Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Romney's Jobs Claims Come Under Scrutiny

Mitt Romney's pitch to voters relies heavily on his executive experience. He doesn't spend much time dwelling on his time as the chief executive of Massachusetts (a more fitting selling point for someone seeking the presidency) but rather concentrates on his experience in the private sector as chief executive at Bain Capital. Romney claims himself to be a "job creator." "In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs," he said over the weekend. There's no reliable way to vet that number unless Romney or Bain release supporting documents (which they have of course refused to), but the AP's Calvin Woodward offers good reason to be skeptical. "His campaign bases its claims on recent employment figures at three companies—Staples, Domino's, and Sports Authority—even though Romney's involvement with them ceased years ago," Woodward writes . "By...

Expect Expectations Coverage to Be Expectedly Silly

Campaign reporting isn't easy. It has to be done quickly - filing stories every day, or in some cases multiple times a day, around repetitive and artificial events at which not much happens. Today, Mitt Romney went to a diner in Nashua, where he repeated the same talking points he delivered to people in a diner in Portsmouth yesterday, where he delivered the same talking points he delivered to people in a diner in Manchester the day before ... It's awfully difficult to come up with a "take" on the nonsense of campaigning that will be remotely interesting to your audience. Confronted with this problem, reporters do what they can to create conflict and suspense. At times, they're like kids in a schoolyard, yelling, "Fight, fight, fight!" to two other kids staring each other down. Governor, the Speaker says you're a liar, would you respond? C'mon! Give me something! When the most important outcome of an upcoming event like tomorrow's New Hampshire primary seems all but assured—nobody...

Tardy to the Party

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect Rick Santorum campaigning in Greenville, South Carolina. GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA —"This is the most important election of your lifetimes … maybe the most important since 1860,” Rick Santorum told diners enjoying Sunday dinner at Stax’s Original restaurant here. On its face, it seems like a throwaway line, but it represents the core of the candidate's argument to Republican voters. For Santorum, the goal is to stop Barack Obama from dragging the country into socialist oblivion by electing the most conservative candidate possible. Naturally, the former Pennsylvania senator sees himself as that candidate. “America isn’t the greatest country because it has the strongest economy; America is a great country because it has those fundamental values,” Santorum said at a sports bar in Greenville earlier that day. “I am the only candidate in this race that will stand up for those values." In South Carolina, Santorum is reprising the social conservative...

Romney in Search of a Finish

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., right, at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. EXETER, NEW HAMPSHIRE— Pope Pious Baloney (or as his supporters call him, Mitt Romney) steamed into Exeter High School yesterday evening at the end of an uncharacteristically bad day. In the morning, his Republican rivals had finally gotten it together to go after him for the first time in umpteen debates. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich had called him out for his protestations that his had not been a politician’s career, arguing that his choosing not to run for re-election as governor of Massachusetts was not about his desire to return to the private sector but the result of atrocious polling. (Of course, Santorum and Gingrich were themselves both bounced from their elected positions.) Jon Huntsman, whose old-line moderate...

Mitts Off

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
T he non-Romney Republicans had ten hours to stew over their abject failure to lay a glove on the Mittster in Saturday night’s lackluster prime-time debate. Nudged on Sunday morning by moderator David Gregory, who launched the proceedings by asking the aggrieved Newt Gingrich to make an argument against Romney’s electability, they came out with guns blazing at the Meet the Press debate. But it was almost certainly too little, too late, to bring down the frontrunner. Romney’s ludicrous pretense of being a non-politician was deflated at last, as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich ganged up on him effectively. When Santorum asked why Romney didn’t run for re-election as governor of Massachusetts, given his great passion for improving the state, Romney revived his hoary rhetoric: “Politics is not a career. My life’s passion has been my family, my faith, and my country.” Gingrich parried: “Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is, you ran for Senate in 1994 and lost … you...

