Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

New Name, Same Old Thing

Flickr/Maitri
Among political scientists, it’s well known that the “independent voter” is a myth . When pressed, the large majority of voters lean Democratic or Republican and tend to vote like partisans, consistently supporting their party of choice. The only difference between a strong partisan and a “weak partisan leaner” is that the latter are reluctant—for whatever reason—to place themselves in one camp or the other. Over the last few years, this myth of the independent voter has taken hold among political journalists and others outside of academia. In its latest report on the 2012 election, centrist Democratic think tank Third Way perpetuates it. Instead of straightforwardly noting that the Obama campaign needs to reach for Democratic leaners, they’ve constructed the “Obama Independent,” which is basically the same thing: In 2008, President Obama won 52% of Independent voters.1 All signs point to an even bigger role for them in 2012; in fact, our recent analysis of voter registration numbers...

High Fashion Backs Obama

Slideshow Obama Campaign Couture President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign is trying to duplicate the success of its 2008 Runway to Change designer collection with Runway to Win, a new apparel line making its debut February 7. All proceeds from the sales will go to the re-election effort. The Obama campaign is setting the presidential election contest ablaze with its second designer clothing collection. Runway to Win features 2012-themed apparel created by some of fashion’s heaviest hitters. The line launches February 7, with profits going toward the Obama re-election effort. This set of Obama-inspired attire is similar to the campaign’s first collection, Runway to Change, which included limited-edition inauguration duds from such designers as Zac Posen. Now, driven by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, a top-tier fundraising “bundler” for Obama’s 2012 campaign, other prominent designers—including Vera Wang, Beyoncé and Tina Knowles, Diane Von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang, Narciso Rodriguez, and...

Conservatives Ditch Corporate Spending After Eastwood Ad

(Flickr/Sachyn)
Conservatives spent Monday being outraged about the Chrysler Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood. They were upset that the great Western hero and former Republican would highlight Detroit manufacturing, which they argued was an implicit endorsement of Obama's policies. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” Karl Rove said on Fox News. “I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising." "The commercial’s theme was more closely informed by Barack Obama’s recent SOTU call for the country to put aside its differences and march to the president’s tune than by the rugged individualism that one usually associates with the star who played Dirty Harry and The Man with No Name," National Review 's Charles C.W. Cooke wrote . I was more ambivalent. It's nice to see...

Bubble in the Heartland

“Why Not Santorum?” One can imagine many ways to answer that banner-headline question at National Review Online . But some conservatives—along with pundits desperate to inject a spark of interest back into the Republican race—are posing it seriously as the Iowa caucus winner appears poised to give Mitt Romney a run in three low-profile GOP contests in Heartland swing states on Tuesday. Polls released on Sunday showed Santorum slightly ahead in one caucus state, Minnesota, and running second in another, Colorado, while the most recent numbers had him leading in Missouri, which holds a “beauty-contest” primary that won’t select any actual delegates. This may be Santorum’s last chance to regain a bit of the oomph he lost after Iowa, and he’s been campaigning hard—and mostly alone—in the three states since giving up Florida and Nevada for lost. The Romney campaign, determined to have no more right-wing “surges” that disrupt their man’s smooth gallop to the nomination, are doing Santorum...

House Republicans Pretend to Care About Black Women

Mother Jones ’ Nick Baumann reports that House Republicans have turned their attention to abortion rates among African American women: A House GOP memo obtained by Mother Jones argues for a controversial “prenatal discrimination bill” by referring to “black abortions” as distinct from abortions in general and claiming that “abortion is the leading cause of death in the black community.” […] [B]ackers of Franks’ bill, including Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the powerful chairman of the judiciary committee, have pointing to a supposed epidemic of abortions based on the race of the fetus—an argument that dominates the memo below. More than anything, I find this hilarious; as I said on Twitter , the notion that black women are having abortions because of the race of the fetus is absolutely nonsensical. Even if this were true, however, it’s clear that this doesn’t come from a place of concern. If House Republicans were genuinely worried about the African American abortion rate, they would...

