Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Republicans' Deceptive Payroll Tax Compromise

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Republicans finally came to their senses yesterday and realized they were waging a losing battle with their opposition to a payroll tax extension. The two-month extension Congress passed in December was set to expire by the end of this month, and Republicans were adamant that any further extension be paired with equal spending cuts. Democrats balked, instead suggesting a surtax on millionaires that the Republicans would never accept, and another last minute legislative showdown appeared inevitable. Then out of nowhere yesterday afternoon Congressional Republicans announced that they would drop their resistance: “Because the president and Senate Democratic leaders have not allowed their conferees to support a responsible bipartisan agreement, today House Republicans will introduce a backup plan that would simply extend the payroll tax holiday for the remainder of the year while the conference negotiations continue regarding offsets, unemployment insurance, and the ‘doc fix,’” said GOP...

Fox News, Now Part of the Liberal Media

(Flickr/ario)
Is Fox News moving to the center? That's the rather surprising question asked in this story in The Politico. The answer, on the surface, appears to be "sort of." There's a simple explanation for this, which we'll get to in a moment. But here's the essence of the story, which is about how true-blue conservatives are beginning to suspect that Fox is becoming just one more outpost of the liberal media: The grumblers were picking up on a strategy that has been under way for some time — a "course correction," as Fox chief Roger Ailes put it last fall — with the network distancing itself from the tea party cheerleading that characterized the first two years of President Barack Obama's presidency. Lately, Fox has increasingly promoted its straight-news talent in the press and conducted some of the toughest interviews and debates of the Republican primary season. Just last week, it hired the openly gay liberal activist Sally Kohn as a contributor. All along, Fox watchers warned that it risked...

The GOP's Payroll Offensive

In a surprising change of heart, House Republicans agreed yesterday to extend the $100 billion payroll tax cuts through the end of 2012 without spending cuts to offset the cost. However, the concession may signal a shift in strategy , rather than a cave, on the issue. A December Gallup poll showed that those surveyed trusted Democrats more than Republicans on the payroll tax issue by 41 percent to 34 percent. Republicans can't afford to lose any more traction on this issue during an election year, and their smartest move was to move on. However, agreeing to pass the payroll tax cut without much fanfare or debate leaves an opportunity to push harder on other benefits expiring at the end of the month—including extended unemployment insurance and Medicare physician reimbursements. Democrats would prefer to push all three programs in one piece of legislation, but if the Senate and House Republicans refuse to cooperate, the Democrats will need to come up with a way to finance the programs...

The Inexplicable Rise of Rick Santorum

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum answers questions at a news conference at the statehouse Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, in Olympia, Wash. A s recently as last month, I couldn’t have predicted that Rick Santorum would be leading national polls for the Republican presidential nomination. That’s not to say that I didn’t think about it, but it seemed unfathomable. Not only does Santorum have the dubious distinction of having lost a re-election race by 17 points , but he’s been synonymous with extreme social conservatism for at least a decade. In 2002, he blamed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church on “secular liberalism” and “moral relativism,” and in the following year, gained national notoriety for comparing same-sex marriage to “man-on-child” or “man-on-dog” sex. Even now, with his full-throated attack on contraceptives, he insists on alienating the vast majority of Americans who don’t hold to an idealized version of Victorian...

Republicans Risk Their Future in Opposing Gay Marriage

(Flickr/Marissa Babin)
Marriage-equality advocates notched a major win yesterday when Washington became the seventh state—and just the second west of the Mississippi River—to legalize same-sex marriage. There was less jubilation when, on the same day, the New Jersey Senate passed a marriage-equality bill by a 24-to-16 margin. The legislation is expected to pass the state Assembly when it comes up for a vote later this week, but Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill when it comes across his desk. The Senate vote didn't meet the two-thirds threshold to override the governor's veto, likely leaving same-sex marriage stalled in the Garden State until the next crop of legislators are elected. Christie's likely veto is a clear attempt to gain stature among national Republicans rather than appeal to New Jersey voters. A Quinnipiac poll last month found that New Jersey residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage by a 52-to-42 percent margin. But Christie pictures himself as a national figure poised...

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...

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