Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Social-Conservative Frontrunner

FORT MADISON, IOWA —Rick Santorum's campaign staffers must have fallen asleep with smiles on their faces last night. The former Pennsylvania senator has spent more time than any other candidate visiting Iowa, yet he has struggled to gain traction in the polls even among the evangelical base that led Mike Huckabee to victory in the 2008 Iowa caucus. A string of new endorsements from the state's evangelical leaders might have provided Santorum with just the boost he needs to move out of the bottom rung, but they also carry the risk of reminding voters of Santorum's history of incendiary comments against the LGBT community. Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, endorsed Santorum yesterday. I met with Hurley earlier this summer in the basement cafeteria of the Iowa State Capitol to discuss the state's judicial politics and the campaign against three state Supreme Court justices who in 2009 ruled that denying same-sex couples marriage rights was...

The Santorum Surge

Given the bubble-and-burst pattern of the GOP presidential race, it had to happen: Rick Santorum is poised for a surge. The only right-wing candidate who hasn’t vaulted up in the polls—only to come crashing back down—the former Pennsylvania senator recently crept into double digits in the Iowa polls, tying him with fellow evangelical favorites Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. Today, he got a big leg up on both by winning Iowa’s God primary—i.e., the endorsement of the state’s most prominent evangelical leader, Bob Vander Plaats, who ran Mike Huckabee’s winning effort in 2008. “He’s one of us,” Vander Plaats told his loyal followers. Now that reporters are finally paying attention, Santorum let loose with a highly quotable comment today: “I'm for income inequality,” he told folks at a campaign stop in Pella. So They Say "What's up gangstas, it's the M-i-double tizzle." — Mitt Romney on Letterman Daily Meme: Republicans Can Dream, Can’t They? Jeb Bush’s WSJ op-ed fuels presidential...

Why We Should Expect Another Year of GOP Intransigence

In what doesn’t come as much of a surprise, House Republicans have rejected the payroll tax compromise passed overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and endorsed by President Obama. Here’s ThinkProgress with a nifty screengrab : The important thing to note about this—besides the fact that Democrats will loudly hammer on the payroll tax cut until Republicans begin to suffer politically—is that we should only expect more of this behavior from House Republicans as time goes on. Remember, given the extent to which the House operates under a party cartel (a majority of the majority is needed for assent to any legislation), John Boehner had little room to manuever when Tea Party Republicans spoke out against the compromise, which he had agreed to a day earlier. In addition to this, you have to consider that 2012 is a presidential election year, and House Republicans will have little appetite for compromise with a president who, as members of the GOP, they have a fair...

Could Santorum Be the Next Boom?

Rick Santorum secured the most coveted Iowa endorsement earlier today when Bob Vander Plaats lent his support to the former senator's presidential bid. Howeve,r the Family Leader—the organization he created at the start of the year—will remain neutral after the group's board members could not come to a consensus. Chuck Hurley, president of the anti-same-sex marriage Iowa Family Policy Center, also endorsed Santorum this morning. Since his group folded into the Family Leader at the start of the year, the combo's announcement operates as a de facto group endorsement. Vander Plaats' word carries wide sway among Iowa's social conservative base as a result of his frequent (and unsuccessful) gubernatorial runs and the campaign he led against three state Supreme Court judges last fall. Mike Huckabee selected Vander Plaats as his 2008 Iowa campaign chairman, so the endorsement could be an indication that Huckabee's former supporters are shifting Santorum's way. All of the candidates competing...

Obama Inches Up to 50 Percent Approval

After months of low approval ratings, President Obama’s popularity has begun to trend upwards toward 50 percent. According to the latest survey from ABC News and The Washington Post , Obama has advanced to a 49 percent approval rating. What’s more, he maintains a substanial advantage over Republicans in Congress on who the public trusts to protect the middle-class, 50 to 35 percent. This is almost certainly a product of the recent fights over payroll tax cuts and the unemployment insurance extension, where the president is on the side of most Americans, compared to congressional Republicans, who are pushing forward on a deeply unpopular position. On the economy, his approval rating is 41 percent, but this is an improvement from earlier in the year, when it was near 30 percent. The Washington Post and ABC News aren’t the only ones to document Obama’s rising stock with the public. In their most recent survey of the public, CNN found that 49 percent of the public approves of the...

