Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Upright and Alright

Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry. Where'd this new fire come from? In an interview with the Des Moines Register 's Kathie Obradovich Perry hinted at one possibility: My back is great. I’m back running again for the last six weeks. I think part of the reason you have seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is my health, and (I’m) both physically and mentally just back in the game. You have fusion on your back, and it takes you a while to get back on your game… I would suggest to you that I was pretty fatigued. No...

Trading Places

I missed this last week, but a recent Gallup survey shows the public’s disdain for the current Congress and its members: A whopping 76 percent of Americans do not believe that most members of Congress deserve to be reelected. This is in addition to Congress’ historically low approval ratings — 13 percent approval in the last Gallup survey — and the public’s intense dislike of Congress; 64 percent of Americans rate the ethics and honesty of congressmembers at low or very low. To repeat a point I’ve made several times over the last few months, there’s a fair chance that we’ll see an outright reversal in the partisan composition of government next year. In other words, Republicans would walk away with the Senate and the White House, while Democrats would retake the House. Even if Democrats keep the Senate or the White House, the public is clearly dissastisfied with Congress — something has to give.

Were the Debates a Mistake?

If you can get past the attacks on President Obama, the disregard for actual economic conditions, and the assertion of “philosophical decreptitude” in American liberalism, you’ll find a smart point about the GOP presidential debates in Fred Barnes’s latest op-ed for The Weekly Standard . For your sake, I’ll just post it here: Besides aiding Obama, Republicans have hurt themselves in numerous ways by letting the debates be the organizing events of the campaign. The stronger candidates have been diminished by appearing, debate after debate, on equal footing with also-rans whose chances of winning the party’s presidential nomination are nil. Given the extent to which Barnes is a solid member of the conservative establishment, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were echoing the thoughts of many other conservative elites. The debates have had an astonishing and unprecedented impact on how conservative voters view and evaluate the Republican presidential candidates, and it’s hard to say that...

Supreme Court Could Tilt US House Majority

The US Supreme Court issued a surprise stay late Friday evening that in effect could decide which party controls the US House majority after the 2012 election. A little over two weeks ago, a three-judge panel in San Antonio threw out new congressional maps drawn by the Texas legislature earlier this year. One of the fastest growing states in the country, Texas gained four additional US House seats after the 2010 census. Most of that growth can be attributed to the state's booming Hispanic population, which now represents almost 40 percent of the state. Yet when the Republican legislature went to redraw the maps, they gerrymandered the new seats to favor their party and shut the minority population out. Civil rights groups appealed and convinced the federal court to create a more representative map, increasing the number of majority-minority districts from 10 to 13, giving Democrats a strong possibility of gaining three of the four new House seats next year. Texas Attorney General Greg...

The Gingrich Fantasy

Our conservative readers (and yes, there are some) might be interested to know how liberals view the rise of Newt Gingrich to a clear lead in the race for president, and the answer is, we're gobsmacked. We just can't believe the Republican Party would be foolish enough to nominate a man who has so many weaknesses and is so plainly (from our perspective, anyway) repellent. We're not at all surprised to see the GOP establishment freaking out over the prospect of a Gingrich nomination (witness George Will employing every florid turn of phrase he can come up with to condemn Gingrich: "There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx ... His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic ..."). The fact that the average Republican voter now seems to think that nominating Newt will work out well for them just makes no sense. Someone recently said that Republican voters are acting like they're auditioning not presidents but Fox News personalities...

The Shook One

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
By and large, this year, the Republican presidential debates have been great for Mitt Romney. For the most part, they’ve played to his strengths—his command of policy, his “presidential” appearance, and his skill as a debater—and haven’t brought much attention to his weaknesses. What’s more, thanks to their outsized influence on the nomination contest, they’ve been the place where Romney’s rivals have collapsed on themselves, from former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s “Obamaneycare” miss, to nearly everything said by Texas Governor Rick Perry. As of late, however, that dynamic has begun to change. On the strength of his debate performances and his the “anti-Romney” du jour , Newt Gingrich has emerged as the new front-runner in the Republican presidential contest. Romney remains in his second-place spot, but this is almost in spite of the fact that he’s been buffeted by a wave of criticism over the last two weeks. Republicans are unhappy with his opportunistic embrace of...

Calm, Cool, and Collected

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
There are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical of Newt Gingrich's surge over the past few weeks. Sure, he's ahead in recent polls out of Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. But Republican voters have proved fickle this election, bouncing from one candidate to the next gaffe after gaffe. After his campaign almost ran out of money and his staff fled over the summer, Gingrich had one of the thinnest field operations of any candidate—it was so disorganized that he won't even be on the primary ballot in Missouri after missing the filing deadline. But Gingrich hasn't been subject to much scrutiny, thanks to the Thanksgiving news slowdown and a break from the debates. When the candidates gathered in Des Moines on Saturday night, it was just the second debate—and the first one unrelated to foreign policy—since Gingrich entered the spotlight, and the candidates were bound to attack the front-runner. For a candidate who had spent most of his time at debates arguing with the moderators'...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Time has a piece exploring why the right wing is starting to fall into line around Newt Gingrich. It’s not his conservative pedigree — it’s because he’s a “known commodity” and the party elite know how he works. On the other hand, Ezra Klein doesn’t think the party elite will ever pick Gingrich, and he has 21 convincing reasons why. Jonathan Bernstein explains why, even if Gingrich doesn’t win, no one else is entering the race. Reporting on the Obama administration’s Plan B decision has focused mainly on reproductive rights and how the decision and the reaction of women voters will influence the election. Michael Specter’s piece analyzing the issue in the context of the science community offers an important other perspective. Comprehensive list from Ryan Lizza on Newt Gingrich’s best critiques of the media. Great piece from The Economist what does today's euro deal mean for the political future of the European Union? NPR challenged the statement made by Republican legislators that...

