Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
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...

Are Republicans Backing Away from the Contraception Fight?

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)
Senate Democrats think they have Republicans backed into a corner. In response to the hullabaloo around the Obama administration's decision on covering contraception in health-care plans, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has offered an amendment to allow any employer—not just religiously affiliated organizations—to refuse to cover any health-care service—not just contraception—based on "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The battle over reproductive rights has already allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as antagonistic to women and, needless to say, Senate Dems are gleefully forcing a vote on the measure tomorrow to get their opponents' extremist take on the record. The Washington Post 's Greg Sargent checked in with a few Republican senators and found that some are hesitant to endorse the amendment ahead of tomorrow's vote: A spokesman for Senator Susan Collins confirms to me she’s still undecided — with less than 24 hours until tomorrow’s vote. On MSBNC just now, Senator Olympia...

Anti-Romney, with a Side of Grits

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The implications of Mitt Romney's Michigan win are still being parsed, but the calendar leaves little time for the campaigns to rest. Super Tuesday is in less than a week, and a total of 437 delegates in 10 states is at stake. The media have coalesced around the idea that Ohio is the only race that matters. The candidates have followed their lead—this morning Romney was campaigning in Toledo, and Rick Santorum called in to a Dayton radio station. To a certain degree, the focus on Ohio is understandable. It's a general-election swing state, and polls indicate it's also teetering between Santorum and Romney ahead of Super Tuesday. The primary results in other states are more easily predicted: Newt Gingrich should carry his home state of Georgia, Santorum should fare well in the other Southern states, Romney will clean up in the Northeast and Virginia, and everyone will ignore the few delegates up for grabs in the caucus states out West. I'm far more interested to see how things play out...

Santorum Finds Fertile Ground in Tennessee

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
According to the most recent survey by Middle Tennessee State University, Rick Santorum is leading the pack among Republican voters in the Volunteer State. 40 percent of voters say that they favor the former Pennsylvania senator, compared to the 19 percent who prefer Romney. Another 13 percent back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while Ron Paul takes 11 percent. Because Tennessee’s 58 delegates are handed out proportionally , however, Santorum will have to win big in order to close his 80-delegate gap with Romney. Of course, as we saw with Santorum’s lead in Michigan, this advantage could disappear within the next week if Romney decides to contest the election with a barrage of negative advertisements. As it stands, however, the focus is on Ohio—by and large, the political world has determined that the Buckeye State is make-or-break for the former Massachusetts governor. Like Romney and his win in Arizona last night, Tennessee will matter a lot if Santorum wins Ohio, and recede to...

May the Best Candidate Win?

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
The Nate Silvering of election analysis—the endless and addictive parsing of exit polls and demographics and historical precedents and outliers and predictive models and Intrade odds—has made campaigns increasingly look, to politicos at least, more like science than art. But there is one “predictive model” that matters more than any other—and it’s entirely the province of unmeasurable, flesh-and-blood, gloriously subjective intangibles. It’s also refreshingly simple: In general elections, the best campaigner wins. Think about it: When was the last time the superior campaigner of either party lost the presidency? Barack Obama out-talked, out-charmed, and out-disciplined John McCain by a country mile in 2008. George W. Bush, despite his oratorical handicaps, communicated more warmly and stayed on message more relentlessly (and repetitiously) than Al Gore or John Kerry. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were, of course, masterful on campaign stumps and television screens alike. George H.W...

The Single Worst Thing That Could Happen to Liberalism

(Jonas Tana/Flickr)
Greg Sargent outlines one “nightmare” scenario should Republicans win the White House and take the Senate: If Republicans regain the Senate, will they seek to reform the filibuster, sweeping away an obstacle that bedeviled Dems and making it far easier for them to enact their own agenda with a simple Senate majority? […] “Here is a once in a lifetime chance to implement real revolutionary change, and once we do it it will be years before it can be undone by a Democratic president,” [Norm] Ornstein says, characterizing likely GOP thinking. “If you believe that Americans will love deregulation and budget cuts once they get them, you’re going to take the big long term hit to get the short term gain.” There’s no question that Republicans would use a narrow Senate majority to end the filibuster in the event of a Republican presidency; the current GOP has never had much use for rules or norms that don’t advance their priorities. The filibuster was perfect for blocking Obama and obstructing...

