Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Ron Paul's Endgame

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect) Ron Paul speaks to an audience in Charleston, South Carolina. In the race for delegates in the Republican presidential primary, Ron Paul isn’t ahead , despite his solid support in nearly every contest. The Texas congressman has 18 delegates to Newt Gingrich’s 29, Rick Santorum’s 71, and Mitt Romney’s 105. But as The Washington Post' s Felicia Sonmez reports , these results don’t tell the whole story: [S]ome caucus states in the current GOP race award delegates in a process that’s completely separate from the presidential preference poll. That means that a candidate could in theory win the caucus-night straw poll – as Romney did on Saturday – but lose the battle for the state’s delegates. Ron Paul’s strategy, she notes, is to dominate the delegate-selection process, so that he wins delegates that—if the vote were binding—would have gone to the winner of the actual caucuses. What this means is that Paul could have significantly more delegates than...

Who's Really Electable?

The presidential campaign has given Republicans quite the reputation for fickleness. What’s with these people, flitting like moths from one conservative flame—Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum—to the next? Why don’t they just settle on their one “electable” candidate and give us all a breather until the fall campaign? Perhaps it’s because they’re not fickle, but doggedly unconvinced that Mitt Romney has what it takes to win. This is a party, after all, that has suffered in recent election cycles with past-sale-date versions of Bob Dole and John McCain as its standard-bearers. Both were “electable” on paper, moderately conservative and presentable, but they stirred no hearts or minds among the rank-and-file of their party (or among independents). The truth that Republican voters seem to understand better than media pundits who crowned Romney “inevitable” is that presentability doesn’t win elections; inspiration does. Like Dole and McCain, Romney has given conservatives...

Soul-Searching

(Flickr/WBUR)
Now that there's a lull in the Republican primaries (no contests between now and February 28, when Michigan and Arizona vote), journalists have a chance to do some of the think pieces that have been gestating in their brains over the past few months. One of the big topics, as Erica Fry of the Columbia Journalism Review explains , is the search for Mitt Romney's soul. Who is he, really, and why? From whence did his inimitable Mittness spring? Many journalists and commentators are hard at work trying to figure it out. Reading this, I thought of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (of which The Golden Compass is the first book), in which every person's soul is embodied in an animal-formed "daemon" that walks around with them and reflects their innermost being. A commanding character's daemon is a snow leopard, an evil character's daemon is a scary golden monkey, servants have dogs for daemons, a conniving nobody might have a bug for a daemon. So what would Mitt Romney's daemon...

Obama's Fact-Checkers

(Flickr/The White House/Pete Souza)
The Obama campaign announced Monday morning that it would launch a new initiative termed Truth Team designed to combat Republican misrepresentation of the president's record. It's the successor to the 2008 campaign's Fight the Smears website, which corrected the common myths—such as his birth certificate or secret Muslim faith—through e-mail chains that year. "The GOP candidates are spending a huge amount of time attacking President Obama—no surprise," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But instead of basing their attacks on our differences of opinion, they've chosen to run on claims about his record that just aren't true." The new website is subdivided into three sections: AttackWatch, KeepingGOPHonest, and KeepingHisWord. The first blog item criticizes Romney's economic plan as one that "helps millionaires and hurts the middle class" (filed under KeepingGOPHonest), followed by a string of favorable Obama accomplishments, such as sanctions on...

Obama, Mr. Popular

(Flickr/Stephen Poff)
For as much as the Beltway is focused on the Republican nomination fight—and whether Mitt Romney prevails through conservative hostility—the other story of this year, so far, is President Barack Obama’s growing popularity with the public. Last week, in the latest poll from The Washington Post and ABC News, Obama broke 50 percent for the first time since last spring. Of course, you need more than a single survey to establish a trend, and the numbers for Obama were so positive that last week’s poll could have been an outlier. But a recent succession of polls has shown the president with a consistently positive approval rating, and the current average from Real Clear Politics shows Obama in the black for the first time since last year: Moreover, a declining percentage of the country says that the country is moving in the wrong direction. In RCP’s latest average , 30.3 percent of Americans say the country is moving in the right direction, while 62 percent say we’re on the wrong track. Six...

