Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Romney's Problem with Health Care is that He Actually Believes in Reform

In a scoop that demolishes a year’s worth of rhetoric from the Romney campaign, Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski discovers three separate videos in which Mitt Romney urges Barack Obama to adopt Massachusetts-style health care reforms as a model for the rest of the country. Here is one of the more damning videos: Somewhere, a Romney staffer is shaking his fist at those “meddling kids” at Buzzfeed. More seriously, it’s amazing that these were never uncovered by rival Republican candidates. Both Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry could have rescued their campaigns—or at least, damaged Romney—with one of these clips, much less three. That they were a non-issue for the better part of the GOP campaign season is a testament to the poor quality of Romney’s competition. With all of that said, there’s also something useful here for those of us who aren’t out to win the Republican presidential nomination. The key fact about Romney’s rhetoric isn’t that he presents the Massachusetts health plan as a...

No Longer A Lost Cause

(Flickr/Cosmic Smudge)
Liberals weren't too excited about their 2012 electoral chances a few months ago. Even if Barack Obama managed to hold onto the White House, simple math made it tough to imagine Democrats keeping their current majority in the Senate. Democrats will need to defend 23 seats this November, thanks to their success in the 2006-midterm elections, while Republicans only have 10 seats up for grabs. If Republicans manage to flip four seats in November, Mitch McConnell would start off 2013 as the Senate Majority Leader. But, a series of favorable polls coupled with a spate of state-level developments have brightened Democrats' chances. The big news last week was Maine Senator Olympia Snowe's decision to retire at the end of the current session. What was one a safe Republican seat is now considered a toss-up that could easily land in the Democrats column. Two of the Democrats' weakest open seats gained stronger than expected candidates last week as well, with former Senator Bob Kerrey jumping...

Republicans Coalesce Around Romney

(Flickr/KP Tripathi)
Despite the horse-race media coverage before tomorrow's Super Tuesday elections, Mitt Romney remains the odds-on favorite to take the GOP nomination. He has nearly double his leading opponent's delegates, dwarfs Rick Santorum's meager cash stockpile, and has a campaign organization that will go unmatched this late in the race. In case that's not evidence enough, Republican elites continue to flock to Romney's side. And it's not just the establishment GOP of old (think Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush). Leaders from the far right of Republican politics are also lending Romney their support. Yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Tom Coburn both endorsed Romney. If Santorum were truly a threat to Romney's bid, a few arch conservative elected officials would be out stumping for the former Pennsylvania senator. Yet his former colleagues are entirely absent from his campaign. Romney has secured the support of 80 sitting members of Congress, according to a count from The Hill...

Americans are "Depressed, Disappointed, and Underwhelmed" by the GOP Primary

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As much as some Republicans would like to believe otherwise, the fact is that this primary is dragging down the party. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primary—in which two formidable candidates fought hard, debated substance, and energized voters around the country—this year’s GOP primary has been defined by clownish vanity candidates, divisive bickering, and an unlikable front-runner who—so far—has “won” by not losing. None of this has done much to help the Republican Party. According to the latest survey by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal , 40 percent of adults say that “the GOP nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the Republican Party,” compared with the 10 percent who have come away from the event satisfied. What’s more, when asked to describe the GOP primaries in a word or phrase, 70 percent (including 60 percent of independents and half of Republicans) reach for something negative: “Unenthusiastic,” “discouraged,” “lesser of two evils,” “painful,” “...

America Needs a Good Mitt Romney Impression

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A year and a half ago, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that it's kind of hard to make fun of Barack Obama. Naturally, conservatives responded that I was saying that because I'm an Obama shill, and I thought he was so terrific that he was impossible to mock. But here was my actual point: Politicians who make good targets for humor tend to have a personality feature or physical characteristic, like a particular accent or a distinctive set of gestures, that are easily identifiable and thus can be exaggerated to make the politician look foolish, because exaggeration is what impressions and satire are built on. Some of these are simple and straightforward, like Bush's tendency to mangle his words. Others are more complicated but no less distinct, like Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" charm, which simultaneously made you suspect you were being conned and like it. The trouble with Obama is that he doesn't easily lend himself to mockery. He's famously cool -- never too hot, never too...

