Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Primaries Not Doing the GOP Any Favors

Gallup has some interesting numbers out on the presidential race. With the usual caveat that this is only one set of polls, over the past two months he has moved from trailing a generic Republican by 8 points to being even. The figures among independents are what is really striking: What happened in the interim? Why, the Republican primary race, of course. Americans have gotten a look at what the GOP is offering, and it ain't pretty. Unlike a few months ago, when the pollster asks about supporting "the Republican Party's candidate for president," there are particular individuals who come to mind. There's that wide-eyed radical woman from Minnesota, that Texas Ted Baxter, that ignoramus pizza guy whom lots of women say made crude advances toward them, that robotic corporatist. There are no more fantasy candidates—all the candidates are real. I couldn't help think back to the Democratic primaries of four years ago. If you'll recall, it was certainly a brawl, with plenty of charges,...

Rick Perry's Off-Base Even When He's On-Point

Media coverage of last night's debate has been consumed by Rick Perry's onstage mental block, and for good reason. As I wrote over on the homepage, his inability to recall the three executive-branch agencies he would eliminate was more than your typical gaffe, quite possibly the most embarrassing moment from a presidential debate in the television era (I might be a little young to make such a claim, but reporters who have followed debates since 1960 concur ). Perry's donors are e-mailing members of the media to say their funding stream will soon run dry, and the Des Moines Register spoke with one Iowa supporter who thinks the campaign is over. “Oh my God it was just horrible. Just horrible,” said Hamilton County GOP Chairman Mark Greenfield, who has endorsed Perry. “I felt very bad for him. It happens. But it shouldn’t happen when you run for president. It was very embarrassing for everyone.” Those 50 seconds of stumbling were mighty painful to watch, but it's worth noting how abysmal...

Health-Care Baloney from Mitt Romney

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, seated, smiles with, clockwise from top, Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Timothy Murphy, Senate President Robert Travaglini, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi as he signs into law at Faneuil Hall in Boston a landmark bill designed to guarantee virtually all state residents have health insurance, in this Wednesday, April 12, 2006, file photo. While Romney has received positive reviews of the sweeping health care initiative, it will be up to the state's next governor to sort through the details of the law. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
Let me do something weird and discuss a bit about the substance of last night's debate. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006, signing into law a landmark bill designed to guarantee virtually all state residents have health insurance There was some discussion of health care, and of course it was superficial and misleading. That was partly the fault of the candidates, and partly the fault of the moderators, who at one point gave the candidates 30 seconds each to solve America's health-care problems. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich both reasonably observed that this was kind of absurd. But here's something Romney said: I believe very deeply in the functioning of markets. The work I've done in health care, actually worked as a consultant to the health care industry, to hospitals and various health institutions. I had the occasion of actually acquiring and trying to build health care businesses. I know something about it, and I believe markets work. And what's...

Tweets from Last Night's GOP Debate

In the spirit of Cain's 9-9-9 plan, we've rounded up the top nine Tweets from last night's GOP debate. Have suggestions for an addition? Tell @j_fuller on Twitter.

Oops

Republican presidential candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry points to his head as he speaks during a Republican Presidential Debate at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Wednesday, November 9, 2011. At right is Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Meet Mitt Romney, your 2012 Republican nominee. From the get-go he was the field's front-runner, and the suspicion that he'll become the GOP nominee for president was only confirmed after last night's circus of a debate. When he entered the race, Texas Governor Rick Perry was considered the savior of the religious right—the only candidate with conservative social views who could still appeal to mainstream America. His campaign has floundered for the past several months, but his pockets full of campaign cash made it easy for pundits to believe he could rise to the top. That hope dissipated in the second hour of last night's CNBC debate. Perry was in the middle of a typical anti-regulation screed when he announced he would abolish three cabinet-level departments of the executive branch. "It’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the—what’s the, third one there—let’s see," he said. Perry proceeded to have a complete mental block for the...

Time to Feel Bad for Rick Perry

One time about ten years ago, I was on a radio program talking about some political matter or other, and I started a point by saying, "There are three reasons why." I then said, "First..." and explained the first. Then I said, "Second..." and explained the second. Then I couldn't remember the third. Fortunately, for this interview I was in the studio, and I looked helplessly at the host and gave her a little shake of the head and an open mouth, the universal signal for, "I just had a brain fart, please help!" Being a smooth professional, she stepped in quickly and moved the conversation along. I learned my lesson: I've done a few hundred radio interviews in the time since and never once have I said a specific number of points I'm about to give. Which is why I have a little bit of sympathy for Rick Perry today: You have to wonder just what went through Perry's head after that "Oops" escaped his mouth. Maybe nothing in particular. Or maybe, "Given the fact that I've been having trouble...

