Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

There is No Catholic Vote

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Writing at The New Republic , Ed Kilgore contests the oft-mentioned idea that there is a distinguishable “Catholic vote” that is mobilized by issues like birth control: The more you look at the numbers, the idea that there is some identifiable Catholic vote in America, ready to be mobilized, begins to fade towards irrelevance. In the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections, Catholics voted within a couple of percentage points of the electorate as a whole. […] The idea that Catholics no longer behave self-consciously as “Catholics” on hot-button issues reflects the broader reality that they have become hard to distinguish from other Americans in their political behavior. The fight over birth control coverage in the Affordable Care Act has led to a lot of prognostication about the fate of the so-called “Catholic vote.” Republican strategists believe that Catholics are now ripe for the picking, and liberals like Time ’s Amy Sullivan see the administration’s actions as a recipe for...

The Least Funny Republican

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
From our standpoint over on the left, this Republican presidential primary has been a remarkable spectacle to behold. We've watched in wonder as one ridiculous candidate after another has rocketed to the top of the polls, all while the guy everyone assumes will be the eventual nominee struggles to convince voters he's a real human. The race has been a parade of charlatans and fools, with the lead at various times being held by an unhinged religious nut (Bachmann), a governor who made George W. Bush look like Stephen Hawking (Perry), a pizza executive whose ignorance was truly head-spinning (Cain), the nation's most unpopular major politician (Gingrich), and America's most vulgar citizen (Trump). None of these people were remotely imaginable as president, and all were a hoot to watch as they bumbled along toward their inevitable falls. But now that Rick Santorum is the last non-Romney standing, things have taken a serious turn. Santorum is not hilariously buffoonish, amusingly stupid,...

Santorum Surge FTW

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Since his three primary wins at the beginning of the month, there has been a bit of speculation about the electability of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. The assumption was that Santorum, who lost his re-election bid by 18 points, would be a complete disaster in a general election. But that was before Mitt Romney embarked on his plan to alienate independents and destroy his standing with Republican voters. Even still, Santorum’s campaign only makes sense for as long as he focuses on the economy and away from social issues. But in the last two weeks, issues surrounding reproductive health have roared to the center stage of American politics, and Santorum—who built his name as a culture warrior—couldn’t resist the temptation to comment. Last Saturday, in Columbus, Ohio, Santorum entered the fray with a broadside attack against President Barack Obama’s policies, arguing that they’re “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some...

The Bible Eruption

As we’re freshly reminded by the Presidents' Day debut of Clinton , a PBS documentary on the Man from Hope, one big question clouded his 1992 primary campaign: When would the “bimbo eruption” come? (Thanks to Gennifer Flowers, it came early in the process; thanks to Hillary’s “stand by your man” command performance on 60 Minutes , it didn’t derail him from the ultimate goal.) Twenty years later, with Rick Santorum having been raptured to the top of the GOP polls, the question was a bit different, though no less pressing: When would the Bible eruption come? It happened this weekend, a little more than a week before the Michigan and Arizona primary shoot-outs with Mitt Romney. Lurching away from his economic message, Santorum told a Tea Party crowd in Columbus, Ohio, that President Obama bases his environmentalism on “some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.” Santorum then spent the rest of the weekend simultaneously back-pedaling and continuing...

Happy Presidents' Day!

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We'll be updating Vox Pop with new posts throughout the day, but expect it to be a little lighter than usual, it being a federal holiday and all. We'll be back in full force tomorrow though, getting excited for Wednesday's debate (the first one in 33 days ... not that we've been counting), and looking ahead to the Michigan primary on the 28th. Enjoy your day off!

