Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Goodbye To All That?

(Flickr / akosikenet)
The GOP primary has been as long as a Wagner opera, but we might finally be at the curtain call. We’ve heard for ages that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee, but the other candidates and the party’s base have doggedly challenged this from the start. But this week, Romney collected some of the final puzzle pieces that he needs to quash his remaining opponents. He won a long-awaited endorsement from Florida Senator and Republican darling Marco Rubio yesterday, a move the potential vice-presidential candidate said he wouldn’t make until the race was over . Gingrich downsized his cash-strapped campaign this week, and Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson have both said that the former speaker has no chance of winning. The last six Ron Paul groupies have run out of money and are heading home. Santorum’s campaign infrastructure is incredibly small , and he's being outspent by Romney in every state. The Republican National Committee has already started prepping for the general...

A Good Old-Fashioned Campaign

Don't you people get it? (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In 2008, Barack Obama ran what was in some ways a revolutionary campaign. He took advantage of the possibilities of social media more than any candidate before him, allowing supporters to connect with each other without (too much) involvement or guidance from the campaign itself. They could design their own signs, set up their own meetings, figure out how to connect with the people they knew on their own. As a result, Obama volunteers felt a sense of ownership over the campaign in a way volunteers seldom do, leading them to work all the harder. But as far as I remember, Obama didn't go around saying, "This campaign is revolutionary" all that often. He may have talked about the campaign in lofty, poetic terms as something unique, but he didn't spend too much time talking about how special the campaign was specifically as an organizational effort. In fact, when a candidate starts saying how unique his campaign is, it's usually because he's failing at the traditional measures by which...

Get Ready for Iowa 2016

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
I'm of the same mindset as Salon 's Alex Pareene: it's far, far too early to begin 2016 speculation. Political prognosticating is a dangerous game; it's hard to know what lies on the horizon several months from now, let alone several years. A few years ago a star governor of South Carolina seemed like a probable Republican candidate until he took a few too many hikes on the Appalachian trail. Or six years back, when the junior Illinois senator seemed like a far more likely Democratic candidate in 2012 or even 2016. Hell, we don't even know if the Republicans will have a competitive primary in 2016 or if Mitt Romney will gather the forces for a reelection bid. I'm not sure every politician shares my wariness of long-term political forecasts. I received a pair of emails in my inbox yesterday afternoon alerting me of scheduled appearances by two hotshot Republicans in that harbinger of presidential campaigns, the Hawkeye State. Senator Rand Paul will headline the Iowa Faith and Freedom...

In Fact, Obama is Stronger Than He Looks

(White House/Flickr)
Lately, whenever I note a poll showing good results for President Barack Obama, I feel compelled to include a note about the reliability of polls this far out from the election—they're not particularly reliable—and the fact that other presidents who have been polling well have nonetheless gone down in defeat come November. The most salient example for this is President George H.W. Bush, who rode high in public opinion after the Gulf War, but was brought down by a rapidly deteriorating economy. It has never been hard to imagine a similar trajectory for Obama; the post-Osama bump, followed by a prolonged slide. On the other side of things, and to make another analogy to the 1992 election, Mitt Romney isn’t the only presidential candidate to finish a divisive primary with high unfavorability ratings, nor is he the only one to inspire distrust among his base. Bill Clinton faced a similar scenario, and he went on to defeat the first President Bush in the fall. Both sets of facts are...

Obama Rallies the Planned Parenthood Troops

(Photo: screenshot from Planned Parenthood video)
Republicans haven't been quite as eager to moralize against contraception after Rush Limbaugh gave voice to their true feelings, but Democrats aren't ready to let their argument that the GOP is waging a war on women slip by the wayside. Mitt Romney, a candidate who rarely seems comfortable when the discussion strays from the economy, is hoping that the issue will become a non-factor once he officially dismisses Rick Santorum and heads to the general election. Barack Obama clearly has a different view. The president issued a new subtle attack yesterday in a video where he directly addresses supporters of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "For you and for most Americans protecting women's health is a mission that stands above politics," Obama says in the two-minute video. "And yet over the past year you've had to stand up to politicians who want to deny millions of women the care they rely on, and inject themselves into decisions that are best made between a woman and her doctor." The...

