Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Pocketbook Rules

DES MOINES, IOWA —Leaders of Iowa's religious right gathered here Wednesday night in an attempt to recalibrate the presidential race to focus on the social issues. A full crowd packed into the ornate Hoyt Sherman Place theater for the world premiere for Gift of Life , a pro-life film produced by Citizens United and narrated by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The film was full of CGIed fetuses, heart-rending stories of adults whose parents had considered abortion, and Huckabee strolling on a beach wearing a blazer as children built sandcastles in the background. The crowd sat enraptured throughout the movie, but the four Republican candidates who spoke before the film were the real draw. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum all happily stepped on stage to flaunt their pro-life credentials; Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman turned down the invitation. Each of the candidates in attendance used the opportunity to make outlandish claims and...

Good Ol' Iowa

Ever since Jimmy Carter door-to-doored his way to an eye-opening Iowa victory in 1976—he actually finished second to “uncommitted,” but he beat the other candidates—the first-in-the-nation caucuses have played a supersized role in both parties’ nomination processes. In spite of quadrennial grumblings about Iowa becoming “less relevant,” it never happens. The charm of Iowa isn’t just that it’s usually won with old-fashioned, shoe-leather campaigning; it’s also that the state’s caucus-goers, in both parties, are so full of surprises (see: Pat Robertson, John Kerry, Mike Huckabee). And with the media’s collective binary brain desperate to boil down the GOP race to Gingrich versus Romney, Iowa just might be poised to uncork another shocker in 20 days. Ron Paul, anyone ? So They Say "I don’t want to be called a xenophobe. I want to be called intelligent.” —Rick Santorum, explaining his support for airport profiling at a campaign event in Des Moines Daily Meme: Ron Paul Revolution Could...

To Flop or Not to Flop: That is the General Election Question

Time to take an intermission from predicting paths to the GOP nomination and imagine what the GOP's general election campaign could look like. Let's take the two most likely nominees. It's relatively easy to imagine how Gingrich would campaign if he became the GOP candidate: the same way he's campaigned for the last few decades. One of Newt Gingrich's defining qualities as a politician is his unwavering confidence in his own ideas. Part of Gingrich's appeal is when you vote for him, you know what you're going to get. This appeal is also why many assume Gingrich will not ultimately be nominated—the Democratic and Republican elite both think the general public won't like what they see. It is much harder to imagine how a Romney candidacy would unfold. As noted by Christine O’Donnell , who endorsed Mitt Romney last night, Romney's platform has been ideologically consistent since the GOP primaries in 2008. The reason Romney has been been “consistent since he changed his mind” is a symptom...

One Small Step for Newt

AP Photo/Bill Ingalls
GRINNELL, IOWA—The emerging narrative for Newt Gingrich is that that he is an unstable politician prone to indulging in crazy theories more fitting a fantasy author than a presidential contender. He's been doing his best Chicken Little impression for years, running around warning about the threat of an EMP attack knocking out the nation's electrical grid (hint: it's not much of a threat). And, he is such a Steven Spielberg fan that he became convinced that the U.S. should invest in building a real-life “Jurassic Park.” During the debate last weekend, Newt's stance on space policy got Mitt Romney chuckling. "Places where we disagree?" Romney said in response to some prodding from debate moderator George Stephanopoulos. "Let's see, we can start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon, I'm not in favor of spending that kind of money to do that." The Republicans in the crowd laughed it up with Romney, who had used a similar line of attack the day before...

Important Election News from Across the Pond

Over the last week, there has been a torrent of stories illustrating the extent to which the Obama re-election team is observing the Republican presidential contest and developing their strategy for the general election season. And while I’m sure that the Obama team has devoted a fair amount of attention to events in the GOP, I’m also sure that they’ve devoted even more time to events across the Atlantic, where—as Carmel Crimmins and Gavin Jones note for Reuters —austerity has pushed Europe to the edge of another recession: With the crisis spreading like wildfire through the currency bloc’s core, pushing up borrowing costs to unsustainable levels, countries are relying more on blunt budget cuts, than time-consuming and difficult structural reforms, to get results. The upshot is ballooning dole queues, shuttered businesses and public services stretched to breaking point. There’s no question that a second European recession would trickle down to the United States and compromise our...