Pat Buchanan is Not a First Amendment Martyr

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Last week, MSNBC announced that it was dropping Pat Buchanan from its stable of "contributors," a position which consists of being paid to come on the air and give one's opinions, something the network has no shortage of people to do for free. The network didn't hide the fact that it had finally decided that Buchanan's views (which we'll get to in a moment) were just too extreme and distasteful for them, so they decided to disassociate themselves from him. Buchanan responded with a post titled " Blacklisted, But Not Beaten ," in which he rails against those who done him in: "I know these blacklisters. They operate behind closed doors, with phone calls, mailed threats, and off-the-record meetings. They work in the dark because, as Al Smith said, nothing un-American can live in the sunlight." To which one's initial response is, pity the poor oppressed Buchanan, left only with a hundred other forums in which to pass on his ideas! But does he have a point? Andrew Sullivan thinks so ,...

What Real Class Warfare Looks Like

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So it looks as though Republicans are going to cave on the extension of the payroll tax cut, pretty much the only tax cut they don't like, seeing as it doesn't do much for the wealthy. But on their way to that capitulation, they made sure they could exact a price : drug testing of people applying for unemployment compensation! After all, we need to send these people a message. The bill, which looks like it will pass soon, now includes a provision that allows states to drug test anyone applying for unemployment compensation if they're looking for a job in an industry where testing occurs, which is pretty much any industry there is. So it isn't enough that you might get tested before you can get a job, you'll now have to get tested before you even start looking. The rationale Republicans offer isn't that there's some kind of epidemic of drug abuse among the unemployed. It's just if you're going to get a government benefit, paid for by the taxpayers, then you should have to prove you...

Romney's Endgame

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Mitt Romney’s ambitions for the 2012 primary have never been mysterious. He’s in it to win it, and with a weak field, the primaries should have been a mere prelude to his coronation. Things haven't worked out that way. First there was Rick Perry in September, a chiseled Texan with conservative cred, undone by his inability to list more than two government agencies at a prime-time debate. Herman Cain, charismatic and entertainingly unpredictable, was finally brought down by a raft of sexual harassment-allegations in October. After the South Carolina primary, Newt Gingrich took the lead, but Gingrich couldn’t overcome his own reputation and inability to be likeable. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator with antiquated social views, seemed destined to sit on the bench the whole primary season, but has suddenly been catapulted to the front of the pack because of his appeal to the most conservative edge of the party. When facing the first few challengers, Romney wasn’t worried. He...

Gal Pals

On a day when Slate ’s David Weigel announced the birth of a “kinder, gentler” Rick Santorum—asserting that “his culture war talk is softer, more implied”—the former senator’s super PAC sugar daddy demonstrated that he definitely didn’t get the memo. On MSNBC, Foster Friess left host Andrea Mitchell dumbstruck after she asked whether Santorum’s “comments on social issues, contraception, about women in combat” would prove a problem in a general election. “This contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive,” replied the beaming, white-haired billionaire investor. “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Obviously, candidates can’t be held responsible for what strange things their supporters say. But on the heels of Santorum’s controversial comments about women in combat, the dredging-up of his opinion that birth control is “harmful to women”—and with the candidate leading the rhetorical charge...

Romney's Trouble On The Ground

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I've been arguing over the last few days for journalists to be wary of the Santorum bubble, which I think will pop before it amounts to much, despite the current bounce in the polls. But Nate Silver raised an important point I missed earlier this week: It is not clear, however, how much emphasis Mr. Romney has placed on this part of his campaign. When I visited the various campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney’s office was the busiest and the best run (although Ron Paul’s was reasonably close). Still, Mr. Romney’s office in Manchester was the only one he had in the state. In contrast, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards each had 16 field offices in New Hampshire in advance of the 2008 primaries there. I noticed a similar dynamic when I was on the trail in Iowa and Florida. Romney certainly outpaced his rivals when it came to campaign organization, even on the basics. It was at times bewildering covering Gingrich events without knowing where to park,...

