Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Bye Bye Bachmann

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA —Less than 12 hours ago, Michele Bachmann seemed determined to prove all the haters wrong and vowed to waste the next several weeks of her life in South Carolina. Turns out it was all a ruse to gather the media for one last headline-grabbing event. Bachmann announced that she would suspend her presidential campaign this morning at the Marriott in west Des Moines. For the first time in her career, Bachmann seemed to have landed on planet Earth. "Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, so I have decided to stand aside," she said. Boy, they sure were clear. She came in second to last, just ahead of Jon Huntsman, who drew 5 percent of the vote. That equals 6,073 votes, only a slight increase from the 4,823 people who supported her at the Ames Straw Poll in early August. Back then it looked as if Bachmann could threaten Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination. But the entry of Rick Perry into the race stole her momentum, and she never recovered. Her...

Bachmann Leaves, Perry Stays, and Gingrich Goes in for the Kill

After a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann—who won the Ames Straw Poll last summer—has suspended her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. “I have no regrets, none whatsoever,” she told the media, saying “I look forward to the next chapter in God’s plan” adding that Republicans “must rally around the person that our country, and our party, and our people decide to be the standardbearer.” Rick Perry, who placed fifth in Iowa, was poised to suspend his bid for the presidency; last night, he announced a return to Texas to re-evaluate his campaign. If recent news is any indication, it didn’t take long for the governor to set a course; according to the campaign , Perry plans to continue with a renewed commitment to South Carolina. Even still, by floating a possible end to his candidacy, it’s likely that he’s harmed his standing with Republicans in the state. As for the other candidates—Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum...

This Time, It's Personal

Every candidate knows what you're supposed to say when you come out to speak to your supporters after a loss. This was a great effort! I'm so proud of everyone who worked so hard! Whatever happens, our fight for the things we believe in goes on! As trite as it may be, having been repeated so many times, it actually does make the staffers, volunteers, and supporters feel a little bit better. But Newt Gingrich is no ordinary candidate. So after coming in a distant fourth place in the Iowa caucuses, he emerged swinging . He said he was "drowned in negativity," and that the negative ads targeted at him were "shameful." He attacked Ron Paul, saying his views are "stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States." He called Mitt Romney a "Massachusetts moderate" (horrors!) who "would be pretty good at managing the decay" but won't change Washington. He also said that while he won't run "nasty ads," "I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative, that...

Bernanke's Burn Book

Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has decided to release senior officials' short-term interest-rate forecasts, opening a window into the collective mind of the Federal Reserve. The forecasts will be released after the next meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee on January 25. It will include forecasts for the "likely timing" of the first hike of the federal funds target rate and "qualitative information" on the Reserve's war chest of bonds and securities. The Fed likely hopes that by releasing this data, it can encourage much-needed economic growth by guiding investors' expectations and staving off worries about interest-rate changes. Many economists are cheering the transparency of this move, but some—including those who didn't vote for the change of policy on the board—think that publishing forecasts could confuse instead of educate the public and that the Federal Reserve's forecasts are often no more accurate than its peers'. “You run the risk of every other forecaster, and that is of...

Unlikely Outcomes

The New York Times takes a look at Rick Santorum’s campaign in Iowa and deems it a “lean” but “muscular” organization: Now, as the campaign moves beyond the long-shot-friendly borders of Iowa, Mr. Santorum’s campaign can no longer count on the candidate’s pluck and retail political prowess to make up for its lingering handicaps. He is seriously outgunned by the national fund-raising and organizational operations of his chief rivals, Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul, and he will face much heavier scrutiny from the news media and attacks from opponents. And while he has visited New Hampshire repeatedly (more than 30 times) as well as South Carolina (25 visits), his campaign still has a relatively tiny staff and is only now developing its advertising strategy. Yes, it’s possible that the former Pennsylvania governor could compete with Romney for votes in New Hampshire and South Carolina; Santorum will almost certainly benefit from the shrinking field, as Michele Bachmann ends her campaign and...