How We'll Talk About the Affordable Care Act in the Fall

Since these are the Republican primaries, the GOP candidates talk about the Affordable Care Act as though it were making your life a living hell, getting you fired from your job, and maybe kicking your dog as well. They all pledge to repeal it the instant they get into office, though they're vague on how exactly they'd go about it, since in our system, the president doesn't get to cancel duly elected laws he doesn't like. This is obviously what the Republican base wants to hear. But what about when we get to the fall? The broader electorate's views on the ACA are both more positive and less clear than those of the GOP base. They don't have the same kind of visceral reaction against it, but neither are they likely to believe it's been a boon to them. That's because most of the key provisions, particularly the mandate to carry insurance, the subsidies for people to get it, and the creation of the insurance exchanges, won't take place until 2014. But that doesn't mean the ACA hasn't...

Ron Paul's Threat to Gingrich

With his vast trail of scandals and long list of enemies, Newt Gingrich is unlikely to win the Republican presidential nomination, even if he’s leading the polls. But if you were to imagine a path to the nomination for the former House speaker, it would begin in Iowa. A strong win in the Iowa caucuses would provide Gingrich with the momentum necessary to place well in New Hampshire (or win it, under the right circumstances). With the momentum of two primaries behind him, Gingrich would cruise to victory in South Carolina and Florida and finish January as the presumptive nominee. Iowa is a must-have for Gingrich, which is why Ron Paul’s surge—he is tied with Gingrich in the latest survey from Public Policy Polling—is so dangerous. A Ron Paul win in Iowa would both derail Gingrich and help Mitt Romney as he navigates through the New Hampshire primary. In that sense, Paul is Romney’s greatest ally in the Republican presidential primaries. If Paul can keep Gingrich from building momentum...

Ron Paul Ties Gingrich in Iowa

GRINNELL, IOWA—That sure didn't last long. The Newt Gingrich boomlet appeared to have at least a bit more staying power than the month-long GOP love affairs with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. Instead, it might already be over. A new survey from Public Policy Polling puts Gingrich dead even with Ron Paul in Iowa, a crucial state that Gingrich will need to win if he hopes to clinch his party's nomination. Gingrich notches just 22 percent support in the poll, with Ron Paul in second place at 21 percent. The survey, conducted between December 11 and December 13, encompasses the days immediately following the last GOP debate. Gingrich's likability plummeted during that time. When PPP polled Iowans the previous week, the former speaker had a net favorability of 31 percent; that's now dropped to just a 12 percent margin, with 52 percent of caucus voters having warm feelings for Gingrich and another 40 percent having negative views. Mitt Romney placed third in the poll with...

Prospecting in Iowa

Ding! Welcome to "Ringside Seat," The American Prospect ’s daily guide to Election 2012. Each afternoon we'll send an end-of-the-day compendium of the campaign news you might have missed—but shouldn’t. Please send tips to newsletters@prospect.org and if you want to unsubscribe, you can do so below. PROSPECTING IN IOWA The Prospect ’s Patrick Caldwell is on the ground in Iowa, where he’ll be reporting daily on the madness that just might—in three weeks—produce a frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Of course, it could also be the caucus that plunges the nomination process into a delightful chaos that lasts till June and beyond. The topsy-turvy race for Iowa voters is only getting wilder as January 3 nears, with a new poll showing Newt Gingrich’s lead evaporating and Ron Paul tying him . Paul looks strong with the state’s best ground game—and maybe the most resonant message . Meanwhile, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are flooding the airwaves with their millions, and a group of the...

Welcome to Iowa

NORTHWOOD, IOWA—The Welcome Center rest stop on Iowa's northern border lives up to every stereotype associated with the Hawkeye State. The barn-styled building has a cowhide pattern in every corner, and the coffee shop serves delicious apple pie and cheap drip coffee. Brochures tout a range of local attractions, from the American Gothic House to a Maize Maze, Matchstick Marvels (a museum of matchstick art), and the World's Largest Truckstop (one of my personal favorites). Noticeably absent: any indication that in exactly three weeks Iowans might decide whether Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, or one of the other Republicans takes on Barack Obama in 2012. This largely rural state of three million plays an outsized role in selecting the man or woman who will run the country thanks to Iowa’s first-on-the-calendar caucus. By the time most states hold their primary or caucuses, the field will have been winnowed down to only a few possibilities—if that. Iowans (and New Hampshirites after them)...

