Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Cain's Book Tour Comes to an End

Earlier this week, Herman Cain announced that he was "reassessing" his campaign in light of the allegations he had an extramarital affair and charges of sexual harassment. This afternoon—in an event marked by fanfare and enthusiasm—Cain followed up on that announcement with a decision to suspend his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. “I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction and the continued hurt caused on me and my family,” said Cain in his speech to supporters. “It’s not because I’m not a fighter,” he explained, “It’s just that when I went through this reassessment of the impact on my family … my supporters … as well as my ability to raise the necessary funds to be competitive, we had to come to this conclusion.” When thinking about what his campaign meant for the Republican presidential contest, it’s important to remember that Cain—for all of his popularity—was never a serious candidate for the nomination. He had little history...

What to Read Before You Unwonk for the Weekend

Ted Widmer's op-ed on the difficulty of being in the third-year of a presidential administration is beautifully-written, chockfull of wonkalicious presidential history, and very smart. If you're going to read one article before the weekend, make it this one. If you have time to read only two things before the weekend, make this one your second. A member of the one percent refuses the label of job creator, and instead bestows it upon the middle class, and he has a good argument as for why everyone should agree with him. Newt Gingrich may be the current frontrunner, but he hasn’t been raking in many endorsements, which have been shown to be a better predictor of victory than polls. How the primary unfolds will be a good test of this political theory. Women for Herman Cain also like nannies and South African sugar. If he really wanted to salvage his campaign, he obviously should have used one of these images. Things Newt Gingrich likes: being in the lead, old people, the word...

Chart of the Day, Endorsements Edition

Via political scientist Seth Masket comes this chart showing the distribution of endorsements among the Republican presidential candidates: Yes, it’s true that there haven’t been many former candidates, which distorts the graph a little. Even still, it remains the case that while Gingrich might be popular among Republican voters, party elites are far more amenable to Mitt Romney’s candidacy. The latest Political Insiders poll from National Journal shows a similar result — only 17 percent of Republican elites (out of 102 surveyed) believed that Gingrich could beat President Obama in a general election. If it’s truly the party that decides the nomination, then I have a hard time believing that Gingrich stands a chance, even with his impressive poll numbers. Of course, it’s also true that party elites are competing for influence with conservative media personalities and their outsized influence in Republican politics. Sure, GOP elites might not like Newt Gingrich, but if Rush Limbaugh...

When Endorsements Hurt a Campaign

Mitt Romney is rolling out an endorsement today that, in a more sensible world, would be a major boon to his Iowa. Longtime former Republican Governor Robert Ray is set to announce his support for the campaign on the same day that Romney begins airing his first TV ad in Iowa. Ray served as Iowa's chief executive from 1969 through 1983 and is remembered fondly by most Iowans for his moderate governance, though not all segments of the state's population share that reverence. If any of Iowa's social conservatives were still going to support Romney (the small handful they might be), Ray will drive them further away. The campaign last fall against three Supreme Court judges who legalized same-sex marriage has become a galvanizing force for conservative voters this year. Ray was literally the voice for the weak-willed opposition campaign last fall, speaking on a radio ad that served as the only paid media for the pro-judge groups. "We'll never agree with every call, but you shouldn't fire...

Gingrich's Profound Insight On Poverty

One thing every politician is supposed to display is empathy, the ability to put oneself in the place of others and see things from their perspective. Empathy is a habit of mind, but it's also a product of experience. It's hard to see things from another's perspective if you know absolutely nothing about their lives. But even if you have no direct experience, if you have the proper habit of mind you can at least take whatever information you've gleaned and make some attempt to understand people. Keeping that in mind, I give you Newt Gingrich, talking about why he thinks child labor laws ought to be done away with so we can start putting kids to work as janitors and such: "Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash unless it's illegal." Read that again. Newt believes...

Way Down in the Hole

The big number from today’s labor report is 0.4, the percentage by which unemployment dropped in November. Overall, the economy created 120,000 jobs (compared to 100,000 for the previous month) and the unemployment rate declined to 8.6 percent, a substantial improvement over where the economy was in the previous month. In addition, the employment numbers for September and October were revised upwards by a total of 70,000 jobs, another positive sign. But that’s the extent of the good news in today’s report. Yes, the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.6 percent, but a substantial portion of that was driven by a shrinking labor force—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the civilian labor participation force (the sum of employed and unemployed workers) declined by 0.2 percentage points to 64 percent. In other words, as people give up on finding work, they leave the labor force and place downward pressure on the unemployment measure, despite the fact that they’re still unemployed...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Pundits and journalists have moved from denial about the possibility of Newt Gingrich winning the nomination right to the bargaining stage —it’s still unlikely that Gingrich will win, but, as John Cassidy asserts, “now it’s a real race!” However, Jonathan Chait argues that Mitt Romney should be more worried about the current frontrunner in the polls than pundits: The national media tagged Romney from the beginning as the party front-runner. Largely, this reflected the old campaign cliché that Republicans always nominate the candidate who is “next in line.” You know: Ronald Reagan finished second to Gerald Ford in 1976, and they picked him in 1980, George H.W. Bush finished second to Reagan in 1980 and they picked him in 1988, Bob Dole finished second to Bush in 1988 and they picked him in 1996. Romney finished second in 2008, so this must make him the new front-runner. The trouble with this theory is that it takes an overly literal interpretation of what “next” means. Republicans don’...

