Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Playing With Fire

When Michigan Democrat Crystal Larson voted today in Dearborn Heights, she told CNN it “felt like I made a deal with the devil.” The devil, in this case, is Rick Santorum, whose quest to upset Mitt Romney in his native state is getting a boost from Operation Hilarity, the Daily Kos effort to convince Democrats like Larson to throw a wrench into the GOP campaign. “Do you want this primary season to be over, or do you want this primary season to be hilarious?” asks a cheeky video at Kos, recommending a vote for the former Pennsylvania senator. With its open primaries, Michigan has a long tradition of crossover voting designed to trip up the other party—including yuk-fests that helped Democrat George Wallace win the state in 1972, and helped Republican John McCain temporarily slow George W. Bush’s momentum in 2000. In the latter primary, Democrats made up 17 percent of the vote. Today, the numbers aren’t expected to be so high—despite Santorum’s own robo-call urging Democrats to support...

GOP Leaders Desperate to Rip the Party in Two

(Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr)
(Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr) Mother Jones ’ Andy Kroll reports that top Republicans continue to “whisper” about a campaign to draft a new candidate into the presidential race should Mitt Romney falter in Michigan: On CNN Tuesday morning, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chair of the House homeland security committee, hinted at a whisper campaign among “top Republicans” who want a GOP favorite such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to enter the race if Romney loses the Michigan or Arizona primaries or struggles on Super Tuesday, when ten states controlling 437 delegates hold GOP primaries on March 6. “I think there’s going to be more of an interest, more of an emphasis on having someone ready if on Super Tuesday… Mitt Romney does not manage to break loose, and to have that candidate ready to come in,” King said. He added, “Again, I have no inside knowledge. Just whispering and mumbling here among top Republicans who are concerned that Governor Romney has not been...

Liberal Troublemakers in Michigan

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's newfound frontrunner status can primarily be attributed to the weakness of Mitt Romney's candidacy. The former frontrunner has bobbled away his advantage through unforced errors and an inability to convince Republican voters that he truly is one of them. Santorum was just in the lucky position of being the last plausible Romney alternative. Though most of the credit lies on Romney's shoulders, the shift in political rhetoric over the past month has helped Santorum. The resurgence of culture-war issues like birth control arrived at a prime moment for a candidate whose career has been predicated on appealing to the social values of the religious right. We’ll have a better sense on just how Republicans are responding once the results from the Michigan and Arizona primaries come in tonight. With Arizona an assured win for Mitt Romney, the attention is centered on the Wolverine State. A few weeks ago, Rick Santorum had opened a wide lead in Michigan; now Romney has clawed...

The GOP's White Men Problem

The GOP base (Flickr/BlueRobot)
You know the parable of the scorpion and the frog: The scorpion asks the frog to carry him across the river, and the frog says, "But what if you sting me?" The scorpion replies, "Why would I sting you? If I do that we'll both drown." Then midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. "Why?" the frog cries, as they begin to sink to their doom. "It's my nature," replies the scorpion. I keep thinking of this as in one election after another Republicans lash out at one large group of American voters after another in the hopes of holding on to the affections of the older white men who form the party's base. The people who run the party know that their continual efforts to stir up resentment, bitterness, and at times outright hatred at people who are not older white men do profound long-term damage to the party. But as a collectivity, the GOP just can't help itself. It's their nature. This is a topic Jonathan Chait takes up in an essay in New York magazine, in which he argues that...

Romney Just Don't Understand

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally at the Royal Oak Theater in Royal Oak, Mich., Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. Mitt Romney makes his final pitch to Michigan: “Sen. Santorum has shown himself to be an economic lightweight,” Romney said. “And I don’t think people want to nominate an economic lightweight to go up against the president, who also is an economic lightweight and has it made it hard for America to get working again.” This is a perfect summation of Mitt Romney’s problem in the Republican presidential primary. There’s no doubt that Romney has a better handle on economic issues than Rick Santorum, just as there was never any doubt that the former Massachusetts governor was more competent than his previous competitors. But Republican voters aren’t looking for a consultant-in-chief; they want someone who can communicate their values. On a good day, Romney can fake it well, and if this were a less...