The Birthers Are Back in Town

For most people, the “birther” conspiracy—centered on the belief that Barack Obama wasn’t a natural-born American citizen—ended when the president released his long-form birth certificate to the public last April. Birther claims were always bogus, but the release of the birth certificate was supposed to nail the coffin shut. For a while, it did. According to YouGov’s Adam Berinsky, the proportion of Americans who said that Obama was born in the United States rose from 55 percent before April 2011 to 67 percent afterward. Likewise, for Republicans—the group most likely to believe the conspiracy—the number who said Obama was born a citizen increased from 30 percent to 47 percent. Still low, but a real improvement. Recently, Berinsky polled the question again, focusing on Republicans to see if their attitudes have changed in the ten months since the president released his birth certificate. Far from getting better, Republicans have actually doubled-down on the belief that Obama is...

Mitt Romney: Liberal Economist

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Say you’re a presidential candidate shifting to the general election after your place as the party's nominee seems firmly settled. The entire logic of your candidacy has been built on business experience as the answer to an economic downturn, and you plan to assail the community-organizer president for not understanding how the private sector works. A high rate of unemployment is your friend. Voters will be dissatisfied enough with the general state of their lives that you should easily waltz past the incumbent president without having to do the tricky work of laying out your own vision for the country. Except, after a year of laying the groundwork for this sort of campaign, the economy slowly begins to recover. Things are certainly not in good shape, but the trend lines are beginning to move in the right direction and people are once again hopeful. That's the unenviable situation Mitt Romney has found himself. He is on the verge of dismissing his Republican opponents, and a string of...

Another Kind of Mandate

You have to feel for the genuine policy wonks at a place like the Heritage Foundation. On one hand, they want to conduct their research with integrity. On the other hand, they work at an organization where the line between being ideological and being partisan is always fuzzy. Take the individual health-insurance mandate, an idea that had its origins at Heritage, where it started as a way to address some of the pathologies of the health-insurance market without relying on government-provided insurance. For years, this was seen as a conservative approach, which is one of the reasons Mitt Romney embraced it in his Massachusetts health-insurance reform. We all know the rest of the story: a similar mandate became part of the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans immediately decided that the fact that Obama used it now meant the mandate was the very essence of statist oppression. So opposition to the mandate became a partisan requirement. But what if you're a conservative health-care wonk (...

Halftime in America

Not only was this Chrysler ad the best of last night, but—as I noted on Twitter during the Super Bowl—it was an excellent pitch for President Obama’s re-election bid: While it’s hard to make a bad advertisement with Clint Eastwood, this would be good even without “ The Man With No Name .” The basic message is straightforward— it’s “halftime in America.” Yes, the country suffered a major setback four years ago, but we have the strength and reserve to press forward on the current path and succeed. There are two things that make this a surrogate ad for the Obama campaign. First, is the idea that we shouldn’t give up now, where “give up” means “elect a Republican president.” Indeed, Obama used similar language in his pre-game interview with NBC News anchor Matt Lauer. “I deserve a second term, but we’re not done,” said Obama. “The key right now is to just make sure that we don’t start turning in a new direction that could throw that progress off.” The second thing, as befitting a car...

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

AP Photo
This was supposed to be the year of Ron Paul. Sure, no one outside his band of misfit supporters expected Paul to come anywhere close to winning the Republican nomination, but he was on a path to be the spoiler of the race. His baseline support had apparently ticked up since 2008—the rise of the Tea Party brought new love for his career-long opposition to the Federal Reserve—and the Texas congressman had used those intervening four years to develop the most ruthlessly efficient organization combined with an enviable budget of any of the candidates—except for maybe Mitt Romney. His path was set: Paul could consistently finish somewhere around 20 percent in most state primaries, rarely enough to win but still respectable. That's a low enough total to push most candidates out of the race eventually, but Paul is committed to his ideological purity, not the Republican Party. He'd likely carry on past the outcries from the Grand Old Party's establishment. While that might not secure the...

