Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Romney Campaign Heads South ... of the Border

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
The most Mexican man in the world. Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary last night with 39.3 percent of the vote, but 11 hours ago, the Twitter handle @MexicanMitt won 100 percent of the Twitterverse's heart (rough approximation). The fake Twitter feed—most likely inspired by the fact that George Romney, the candidate's father, was born in Mexico, giving Mitt Romney the option of dual citizenship —already has more than 300 followers, and, in less than a day, has provided more exciting rhetoric than Mitt Romney has said during his entire career. Starting off strong with the tweet, "Corporations are peoples, my amigos!" and segueing right into, "You know how you can tell I am Mexican? Because I take the Americans jobs!" moments later, it's hard not to take the self-proclaimed "Most Mexican Man in The World" seriously. Romney's stance on immigration won't win over the Hispanic voters that Republicans need if they want to have a strong showing in November, so @MexicanMitt will...

Ads and Debates Rule the Day

Yesterday, I speculated that the traditional dynamic of the early states weeding out the also-ran candidates could be upended this cycle by the increased reliance on debates and super PACs. Last night, Mitt Romney won a resounding victory, yet no candidates are rushing to exit stage left this morning. In fact, all have packed up their bags to head south, either to South Carolina or Florida. The exit polls from last night show that the debates mattered as much as any other factor for voters in New Hampshire—whom the candidates showered with a level of personal face time no upcoming state's voters will be granted. A full 84 percent said the debates played an "important" role in their vote yesterday, and 52 percent of all voters said it was a "very important" part of their decision-making process. Just half of the New Hampshirites who turned out said they had been contacted by one of the candidate's campaigns. Advertising, however, clearly helped shape the script; 72 percent in the exit...

It's the Money, Honey

AP Photo/Brian Bianco
Mitt Romney's march to the GOP nomination became even more likely last night after he thumped everybody else in the New Hampshire primary. Now the guesswork turns to South Carolina with the campaign press cadre picking up their bags and hopping on the next flights to Charleston and Columbia. But the bigger prize comes later in the month when Florida's 50 delegates are doled out. Mitt Romney already holds a commanding double-digit polling lead in the Sunshine State. That head-start matters more than in other states thanks to the prevalence of absentee and early voting in the primary. And now Romney's allies are chipping in to ensure that the month ends on a good note for the former Massachusetts governor. The Washington Post reports that Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney's bid, has committed $3.6 million to a Florida ad buy while his opponents keep all their attention trained on South Carolina. It would make no difference if Santorum or Gingrich overcame their current...

Mitt Is It

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Mitt Romney took another big step toward the Republican nomination on Tuesday night. Romney was expected to cruise to victory in New Hampshire—but even the former Massachusetts governor probably didn’t anticipate giving a victory speech at 8:25 p.m. With the early returns matching the latest polls, with Romney leading Ron Paul by double digits and more than doubling the vote for Jon Huntsman, there was no Iowa-style drama in his unofficial home state. The call was made early. And Romney, beaming in front of his toothy family while the crowd chanted “Mitt Mitt Mitt Mitt,” was clearly pleased with the orderly nature of things. Making excellent use of his teleprompter, Romney delivered a vigorous speech—short on specifics, void of originality, but crisply hitting every talking point that a Republican consultant could want. Romney painted a bright-skies picture of a free-market future, and he trained his fire on both President Obama and his Republican opponents, particularly Newt Gingrich...

Great Expectations

New Hampshire voters are justly famous for pitchforking presidential frontrunners—LBJ in 1968, Walter Mondale in 1984, Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 all had their paths to nomination gummed up by the famous contrarians of Yankeedom. Could it happen to Mitt Romney tonight? As was the case in 1968, when Eugene McCarthy’s strong second-place finish exposed Lyndon Johnson’s weak positioning for re-election, what might matter the most in the nation’s first Republican primary is the frontrunner’s margin of victory. Mitt Romney’s once-27-point lead over Ron Paul in the New Hampshire polls has narrowed, slowly but steadily, over the last week. Without a sizable victory, the media narrative will be all about Romney’s weaknesses going forward. Can Jon Huntsman be the McCarthy of 2012? Buoyed by a strong debate performance on Sunday, his 170-stop march through the Granite State, and a sudden barrage of anti-Romney fire , the former Utah governor has been...

