Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

No Longer A Lost Cause

(Flickr/Cosmic Smudge)
Liberals weren't too excited about their 2012 electoral chances a few months ago. Even if Barack Obama managed to hold onto the White House, simple math made it tough to imagine Democrats keeping their current majority in the Senate. Democrats will need to defend 23 seats this November, thanks to their success in the 2006-midterm elections, while Republicans only have 10 seats up for grabs. If Republicans manage to flip four seats in November, Mitch McConnell would start off 2013 as the Senate Majority Leader. But, a series of favorable polls coupled with a spate of state-level developments have brightened Democrats' chances. The big news last week was Maine Senator Olympia Snowe's decision to retire at the end of the current session. What was one a safe Republican seat is now considered a toss-up that could easily land in the Democrats column. Two of the Democrats' weakest open seats gained stronger than expected candidates last week as well, with former Senator Bob Kerrey jumping...

Republicans Coalesce Around Romney

(Flickr/KP Tripathi)
Despite the horse-race media coverage before tomorrow's Super Tuesday elections, Mitt Romney remains the odds-on favorite to take the GOP nomination. He has nearly double his leading opponent's delegates, dwarfs Rick Santorum's meager cash stockpile, and has a campaign organization that will go unmatched this late in the race. In case that's not evidence enough, Republican elites continue to flock to Romney's side. And it's not just the establishment GOP of old (think Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush). Leaders from the far right of Republican politics are also lending Romney their support. Yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Tom Coburn both endorsed Romney. If Santorum were truly a threat to Romney's bid, a few arch conservative elected officials would be out stumping for the former Pennsylvania senator. Yet his former colleagues are entirely absent from his campaign. Romney has secured the support of 80 sitting members of Congress, according to a count from The Hill...

Americans are "Depressed, Disappointed, and Underwhelmed" by the GOP Primary

(Sander van der Wel/Flickr)
As much as some Republicans would like to believe otherwise, the fact is that this primary is dragging down the party. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primary—in which two formidable candidates fought hard, debated substance, and energized voters around the country—this year’s GOP primary has been defined by clownish vanity candidates, divisive bickering, and an unlikable front-runner who—so far—has “won” by not losing. None of this has done much to help the Republican Party. According to the latest survey by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal , 40 percent of adults say that “the GOP nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the Republican Party,” compared with the 10 percent who have come away from the event satisfied. What’s more, when asked to describe the GOP primaries in a word or phrase, 70 percent (including 60 percent of independents and half of Republicans) reach for something negative: “Unenthusiastic,” “discouraged,” “lesser of two evils,” “painful,” “...

America Needs a Good Mitt Romney Impression

(SNL/NBC)
A year and a half ago, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that it's kind of hard to make fun of Barack Obama. Naturally, conservatives responded that I was saying that because I'm an Obama shill, and I thought he was so terrific that he was impossible to mock. But here was my actual point: Politicians who make good targets for humor tend to have a personality feature or physical characteristic, like a particular accent or a distinctive set of gestures, that are easily identifiable and thus can be exaggerated to make the politician look foolish, because exaggeration is what impressions and satire are built on. Some of these are simple and straightforward, like Bush's tendency to mangle his words. Others are more complicated but no less distinct, like Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" charm, which simultaneously made you suspect you were being conned and like it. The trouble with Obama is that he doesn't easily lend himself to mockery. He's famously cool -- never too hot, never too...

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Super Tuesday

(Flickr/mhaithaca)
Broad categorizations are an American specialty—after all, we are the nation of the Cosmo quiz, the seven highly effective habits, the red and blue state. In keeping with this tradition, it seems fitting that we break down the biggest primary day of the GOP race into an easily digestible taxonomy. Super Tuesday 2012: one day, four candidates, ten states, 434 delegates. Here's what you need to know. Ohio, the Battleground 66 delegates Who’s the favorite? Flip a coin. According to Five Thirty Eight , both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both have a 50 percent chance of winning. What to expect : Boasting a Great Lake and an unusual number of exotic animal preserves, Ohio also happens to be the marquee race of Super Tuesday. That's because—with the exception of Virginia, where only Romney and Ron Paul have qualified for the ballot—Ohio is the only swing state that votes on Super Tuesday, and its voters are demographic dead ringers for those that will come out during the general election in...

Mitt Romney Is Not An Unusually Negative Candidate

This kid knows negative campaigning. (Flickr/mdanys)
Is Mitt Romney an unusually negative candidate? The New York Times tries to make the case : As successful as the strategy has been, though, it has raised questions about Mr. Romney's role in turning the primary process into something akin to a civil war, even as it has demonstrated a ferocious, whatever-it-takes style that could hearten Republicans if Mr. Romney ends up in a general election matchup against Mr. Obama. "It's clear the negative ads are what's keeping this guy alive," said Nelson Warfield, a Republican strategist who worked for Mr. Perry. "It seems like Republican primary voters will not vote for Mitt Romney unless they are forced into it. And the way they're forced into it is when he beats the other guy senseless." Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney has also been on the receiving end of attacks from his Republican rivals as well as Democrats. But his aggressive style has been apparent since his first days in politics. For all that he can appear stiff and scripted at...

In Ohio, the Underlying Facts Look Great for Santorum

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The first post-Michigan poll of Ohio Republicans is out, and Mitt Romney has closed the gap. According to Quinnipiac University, Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely primary voters to Romney, who takes 31 percent. Because of the poll’s margin of error, ±4.3 percentage points, Quinnipiac presents this as too close to call. But the survey shows native advantages for Santorum that could propel him to victory, as long as he avoids another weekend of national controversy. Santorum leads Romney 36–27 among voters without a college degree, as well as voters with an annual income below $100,000. As Quinnipiac notes, “he leads Romney 34–28 percent among men and 37–33 percent among women, 40–27 percent among self-described conservatives and 42–25 percent among Tea Party members. Romney leads Santorum 46–26 percent among self-described moderates.” This wouldn’t matter much if these voters were a small percentage of the electorate, but if the 2008 Republican primary is any indication, these are...

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