Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Paul's Bringing Sexy Back

(AP Photo/Jerome A Pollos)
Last night, as the Super Tuesday numbers rolled in and journalists scribbled furiously on their keyboards, little energy was wasted on the prospects of America’s favorite gold-loving goober, Ron Paul. He won 47 delegates in all, just a tad shy of the 1,144 needed to seal up the nomination. He made his end-of-the-night speech against the backdrop of a white curtain, with no smiling supporters or even a stage to aid the visual. His best finish was in North Dakota, where he came in second with 28 percent of the vote; he also secured third place finishes in Idaho and Alaska, with 18 and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. With the Mitt Romney/Rick Santorum showdown being framed as a gladiator duel for the nomination—a somewhat farcical setup for two guys who seem pretty into pleated khakis—Paul has been left on the fringes. But his outlook post-Super Tuesday is perhaps more intriguing than either of the guys leading the race. The one thing that is clear to everyone, Paul included, is...

Santorum Prays for Pitchforks in Tampa

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Rick Santorum dashed Mitt Romney’s hope that Super Tuesday would be the capstone to gaining the nomination. The former Pennsylvania senator won Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Dakota, and lost by a hair to the former Massachusetts governor in Ohio. His performance last night assures he will remain in the race for the foreseeable future. Despite a night that outpaced expectations, any realistic hope for Santorum to gain a majority of the delegates necessary to secure the GOP nomination evaporated last night. Political scientist Josh Putnam of Davidson College ran the numbers earlier this week and found that even in the unlikely event that Santorum wins 50 percent of the vote in every remaining state (a feat he's only accomplished in one so far) he would barely pass the 1,144 delegate threshold. After yesterday, Romney now holds an insurmountable delegate advantage. Even with momentum possibly shifting in his favor, Santorum will be out of options thanks to election rules that require early...

Newt's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Super Bad Tuesday

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Newt Gingrich had a terrible Super Tuesday. Yes, yes, he won Georgia, his home state, going away. But he not only failed to win any of the other nine states that held elections, he failed to place second in any of them as well. He came in third in the other two Southern states that held contests—Tennessee and Oklahoma. In five states—Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Vermont—he ran fourth, behind Ron Paul. To date, Gingrich has won Georgia, South Carolina, and, as he pointed out on Tuesday night, the Panhandle section of Florida – that is, the Southernmost parts of the South. He’s fortunate that the two big contests next Tuesday are in Alabama and Mississippi. Even if he wins them, though he will remain the candidate of the Deep South and nothing more. By winning Tuesday in Tennessee and Oklahoma, Santorum has positioned himself as the candidate of the Upper South (not to mention, the Plains states). But Santorum may well decide that now is the time to knock Newt clear...

By the Skin of His Teeth

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Mitt Romney’s Super Tuesday wasn’t a disaster, but you’d be hard-pressed to call it good, either. The primaries he won decisively—Massachusetts, Virginia, Vermont, and Idaho—were ones where he held an overwhelming advantage; either he was governor, or he was in friendly territory, or he was one of two candidates on the ballot. The states he lost were also expected, on account of their deep conservatism and religiosity. Georgia went to Newt Gingrich, while Rick Santorum picked up wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. Of course, Ohio is where Romney focused his attention, in an attempt to knock Santorum off of his game and out of the race. He missed his mark by a wide shot. Romney barely managed to secure a win in Ohio, picking up the Buckeye State with a lead of 1 percentage point—roughly 12,000 votes. If you look at a map of the results, what you’ll see is a sea of Santorum supporters, with a few islands of Romney holdouts; these are the urban centers, which by the end of the...

His Heart Will Go On

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In the past couple of weeks, I've probably heard a dozen different Republican operatives say utterly unconvincingly that a lengthy primary season is good for the party. Their nominee will emerge stronger! They get to talk about their issues! No one buys it, particularly since all the evidence (see, for instance, this poll ) suggests that the longer the primary goes, the less popular the Republican party in general and these particular Republicans in particular become. For a long time, Mitt Romney had hoped that Super Tuesday would put an end to all this, and he could stop spending his time pandering to his party's extremists and get on with the more serious business of pandering to independent voters. But after last night, Rick Santorum is going nowhere. And why should he? We can all agree that Santorum, possibly America's most unpleasant politician, will never, ever be president. Whether he knows that I can't say for sure, although I doubt it. But even if he did, is there a reason in...

Supermitt?

Nearly one-fifth of the Republican delegates are being chosen today—not a surprising figure, exactly, given that ten states are voting. It will be a surprise, though, if Mitt Romney doesn’t win most of them; Nate Silver predicts he’ll add 224 delegates, with Rick Santorum picking up 76 and Newt Gingrich—mainly because of his expected home-field win in Georgia, the largest state voting—87. But that’s only part of the story—and certainly not the part that will have political geeks glued to their TVs, hollering at the screen the way normal humans do on Super Bowl Sunday (which, according to Daily Intel , is actually way more super than Super Tuesday). The suspense lies with tomorrow’s uncertain headlines: Will it be “Romney’s Near-Sweep Clears Path to Nomination” or “Santorum Wins Ohio, Vows to Fight on to Tampa”? The former senator from Pennsylvania had what looked like insurmountable leads in the polls just a week ago in Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma. But then the Romney money gusher...

Economists Project Eight Percent Unemployment by Election Day

(The White House/Flickr)
As far as political news is concerned, I would rate this as considerably more important than the minutae of what happens in the Republican primary elections today: The economists think the unemployment rate will fall from its current 8.3 percent to 8 percent by Election Day. That’s better than their 8.4 percent estimate when surveyed in late December. By the end of 2013, they predict unemployment will drop to 7.4 percent, down from their earlier estimate of 7.8 percent, according to the AP Economy Survey. The U.S. economy has been improving steadily for months. Industrial output jumped in January after surging in December by the most in five years. Auto sales are booming. Consumer confidence has reached its highest point in a year. Even the housing market is showing signs of turning around. That’s from a recently released survey of economists from the Associated Press. As it stands, it wouldn’t take much for the economy to reach 8 percent unemployment by November; according to this...

