Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Practice Makes Perfect

At the moment, according to Nate Silver’s most recent forecast , Mitt Romney is in a dead heat with Ron Paul for first place in the Iowa caucuses. Both hold a 40-percent chance of winning the contest, though Paul holds a slight edge in most of the polls used by Silver. Even still, this is an abrupt change from most of the fall, when Romney was projected to lose the Iowa caucuses on account of his moderate background and opposition from evangelical Christians. Iowa isn’t a ticket to victory in the Republican presidential primary, but it does set the stage for the proceding contests. A world in which Romney loses Iowa is one in which his opponents (like Rick Perry) have a chance to block the former governor’s path to the nomination with wins in states like South Carolina (which is similarly conservative) and Florida. But what if Romney wins Iowa? In that case, we can safely say that Mitt Romney is—or will be—the Republican nominee for president. A win in Iowa cuts off a challenge from...

Payroll Politics

Now that Ron Paul is leading some Iowa polls , the knives are out—as they have been for every non-Romney contender this year. Michele Bachmann is warning of the apocalyptic consequences of Paul’s isolationist tendencies, while Rick Perry wants everyone to know that his fellow Texan is a big ol’ earmarker . Iowans are fretting that a Paul victory will spell doom for the caucuses. Meanwhile, The Weekly Standard got James Kirchick to revive his 2008 New Republic report on the “hateful and conspiratorial nonsense” published in Paul’s newsletters in the 1980s and ‘90s—including the now-infamous line about the Martin Luther King holiday being “Hate Whitey Day.” As The New York Times notes, Paul has said he was too busy to read what went out under his name—even though the newsletters were a major source of the Paul family’s income. And National Review editor Rich Lowry archly notes the potential historical significance of a Paul victory in Iowa: “Can he become the first marginal, conspiracy-...

Mitt Romney Doubles Down on the Lying

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a new stump speech, which—as is increasingly the case—peddles outright lies about President Obama and his agenda. You should read it for yourself: Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing—the government. The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off. This lie about Obama will...

The Eric Cantor Plan

Throughout the year, the Wall Street Journal has encouraged GOP intransigence as a way to get concessions from Democrats. But now—with the current fight over the payroll tax cut extension—the editors are worried that Republicans have taken it too far: GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest. The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play. During the fight over the debt ceiling, there was tension between Boehner—who seemed to personally support a “grand bargain” with Obama—and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Tea Party leader in Congress...

Read My Lips: No New Tax Cuts

Yesterday, the House rejected a Senate compromise bill on the payroll tax cut, which is set to expire January 1. In all likelihood, this means that taxes will rise—an average of $40 per paycheck, according to the latest White House press blitz—unless House Speaker John Boehner shores up enough support to pass a two-month extension or brokers a new deal. Although Obama hasn't left Washington for vacation in Hawaii yet, he isn't getting too involved in the imbroglio, having learned the danger of using the bully pulpit with his jobs plan—for Republicans, whose sole aim seems to be to frustrate the president's agenda, any endorsement from Obama amounts to a kiss of death. “It’s like déjà vu all over again. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day,’” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), referring to the 112th Congress’ propensity for stalemate. Waxman is right, but this time it's a bit different. Previous congressional battles over the stimulus, health care, and the jobs plan were rooted in electoral...

Alas, Poor Seamus, We Knew You Too, Too Well

I try to avoid being an advocate of the eat-your-peas model of campaign coverage. If the campaign were nothing but competing position papers, it would be terribly boring. Politics is compelling because it affects all of our lives, but also because it features interesting characters engaged in furious conflict. All that being said, however, a focus on trivia can be taken too far, and it usually is. Which is why I'm glad that NPR's David Folkenflik did a story on New York Times columnist Gail Collins' bizarre obsession with Mitt Romney's dog. In case you're unfamiliar with the story, in 2008 it came out that Romney once took his family on a vacation with the dog strapped to the roof of the car. The dog was in a carrier, but it still struck many dog owners as a little crazy. So what does this reveal to us about Romney? That he's indifferent to the risk of animal injury in high-speed crashes? Or what? Here's an excerpt from the story: "I don't know what it is about that factoid that...

Trust Exercise

Although the first vote has yet to be cast, conventional wisdom has it that the primary race is down to two candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Since both Romney and Gingrich have changed positions on issues large and small in recent years, it seems all but certain that whoever the nominee is, next fall's campaign will feature extended charges and defenses around the idea of flip-flopping. We'll hear about which flips were flopped, which flops were flipped, and what each says about the character of the flopper. So before that gets started in earnest, it’s worthwhile to step back and ask just what a history of position changes is actually supposed to tell us about a candidate, and what insight such a history might—or might not—offer to a presidency. Despite the charge of flip-flopping making regular appearances in general elections, the primary campaign is the place where it ought to matter. Primary voters are the ones judging the candidates on ideological fealty. They want to...

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...

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