The GOP Must Really Want to Lose this Election

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This, via The New York Times , seems like a huge strategic miscalulation on part of conservative activists: The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents thousands of churches in 40 denominations, “will be working vigorously” against the mandate, said Galen Carey, the association’s vice president for government relations — lending substance to the statement last week by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Baptist minister, that “we are all Catholics now.” Evangelical leaders say they would be outraged by the mandate in any case, but many also believe that it will bring them political gains. Mr. Reed, the conservative strategist, said that even if a majority of Americans expressed general support for requiring contraceptive coverage — and even if, as he believes, the economy remained the primary issue — getting conservative and religious voters more fired up could make a difference. It’s not just conservative activists; at the moment, House Republicans—led by...

The Right-Wing Media Non-Conspiracy

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Today's (actually, yesterday's) important article about the media comes from The American Prospect 's friend Ben Adler, in the Columbia Journalism Review . It's a nuanced exploration of the dynamics within the conservative media and how they affect Republican politicians. Here's an excerpt: While there are undeniable heavyweights, like Limbaugh, in the conservative media machine, this swift discipline doesn’t happen as the result of a top-down directive. It is more accurate to think of the conservative media ecosystem as a giant circular feedback loop. Conservative talk radio's rise in the late 1980s and early 1990s begat the creation of Fox News in 1996. Conservative blogs in turn arose in the last decade. Bloggers and their commenter communities listen to talk radio and watch Fox News, while Fox and radio hosts read conservative blogs, websites, and newspapers such as The Washington Times and New York Post . Thus conservatives in print, online, and on-air create and promote each...

Romney: Plain and Unpopular

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Unlike Newt Gingrich, who can claim a regional base, Rick Santorum, who has a solidly defined political persona, or Ron Paul, who has something of a cult of personality, there’s nothing unique about Mitt Romney as a candidate. He is the definition of a generic Republican—a blank slate for the public to register its frustrations. Like Thomas Dewey—who played a similar role in the 1948 election—he is “the little man on the wedding cake.” Indeed, if there is anything close to a reason for his presidential campaign, it’s his vanilla appeal to the broad public, and undecided voters in particular. Since the beginning of the year, however, that advantage has completely evaporated—the public has gone from slight approval of the former Massachusetts governor, to outright loathing. Talking Points Memo details the slide: In less than two months, Romney has gone from a positive rating of +8.5—43.5 percent favorable to 35 percent unfavorable—to an astonishingly negative one of -17.4, or 31.2...

Romney Is in Trouble, Just Not for the Primary

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In an otherwise sharp article about Mitt Romney's sudden troubles in Michigan, The Atlantic 's Molly Ball opens with an analysis that's been parroted by many in the media since Rick Santorum's sudden rise last week: In one view, Mitt Romney has had it effectively wrapped up for weeks. Rick Santorum's freak victory in three contests last week was a meaningless blip -- a speed bump. Sure, Santorum now leads in some polls, but he's fundamentally a small-time candidate who's about to get crushed like a bug by Romney and his allies. What we're witnessing now isn't drama -- it's death throes. The other view: Romney has never been weaker. The conservative brushfire that powered Santorum in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado is now a raging inferno that threatens to engulf the fragile front-runner. Desperate and flailing, Romney is on the verge of total collapse. With a natural and specific appeal in many of the upcoming primary states, Santorum is poised to sweep into Super Tuesday and become...

Gingrich's Endgame

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, pauses during a campaign stop at the Tulare World Ag Expo Tuesday, February 14, 2012, in Tulare, California. H ere’s the problem with Newt Gingrich’s campaign for president: We know what Ron Paul’s supporters look like (young, genial) and believe (they’re loony). We know that Rick Santorum’s supporters are downscale and devout. We know that Mitt Romney’s supporters are upscale—indeed, the more upscale the Republican, by evidence of the exit polls, the more likely he or she is to be resigned to Mitt. Above all, they want to win, though they’re having growing doubts that they picked the right horse. And Newt’s supporters … Well, what about Newt’s supporters? What niche do they occupy? What do they believe? It’s hard to say, because Newt himself is nicheless, and his transcendent cause is himself. His sub-transcendent cause is ruining Mitt Romney, but if primary voters share that particular...

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