Getting Gingrich's Goat

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA —Newt Gingrich appears to have finally realized that debates might not be enough to win him the nomination. After leaving the state following last Thursday's debate, Gingrich returned to Iowa yesterday, hosting two events and announcing a 44-stop tour in the lead up to the January 3 caucus. That might all be too little, too late, as his most recent poll numbers have dropped after Gingrich skyrocketed to the top last month. The former House speaker’s opponents have worked together to take him down, with Ron Paul's campaign and a pro-Romney Super PAC overwhelming Iowans with commercials and mailers. "Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich's image as being a strong conservative," Tom Jenson of Public Policy Polling wrote after the latest survey showed Gingrich slipping badly. "Now only 36 percent of voters believe that he has 'strong principles,' while 43 percent think he does not." One would expect Gingrich to respond in kind,...

Gingrich's Campaign Finance Hypocrisy

Newt Gingrich returned to Iowa yesterday with a newfound distaste for Citizens United . Tapping into his inner Lawrence Lessig, Gingrich stumped against his opponents' Super PACs—primarily Romney's even if he doesn't recognize the name—for blitzing Iowa with a barrage of negative ads, such as this one: Gingrich is assaulting the prevalence of Super PACs now that his poll numbers have dropped as a result of recent attack ads, but he hasn't exactly turned that criticism on himself. Solutions 2012 was formed earlier this year by Becky Burkett, a former aide who had solicited funds for a Gingrich nonprofit. The LA Times reported that the group has penciled in an operating budget of $10 million to support the former speaker's presidential ambitions. A second pro-Gingrich Super PAC called Winning Our Future popped up last week and has already cut an ad touting Gingrich's conservative credentials (to be fair that ad does avoid the negative campaigning that has been Gingrich's main point of...

Obama is Not a Lifelong Politician

This morning, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made an appearance on MSNBC with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, where he made this odd claim about President Obama: "I think that the only way we’re gonna get President Obama out of the White House - because it’s HARD to replace an incumbent - is if we have someone run against him who is different than a lifelong politician. … There’s nothing wrong with being a lifelong politician: We got one in the White House right now. I’m not sure if this is a lie—it wouldn’t be Romney’s first—or a misunderstanding, but either way, it’s inaccurate. Barack Obama won his first campaign for the Illinois state senate in 1996, at the age of 35. If we mark that as the beginning of his political career, then Obama has been a “career politician” for the better part of 16 years. Mitt Romney also began his political career in the 1990s; in 1994, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for a Massachusetts Senate seat against Ted Kennedy. And given the...

Gingrich's Judicial Attack Wins Over Religious Right

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA —Newt Gingrich's redefinition of separation of powers from the understanding of the past few centuries continues to come under fire from his fellow conservatives. "His comments about the justices and the Congress, sending the Capitol police to bring in judges—that’s not exactly a practical idea or a constitutional idea,” Mitt Romney said on Fox News last night. Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey shared that sentiment, telling The New York Times that "it would lead us to become a banana republic, in which administrations would become regimes, and each regime would feel it perfectly appropriate to disregard decisions of courts staffed by previous regimes." The impractical proposal is doing Gingrich no favors with national conservatives, but I speculated yesterday that they weren't his true audience; he's instead signaling to evangelicals—particularly in Iowa—that he is on their side. Gingrich hosted a town hall in Davenport, Iowa Monday where a small crowd...

The One Percent Strikes Back

It's not a joke. In response to the Occupy Wall Street movement, a band of one-percenters—including JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who made $23 million in 2012; and John A. Allison IV, a director of BB&T Corp.—has started a campaign to rescue rich CEOs' tattered image. Calling themselves the Job Creators Alliance, the group plans media appearances, pens op-eds, and comes up with talking points to defend executives from the 99 percent who, at least in terms of wages, has seen little trickle down from Wall Street for the last two decades. Bernard Marcus, a founding member of the alliance, isn't worried about Occupiers being offended by his organization's mission. “Who gives a crap about some imbecile? Are you kidding me?” he told Businessweek. “If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit," chimed in billionaire Tom Golisano. They've come parroting the standard defense: That they deserve the money they get and that they create jobs...