Class Warfare, Romney-Style

Nothing gets Mitt Romney more animated on the campaign trail than inveighing against President Obama’s penchant for wealth-redistribution. The president wants to “substitute envy for ambition and poison the American spirit by pitting one American against another and engaging in class warfare,” as Romney put it earlier this week in Des Moines. But as the non-partisan Tax Policy Center reported yesterday, the former Massachusetts governor is waging his own brand of class warfare. Romney’s plan would save a middle-income American about $1,400 a year—and lighten a 1 percenter's tax load by $171,000. It would also add $600 billion to the deficit in 2015. (Among those benefiting from Romneynomics would, of course, be Romney; his net worth is estimated at $250 million, making him one of the 3,140 richest people in America—part of the 0.001 percent.) The Economist calls Romney’s plan “very progressive, by 15th-century standards.” But if you ask a lot of conservatives, Romney’s plans are the...

Romney the Populist?

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Love Only Thy Neighbor

It's hard to keep a straight face when Rick Santorum says he is the most electable of the Republican candidates. "We need bold colors, not pale pastels," Santorum said last week in Iowa. "Ladies and gentlemen, be bold. Do not have a pyrrhic victory next November, where we elect a Republican, but we don't elect the person who can do what's necessary for America." He touts his experience winning in a swing state while maintaining his conservative credentials, an implicit ding against Mitt Romney's left-leaning record as governor of Massachusetts. It's a dubious claim for Santorum that's little related to reality considering he lost his last election by a historic 18 points. In today's Washington Post , Michael Gerson somehow manages to concoct an even more ludicrous framework to describe Santorum's appeal: He's a compassionate conservative. But perhaps the most surprising result of the Iowa caucuses was the return of compassionate conservatism from the margins of the Republican stage to...

Policies Somewhat Different From Those I Favor Will Kill Us All

I'm sure I'm not alone in finding Rick Santorum a uniquely repellent figure among contemporary Republicans, someone who combines standard-issue objectionable positions on things like economics with a level of reactionary venom on social issues that is becoming unusual even in his own party. With some Republicans, you get the feeling that they'll parrot the party line on the danger of gay marriage, but they really don't mean it. Santorum, on the other hand, really, really dislikes gay people (although he claims he has gay friends, but I'll believe that when we meet one). And he doesn't just want to make it impossible for women to have access to abortions, he actually thinks birth control is morally wrong and states ought to be allowed to ban its use. Coming as he does from the fringe, Santorum is prone to the offhand use of apocalyptic language, to wit : Am I going to go after Mitt Romney on Romneycare? You bet I will, because it was the basis for Obamacare. Why? Because it’s top-down...

The GOP's Bogus Attack on Jobs

By now, you’ve probably heard that the December jobs report was pretty good; the economy grew by 200,000 jobs, and unemployment declined to 8.5 percent. Still high, but a positive trend given the circumstances. As you might imagine, this presents a problem for the Republican presidential candidates, who routinely accuse President Barack Obama of destroying jobs with his policies. Their solution has been to fudge the numbers. To wit, here’s Mitt Romney with a statement on today’s report: Under President Obama, we have lost 1.7 million jobs — America deserves better. Eventually our economy will recover, America always does. But President Obama’s policies have slowed the recovery and created misery for 24 million Americans who are unemployed, or stuck in part-time jobs when what they really want is full-time work. As President, I will refuse to accept high unemployment as the ‘new normal’ for our economy. [Emphasis mine] This is only possible if you include every job loss in 2009,...

