Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Why More Democrats Aren't Coming Out for Marriage Equality

One of the few pro-marriage-equality Senate candidates. (Flickr/Edward Kimmel)
American public opinion on same-sex marriage has been steadily moving in the direction of support for marriage equality for some time, and recently some polls have shown a majority of the public in favor ( see here for example). Politicians, however, have lagged the public on this issue, none more visibly than Barack Obama, who is famously "evolving" on the issue. One presumes that evolution will reach its higher stage some time after he gets re-elected, but you'd think that candidates running for lower offices might be a little more willing to come out in favor of marriage equality, particularly since it's so obvious that such a position will only become more popular over time. But as Jonathan Bernstein tells us , that doesn't seem to be happening, at least when it comes to Democratic Senate candidates. "The web sites of the 10 Democratic candidates running as challengers or for open seats show that very few of these candidates are eager to jump on this particular bandwagon. Only two...

Why Romney Won't Ever Be Able to Stop Playing to the Base

Who do I love? You! You're the one I love! (Flickr/Terence Burlij/PBS NewsHour)
A lot of the things that consume us during a presidential campaign have absolutely nothing to do with what kind of a president any of the contenders will be. It isn't as though during the last three years we've said, "Boy, it sure was a good thing we spent all that time talking about Reverend Wright in 2008." But some things actually matter, and so it is with the discussion about whether Mitt Romney can comfortably appeal to voters in the center and to what degree he has to continue reassuring his conservative base. This will not cease to be a relevant question on the day he takes office. Instead, he'd be constantly confronted with choices that involve potentially angering conservatives. So it's useful to understand just what forces would be operating on a President Romney. Steve Kornacki makes a useful comparison with George W. Bush, who despite his own rather profound conservatism found ways even as a candidate to distance himself from his party. And that was (for the most part)...

How Mitt Romney's Supporters Are Like Uncle Leo

Uncle Leo and his anti-Semitic hamburger.
We always knew that Mormonism was going to be a touchy issue in this presidential campaign. After all, there are still many Americans who express discomfort with the idea of a Mormon president (up to 40 percent , depending on how you ask the question). But it's one thing when you ask that question in the abstract, and quite another when we're talking about a particular Mormon. In that case, I'm fairly sure that nearly everyone is going to decide their votes on how they feel about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, not how they feel about Joseph Smith. Even Robert Jeffress, the Baptist minister and Rick Perry supporter who only a couple of months ago denounced Mormonism as a "cult," just announced that he'll be supporting a member of that cult for president, since Obama is so vile unto his sight. But all that doesn't mean that the Romney campaign and its supporters aren't going to be on the lookout for any anti-Mormon slights, so long as they come from Democrats. You may remember that back...

They're Just Not That into Romney

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Yeeesh, what does Mitt Romney have to do to drum up a bit of enthusiasm from his party? Sure, he's got to be feeling pretty content as each day brings another Republican casting aside the somehow-still-going campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to accept the inevitable proposition that Romney will be the party's nominee. Yet few can seem to offer an explanation for why they like Romney beyond the fact that they’re stuck with him. Shortly after I noted John Boehner’s lackluster endorsement yesterday, reporters asked Mitch McConnell for his take on Romney and were given the same nod-and-sigh routine : “Yeah, I support Governor Romney for president of the United States,” Mr. McConnell said. “And he is going to be the nominee. And as you have noticed, the party is in the process of unifying behind him. And I think it’s going to be an incredibly close, hard-fought race. Everybody is banding — bandying polls around, but just look at the Gallup tracking poll yesterday actually had...

Cautious Candidates

I am smiling. Please don't mock me. (Flickr/World Affairs Council of Philadelphia)
After John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, some people saw the origins in McCain's love of craps, a game involving little in the way of strategy but a willingness to take big risks. McCain was quite unusual in his penchant for risk-taking; the life of a politician, where your words are watched closely and there is always a whole party of people out to destroy you, not to mention the fact that you constantly have to appeal to ornery voters, inclines one toward caution. As Time 's Adam Sorenson says , in today's campaign, "Every semi-public utterance will find its way into the news; every available scrap of personal history will worm its way to daylight. That’s why we end up with candidates like Romney and Obama, men of catalog-perfect families, immaculate pasts and abundant political caution." I'd actually argue that Obama has exhibited what might be called a general cautiousness punctuated by episodes of extreme boldness, none more so than his decision to seize the...

Electorate Still Dislikes Romney

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Mitt Romney is starting the general election running far behind Barack Obama. A CNN poll puts Obama ahead by 52-43 percent over Romney, a wider margin than Obama actually won in 2008. That's paired with a new Washington Post /ABC News poll that doesn't include a head-to-head matchup but still offers a bit of discouraging news for the new presumptive Republican nominee. Almost half of the country has unfavorable views of Romney. Just 35 percent say they like Romney while 47 percent dislike the former Massachusetts governor. Meanwhile Obama sits comfortably with 56 percent favorability and only 40 percent unfavorable. As has been the case in most recent polls, Obama owes this advantage to Romney's trouble with women voters. Obama leads Romney 55-39 percent in CNN's numbers, and only 27 percent of women had a favorable impression of Romney in the WaPo survey. Both polls were conducted during height of the faux-outrage following the manufactured media controversy around Hilary Rosen's...

Try Not to Get So Excited Boehner

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Mitt Romney had no trouble garnering more endorsements than his opponents during the Republican primaries, though a number of prominent figures held off from granting Romney their nod until his nomination was all but certain. John Boehner was one such politician—no huge surprise given his position in the party (then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi refrained from directly endorsing Obama in the 2008 primary though it was clear she supported him against Hillary Clinton). Now that Romney is the presumptive candidate Boehner is free to offer his support, but boy does he sound unexcited about the idea: “It’s clear now that Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee,” the Speaker told reporters after a House GOP conference meeting. “I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can put Americans back to work and contrast sharply with the failed economic policies of President Obama. And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win.” This is just the latest in a...

Trouble at Home

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
A lot could change between now and Election Day, but barring major changes over the next six months, it looks like it will be a close election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Real Clear Politics' average puts Obama ahead by a little less than three points, and most polls over the past month have given the president a slight lead. However, as the Prospect 's Paul Waldman pointed out yesterday, even a close election plays into Obama's favor. An AP count of electoral votes put 242 in Obama's column as either solid or leaning Democrat, with 105 "up for grabs"—all states that Obama carried in 2008. He only needs to capture a small portion of those states again to gain the necessary 270 electoral votes. Another sign that the map favors Obama: His campaign is expanding its efforts beyond the states he won in 2008 to include efforts in traditionally Republican ground. Over the weekend, The New York Times reported on the Obama campaign's move to test the waters in Arizona: President...

Romney Takes On the Rich!

Mitt Romney's old ski lodge, aglow with the warm light of taxpayer subsidy.
Like a good liberal, I feel a tiny pang of guilt when I do my taxes every year and see how much the government is subsidizing my choice to buy a home. Not that I'm going to turn it down as long as it's in place, but the mortgage interest deduction is not easy to justify. Even if there are reasons to believe that homeownership is a good thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that the government should pay you thousands of dollars to do it, particularly when you were probably going to do it anyway. Mitt Romney is down to a modest three homes these days (the house in Boston, the lake house in New Hampshire, and the beach house in La Jolla; he got rid of the ski lodge in Deer Valley and a second Massachusetts house), but that didn't stop him from suggesting that we might consider eliminating the mortgage interest deduction for second (and third and fourth) homes. The idea was quickly attacked from multiple sides (unsurprisingly, the National Association of Realtors, one of the most powerful...

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...

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