Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Saving Private Ron

DES MOINES, IOWA —Ron Paul drew another large, enthusiastic crowd here last night. Carrying homemade "End the Fed" banners and donning t-shirts emblazoned with "Ron Paul Revolution," hundreds of people packed into the Knapp Animal Learning Center (sadly, there were no animals) on the grounds of the Iowa State Fair for a veterans rally. When Paul visited the State Fair in late August, his speech at the Des Moines Register 's traditional soapbox got little attention as crowds gathered anxiously to hear new frontrunner Michele Bachmann and speculated about the imminent entry of the Texas governor Rick Perry. Now, Paul is leading most Iowa polls and has earned a level of ground support that has eluded the other candidates in Iowa. At the rally, Paul didn't veer far off his standard stump speech. He had no reason to; the speech is heavy on the foreign-policy issues that have earned Paul the support of veterans. Paul's campaign frequently touts the fact that he has more campaign donations...

All's Fair in Caucuses and War

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson speaks at a rally for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul yesterday. Sorensen, formerly Iowa campaign chairman for Michele Bachmann announced his support for Paul yesterday. DES MOINES, IOWA —Michele Bachmann's presidential bid is doomed unless something dramatic happens in the next five days. Bachmann staked her campaign on a strong finish in the Iowa caucuses, which she hoped to win by gaining the support of the state's evangelical and Tea Party communities, but she hasn't been able to make a significant dent in the polls here since her mini-surge over the summer. It wouldn't be shocking to see her drop out of the field before New Hampshirites head to the polls on January 10. The fate of her campaign has been apparent for weeks (if not months), but Bachmann has entered a downward spiral with the finish line now in sight. One of the candidate's two state co-chairmen, Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson, abruptly...

Going Cold Turkey on Debt Reduction For the Win

Congress had debt on the brain in 2011—fights over the debt ceiling, the Supercommittee, the Bush tax cuts, and voucherizing Medicare—but it amounted to just talk. It was a weird issue to focus on in the year before a big election, since most voters find unemployment and the general economy more important problems to tackle than the federal deficit. And, it turns out that this obsession with the debt was a bad idea for more than Congress' approval rating. Bloomberg reported that there was record demand this year for U.S. government bonds, making it cheaper for the U.S. to finance its debt now than it was during the surpluses in the 90s. While Congress was mired in a battle over the deficit, the market was begging the government to borrow more. With the Bush tax cuts scheduled to expire in a year and the national debt set to reach the legal limit once again, Congress has a clear excuse to keep fighting over debt in the new year. However, unless legislators want to end 2012 with an even...

Paul on Track to Win Iowa

GRINNELL, IOWA— It looks as though we can safely dismiss a Santorum surge or a Perry reboot. For Romney, the polls hang steady just under a week before the Iowa caucuses, according to Public Policy Polling . Ron Paul maintains his lead over Mitt Romney by a 24-20 margin, statistically unchanged from the 23-20 percent gap last week. But Newt Gingrich's support has disappeared. The former House Speaker held a lead in the Midwestern state two weeks ago, but has now dropped down to third place at 13 percent, only slightly above Michele Bachmann at 11 percent and the two Ricks at 10 percent. In Gingrich's case, it's clear that his opponents' onslaught of negative comments—during stump speeches but also in TV ads attacking his characters—brought about his downfall. Gingrich's favorability was at 62 percent when he jumped to take the lead in PPP's Iowa survey at the beginning of the month, with just 31 percent of Republican voters disapproving of him at the time. Those numbers have now...

Lawsuit Abuse Running Rampant Among Republican Candidates

As every good conservative knows, lawsuit abuse is destroying America. Greedy plaintiffs filing frivolous suits, tying up the courts with cases they have no hope of winning -- you've heard it many times before. Which brings us to Rick Perry: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who along with Newt Gingrich didn’t submit the required number of signatures to petition to make it onto the Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot, is taking the fight for ballot access to federal court. In a release sent late Tuesday, Perry’s campaign announced it has filed suit against the Republican Party of Virginia and the state board of elections in the Eastern District of Virginia over what the campaign claims is a ballot access statute that “limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.” The Perry suit claims Virginia’s entire statutory scheme for getting on the presidential primary ballot is constitutionally flawed, but it zeros in on the state’s ban on the use of out-of-state...