CPAC Takes Aim at Birth Control

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Volunteers promote Republican presidential hopefuls as America's political right gathers for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. WASHINGTON, D.C. —The economy might have been at the forefront when organizers constructed the schedule for this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but the the Obama administration's announcement that certain religious-affiliated organizations would not be exempted from contraception coverage galvanized social conservatives. Almost every politician took the opportunity to grandstand against the president. "The federal government does not have the power to force religious organizations to pay for things that an organization thinks is wrong," Marco Rubio said to thunderous applause in a prominent address on the confab's opening morning. The Obama administration's compromise on the contraception rule—that the responsibility for providing contraceptive...

Santorum Takes It to the Top

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect) F or a while now, I’ve been convinced of Mitt Romney’s eventual triumph in the Republican presidential primary. It’s not that he was the most well-liked or conservative candidate—we have years of evidence to show that neither is true—but that he was the only candidate with a campaign that could win. So far, however, Republicans have done everything they can to avoid the Romney coronation: They made Rick Santorum a viable player with a win in Iowa; they elevated Newt Gingrich with South Carolina; and after a stop in Florida, where Romney pummeled his opponents with negative advertising, they have returned to Santorum with wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. When I wrote about those earlier in the week, I was convinced that they wouldn’t mean much, since Santorum hasn’t been able to capitalize on the momentum generated by his wins. This time, however, might be different. In the latest national survey of Republicans by Public Policy Polling,...

I'm One of You—Really!

You have to imagine that Mitt Romney gave himself quite the pep talk this morning before his big Conservative Political Action Conference speech in Washington. Where his address at the 2008 CPAC signaled the end of his campaign, this afternoon he needed to jumpstart his 2012 run, especially since the people in the audience have been the hardest for him to woo. But, true to form, he did far more resume-waving than rabble-rousing. Romney paid lip service to social conservatives more than usual, emphasizing that his “will be a pro-life presidency” and that he “will fight for a federal amendment defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.” But the appeals sounded a tad desperate. As Commentary ’s Alana Goodman noted , “The speech said, without actually saying it: “I promise I’m a conservative just like all of you!’” Romney even stepped on one of his strongest selling points—that he’s the most electable Republican—by exclaiming, “Of course we can defeat Barack Obama...

Will the Real Citizens United Please Stand Up?

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, DC—The Citizens United case is back in the news this week with the Obama campaign's announcement that they would coordinate to help raise funds with the super PAC Priorities USA. As the presidential campaign ramps up, it's easy to forget what the actual Citizens United organization is: a mini-film studio with a conservative bent. The group is all over CPAC this week, airing their films in the CPAC Theatre, hosting a blogger briefing Wednesday, and sponsoring a panel Thursday morning titled "Advancing the Pro-Life Movement through Media.” And of course, they also have a booth selling DVDs of their various films in the CPAC vendor basement. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Citizens United displays its greatest hits. I caught up with the group to see which films had sold the most copies in the conservative crowd. " The Gift of Life is always very popular," the young woman selling DVDs told me, mentioning their film featuring Mike Huckabee relaying various inspirational...

The Libertarian Romantic Thriller

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
REPUBLICAN CENTRAL, DC—Every Republican presidential nominee is speaking in CPAC's main ballroom today except Rep. Ron Paul. He sent his son, Sen. Rand Paul, in his stead last night and the libertarian's message is being spread—if not always explicitly—down in the CPAC dungeon of booths. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Filmmakers have been marketing "Silver Circle" to comic book fans and conservatives. Set in 2019 during the aftermath of an economic collapse, the animated film "Silver Circle" is a "fun thriller romance," according to producer/director Pasha Roberts. I walked up to this booth expecting the typical Paul friendly organization arguing against fiat money, but was instead treated to behind the scenes clips of actors on a green screen stage edited with shots of the completed footage, fully animated in a manner evoking the rotoscoped effect of "Waking Life" but far more halting and amateurish in appearance. "Silver Circle" follows the soon-to-be true story of anti-...

