Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Business Is Doing All Right

At a rally this morning at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Mitt Romney deployed an unusual line in his stump speech. “I feel under attack” by Obama’s policies, said Romney, referencing the administration's policies on business. When you consider that Romney has already defined himself as a callous Wall Street mogul, I’m not sure that it’s wise for him to identify with business, as he does in the quote. What’s more, Romney’s overall contention—that Obama has been terrible for business—just isn't true. As Time ’s Michael Sivy notes , money has been rolling in for business during the president’s term: In fact, corporate profits are now at a peak in dollar terms and close to an all-time high as a percentage of GDP. Overall, profits have more than doubled since 2000, while stock prices are actually lower than they were 12 years ago. What that means is that lots of great stocks are now cheap by historical standards. As long as this doesn’t penetrate the broader consciousness...

Is Romney Worried About Gingrich?

Judging from the polls, Mitt Romney should feel comfortable about his position in the South Carolina Republican primary. According to the latest survey from Rasmussen, for example, the former Massachusetts governor leads with 35 percent of the vote. His closest competitor, Newt Gingrich, takes 21 percent support from the state’s voters. Even still, the Romney campaign is incredibly cautious and, after Gingrich’s strong performance in Monday’s debate, they are worried that the former speaker might see a surge of support among South Carolina Republicans. As such, this morning the campaign launched twin assaults on Gingrich. Up first was this ad, featuring Congresswoman Susan Molinari, attacking Gingrich as an unreliable leader: The Romney campaign also held a conference call in which Senator Jim Talent and Representative Molinari spoke with reporters about the former speaker and his leadership record in the House. Both Republicans were scathing in their assessment of their former...

Earth to Planet GOP

Watching the Republican presidential primaries leaves me feeling kind of sorry for the candidates. In their attempts to appeal to minority voters, they’re like a group of Dungeons and Dragons buddies decorating their basement in hopes that the cheerleaders will show up. I’ve got news for you guys: You may get cheered on for telling poor people to shape up and calling Barack Obama the "food-stamp president" at GOP debates, but you’re sorely out of touch with the rest of us. The 2010 census showed that nonwhites accounted for the majority of growth in this country in the past ten years. Fifty major American cities would be on the decline if it weren’t for Latino and Asian growth, and whites are the minorities in four states. Yet the current crop of Republican nominees consists of five white guys who seem unable to relate to Americans living in a fundamentally different society. The race and gender of these candidates wouldn’t be such an issue if their platforms also weren't so offensive...

This Year's Jesse Jackson?

It was the most annoying and insulting refrain of the 1988 Democratic primaries: “What does Jesse want?” What the Reverend Jackson wanted, of course, was the nomination—which he came closer to winning than anybody seems to remember. And now it’s back , Ron Paul-style. “His goal is to make himself leader of the opposition—within the Republican Party,” writes Charles Krauthammer. “He is Jesse Jackson of the 1980s.” (Unless he’s the Pat Buchanan of 1992, that is.) The Hill was a bit less subtle, asking in a headline: “What does Ron Paul want?” Jackson probably likes this version no better than the original, particularly with more racist passages from Paul’s 1990s newsletters being unearthed all the time. But we’re sure to keep hearing the question repeated for months, as Paul piles up delegates. Does he want a big speech at the convention where he can espouse his contrarian views in prime time, a la Buchanan’s infamous culture-war speech ? Does he hope to have enough delegates to...

What "Not Very Much" Income Is to Mitt Romney

Up until now, Mitt Romney has refused to release his tax returns, something that he surely knew would eventually become an issue. And it isn't too hard to figure out why. When you're struggling to get past your image as an out-of-touch rich guy, having front-page stories about the millions you're pulling in isn't something you'd look forward to. And in Mitt's case, there are really two problems. The first is his income, which we can be pretty sure is in the seven figures. And this is despite the fact that he hasn't actually held a job in years. Unlike people who work for a living, Romney makes money when his money makes him more money. Which leads us to the second problem: the tax rate he pays. Because our tax system treats investment income more favorably than wage income, Romney probably pays the capital gains tax rate of 15 percent on most of his income, as opposed to the 33 percent marginal rate he'd be paying if that money were wages. Which is what Romney was forced to admit...

