Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Other Glass Ceiling

(Eric Palma)
“A divide that existed between the political fortunes of black and white Americans has just been erased, and I guess it’s been erased for all time.” That was the assessment of Julian Bond, the legendary civil-rights leader and former NAACP chair, after Barack Obama won the presidency. It was echoed by prominent African American figures of all generations, who were hopeful that Obama’s victory would usher in a new age of successful black politicians. “In the twenty-first century,” wrote journalist Gwen Ifill in The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, “the breakthrough generation of black politicians is aiming to capture much bigger territory. Obama’s relentless and disciplined giant-slaying campaign is by no means the only story.” But since the momentous 2008 election, there has been no great flowering of black political life, no renaissance in black political leadership. In a year when the first black president is running for re-election, the only African American...

2012 Is a Real Big Deal

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Ruth Marcus is bored by the 2012 presidential election and wants us to turn our attention to 2016 which, she argues, will be a lot more interesting: Enough about the 2012 election already. Let’s talk 2016, which promises to be far more interesting — and consequential. The precise contours of that election, of course, will be shaped by what happens this November. Yet either way, the 2016 campaign will be, much more than 2012, a battle for the ideological soul of one or both parties. Two things. First, for as much as political observers have a sports-like obsession with the back-and-forth of politics, it’s important to remember that there are stakes involved in the outcome of a presidential election. From the future of health-care reform and the welfare state, to the environment and foreign policy, presidential elections have a profound effect on the lives and livelihoods of countless people. That Marcus is bored with 2012 is a sign that she doesn’t take that seriously enough. That...

It's All about the Delegates

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
Rick Santorum nabbed a nominal victory last night, placing first in both Alabama and Mississippi. But the wins do little to change the basic dynamic of the Republican nomination fight. Major newspapers and pundits may opine that the 2012 campaign is a competition driven by momentum, but at the end of the day, delegates are all that matter, and on that count, Santorum didn't make any progress. He won Mississippi 33 percent to 30 percent over Mitt Romney, yet per the AP's delegate count, Romney will receive 14 of Mississippi's delegates compared with 13 for Santorum. It was the same story in Alabama; Santorum's five-point win over Romney's third-place finish only netted the former Pennsylvania senator 19 delegates compared with 12 for Newt Gingrich and 11 for Romney. Results from America Samoa and Hawaii wipe out the two headlining Santorum victories, with Romney picking up 17 delegates between the two, compared with just three for Santorum. March was supposed to be Rick Santorum's...

Gingrich the Undeterred

(Flickr/Joe Crimmings Photography)
Mitt Romney is the candidate of the Northeast, the industrial Midwest, and the Mormon West. Rick Santorum is the candidate of the Plains states and both the upper and lower South. Newt Gingrich is the candidate of—well, not much. Yesterday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, the white South’s dankest backwaters, produced clear victories for Santorum and ended Gingrich’s already-modest hope that he could at least be the candidate of a region. Barring some upheaval, it’s hard to see where Gingrich could win another state. Last week, he ran fourth—behind Ron Paul, dead last—in five of the ten states holding Super Tuesday contests. Like most of the states still to vote, those five were all outside the South. If Gingrich stays in the race, he’ll likely be dueling with Paul for the distinction of coming in next to last. Before this week, by staying in the race, Gingrich deprived Santorum of key victories—in Michigan and Ohio, surely—by splitting the ultra-conservative vote. Yesterday,...

It Ain't About the Grits

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
By now, Mitt Romney was supposed to have this thing wrapped up, but it turned out that he had to go down South and compete in Mississippi and Alabama. Romney called it an "away game," but he did his best, talkin' bout grits and saying "y'all." Shockingly, the Republicans of Dixie didn't quite buy it. But they did buy the guy from Pennsylvania. Which holds a lesson: Cultural affinity isn't just about culture. It's good if you can talk the way a particular group of people do and say sincerely that you eat what they eat, listen to the music they do, and share a common upbringing. That helped Mike Huckabee do so well in the South four years ago. But Rick Santorum is no Southerner, and yet he was the guy whom Republicans in the Southernest of Southern states identified with (and not, notably, Georgia's Newt Gingrich, although Newt was actually born and raised in Pennsylvania as well). So what was that identification about? Put up against Romney, Santorum was more than enough of a Southern...

Democrats' Poisoned Chalice

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay) Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during his election night party, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Lafayette, La. The pre-election polls for the Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi showed a close race. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich were in a near-three-way tie for the first-place spot in both states, with Gingrich edging out his competitors in Mississippi, and Romney taking the slightest of leads in Alabama. That the former Massachusetts governor was even in the running for either state must have been a huge relief to his campaign. More than any other region, the Deep South is fiercely conservative and heavily evangelical—turf that Romney doesn't play well on. To stop Santorum in either state would have been to free the Romney campaign from the bloody slog of an extended nomination fight, allowing the candidate to establish himself definitively as the presumptive nominee. This prospect led to a...

Dumbed Down in Dixie

AP Photo
As usual when the national media look south, there’s been endless “how dumb are they?” chatter this week about the yokels—particularly the white, conservative Republican ones—who live in today’s big primary states, Alabama and Mississippi. The New York Post headline about the tight race between Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum caught the mood perfectly: “It’s Redneck-and-Neck.” Elsewhere, the coastal elites were all abuzz about Alexandra Pelosi’s video on Real Time with Bill Maher , where “average” Mississippians ( i.e. , the white, male, rural minority) say the gol-darndest things, and the survey showing that most Republicans in both states think Obama’s a Muslim and don't believe in evolution. (Just wondering: Have they tried those poll questions out on Republicans in Idaho or Nebraska?) It’s been a reminder that Dixiephobia remains one of the last socially acceptable forms of American bigotry. And one thing’s for sure: The candidates have done nothing to smarten...