Just Your Average Marriage

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The national media hasn't paid much attention to Iowa since Rick Santorum's caucus victory, but numbers released over the weekend tell an important story for national progressives. The Des Moines Register —the most respected state pollster during caucus season—asked Iowans about their feelings on same-sex marriage and found that a 56-percent majority are just fine with the state's current laws on same-sex unions and oppose any effort to amend the state's constitution. Only 38 percent would support an amendment to overturn the 2009 state Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the Hawkeye State. It was more of a wash when the Register asked whether Iowans personally opposed the court's decision. A slight plurality oppose it—36 percent opposed to 30 percent in favor. But 33 percent don't have particularly strong feelings about the issue and oppose efforts to change the law by a 3:1 margin. The numbers have largely remained steady since the last time the Register asked...

Santorum's Snobbery

With Michigan’s crucial Republican primary looming on Tuesday, Rick Santorum was doing his best George Wallace impression over the weekend, gunning for Tea Party votes by denouncing those “pointy-headed intellectuals” who always think they know better than real folk. “President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college,” Santorum said at an Americans for Prosperity rally. “What a snob!” The president has actually called for a substantial investment in worker training—not for everybody to attend a four-year university. But no matter: Santorum’s campaign is targeted at culturally fretful whites in industrial and Southern states—places where college often seems like a fine idea except that it turns people into liberals and atheists. “There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor,” Santorum said. “That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want...

Where Are All These Atheist Politicians?

(Flickr/gwilmore)
Throughout the 2012 race Rick Santorum has tried his best to distance his campaign from his image as a vehicle for the religious right. He has scorned the media for asking questions on the culture wars, spends his days touring the Midwest to tout his plan for manufacturing, all while leaving social moralizing at the dog whistling level. But on Sunday, the old fire and brimstone Santorum was back in full force in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos when the discussion turned to John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on the separation between church and state. "What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up," Santorum said. Paul already explained how Santorum misread Kennedy's message and Jamelle made the case for why, in a saner world, it would be enough to disqualify Santorum from being treated as a credible presidential candidate. When I first read Santorum's comments though, I was mostly...

Santorum's Double Standard

To follow-up on Jamelle's analysis of Rick Santorum's repudiation of fundamental First Amendment values, it's worth considering some comments made by Santorum in 2008, when he wasn't running for president and could be even more candid: But is there such thing as a sincere liberal Christian, which says that we basically take this document and re-write it ourselves? Is that really Christian? That’s a bigger question for me. And the answer is, no, it’s not. I don’t think there is such a thing. To take what is plainly written and say that I don’t agree with that, therefore, I don’t have to pay attention to it, means you’re not what you say you are. You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian. That’s sort of how I look at it. When you go so far afield of that and take what is a salvation story and turn it into a liberation theology story, which is done in the Catholic world as well as in the evangelical world, you have abandoned Christendom, in my opinion. And you don’t have a...

Santorum Disqualifies Himself for the Presidency

(John F. Kennedy/Library of Congress)
At this point, most people who cover the Republican presidential campaign—or Republican politics in general—are accustomed to Rick Santorum and his right-wing social conservatism. Even still, this deserves way, way more attention than it’s currently receiving. “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up,” Santorum told an audience at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen. In an ABC News interview Sunday, George Stephanopoulos asked Santorum why the speech would make him throw up, to which the candidate replied: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute,” he said. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.” The speech in question is John F. Kennedy’s famous address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, where he declared his belief “in an America where the...

