Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Jig Is Up

(Flickr/Monik Markus)
As you’ve probably noticed by now, the response of conservative Catholics to President Barack Obama’s decision to require full birth-control coverage from employers who provide health insurance has been to accuse the administration of an attack on religious freedom. These Catholics, and in particular, the Catholic Bishops, would prefer a regime that allows a broad exemption for Catholic-affiliated hospitals, even if they employ nonadherents and serve the general public. Anything less, they argue, is an assault on their constitutional rights. To wit : “The federal government, which claims to be ‘of, by and for the people,’ has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people – the Catholic population – and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful,” said Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield, Mass., told his congregation on Sunday. “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” Supporters of the administration argue two things. First is that...

A Second Term at All Costs

“I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests," President Barack Obama said during his 2010 State of the Union, staring down the six Supreme Court Justices in attendance. It was a week after the high court issued its decision on Citizens United . That landmark ruling—followed shortly by a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Speechnow.org v. Federal Elections Commission that removed the $5,000 donation limit for political-action committees (PACs)—led to the development of super PACs that can receive unlimited campaign donations as long as they do not directly coordinate with the candidates on messaging and ad creation. The president spent much of the following year bemoaning new routes for corporations to buy political influence in elections and investing his political capital in the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would have instituted additional disclosure requirements but done little to stem the flow of unchecked money. The efforts were...

Wall Street's Third Party

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) T his November, when Barack Obama faces off against his Republican opponent, there will be a third candidate in the race, too. This candidate has already qualified for the ballot in 14 states, including California. The campaign to ensure the candidate’s ballot access in all 50 states has raised $22 million (more than the campaigns of every Republican presidential candidate except Mitt Romney), with which it has employed 3,000 paid signature gatherers and enlisted 3,000 volunteers. This third candidate probably doesn’t have to do all that well to affect the outcome of the presidential election. Most polling shows that the general election will be close, both nationally and in a number of swing states. It takes no great imaginative leap to envision a scenario in which this third candidate tips a key state to Obama or his GOP opponent, much as Ralph Nader tipped Florida to George W. Bush in 2000. Only this time around, there’s one signal difference:...

What Santorum Means

With Rick Santorum’s Tuesday sweep in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, the number of non-Romney “surges” in the GOP presidential contest now threatens to eclipse the number of debates. Pundits respond every time in competing choruses: the “It’s Not Over Yet!” song of jubilation, and the “Sorry, Mitt Is Still Inevitable” retort. It can be as tiresome as hearing Romney recite snatches of “America the Beautiful”—and it presents the campaign as a largely substance-free succession of stats and fundraising numbers and demographics. But the candidate who surprised everyone in the non-binding contests on Tuesday has, unlike the front-running Romney, based his campaign on big ideas —a bold plan to bring back manufacturing jobs and an ardent desire to rekindle the culture wars. As he showed again last night in Missouri, where he delivered one of the angriest and least-celebratory victory speeches in memory, Santorum is not competing on the basis of charisma and charm; his best moment was...

Maybe We Should Stop Talking about Media "Bias"

The Pew Research Center is out with one of its big reports about news use and politics, and as usual there's a lot of interesting stuff there, if this happens to be your thing. I want to point to one result, about perceptions of "bias" in the news. On one level, it's about what you'd expect: Republicans see a lot of bias in the news, particularly with Tea Party Republicans. That's because they're the most intense partisans, and they've spent 30 years marinating in an ideology that puts their oppression at the hands of a vicious liberal media at its center. But when Pew asked whether respondents prefer "news sources that have no point of view" or sources that "share your point of view," everybody agreed: 65 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of Democrats, and 71 percent of independents said that they liked sources that "have no point of view." Of course, there is no such thing as a news source that has no point of view. But it's pretty clear that to most people, "bias" means little...

New Results, Same Race

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum might be the media darling of the day after his clean sweep in last night's three elections. But that likely won't mean much for his future electoral prospects. Those three elections did not actually award any delegates—two (Minnesota and Colorado) were nonbinding caucuses, and the Missouri primary has been termed a beauty contest, with the states' delegates actually selected by another vote later this spring. Much like Iowa, these were small-scale contests where Santorum's town halls could win over enough votes to tip the scales. These were also the first contests where the Romney super PAC stayed largely on the sidelines, running few ads. That won't be the case in the remaining two February contests; Arizona and Michigan are large states where TV ads and traditional campaign infrastructure will trump grassroots appeal. After those states vote, the nomination finally ditches its state-by-state progression and becomes a truly national primary on Super Tuesday. Every poll...

Super PACs Make It Rain

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
It’s no secret that super PACs skew toward the wealthy set. However, a new study from Demos ( editor's note : Demos is The American Prospect 's publishing partner) and U.S. PIRG highlights how few people are running the money game this election cycle and how secret some of their contributions can be. Since the birth of super PACs in 2010 until the end of 2011, 93 percent of the itemized funds raised by super PACs from individuals were more than $10,000. That’s only 726 people. To put that in perspective, more people voted for perennial Democratic candidate Vermin Supreme in the New Hampshire primary this January—831—than contributed more than $10,000 to a super PAC in 2010-2011. Only 35 individuals have donated more than $1 million. Although wealthy individuals accounted for 56 percent—or $100 million worth—of super PAC donations, corporations and nonprofits, which were freed by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision to make unlimited contributions to these organizations,...