Meanwhile, Back in South Carolina ...

Last time we checked in on South Carolina, Mitt Romney was leading with a healthy margin over his competitors, including former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Since then, the ground has shifted, but just a bit. According to the latest poll from We Ask America, Romney leads with 26 percent support, followed by 21 percent for Newt Gingrich, 13 percent for Rick Santorum, 8 percent for Ron Paul, and 5 percent for Rick Perry. Likewise, a new survey from Public Policy Polling finds Romney at 27 percent, Gingrich at 23 percent, Santorum at 18 percent, Paul at 8 percent, and Perry at 7 percent. All of the candidates plan a massive blitz of events, rallies, and campaign ads over the next two weeks, so these numbers will likely change. Still, they all find Romney in a decent spot over his competitors. What’s more, the governor’s likely win in New Hampshire is almost certain to boost his performance in the state, which has a tendency to support the establishment candidate in Republican...

Could Super PACs Prolong the Race?

Republicans have allocated just 40 delegates between Iowa and New Hampshire. In terms of the math, neither state is essential to boosting the candidates to the required 1,144 delegates. Rather, the first two states of the GOP nomination contest have traditionally winnowed the field in years; finishing near the bottom of the pack pushes the candidates off the front page of newspapers, and fickle donors flee to spend their dollars on a more likely winner. Iowa already succeeded in forcing Michele Bachmann out of the race , and tonight's results in New Hampshire may cause others to follow suit. On the other hand, the number of debates and the influence of unfiltered money from super PACs might allow candidates to stick it out longer than in years past. Ground organizations have played little role in this election; Rick Santorum had spent the most time in Iowa, and Jon Huntsman essentially lives in New Hampshire these days, but neither received a bump until the media started paying...

Bring It On!

At the back-to-back debates in New Hampshire last weekend, it looked as though Mitt Romney's challengers had been consigned to defeat. As Huntsman, Paul, and Santorum jockeyed for second place, Romney could have joined Perry on the side of the stage for a nap. But that's not the case now. Realizing that South Carolina may be their last stand, the other candidates are exploiting every chance to slow down Romney’s momentum as the race moves south. A 27-minute television ad sponsored by Gingrich-supporting super PAC “Winning Our Future” has the highest probability of injuring the front-runner’s chances of a clean sweep in the primaries. The ad paints Romney as an out-of-touch corporate raider ready to take over the country and steal Americans’ money. As Time ’s James Poniewozik points out , “Holy crap, is it vicious.” Although Democrats have been saving their Bain attacks for the fall, the National Democratic Committee didn't skip out entirely on the fun; it has repeatedly called Romney...

Mitt Romney, Mr. Sunshine

All eyes are on New Hampshire today as voters in the Granite State head to the first primary in the Republican nomination contest. Unlike the maddeningly slow trickle-in of the results in the Iowa caucuses last week, we should know the winner soon after the polls close tonight. Mitt Romney has held a dominating lead in the polls all year, and though his numbers have dipped slightly over the past few days, it's unlikely that he will place anything other than first—election sage Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight puts the likelihood of Romney winning New Hampshire at a whopping 98 percent. The outstanding question is how the other candidates will do: Is Jon Huntman's momentum real or just a media fiction, and—egads!—could Buddy Roemer finish ahead of Rick Perry? Many of the candidates—including the two Ricks and Newt Gingrich—have set their hopes on South Carolina's January 21 primary, but it's the election at the end of the month that could prove to be the most important. Florida will be...

A Contradiction, Without Comment

Without issuing an explanation, yesterday the Supreme Court upheld a federal law banning resident aliens from making campaign contributions. It is regrettable but perhaps telling that the Court chose not to explain why it agreed with the lower court: The case reveals obvious problems with its penchant for First Amendment absolutism in campaign-finance cases, most notably its decision in Citizens United . The implicit message in the court's decision is straightforward: Elections are different from regular speech. If I were a resident alien, any attempt by the federal government to censor this post would be a black-letter violation of the First Amendment. But it would remain illegal—and properly so—for me to send a $30 check to a candidate for public office. This is not because this donation would count as anything other than "free speech" but because the courts have reasoned that maintaining the integrity of American elections by protecting them from undue influence from foreign donors...

