Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Elephant in the Room

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
Mike Huckabee may have taken a pass on a second presidential run, but the 2008 Iowa winner turned Fox News televangelist still wants to have his say in this year's race. He's returning to Iowa—the state that defined him as more than just the Southern governor who lost all the weight—to co-host a forum with Citizens United next month. According to Politico , they have invited the eight major 2012 candidates, with abortion slotted as the primary topic of the event. Debates around choice have been strangely absent thus far in this year's presidential race. "Most of the candidates have addressed [abortion] in generic terms, but not real specific terms," says Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. "So I think a forum of this nature is a good thing, get them tied down a bit more." It was a major wedge issue in 2008, one that turned Iowa's social conservatives against Mitt Romney and derailed his entire campaign. Take this moment from an Iowa debate in 2007,...

Why You Should Prepare for Another Year of Slow Growth and High Unemployment

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has released its latest forecasts for unemployment over the next several years, and the news isn’t good. By the fourth quarter of 2012 –- election time –- unemployment is expected to be at 8.7 percent. Worse, unemployment isn’t expected to dip below 8 percent until 2014. This could change if growth speeds up over the next year, but the prospects for that aren’t good. For the unemployment rate to drop by any amount, real GDP needs to grow by at least 2 percent. To see a significant reduction in employment, GDP growth needs to reach 4 percent or higher. According to Fed forecasts, the odds for that kind of growth in 2012 are incredibly low: In other words, when you average the predictions made by Fed forecasters, odds of 2 percent to 3 percent GDP growth in 2012 are around 40 percent. The odds for 3 percent to 4 percent growth are below 20 percent, and the odds for anything greater are below 10 percent. The forecast for 2013 is improved -– the...

Crazy People Running for President

AP Photo/Andy Dunaway
Every four years, many people decide to run for president. You don't hear about most of them, because the news media decide, and reasonably so, to ignore folks like the immortal Charles Doty . Even among those who have held major political office, however, some are deemed serious and some are not. For instance, Buddy Roemer — a former member of Congress and governor of Louisiana — is considered not serious, as is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Both are running for the Republican nomination, but neither gets invited to debates or has journalists reporting on their campaigns. Yet Michele Bachmann is considered one of the "real" candidates, even as she languishes in the mid-single-digits in polls. Of course she won't be president, but I think it's worth pointing out that someone like Bachmann can still be treated as a real candidate. Since we've almost gotten used to her, at times one has to step back and marvel at just how incredibly nutty this person is, and the fact...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Super Committee doesn’t have much time left to make a decision on deficit reduction. As November 23 approaches, the media coverage of its inability to agree on anything will grow exponentially. Someone should do a graph on that instead of focusing on what the possible outcomes of the Super Committee could mean for the deficit, which has been covered in great detail already. The smartest option for reducing the deficit is to let the Bush tax cuts expire, something Republicans will never endorse because it would be a big threat to their electoral prospects for multiple election cycles. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a great rundown on what the 2013 sequestration would look like. Then again, sequestration might turn out to be an empty threat given the fact that Congress has the power to both put itself in deficit reduction time-out and render such punishment obsolete (no one puts Boehner in the corner), which is the worst possible outcome for the Super Committee...

Has Grover Norquist Made Himself Unnecessary?

You should read Tim Dickinson's long article in Rolling Stone about how the GOP became the party of the one percent. Essentially, the story is that while there was once a real substance to the idea of "fiscal conservatism"—that Republicans really did care about balancing the books and being good stewards of the public's tax dollars—the last 20 years have brought the Republican Party to a much different place. While they once saw taxes as simply the way to pay for the things government does -- they shouldn't be too high, since conservatives want limited government, but they shouldn't be so low that we run up deficits -- they now see them as an outright evil that really has nothing much at all to do with deficits. Deficits are a handy tool to use when there's a Democrat in the White House to force spending cuts, but not much more. Dickinson puts Dick Cheney at the center of this story, which one could quibble about, but there's something here that I think calls for some discussion: In...

Barack Obama Never Called Americans "Lazy"

Last weekend, in a meeting with CEOs in Honolulu, President Obama offered some mild criticism of himself and the business community when it came to attracting foreign investment: “I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture. But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. [Emphasis mine] It’s hard to imagine something more straightforward than this; Obama doesn’t think that American business is “lazy” as much as he believes that the country could do more to make the United States more attractive to new businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s the usual...

Fixing the Courts

Rick Perry introduced a disastrous congressional reform plan earlier this week that has been rightfully ripped to shreds . Perry's plan would rewrite the constitution to turn Congress into a part-time body, opening the path to far more corruption, increasing the influence of lobbyists and money. We don't often praise the Texas governor here on Vox Pop, but he should be given credit where it is due, and somehow mixed in Perry's plan, which would be Jack Abramoff's dream government, was the most sensible policy proposal from a Republican candidate this year. Perry suggested a constitutional amendment that would end lifetime appointments for federal judges, including the nine justices on the Supreme Court. Here's how his plan puts it : There are a number of proposals which might be considered—one would be a Constitutional Amendment creating 18-year terms staggered every 2 years, so that each of the nine justices would be replaced in order of seniority every other year. This would be a...

