Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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.

The Future Is Far from Certain

(The White House/Flickr)
For Democrats, the last month has been filled with Schadenfreude and glee. Beginning with their opposition to the administration’s contraception mandate—which bled into a general opposition to contraceptives—Republicans have done everything they could to alienate women voters, from dismissing birth control as an integral part of women’s health care, to standing on the sidelines as key conservative activists unleashed vitriolic rhetoric against contraception advocates—and women who use birth control in general—attacking them as “sluts” who need to keep their legs together. If it sticks in the public consciousness—and if they refuse to back down from their anti-contraception stance—this incident promises to be a disaster for Republicans in the fall. On the gleeful side, Democrats are clearly excited about President Obama’s improved standing with the American public. Job growth has exceeded 200,000 for the last three months, and Obama’s approval rating has been on the upswing , reaching...

Romney's Southern Problem Might Not Matter Tuesday

Mitt Romney at a town hall in Dayton Ohio (Flickr/NewsHour)
Tomorrow night's primaries could end up being anticlimactic after Republicans have spent the past few week fretting about Mitt Romney's inability to win Southern states. So far, the Bible Belt has been his weakest territory to date. While Romney could lose every state in the Deep South and still gain the required number of delegates, conservatives have been worried about the fractured nature of a party where the likely nominee fails to win the most reliably Republican region of the country. Mississippi and Alabama might just buck the anti-Romney trend. Public Policy Polling looked at both states over the weekend and found Romney in a statistical dead heat with his social conservative opponents. Romney had the slight lead in Alabama with 31 percent to 30 for Gingrich and 29 percent for Santorum. That tracks along the same lines as a Rasmussen poll from the end of last week that also had the three candidates separated by one-point margins. It's more of a two-man race in Mississippi—...

Gingrich and Santorum's Pipe Dream

(Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The basics of simple math are seeping into the 2012 race as the media challenges Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to reconcile with the fact that reaching the required 1,144 delegates has become a near statistical impossibility. The candidates themselves might not cop to these facts, but it's clear they've shifted gears, turning the focus from winning a majority themselves to blocking Mitt Romney from gaining enough delegates to win on the first ballot in Tampa. "Romney needs about 50 percent of the delegates," Santorum said on Meet the Press yesterday. "On the current track that we're on right now the fact is Governor Romney doesn't get to that number." Gingrich pushed the same idea on his Sunday stop by Fox News. "He's not a very strong front-runner. Almost all conservatives are opposed, which is the base of the party," the former speaker said. "And I think we are likely to see after the last primary in June, we're likely to see a 60-day conversation about what's going to happen as...

Strange Doings in Dixie

“Things, strange things, are happening to me,” Mitt Romney told folks in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on Thursday evening. Hanging out with his personal aide, Mississippi native Garrett Jackson, as he stumps through the Deep South is “turning me into, I don’t know, an unofficial Southerner,” he said. This morning, to underscore this unlikely transformation, Romney began a town-hall meeting at the Mississippi Farmer’s Market with a chirpy “Mornin’ y’all,” and then proclaimed , “I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits. I’ll tell you! Delicious.” Soon, as he discoursed on the administrative costs of health care, Romney was joining in another local pastime: squashing a cockroach. “Oh look at that, look at that little guy,” he said , providing a play-by-play. “There. Got him.” The Mississippians seemed a bit unsure about how to react to all this. But they could be no more befuddled than the national political pundits, who’ve assumed that Romney couldn’t possibly...

What if Huckabee Had Run?

Should Barack Obama win reelection this fall, the 2012 Republican campaign might be remembered as much for those who decided to remain on the sidelines and leave a feeble frontrunner unchallenged as for the party's actual nominee. Even though Mitt Romney has held onto his place as the only candidate who can realistically win the nomination, it has become increasingly evident that the former Massachusetts governor was a weaker candidate than anyone initially envisioned. The fact that Rick Santorum—a candidate dismissed as a bottom feeder by his opponents, the media and Republican voters alike as little as three months ago—has caused Romney this much trouble provides all the proof needed that, should Romney have faced a strong field of opponents, he wouldn't seem so inevitable. Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie all got their fair share of inducements to join the race, and the media spent the spring and summer parsing every Sarah Palin statement to see if she might join the...

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