Hardly a Winning Performance

Of the anti-Romney ads I’ve seen from both Republicans and the Democratic National Committee, this—from Jon Huntsman—might be the most brutal: The striking thing is that this isn’t hard to do at all. If you include 2005, the year he began to prepare for a run in earnest, Mitt Romney has been a presidential candidate for the last six years . And in his quest to prove his conservative bona fides, he’s reversed himself on almost every issue under the sun. It’s no exaggeration to say that anyone with an Internet connection, a video editor, and an hour of free time could make an ad like this. Of course, the Huntsman ad doesn’t have much circulation outside of those who follow politics for a living. If there’s anything that will do actual damage to Romney's campaign, it’s the disastrous Fox News interview that Huntsman sampled for his ad. By simply asking questions about Romney's prior views, Bret Baier exposed him as a man willing to say anything for the sake of elected office. I’ve said...

Ain't Misbehavin'

Ginger White's apparently painful confession of having had a 13-year on-again, off-again affair with Herman Cain seems to have dealt the final blow to his tottering political campaign. I've heard conversations, since, in which political insiders are annoyed about that—believing that adultery should never be what brings a public person down. Here's the idea: Adultery is a private, consensual behavior. While it may violate a person's marriage, that's none of our business as citizens. Sexual harassment , on the other hand, is a public matter precisely because a) it is not consensual, and b) it is employment discrimination against women (or sometimes men), that makes it difficult for a person to earn a living. Violating another person's body and discriminating against them in the workplace is, in this view, completely relevant to governing, because it is an abuse of power that indicates someone may well abuse other power, and doesn't deserve to wield it. (Cf: Senator Bob Packwood : after...

Despite Previous Denials, Romney Is Competing in Iowa

Any lingering doubts on Romney's new commitment to winning the Iowa caucus can now be laid to rest. He's opened a new campaign headquarters in Des Moines, a campaign spokesperson said his " strategy is to win there," and starting tomorrow Romney will begin airing a new commercial, his first in Iowa since his 2008 presidential campaign: Even as Romney has hesitated to launch a full-fledged Iowa campaign, he's already light years ahead of his main competitors. The (likely temporary) surge of Newt Gingrich's campaign allowed him to open his state headquarters just this week and rehiring the staff members that had fled his campaign when money dried up over the summer. For all the handwringing about Romney's poor performance in 2008, he still finished in second place with 25 percent of the vote, nearly doubling Fred Thompson's third place vote. If current trends continue, there likely won't be any social conservative alternative who can capture the 34 percent that went to Mike Huckabee in...

Ignoring the Obama Presidency

Among liberals, and most political observers, it’s widely acknowledged that President Obama took a major political hit when he pushed for health-care reform against Republican intransigence and public opposition. The cost of winning comprehensive health-care reform—a longtime liberal dream—was a resurgent and powerful Republican Party. If political courage is defined by the willingness to suffer politically for the sake of good public policy, then Affordable Care Act stands as a testament to the president’s political courage. Which is why I also have no idea what National Journal ’s Josh Kraushaar is talking about when he writes the following : One of President Obama’s political weaknesses in his first term has been that he’s all-too-willing to avoid making tough decisions, hesitant to expend political capital for potential long-term gain. Throughout his first term in office, he’s had a cautious governing style, and has avoided taking on some of his party’s core constituencies…when it...

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt: The only thing the video doesn't have is an explicit mention of Gingrich's marital history, with its multiple infidelities and trading in of wives for younger mistresses. But most everything else is there, including the famous ad he made with Nancy Pelosi supporting action on climate change, his prior support of an individual health-insurance mandate, his criticism of the sainted Paul Ryan, and...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

This election will be decided on the economy . It's easy to forget about that with the current obsession with the sex lives and relative truthiness of candidates, as well as the focus on the deficit and the Super Committee, but voters are worried about the economy. The person who wins next November will have convinced voters that they are the best chance at improving the economy. Obama and his eventual Republican opponent have tough hurdles to jump in order to prove they are the solution to our country's woes—Obama needs to explain that the relationship between Congress and the White House is not like a child and a parent but instead like warring siblings. He can't boss them around , and it's not his fault . Republicans will need to explain why they are completely against raising taxes as a way of helping the economy when polls show that the public is in favor of these measures, when they are accompanied by spending cuts. Actually, they'll need to explain why a majority of their...

Rick Perry's Last-Ditch Anti-Immigration Pitch

In hindsight, the likely failure of Rick Perry's presidential ambitions shouldn't have been all that surprising. Despite appeal among party elites, late-entry candidates like Wesley Clark in '04 and Fred Thompson in '08 have historically struggled to catch up to the rest of the field. The candidates in the race from the beginning have a chance to work out all the kinks before the spotlight glares at the debate stages, an experience that would have proved especially crucial in Perry's case. He's always been a loose-cannon campaigner with, shall we say, a less than thorough grasp on his material. It was a problem his campaign staff could mitigate by limiting his media exposure in Texas elections but couldn't avoid on a national stage. After just four debates during his decade as Texas' governor, Perry was bound to produce a series of gaffes during the tiring slog of presidential campaigning. None of that should have been a surprise. What has been shocking to watch is the process under...

What Gingrich and Dubya Have in Common

Talking Points Memo sheds some light on Newt Gingrich’s ongoing effort to appeal to Hispanic leaders: As Benjy Sarlin reported back in 2009, Gingrich was using social networking and TV appearances on Spanish language TV to ingratiate himself with the Hispanic community and attempt to grow the GOP base there. Republicans have long felt they have a real chance to grab big swaths of the Latino vote, which they say is naturally more socially conservative and open to Republican ideas. Gingrich continued the outreach early into his campaign. As Time’s Michael Scherer reported in May, Gingrich gave one of his first post-campaign announcement interviews to Univision, where he took questions on immigration and previewed the path to legal status for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the US that’s led to attacks from his Republican rivals. Given the extent to which Latino voters are well-aware of the Republican Party’s hostility toward their interests—from efforts to help the economy...

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