Santorum Beats Truman

*/ After last night's unprecedented near-tie in the Iowa Republican caucuses, it's easy to think that the GOP nomination contest is somehow up in the air. After all, the two top candidates in last night's election—former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum—are very different brands of Republicans. Mitt Romney is a well-heeled, patrician creature of the establishment, who—after almost a decade of planning—is the "next man in line" for the nomination. Rick Santorum, by contrast, is an unpopular former lawmaker who lost his last election in a colossal landslide and was on his way to renewed obscurity until his surge in Iowa. If Santorum can tie Romney for the first-place spot in Iowa—despite Romney's tens of millions of dollars and two separate presidential campaigns—then who knows what could happen in New Hampshire or South Carolina, the next two contests. But the truth is that this race is still as volatile as it was before the Iowa caucuses...

Branding the Old Party

DES MOINES, IOWA —The event was already running behind schedule when Chuck Laudner made his way to the front corner of the Pizza Ranch restaurant in Boone, Iowa. He struggled to kill time as Rick Santorum struggled to reach the podium. Over the past weeks, Laudner, a former executive director of the Iowa Republican Party, had been introducing the onetime Pennsylvania senator across the state. At first it was at small gatherings little noticed by the media. But that transformed overnight. On Monday, a crowd filled every inch of floor space, forcing Santorum to slowly trudge to the front, handshake by handshake. Laudner reiterated his standard pitch. "Tomorrow night at about seven o'clock, Iowans are going to gather," he said. "They're going to take two votes. At the beginning of the night, they're going to take a vote and tell the world who they think the next president should be. By the end of the caucus, they're going to take votes on all of those platform planks that create all of...

The Most Informative Campaign?

Now that the actual primary campaign (with voting, I mean) has begun, it might be worth taking note of a real benefit this crazy campaign has had for the electorate. With no fewer than six national front-runners at various times (Romney, Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich), we've had a chance to get a close look at more candidates than ever. Ordinarily, the press will find only one or two candidates worthy of a good sifting through their past. But this time, nearly all the candidates have been subject to close examination, and the harsh national spotlight reveals all flaws. If you're wondering what skeletons John Huntsman has in his closet, it's because he's the only candidate who hasn't been ahead (or nearly so). Everybody else has had their moment, so we've learned in detail about Perry's Texas record (not so impressive), Gingrich's entrepreneurial career (quite impressive in its way), Bachmann's religious beliefs (a little scary), Ron Paul's newsletters (both nutty and scary),...

Santorum Soars, Romney Scrapes By

Four years ago in Iowa, Barack Obama had a terrific night in the Democratic caucuses. Four years later, he had another one in the Republican caucuses. Mitt Romney had hoped to swoop into Iowa, fatally kneecap Newt Gingrich, initiate a clean sweep of the early Republican contests—and then start repositioning himself back toward the middle for a general-election battle with the president. To quote Rick Perry, who suspended his campaign after a fifth-place finish yesterday: “Oops.” Romney won Iowa, all right—by a grand total of eight votes. Rick Santorum, rising from the grave, led until most people fell asleep last night. Once it was done, Santorum delivered the most powerful and effective victory speech since Obama won Iowa in 2008. Blending family values with a passionate appeal to the working class, Santorum was frighteningly eloquent. He was gutty and real. He was speaking to the economic moment in America. He was, in other words, everything that Romney is not. Santorum’s...

Dude, Where's My Party?

Peterborough, New Hampshire —As the Republican Party continues its mad dash rightward, it’s good, if at times difficult, to remember that not every Republican has been swept along. Such Republicans haven’t been much in evidence in Iowa of late, but they were out in force in New Hampshire last night at a town hall for Jon Huntsman, whose platform makes clear he knows the radical right’s words but whose attitude is that of one who plainly refuses to learn the music. Speaking one hour before the Iowa caucuses commenced, Huntsman directed barbs at both Republicans and Democrats. What was notable was that the crowd—several hundred well-heeled and –coiffed GOPniks and independents—responded chiefly—actually, only—to the barbs directed at their own side. The country suffers, Huntsman argued, from two deficits, one fiscal, the other of trust. Huntsman isn’t much of an orator—he repeatedly sets up the basis for an attack, then can’t deliver the zinger—and his tales of the horrors that flow...

