Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Mitt, Rick, and the Ultimate Irony

Last night in Mesa, Arizona, we learned (thanks to Rick Santorum) that birth control leads to more unwanted pregnancies. We discovered that Newt Gingrich thinks his best one-word description is “cheerful.” We couldn't help noticing that Ron Paul (see below) has become Mitt Romney’s most valuable campaign surrogate. But there was one relevation odder still: that Santorum is (are you sitting down?) a raving moderate compared to that beacon of conservative consistency, Romney. It is no small feat for a formerly pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-universal-health-care governor of Massachusetts to transform one of the nation’s leading right-wing Neanderthals into an unprincipled, wavering compromiser of conservative values. But give Romney (and his wingman Paul) their due, because they’ve now managed it twice in one campaign. First it was that other Neanderthal, Texas governor Rick Perry, who—long before “oops”—was badly wounded by a barrage of criticism from Paul (and Michele Bachmann) that he was...

Republican Family Planning

It only took about an hour into the 20th Republican debate Wednesday for the candidates to find something they could agree on. After sparring over the fine details of earmarks, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum agreed that it’s all right for women to serve in the military but birth control, well, that’s a slippery slope that leads to the breakdown of society. Supporting the right of women to serve in the armed forces, itself a completely irrelevant debate considering 167,000 women are active-duty military , while trying to limit access to birth control, betrayed a profound ignorance on the way that women lead their lives. Even the way moderator John King posed a viewer-submitted question over contraceptives to the candidates, asking them if they “believed” in birth control, seemed to suggest that contraception is some form of rare unicorn that exists only in the imagination. The candidates’ answers were even more surreal. Gingrich skipped answering the question...

Milking the SuperPACs

(Flickr/AMagill)
Back in the dark ages when I worked on campaigns, contributions from supporters always made me feel a little guilty. Some of them anyway—not the rich guy who maxed out, or the candidate's business partner who gave his house as a crash pad for the staff to sleep in when they shuffled out of the office at 1 a.m.—but the nice little old lady who gave $50, or the earnest schoolteacher with a check for $100. I knew it meant a lot to them, but I couldn't help thinking it would go to something that wouldn't do very much to make the world a better place, like pizza or some ineffectual mailer. And that doesn't even get into the money that's milked by the armies of consultants. That's why I was actually pleased to see this analysis by the Los Angeles Times of how some of the people running super PACs are turning them into dandy profit machines. Here's just one example: Winning Our Future, a group backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that has been buoyed by $11 million in donations from...

Rick Santorum's Cross to Bear

Rick Santorum and this guy go way back. (Flickr/
Apparently, Rick Santorum is displeased that he's being forced to talk about stuff like contraception, and Satan's war on America , when other candidates aren't getting the same kind of questions. One of his aides made the complaint to conservative journalist Byron York: But specifically religious questioning of Romney is as rare as specific Romney statements about Mormon beliefs. Given the current grilling of Santorum, that is a source of growing frustration to Santorum's advisers. "Why is Mormonism off limits?" asks one. "I'm not saying it's a seminal issue in the campaign, but we're having to spend days answering questions about Rick's faith, which he has been open about. Romney will turn on a dime when you talk about religion. We're getting asked about specific tenets of Rick's faith, and when Romney says, 'I want to focus on the economy,' they say, OK, we'll focus on the economy." In one way, Santorum's people have a point. Reporters haven't asked Romney lots of questions about...

Why Arizona is "in Play" This November

(Pablo Manriquez/Flickr)
If John McCain weren’t on the ballot in 2008, you could make a strong case that his state, Arizona, would have been in play for Democrats, regardless of who they nominated. Hispanics were a huge share of the population, a significant share of the electorate—at 16 percent of all voters in the state—and a solid block of supporters for the Democratic Party—in 2008, they supported Barack Obama with 55 percent of the vote. The percentage of Hispanics in Arizona has remained steady since then, at around 30 percent , but the voting age population has increased to 845,000, and now constitutes 19 percent of Arizona residents of voting age, up from 17 percent in 2008. What’s more, intense Republican antagonism—through intrusive, draconian laws—have thoroughly alienated Hispanic voters. All of this is to say that conditions have moved Arizona to the column of states which are “in play,” and recent polls bear that out. For example, in its latest survey of the state, Public Policy Polling found...

