Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

A Rare Moment of Hope For Santorum

While most of the Republican presidential candidates have bypassed the typical ground game route, Rick Santorum has practically moved to Iowa, hoping that he can shake enough hands to convince the state's social conservatives that he is the real deal. But so far, it hasn't paid any dividends. He wallows near the bottom of Iowa polls, never breaking out of the single digits.

The Electability Argument Begins

If there's one thing Mitt Romney probably believed he could count on in this race, it's the electability argument. I'm not a loose cannon, he could say, and so my candidacy won't implode because of a sex scandal or a crazy comment. And since we all know that debate over the economy will dominate the fall campaign, I'm best positioned to win that argument, as someone with business experience.

So Much For That Donald Trump Debate

Once Newt Gingrich accepted the invitation to Donald Trump's debate, the oh-so-wise political pundit class predicted (well, I predicted) that what was supposed to be a sideshow event would turn into a full-on debate. After all, Newt is currently leading the polls, so what candidate would pass on the opportunity to attack the former House speaker exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses?

Turns out, it's an offer most of them felt fine refusing:

That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I noted that the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future was launching its ad campaign on a positive note. Sure, their commercial started off by attacking Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer, but it refrained from vilifying Newt Gingrich. That was somewhat unexpected; all signals indicate that Romney's campaign has entered panic mode over Gingrich's unexpected rise in the polls. But disparaging an opponent can backfire. So far the Romney campaign has avoided going negative.

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

  • The Economist summarizes Obama’s campaign strategy thus far, and places it in the context of America’s rich history of decisive presidential campaigns.
  • In an excellent must-read piece, Conor Friedersdorf coins a new label for Newt Gingrich: He's the anti-thesis of a Nike ad. "Don't just do it -- it won't work till you change everything!"

So It Begins

The 2012 Republican nomination has been defined as much by what it lacks as its actual substance. At the start of the year, it was about a lack of any official candidates. Unlike the last presidential election, when Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy just after Thanksgiving 2006, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running by February 2007, no one wanted to take the early plunge this year. Gary Johnson was the first to officially enter the field in April this year, and most candidates didn't file their paper work until May or June.

Today in Smackdowns

Mitt Romney, speaking to the editorial board of the Washington Examiner:

I am very concerned that this president is putting America on a path toward appeasement internationally and entitlement domestically. That we go from being a merit-opportunity society to an entitlement society. And it’s going to require a dramatic change in Washington by someone who knows how to lead. [Emphasis mine]

Rip It Up and Start Again

Democrats were fed up at the start of the year. They had held 59 seats in the Senate for most of the previous two years, their largest majority since the 1970s. But that near-supermajority wasn't enough to overcome a Republican fillibuster. A 60-vote hurdle became a common deathtrap for every Democratic bill or Obama nomination confirmation, leaving the executive branch understaffed and the federal bench depleted.

The Continued Decline of the Religious Right

Christian conservatives in the Republican Party have at times in the past felt that their hard work for the GOP has gone unrewarded. They work their little hearts out during the campaign to get Republicans elected, and then once those Republicans take office, they're given little but table scraps. Sure, the Mexico City policy will get reinstated, they'll get some money funneled to churches, and some other small items here and there, but the big pieces of their agenda languish. Abortion is still legal, gay people continue to walk amongst us, and prayer has not been returned to public schools. And every four years, a bunch of Republican presidential candidates tell them, "Elect me, and I'll fix all this."

Why Conservatives Love Newt Gingrich

Yesterday saw Mitt Romney launch his first major attack on Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign with an ad that highlights one big distinction between the former Massachusetts governor and the former House Speaker — their personal lives:

There’s no doubt that this is a swipe against Gingrich for his long history of adultery, as well as his recent conversion to Catholicism. What’s more, Romney has followed up this ad with attacks from two campaign surrogates, former senators Jim Talent and John Sunnunu:

Is It Too Late for Another Candidate?

By this point, conventional wisdom is that it’s too late for another candidate to enter the GOP presidential contest. In addition to building a campaign organization in crucial primary states, a new entrant would have to develop a network of fundraisers, corral endorsements, and find a place within the primary electorate itself. And given the extent to which most party actors have already committed themselves to one candidate or another, it’s hard to imagine success for a latecomer to the race.

Why Gingrich Should Be Afraid of Paul

Gage Skidmore

Newt Gingrich’s rise to front-runner status has dominated the news cycle for the past few weeks, and the main question that's plagued analysts is this: Will the former speaker be able to overcome his many mistakes—i.e., the affairs—and trounce Mitt Romney? The general arc of these arguments is right: Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee. They are the only two candidates who come close to having the right mix of electability, popularity, and approval by party elites to become the GOP nominee. While the Mitt-Newt showdown may seem inevitable, it is wrong to take for granted that either one will win in Iowa. Given polling there, there is a good chance Ron Paul could win. What would this mean for the rest of the campaign?

Elizabeth Warren: Bailout Queen

Karl Rove’s latest ad has to set an all-time record for hypocrisy and factual inversion. The ad actually manages to blame Elizabeth Warren for the bank bailouts.

As anyone who hasn’t spent the past three years in a cave must know, Warren has been the nation’s single most effective, relentless, and brave critic of the bailouts. It was that service as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel that made her one of America’s most admired public leaders.

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

  • Obama gave a really good speech yesterday, one that clearly announces his main campaign strategy for the next year and has the potential of having his 2008 base return to occupying his camp. You should read it, but if you don’t have the time, Derek Thompson has a pretty thorough reader’s guide.

Romney's Career-Politician Problem

Earlier this year, when Texas Governor Rick Perry was the threat du jour to Mitt Romney’s status as front-runner, the former Massachusetts governor unveiled a new attack against Perry and everyone else in the GOP presidential field—he wasn’t a career politician. “I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy,” Romney declared while in Texas this summer. “Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don’t know how to get us out.”