Keep Conventions Conventional

Unless there’s a psychic shift in the Republican Party soon, this past Tuesday evening the campaign for its presidential nomination became sui generis . On its face, the race conforms to the establishment-versus-insurgency template that’s characterized past contests, such as the 1976 GOP race in which Ronald Reagan nearly took the nomination from sitting incumbent Gerald Ford, and the 1980 race in which Edward Kennedy couldn’t liberate Jimmy Carter of the Democratic nomination, so he stole the party’s heart instead. The dynamic in both cases was that once the party dutifully resolved to remain in its marriage to the dour Gerald Ford or Carter, it had one last doomed fling with heartthrobs Reagan and Kennedy in order not to forget who it really yearned for. What makes the current race singular, however, is that Mitt Romney is the weakest and least convincing establishment front-runner since Walter Mondale and that the insurgency is fractured. Insurgencies are purist by definition and...

Mitt Romney Is Really Bad At Running For President

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
If you spend your time amongst politically-involved liberals these days, you've probably participated in a lot of head-shaking conversations, along the lines of, "Wow, is this Republican race awesome, or what?" It is, without doubt. And one of the things it has showed us is that, what political scientists call "candidate quality" is a more complicated factor than we usually think. And Mitt Romney turns out to be the most complicated candidate of all. Ordinarily, we tend to believe that while some candidates are good at some things and some are good at others, and a candidate may have one particular strength but be lacking elsewhere (e.g. Newt Gingrich usually performs well in debates but sucks at most other parts of campaigning), the political world is basically divided into good candidates, mediocre candidates, and bad candidates. You can go pretty far being mediocre—for instance, Al Gore and Bob Dole never knocked anybody's socks off, but both rose almost to the apex of their chosen...

Catholic Men at CPAC Oppose Birth Control

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, D.C.—The controversy around the Obama administration's decision to mandate birth-control coverage in health insurance has dominated the talk at CPAC. "You may not agree with what that religion agrees. That's not the point. The point is, the First Amendment still applies," Marco Rubio said in his early morning address on Thursday. A group called Confronting Religious Persecution in America was primed to take advantage of the latest controversy. They're a Catholic men's organization that favors the conservative interpretation of social morals. "We have a desire to fight in a peaceful manner," said James Bascom, who stood with perfect posture, "to defend the Church, to defend the teachings of the Church, and to defend the remnants of Christian civilization that are being undermined and being destroyed in our society." (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Bascom, of Confronting Religious Persecution in America, spoke out against the birth control clause in the Affordable Care...

Gold and Silver: Taking Heavy Metal Literally

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, DC—Bouncing between Republican campaign events over the past few months, I've often run into GOP voters who wish they could support Ron Paul, but just can't mark the box next to his name. They love his End the Fed, slash every government regulation take on the economy, but despair over his isolationist foreign policy. I've met none that exemplify that split more than Travis Englert, who I spoke with yesterday deep in the bowels of CPAC. Hidden in the very back corner of the basement, Englert was manning the booth for Procinctu, a group that he just launched on Wednesday. Their booth might have been out of the main path, but it certainly stood out among the traditional mix of conservative groups. Englert rocks the shaved head looked, ditching the typical CPAC suit for a black button down. Heavy metal music blasted from his booth, and the group's logo features a cartooned shirtless man wearing a headband and rifle across his back. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) What...

CPAC Boothapalooza Part 1

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, D.C.—Day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was full of members of Congress palling around with white nationalists, conservatives offering dating advice, and Marco Rubio ripping into the president for considering birth control an essential health-care service. Day two is set to be dominated by talk of the 2012 race, with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich all slotted to speak in the main ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel on Friday. The real fun of CPAC lies in the basement labyrinth of booths where conservative groups of all stripes hawk their wares. In addition to covering the above-ground speeches, over the course of the day I'm going to profile a few of the more colorful vendors hidden away from the light of day. First up is HSP Direct, a mail fundraising firm that is working for Santorum this cycle. For a candidate who isn't particularly known for pulling in the money or an extensive organization, HSP sure was proud of its...

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