, thanks to their success in the 2006-midterm elections, while Republicans only have 10 seats up for grabs. If Republicans manage to flip four seats in November, Mitch McConnell would start off 2013 as the Senate Majority Leader.

Republicans Coalesce Around Romney

(Flickr/KP Tripathi)

Despite the horse-race media coverage before tomorrow's Super Tuesday elections, Mitt Romney remains the odds-on favorite to take the GOP nomination. He has nearly double his leading opponent's delegates, dwarfs Rick Santorum's meager cash stockpile, and has a campaign organization that will go unmatched this late in the race.

Americans are "Depressed, Disappointed, and Underwhelmed" by the GOP Primary

(Sander van der Wel/Flickr)

As much as some Republicans would like to believe otherwise, the fact is that this primary is dragging down the party. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primary—in which two formidable candidates fought hard, debated substance, and energized voters around the country—this year’s GOP primary has been defined by clownish vanity candidates, divisive bickering, and an unlikable front-runner who—so far—has “won” by not losing.

America Needs a Good Mitt Romney Impression

(SNL/NBC)

A year and a half ago, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that it's kind of hard to make fun of Barack Obama. Naturally, conservatives responded that I was saying that because I'm an Obama shill, and I thought he was so terrific that he was impossible to mock. But here was my actual point:

Politicians who make good targets for humor tend to have a personality feature or physical characteristic, like a particular accent or a distinctive set of gestures, that are easily identifiable and thus can be exaggerated to make the politician look foolish, because exaggeration is what impressions and satire are built on. Some of these are simple and straightforward, like Bush's tendency to mangle his words. Others are more complicated but no less distinct, like Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" charm, which simultaneously made you suspect you were being conned and like it.

The trouble with Obama is that he doesn't easily lend himself to mockery. He's famously cool -- never too hot, never too cold. And coolness itself is nothing if not a concerted effort to avoid being mocked. The most successful impressions -- like Darrell Hammond's Clinton or Will Ferrell's Bush -- may or may not perfectly ape the target's speech (Ferrell certainly didn't), but they capture something essential and absurd about the target, something that is seldom cool. The presidential impression currently featured on Saturday Night Live, by Fred Armisen, is a good re-creation of the president's way of talking. It just isn't all that funny.

And today, this satirical crisis threatens to get even worse. The Republican party is about to nominate someone who may be eminently mockable in many ways (goodness knows I've been trying to do my part). But it seems almost impossible to do a funny impression of Mitt Romney.

Just look at the version of Romney that Jason Sudekis does on SNL. In fairness, Sudekis isn't an impressionist. But it's like he's not even trying to capture Romney's speech, let alone use it to create something insightful or funny. He's just reading the words, and adding some bit of nasal tone to his voice, which doesn't sound like Romney at all:

Romney does have a particular way of speaking, but he doesn't have an accent or a distinctive voice. That makes it a challenge to imitate him, but a creative comedian should be able to do something to capture that essential Romneyness that makes him what he is. But other than Sudekis, there is no one out there doing a Mitt Romney impression, much less a good one. America's comedians need to step up.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Super Tuesday

(Flickr/mhaithaca)

Broad categorizations are an American specialty—after all, we are the nation of the Cosmo quiz, the seven highly effective habits, the red and blue state. In keeping with this tradition, it seems fitting that we break down the biggest primary day of the GOP race into an easily digestible taxonomy. Super Tuesday 2012: one day, four candidates, ten states, 434 delegates. Here's what you need to know.

 

Ohio, the Battleground

66 delegates

Who’s the favorite? Flip a coin. According to Five Thirty Eight, both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both have a 50 percent chance of winning.

Mitt Romney Is Not An Unusually Negative Candidate

This kid knows negative campaigning. (Flickr/mdanys)

Is Mitt Romney an unusually negative candidate? The New York Times tries to make the case:

As successful as the strategy has been, though, it has raised questions about Mr. Romney's role in turning the primary process into something akin to a civil war, even as it has demonstrated a ferocious, whatever-it-takes style that could hearten Republicans if Mr. Romney ends up in a general election matchup against Mr. Obama.

"It's clear the negative ads are what's keeping this guy alive," said Nelson Warfield, a Republican strategist who worked for Mr. Perry. "It seems like Republican primary voters will not vote for Mitt Romney unless they are forced into it. And the way they're forced into it is when he beats the other guy senseless."

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney has also been on the receiving end of attacks from his Republican rivals as well as Democrats. But his aggressive style has been apparent since his first days in politics. For all that he can appear stiff and scripted at times, Mr. Romney has never shied away from deploying pointed and colorful broadsides against his opponents.

The history the piece goes through may be interesting, but the thesis isn't particularly persuasive. For there to be something out of the ordinary about either Romney's performance in this campaign or his history as a campaigner, he would had to have displayed either an unusual volume of negativity, or negativity of an unusual character. And he really hasn't on either count. It may be more noticeable because he's had a series of major opponents, each of whom had to be viciously dispatched in turn. So Romney has had to attack a whole bunch of people, whereas someone like Newt Gingrich only had to attack Romney. But on the whole, he's not much different from any other major candidate...

In Ohio, the Underlying Facts Look Great for Santorum

(jcburns/Flickr)

The first post-Michigan poll of Ohio Republicans is out, and Mitt Romney has closed the gap. According to Quinnipiac University, Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely primary voters to Romney, who takes 31 percent. Because of the poll’s margin of error, ±4.3 percentage points, Quinnipiac presents this as too close to call. But the survey shows native advantages for Santorum that could propel him to victory, as long as he avoids another weekend of national controversy.

Mittgoguery

The longer he must battle Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination, the less time Mitt Romney will have to edge back toward the political mainstream for the general election. Romney continues to make that repositioning unnecessarily tricky by going farther—much farther—to the right than necessary, apparently in a desperate attempt to persuade the hardcore right that he really is “severely conservative.” That effort is now luring Romney into the land of straight-up demagoguery.

GOP Senators Opt to Support Another Piece of Unpopular Legislation

(Talk Radio News Service/Flickr)

Despite the defection of Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Ben Nelson, Senate Democrats (with the aid of Olympia Snowe) were able to block a Republican-sponsored measure that would give employers the right to reject any health care coverage for any reason. Sahil Kapur gives a rundown of the fight at Talking Points Memo:

Blunt Amendment Fails in the Senate

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)

For a brief moment yesterday it looked as though some GOP senators were ready to step back from the ledge, and reject their party's assault on women's rights. A handful of Republican senators were hesitant to endorse the controversial Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer—both secular and religious—to reject covering individual aspects of health insurance they find morally questionable, not just contraception. Even Mitt Romney expressed opposition to the bill when an Ohio reporter explained the implications before his campaign quickly realized they had defied party doctrine, and issued a clarification, which reversed Romney's earlier statement.

Why Ohio Matters for Mitt Romney

This week, Michigan was the “must win” state for Mitt Romney. Next week—according to the world of punditry—it’s Ohio, where Romney has to win over a similar electorate—downscale, blue-collar workers—without the help of name recognition or family ties. There, his tendency to remind voters of his massive wealth (in the worst way possible), could prove fatal.

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