Mitt Romney will Govern as a Tea Partier

Jamelle Bouie Mitt Romney speaks to an audience in Charleston, South Carolina. Over at his blog, Jonathan Bernstein makes an important point about Mitt Romney’s place among the GOP field: Indeed, as far as I can tell there’s virtually no separation between Romney and the other candidates on core conservative issues. The main “problem” with Romney from their point of view is not his current professed positions; it’s whether he can be trusted, given his record in Massachusetts (including both his time as governor and his two campaigns). For all of the talk about Romney being a moderate, when you compare him to his rivals for the nomination, he’s a doctrinaire conservative on everything from reproductive rights (he doesn’t like them) to taxes (they should be lower, especially for rich people). Some people hope that Romney’s moderate side will emerge should he become president, but that ignores the political circumstances that shape the incentives for incumbent politicians. Because of his...

The End is Nigh

MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA —In talking to Republican voters across the state, one thing I’ve found interesting—and alarming—is the degree to which apocalyptic rhetoric is par for the course. “We will not recognize the United States after four more years after Obama,” said John Leach, an avid supporter of Newt Gingrich who attended the candidate's Sunday rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “We are surely moving toward socialism.” he said. Likewise, at the South Carolina Tea Party convention, attendees were worried that Obama would make irrevocable changes to the country if he won re-election. “He will take the God out of America,” said Carolyn Church, a housekeeper and domestic worker who sees the country’s “Judeo-Christian heritage” as its most important characteristic. And at Rick Santorum’s town hall at Daniel Island Elementary, attendees were terrified that Obama would impose tyranny if he made it through 2012. “This is the most important election of our lifetimes,” said Susan...

Incredibly, Mitt Romney Really Is the Republicans' Best Chance

Barring the emergence of, in the immortal words of Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards, a dead girl or a live boy, it's all but certain that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president. It's safe to say that there aren't too many Republicans deliriously happy about this outcome. Some may be satisfied, some may be pleased, many are disappointed, the majority are resigned, but if there are any Republicans jumping out of their chairs with excitement at the prospect of a Romney nomination, they haven't been located. And what's most amazing about it is that Mitt Romney really is the best they've got. We have to step back and acknowledge just how fortunate Barack Obama is. With unemployment still over 8 percent, under ordinary circumstances you'd expect a sitting president's re-election bid to be all but doomed. But the GOP nominee is going to be an incredibly phony, unappealing guy with not a single evident principle who finds it impossible to relate to Earth humans and embodies...

Out of The Quiet Rooms

AP Photo/John Amis
Even the most disciplined candidate can't get through an entire presidential campaign without uttering at least one or two gaffes, those emblematic statements journalists will mention again and again to provide vivid illustration of his or her character defects. Few candidates are more disciplined than Mitt Romney, but the likely Republican nominee has already built up a small library of such verbal misfires, which could become the signposts of a most enlightening and overdue discussion on which we will now embark. If we're lucky (and Romney is unlucky), that discussion will move beyond the oversimplifications we've gotten used to, and demand that we re-examine some very basic ideas about our economy, like what "business" really represents, how capitalism creates its winners and losers, and what government might do about it. In recent days, Romney has added some doozies to his growing list of cringe-worthy comments. In June, the man worth an estimated $200 million joked to a group of...

Smooth Sailing for Mitt

MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA —After 15 debates and months of campaigning, one thing is still true of the Republican presidential field: No one wants to take on Mitt Romney. At first, during last night's South Carolina GOP debate, there were signs that Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry would remove the gloves and challenge the former Massachusetts governor. Gingrich opened his bid with a defense of his statements on Bain Capital—“I don’t think raising questions is a prerogative only of Barack Obama. … I raise questions that I think are legitimate questions.” Perry continued along those lines, pressing Romney to release his tax returns (to the large applause of the audience). “Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax, so people can find out how you made your money,” Perry said. “The people of South Carolina have to decide whether they have a flawed candidate or not. We cannot fire our nominee in September. We need to know now.” Santorum attacked Romney on...

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