Romney's Wealth Problem

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Americans have come to expect a certain patrician baseline from their political class. Congress is stocked full of millionaires, and in the 2008 campaign Joe Biden was considered working class for riding Amtrak, despite having a net worth in the hundreds of thousands. No one bats an eye now when Rick Santorum whines about his meager means on the debate stage then releases tax returns revealing that he rakes in over $900K a year. Yet, Mitt Romney's wealth has served as an albatross to his campaign. We might be used to millionaires running for president, but Romney would rank among the richest handful of presidents if elected. His vast fortune is more than double the total worth of the past eight presidents combined. Newt Gingrich played on resentments of Romney's wealth to great success in South Carolina before dialing back his attacks once the Republican establishment turned on him, accusing the former speaker of employing leftist critiques of capitalism. Romney's campaign has danced...

Architects of Their Own Defeat

Jonathan Chait has a great feature in New York Magazine on the frantic fear among Republicans that this is their last chance to stop the leftward drift of the United States as it becomes younger, browner, and more educated. He zeroes in on the apocolyptic rhetoric of GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates, but his most important point, I think, is this: The most widely agreed-upon component of any such undertaking was a concerted effort to win back the Hispanic vote. It seemed like a pure political no-brainer, a vital outreach to an exploding electoral segment that could conceivably be weaned from its Democratic leanings, as had previous generations of Irish and Italian immigrants, without altering the party’s general right-wing thrust on other issues. […] In the wake of [John McCain’s] defeat, strategists like Karl Rove and Mike Murphy urged the GOP to abandon its stubborn opposition to reform. Instead, incredibly, the party adopted a more hawkish position, with Republicans in...

Santorum Goes For Gold In Oppression Olympics

(Flickr/Mike Jahn)
So Rick Santorum was being interviewed on "This Week" yesterday, and he said that when he read John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech in Houston to a group of Protestant ministers, he "almost threw up." The context for Kennedy's speech was that the man who would become America's first Catholic president was being subjected to a venomous campaign of religious hatred, in which people like the men in that audience were telling voters that if Kennedy were elected, he would be nothing but a tool of the Vatican, doing the Pope's dastardly bidding instead of what was in the best interest of Americans. So Kennedy gave this speech , in which he asserted that he believed in an absolute separation between church and state, for the protection of both. The ministers in attendance, most of whom considered the Catholic Church an un-Christian abomination, were unmoved. The Kennedy campaign quickly cut ads excerpting the speech, which they used to rally Catholic voters. But here's how Santorum described...

Where Does Obama Stand?

(AP Photo)
If you are a committed Democrat or partisan Republican, then it seems that, for today at least, you have two polls to choose from. Republicans can look with glee at a USA Today and Gallup poll of registered voters in swing states , where former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum holds a 50–45 lead over President Obama, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney takes first place at 48 to 46. By contrast, the new Battleground Poll from Politico and George Washington University—which focuses on the same swing states—is exceptionally favorable to Democrats and supporters of the president. In this survey, President Obama’s approval rating increased to 53 percent—up from 44 percent in November—and he leads Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum by 10 and 11 points, respectively. Indeed, against a generic Republican, this lead shrinks to a still-impressive 5 points. His greatest gain comes from voters who say they “approve strongly” of the president. In November, they represented 27 percent of...

Meanie Mitt Pulls Ahead

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's improbable moment atop the GOP field seems likely to fade away just as quickly as his anti-Romney predecessors. A pair of new numbers from Public Policy Polling point toward tomorrow being a triumphant day for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor leads by an insurmountably wide margin in Arizona. He's up 43-26 percent over Santorum, and carried early voters—which will constitute nearly half of Arizona's total vote count—by 48-25. And after trailing Santorum by as much as 15 percent three weeks ago, Romney has reopened a slight Michigan lead of 2 percent. Again, PPP found that Romney dominated early voters (62-29 over Santorum), though they represent a far smaller share of the Michigan bloc. It looks as though Romney's negative assault on his opponents' record and character has worked yet again. Santorum's favorability numbers plummeted over the past several weeks. One week ago PPP had Santorum with a +44 net favorability in Michigan; today, that number is...

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