Stick a Fork in Him

He's stumbled his way through nearly every debate, including one of the most uncomfortable moments ever seen in a modern debate. He started his campaign leading the polls, only to drop to the bottom of the field. He learned that religious moralizing doesn't forgive a slight divergence from the Tea Party line on immigration. Despite Mitt Romney's inability to win over social conservatives and the clownish makeup of the rest of the field, there is little reason to believe Rick Perry can still win the Republican nomination. Perry's only hope for a comeback was his massive fundraising apparatus, which was expected to easily dwarf any of the other candidates, save possibly Mitt Romney. He began using those funds to full effect after his "oops" hiccup at the debate last week, purchasing nearly $1 million in ads to run on Fox News nationally, and flooding the key early states with ads and mailers. But that advantage has now disappeared alongside his drop in the poll numbers. The Houston...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The GOP candidates are turning the Republican Party into a Toyota with its brakes on fire. They realized too late that their math on how many debates were essential to show off that they were 1) not Obama and 2) really conservative, was a bit off, but it’s too late to stop now, and the brakes wouldn’t work anyway. And once the general election comes, no one will trust what they’re selling. OK, I might have expanded on Peter Feaver’s metaphor a bit, but nonetheless Republicans are NOT happy. You know who else isn’t happy? Herman Cain . He’s “not supposed to know anything about foreign policy.” That’s what Chilean models—his second choice for secretary of state after Henry Kissinger —are for. Right now, Congress is less popular than Hugo Chavez, Nixon during Watergate, and the idea of the U.S. turning communist. So it’s probably a good idea for them to make sure the government doesn’t shut down this weekend if they don’t want to be overthrown by a trendier Marxist uprising. NERD FIGHT...

The Danger of Skipping an Early State

Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats are two Iowans who rarely find themselves in agreement. They faced off in a bitter gubernatorial primary last year, essentially dividing the states' Republican Party into two competing camps. Branstad won that primary and later the general election, while Vander Plaats turned to judicial politics and has now crafted himself into a conservative rabble-rouser for the 2012 caucuses. Yet both found common cause in attacking Mitt Romney this week, criticizing the front-runner's decision to mostly avoid their home state. “Mitt Romney has dissed this base in Iowa and this diss will not stay in Iowa,” Vander Plaats said . “This has national tentacles. … This might prove that he is not smart enough to be president.” As the state's sitting governor, Branstad wasn't quite as direct, but expressed the same idea to Huffington Post . "I think he's going to have to put a real effort in here or he's going to be embarrassed," Branstad said . "He's trying to...

Democrats Handing Walker His Walking Papers

After waiting all year, Wisconsin Democrats are now poised to challenge Scott Walker. They were forced to hold off until a year after he was first elected, but on Tuesday they officially began gathering signatures for a recall election against their unpopular Republican governor, who earned national attention and the ire of cheeseheads when he used the state's new Republican majority to strip public employees of their collective-bargaining rights. It will be a mad rush to collect all of the necessary signatures in the 60-day window allotted by Wisconsin law. Over 540,000 signatures—at least 25 percent of the ballots cast when Walker was elected in 2010—must be gathered. Republicans are prepared to pull out every procedural stop they can to derail Walker's recall (including running fake primary candidates, as they did for the senate recalls earlier this year), Democrats will likely need extra signatures in case any are thrown out. March 27 is the earliest a recall election could be...

Reality Check

For all of the punditry (from myself and others) about Mitt Romney’s unpopularity with GOP voters, it’s worth noting the extent to which Republicans are perfectly happy with the former Massachusetts governor. Here’s Gallup with its most recent look at the Republican presidential contest: Mitt Romney is just as popular as Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, his problem—in part—is that he has too many competitors, and Republican voters are indulging the extent to which they have a fair amount of choice. When the field begins to winnow in January, odds are very good that Romney will pick up a lot more support from Republican voters.

Are Debates Hurting the Republican Candidates?

So far, the Republican Party has held 11 presidential debates, and between audience cheering for the death penalty, attacks on gay soldiers, or huge candidate gaffes, each debate has shown the GOP candidates in one unflattering light or the other. With 14 more debates to go, The New York Times reports some Republican elites are worried about the effect they could have on public perception. “This is the core of the Republican brand. You mess with it at your peril,” said Peter Feaver, a national security official under President George W. Bush. He compared the foreign policy flubs to reports about safety problems in Toyota vehicles. “The whole reason you bought a Toyota was so that you didn’t have those problems,” he said. “It cuts directly to the essence of the brand. Republicans should be concerned about this.” It’s hard to say how much effect these debates have had on the public’s perception of the Republican presidential candidates. It’s certainly true that primary debates can...

Another Fake Presidential Candidate Rises to the Top

If everything works out, the Buddy Roemer boomlet should be perfectly timed to sweep him to victory in the Iowa caucus and make him the Republican nominee for president. OK, I'm kidding (and in case you were wondering, Buddy Roemer is a former Louisiana governor and congressman who is running for president, but for some reason, he's considered "fringe" and ignored while a half-dozen equally clownish candidates are allowed to participate in the debates). But watching the Newt Gingrich surge—he's now leading the Republican field in some polls —you could almost believe that every candidate, including Roemer, will eventually get their day atop the field. I haven't gone back and checked (my personal awareness only dates back to 1988), but has there ever been a presidential primary race that has cycled through this many front-runners? We've had Romney, Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and now Gingrich atop at least some poll at some time or another. I think our old friend Sarah Palin (remember...

How to Make Congress More Corrupt

As part of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to “Uproot and Overhaul” Washington, D.C. with specific reforms to each branch of government. The proposals include a “fundamental reform of the judiciary” through judicial term limits, a “fundamental reform of the executive branch” through the elimination of three federal agencies (the Departments of Commerce, Education, and Energy), and a “fundamental reform of the legislative branch.” Here is Politico’s Mike Allen with details on the latter: Fundamental Reform of the Legislative Branch : Citizen Congress, Accountability and Transparency … Work to establish a part-time, Citizen Congress … Cut congressional pay in half and repeal the rules that prevent members of Congress from holding real jobs in their home states and communities. Perry isn’t wrong to push for judicial term limits—lifetime appointments incentivize obstruction and ideological packing—and there is a plausible argument...

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