Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Rip It Up and Start Again

Democrats were fed up at the start of the year. They had held 59 seats in the Senate for most of the previous two years, their largest majority since the 1970s. But that near-supermajority wasn't enough to overcome a Republican fillibuster. A 60-vote hurdle became a common deathtrap for every Democratic bill or Obama nomination confirmation, leaving the executive branch understaffed and the federal bench depleted. It looked like Democrats had finally had enough and developed the backbone to fight back when the Senate reconvened in January. There was talk of rewriting Senate rules to end the filibuster. Republicans would have moaned about how Democrats were breaking with all sorts of historical norms, but ending the filibuster falls well within constitutional limits; no previous body can dictate the procedural rules for a future Congress. It never reached that point, though, because Republicans—no longer concerned with progressive legislation originating in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House...

The Continued Decline of the Religious Right

Christian conservatives in the Republican Party have at times in the past felt that their hard work for the GOP has gone unrewarded. They work their little hearts out during the campaign to get Republicans elected, and then once those Republicans take office, they're given little but table scraps. Sure, the Mexico City policy will get reinstated, they'll get some money funneled to churches, and some other small items here and there, but the big pieces of their agenda languish. Abortion is still legal, gay people continue to walk amongst us, and prayer has not been returned to public schools. And every four years, a bunch of Republican presidential candidates tell them, "Elect me, and I'll fix all this." But this year, those candidates have barely bothered. The economy has dominated the debate, and opposition to government in any and all its forms has pushed the culture war to the side. Last year, the head of the American Enterprise Institute (the right's No. 2 think tank) wrote a...

Why Conservatives Love Newt Gingrich

Yesterday saw Mitt Romney launch his first major attack on Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign with an ad that highlights one big distinction between the former Massachusetts governor and the former House Speaker — their personal lives: There’s no doubt that this is a swipe against Gingrich for his long history of adultery, as well as his recent conversion to Catholicism. What’s more, Romney has followed up this ad with attacks from two campaign surrogates, former senators Jim Talent and John Sunnunu: “If the nominee is Newt Gingrich, then the election is going to be about the Republican nominee, which is exactly what the Democrats want,” Talent said, per Reid Epstein. “If they can make it about the Republican nominee, then the president is going to win.” […] “For Newt Gingrich in an effort of self-aggrandizement to come out and throw a clever phrase that had no other purpose than to make him sound a little smarter than the conservative leadership,” Sununu said. “Gingrich’s...

Is It Too Late for Another Candidate?

By this point, conventional wisdom is that it’s too late for another candidate to enter the GOP presidential contest. In addition to building a campaign organization in crucial primary states, a new entrant would have to develop a network of fundraisers, corral endorsements, and find a place within the primary electorate itself. And given the extent to which most party actors have already committed themselves to one candidate or another, it’s hard to imagine success for a latecomer to the race. Arguing against this view is Crystal Ball columnist Rhodes Cook, who isn’t so sure that the situation is hopeless for someone who wanted to enter the Republican primary at this stage. As he sees it , the “elongated” shape of the GOP primary calendar creates the space for a late entrant to the race: But the elongated layout of the nominating calendar this time provides the opportunity for a late-starting candidate to emerge. Should Mitt Romney stumble badly in the January events in Iowa, New...

Why Gingrich Should Be Afraid of Paul

Gage Skidmore
Newt Gingrich’s rise to front-runner status has dominated the news cycle for the past few weeks, and the main question that's plagued analysts is this: Will the former speaker be able to overcome his many mistakes— i.e. , the affairs—and trounce Mitt Romney? The general arc of these arguments is right: Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee. They are the only two candidates who come close to having the right mix of electability, popularity, and approval by party elites to become the GOP nominee. While the Mitt-Newt showdown may seem inevitable, it is wrong to take for granted that either one will win in Iowa. Given polling there, there is a good chance Ron Paul could win. What would this mean for the rest of the campaign? According to a Des Moines Register poll released this past weekend, 25 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers in the state support Newt Gingrich; 18 percent support Ron Paul; and 16 support Romney (a drop from last month’s 22 percent). Nate...