Santorum Picks Up Steam in the Palmetto State

Judging from the latest Rasmussen poll of South Carolina Republicans, Rick Santorum’s near-win in Iowa has generated a huge amount of momentum for the former Pennsylvania senator. While Mitt Romney leads the survey with 27 percent support from like Republican primary voters, Santorum is close behind with 24 percent support. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is in third with 18 percent support, and Ron Paul takes the 4th place spot with 11 percent support. Far behind the rest are Texas Governor Rick Perry with 5 percent support, and Jon Huntsman with a scant 2 percent of the vote. As Rasmussen notes, the numbers are fluid, and so the overall number is less important than the trend, which leans heavily in Santorum’s favor. Put another way, Romney should be thankful for Rick Perry’s decision to stay in the race, and annoyed with Bachmann’s decision to call it quits. If Perry had dropped out, as was predicted on night of Iowa, there’s a fair chance that...

Awkward Introductions

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —Mitt Romney has never been a great retail campaigner, and he can’t seem to hold a major event without some awkwardness. “I’m here with two beautiful women,” he said in a little pre-speech banter at a rally Thursday, gesturing toward Ann Romney and Cindy McCain. But then he remembered that Governor Nikki Haley was there (standing next to him) and declared, to a few laughs, that “there are a lot of beautiful women in this audience.” As per usual, Romney attacked the administration’s handling of Iran, offered a promise to get the economy in order, and described President Obama as a “nice man” who is just “in over his head.” Of course, Romney tailored his rhetoric to the audience—he began his speech with an attack on the National Labor Relations Board for its decision to halt the construction of a Boeing plant in the state, which has been a huge issue for South Carolina Republicans. He also doubled down on the “crony capitalist” charge, accusing Obama of using...

Santorum the Moderate?

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Windham, New Hampshire— Rick Santorum, the darling of the cultural-religious right, came here last night for a town-hall question-and-answer session with 500 eager listeners, only to find that his questioners were so far to his right that he was compelled to sound moderate by comparison. The disappointment— Santorum’s and the crowd’s—was mutual. The event—which was moved to a high-school auditorium three times larger than the venue originally scheduled, and where every seat was nonetheless filled— was hosted by a radical-right local group called the 9/12 Coalition. Alas for Santorum, the 9/12ers selected the first seven questioners, who peppered him with queries at once so arcane and so fantastical that Santorum must have harbored suspicions they’d been planted either by Mitt Romney or Ron Paul. Two of the questions were libertarian, even civil libertarian, though suffused with a conspiracy theorist’s fear that the government in general and Barack Obama in particular was on the verge...

The Problem with Right to Work

One of the things to pay attention to in Mitt Romney’s latest South Carolina ad is his implicit defense of the state’s “right to work” law, which makes it more difficult for unions to organize. “The National Labor Relations Board, now stacked with union stooges selected by the president, says to a free enterprise like Boeing, ‘You can’t build a factory in South Carolina because South Carolina is a Right to Work state,’” Romney says in the ad. “That is simply un-American. It is political payback of the worst kind.” Combine this with his attack on President Obama as a “crony capitalist,” and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Romney tout right-to-work laws as part of his strategy for reviving the economy. The problem, of course, is that said laws do nothing of the sort. The Economic Policy Institute has a great primer on the actual effect of right-to-work laws on workers, wages, and employment. On the whole, RTW laws “reduce wages by $1,500 a year, for both union and nonunion workers”; “...

Romney's Pitch to the Palmetto State

This afternoon, Mitt Romney kicks off the South Carolina leg of his campaign with an event in Charleston, where he’ll join Governor Nikki Haley and a host of supporters. Given the extent to which the state is defined by its deep conservatism, Romney isn’t in the best position; his moderate reputation makes him an easy target for attacks from the right. But, if his newest TV ad is any indication, Romney plans to get around that with a straightforward pitch on the economy, targeted toward conservative frustration with the National Labor Relations Board, and the fight to open a Boeing plant in the Palmetto State. Take a look: This has been airing with some regularity since yesterday, when it debuted. With the attacks on “union stooges” and the declaration that the president’s economic policies are guided by politics, Romney is hoping to tap into conservative anti-union sentiment and the state’s strong disdain for Obama. What’s more, it could work. South Carolina prides itself on being...

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