Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

If Romney Loses in November, Will the GOP Move to the Center?

It's not too early to start speculating about what a Mitt Romney loss in November will do to the Republican party, a charge the New Yorker 's George Packer takes up . Will they move to the center or to the right? The simple answer is, of course they'll move to the right. That's what they do. But in this case, the simple answer is probably the right one. Packer points to 1972, when the Democrats nominated the most liberal guy they could find, George McGovern, and were pushed by this loss to move to the center. If the Republicans were to nominate the guy they now perceive as the real conservative (Newt Gingrich) and lose big, then something similar might happen. But since they're actually going to nominate the guy they think of as a moderate, they'll naturally conclude that less moderation is what they need. As Ezra Klein says : "You can write the post-mortem now: ' Of course America wasn't going to vote for a liberal Republican from Massachusetts who had passed the country's first...

Behold the Power of Newt

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich has publicly pledged to have the single most productive day in presidential history. Gingrich has taken to listing his first-day proposals during recent stump speeches, but he promised to take it a step further when he spoke last night. He promised to release a new Contract With America during his non-concession speech— "a personal one between me and you"—that would detail his plans once he enters office. "We're going to put this together in a way that you will be able to see in writing with my signature, and you'll be able to hold me accountable," Gingrich said. For Gingrich, it's not enough to promise voters that you'll bring change to Washington—you have to bring about that change in the span of a few hours. By my assessment, it seemed like far too ambitious of a plan, just given the taxing schedule of inauguration, what with changing tuxedos between each ball and whatnot. But Gingrich offered a rebuke to my timekeeper's cynicism last night. "All of...

Primary Battle Weary

Last night’s victory speech was familiar terrain for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Instead of asserting his conservative credentials or swiping at his Republican rivals, Romney focused his fire on Obama, with an extended attack on his leadership. “Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way," Romney said. This speech was his pivot to the general election—a generic message that can appeal to disgruntled voters and disaffected supporters of the president. And with his big, double-digit win in the Florida Republican primary, it makes sense to return to this terrain. Romney has regained the momentum he lost in South Carolina, and reestablished himself as the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president. The problem for Romney is that this should have happened much sooner. The conventional wisdom surrounding presidential primaries—at least, since 2008—is that competitive contests make for a better general election...

Gingrich, Party of One

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich didn't look broken when he stepped up to the podium at the Rosen Centre Hotel's Grand Ballroom last night. "Everybody here has been so positive in every part of the state," he said after ticking off a laundry list of thank-yous. While the event was billed as a "Newt 2012 Victory Party," there was little reason to celebrate. The major networks had all called the Florida primary for Mitt Romney shortly after polls in the western panhandle closed at 8 p.m. But Gingrich—who ended the night with 32 percent of the vote—took the stage with blustery confidence. "[We're] designing and putting together a people's campaign—not a Republican campaign, not an establishment campaign, not a Wall Street funded campaign," he said, reprising the populist rhetoric he had rolled out the previous day against "Massachusetts moderate" Mitt Romney, who won 46 percent of the vote in last night's primary. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Republican presidential candidate former House...

Hurricane Mitt Flattens Newt

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney beams during his victory celebration after winning the Florida primary election Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012, in Tampa, Florida. M itt Romney and the Republican elite unleashed their full arsenal against Newt Gingrich in Florida—and it paid off big. In a near-total reversal of the results in South Carolina ten days earlier, the former Massachusetts governor won an emphatic, double-digit victory on Tuesday. With a five-to-one spending advantage, and a coordinated media assault on Gingrich, the Romney forces went all in for a devastating beat-down in Florida. With their candidate outperforming Gingrich in two debates last week, and with the Georgian muddling his anti-establishment message, they got it. Most GOP primary-goers said their most important consideration was which candidate could beat President Obama, and exit polls showed Romney winning that group by 25 percent. Republican women gave...