No Labels Comes to Washington

For its panel on “mak[ing] Congress work” this morning, No Labels—a group that bills itself as “a voice” for the “silent majority”—assembled a group of current and former lawmakers to solve the problems of partisanship and polarization. Among the members present were Senators Joe Lieberman, Joe Manchin, Bill Nelson, and Dean Heller; Congressman Jim Cooper; former Senator Evan Bayh; former Congressman Micky Edwards; and David Walker, the former comptroller general. There was a standard issue list of bipartisan reforms: an end to negative campaigning against fellow members, filibuster reform, pay for performance, and nonpartisan primaries. If these sound unremarkable, it’s because they are. Even if the large crowd (it filled a chamber in one of the House office buildings) was enthusiastic, there’s something banal about an event where politicians speak in gauzy platitudes—“Back in the day, friendship mattered more than party, and common purpose mattered more than ideology,” Evan Bayh...

Is the GOP Base Willing to Lose in 2012?

Imagine you had told Republicans in December 2008 that three years from then, when Barack Obama would be running for re-election, the country would still be mired in the economic doldrums, with unemployment at 8.6 percent and job creation barely keeping up with increases in population. "Great!" they'd say. "There's no way we could lose the 2012 election!" Yet here we are, with the party about to choose between one terribly flawed, unlikeable candidate and a second terribly flawed, unlikeable candidate. No matter which one gets the nomination, you'll be hard-pressed to find a Republican who thinks they've got this election in the bag. And today, Jeffrey Toobin wonders , given the GOP's intense dislike of Barack Obama, "Wouldn’t they seek out the broadest possible coalition for defeating him? Apparently not. Rather, the working Republican hypothesis seems to be that the damaged economy will trump any specific stand on the issues. Americans will embrace the Republican candidate simply to...

Putting the Brakes on Voter Supression

Voters in most states have little recourse to combat the onslaught of restrictive voter-ID laws Republican majorities have passed in 2011. For the most part, they'll have to wait until the 2012 election to replace their legislators and hope that these laws (such as photo-ID requirements and repeals to same-day registration) can be taken off the books. But a number of states will tackle voter suppression directly via ballot referendums. Last month, both Maine and Mississippi tested restrictive voting laws through popular votes; in Maine, voters overruled their legislators and reinstituted same-day voter registration, a major win for voter-rights advocates. But in Mississippi, things took a turn for the worse; voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo identification for access to the ballot. Ohio is up next after organizers gathered more than 300,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot next year. The state's Republican majority had passed severe restrictions to...

The Unanointed

One law of politics (and I use that term loosely; the laws of politics are a lot more mutable than those of, say, thermodynamics or North Dakota) is that when a presidential primary process looks essentially decided, the party establishment steps in to endorse the presumptive nominee and pressures the other candidate, or candidates, to drop out of the race. It’s never in the party’s interest to drag the contest on, particularly when it means that said presumptive nominee will continue to be subjected to more criticism from his intraparty rival or rivals. That’s the law. In the light of the gray dawn of current polling, the only candidate who could wrap up the GOP presidential nomination early is Newt Gingrich, whom the Republican establishment almost universally despises and fears. But say Gingrich wins Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida by big margins and comes very close—or even wins—in New Hampshire. Confronted with almost any other candidate with that kind of win-loss record,...

What Would Tebow Do?

Ding! Welcome to "Ringside Seat," The American Prospect ’s daily guide to Election 2012. Each afternoon we'll send an end-of-the-day compendium of the campaign news you might have missed—but shouldn’t. Please send tips to newsletters@prospect.org . I n a weekend dominated by the latest miracle victory engineered by Tim Tebow—the quarterback who puts a happy, winning face on evangelical Christianity—a smaller one occurred on Saturday night in Des Moines: Rick Perry had a pretty good debate. He didn’t misidentify any Supreme Court justices, or conflate Iran and Iraq—and he cannily refused to shake hands on Mitt Romney’s disastrous $10,000 bet. But if Perry’s not bettin’ on that, he is counting on Christian phobias to salvage his presidential hopes in Iowa. In the most-loathed campaign ad of the season , Perry donned a Brokeback Mountain jacket and in just 30 seconds managed to invoke just about every imaginary assault on Christianity that right-wing evangelicals (and Bill O’Reilly) have...

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