When Do Reporters Start Calling Mitt Romney a Liar?

(Flickr/PBS NewsHour)
Two days ago, Barack Obama went before AIPAC (which is commonly known as "the Israel Lobby" but would be better understood as the Likud lobby, since it advocates not Israel's interests per se but the perspective of the right wing of Israeli politics, but that's a topic for another day), and said , among other things, the following: "I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table , and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency. Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon . And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency...

Romney's Spine, Or Lack Thereof

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Ahead of the likely celebratory night for Mitt Romney's supporters, I wrote a cautionary note this morning about why neutral observers shouldn't take Romney's success in the Republican primaries as a sign of they accept him as a moderate. Instead, Romney has gained his spot in the party by aligning himself with every conservative whim. Still, conservatives don't fully trust Romney's sincerity. The former Massachusetts governor will have to watch his back at every turn in the general election; any misstep from conservative dogma will incite a round of handwringing among movement Republicans who would view it as confirmation of their worst fears about Romney. Unlike, say, Rick Santorum, who can adopt the occasional heterodox view without fear of being tarnished a RINO (Republican in Name Only), Romney must maintain a perfect track record to keep conservatives satisfied. That predicament could very well cost him in the general election. His favorability among the broad electorate has...

When in Doubt, Spend

(Flickr/401K)
The people who vote in presidential primaries might be more partisan than the median voter, but that says nothing about their overall knowledge of the political process, or the candidates in particular. For the most part, presidential primaries are low-information elections: Few voters know anything about the candidates outside of what they learn from media, and the circumstances of presidential primaries—a relatively short window for campaigning, multiple candidates, and the fact that everyone belongs to the same party—make it difficult for voters to form strong opinions. Go to almost any primary event in any state, and you’ll meet a large number of attendees who are there with an open mind—they just want to see what the candidate "is all about.” Under these circumstances, money goes a long way. Regardless of the content, sustained advertising can shape the electorate and bring low-information voters to one side or another. Look no further than the major Super Tuesday races for...

No Room Here for Moderates

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
If current polls are right, Mitt Romney could wrap up the GOP nomination tonight. He's set to sweep the Northeast; faces no competition in delegate-rich Virginia, where Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich aren't even on the ballot; and his standing is rising in the southern states where he once looked vulnerable. He's edged ahead of Santorum in recent polls of Ohio, where the former Massachusetts governor has been gaining steam in the past few days. Tennessee—a state in which evangelicals dominate—looks like it will end up a three-way tie between Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich. As Slate 's Dave Weigel put it yesterday: "This was what the Romney campaign always wanted and expected … It was Super Tuesday that was supposed to kill the Santorum grassroots campaign, with the live-off-the-land candidate unable to campaign in every state, unable to match Romney's ad spending." When Romney does land the knockout blow—whether it comes tonight or later this spring—a torrent of competing narratives...

Ohio a Game Changer? Please.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Zanesville, Ohio, Monday, March 5, 2012. Any of the following sound familiar? This “could be a game-changer in the Republican presidential race,” Reuters reports . “It may be Romney's last stand,” CBS News declares . Matthew Dowd chimes in : “This is a huge, crucial moment. I think it’s actually the most important moment for Romney in this entire campaign up until now.” If any of this rings a bell, it’s because that’s what pundits were saying about Michigan no more than a week ago. Today, it’s Ohio that has been christened the state that will make or break the Romney campaign. Despite taking place on a date with a snazzier name, there is little to distinguish the Ohio primary from the heavily covered contests in Michigan and Florida. While it's understandable that media attention has focused on contested states instead of safe bets like Nevada or Arizona,...

Coronation Tuesday

Super Tuesday once was super. Progressives of a certain age will never forget the fun of the first edition in 1988. Conservative Democrats had dreamt up a March day of nine Southern primaries that would guarantee no “unelectable” liberal could win the party’s nomination. The geniuses forgot, though, that most Southern Democrats were not actually white moderates or conservatives. The scheme backfired spectacularly, with the Reverend Jesse Jackson emerging as a viable contender and Michael Dukakis also faring well. Since then, the role of Super Tuesday has been considerably more banal: It almost always clinches the nomination for at least one party’s frontrunner. Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Al Gore, John Kerry, and John McCain all guaranteed their spots atop the party ticket with strong performances. Maybe this thing should be rechristened “Coronation Tuesday.” Leading up to tomorrow’s 10-state version, it seemed unlikely that Mitt Romney would follow that trend. But the air...

GOP Successfully Alienates Latino Voters

The most you can say about the Republican Party’s performance with Latino voters right now is that it isn’t in the single digits. Eight years after George W. Bush won 44 percent of Latino voters—and four years after John McCain nabbed 31 percent of the overall Latino vote—the GOP has seen the bottom drop out of its reputation with Latinos. According to the latest survey from Fox News and Latin Insights, 73 percent of Latinos approve of President Obama’s job performance, compared to 35 percent approval for Mitt Romney, 13 percent for Ron Paul, 12 percent for Newt Gingrich, and 9 percent for Rick Santorum. What’s more, in a head-to-head matchup with the president, none of the GOP candidates would win more than 14 percent of the Latino vote. It’s not hard to figure out the why of Latino disdain for the Republican Party. At this point, the GOP fervently opposes every priority held by Latino voters. To wit: The Fox News Latino poll show likely Latino voters across the country...

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...

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