Gingrich Campaigns Until the Last Minute

CELEBRATION, FLORIDA —A candidate's election-day schedule can sometimes be as good a predictor of the results as polling. This is the case with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on Florida primary day. Romney, whom polls forecast will walk away with a large victory today, hosted an early morning rally in Tampa, then took the afternoon off. Gingrich, on the other hand, kept his day packed, crisscrossing central Florida to try to scrounge up extra votes. Yesterday, the Gingrich campaign ditched its normal bus for a chartered plane. Even with jet fuel behind him, Gingrich couldn't keep with his schedule; he was at least an hour late to most of his events yesterday. Today, his campaign stayed on schedule, much to my surprise. I arrived (late) at Fred's Southern Kitchen in Plant City about 20 minutes after Gingrich's bus had pulled away but, according to one bystander still milling about, I didn't miss much. Gingrich had rolled through greeting each table and briefly interacted with each voter...

From Sea to Shining Sea?

If you’ve been listening to the pundits, you might think that the only open question in Florida tonight is whether Mitt Romney will croon America the Beautiful in his victory speech. After that, it’ll be a rose-pedal path to the nomination for the man who establishment-bombed and super PAC-ed Newt Gingrich to death in the Sunshine State. But if the topsy-turvy GOP nomination contest should teach us anything, it’s to say: Whoa there, hold your divinations! Gingrich may have proven as lousy a candidate in Florida as he was devilishly effective in South Carolina, but a couple of factors—aside from his sheer cussedness—could propel him forward at least until the Super Tuesday primaries in early March. If Romney’s margin of victory is less than 10 percent, he’ll fall short of the sky-high expectations generated by his rise in recent days—and show that, even while outspending his nearest competitor five-to-one, he can’t quite land a knockout blow. And if the combined vote for Gingrich and...

Breaking: Mitt Romney Loves America

In the good old days—I think this lasted until September 11, 2001, but I could be mistaken—political events of all sorts didn't begin with a series of opportunities for both speakers and attendees to make sure everyone understood that they are, in fact, in favor of America. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy didn't start their debates with the Pledge of Allegiance. Candidates didn't feel the need to stand with hand on heart for the Star Spangled Banner at all 12 campaign events they do every day. And we were spared horror shows like this: The best part is how at the end, just in case anyone missed the point, Romney says, "I love this country." Nothing forced or pandering about that. My question is, where does he stand on Little League and Thanksgiving dinner? What about puppies—is he pro-puppy, or not? America needs to know. You might remember that in Iowa, Romney would recite the words to "America the Beautiful," but I guess now he's feeling confident enough to just let the tunes fly...

Independent Is the New Democrat

Jewish Americans have been a reliable Democratic bloc for much of U.S. electoral history. However, recent numbers from the Pew Research Center hint at a potential demographic shift in voting patterns. Barack Obama’s hold on the Jewish vote is shrinking—since 2009, Jewish Democratic affiliation has dropped nearly 10 percent, according to surveys by the American Jewish Committee. However, Republicans aren’t reaping the benefits— Jewish affiliation with the Republican Party has increased by only 1 percent. Instead, Jewish voters are heading to the middle ground of independents—along with a record number of other voters, as shown in a recent Gallup Poll . The number of Jewish independents has increased 8 percent. However, trending independent doesn’t mean that these voters have changed their politics—2004 polls showed that the majority of Jewish Independent voters leaned left by a significant majority—but instead that they have lost faith in the two parties. The loss of some once-...

Gingrich Goes After Goldman

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich often rails against the establishment elites who have conspired to sink his campaign. Sometimes it is Mitt Romney; others times he targets the liberals (an unlikely tag-team combination), but there is always someone to blame other than himself. I heard a new formulation of this theory at his "Crossing the Finish Line Rally" in Orlando last night. The event, held on the final eve before the primary, was intended as a pre-victory rally of sorts but took a much more subdued tone, as Gingrich's standing in the polls has evaporated over the past week. But angry Gingrich was in true form, lashing out at his opponent's vast wealth and the conspiracy to prevent Gingrich from gaining power: Goldman Sachs is a company that has taken billions from the American taxpayer, and they had a handpicked candidate in 2008 named Barack Obama. They have a handpicked candidate this year named Mitt Romney. They want to make sure that they keep the establishment in charge so...

