Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Rick Santorum Finally Calls It Quits

(AP Photo / Gene J. Puskar)
As far as challengers to a party establishment are concerned, Rick Santorum was unique. Unlike Ronald Reagan, Santorum didn’t lead an ideological faction. Unlike Gary Hart, he wasn’t the young and dynamic future of his party. He didn’t lead a marginalized wing of the party coalition, like Jesse Jackson did, and he wasn’t a media favorite, like John McCain was. Indeed, there’s a reason why every pundit, myself included, dismissed Santorum as a long shot in the race for the Republican nomination. As a candidate, Santorum combined doctrinaire conservative beliefs with a hostile, combative persona. He wasn’t just against gay rights or abortion; he thought they were destructive to the fabric of the country. It’s not that he opposed Barack Obama; it’s that he argued that the president would turn the country into a Marxist wasteland. But if Rick Santorum was completely unsuitable as a major party nominee, how exactly did he come from behind to stand as Mitt Romney’s most viable challenger?...

Paul Ryan Wants Democratic Friends

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Paul Ryan's budget has become a rallying cry for Democrats, and President Obama's re-election in particular. Republicans have long expressed an antipathy for the general concept of government services, but these were often expressed in the abstract or lone exceptions, with the party generally focusing on the starve-the-beast philosophy of reducing taxes so that government outlays would eventually have to be reduced. Ryan's budget gets that down on paper in crystallized form, codifying those ideas into a specific vision for the future that would gut all government services except health spending, Social Security, and an increased budget for defense, discarding the rest of discretionary spending. Earlier this morning, Ryan told a group of reporters in New York that his budget wasn't actually all that extreme because an anonymous selection of a dozen Democrats have told him they love his bill. From Buzzfeed: "There are a number of democrats but I don’t want to name their names, because I...

Romney to Santorum: You're a Loser

Screen cap from Romney ad.
Both political scientists and political professionals have known for some time that in presidential primaries, momentum matters a lot. Win, and you look like a winner; lose, and you look like a loser. This is manifested in multiple ways, from the tone of news coverage to the ease of fundraising. But seldom does one candidate attack another by saying, "My opponent lost an election, so he's a big loser." I've heard plenty of (mostly liberal) commentators note contemptuously that Rick Santorum lost his last Senate race by 17 points as a reason he ought not be elected president, which I never found particularly persuasive. What's far more important is why he lost by that margin, which is that he sold himself to Pennsylvania voters as a mainstream Republican with a populist streak but then became a venomous culture warrior once in office. But the Mitt Romney campaign has evidently decided it's going to play the loser card in Pennsylvania. What's notable about this ad is that there is no...

Romney Owns the War on Women

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
The latest poll from ABC News and The Washington Post provides another point in President Obama’s upward trend with voters. His approval rating has grown to 50 percent, and his likability—which you can read as an analogue for favorability—dwarfs Mitt Romney’s, 64 percent to 26 percent. The significance of this is still small, but in a head-to-head matchup with the former Massachusetts governor, Obama wins 51 percent to 44 percent. In the overall average, as tallied by Pollster , the president is still underwater—47.1 percent disapproval to 48 percent approval—but he’s still on the upswing. The big news out of this poll is that it provides further evidence that Republicans have deeply tarnished their brand with women by fighting a loud battle over contraception, defending conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh, and siding with GOP governors like Virginia’s Bob McDonnell as they pushed laws that forced invasive procedures on women. The damage is so strong, in fact, that it has...

What Does Romney Have To Hide?

(Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund)
The Democrats are putting all their emphasis on touting the Buffett Rule ahead of a Senate vote for next week to coincide with Tax Day. The push is ostensibly an effort to twist the arm of a few of the more moderate Republicans—say the two Maine Senators or running for reelection in Democratic territory Scott Brown—under the hope that they'll fear public backlash if they vote down the measure, a policy favored by over half of the country. However even if they peel off a few Republicans there is little hope that the bill would make any progress in the GOP-controlled House. Instead, as a conference call hosted by the Obama campaign Monday afternoon made clear, the push is an effort to focus attention on Mitt Romney's wealth as a viability as the Republican nomination contest begins to come to a conclusion. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin joined Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on the call. Messina used most of his time talking with the...

