Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Rich Republicans Seek to Bring Back Jeremiah Wright

(Floyd Brown/Flickr)
In general, I’m not too concerned with civility in politics, but it’s hard not to be shocked by the nastiness and aggression of today’s Republican Party. Congressional Republicans routinely accuse Democrats of treason, or worse, with little rebuke from party leaders. Reliably conservative lawmakers—like Bob Inglis and Dick Lugar—are challenged nonetheless for their insufficient hatred of Democrats. President Obama, as most people know, has been subject to a constellation of outlandish attacks, from false claims about his “foreign” birth to attacks on his patriotism—Mitt Romney, to use a prominent example, often trumpets the falsehood that Obama has gone around the world to apologize for America. All of this is why I wasn’t surprised to learn that wealthy Republican donors plan to launch a salvo of personal attacks on the president, in order to hurt his standing with a public that still likes him, even if they are divided on his presidency. Writing for The New York Times , Jeff Zeleny...

Tie Goes to the President

(Flickr/acqueline.poggi)
The basic odds make it fairly unlikely that the Democrats will maintain their Senate majority. They only hold a narrow 53-47 edge after the 2010 midterms, and the party must defend 23 seats in 2012, compared to just ten for Republicans. Their troubles only increased when moderate Democrats hailing from conservative states—Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad as the most notable—decided that now was the time to retire, all but ceding their spots to the GOP. Every scenario looked doom and gloom for their chances. But then Republicans decided to sabotage those odds. First Olympia Snowe announced her retirement, after growing tired of her party's partisan rancor. Her seat is expected to go to the independent—but Democratic friendly—candidate Angus King. Last week, Indiana Republicans booted out longtime Senator Dick Lugar in favor of a Tea Party challenger, while Nebraskans selected the right wing candidate in their primary earlier this week. Polling maestro Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight is out...

Mitt Romney, Servant of the Right

(Victor Juhasz)
T he defining feature of the Republican presidential primaries was the constant Sturm und Drang over Mitt Romney’s ability to win Republican voters. Pundits claimed that Romney had a “ceiling” with conservatives in the party, and opponents like former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum routinely assailed the front-runner as a candidate whose commitment to conservatism was short-lived and inauthentic—a human “Etch A Sketch,” in the words of Romney’s own campaign spokesperson. But when Romney locked up the nomination after months of bitter fighting, the party promptly came together behind him. Santorum, Romney’s main competitor, dropped out of the race on April 10. One week later, polls showed that 90 percent of Republican voters supported Romney against Barack Obama—identical to the number of Democrats who said they backed the president. What drove the quick embrace of the former Massachusetts governor? It wasn’t love; conservatives aren’t thrilled with Romney, even as they prepare to...

Crazy and Crazier

Fear this baby, America!
In the last few years, many different kinds of communication technologies have been democratized. For instance, up until not too long ago, making a film that didn't look amateurish was impossible without a whole bunch of equipment whose expense made it out of reach for almost everyone, not to mention the technical expertise required. But today, you can buy a professional-quality HD video camera for a couple thousand dollars and video editing software like Apple's Final Cut Pro for a couple hundred, and presto, you can make what looks to be a "real" movie. That means that a kid with a dream to be the next Steven Spielberg can see that dream realized. It also means that a crazy person with a conspiracy theory can see his dream realized. Which brings us to two new movie previews for anti-Obama films that, when you look at them, seem remarkably like "real" movies. The first, called "2016," is based on Dinesh D'Souza's nutty book "The Roots of Obama's Rage." It explains how Barack Obama is...

Bush Endorses Romney

(White House photo by Eric Draper. Via Wikimedia Commons)
Mitt Romney clearly coveted the endorsement of George H.W. Bush. He first met with Bush the Elder in December at the former president's Texas home in an appearance everyone assumed equaled a full endorsement. However Romney staged a second event in March for the official endorsement as another photo-op with Bush 41. Meanwhile the other Bush who once occupied the oval office was nowhere to be seen, never rolled out as a public endorser even though Romney clearly wrapped up the nomination weeks ago. George W. Bush finally entered the fray Tuesday to let the country know whom he plans to vote for this fall: “I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home — the White House. Yeesh, talk about lackluster. The string of Republicans reluctantly supporting Mitt Romney has become one of the dominant tropes of the 2012 election, with each seemingly unable to muster any kind of verve...

