Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

A New Candidate?

For fans of the horse race, this presidential election comes up a little short. The remaining contests are worth watching to see how the Republican Party's competing factions reconcile the fact that they must put aside their differences and support Romney if they hope to defeat Barack Obama, but any semblance of drama disappeared once Romney won the first two nominating states. He now leads the polls in the upcoming primary states. Thank god for Stephen Colbert. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 5 percent of South Carolina Republicans would support the fake news host if he were a presidential candidate. That's 1 percent more than Jon Huntsman and falls within the margin of error for Rick Perry and Ron Paul. On last night's Colbert Report, the comedian hinted to his fans that he might have something up his sleeve, winking at a "major announcement" for Thursday night's show. “This just got real,” Colbert said. “I’ve got to ask, what do you think, nation? Should I run for...

The Class War Turns

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a report showing that the American public now perceives the conflict between the rich and poor as more prevalent and intense than conflicts between black and whites or conflicts between immigrants and the native-born. The number seeing those class conflicts has jumped 19 points since 2009, and amazingly, even 55 percent of Republicans think there are strong conflicts between rich and poor. For the GOP, about to nominate a guy who earned a couple of hundred million dollars as what one of his opponents calls a "vulture capitalist," this is disconcerting news. First, a graph: It's no surprise that the Republican establishment is freaking out a bit over the new attacks on Mitt Romney's career in private equity, particularly this remarkable video from a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich. They've worked very hard for the last couple of decades to construct and reinforce a narrative that redirects class resentment—encourages it, actually, so long...

Ron Paul’s Guerilla Visions

AP Photo/Cheryl Senter
T hat the biggest story of the New Hampshire Primary has, in the 36 hours since, received relatively little comment attests to our perception of politics as a game of colliding strategies rather than a psychodrama. If nothing else, this coming electoral year we’re about to get a lesson in the strange Oedipal dynamics between fathers and sons. Ron Paul is running for president. He’s not just running for president up until next week’s South Carolina Primary or the Florida Primary at the end of the month; he’s not running through March or June or even up until the combustible convention days of September when the Republican Party meets in Tampa. Ron Paul is running for president forever, which includes—unless he dies first—next November 6. “We’re dangerous,” he giggled Tuesday night from the stage of his second-place victory rally in Manchester. In radicalese, this translates as (in the parlance of the horrible music my 14-year-old son listens to on the way to school): “I’m sexy and I...

Running to Lose

Jamelle Bouie Jon Huntsman speaks during a Q&A session at the University of South Carolina. COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA —At the University of South Carolina yesterday, Jon Huntsman was explaining his position on health care. Huntsman doesn’t believe that there should be an individual mandate in health care, he explained, but he does think that hospitals should be required to provide emergency care. When pressed on the problem of moral hazard and cost— i.e. , Won’t this just make health care more expensive?—he demurred. Likewise, when asked about his support for the Ryan plan by a self-described independent, he waved away the concern with a bland statement about cutting the debt. In other words, this was a classic Huntsman performance, in which his calm demeanor and pleasant voice mask a conservatism that goes deeper than what we’ve seen from most of the other Republican candidates. It should be said that the attendees were enthusiastic about the governor, and quite a few were...

GOP Continues Crusade for Corporate Liberty

In this first presidential campaign since Citizens United , I wonder if any advocates of that decision—a group that would include pretty much the entire GOP—would say that as a result, we have better, more democratic campaigns. Is there anyone willing to stand up and say that superPACs are a healthy thing? Well, it appears the Republican party is now saying we should just give up the charade and let corporations buy candidates directly already : The century-old ban on corporate donations to federal political campaigns should be junked as unconstitutional, the Republican National Committee argued in a legal brief filed Tuesday that could lead to new attacks on the GOP as beholden to corporate money. The GOP brief filed with a federal appeals court contends that the ban which became law back in 1908 violates the First Amendment in light of recent Supreme Court rulings, including the 2010 Citizens United decision which allowed unlimited donations to independent-expenditure groups. On a...

A Tea Party State of Confusion

Click on the image to see larger size. I f the 50 states were 50 people, and you had to rank them by ideology, then South Carolina—which holds the second Republican presidential primary on January 21—would be the Tea Partier of the group. Forty-six percent of South Carolinians identify as conservative. Republicans hold every statewide elected office and control both the state house and senate. The governor, Nikki Haley, was on the vanguard of the Tea Party in the 2010 congressional elections, and her predecessor—the right-wing libertarian Mark Sanford—was among the five governors to reject stimulus funds in 2009. The state’s congressional delegation is no less conservative. Of its eight members-—two senators and six representatives—only one, Representative James Clyburn, belongs to the Democratic Party. Moreover, the state’s junior Republican senator, Jim DeMint, is a right-wing icon. It’s not just that he is the most conservative member of the Senate, according to National Journal...