Bridge to Nowhere

Rick Perry’s energy has been known to flag on the campaign trail, but he was plenty fired up this morning. Visiting with volunteers in west Des Moines, the Texas governor gave 'em their marching orders—quite literally—for caucus day: “This is Concord,” he declared . “This is Omaha Beach. This is going up the hill, realizing that the battle is worthy. This is about sacrifice. Every man and woman has sacrificed your time, your treasure, your reputation." Of course, it’s Perry’s own political reputation—and his presidential aspirations—on the line tonight. While most of the focus has been on who will win the first Republican contest—Ron Paul? Mitt Romney? Rick Santorum?—what often matters most in Iowa isn’t the victor but the vanquished. Nobody wants to be the Howard Dean of 2012, scream or no. That means the contest to watch tonight might not be for first, but for a strong fourth-place finish. Perry and Newt Gingrich, seen by the Romney people as their toughest potential competitors for...

Most Bummer Pep Rally Ever

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Republican presidential candidate, Representative Ron Paul, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. WEST DES MOINES —On the final morning before the Iowa caucuses, a group of Republican presidential hopefuls went to one of the few places where they were guaranteed a large, captive audience: a high-school gymnasium, full of seniors who had been released from class. It was the first day back from winter break, and the room buzzed with excitement as friends caught up with one another. Things calmed down once the candidates took the stage. A high school might seem like an odd venue for a final voter push; after all, only a fraction of the students are of voting age. But the caucuses allow anyone who will have turned 18 by next fall's general election to vote, meaning most high-school seniors and many juniors can head to their local caucus tonight. Michele Bachmann, flanked by two of her daughters, spoke first. She...

Fair-Weather Voters

After an unusually warm December, winter has finally come to Iowa as the election season officially begins. The milder temperatures last month allowed candidates to hold their events outside—where they were overcrowded on sweltering 50 degree days—but now the temperature has dropped to the normal Midwestern chill. It is 12 degrees in Des Moines right now, and this morning, I needed to defrost my car for the first time in the three weeks that I have been here. I'm not mentioning the cold just to draw pity from our readers in Texas. In our insane political system—where 100,000 Iowans set the stage for the rest of the election season—small differences in turnout matter. The caucuses are already designed to discourage high turnout. You can't show up at a time during the day like in a normal general election. Instead, you must devote your entire evening to listening to each campaign's stump speech and then writing down your name on a piece of paper. Any...

Still in the Woods

If you look at the forecasts, Europe and the U.S. are starting 2012 off on different economic trajectories. Europe is heading for a near-inescapable second recession after manufacturing output dropped in December for the fifth straight month. The United States, on the other hand, seemed to be on the upswing in December—the job and housing markets improved, the payroll tax cut was extended (finally), and consumer spending rose. “There is a sense of decoupling,” Maury Harris, chief economist at UBS Securities, told Bloomberg Businessweek . “We can still have a decent year here in the U.S. even with the rest of the world slowing down.” However, the good news is not without qualification . Job growth has increased, but 40 percent of the new jobs have been in low-paying sectors. Growth is projected at 2 percent for the first half of the year—down from an estimated 3.6 percent in the last quarter of 2011. And consumer spending—which makes up 70 percent of the economy—is still in the...

Shiny Happy Romney

Since when did Mitt Romney turn into a jovial, wise-cracking sort? Well, ever since it became apparent that his chief rivals in the Iowa caucuses would almost surely be Congressman Ron Paul and former Senator Rick Santorum, who probably stand about the same chance as Kim Kardashian or Dominique Strauss-Kahn of winning the Republican nomination. Meanwhile, the only two candidates Romney’s people have worried about, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, could be left in the shadows after tomorrow night, relegated to making their final stands in South Carolina on January 21. At least that’s what the latest polls from Iowa say . Santorum, with his final-week blast of momentum , could win tomorrow night, no matter how out-organized he may be by Perry, Romney and Paul. But he has little time to scare up a viable campaign in New Hampshire or South Carolina. Only the profoundest of upsets could prevent Romney from coming out of Iowa smelling like a rose. Which...

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