Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Second Time's the Charm?

A favorite trope of election coverage is to compare the current race to past elections. Is Barack Obama Jimmy Carter in 1980? Is 2012 a repeat of the 2004 election? Or is this year going to be just like 1896? With Mitt Romney, however, there's a far easier comparison: Mitt Romney in 2008. In the last presidential election cycle, Romney faced many of the same criticisms he does now: He was accused of being a flip-flopper and assailed for his religion and personal wealth. His failure to respond effectively to these accusations—and his fateful decision to stake his campaign on a win in Iowa—were his downfall.

Ringside Seat: Lucky Mitt

Will the operatic sturm und drang of the Republican presidential race end with a whimper of anti-climatic predictability? With one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich is flailing (see below) and Ron Paul is mishandling the controversy over his racist newsletters (ditto), while Rick Santorum and Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are still squabbling over the same Christian Right turf—leading folks like Nate Silver to ask: "How Can Romney Lose?" Even Mike Huckabee, who famously said in 2008 that Romney looks like "the guy who laid you off," is predicting he'll be the nominee.

Voting Wrongs

When Barack Obama entered the White House, liberals hoped that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice might return to its proper mission. The agency had been gutted during the Bush years, litigating individual cases of bias without tackling the systematic levers of discrimination that affect a far larger share of the population. Obama beefed up the agency's staff and DOJ started hiring actual civil rights attorneys (unlike the strict ideological conservatives without civil rights experience who entered during the Bush administration).

Honk If You Support Immigrants

As 2011 draws to a close, the immigration situation in the U.S. remains a mess. Arizona's infamous SB 1070, which required law-enforcement officials to check immigration status during routine encounters if there was "reasonable suspicion" someone was in the country illegally, sparked a nationwide outcry when it was passed in 2010. But in the past year, lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Utah, and South Carolina have followed suit, passing a host of copycat bills. In Alabama, schools are even required to check the immigration status of students, which has resulted in hundreds of Hispanic children being kept home from school.

Mr. Rockefeller Goes to Washington

Congress' studied effort at ignoring the Occupy movement isn't that surprising when you take a look at legislators' tax returns: Many representatives sit comfortably in the 1 percent. Between 1984 and 2009, the median income of members of the House ballooned from $280,000—an already impressive figure—to $725,000, according to the new Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan. An analysis of the study in The Washington Post did not include figures for the Senate. In comparison, the median income of an American family has slipped from $20,600 to $20,500 over the same time period.

See You Next Year!

The Prospect is closed between Christmas and New Year's, so expect our posting to be a bit slower than normal over the coming week. But Patrick Caldwell will still be filling us in on what's going on in Iowa about a week out from the caucuses, so drop in to see how the GOP primary race is shaping up.

DOJ Rejects South Carolina Voter-ID Law

The Department of Justice announced late Friday afternoon that it was rejecting South Carolina's new voter photo identification law because it discriminates against minority voters.

Under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, states with a history of low minority turnout must submit any changes to their voting laws to the DOJ or to a federal court for approval.

Explaining Newt's Inimitable Newtness

In case anyone forgot over the last decade or so that Newt Gingrich is a grandiose egomaniac, this campaign has served as a helpful reminder. But know that isn't enough, of course—if you're a reporter, you have to explain it. In today's New York Times, an article explores the question of whether Newt has mellowed under the calming influence of advancing age and the fair Callista. Some evidence to the contrary comes here:

In Mr. Gingrich’s voice was the sneer of the professor of American history he once was, and, it seemed, a glimpse of the Old Newt.

Ah yes, history professors, well known for their sneering.

Nobody Puts Barry in the Corner

The long battle is over, and the troops are headed home. House Republicans finally caved on a two-month extension on the payroll tax cut, realizing that their intransigence was winning them nothing but voter contempt. Congress cleared the $33 billion legislation this morning. The only concessions rewarded to the obstructionists were a minor provision protecting businesses from a few payroll-reporting requirements and an agreement to push a conference committee to negotiate a year-long extension on the tax cut. 

Loveable Extremist

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA—Adoring crowds packed rooms to capacity across Iowa the last two days to hear the leader of their revolution. Dr. Ron Paul, as he his loving referred to by his supporters, went on an eight-stop jaunt through eastern Iowa to rile up his supporters two weeks before they vote in the caucuses. He is poised to win the 2012 Iowa caucuses: He leads in the latest polls, has a developed campaign infrastructure, and can count on true believers to show up to vote on January 3.

Santa Comes Early

House Republicans finally waved a white flag over the payroll tax cut extension this afternoon—but not before they’d given President Obama what The New Yorker’s John Cassidy aptly called an “early Christmas present.”

What? We Won?

If there's one thing liberals know about their representatives in Washington, it's that those Democrats are a bunch of wimps. All Republicans have to do is draw back their fists, and Democrats will flinch. "What if they criticize us???" they whine, as they cave in on progressive principles again and again. That's the story liberals tell, and much of the time it's true.

Establishment Bros Stick Together

The New York Times reports that Mitt Romney has earned the endorsement of George H.W. Bush:

The former president told reporters for The Houston Chronicle that he supported Mr. Romney because of his “stability, experience, principles. He’s a fine person,” Mr. Bush, 87, said. “I just think he’s mature and reasonable – not a bomb-thrower.”

House GOP's White House Stocking Stuffer: The Payroll Tax Cut

The cave-in by the House Republicans on the payroll tax is on terms that keeps this conflict going well into the election year--and on terms very favorable to Barack Obama and the Democrats. For the GOP, the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut is the worst possible politics.

First, they look weak (because they are weak); and second, the same drama will be replayed next year with the same outcome. Raising taxes on millionaires rather than cutting Social Security or Medicare, or hiking payroll taxes, wins every time.