Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Please Lie to Me

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Santa Comes Early

House Republicans finally waved a white flag over the payroll tax cut extension this afternoon—but not before they’d given President Obama what The New Yorker ’s John Cassidy aptly called an “early Christmas present.” And just the one he wanted and needed: a nice big boost to his re-election prospects. The White House’s crafty handling of the Tea Party’s latest hissy fit, along with Obama’s recent turn toward a more populist economic message, has boosted his approval ratings to 49 percent and given him a seven-point edge over his closest Republican rivals, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, in one recent national poll . That’s basically the same lead he held over John McCain in the late stages of the 2008 general election. The standoff was doing so much damage to Republicans that even McCain and Gingrich and The Wall Street Journal had begun calling for House Republicans to give in—and in Gingrich’s words, “to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily.” But for the president’s purposes, of...

What? We Won?

If there's one thing liberals know about their representatives in Washington, it's that those Democrats are a bunch of wimps. All Republicans have to do is draw back their fists, and Democrats will flinch. "What if they criticize us???" they whine, as they cave in on progressive principles again and again. That's the story liberals tell, and much of the time it's true. But nothing is true in politics one hundred percent of the time, and so yesterday we saw Republicans cave in on the payroll tax cut extension. There's a lot of technical parliamentary hoop-jumping involved, but basically the House is going to pass the two-month extension, and in exchange there will be a conference committee that attempts to work out a one-year extension. So we get to go through this all over again in two months. Which is probably just fine with Democrats. After all, they finally found an issue on which they could make Republicans knuckle under. Republicans don't seem to like this tax cut, and it's hard...

Establishment Bros Stick Together

The New York Times reports that Mitt Romney has earned the endorsement of George H.W. Bush: The former president told reporters for The Houston Chronicle that he supported Mr. Romney because of his “stability, experience, principles. He’s a fine person,” Mr. Bush, 87, said. “I just think he’s mature and reasonable – not a bomb-thrower.” This shouldn’t come as a big surprise; both represent the moderate, Northeastern wing of the Republican Party, and both have had their troubles with the GOP’s more doctrinaire members. It’s hard to say, however, that this endorsement will mean something for the Republican primary contest. The right-wing is ascendant in GOP politics, and Romney already has the support of Republicans from the traditional establishment. If anything, Bush’s endorsement reinforces the view that Romney is a party insider, even as he continues to pander to the conservative base. What would be interesting is an endosement from George W. Bush, who has been silent since leaving...

House GOP's White House Stocking Stuffer: The Payroll Tax Cut

The cave-in by the House Republicans on the payroll tax is on terms that keeps this conflict going well into the election year--and on terms very favorable to Barack Obama and the Democrats. For the GOP, the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut is the worst possible politics. First, they look weak (because they are weak); and second, the same drama will be replayed next year with the same outcome. Raising taxes on millionaires rather than cutting Social Security or Medicare, or hiking payroll taxes, wins every time. As Republicans keep re-fighting this losing battle, the message will be reinforced over and over again that Democrats are for the working person while Republicans defend the richest. The fact that key Republicans in the Senate and House can't get their act together is frosting on the cake. Likewise, the sheer extremism of Tea Party caucus members who'd rather lose their seats than compromise. They are likely to get their wish. Barack Obama won his Senate seat after...

Has Hell Frozen Over?

You might think that the only thing Karl Rove and Barack Obama agree on is that gravity exists. But yesterday, Rove agreed with the White House that it’s time for Republicans in the House to cut their losses and pass the Senate's two-month extension on the payroll tax cut before they go home for the holidays. The Senate has already gone home, which means the House can't strike up a new deal: It can either vote on the extension or let the tax cuts expire. Rove told Fox News on Wednesday that Republicans "have lost the optics on it” and “the question now is how do the Republicans get out of it." "Use [the showdown]] for political theater, vote to pass the two-month extension, and get out of town," Rove said. It isn’t actually that surprising that Rove supports passing the Senate’s version of the payroll tax cut bill, which failed in the House on Tuesday. It's a no-brainer, and if the Tea Party Republicans were thinking electorally, they would have voted for it. No voter is going to be...

The Ron Paul Rave

BETTENDORF, IOWA —After spending the past week and a half hopping from one Iowa town to the next, I've found few GOP voters willing to express wholehearted support for any candidate. Take Debbie and Phil Rogers, a married couple from Cedar Rapids that I met before a Newt Gingrich event on Monday. He's a pastor for the United Methodist Church, and she works for Level 10 Apparel, the company that was hosting the event. Both supported Huckabee in 2008—"He's absolutely my guy. Loves Jesus, loves duck hunting, that makes him my kind of people," Phil said—but neither has yet to pin their hopes on any single candidate this time around. Debbie had liked Herman Cain earlier in the cycle, but is now left drifting between Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum. "I'm probably more undecided than she is," Phil said, though he clarified that he is "more interested in Newt and Santorum right now than anybody." Phil claimed that he was more inclined to caucus for whichever candidate he finds most...

Michelle Bachmann Venn Diagram

Courtesy of Matt Glassman . Diagrams for Gingrich, Huntsman, and Romney are at the link.

Practice Makes Perfect

At the moment, according to Nate Silver’s most recent forecast , Mitt Romney is in a dead heat with Ron Paul for first place in the Iowa caucuses. Both hold a 40-percent chance of winning the contest, though Paul holds a slight edge in most of the polls used by Silver. Even still, this is an abrupt change from most of the fall, when Romney was projected to lose the Iowa caucuses on account of his moderate background and opposition from evangelical Christians. Iowa isn’t a ticket to victory in the Republican presidential primary, but it does set the stage for the proceding contests. A world in which Romney loses Iowa is one in which his opponents (like Rick Perry) have a chance to block the former governor’s path to the nomination with wins in states like South Carolina (which is similarly conservative) and Florida. But what if Romney wins Iowa? In that case, we can safely say that Mitt Romney is—or will be—the Republican nominee for president. A win in Iowa cuts off a challenge from...

Payroll Politics

Now that Ron Paul is leading some Iowa polls , the knives are out—as they have been for every non-Romney contender this year. Michele Bachmann is warning of the apocalyptic consequences of Paul’s isolationist tendencies, while Rick Perry wants everyone to know that his fellow Texan is a big ol’ earmarker . Iowans are fretting that a Paul victory will spell doom for the caucuses. Meanwhile, The Weekly Standard got James Kirchick to revive his 2008 New Republic report on the “hateful and conspiratorial nonsense” published in Paul’s newsletters in the 1980s and ‘90s—including the now-infamous line about the Martin Luther King holiday being “Hate Whitey Day.” As The New York Times notes, Paul has said he was too busy to read what went out under his name—even though the newsletters were a major source of the Paul family’s income. And National Review editor Rich Lowry archly notes the potential historical significance of a Paul victory in Iowa: “Can he become the first marginal, conspiracy-...

Mitt Romney Doubles Down on the Lying

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a new stump speech, which—as is increasingly the case—peddles outright lies about President Obama and his agenda. You should read it for yourself: Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing—the government. The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off. This lie about Obama will...

The Eric Cantor Plan

Throughout the year, the Wall Street Journal has encouraged GOP intransigence as a way to get concessions from Democrats. But now—with the current fight over the payroll tax cut extension—the editors are worried that Republicans have taken it too far: GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest. The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play. During the fight over the debt ceiling, there was tension between Boehner—who seemed to personally support a “grand bargain” with Obama—and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Tea Party leader in Congress...

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