Turnout Won't Be a Problem This Fall

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
At The Washington Post , Chris Cillizza suggests that, like the Republican Party, President Obama might have a turnout problem in the fall: A review of the states that have also held Democratic contests this year shows turnout is down sharply from the last time a Democratic president was running largely unopposed for renomination — 1996. Democratic turnout is down significantly in five of eight states that held similar contests in 1996 and 2012 (and where data are available), and six of eight overall, compared to Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign. In general, I’m skeptical that either party will have a turnout problem in the fall. As is almost always the case, partisans on both sides will close ranks when the general election rolls around, and the stakes become more clear. Indeed, the mere fact of having someone to run against will energize turnout, especially when it comes to Republicans, who are eager to drive President Obama from the White House. For now, I can’t blame...

What Does the ACA Do for You?

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the landmark piece of policy for Obama's first term. Save perhaps his response to the Great Recession, the ACA is likely to be the primary measure by which his presidency will be judged in the history books. As long as it is fully implemented, it should help millions of uninsured Americans by shifting more people onto Medicaid, providing subsidies for low-income workers, and forbidding insurance companies from excluding customers based on past illness. The Obama campaign released an interactive flow chart yesterday. One inputs their demographic data—age, sex, and income, for example—and the program spits out various ways the ACA has improved your health-care coverage. As someone who has private insurance, it showed me a list of services my insurance will now be required to cover at no extra charge and highlighted the fact that 80 percent of my monthly payments must be used on funding health service. It also informed me that, thanks to my salary level,...

My Polling Pledge

Current tracking polls from pollster.com.
In the last few days, a number of polls (see here and here ) have shown a dip in support for President Obama, and the reasons are not entirely clear. Is it the rise in gas prices? Maybe. But what about the positive signs on the economy? All well and good, but perhaps the administration is undermining itself by making too much of them. But there are still almost eight months until Election Day, so we'd all be well advised not to make too much of any one poll or any momentary fluctuation. Because that's what these kinds of tracking polls do. They fluctuate. Between now and Election Day, I promise you there will be polls that show Obama comfortably leading, polls that show Romney leading, and polls that show a tie. That was what happened four years ago, and what happens in nearly every election. Take a look at this chart of the 2008 election, from pollster.com . The trend lines show averages of all the polls—with Obama leading until March, then McCain leading for a couple of months, then...

Is Obama Unpopular, or Have the Polls Gone Crazy?

(White House/Flickr)
Polling on the president has been a little weird lately. According to yesterday’s The Washington Post /CBS News poll, 46 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s performance, while 50 percent disapprove. This is on the lower bound of polling for the president, but well within the range we’ve seen over the last several months. Likewise, over the weekend, Gallup found that Obama’s approval rating rose to 49 percent—mostly on the strength of last week’s job report, which saw the economy grow by 227,000 jobs. The New York Times and CBS News registered the most dramatic change in Obama’s standing with the public. In its poll, released yesterday, Obama’s approval rating dipped to 41 percent, the lowest since last summer, when the debt ceiling debacle damaged his standing with Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Jonathan Bernstein says that this is all statistical noise, while Jonathan Chait insists that there is something here; namely, that President Obama’s message—“America...

Romney's Issue with Evangelicals

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Much has been made about Mitt Romney's struggles to win over the conservative base. He's polling even or ahead in Mississippi and Alabama before tonight's primaries, but given past performances, he'd need an act of God to win a Southern state. Gingrich and Santorum splitting the conservative vote might be just such a miracle, but it still seems somewhat unfathomable given Public Policy Polling's sample that puts evangelicals as 70 percent of likely Republican voters in Mississippi and 68 percent in Alabama. That same PPP poll found that voters in these states didn't believe in evolution by large margins—60 percent in Alabama and 66 percent in Mississippi. One has to wonder how that same subsection views Romney's Mormon faith. If these voters interpret the Bible so strictly that they doubt evolution, they probably don't look too favorably upon a religion that claims Jesus reappeared in the middle of Missouri once he'd finished up in Jerusalem. Mormonism is a fast-growing religion, but...

The Obama Campaign Takes on Health Care

Obama campaign video
The Obama campaign has decided to make the case for the Affordable Care Act, with a series of videos and ads highlighting people who are being helped by the provisions already in effect. They are, unsurprisingly, expertly produced and extremely moving. Take a look at this one: I'm sure Republicans will object that this is too emotional and manipulative. But guess what? There actually are real people's lives at stake. This issue isn't just about ideological principles, or about a political calculation of how the ACA will affect the two parties over the coming decades. Those things aren't completely irrelevant, but much more important are the costs and benefits to living human beings. How persuasive will this be? Well, it isn't as though every voter is going to be sat down and shown John Boehner or somebody saying "If the government mandates that you buy health insurance, you might as well be living in the Gulag!" then get shown this video. If that were the case, it'd be no contest. But...

Mitt Romney Will Bury You

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
That Mitt Romney has a massive war chest is obvious at this point, but on occasion, it still comes as a surprise to see how much he outspends his opponents. This chart from Buzzfeed shows the extent to which Romney has buried his competitors: This is one reason I’ve always been reluctant to predict success for any of Romney’s competitors in the Republican primary. The ability to spend this much money is a huge advantage, and while it doesn’t guarantee victory, the only challenge could come from someone with deep pockets, deep party support, a superior organization, or both. As it stands, Mitt Romney has been the only candidate to fit either bill, which is why it’s always been safe to bet on his eventual victory.