Obama Pulls Ahead

At the moment, this is President Barack Obama’s situation: The economy has seen two consecutive months of good job growth, with 200,000 jobs added in December and 234,000 in January. What’s more, Obama has adopted more populist rhetoric, with an emphasis on tax hikes for the wealthy that will make them pay their “fair share.” The stronger economy has made the president’s message that much more potent and has significantly improved his standing with the public. If there’s anything that will guarantee goodwill for an incumbent president, it’s economic growth. The economy doesn’t have to be objectively good, but as long as it's getting visibly better, any president can count on support for his message and voter approval. According to the latest poll from The Washington Post and ABC News, 50 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, the most since last spring, when he received a temporary bump for the killing of Osama bin Laden. On the other end, Mitt Romney—the presumptive...

Gingrich the Spoiler

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a news conference after coming in second in the Nevada caucuses. T he most important rule in Nevada is don’t bet against the house. The guys who got it wired tend to win, and Mitt Romney, candidate of the Mormon majority, didn’t disappoint in Saturday’s caucuses. Equally unsurprising was the low turnout, which probably fell short of the number of people dropping their paychecks in the MGM Grand Casino on Saturday night. The best efforts of the media to drum up a story notwithstanding, the Nevada caucuses yielded no surprises and barely anything of interest. Barring some unforeseen upheaval, all that matters in this race is how long Newt Gingrich soldiers on. The campaigns will largely lie fallow for the remainder of February—the upcoming primaries in Arizona and Michigan are on Romney’s turf, and he’s expected to do well. (In Arizona, Mitt’s Mormons will boost his prospects, as...

Sell By Super Tuesday

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich holds a press conference after losing the Nevada caucus. T o no one’s surprise, Mitt Romney repeated his 2008 performance in Nevada with a double-digit win last night. Given the poll numbers, which had the former Massachusetts governor leading by up to 20 percent, Romney’s victory was nearly preordained. As expected, exit polls showed that Mormons, who made up about a quarter of caucus-goers and voted for the candidate by a 90 percent margin, helped propel Romney to victory. But the candidate also led among other key demographics in the state, including evangelicals, Tea Party supporters, and voters who said they wanted someone who could beat Barack Obama. All that's troubling news for Newt Gingrich, who in his post-caucus press conference—an odd choice of format given the candidate's love for a rallying crowd and antipathy for the media—tried to bill himself as the authentic, conservative...

Quit While You're Behind

I t’s silly to pretend that those of us writing about the GOP nomination race don’t have a vested interest in a drama without end. This is to say that we have no interest in the resolution that the whole of the Republican Party wants badly even as its individual parts resist it. If the sheer math of the situation — only 5 percent of the delegates to next August’s convention in Tampa have been chosen — didn’t favor ongoing uncertainty, Mitt Romney’s mouth does; his is a fitful march to 1,144, with triumphs denied (South Carolina), won and then rescinded (Iowa), or won and then overshadowed (Florida) by the former Massachusetts governor’s comments about the very poor who will be protected by a safety net that Romney advocates shredding by way of Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan. No sooner this week had Romney strafed the Florida marshlands with his carpet-bombing character assassinations, winning the contest’s most impressive victory yet in one of the country’s three or four most...

What Happens in Vegas

Flickr/califrayray
The next stop on the national humiliate Newt Gingrich tour lands in Nevada tomorrow when, if recent polls have even an ounce of truth, Mitt Romney will trounce the competition. Every survey this week has Romney up by staggeringly wide margins. Public Policy Polling's latest numbers have Romney doubling Gingrich and gathering support from 50 percent of Nevadans. The Las Vegas Review-Journal' s numbers aren't quite as rosy for the former Massachusetts governor; Romney tops Gingrich by only a 20 percent margin. The polls that give Romney a dominating lead can probably be trusted given his performance in the state last time around. The real question is who finishes in second. All of the factors that make a caucus state hard to accurately poll are the ones that lend themselves to outsize turnout among Paul supporters—organization and enthusiasm. Even though the latest polls put Paul in solid double-digits behind Gingrich, it won't be too surprising if Paul in fact finishes second tomorrow.

Pages