Congressional Battle Ready

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who is making her second run for Congress, lost both her legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004. Duckworth first ran for Congress in 2006, but lost to Republican Peter Roskam. Now, the EMILY’s List candidate looks poised to win her primary in the Illinois 8th, and the seat in November. A 48-year-old Iraq War veteran, Duckworth has based much of her platform on veterans’ advocacy—a cause that was sparked by her first-hand experience recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I talked to Duckworth about a range of issues, but it was Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s comment about women in combat that sparked the greatest reaction. Duckworth, the daughter of a veteran, joined ROTC over 20 years ago, as a graduate student, and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the few combat positions open to women at the time. She went on to become one of the first women to fly combat missions in...

And the Winner Is: Barack Obama

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Without question, the winner of Wednesday’s Republican debate was Barack Obama. This wasn’t apparent at the beginning; during the first forty minutes, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul argued about earmarks, and made the usual promise to cut taxes, cut spending, and magically balance the budget. But by the end of the event, the candidates had revealed their hostility toward women and Latinos, and further ensured that they would stay on Obama’s side into the fall. It wasn’t actually until after the first commercial break that moderator John King asked the candidates about the elephant in the room—birth control. After Gingrich went through the usual motion of insulting King for posing the question, the candidates embarked on a fantastic voyage of obfuscation, dishonesty, and outright attacks on women’s health. Mitt Romney, whose ancestors were driven from the country by the government for their religious beliefs, began the exchange with an attack on the...

Santorum's Piñata Moment

Back in early September, after he’d vaulted into the lead in Republican polls, Texas Governor Rick Perry found himself the queasy center of attention in his maiden presidential debate. "I kind of feel like the piñata here at the party," Perry said midway through the inquisition. It wasn’t long before Perry “oopsed” himself into oblivion—the fate that’s met each of the conservative shooting stars (Bachmann, Pawlenty, Cain, Gingrich) who’ve plummeted back to Earth partly because of the Piñata Effect. Tonight, in what might be the last 2012 GOP debate, it’s Rick Santorum’s turn. Coming six days before primaries in Michigan and Arizona, as Santorum leads in national polls, the 8 p.m. EST showdown in Mesa will be a test of how he can handle being a frontrunner—an experience he hasn’t had since his 2000 Senate campaign in Pennsylvania—and of whether Mitt, Newt and Ron can get his goat and turn their fortunes around. Throughout the previous 20 (or 25, depending on how you count them)...

Women for Santorum?

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
If this new poll from the Associated Press is any indication, Republicans have mixed feelings about the presidential race. On one hand, 60 percent of Republican say that they are satisfied with the people running for the nomination, which is down from the 66 percent in October. This isn’t a great number, but it isn’t a sign of widespread disappointment, and it dovetails with polls from Gallup that show a broad preference for sticking with candidates that are in the race, rather than reaching for someone new. That said, only 40 percent of Republicans say they have any interest in the race, which is down from 48 percent in December. Some of this comes from election fatigue—constant coverage can result in people losing interest. What’s more, the race has stabilized considerably since January, and has probably lost some of its excitement. The general election should energize Republicans, since they’ll have a nominee and a direct competitor, in the form of President Obama. Even still, the...

Romney's Out of Flops on Abortion

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Lots of politicians, and quite a few presidential candidates, have changed their minds on abortion. This is partly because, in its broadest terms, it is a weighty, complex issue with a legitimate case to be made on both sides, even if one side has a stronger case (I'm not talking here about subsidiary issues like parental consent or the despicable laws requiring women to get ultrasounds or anything like that, just the basic question of whether abortion is right or wrong). It's also because in recent years, both parties have tolerated less and less deviation on the issue, particularly in anyone who wants to be their presidential nominee. There are still a few pro-life Democrats (like Harry Reid) and pro-choice Republicans (like Olympia Snowe), but the days when someone could hope to get on a national ticket without toeing the line on abortion are gone. So if you've been around a while, there's a chance you held one belief in your early years, but then moved to align with your party...