Superfan Snoozefest

(Flickr / sethdickens)
Joe McCutchen isn’t your average Mitt Romney supporter. When it comes to the Republican front-runner, the seventy-two-year-old former carpet mill owner “is just so fired up, [he] can’t even sleep at night,” and makes sure to wear a campaign sticker on his lapel every day. McCutchen is what The Washington Post called one of the “sasquatches of American politics: rumored, hoped-for, so elusive that they can seem imaginary … Mitt Romney’s superfans”—of which only 346 have been found in the wild. Most Romney supporters are a bit more tepid. According to a Gallup poll from March 8-11, only 35 percent of Republicans would vote enthusiastically for Romney. The halfhearted approval for the former Massachusetts governor continues as you move up the echelons of the party—the candidate has only won the endorsement of 91 GOP members of Congress so far. As a result, primary turnout has lagged, a trend that some Republicans fear will translate to the general election. But things aren’t looking too...

Republican Grassroots Trust Establishment Over Themselves

(Flickr/BlueRobot)
Reporters and Republicans alike have finally come to their senses and begun to treat Mitt Romney as the presumptive nominee. Republican officials such as Jeb Bush and Kevin McCarthy have recently endorsed Romney, and a Rick Santorum victory in a southern state (Lousiana this past weekend for those keeping track) no longer sets off a round of speculation on whether Romney might be derailed. Thankfully that shift has also largely put an end to talk of a brokered Republican convention. I've written in the past that even if Romney fails to secure the required 1,144 delegates, the party wouldn't have been inclined to overturn the popular vote, and the ranks of possible saviors are thinning as Bush and others throw their lot behind Romney. A CNN poll this week found that a majority of Republican voters have also tuned out Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum's fantasy of a brokered convention. But it was only a slight 53 percent majority. A whopping 43 percent said they would prefer to have the...

Voters Pre-Disappointed In Mitt Romney

I'm not so bad, am I? (Flickr/davelawrence8)
As Jamelle noted , a new Washington Post /ABC News poll reinforces what other polls have shown, that folks haven't really taken a cotton to Mitt Romney. Most worrying for him is that only 35 percent of independent voters view him favorably. The good news for him is that voters, having already been disappointed with him, won't go through that inevitable period of a presidency in which your unreasonably high hopes are dashed and you turn against the president. The creation of those unreasonable hopes requires two things: an inspiring individual and an inspiring story. Sometimes "change" is enough of an inspiring story, but without the inspiring individual, change doesn't sound poetic and glorious. And all along, Romney has presented himself primarily as an effective manager, which might be what you need, but it won't make your heart go all aflutter. Nevertheless, the Post has also managed to find a few people who are nuts for the Mittster: These are the sasquatches of American politics...

The Best Signs from Yesterday's Tea Party Rally

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
Tea Partiers descended on the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to voice their disapproval of Obamacare as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require citizens to purchase health insurance or else face a nominal fee once the bill has been fully implemented in 2014. Initially a conservative solution—originating at Bush's favorite think tank The Heritage Foundation—the mandate has come to symbolize conservative distaste with the bill that will expand coverage to millions of currently uninsured Americans. The rally on a lawn north of the Capitol was hosted by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers' political arm that has funded many of the Tea Party's major gatherings. AFP president Tim Phillips kicked off the proceedings, leading the crowd in chants of "repeal the bill." A sea of over a thousand Tea Partiers—largely middle-aged or elderly, and almost all white—in red "Hands Off Health Care" t-shirts were in attendance from across the...

No One Likes Mitt Romney

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Throughout the year, Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have been consistently under water; by double-digits, more Americans dislike than like the former Massachusetts governor. As time went on—and voters grew familiar with him and his record—the assumption was that this would improve. So far, however, it hasn’t. According to the latest poll from ABC News and the Washington Post , Romney has an unprecedently high unfavorability rating. Fifty percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the presumptive Republican nominee, while 34 percent rate him positively. His favorability score is the lowest since ABC News and the Washington Post began polling in 1984, and his unpopularity is matched only by Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton circa 2008. The big problem for Romney, as far as his popularity goes, is that Republicans are still “meh” about his candidacy. Only 62 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of conservatives view him favorably. Of course, this isn’t insurmountable. When the...