Poetic Justice

AP Photo/Scott Gries Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, sold a "significant portion" of his stake in the company to Mitt Romney's Bain Capital in 1998. A splendid accidental benefit of this year’s Republican presidential primary is that one of the most abusive dark corners of American capitalism, so-called private equity, is coming in for belated scrutiny and scorn. Delectably, the disclosures and criticisms are coming from leading Republicans, in a blatant undermining of cherished Republican ideology. Even before Democrats lay a glove on Romney, he will be assaulted by an investigative documentary that is more Michael Moore than Adam Smith. In politics, it doesn’t get much better than this. “Private equity” was rebranded in the 1990s. It used to be called, more honestly, leveraged buyouts. While the job-killing aspect of many of the deals done by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital and kindred financial engineers has come in for withering criticism, that is only one part of the...

Romney's Peanut Gallery

The score between Romney and "Anyone But Romney" stands at 2-0 after the former governor’s victory in New Hampshire last night, and the likelihood that a Santorum or Gingrich gets the nomination gets slimmer every day. All the candidates have gone south for the rest of the month. The other candidates know that if Romney wins the next two primaries, they have no reason to stay in the race, and are campaigning as if their political lives depends on it. Anti-Romney ads dominate the airwaves, but the anti-Romney campaign might be too little, too late. Romney had a 55 percent chance of winning South Carolina even before his boost of momentum in New Hampshire, according to Nate Silver’s projections. Between Mitt Romney’s anti-Obama victory speech and the Obama campaign’s glee at the Republicans doing their Romney-bashing dirty work for them, it’s increasingly hard to see Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, and Perry’s desperate efforts as anything but an annoying buzz underneath the general election...

Minorities for Ron Paul

Ron Paul at a campaign stop in South Carolina Wednesday.
Jamelle Bouie Ron Paul draws diverse crowds to his campaign events, and several of his minority supporters defended the candidate against charges of racism. West Columbia, South Carolina —When I arrived at the airport hangar where Ron Paul was scheduled to hold his first South Carolina rally, my plan was to talk to attendees and photograph the area. After all, I was early to the event, and wanted to use my time productively. Unfortunately, I locked my keys in my car, and with them, my bag, my camera and my notebook. And so, instead of getting a head start on covering the event, I stood outside my car for 45 minutes—in the rain—waiting for a locksmith to come and correct my mistake. By the time I got to the hangar, the event had already begun, and Ron Paul was midway into his by-the-numbers denunciation of the Federal Reserve, and his push for a return to “sound money.” The crowd—which fills a good portion of the hangar—loves it, and cheers for the policy, despite the fact that his...

Vulture Capitalists at the Lizard Thicket

Rick Perry had a hard time answering questions about unemployment in South Carolina Wednesday.
Jamelle Bouie Rick Perry on the trail at the Lizard Thicket restaurant in South Carolina Wednesday. Lexington, South Carolina —If Rick Perry’s travel schedule is any indication, he has a real affinity for small Southern chains that tout their “real country cooking,” and serve a laundry list of desserts, cured meats, and fried poultry. This morning’s stop at the Lizard Thicket restaurant in Lexington, South Carolina, a short drive away from Columbia, the state’s capital. “We don’t endorse any of the candidates,” said Sara Krisnow, whose family owns the franchise, “This is more of a public service.” Unlike his Monday event in Anderson, where there was too much space and too few people, this was held in more intimate surroundings—a small, closed off section of the establishment. As such, it seemed livelier, even if there weren’t as many people in the audience. And perhaps as a result, Perry seemed less subdued than he did on Monday. As for his remarks, Perry didn’t venture far from his...

An Ax to Grind

AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Cable-news pundits rejoiced a week ago when Rick Santorum drew Mitt Romney into an essential tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses. For all the ups and downs throughout the fall, this election has been inherently boring. Until Iowa, Romney had inched along unremarkably to the general election while a rotating group of talking heads ran nominal presidential campaigns in order to boost their fees on the lecture circuit. But then Rick Santorum arrived in the spotlight and won an actual vote, not just front-page headlines. Finally, we could train our sights on someone who could, just maybe, make Romney work for the nomination, pushing him out of the general-election comfort zone that he had coasted on all last year. Unfortunately for those invested in an extended horse race, the Santorum surge hasn't panned out. His campaign was an abject failure in New Hampshire last night, even under the arbitrary rules of the expectations game, finishing a distant fifth. Turns out, despite his weak...

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...

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