Virginia Backs Down on Mandatory Transvaginal Ultrasound

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
*Update: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell retracted his support of transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions Wednesday afternoon. In a statement released to the press, McDonell said : Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure. The new bill makes the transvaginal ultrasound voluntary but requires an external, non-invasive, ultrasound. Since it passed the House of Delegates last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has maintained that he would sign a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, should it reach his desk. Not only does this place him on the wrong side of reproductive health advocates—who (...

Um, What's a Brokered Convention?

(Copyright Bettmann/Corbis/AP Images) President Jimmy Carter accepts the Democratic nomination for president at the 1980 convention. T here comes a point in every presidential election battle where political pundits and fanatical West Wing-watchers alike hold their breaths, click their heels, and wish upon an earmark that this will be the year of the brokered convention. As the surety of Mitt Romney’s arranged marriage to the Republican Party steadily diminishes while other suitors pull ahead, the plausibility of a tussle in Tampa come convention-time in August has grown. Herewith, a look at the peculiar institution of the nomination convention, why all the talking heads are in a tizzy about a brokered instead of a fixed one, and what the odds are of a televised royal rumble this summer. What is a brokered convention? In their current form, conventions are exercises in collective vanity, an excuse for the party’s settled nominee—who has already garnered enough delegates to make his...

Ultimate Whack-A-Mole

This next week, culminating in the February 28 primaries in Arizona and Michigan, could very well make or break Mitt Romney’s campaign—politically and even financially. The only feasible way he can sweep the contests, with Rick Santorum narrowly leading in Michigan and closing in on him fast in Arizona, is the same way Romney nearly won Iowa and did win Florida: Unleash colossal amounts of cash. This has largely been a Whack-a-Mole campaign: Whenever a conservative contender creeps out of the woodwork, Romney’s money machine obliterates him with multi-million-dollar attacks. His one truly impressive win so far came in Florida, where his campaign and super PAC spent more than $14 million bombarding the airwaves with negative ads and effectively stomped out Newt Gingrich’s second fledgling surge. Now the Romney treasure chest seeks to snuff out Santorum’s nascent legitimacy by deploying its full financial arsenal in Michigan—a state everyone thought the former Massachusetts governor had...

Santorum's Problem: the American People

The National Review ’s Rich Lowrey argues that the media is out to get Rick Santorum for his unapologetic social conservatism: Santorum is a standing affront to the sensibilities and assumptions of the media and political elite. That elite is constantly writing the obituary for social conservatism, which is supposed to wither away and leave a polite, undisturbed consensus in favor of social liberalism. Santorum not only defends beliefs that are looked down upon as dated and unrealistic; he does it with a passionate sincerity that opens him to mockery and attack. It’s absolutely true that Santorum—or rather, his beliefs—are a “standing affront” to the sensibilities of the elites. But this is also true of the country at large. Like it or not, most Americans support abortion rights, the wide availability of contraception, and an equal role for women in the public sphere. They like public schools—even if they could use improvement—and they aren’t on board with Santorum’s hostility to gay...

More Reasons Not to Look for a Brokered Convention

Library of Congress The 1920 Republican National Convention. With Mitt Romney unable to build support with a solid majority of Republicans, and the only alternative—Rick Santorum—an unelectable disaster, some Republicans have floated the possibility of a brokered convention, where party leaders decide the nominee for themselves. There are a few practical problems with this scenario; first, a new candidate would have had to enter the race two months ago, in order to have a chance at amassing a substantial portion of delegates. Moreover, it’s been forty years since individual party leaders controlled large portions of delegates. In other words, there are no delegates for GOP elites to actually broker. Then there’s the issue of Republican voters themselves. If this new survey from Gallup and USA Today is any indication, Republicans aren’t too keen on the idea of a brokered convention: By 66%–29%, the Republicans and Republican-leaning independents surveyed say it would be better if one...

Pages