Primary Campaigns: Very Predictable, But Still Fun

When Newt Gingrich began his presidential run, he said that he was such a transformative and revolutionary figure that a regular kind of campaign just wasn't capable of containing and advancing his unique brand of awesomeness. He proved this by going away on a two-week cruise to Greece, whereupon most of his staff quit in frustration. But just a few weeks ago, it began to look like Newt may have been right, and that his unusual way of running for president -- starting with being a uniquely unpopular figure, then eschewing the normal things candidates do, like raising money and organizing supporters -- might not stop him from becoming the Republican nominee. But alas, now Newt seems to be coming back down to earth. A number of polls in the last week have shown him falling both nationally and in Iowa, where the caucuses are two weeks away. So what does this, and everything that has come before, tell us? I think what it tells us is that even the craziest campaign often has the most...

The Arpaio Effect

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report saying that under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s leadership, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has violated the Fourth Amendment and Title VI through a consistent “pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.” “MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos,” the report found. One expert quoted in the report said it was “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he has ever personally seen in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature.” No one familiar with Sheriff Arpaio will be surprised at the findings of the DOJ investigation—the self-described publicity hound’s exploits, which include making prisoners wear pink underwear and housing prisoners in tent cities, are well documented. But the fact that the DOJ called the sheriff out in a tangible way is a switch in direction for the...

Dear Politifact, I'm Not Sure that "Lie" Means What You Think It Does

You might remember that earlier this year, House Republicans passed a version of Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” as their budget for 2011. In addition to its draconian cuts to a constellation of different social services, the GOP buget added a series of “reforms” to Medicare, which were presented as a means to “save” the program. In reality, Republicans had crafted a voucher program whose value was so low that, eventually , seniors would have to pay the bulk of their medical costs out of pocket. And while Republicans could credibly claim to have reduced Medicare spending with their reforms, it wasn’t through any mechanism that reduced the overall rate of health care spending in the economy. Rather, Republicans would “save” universal health insurance for seniors by dismantling it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Democrats attacked Republicans for this, and portrayed the GOP as on a crusade to destroy Medicare and end universal health insurance for seniors. The response from...

Ringside Seat

“The Republican Party has gone insane,” influential conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote this morning. He was referring to GOP’ers support for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, despite those candidates’ one-time backing of individual mandates to buy health insurance—a cardinal sin for conservatives. But he might just as well have been talking about the Republican nomination race writ large, which has turned into a political version of Pick Six. Fifteen days before the Iowa caucuses, the Gingrich bubble has burst , his support dropping by half. Ron Paul is leading in Iowa now—unless, of course, he’s actually already lost. Romney is the inevitable nominee again —though a few days ago he was a dead man walking. Perry and Bachmann and Santorum are all sneaking up on the frontrunners in Iowa, while Jon Huntsman is climbing in New Hampshire. Everyone’s a winner! So They Say “We posed for a picture, just celebrating the fact that we had raised a lot of money and then we hoped to be...

The Latest Proposition

Opponents of California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, have started collecting the 807,615 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. It’ll be a slog—they have to have them all by May 14. Earlier this year, Equality California, the largest organization in the state fighting for same-sex marriage rights, declined to participate in the effort to gather signatures, citing the uncertainty of a win at the ballot box and the pending lawsuit against Prop. 8, which the Ninth Circuit is set to decide on soon. This leaves Love, Honor, Cherish (LHC)—another gay-rights organization—leading the way. It’s difficult to guess whether LHC will succeed in its effort to put Prop. 8 to a vote. But it is woefully underprepared to launch an advocacy campaign that can outgun the opposition. LHC is pretty short on cash; whereas Equality California received $3.2 million in contributions in 2010, LHC says it has only $500,000. The results of a recent poll—in which 48 percent...

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