Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Mittinator 2

Rick Santorum is known for many things, but none of them involves a sense of humor. His new ad, “Rombo,” is funny, though—and smart. In case you have somehow missed it, a Mitt Romney lookalike brandishes a serious-looking weapon and fires rounds of mud at a Santorum cutout figure. “Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering $20 million … attacking fellow Republicans,” the announcer says. “And in the end, Mitt Romney’s attacks are going to backfire.” We’ll see about that. Now that Romney’s on the ropes, trailing Santorum nationally and in his home state of Michigan, one of his advisers yesterday promised that the coming assault would make the former Pennsylvania senator “whine like crazy.” How, exactly? First, they’ll compare Santorum to President Obama, because “he’s never run anything,” and then they’ll really go in for the kill : “hit him very hard on earmarks, lobbying, voting to raise the federal debt limit five times.” Which raises an obvious question: Is that all you got?...

Mitt Romney's Money Problems

AP Photo
The big assumption about Mitt Romney’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is that he has limitless pockets. After all, with the support of the Republican establishment and an immense fortune, it shouldn’t be too hard for him to generate funds through the contest. But according to a few (anonymous) Republican donors—and a source from within the Romney campaign—there’s growing worry that the former Massachusetts governor might run out of money from direct donations before the race is over. Buzzfeed’s Zeke Miller has the details : [R]omney has proved unable to tap into the emotion-driven small-dollar contributions that helped power Barack Obama in 2008, and which fueled even his more Establishment rival, Hillary Clinton, this time four years ago when she too began to run out of big donors. The result: Republican fundraisers say that despite his success so far, they think Romney is fast approaching a wall, and that he will likely be forced to pay for the campaign out of...

Susan B. Anthony's Hit List

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin receives a standing ovation as she speaks at the Susan B. Anthony List, celebration of life breakfast at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington Friday, May 14, 2010. I n October 2007, Kathy Dahlkemper, whose only previous political experience involved raising money to build a public arboretum in her hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, decided to run for Congress. Over the previous two and a half decades, the 49-year-old had worked as a dietician, helped run the landscape-architecture business her husband inherited from his father, and given birth to five children. Struggling to raise a family in Erie, a city devastated by a decades-long decline in manufacturing jobs, had given Dahlkemper an understanding of what millions of Americans were experiencing as the Great Recession began; her grown children had moved away in search of better opportunities. She knew that the rising cost of health care was hurting businesses like hers...

Airwaves Soon to Be Covered In Santorum

Now that Rick Santorum is the new frontrunner for the Republican nomination—let's pause for a moment and reflect on how bizarre that notion is—the struggle to define him on the airwaves in advance of the next round of primaries begins. Let's watch two ads, each unconvincing in its own way. First up, we have Santorum's own ad, which might be called, "Admired by right-wing media nutballs everywhere!" That's right, Glenn Beck thinks Santorum is the next George Washington and, in 2005, Time magazine weirdly called him one of the nation's 25 most influential evangelicals, despite the fact that he's Catholic, and therefore not an evangelical. The magazine's explanation was that even though Santorum is not an evangelical himself, he hangs out with them a lot. Which is kind of like calling Eminem one of the most important black people in the music industry. But hey, if some evangelicals seeing this ad think Santorum is one of them and not an adherent of the Whore of Babylon over in Rome, what...

Mitt Romney Brings the Weaksauce

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Romney campaign has developed a reputation for political ruthlessness. In Florida, with the help of super PACs and a massive fundraising advantage, they crushed Newt Gingrich—they drove him from the state and relished in the lamentations of his supporters. With Rick Santorum, they plan to repeat the performance. The pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future has already released its first ad against Santorum, which assails him for votes to increase the debt ceiling and spending. The ad includes a Romney surrogate, former Missouri senator Jim Talent, who attacks Santorum for his votes on legislation like the Medicare prescription drug benefit. The problem, as you can probably see, is that these attacks are bloodless and unconvincing. It’s hard to think of a senator who didn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling during the Bush presidency; most Republican members of Congress were eager to sign off on Bush’s priorities, even if they involved massive spending...

Rick Santorum's Endgame

(AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Charlie Litchfield) (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Charlie Litchfield) Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum pauses for a moment while addressing the crowd at a rally on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 at Capital High in Boise, Idaho. T he media has anointed Rick Santorum as the newest frontrunner in the GOP race after he clinched three victories last Tuesday night in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri. That bump translated into a steep rise in the national polls, with Santorum trumping former favorite Mitt Romney in four of the last five by as much as 15 percent. RealClearPolitics now gives Santorum a 1.6 percent edge in their polling average. It seems, just perhaps, that the anti-Romney faction has finally settled on its chosen candidate. The conservative base—think the rural voters clinging to their guns and churches, not the Wall Street financiers who'd prefer to pay zero capital gains taxes—has little interest in voting for...

Married to Obama

Last Thursday evening, President Obama raised a tidy $1.4 million for his re-election campaign at a private Washington fundraiser hosted by a lesbian couple from Chicago. The event inspired an unusually tart headline at ABC News: “Obama, No Same-Sex Marriage Supporter, Solicits Cash at Home of Lesbian Couple.” But the apparent contradiction came as little surprise to the LGBT community, which has seen the president tap the “gay-TM” freely and frequently while he continues to oppose marriage equality. The fundraising efforts have been stepped up in 2012, with Obama touting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court as reason enough for LGBT donors to keep giving. His campaign’s finance director, Rufus Gifford, is gay, and its finance committee, which had one gay member in 2008, was reported last year to have 15. In addition, the campaign has assembled a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Council with donors...

The George Washington Candidate

For a time, it looked as though Newt Gingrich would be the Romney alternative that the religious right and Tea Partiers would coalesce around. Now Rick Santorum has taken that spot after a string of victories in primaries last week and a huge rise in national polls. In a new ad, Santorum challenges Gingrich on another front: Which candidate can claim the most historical gravitas . The ad features a series of quotes over soaring orchestral music as images of Santorum flash across the screen. "I adore Rick Santorum's conviction," the ad quotes Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's neutral stance on the 2012 race. "Santorum … one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America," the ad quotes Time . But the best quote is pulled from a now forgotten former Fox News host. "'Santorum is the next George Washington,' ~ Glenn Beck." Republican candidates always rush over one another to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, and they gleefully highlight their history as the party...

Comedian In Chief

Public Policy Polling has been a boon for political journalists over the past few years, partially for their extensive and accurate numbers—they were the only ones noting the rise of Rick Santorum in Minnesota last week—but also for their sense of humor. In addition to surveying the major political races, PPP tackles the all-important topics such as which NFL player is more popular than all of the presidential candidates (Tim Tebow of course ) or how Stephen Colbert would perform in the South Carolina Republican primary. When the latter question produced a 5 percent result for Colbert—putting the comedian ahead of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman—he rolled out a joke candidacy that culminated with a joint rally with Herman Cain in Charleston. Now it seems that PPP has found another celebrity who registers a solid base of support. Rosanne Barr, who recently announced that she would be seeking the nomination of the Green Party, drew 6 percent of the vote when PPP polled the national...

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