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Washington, DC, image from Google Earth
Journalist Marc Ambinder is leaving DC, and on his departure he wrote a pretty good listicle on what he's learned in his time here. His piece goes relatively easy on our nation's capital when it comes to its moral and spiritual depravity, but he makes some excellent points, including this: Consistency is not a terribly interesting or useful proxy for effectiveness in a politician, and yet it seems to be the value held most high—or the value that, because someone is most easily able to convince you that someone else lacks it, becomes important. Politicians and the media haven't developed the vocabulary to explain how positions evolve. Marc is absolutely right about this. You don't have to be a flip-flopper of Romnulan (I'm trademarking that word, by the way; feel free to contact me for licensing opportunities) proportions to fear the consequences of anything that looks like inconsistency; even the slightest deviation from what you've said previously can be punished. Yet how many of us...

Big Sky's the Limit

(AP/Andrea Helling)
M ontana knows all about buying elections. In 1899, just ten years after it became a state, William Andrews Clark, known as the Copper King, spent an estimated $400,000—the equivalent of $11 million today—to buy the votes of state legislators to send him to the United States Senate. After a lengthy investigation, Clark resigned before the Senate could boot him out. The scandal turned from shocking to farcical when Clark, who bragged that he “never bought a man who wasn’t for sale,” returned to Montana and the lieutenant governor reappointed him to the position from which he’d just been removed. The governor later revoked the appointment, but Clark's third attempt at higher office proved the charm: After spending enough on political campaigns to ensure a state legislature amenable to his re-re - election, he prevailed and sat in the Senate until 1907. Mark Twain said of the affair that Clark had “so sweetened corruption that in Montana it no longer has an offensive smell.” In the early...

What Romney's Medicare Plan Actually Does

(Flickr/Images of Money)
DC journos have spent much of the 2012 election trying to answer the question of how exactly a President Romney would governor. On one side, there are the skeptics who never bought into Romney’s rhetoric during the Republican nomination. They argue Romney is, at heart, still a moderate northeastern governor, a businessman unsuited for the extremism that has come to dominate his party. Others are equally convinced that Romney must be taken at face value. Sure he might have positioned himself in the middle while he governed a state dominated by Democrats, but he has spent the past five years running for president full-time, aligning himself with every right-wing whim over the course of his two campaigns. He’s the Republican who sought the endorsement of Ted Nugent, discarded a gay spokesman, and calls corporations people. Lest we forget, it was Romney who was poised to run as the right-wing challenger to John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in 2008 before Mike Huckabee swooped in to steal the...

Bombs Away

There’s no arguing that the Romney campaign’s formula for winning the GOP nomination—attack and destroy, attack and destroy—worked. But it also meant that their man left little or no positive impression with voters. The “pro-Romney” ads were overwhelmingly anti-Gingrich or anti-Santorum. In Florida alone, his campaign and super PAC spent a head-spinning $15.4 million on ads; exactly one of them was positive. Combine the negativity with Romney’s rich-and-poor gaffes and terminal social awkwardness, and you end up with one of the most startling poll numbers heading into the general election: Sixty percent of Americans find President Obama likeable, but only 31 percent say the same of his Republican opponent. You can debate how much likeability should matter to voters; today the Prospect ’s Paul Waldman reminded us that Democrats weren’t so crazy about the whole “who would you rather have a beer with?” question in 2000 and 2004. But the Obama campaign knows that it does matter—a lot—and...

Is Mitt Romney a Job Creator or a Job Destroyer?

Mitt Romney creating, or possibly destroying, jobs.
The Obama and Romney campaigns have released competing ads, both concerning Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital. The Obama ad, which Jamelle posted here , attacks Bain Capital for buying, eviscerating, and then selling off a company called GST Steel in Kansas City, leaving the good hard-working people there jobless and desperate. The Romney ad, on the other hand, tells an entirely different story, that of Steel Dynamics, a company that employs thousands of good hard-working people, thanks to Mitt Romney. So which story should we believe? I'll give you the answer in a moment, but first, let's look at the Romney ad: So who's right? Is Mitt Romney a job-creator, or a job-destroyer? The answer is ... yes! Obama would like people to believe that Romney's work in private equity consisted of buying companies, tearing them to pieces, and selling off bits of the carcass, perhaps running over a child's toe with his limousine as he drove away from the shuttered plant. Romney would like people to...