Today's Unnecessarily Violent Metaphor

Be veeewy quiet - Mitt Womney is about. (Flickr/theseanster93)
For a long time, the National Journal was known as the most staid and serious of Washington publications, chronicling the legislative and regulatory processes with reliable sobriety. Of late, however, they've been trying to liven things up. Which is all well and good, but really, is this kind of thing really necessary? I'm not squeamish or anything, and I know that political coverage is already full of martial metaphors (from "campaign" on down), but come on. "Kill shot"? What is Santorum, some kind of varmint whose brains will be spread across the Pennsylvania landscape?

When $1 Million Isn't Rich Enough

(Flickr/Fortune Live Media)
Democrats are doing everything they can to make the Buffett Rule as the predominant issue of the week before it is subjected to a Senate vote on Tax Day. The rule—named after Warren Buffett's frequent refrain that his secretary pays a higher effective tax rate than the multi-billionaire investor—would force multimillionaires to give up some of their tax breaks until they pay at least a minimum rate of 30 percent. Obama is headed to Florida tomorrow to promote the bill, while his campaign is highlighting the rule as a campaign issue in contrast to Mitt Romney's tax disclosures he released earlier this year, which revealed that the probable Republican candidate paid taxes of just 13.9 percent on his $21.7 million in income in 2010. I'm sure many of us at the Prospect will have more to say about the bill over the course of the next week, but one minor detail in the New York Times write up of the push is worth highlighting : The Senate legislation would establish a minimum 30 percent tax...

Don't Worry about the Super PACs

(401K/Flickr)
Writing for the New York Times , Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg report that American Crossroads—the largest of the Republican super PACs—will soon begin its advertising blitz against President Obama: With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month. But they said they would focus the bulk of the first phase from May through July, which they believe is a critical period for making an impression on voters, before summer vacations and the party conventions take place. Steven J. Law, the group’s leader, said the ads would address the challenge of unseating a president who polls show is viewed favorably even though many people disapprove of his handling of the economy. Basically, Mr. Law said, “how to dislodge voters from him.” Independent of a declining economy, or any other disaster, I have my doubts about whether this would be effective. President Obama is already well-defined in the...

Bait and Convert

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
The 2012 Republican primaries were without question the most religious party contest in memory. Nearly all the major candidates put their religious beliefs at or near the center of their public personas, from the puritanical scold Rick Santorum, to the prayer warrior Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, producer of books and movies on the importance of God in American politics. As for the Almighty himself, He apparently told no fewer than three separate candidates (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Santorum) that they should run. Awfully sneaky of Him not to tell them they were going to lose, but who has time to consult the fine print when you're hearing messages from above? Yet in the end, the candidate who prevailed was the one least interested in talking about his religion. That's not because Mitt Romney isn't devout, but because he's all too aware that his Mormonism presents some political complications. Many evangelicals consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) a...

Sorry Republicans, Mitt Romney Is Just as Weak as He Looks

(NewsHour/Flickr)
Yesterday, at The Washington Post , Ezra Klein argued that Mitt Romney is a much stronger general election candidate than he might look at first glance. As Klein points out, there’s no way that a moderate governor of Massachusetts wins the nomination in a red-blooded GOP without some political skill. Moreover, Romney’s big weakness in the primary—his record for centrism—could become an asset in the fall; it gives him a place from which he can appeal to moderate and independent voters. And above all else, Klein notes, is the fact that external factors—the economy, or foreign policy—could take their toll on Obama and elevate Romney to the White House. On each count, I’m skeptical. For starters, I’m not sure that Romney won the nomination as much as it is that Republicans resigned themselves to Romney’s candidacy, and organized around him once it became clear that there were no other alternatives. As it stands, Romney took real damage from Rick Santorum, a failed former senator who ran a...