It's All About Newt

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista, speaks at Peachtree Academy, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Covington, Ga. F or all the Sturm und Drang of the last few weeks, Mitt Romney will begin March in the same way that he began February—as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Rick Santorum is at his heels as the latest avatar of the conservative movement, Ron Paul is the libertarian gadfly of the race, and Newt Gingrich has receded to the background as a virtual non-factor. Except that he isn’t. Unlike Paul, who pulls from the younger ranks of GOP voters, Gingrich draws his remaining strength from the same Tea Party voters who delivered a strong showing for Santorum in Michigan and might give him a win in Ohio next week. The exit polls suggest as much. Gingrich fared best among groups Santorum won: voters who never attended college, union members, households with union members,...

Fighting With or Without the President

(Flickr/IowaPolitics.com)
Eight years ago, following his Democratic primary defeat, Howard Dean and some of his supporters formed Democracy for America (DFA). Among them was Howard’s brother Jim Dean, who now serves as chair of the million-member activist group. The Prospect sat down with Jim Dean to discuss the left’s lack of leverage in Washington, Occupy’s lessons for activists, and why—with a presidential election looming—DFA has shifted its focus to the states. Some of the DFA’s most prominent Obama-era national campaigns—like the public-option push and the Employee Free Choice Act efforts—have been unsuccessful. Should progressives have taken a different approach? That’s tough. I don’t think Obama’s a horrible guy or anything. But there’s a great deal of frustration with him. It’s not about the “what,” because they’ve actually gotten a lot done—it’s the “how.” Everyone thought his election was a game changer, and Washington needed a cultural change. There’s a sense that it wasn’t his thing—that he was...

Olympia Snowe and Americans Elect

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
New York 's Jon Chait has speculated , with his characteristic perspicacity, that Olympia Snowe’s statement of non-candidacy for the Senate may have also been a statement of candidacy for the Americans Elect presidential slot . He further noted that the endorsement yesterday of Wall Street’s favorite third party by former Oklahoma Senator David Boren (D-Exxon Mobil) sets up a proper Americans Elect ticket, since the group stipulates that its ticket must be made up of one Democrat and one Republican (or two independents). Still, it seems to me that Americans Elect can only make a sizable impact on this year’s election if the Republican Party anoints the champion of Goyishe Sharia, Rick Santorum, as its nominee. A Santorum nomination would send a considerable number of Republicans in search of a more socially moderate Republican alternative, and Snowe most surely fits that bill. But in the more likely eventuality of a Mitt Romney nomination, the political space that an Americans Elect...

Ron Paul Kicks His Opponents in the Shins

Ron Paul, the itsy-bitsy candidate
There's a time-tested formula in advertising sometimes called "Get 'em sick, then get 'em well." You show viewers a terrible problem, getting them worried and uneasy ("Do you have eyelid fungus? Probably!"), then introduce the product that solves the problem ("Thanks to EyeFungAway, I'm fungus-free!"). It works for politicians too—or at least it can. This new ad from Ron Paul is a great example of getting 'em sick without quite having the product that gets 'em well: The music is intense, the visuals are fast and kinetic, and as everything swells to its climax, we await the warrior-hero who will run through these awful men with his broadsword and save us all ... and here comes a tiny 76-year-old man in a suit two sizes too big for his wee frame. Most of the ad's remaining shots barely bother to show him, though he's in there somewhere if you squint. The best part is when after all that intensity, Paul's chirpy little voice comes on at the end to tell you that he approved this message...

Soft Bigotry, Meet Low Expectations

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, greets supporters at his election watch party after winning the Michigan primary in Novi, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. T he only way Michigan could not have hurt Mitt Romney's bid for the GOP nomination was if he surpassed expectations and won big. An eight- or nine-point margin would have shown that Romney wasn't as weak as he looked; as with his win in Florida, in which the former Massachusetts governor won by 14.5 percentage points, it would have assured GOP leaders that despite weeks of bad news and worse performance, Romney can still turn himself around. Last night, Romney won Michigan with 41 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum’s 38 percent—a narrow win, but a larger margin of victory than polls had predicted. This was a godsend for the former Massachusetts governor. Thanks to the three-point margin, Romney will avoid what would have been a hellish week of terrible media...

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