Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Don't Tell 'Em, Show 'Em

Mitt Romney watching his wife speak.
Among politicians, as among athletes or practitioners of a hundred other arts, there are "naturals," people who have an instinctive feel for how their endeavor ought to be done and display an effortless level of skill. Then there are those who have less of an instinctive feel for it but work hard to master the various components until they become the closest approximation of the natural as possible. Bill Clinton, for instance, would be in the first category, while Hillary Clinton would be in the second category. Then there are people like Mitt Romney, who not only isn't a natural but can't quite seem to put all the pieces of being a candidate together. Look, for instance, at this exchange from an interview Romney did with ABC's Diane Sawyer: DIANE SAWYER: I want to talk about a couple of issues relating to women. This 19 point difference between you and the president on women. Here are some specific questions. If you were president-- you had been president-- would you have signed the...

Obamaites Charge Romney with Inveterate Richness

New York Magazine cover from last October.
Priorities USA Action, the super PAC run by former Obama advisers, is up with a new ad explaining to voters that Mitt Romney is an extremely rich guy, who does richie rich things like hold up pieces of legal tender while surrounded by his richie rich friends. In short, the ad seems like little more than an attempt to get everyone to look at that now-famous photo from the founding of Bain Capital, in which Romney and his fellow Bainians demonstrate that their new company is all about job creation. There is one thing about this ad that may have Republicans crying foul, which is the fact that midway through they doctor the photo to put the current Mitt Romney's head on the much younger Mitt Romney from the photo. Take a look: Is this unethical? Maybe, but it's essentially a misdemeanor. It would be seriously deceptive to put Romney's head on somebody else's body to make a point about Romney, but in this case it's Romney's head on his own body (and speaking as someone who's older than he...

Even Romney's Donors Support Same-Sex Marriage

(Flickr/Datchler)
The prolonged Republican primary forced Mitt Romney to take stances on a host of controversial issues to win the allegiance of conservative voters. That could be alienating now that he is moving to the general election. His opposition to reproductive rights, harsh tone on immigration, and deference to Paul Ryan's budget have been the centerpiece of the campaign so far; he has also turned against gay rights, a move that puts Romney out of touch from the increasing majority of Americans who favor same-sex marriage. During debates Romney tried to cast himself as nondiscriminatory in his interactions with LBGT individuals but settled on a hardline opposition to same-sex marriage. "From the very beginning in 1994, I said to the gay community, I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage and that has been my view," Romney said in January. He reiterated that stance in February, disparaging a court's decision to overturn Proposition 8. "I believe marriage is between a man and...

Romney's Not-So Secret Plan

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
One of the more frustrating aspects of this year's Republican primary was the utter lack of specificity in candidates' proposals. It turns out this was a strategic decision. In an interview with the Weekly Standard last month, Romney said : “One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” Romney recalled. “So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that...

November Dreaming

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
I’ve been noticing that, since January, the Obama administration has kicked up its attentions to the LGBT communities, announcing one small regulatory change or conference after another. But they’re not delivering the bigger changes that LGBT groups have been agitating for. I’ve been assuming that the goal is to boost turnout in November. Will it work? What kind of small change am I talking about? Well, there’s the White House LGBT conference series. HHS, DOJ, HUD, even the CIA—they’re all putting on some show or other. March saw a Detroit conference on LGBT housing and homelessness , where HUD Secretary Donovan announced new nondiscrimination rules for public housing and mortgage financing, on both sexual orientation or gender identity. No kicking you out of the projects or your Section 8 apartment because you turn out to be queer; no refusing to give you a mortgage because your birth sex is still visible while you’re transitioning. All good news. And soon, the White House will hold...

Stop Blaming Dysfunction on "Both Sides"

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
For years, liberals have argued that polarization his little to do with the Democratic Party—which they see as largely centrist—and everything to do with a Republican Party, which has moved far to the right since the 1970s. Recent research from political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, who have measured polarization and ideological shifts in Congress, confirms that theory. According to NPR , they’ve found that the GOP is more conservative now than it’s been in a century: The short version would be since the late 1970s starting with the 1976 election in the House the Republican caucus has steadily moved to the right ever since. It’s been a little more uneven in the Senate. The Senate caucuses have also moved to the right. Republicans are now furtherest to the right that they’ve been in 100 years. Moreover, Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats have to the left, and that goes a long way toward explaining the gridlock of the last three years, during...

Don't Blame "Corporate Personhood"

(Flickr/watchingfrogsboll)
A merican politics is in trouble. A tsunami of unaccountable, untraceable political money is overwhelming the Republican race for the presidential nomination and threatens to do the same to the fall election. For many people, especially progressives, the culprit is easy to name: the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , which swept away any limits on election-advocacy ads by corporations, unions, and “independent” political-action committees (PACs) and issue groups. Many progressives believe that Citizens United “made corporations people” and that a constitutional amendment restricting “corporate personhood” will cure this political ill. Citizens United is a bad decision. This obvious fact may even be dawning on the Court’s conservative majority, which is taking a surprisingly leisurely look at American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, in which the Montana Supreme Court directly challenged Citizens United , in essence telling the...

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...

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