Which Mitt Is Your Mitt?

Herman Cain isn't the only candidate who dropped out this fall. Dozens of Mitt Romney doppelgangers who've outlived their usefulness have, too. Some of the Romneys haven't even dared to show their faces again—pro-choice, pro-health-care Romney, for instance, hasn't dared go out in public this primary season. We've compiled a list of many of the different Romneys that have popped up over the years below in the hope that it will help voters, not in a quest to find the real Romney—we doubt his existence—but to help you discover which one you could vote for. E-mail me at jfuller@prospect.org if you think of any other Romneys, and I'll update the list as the election goes on. Click on the arrows to go to the next Romney. *** East Coast Moderate Republican Romney This presidential candidate is running on nostalgia (not to be confused with Reagan Romney or Son of my dad, George Romney). This Romney harkens back to a time when Republicans could be moderate and still get elected. Polling shows...

Introducing: Vox and Friends

In this week’s episode of Vox and Friends , The American Prospect podcast, Patrick Caldwell , Jaime Fuller , and myself discuss President Obama’s speech on the economy — and his attempt to channel Theodore Roosevelt — as well as Occupy Wall Street’s success in influencing the political conversation and Newt Gingrich’s odd place in the Republican presidential field...

Jon Huntsman Is in It to Win It

When it comes to the presidential campaign of former Utah governor (and ambassador to China) Jon Huntsman, the general assumption among pundits is that he’s actually running for the 2016 Republican nomination. After all, if President Obama wins re-election, Huntsman would be a natural fit for a (presumably) chastened Republican Party—a conservative governor with a moderate temperament and solid bipartisan credentials. The problem with this view, as Ross Douthat points out , is that it ignores the likely landscape of a 2016 Republican presidential field: If Barack Obama is re-elected and the Republican nomination is up for grabs in 2016, there will be a long list of heavyweights ready and rested and ready to compete for the prize— Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Bob McDonnell, and probably other up-and-comers as well. […] All of them will be able out-raise, out-organize and out-buzz a guy who couldn’t rise to the top of the weakest presidential primary field in my...

A Rare Moment of Hope For Santorum

While most of the Republican presidential candidates have bypassed the typical ground game route, Rick Santorum has practically moved to Iowa, hoping that he can shake enough hands to convince the state's social conservatives that he is the real deal. But so far, it hasn't paid any dividends. He wallows near the bottom of Iowa polls, never breaking out of the single digits. He's set to make a "major announcement" today, and if early leaks are correct, it's a big endorsement for his campaign. According to The Hill 's Daniel Strauss, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will endorse Santorum's campaign. Schultz is a Tea Party favorite in the state, after he won a highly contested Secretary of State race last fall, knocking off the Democrat who had held that position. He's used his office to promote many of the causes popular among the grassroots right such as photo ID bills. Democrats successfully blocked that bill, but Iowa still suffered as a part of the 2011 wave of voter supression...

The Electability Argument Begins

If there's one thing Mitt Romney probably believed he could count on in this race, it's the electability argument. I'm not a loose cannon, he could say, and so my candidacy won't implode because of a sex scandal or a crazy comment. And since we all know that debate over the economy will dominate the fall campaign, I'm best positioned to win that argument, as someone with business experience. It seemed to make perfect sense, but now, polls are showing that Republican voters actually think Newt Gingrich is the more electable one. To clear-eyed observers, this seems akin to believing that while Charlie Sheen is fun to party with, he's also the kind of responsible caretaker to whom you'd entrust your children for a week. But it isn't surprising that the polls show Newt winning the electability argument. It's because he's winning. When you tell a pollster that you've decided to support Candidate A, you're unlikely to then tell them that Candidate B is the one who's more electable. We work...

So Much For That Donald Trump Debate

Once Newt Gingrich accepted the invitation to Donald Trump's debate, the oh-so-wise political pundit class predicted (well, I predicted ) that what was supposed to be a sideshow event would turn into a full-on debate. After all, Newt is currently leading the polls, so what candidate would pass on the opportunity to attack the former House speaker exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses? Turns out, it's an offer most of them felt fine refusing : Michele Bachmann has officially said “no” to the Donald Trump-moderated Newsmax debate scheduled for later this month… this leaves just two candidates— Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum—who plan to show up at the Dec. 27 event in Des Moines. Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Ron Paul have all declined to attend. Perry became the latest to decline Trump’s invitation on Thursday. Beyond owning up to my own mistaken predictions, it's interesting that Gingrich will be debating Santorum one-on-one, a format Gingrich has favored of late. He went...

That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I noted that the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future was launching its ad campaign on a positive note. Sure, their commercial started off by attacking Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer, but it refrained from vilifying Newt Gingrich. That was somewhat unexpected; all signals indicate that Romney's campaign has entered panic mode over Gingrich's unexpected rise in the polls. But disparaging an opponent can backfire. So far the Romney campaign has avoided going negative. The Super PAC, on the other hand, has free reign to impugn Gingrich's integrity and Romney can disavow any influence on the ad (as his campaign must, since legally Super PACs and candidates cannot coordinate their efforts). It didn't take long for Restore Our Future to take the predictable turn. A new anti-Gingrich ad showed up online last night that attacks Gingrich's "baggage." The former House speaker has been accused of ethics violations, took...

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