Romney's "Boring" Choice

(Flickr/Austen Hufford)
Politico nabbed an incredibly unsurprising scoop this morning: Mitt Romney will probably select an "incredibly boring white guy" as his running mate. That's the description attributed to one unnamed Republican official, stating the obvious. Much of the VP speculation has centered on the exciting young politicians from the class of 2010. Perhaps Romney would select Suzanna Martinez or Marco Rubio in the hopes of peeling away some of the Hispanic vote. Or South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in an effort to rebut charges that Republicans are waging a war on women. Who knows, maybe Romney could even tap Senator Rand Paul if he wants to make sure the elder Paul doesn't use his delegates to cause a ruckus at the Tampa convention. None of those choices would fit Romney's standard modus operandi. He's the cold calculating consultant, disinclined to any flashy decisions, tending toward the safe bet. The VP selection typically has only a minimal impact on boosting the overall ticket's...

Mitt Romney Reads Rob Portman's Amazon Reviews

Not whom Mitt Romney will pick as his running mate. (Flickr/Marc Nozell)
I don't know about you, but when I have to make a large consumer decision — pretty much anything over $100 — I put way too much thought into it. This is partly the curse of the internet, where there is a near-infinite amount of information available about everything. So I read a million reviews, obsessing over every detail, trying in vain to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of every conceivable feature, eventually reaching a point where every option seems like the wrong one and I'm sure I'll be disappointed no matter what I choose. The last time I bought a smartphone it took me about six months. I suspect that Mitt Romney is going through something similar right about now. Romney is a famously methodical thinker, and I picture him with a ten-page pro/con list for every possible vice-presidential candidate, going over and over them all until none of them looks like a winner. All his options have weaknesses, and none of them seems to have the ability to do anything but make Romney...

Obama Hits Mitt Where It Hurts

(White House/Flickr)
The latest advertisement from the Obama campaign—which will air in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Virginia—is, so far, the most important one of the president’s re-election effort. Take a look: This is a brutal attack on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, and far more effective than anything launched by the former Massachusetts governor’s Republican opponents in the GOP primary. The workers are given space to speak for themselves, and the result is a focus on the human toll of Romney’s career. The ad insinuates that this is what a Romney presidency has in store for America. When coupled with continued emphasis on Romney’s opposition to the auto bailouts, it presents Romney as a cold, cruel plutocrat. Here’s why this is crucial. If President Obama has built his“ brand” around honesty and likeability, then Mitt Romney is trying to center his on competence; you may not like the former Massachusetts governor—you may not even trust him—but you know that he can fix the United...

You Like Me! You Really Like Me! Or Maybe You Don't.

Flickr/DonkeyHotey
In an excellent column over at The Daily Beast , former Prospect czar Michael Tomasky points out Mitt Romney's enormous likeability deficit, which seems to grow worse with each passing week. It's not only true impressionistically, polls back it up: Gallup recently found 60 percent of Americans saying Barack Obama is likeable, compared to only 31 percent for Romney. Tomasky does a good job of breaking down all the reasons why, and points out that the last time the candidate considered less likeable won the presidency was 44 years ago, when grumpy Dick Nixon edged smiling Hubert Humphrey. This could well be one of those interesting-but-probably-meaningless correlations, like the taller candidate always winning (which held true for many years until 2004). But given the preponderance of "gut" voting among the American people, it's likely to make a significant difference in November. But what is it that makes a person—not a politician, but someone you meet face to face—likeable? There are...

Going Meta

Tamron Hall about to bring the hammer down on Tim Carney.
Since I wrote a couple of pieces about the story of Mitt Romney possibly being a high-school bully, I've gotten some unsurprising responses. The first, perhaps predictable one, is from conservatives complaining that Barack Obama was never "vetted," and the fact that we've learned about Romney's youthful "hijinks" just shows the media's double-standard. Needless to say, this is just absurd; there were hundreds of articles written in 2008 (and since) about Obama's family and his youth, not to mention the fact that he wrote a pretty frank book about it himself before he ever ran for office. The second complaint—less silly, but related—is that this is all a distraction, and we ought to be talking about real issues. I've already said most of what I have to say about what kind of meaning we should ascribe to the bullying story, assuming it's true. But even if I disagree with the conservatives who are saying that The Washington Post should never even have pursued the story or that it shows...

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