Second Time's the Charm?

A favorite trope of election coverage is to compare the current race to past elections. Is Barack Obama Jimmy Carter in 1980? Is 2012 a repeat of the 2004 election? Or is this year going to be just like 1896? With Mitt Romney, however, there's a far easier comparison: Mitt Romney in 2008. In the last presidential election cycle, Romney faced many of the same criticisms he does now: He was accused of being a flip-flopper and assailed for his religion and personal wealth. His failure to respond effectively to these accusations—and his fateful decision to stake his campaign on a win in Iowa—were his downfall. But Romney seems to have learned some lessons. After investing heavily in Iowa in 2008, Mike Huckabee trounced the former Massachusetts governor at the last minute in a surprise win. Huckabee’s unexpected victory had a lot to do with the odd structure of the Iowa caucuses. In a caucus, voters don’t have the flexibility of voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in a...

Ringside Seat: Lucky Mitt

Will the operatic sturm und dran g of the Republican presidential race end with a whimper of anti-climatic predictability? With one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich is flailing (see below) and Ron Paul is mishandling the controversy over his racist newsletters (ditto), while Rick Santorum and Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are still squabbling over the same Christian Right turf—leading folks like Nate Silver to ask : "How Can Romney Lose?" Even Mike Huckabee, who famously said in 2008 that Romney looks like "the guy who laid you off," is predicting he'll be the nominee. Meanwhile, a Boston Globe poll shows Romney winning 44 percent of Tea Partiers' support in New Hampshire. If the former Massachusetts governor can overcome Ron Paul's fragile edge in the Iowa polls, he could be looking like a shoo-in for the nomination next Wednesday morning. As John Heilman writes , chronicling Romney's December comeback, maybe it really is "better to be lucky than loved." So they...

Voting Wrongs

When Barack Obama entered the White House, liberals hoped that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice might return to its proper mission. The agency had been gutted during the Bush years, litigating individual cases of bias without tackling the systematic levers of discrimination that affect a far larger share of the population. Obama beefed up the agency's staff and DOJ started hiring actual civil rights attorneys (unlike the strict ideological conservatives without civil rights experience who entered during the Bush administration). More recently, Attorney General Eric Holder has advocated for an aggressive stance on protecting civil rights during Congressional hearings and visited Austin, Texas, earlier this month to lay out his vision for an expansive take on voter protection. There had been some early evidence of this new direction beyond the tough talk—primarily challenges to city police departments and an objection to Texas' redistricting plans. But it wasn't...

Honk If You Support Immigrants

As 2011 draws to a close, the immigration situation in the U.S. remains a mess. Arizona's infamous SB 1070, which required law-enforcement officials to check immigration status during routine encounters if there was "reasonable suspicion" someone was in the country illegally, sparked a nationwide outcry when it was passed in 2010. But in the past year, lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Utah, and South Carolina have followed suit, passing a host of copycat bills. In Alabama, schools are even required to check the immigration status of students, which has resulted in hundreds of Hispanic children being kept home from school. But there is a quiet backlash taking shape. Across the country, a number of grassroots organizations have recently kicked off awareness campaigns that welcome immigrants. Uniting NC, a grass-roots group in North Carolina, has raised funds online for billboards all over the state featuring images of smiling immigrants and the headline, “Community, we’ll get...

