Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Take Your Free Speech Elsewhere

NORTH CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —Mitt Romney’s events are usually calm, which is why it was a surprise to hear yelling and see police drag two people, apparently Occupy protesters, out of the crowd. “She’s being choked! She’s being choked!” yelled one of the protesters, and I—along with several other reporters—rushed to see what the commotion was about. After dragging them onto a parking lot, the police went back, leaving the two demonstrators shouting at both the police and the Romney campaign. I spoke with one of the protesters, Adrianna Varedi, a member of Occupy Charleston, and she explained the situation. “I was standing in line, quietly, reaching out to shake his [Romney’s] hand, when someone forcefully grabbed me from behind, and dragged me out,” she said, catching her breath as the color returned to her face. Another one of the Occupiers, an older man named Paul Getsos, explained that this wasn’t the first time someone had been removed from a Romney event “The advance...

The Thrill is Back

If it was obvious within seconds of Thursday night’s debate that Newt Gingrich was going to hit another rhetorical home run—only long as it took for him to glare icily and say “No, but I will” when John King asked if he wanted to comment about his ex-wife’s unsavory accusations—it was equally clear that Mitt Romney had struck out again when he tried to make a joke out of moderator King’s question about making his tax returns public. Would he follow in his father’s presidential-candidate footsteps and release a dozen years’ worth of returns? “Maybe,” the frontrunner said, affecting the sort of goofy look that flailing stand-up comics resort to when their material is hopelessly lame. (And then, like Romney, they get well-deserved catcalls and boos instead of laughs.) At least until tomorrow night’s South Carolina results come in, the CNN debate was the thrills-and-chills capper to a week that breathed—no, heaved and spat—life back into the Republican contest. Huntsman out . Perry out ...

Vice Presidents for Romney

The final few days before the South Carolina primary have become all about Newt Gingrich's apparent last minute surge and Mitt Romney's inability to grapple with questions regarding his personal wealth. If momentum carries through, Gingrich should probably finish ahead of Romney in tomorrow's primary. But Romney will remain the clear frontrunner for the overall nomination. Don't believe us in the pundit class? Just look at where Republican elites are headed. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell shows up on almost every shortlist of potential vice presidential candidates and, as Jamelle pointed out earlier , he endorsed Romney this afternoon. Almost every rising star of the Republican Party has attached themselves to Romney's campaign. Just glance at the list of nine possible VPs The New Republic gathered from talking to Republican insiders. Five had endorsed Romney while the others (save Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval) have decided to sit out the endorsement game. John Thune and Rob...

Bob McDonnell Endorses Romney

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell—a rising star in the Republican Party—has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Here’s McDonnell in his own words : “President Obama’s lack of leadership experience is now clear—he has failed to turn around the economy and end the gridlock in Washington. Mitt Romney used his leadership ability in a politically difficult environment to balance the budget every year, cut spending and taxes, and create jobs. He is a results-oriented conservative. This is the type of record that conservatives like me are honored to support—we need a leader like Mitt Romney in the White House to enact effective change that will put our country back on the right path and Americans back to work.” For anyone who has followed McDonnell, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. The Virginia governor shares a certain pragmatism with the former Massachusetts governor, and is firmly ensconced within the Republican Party establishment. Indeed, like Romney, McDonnell marries a regressive,...

The Misfits

Jamelle Bouie Texas Congressman Ron Paul talks to a small group of supporters in North Charleston, South Carolina. North Charleston, South Carolina —Ron Paul seems to have a thing for airports. Of the two rallies I’ve attended for the Texas congressman, both have been in airport hangars on the outskirts of a major city (in this case, Charleston). But while the first event was packed with supporters, this one had far fewer attendees—excluding press, I counted 80 people, which was barely enough to surround the stage where Paul spoke. More important, as with Paul supporters in other states, these voters weren’t typical Republicans, if they were Republicans at all. Alexandra (she declined to give her last name), for example, was a traveling nurse who just came back from assignment in Jordan. While abroad, she didn’t pay much attention to the Republican primaries and saw this as the best opportunity to see what Paul had to say. Her big issue? She wants someone who can help reduce student-...