Elizabeth Warren: Bailout Queen

Karl Rove’s latest ad has to set an all-time record for hypocrisy and factual inversion. The ad actually manages to blame Elizabeth Warren for the bank bailouts. As anyone who hasn’t spent the past three years in a cave must know, Warren has been the nation’s single most effective, relentless, and brave critic of the bailouts. It was that service as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel that made her one of America’s most admired public leaders. The ad slyly begins with Warren speaking, leading the viewer to imagine that this is a Warren ad. Warren says, “The first thing I’m going to promise is that I’m going to be a voice in the room on behalf of middle-class families.” Then a sneering female voiceover cuts in, and asks, “Really? Congress had Warren oversee how your tax dollars were spent bailing out the same banks that caused the financial meltdown, bailouts that helped pay big bonuses to bank executives while the middle class lost out.” The ad concludes, “Tell Professor Warren...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Obama gave a really good speech yesterday, one that clearly announces his main campaign strategy for the next year and has the potential of having his 2008 base return to occupying his camp. You should read it , but if you don’t have the time, Derek Thompson has a pretty thorough reader’s guide. After you read it, you should read Ezra Klein’s excellent analysis of the speech. Klein is right: Obama realizes that running on fixing political division won’t work this time around. He already failed at trying to change Washington. His most successful frame is running on economic division, and he just might be able to convince the base that his economic vision is change worth believing in. The speech, which Ana Marie Cox labeled “restrained frustration leavened with the pixie dust of hope"—was great for its focus on income inequality, but as Cox notes, “To be blunt about how the middle class is suffering, you have to be blunt about who is making them suffer. That he chose to ground his...

Romney's Career-Politician Problem

Earlier this year, when Texas Governor Rick Perry was the threat du jour to Mitt Romney’s status as front-runner, the former Massachusetts governor unveiled a new attack against Perry and everyone else in the GOP presidential field—he wasn’t a career politician. “I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy,” Romney declared while in Texas this summer. “Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don’t know how to get us out.” The problem, of course, is that absence from politics was not for lack of trying . Over the last 20 years, Romney has run for office four times, including his current run for president—a 1994 bid for Senate in Massachusetts, his 2002 bid for governor, and his 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In addition, he served as president of the Republican Governors Association from 2005 to 2007. Insofar that Romney isn’t a career politician, it’s because he has spent so much time losing...

Money Changes Everything

It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from The New York Times /CBS has Gingrich topping the field at 31 percent, followed by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, who are essentially tied with 17 percent and 16 percent support, respectively. Those numbers track with other results released earlier this week, though things get more interesting below the topline stats. Mitt Romney might still be trailing Gingrich, but his recent Iowa campaigning could be starting to pay off. He attracts the most support (18 percent) when respondents were asked which candidate is their second choice. If Gingrich's surge starts to falter when the candidates all gang up on him in the coming debates, Romney might pick up some support. Another interesting finding: Iowa may not be the paradise for social conservatives it was thought to be. Just 9 percent of Iowa Republicans listed "social issues" as their most important issue, with "economy and jobs" gobbling up 40...

Why Romney Must Win New Hampshire

Over at The Washington Post , Chris Cillizza uses the recent Newt Gingrich surge to show why former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney needs a protracted primary if he’s to win the nomination: The question for Romney…is what kind of race he and his team wake up to on Feb. 1. Has he won two of the first four states (New Hampshire and Florida)? Or just one of the four? (New Hampshire) If the former scenario plays out, Romney remains very well positioned to win an extended slugfest against Gingrich or any other candidate. If the latter, it’s possible that all of his organization and money if for naught as the party looks to move on and rally behind Gingrich as their preferred nominee. The unspoken assumption here is that Romney will win the New Hampshire primary with room to spare. And for now, that seems like a reasonable projection; according to the most recent Real Clear Politics average of New Hampshire primary polls, Romney is leading his nearest competitor—Gingrich—36 percent to 21...