Mr. Rockefeller Goes to Washington

Congress' studied effort at ignoring the Occupy movement isn't that surprising when you take a look at legislators' tax returns: Many representatives sit comfortably in the 1 percent. Between 1984 and 2009, the median income of members of the House ballooned from $280,000—an already impressive figure—to $ 725,000 , according to the new Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan. An analysis of the study in The Washington Post did not include figures for the Senate. In comparison, the median income of an American family has slipped from $20,600 to $20,500 over the same time period. No wonder that Congress was squeamish about passing a millionaire surtax or signing on to support the protesters in Zuccotti Park. This congressional income gap partly reflects how expensive it is to run a campaign: the price of a successful bid for a seat in the U.S. House has quadrupled to $1.4 million since 1976. Unless Congress takes another stab at campaign finance—or, at the risk of...

See You Next Year!

The Prospect is closed between Christmas and New Year's, so expect our posting to be a bit slower than normal over the coming week. But Patrick Caldwell will still be filling us in on what's going on in Iowa about a week out from the caucuses, so drop in to see how the GOP primary race is shaping up.

DOJ Rejects South Carolina Voter-ID Law

The Department of Justice announced late Friday afternoon that it was rejecting South Carolina's new voter photo identification law because it discriminates against minority voters. Under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, states with a history of low minority turnout must submit any changes to their voting laws to the DOJ or to a federal court for approval. South Carolina is one of the six states that passed laws in 2010 requiring voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification before they will be granted a ballot. These laws have all been pushed by new Republican majorities, which claim the restrictions are intended to combat widespread voter fraud that threatens the integrity of elections. But studies don't back up their claims, and voting-rights advocates allege that the ID laws are intended to suppress voter turnout, particularly among groups that tend to vote for Democrats. Even if that is not the intent, it would be the effect of these laws: Up to 25...

Explaining Newt's Inimitable Newtness

In case anyone forgot over the last decade or so that Newt Gingrich is a grandiose egomaniac, this campaign has served as a helpful reminder. But know that isn't enough, of course—if you're a reporter, you have to explain it. In today's New York Times , an article explores the question of whether Newt has mellowed under the calming influence of advancing age and the fair Callista. Some evidence to the contrary comes here: In Mr. Gingrich’s voice was the sneer of the professor of American history he once was, and, it seemed, a glimpse of the Old Newt. Ah yes, history professors, well known for their sneering. I guess the theory is as follows: 1) Newt Gingrich was once a history professor. 2) Newt Gingrich is a pompous jerk. 3) Newt Gingrich must be a pompous jerk because he was a history professor. This reminds me of a post Stephen Budiansky wrote a couple of weeks ago: In fact, anyone who actually has met (say) a college professor knows that most are earnest, deeply knowledgeable in...

Nobody Puts Barry in the Corner

The long battle is over, and the troops are headed home. House Republicans finally caved on a two-month extension on the payroll tax cut, realizing that their intransigence was winning them nothing but voter contempt. Congress cleared the $33 billion legislation this morning. The only concessions rewarded to the obstructionists were a minor provision protecting businesses from a few payroll-reporting requirements and an agreement to push a conference committee to negotiate a year-long extension on the tax cut. The undeniable winners of this legislative fight were the Democrats. Although the pressure to eke out a compromise was intense, they didn't cave. They can now start off the election year with an impressive win that will broadcast well on the airwaves and show voters that they are the party that pushes to help the middle class. President Barack Obama is also starting 2012 in an excellent position. He spent most of the tax-cut debate in the shadows, but on Tuesday he told the...

Loveable Extremist

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA —Adoring crowds packed rooms to capacity across Iowa the last two days to hear the leader of their revolution. Dr. Ron Paul, as he his loving referred to by his supporters, went on an eight-stop jaunt through eastern Iowa to rile up his supporters two weeks before they vote in the caucuses. He is poised to win the 2012 Iowa caucuses: He leads in the latest polls, has a developed campaign infrastructure, and can count on true believers to show up to vote on January 3. Now seems like a good time to remind people that Paul is, in most ways, the most extreme of the Republican candidates. Many liberals have developed a soft spot in their hearts for the libertarian over the course of the campaign. On civil liberties and foreign policy, Paul provides the lone bright spot during debates, rebuking the other candidates for supporting the Patriot Act and advocating bombing every country that glances askew at the United States to the high heavens. His Iowa events have featured...

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