Inside The Mind of a Conservative Billionaire

I was on the road for a few hours last night and unfortunately missed out on the latest round of "So You Think You Can Beat Barack Obama". Stereotypical liberal that I am, my car radio was instead tuned to NPR and I caught this fascinating interview with billionaire investor Foster Friess. Friess is one of a handful of rich conservatives reshaping campaign finance. A Rick Santorum supporter, Friess has reportedly provided most of the funds for the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC buying ads on Santorum's behalf. Back when candidate specific super PACs began popping up last year, there was concern that billionaires such as Friess would keep their favored candidate funded with no public scrutiny. Super PACs have looser filing requirements than the actual candidates, only filing reports twice a year and if they wanted these billionaires could funnel money through various organizations, obscuring the original source. Instead, many such as Friess and Gingrch supporter Sheldon...

Newt Gingrich's Expert Judo on the Infidelity Question

Newt Gingrich may have almost no chance of becoming president (even if he does win the South Carolina primary tomorrow, as looks increasingly likely), but the man knows his audience. Let's take a look at the way he handled the first question of last night's debate, about allegations by wife #2, Marianne, that when she found out he was cheating on her with a young congressional staffer (who would later become wife #3), he proposed that they have an open marriage, also known as, "You keep your mouth shut and I sleep with whoever I want." After all, Newt does firmly believe that God made marriage a covenant between a man and a woman, and the man's mistress. Could he somehow turn this embarrassing tale to his advantage? Yes he could: The first thing to understand is that ABC News had been promoting the interview, and that portion in particular, since the day before. And Gingrich knew there was no way in the world he wasn't going to get asked about it at the debate. So he had ample time to...

Fighting Words

AP Photo/David Goldman
For the first question of tonight’s Republican debate in Charleston, the moderator, CNN’s John King, questioned Gingrich on the allegations made by his ex-wife that he wanted an open marriage. Immediately, Gingrich ripped into King, CNN, and the news media. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you begin a presidential debate with a question like that,” declared the former House Speaker. The audience roared in support, John King looked chastened, and it’s no exaggeration to say—as several outlets rushed to proclaim—that this was the moment Gingrich won the debate. But this sort of lashing out is par for the course for Gingrich. At Monday’s debate, he attacked moderator Juan Williams for questioning the racial insensitivity of Gingrich’s rhetoric; he got a tremendous bounce from South Carolina voters as a result. That the former...

Rick Rolls, Newt Rockets

Had everything gone according to expectations, Saturday’s South Carolina primary would have been the first in a series of showdowns between the surefire Iowa caucus winner, Rick Perry, and the inevitable New Hampshire primary victor, Mitt Romney. But if a presidential candidate has ever failed more spectacularly than Perry to live up to his hype, it’s hard to recall one. The Texas governor’s withdrawal from the race this morning, and his endorsement of “visionary” Newt Gingrich—who is making a run at Romney, and leading in three new South Carolina polls—was belated, but also timely. With Sarah Palin edging closer to endorsing the former house speaker, and Rick Santorum’s Iowa momentum stalled, Gingrich appears positioned—especially if he wins on Saturday—to become the “non-Romney” conservative going forward. But first, he’ll need another rabble-rousing debate performance tonight in Charleston. And then he’ll have to cook up a savvy response to his second wife’s ABC News interview,...

Romney and Off-Shore Bank Accounts

Life must be good at the Obama campaign's Chicago headquarters these days. They can sit back and idly watch as Republicans do their job for them. This is around the time that a presidential reelection campaign would begin zeroing in on the best strategy to use against their general election opponent, but the GOP field has already settled on the narrative against frontrunner Mitt Romney. Instead of a primary defined by Romney's dreaded authorship of Massachusetts's health mandate or his wavering stance on abortion, Romney's opponents have unloaded on his "vulture capitalism" and glee at handing out pink slips. The spotlight was directed on Romney's hesitance to release his tax returns at the debate earlier this week, and will surely be raised again tonight when the candidates gather in South Carolina. Obama for America isn't taking the Republican implosion for granted though. In a conference call with reporters earlier today, campaign officials ripped into Mitt Romney as out of touch...