Campaign Drags Down Public Opinion of Republicans

President Obama's re-election effort is on shaky ground by most accounts. The president's approval rating hovers in the mid-40s, a level far below the presidents who secured second terms. The latest unemployment figures finally dropped below 9 percent, but the job market is still not growing at the pace it needs to in order to rebound before the election, and things could become dire if Europe does not fix its financial instability. Still, Obama's political team shouldn't feel like giving up quite yet. A generic Republican averages just a 1-point lead over the president. Things look even better when the president is paired with a specific Republican, where he trumps Romney by 1 percent, Gingrich by 6 percent, and Perry by a 10-point spread. As voters begin to tune in to the Republican primary election, that edge will likely grow even larger. A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that the Republican primary has helped drag down public opinion of the GOPers. Of those surveyed,...

Warren Cursed by the Bambino

In today's election news, a candidate for the World's Most Deliberative Body is facing an earth-shattering scandal because she said "2008" when she should have said "2007," demonstrating to all that she is utterly incapable of representing the interests of ordinary people. As the normally even-tempered Taegan Goddard indignantly described it , "Elizabeth Warren (D) and the rest of the Democratic field for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts couldn't answer a simple question about the Boston Red Sox at a forum yesterday. Apparently, they learned nothing from Martha Coakley's (D) defeat two years ago..." Witness the horror: Yes, that's right: Warren quickly answered that the Sox won the Series in 2004 and 2008, but the actual answer is...2004 and 2007! Holy cow! What a Massachusetts-hating elitist snob! ABC News political editor Rick Klein tweeted , "If Scott Brown wins a full term, this clip will be the opening anecdote on how." Cheese and frickin' crackers, as Mitt Romney might say. What was...

Has the GOP Establishment Doomed Itself?

Writing at The Daily Beast , John Avalon outlines the ten endorsements that might still matter in the Republican presidential contest. The list should be familiar to anyone who follows national politics; Avalon lists Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Jim DeMint, and John McCain among the endorsements coveted by the GOP presidential hopefuls. While I’m sure that some of these endorsements might provide a big boost in some states (a nod from Jim DeMint, for example, will help in South Carolina), we should be careful not to overstate the importance of these endorsements to winning the GOP nomination, especially in an age where Republican voters seem inattentive—at best—to the concerns of the party establishment. In the past, when party leaders had the undivided attention of Republican voters, it really meant something when a conservative star endorsed a presidential candidate—it gave needed credibility. But now, party leaders are competing with conservative media personalities for...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Many labeled Obama's sure-to-be campaign-defining speech as Rooseveltian (the conservation one, not the New Deal one), but Jonathan Chait notes that its more accurate label is "a frame for a campaign to contrast himself with Mitt Romney." More from Chait : A list of reasons that Newt is awful and why they may not be the downfall of his campaign. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Unless you're a Democrat, then you can laugh really loudly. Another important thing to note about Obama's speech—it's general tone and message was very Occupyian , as Jamelle Bouie points out. Obama knows that the people most active in the Occupy movement are a crucial part of his base that he must hold on to in order to win next year. A sound bite from Mitt Romney from the past for all you kids eyeing a career on Wall Street: "You've made as much money as you need to make. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life making money? I'm not the oldest guy in the world, but do you want to keep on doing the same...

Obama Takes Cues from Occupy

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
For most of this year, it’s fair to say that liberals have been angry with President Obama’s reluctance to attack Republicans or build a liberal narrative with his rhetoric. And while some critics took this complaint to comical extremes—see: Drew Westen—the frustration was real, even among those who were (and are) skeptical of the bully pulpit. As of late, however, Obama has grown a lot more aggressive in his attacks on the GOP; since introducing the American Jobs Act in September, the president’s political strategy has centered on demands for new stimulus, vocal attacks on the GOP for its defense of the wealthy, and a constant push to create contrasts between himself—as a defender of the middle-class—and the Republican Party. With his latest speech in Osawatomie, Kansas—where Theodore Roosevelt laid out his vision for a “new nationalism” in 1910—President Obama doubled down on those themes and continued his push against Republican ideology. As he did in his opening pitch for the jobs...

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