Romney Tries to Master His Problem With Women

(Flickr/Shannon Hurst Lane)
A minor kerfuffle emerged among the political chattering class yesterday over RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' statement that the allegations that his party is waging a war on women were as fictitious as a war on caterpillars. Democrats blasted out press releases, falsely indicating that Priebus had equated women's issues with insect issues, misconstruing an awkward metaphor. Yet the substance of what Priebus claimed was objectionable. The GOP's war on women didn't just spring from liberals' imaginations. It developed when the party decided to turn reproductive rights into a contentious issue, proposing bills in Congress that would have allowed any employer to refrain from providing women with birth control, Mitt Romney declaring his intention to ruin Planned Parenthood, and the tepid response to Rush Limbaugh's offensive descriptions of Sandra Fluke. That disdain for women has been born out in polls; Romney, for example, now trails Obama by 18 percent among women. I might be reading too...

March's Disappointing Jobs Report

(Chrstopher/Flickr)
For the March jobs report, economists were expecting another month where the economy grew by more than 200,000 jobs. Instead, what we received—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—was a disappointing backslide into the anemic months of last fall. The economy created 120,000 jobs in March, a huge drop compared to previous months. At the same time, however, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent. This looks good, but it isn’t; the employment to population ratio dropped a tenth to 58.5 percent, and if labor force participation had remained steady from February, then the unemployment rate would have grown to 8.4 percent. On the bright side, the composition of the unemployed has begun to change. Fewer are people who lost their jobs, and more are people who chose to leave them . In other words, a growing number of people feel confident enough about the job market that they will choose a brief period of unemployment to find a better deal. This is in line with the latest measure...

You're Gonna Make It After All

The 20th century's most important hat toss.
The first grownup television show I can remember watching as a wee pup in the 1970s was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a favorite of my mother's (and millions of other women's). It was pretty revolutionary for its time, a show built around a single working woman who was uncertain of herself and vulnerable (and the victim of constant casual sexism), but also smart, competent, and determined to be successful in a world ruled by men. It made Moore probably the central cultural icon of the feminist movement's key period. The show ended its run in 1977, but it was no surprise when Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980 recruited Moore to encourage women to vote for Carter. Here's the ad she did: If Moore was the central cultural feminist icon of the 1970s, the central political/activist icon was Gloria Steinem, who is still going strong 40 years after she co-founded Ms. magazine. And she's now doing ads for Barack Obama. As Ari Melber observed , the Obama campaign on YouTube is...

Playing the Harvard Card

(Flickr/Patricia Drury)
This fall’s presidential election will pit two candidates who have about as much populism in their veins as, say, Queen Elizabeth or John Kerry. But while President Obama has made a promising start at poking fun at his patrician Republican opponent—having a pointed chuckle at Mitt Romney for calling Paul Ryan’s budget “ marvelous ”—Mitt’s attempts to paint Obama as a “pointy-headed elite” could use a bit of fine-tuning. Today, Romney returned to a variation on his favorite dig at his rival, telling folks in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that the president's problem is that he spent “too much time at Harvard.” Obama did log three years there, getting his law degree. Romney’s two Harvard degrees took four years to attain, however. Perhaps those years gave him a deep distaste for the place? Sure: so deep that he sent three of his sons there, has donated more than $50,000 to the school, and has more than a dozen Harvard advisers. In 2006, he told C-Span his time there was “ terrific .” Was it...

Even More Dems Support Marriage Equality

(Flickr/Center for American Progress)
By this point, support for same-sex marriage isn't much of a question in Democratic politics. A Gallup poll from last May found that 69 percent of Democrats support marriage equality, a number that has probably only increased over the intervening year. Some of the hotshot young Democrats eying 2016—most notably Governors Andrew Cuomo and Martin O'Malley—have passed same-sex marriage bills in their states and tout them as major accomplishments. Now, a collection of former Democratic National Committee chairs has endorsed adding support for same-sex marriage to the party's platform. Per Huffington Post : "We are proud that the Democratic Party fights for working families, economic justice, and equal opportunity for all," said Howard Dean, Donald Fowler, Steve Grossman and David Wilhelm in a joint statement. "Times change but our principles must always remain strong. That is why, as former chairs of the Democratic National Committee, we stand with Freedom to Marry, 22 Democratic senators...

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