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Super Tuesday

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Broad categorizations are an American specialty—after all, we are the nation of the Cosmo quiz, the seven highly effective habits, the red and blue state. In keeping with this tradition, it seems fitting that we break down the biggest primary day of the GOP race into an easily digestible taxonomy. Super Tuesday 2012: one day, four candidates, ten states, 434 delegates. Here's what you need to know. Ohio, the Battleground 66 delegates Who’s the favorite? Flip a coin. According to Five Thirty Eight , both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both have a 50 percent chance of winning. What to expect : Boasting a Great Lake and an unusual number of exotic animal preserves, Ohio also happens to be the marquee race of Super Tuesday. That's because—with the exception of Virginia, where only Romney and Ron Paul have qualified for the ballot—Ohio is the only swing state that votes on Super Tuesday, and its voters are demographic dead ringers for those that will come out during the general election in...

Mitt Romney Is Not An Unusually Negative Candidate

This kid knows negative campaigning. (Flickr/mdanys)
Is Mitt Romney an unusually negative candidate? The New York Times tries to make the case : As successful as the strategy has been, though, it has raised questions about Mr. Romney's role in turning the primary process into something akin to a civil war, even as it has demonstrated a ferocious, whatever-it-takes style that could hearten Republicans if Mr. Romney ends up in a general election matchup against Mr. Obama. "It's clear the negative ads are what's keeping this guy alive," said Nelson Warfield, a Republican strategist who worked for Mr. Perry. "It seems like Republican primary voters will not vote for Mitt Romney unless they are forced into it. And the way they're forced into it is when he beats the other guy senseless." Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney has also been on the receiving end of attacks from his Republican rivals as well as Democrats. But his aggressive style has been apparent since his first days in politics. For all that he can appear stiff and scripted at...

In Ohio, the Underlying Facts Look Great for Santorum

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The first post-Michigan poll of Ohio Republicans is out, and Mitt Romney has closed the gap. According to Quinnipiac University, Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely primary voters to Romney, who takes 31 percent. Because of the poll’s margin of error, ±4.3 percentage points, Quinnipiac presents this as too close to call. But the survey shows native advantages for Santorum that could propel him to victory, as long as he avoids another weekend of national controversy. Santorum leads Romney 36–27 among voters without a college degree, as well as voters with an annual income below $100,000. As Quinnipiac notes, “he leads Romney 34–28 percent among men and 37–33 percent among women, 40–27 percent among self-described conservatives and 42–25 percent among Tea Party members. Romney leads Santorum 46–26 percent among self-described moderates.” This wouldn’t matter much if these voters were a small percentage of the electorate, but if the 2008 Republican primary is any indication, these are...

Mittgoguery

The longer he must battle Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination, the less time Mitt Romney will have to edge back toward the political mainstream for the general election. Romney continues to make that repositioning unnecessarily tricky by going farther—much farther—to the right than necessary, apparently in a desperate attempt to persuade the hardcore right that he really is “severely conservative.” That effort is now luring Romney into the land of straight-up demagoguery. For a month now, he’s been perpetuating the fallacy that the Obama birth-control mandate is an assault on “religious liberty” and First Amendment rights. Yesterday in Fargo, North Dakota, he laid a whole 'nother whopper on top of that: Asked how he would protect Second Amendment rights, Romney endorsed the conspiracy theory that Obama is itching to come after everybody’s guns in his second term. If the president will “violate the conscience of the church” on contraception, Romney said, his next move is sure...

GOP Senators Opt to Support Another Piece of Unpopular Legislation

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Despite the defection of Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Ben Nelson, Senate Democrats (with the aid of Olympia Snowe) were able to block a Republican-sponsored measure that would give employers the right to reject any health care coverage for any reason. Sahil Kapur gives a rundown of the fight at Talking Points Memo : The close Senate vote reflects a strong GOP effort to contain the political consequences of pushing the controversial amendment before the public had a chance to weigh in. After a concerted whip effort, only one Republican — Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) — defected. All other waffling GOPers, including Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), and Dean Heller (NV) fell into line. Indeed more Democrats (three in total) crossed the aisle to vote for the Blunt amendment than vice versa. But there’s a good reason Dem leaders pushed anyway: on issues like contraception, they’re confident they’ll win the broader battle for public perception. I remain amazed by Mitch McConnell’s ability to...