Super Facts about Super PACs

L ast week, when Mitt Romney claimed not to have seen an attack ad his campaign had produced, he was no doubt trying to blame his super PAC, Restore Our Future, for coming up with it. Whether or not the former Massachusetts governor was being truthful—one can imagine that, in a fast-moving campaign, candidates only passively approve the messages their surrogates put out—the incident underscored the way super PACs, which are barred from coordinating directly with the candidates they are supporting, have come to dominate the political landscape. In the first presidential race since the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United , which opened the doors for corporations to make unlimited contributions in support of a candidate, campaign-finance law is at the center of the election cycle like never before. One question that’s come up again and again is whether Citizens United should be blamed for the rise of super PACs and for the apparent spike in large private donations, like...

Newt’s Fatal Flaw

If Newt Gingrich ends up losing Florida tomorrow—as polls now agree he will—and ultimately loses the GOP nomination, you could hear the most important reason in just a few words he uttered in a Tampa suburb on Sunday. The former House speaker stepped out of a church service at the delightfully named Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church and opened fire on Mitt Romney as a “pro-abortion, pro gun-control, pro-tax increase moderate from Massachusetts” who had “carpet-bombed” his way to a lead in the Florida polls. That wasn’t the problematic part. It was this: "I have had a long record as a very hard-hitting Reagan conservative, and the idea that that record would be deliberately falsified by a Massachusetts moderate using money from Wall Street … is really about as big an outrage as I've had in my career.” Gingrich’s only chance to take the nomination is as the leader of a movement—loosely defined, the Tea Party movement—and he spoke to its anti-elitist streak powerfully in his dramatic...

And One More Thing from Newt

TAMPA, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich yesterday laid out an ambitious plan for his first 24 hours, speaking before a geriatric crowd in the Villages. His first day in office would include signing a repeal of three separate bills—because of course the weight of his victory would compel Congress to work past their differences for his grandiose vision—and a series of executive orders. He upped the ante on Monday in Tampa, adding even more items to this already-busy hypothetical agenda. "I would sign an executive order authorizing construction as of that day," he said, referring to the new conservative hot-button issue of the Keystone pipeline. An executive order mandating an embassy in Jerusalem was included as well. Gingrich's most severe condemnation was saved for the Obama administration’s decision to include birth-control coverage as part of the basic requirements for health-insurance companies. He referred to his Catholic faith and said that Obama was violating the tenets of the...

Newt's Old-Time Religion

LUTZ, FLORIDA — On the last Sunday before the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich bowed his head at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, a megachurch in a suburb north of Tampa. As the remaining Republican candidates scramble to reach as many voters as humanly possible before Tuesday's all-important primary, every chance to preen before a captive audience is a golden opportunity. And no audience is more glued to their seats than devout Christians on a Sunday. Most parishioners appeared unaware that a celebrity was scheduled to be in their midst. When Gingrich stepped off his bus, reporters formed a swarm that enveloped him as he rushed inside the sanctuary. He walked in quickly, ignoring the media flock as he huddled in close conversation with the church's senior pastor, Ken Whitten. Gingrich made no remarks once inside the church, but he sat in the front center pew where the thousands of congregants could see him sing and sway. When Pastor Whitten recognized Gingrich, the church cameraman...

Winning Big by Going Negative

Talk to Newt Gingrich's supporters in Florida, and you'll likely hear someone bemoan the negative tone of the presidential campaign. They're sick of the attacks, both against Gingrich by the super PACs and Romney himself, but some also say they dislike the idea of negativity in general, even when it's done by their preferred candidate. Peg Bradley was "infuriated" when I spoke with her after a Mitt Romney rally on the Space Coast last Friday. In her view, Romney and Gingrich are ripping apart the Republican Party with their "divisive" attacks both "twisting the other one's record." She wanted to hear what Romney had to say in person but considered her vote pretty much decided. "Because Romney's super PAC started it all, I'm voting Gingrich." Romney's supporters did, indeed, start the fight, and they're also the ones who have continued throwing punches at Gingrich even after it became clear that he was down for the count. Democratic sources gave Talking Points Memo 's Evan McMorris-...

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