No, Mitt Romney Did Not Reveal His True Essence

I wish I could come up with a pithy name for the particular type of faux-scandal that erupted yesterday over Mitt Romney saying "I like being able to fire people", the "That inartful thing our opponent said actually reveals his innermost being" ridiculousness. When you put it that way, it shows just how absurd it is. Just what is it that Mitt Romney's opponents are now trying to persuade us to believe? That what we knew about Romney before yesterday was incomplete, but with this latest statement, the mask slipped and Romney showed his true self. And now we know! Before, we thought he was just a standard-issue corporate raider of the kind conservatives lionize, but it turns out that he actually enjoys causing human misery by throwing people out of work. Egad! This is the most tiresome, and simultaneously most common, kind of campaign dust-up. I can promise you, this won't be the last time this year we'll hear lots of arguments about just how awful and revealing some offhand comment...

Same Schtick, Different Day

AP Images/Vince DeWitt
DERRY, NEW HAMPSHIRE— Newt Gingrich is a master of Stalinist history. In the New Hampshire campaign’s closing days, he made much of his own role in the job creation of the Reagan and Clinton years (though he never mentioned Clinton by name) and contrasted himself with his rivals by touting his ability to reach across the aisle during Clinton’s presidency. As Gingrich recounted it to a crowd of 300 gathered in a high-school auditorium in Derry late yesterday afternoon, he and Clinton both “concluded very early on that we really wanted to get together to do something for the country.” They would meet privately, he said, while bashing each other publicly. His account is notable for its obvious omissions. It makes no mention of Gingrich’s forcing Clinton to close the government down at the end of 1995 (Clinton wouldn’t accede to Gingrich’s demands to cut Medicare). It leaves out Gingrich’s decision to have congressional Republicans campaign for office in 1998 on a platform of impeaching...

The Bain of Mitt’s Campaign

Of all the bizarre aspects of the Republican presidential race—and they have been gloriously plentiful—nothing has been odder than the kid-glove treatment accorded the likeliest nominee. While every other pretender, from Donald Trump to Rick Santorum, has had his record and rhetoric parsed and pilloried, Mitt Romney has sailed through months (heck, years) of campaigning and oodles of debates without so much as a nick or scratch. Until now. Sunday’s New Hampshire debate featured memorable smackdowns by Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. But far more ominous for the former Massachusetts governor is the sudden dam-burst of criticism of the central rationale for his campaign: Romney’s job-creating business experience at Bain Capital, which the candidate argues makes him uniquely qualified to be America’s recession-era CEO. Among the revelations, The Wall Street Journal reported today on the high rate of bankruptcies and closures among the companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure...

Romney's Mini-Flub

Thanks to the array of options to watch TV online, I don't bother paying for cable at my home in DC. But I've been able to reacquaint myself with the hyperbole of cable news as I've been on the road reporting. This morning I learned of Mitt Romney's "breaking news" flub from MSNBC. At a morning stop in New Hampshire, Romney said, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." With increased attention being paid to Mitt Romney's time buying and selling companies, now might not be the best moment to revel in handing out pink slips. Hours later, Jon Hunstman has already incorporated the line into his attacks on Romney and the DNC was quick to push out this video clip: Politicians always disavow these kinds of quotes as being taken out of context by the media, and this is the rare instance where that's a proper defense. Here's the full quote from Romney discussing health insurance: I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have...

Running on Faith

AP Photo/David Goldman
Jamelle Bouie Rick Perry seemed more like a preacher than a politician at a campaign stop in South Carolina Monday morning. Anderson, South Carolina —Five months ago, when Rick Perry announced his campaign for the Republican nomination in Charleston, South Carolina, he was the hottest kid on the block. The three-term governor of America’s second-largest state, he promised a credible Tea Party alternative to the opportunistic conservatism of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. But Perry wasn’t prepared for the rigors of a presidential campaign, and it showed. His campaign stumbled through debates, and alienated potential allies with tone-deaf rhetoric on immigration, and his position on the HPV vaccine as governor of Texas. By the end of year, his failures were a national joke and his campaign was abandoned by conservatives looking for someone to deliver them from Romney. After his fifth-place finish in Iowa, it looked as if Perry would drop out. Instead, he opted to renew his...

Pages