Santorum's Missing Ingredient

Despite the fact that Mitt Romney chose not to compete in Missouri and Minnesota—and spent little time in Colorado—his loss last night in all three states, to Rick Santorum, has been spun by the media as a terrible wound for the former Massachusetts governor. MSNBC’s Michael O’Brien described the results as “upsetting” to Romney’s status as the front-runner, while The Washington Post said that it would slow Romney’s march to the nomination. For The New York Times , this race was an “ upset ” that “raised fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to corral conservative support.” The reality, however, is that it did none of those things. This seems to go by the wayside whenever a new “anti-Romney” emerges, but it remains true that Mitt Romney has the most support within the Republican Party, the largest fundraising base, and the largest, most experienced organization. Of the candidates, he’s the most skilled at the process of running for president—which, admittedly, doesn’t say much —...

What's So "Super" about Super PACs?

Super PACs are the breakout stars of the 2012 election cycle. Like one of Newt Gingrich's mistresses, they're technically independent of the candidates they support but can still besmirch a reputation. In recent weeks, Gingrich has called on Mitt Romney to disown statements made by the “ millionaire friends ” who've donated to his super PAC, while Newt himself took heat for an ad produced by a pro-Gingrich PAC slamming Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Super PACs made their debut during the 2010 midterm elections, following court rulings that loosened restrictions on key areas of campaign finance. If you spent your weekend discussing farm subsidies with policy wonks, then you will probably want to turn to this helpful piece for a full-monty version of the legal evolution of the super PAC. But if you have a normal social life, here’s what you need to know to get by at the next Washington dinner party: What are they? Super PACs are described as “non-connected political action committees...

A Gun to the Gun Fight

In the summer of 2008, revving up for the general-election campaign against John McCain, Barack Obama raised some eyebrows by telling a group of Philadelphians: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” He wasn’t talking about fundraising specifically—he was emphasizing his ability to give a punch as well as take it—but he might as well have been: Obama also dismayed some supporters by eschewing the public financing system to make sure he had more than enough artillery ($750 million, in fact) to fend off the Republicans that year. Today’s announcement that the Obama campaign was embracing a super PAC, Priorities USA, to make major bank for his re-election bid inspired a similar outcry. NBC’s First Read said that it “looks hypocritical no matter how you try and rationalize it,” given the president’s outspoken opposition to Citizens United. There certainly was some rationalizing , as Obama officials noted that 60 percent of donations to their campaign are under $200 (while...

Why Are America's Racist Political Ads So Crappy?

If you've been on the internet in the last day or so, you've no doubt seen discussion of Congressman Pete Hoekstra's ridiculous ad in which a young Asian woman with a straw hat around her neck rolls up on her bike next to a rice paddy and talks about incumbent Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow in broken English: "Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good." And so on, including bestowing the nickname "Debbie Spenditnow" on the senator. Zing! Yes, of course it's absurdly racist, trying to get Michigan voters to fear the yellow menace. But my problem is this: does it have to be so amateurish? First off, there's the fact that the ad appears to be set in...Vietnam. At least that's what Americans think when they see rice paddies and conical straw hats. And most egregious is the fact that the actress in the ad is obviously American. She doesn't have a noticeably regional accent - she could be from Michigan, or Los...

Minnesota Not So Nice

(Flickr/J. Stephen Conn)
My home state of Minnesota holds its caucus today, and no one really knows how the election will turn out. Public Policy Polling rolled out numbers last night that gave Rick Santorum a decent lead with 33 percent of the vote followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 22 percent, and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 20 percent. Besides PPP there has been little polling in the state, and tracking numbers on Sunday had all of the candidates clustered together, so it's really anyone's guess how the caucus vote will roll in tonight. It's a nonbinding caucus, so the results themselves won't play a role in delegate math. The narrative tomorrow will be about whether Santorum has capitalized on Gingrich's missteps to gain momentum and reposition himself as the anti-Romney alternative. The more interesting story is the state of the Republican Party in Minnesota—yet another contest in a potential swing state for the general election—giving us a glimpse at how each candidate's...

Follow the Leader

Jamelle Bouie Supporters of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney cheer as he takes the stage. The most important thing about conservative activist Erick Erickson’s latest lament for the Republican presidential field isn’t his declaration that he would endorse the “sweet meteor of death” over any of the current candidates. It’s that, in the same segment, he resigned himself to supporting the eventual nominee in the general election. Put another way, liberals who expect conservatives to stay home are fooling themselves. Despite low turnout in the Republican presidential primaries and the overall lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney—the GOP’s likely nominee—the simple fact is that when the general election comes, Republicans will energize themselves into voting for the party’s choice. You can already see it, as prominent conservative figures begin to line up behind Romney’s candidacy. Put another way, John Kerry wasn’t a particularly thrilling nominee, but liberals were so angry with...

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...

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