Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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-...

Let's Worry About Unemployment Instead

Over at The Washington Post , op-ed editor Fred Hiatt is worried that the political world has stopped being concerned with the federal debt and is instead focused on pet programs: Mitt Romney would extend all the Bush tax cuts and cut trillions more besides—eliminating taxes on investment income for most Americans, reducing the corporate tax, getting rid of the inheritance tax and more. How would he afford this? Please don’t ask. President Obama wants to rebuild our infrastructure, and never mind raising the gasoline tax to do so. He would pay by redirecting money that we would have borrowed for foreign wars, if the wars had continued, and instead borrow it for roads. This is what passes for fiscal prudence these days. Hiatt ends the column with an ominous warning: “If America doesn’t tackle its debt problem, everything else is at risk: economic growth, the safety net for the poor, investment in research and roads.” Hiatt is exaggerating the extent to which Congress and the president...

The Establishment Is Not Newt's Biggest Problem

Let's assume that the polls are right and Mitt Romney beats Newt Gingrich in Florida tomorrow. Newt will come before the cameras and say that it happened because The Establishment did him in. Will he be right? Or will it be something a little less conspiratorial? To a degree, Newt is right in his complaints that the Republican elite is out to get him. They are, but it isn't because they fear his bold and transformative visionary leadership, it's because they know that if he were their nominee, they'd have pretty much no chance of winning in November. And as Jonathan Bernstein explains , there really isn't one entity we could call "the establishment." There are a lot of different people with different degrees of influence, who are exercising the influence they have in different ways. Some of them are more visible than others, but even if the majority of party leaders and politicians prefer Romney at this point, it isn't anything near a consensus. And as united as Republicans can often...

It's Too Late

At his blog Frontloading HQ, political scientist Josh Putnam notes that, after Florida, it becomes impossible for a candidate to enter and win the 1,144 delegates necessary to attain the Republican presidential nomination: If the list is constrained more simply to the states where filing deadlines have not passed, the total delegates open to a late entrant drops to 1157. After Tuesday, when Kentucky’s (and Indiana’s petition—see footnote 17 above) deadlines pass that total will drop below 1144 to 1066. That’s not to say that a candidate couldn’t win enough delegates to force a brokered convention, but—as Putnam asks—who is that candidate? To be successful, a late entrant needs to have considerable fundraising and organizational ability, a national constituency, and a message that can appeal to a broad swath of the Republican Party. Logistical difficulties aside, there is no one in the GOP who fits that bill and could cruise into the nomination race and “save” Republicans from their...

Who Is to Blame for Polarization?

For as much as Beltway pundits and old Washington hands pine for a new age of bipartisanship, the simple fact—as this new Gallup analysis suggests—is that the conditions for bipartisan cooperation have long since evaporated. President Barack Obama, for example, is the most polarizing president in Gallup polling history, followed by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton (if you isolate George W. Bush’s last three years, polarization is extremely high): Although presidents always try to pursue policies that satisfy their supporters—and, in most cases, anger the opposition—it’s important to remember that presidents themselves aren’t responsible for the increase in polarization. That Republicans and Democrats have a stark contrast in opinions on the performance of President Obama has less to do with Obama, and everything to do with the public itself, which has grown more ideological and more partisan over the last 30 years. To wit, co-partisans are more likely to live near each other—think...

Gingrich Can't Lose!

LUTZ, FLORIDA —As Newt Gingrich plummets from his recent peak in Florida polling, he has apparently settled on a new hope: a brokered convention when the GOP meets in Tampa this summer. Gingrich took questions from the media following services at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church Sunday morning. Despite falling far behind Mitt Romney—an eight-point deficit according to the latest numbers from Public Policy Polling—Gingrich was in a buoyant mood as he reflected on the state of his Florida campaign. "The most significant thing in both the polls this morning is that when you add the two conservatives together, we clearly beat Romney," he said. "I think Romney has a very real challenge in trying to get a majority at the convention." He reiterated his intention to continue his campaign to the very end, because as he sees it, "the Republican Party will not nominate a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax-increase moderate from Massachusetts." He sees the delegates uniting behind him come...

Beyond the Buffett Rule

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais Debbie Bosanek, left, assistant to billionaire investor Warren Buffet, inspired the so-called Buffett Rule to tax income from investments at higher rates. Imagine you didn't know anything about President Barack Obama's potential opponents, and someone asked how Obama would do facing a former private-equity baron who made a fortune buying and selling companies, sometimes ruthlessly so. Also, this candidate hasn't held a job in five years, yet he still manages to "earn" around $20 million a year, on which he pays less in taxes than most Americans who work for a living. At a time when the country has become concerned about increasing inequality and the lack of opportunities for Americans who don't start life at the top, that candidate would seem like just about the ideal opponent. And it wouldn't hurt if that candidate were also stiff and robotic and had gone through so many changes of position in his political career that it was apparent to all that he...

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