Secretary of Defense Palin

Newt Gingrich has staked out a string of positions over the course of the campaign that should be enough to disqualify him from holding the nation's top political office. Gingrich can't grasp the concept of separation of powers and believes the president should overrule court decisions he dislikes willy-nilly. He's in favor of child labor and peppers his speeches with race-baiting language. About the only thing Gingrich gets right is his desire to reinvest in space research. But this statement might resonate with voters more than any of those disqualifiers: Certainly, she’s one of the people I’d call on for advice,” Gingrich said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I’m president, but nothing has been discussed of any kind. And it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss it at this time. Gingrich was speaking of his new supporter Sarah Palin, one of the most disliked public figures even in this era of general...

The One-Sided Media Cocoon

While I was in the car yesterday I turned to a conservative talk radio station, which I recommend all liberals do from time to time. The host, whom I didn't recognize, brought up some innocuous piece of news reporting that appeared in the Politico. As you know if you care about these things, the Politico is a complicated media entity. On one hand, they employ a lot of reporters and they sometimes break interesting stories. On the other hand, they're almost a parody of the inside dope-obsessed Washington media, which finds the question of whether Eric Cantor's press secretary and John Boehner's press secretary are feuding far more compelling than, say, the question of what effects cuts in Medicaid would have on struggling Americans. But when this conservative talk show host mentioned the Politico, he found it necessary to refer to it as "the left-wing rag the Politico." Here in Washington, almost no one in either party is crazy enough to think that the Politico is actually a left-wing...

Back to Iowa

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
The Republican Party of Iowa released their final tally of a meaningless number today. According to the certified totals of Iowa caucus votes, Rick Santorum in fact finished ahead of Mitt Romney by 34 votes. But there's a catch: the party is missing results from eight precincts that cannot be certified. There is no way to ascertain if those votes would have given Romney the lead. Still, by any measure, that 34-vote Santorum edge counts as an essential tie. The bigger catch is that none of it matters. The Iowa caucuses are a straw poll, with no actual delegates selected through the vote. After the presidential preference poll at the start of each individual caucus, attendees are elected to serve as delegates to the county convention; a smaller group of those will be sent on to the state convention and eventually the national convention as delegates. Many caucus sites choose to portion delegates based upon the proportion of vote totals for each candidate, but most voters peel away after...

Can a Republican Elitist Win?

Mitt Romney’s off-hand revelations about his low tax rate and high speaker fees , combined with his growing list of Clueless Things Only a One-Percenter Could Say, raise a fundamental question: Is it possible for an elitist Republican to win a presidential election? Starting in the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon adapted George Wallace’s right-wing populism to Republican purposes, the GOP has won national elections by appealing to blue-collar and middle-class whites as the rhetorical champions of anti-elitism. From Nixon’s dog whistles about “crime” and “forced busing” to Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens to George W. Bush’s fake ranch and regular-guy patter, the party of the rich has won the White House by posing as exactly the opposite—the natural home of good ol’ boys and gals. Only one Republican nominee has conveyed a sniffy air of privilege—George Bush I, who beat a hapless Democratic technocrat in 1988 only to be crushed by the one-two punch of plain-speaking Ross Perot and “...

Mitt Romney Is Not a Popular Guy

Mitt Romney might be more electable than his Republican competitors, but that has more to do with their complete unpopularity than it does with his overall standing in the public. Indeed, according to the latest survey from the Pew Research Center, Romney remains unpopular with a large plurality of voters. Among all voters, however, Romney’s image is negative. In fact, slightly fewer voters have a favorable opinion of Romney than did so in November (33 percent now, 38 percent then); nearly half of voters (47 percent) say they have an unfavorable impression of the former Massachusetts governor. The big question is whether this changes in the summer, when the Republican Party—as a whole—will have united behind Romney as the GOP nominee for president. Even then, if Romney continues to come off as an out-of-touch plutocrat, there’s a fair chance that he becomes more unpopular as time goes on. What’s more, Romney’s unfavorables are growing at the same time that Obama has improved his...

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