Be Prepared

(Flickr / Calsidyrose)
Today wasn't a good day for Obamacare. As Mother Jones reporter—and Prospect alum—Adam Serwer pointed out on Twitter , it was as if "Obama's lawyer brought a butter knife to a bazooka fight." In the aftermath of the second day of hearings on the Affordable Care Act, the fate of the legislation seems much more precarious thanks to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's unfortunate stab at defending the individual mandate. When you're going in against the big guns—and Paul Clement and the Supreme Court bench are pretty scary people to face—you come prepared. Today's health-care blunder isn't the only political battle this season featuring mismatched opponents. Santorum definitely brought a knife to the primary gun fight. At every turn Santorum—who owes his first success of the primary to a trusty pick-up truck thanks to his nonexistent infrastructure— is outspent , outraised , and outpaced in delegate collecting. Poor guy just wasn't ready for the big leagues. But, when Mitt Romney jumps...

Will Marco Rubio Win Latino Votes? Probably Not.

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
It’s obvious that the GOP is beginning to panic about their poor performance with Latino voters. The Hill , for example, reports that Senate Republicans are working on a watered-down version of the DREAM Act, in an attempt to win back some Hispanic support. Senators Jon Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchinson are working on one variation, while the GOP’s Great Latino Hope—Senator Marco Rubio of Florida—is working on another. Both are expected to be unveiled when Mitt Romney official wins the Republican presidential nomination. But given the degree to which Latinos are extremely disdainful of the GOP’s five-year battle against comprehensive immigration reform, its routine attacks on immigrants, and its smear campaign against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, it will take much more than an off-brand DREAM Act to build support. There’s a fair chance that Republicans will try to rehabilitate their brand by giving Rubio the vice-presidential nod, but even that relies on the assumption that...

Americans Want Out of Afghanistan

(Flickr/The U.S. Army)
The Afghanistan War is on shakier ground with each passing day. The Obama administration has been eying the conflict warily for some time, and the massacre of Afghani citizens by an errant soldier has forced the White House and its NATO allies to re-evaluate the conflict and its potential end date. According to reports, the Obama administration is weighing if it should speed up the withdrawal of the troops before the 2014 exit date. The 33,000 sent over as part of the surge in 2010 are scheduled to depart next summer, but that will leave 68,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is still considering whether to heed the advice of military leaders to leave the troops in place or to pack up and admit that the fight has become an impossible quagmire. The doves in the administration have growing public sentiment on their side. A New York Times /CBS News poll released Monday revealed an American public increasingly weary of the conflict. A 69 percent majority said that the country...

One Nation, Not Under God

(Flickr/djwhelan)
Picture this scene: A recently elected president announces that he will decline to place his hand on a Bible when taking the oath of office. When people object, he replies that he doesn't believe in God, so it wouldn't make much sense for him to go through the motions of a religious ritual when he does not share that religion's beliefs. Chances are you think such a thing is unlikely. After all, the politician would never have gotten elected in the first place without proclaiming his belief in God. It has happened, however—just not in America. The current prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, is forthright about her atheism and did not put her hand on a Bible at her 2010 swearing-in, generating a meaningful but not outsize controversy . Back here in the United States, however, our politics seem to be consumed more with religion than they have been in quite a while. That's partly because we're in the midst of a contentious Republican primary in which candidates are competing to...

Most Voters Aren't Stupid

(Flickr / Columbia City Blog)
During the February 22 Republican primary debate in Arizona, moderator John King of CNN set up a question about global instability and the president’s ability to affect gas prices by noting that “the American people often don't pay much attention to what's going on in the world until they have to.” The next day, Politico media blogger Dylan Byers flagged the question , describing it “as a comment that warranted explanation” even though it was “not necessarily wrong.” Later that day, King sent Byers a statement defending his question, claiming that he “did not ‘suggest’ and would never suggest Americans are uninformed .” Truth is, the public is poorly informed about politics and public policy, something that has proved true since the start of election survey research. In a 2007 survey , the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press quizzed the public on an array of public affairs questions. Translating the results into a common grading rubric, they found “Americans did not...

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