Blunt Amendment Fails in the Senate

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)
For a brief moment yesterday it looked as though some GOP senators were ready to step back from the ledge, and reject their party's assault on women's rights. A handful of Republican senators were hesitant to endorse the controversial Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer—both secular and religious—to reject covering individual aspects of health insurance they find morally questionable, not just contraception. Even Mitt Romney expressed opposition to the bill when an Ohio reporter explained the implications before his campaign quickly realized they had defied party doctrine, and issued a clarification, which reversed Romney's earlier statement. Any qualms with the legislation evaporated when it was put to a vote this morning. The measure failed 51-48, but Republicans voted with their usual lockstep discipline. Soon retiring Senator Olympia Snowe was the lone Republican opposing the measure and three Democrats—Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, and Bob Casey—crossed the aisles to join...

Why Ohio Matters for Mitt Romney

This week, Michigan was the “must win” state for Mitt Romney. Next week—according to the world of punditry— it’s Ohio , where Romney has to win over a similar electorate—downscale, blue-collar workers—without the help of name recognition or family ties. There, his tendency to remind voters of his massive wealth ( in the worst way possible ), could prove fatal. But what would actually happen if Romney lost Ohio? He wouldn’t lose the nomination; even with the setbacks of the last month, the fact remains that Romney is advantaged by overwhelming resources and the support of GOP leaders. Moreover, he’s up against an opponent—Rick Santorum—whose popularity with the base of the Republican Party hasn’t been enough to make up for his lack of cash and poor public performances. It’s much easier to beat a candidate who can’t help but disparage college, rail against birth control, and attack the religious beliefs of millions of Americans. The most obvious consequence of a loss in Ohio is that the...

Mitt's Instincts Lead Him Astray, Again

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Yesterday, Mitt Romney demonstrated once again why he has such trouble with his party's base. The issue was a bill in Congress sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt, which would allow any employer who has any objection to any medication, procedure, or treatment—not just objections to ladies doing dirty things with their ladyparts, which is where this all started—to deny their employees insurance coverage for it. Let's say your boss thinks people with diabetes are fatties who deserve to get their feet amputated—no diabetes coverage! Or your boss is one of the nincompoops who thinks immunizations give kids autism—no coverage for immunizations! Obviously, it's a truly awful idea, and when Romney was asked about it by an Ohio television host, he said , "I'm not for the bill. But, look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I'm not going there." What happened next was predictable:...

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Despite his phobia of higher education, Rick Santorum showed on Tuesday night that he is capable of learning. But the lightbulb in his head may have clicked on a little too late. Conceding his narrow defeat in Michigan, Santorum set aside the culture-war logorrhea that likely cost him a narrative-changing win over Mitt Romney, wore a beaming smile that proclaimed “Hey, I’m no angry prophet of doom!” and began the proceedings with a warm tribute to the “independent women” in his life—a far cry from Satanic warnings and dire concerns about women serving in combat and using birth control. “My 93-year-old mom,” Santorum said, was an “unusual person for her time.” She got a college education in the '30s, you see, and then a graduate degree. Heck, “She was a professional who actually made more money than her husband.” (Wait—he’s proud of this?) And there was more: He didn’t call Romney a “joke” or a “bully” as he had done in the frantic final days before the Michigan and Arizona primary...

Santorum Beats Dan Savage

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum came up short in Michigan on Tuesday night, but it was of no matter. After months of turmoil he'd achieved a primary goal of his presidential campaign: his Google problem. That's right. When normal, God-loving Americans direct their web browsers to Google and type in the former Pennsylvania senator's last name they are no longer greeted by spreadingsantorum.com as the first result. Created by sex columnist Dan Savage in response to Santorum's comparison of homosexual relationships to man-on-dog sex, the Web site coined a sexual neologism, redefining Santorum's last name as " The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex." Thanks to enthusiastic fans, the simple webpage sat atop the Google rankings for years, bedeviling the politician at every turn. "Savage and his perverted sense of humor is the reason why my children cannot Google their father's name," Santorum wrote in a letter last year, and his eldest daughter Elizabeth told...

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