'Tis So Sweet to Trust in the Market

The interesting thing about the Angry Joe Walsh video Gabriela posted is that it underscores the degree to which Walsh—and his fellow-travelers in the Republican Party—have a view of the market that’s more theological than anything else. Listen to how he describes calls for new regulation on the financial sector: “It’s not the private marketplace that created this mess. … All the marketplace does is respond to what the government does. The government sets the rules. Don’t blame the banks, and don’t blame the marketplace for the mess we’re in right now, I’m tired of hearing that crap.” Implicit in this tirade is the notion that the market can’t do anything wrong—if the economy is a mess, then it has to be the sole product of government failures, because there’s no way that the market could produce an outcome this bad. It’s capitalism as religion, where the market is holy, government is sin, and the latter can only serve to corrupt the purity of the former.

A Word of Caution about Yesterday's Results

At Politico , Ben Smith offers some useful meta-commentary on last night’s election results: There are two basic ways to (over)interpret the evening’s results. The more ambitious one is to claim a broad new mandate, a positive choice by voters of a different path. Greg Sargent, for instance, sees more evidence of public sympathy for “shared sacrifice” and taxes on the wealthy. The other way to read the results is as a fundamentally negative verdict. The referenda fell to “no” votes, after all, and Senator Peace was recalled. And so some Democrats seem to be pointing to an electorate that’s reacting against dramatic change, and toward a kind of center. I said this on Twitter last night, but I would caution against the urge to overinterpret (which would put me in the latter of Smith’s camps). Often, the outcome of races in off-year elections has more to do with the idiosyncrancies of the area than it does with any broad shifts in ideology or public opinion. Republican success in...

Marriage Rights Safe in Iowa

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alan-light/3410726792/sizes/l/
Iowa Democrats held on to a key state senate seat yesterday. Liz Mathis defeated Republican Cindy Golding by a 12-point margin, allowing Democrats to maintain their 26-24 majority in the chamber. If Golding had come out ahead, the two parties would have negotiated a power-sharing system, granting the GOP the leverage they would need to introduce their favored bills.* The result of this single election is a monumental win for same-sex marriage advocates. It means that Iowa's marriage law can't be overturned for at least the next five years. Unlike in other states, amending the state constitution in Iowa is a long, arduous task; it requires the legislature to pass the amendment in two consecutive sessions interspersed with a general election, then be passed by a public referendum. Even if Golding had won, 2014 would have been the earliest point a referendum could appear on the ballot. With Democrat Mike Gronstal—a staunch defender of the state's current marriage laws—still at the helm...

Throwing Caution to the Wind

On one hand, you should be careful not to overinterpret idiosyncratic election results. On the other, there’s no way you can ignore survey results like these from Public Policy Polling’s most recent poll of Ohio voters: Obama led Mitt Romney 50–41 on our poll. He was up 11 points on Herman Cain at 50–39, 13 on Newt Gingrich at 51–38, 14 on Ron Paul at 50–36, 14 on Michele Bachmann at 51–37 and a whooping 17 points on Rick Perry at 53–36. It used to be Sarah Palin’s numbers that we compared to Barry Goldwater, but Perry’s deficit would represent the largest Republican defeat in Ohio since 1964. President Obama benefits from a hugely unified Democratic base in the state. Obama gets 88 percent to 92 percent of the vote against the Republican candidates, despite the fact that his approval rating among Ohio Democrats is 73 percent. If Democrats maintain this level of unity through next year, it bodes very well for the president’s prospects in the state. With that said, it’s important to...

What's Next for Herman Cain?

Since his rapid rise to the top of the Republican presidential field, I’ve been adamant that the Georgia businessman is not a “real” candidate for the nomination. Aside from giving speeches at high-profile events, Cain has done nothing to show interest in actually becoming the GOP nominee—his organization in the early primary states is nonexistent, his fundraising is mediocre, and he boasts few endorsements from important stakeholders within the Republican Party. His campaign, more than anything else, is an exercise in vanity—an opportunity for him to boost his national profile, and sell a few books in the process. For the last month, none of this has mattered to Republican voters. In poll after poll, Republicans have declared their support and enthusiasm for the former CEO, who captured imaginations of conservatives with his sunny demeanor and excellent speaking skills. It also helped that he soothed the racial anxieties of white conservatives, with quips about President Obama’s...

Mixed Results for Voting-Rights Referendums

Republicans have spent 2010 overhauling voter laws to design their ideal electorate. Last night, voters in Maine fought back, approving Question 1, which restores Election Day registration. It won easily by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. As I detailed in the November issue of the magazine, when Republicans gained control of Maine's legislative chambers and governor's office, they set their sights on building a permanent majority by passing restrictive voter laws. They failed to push a voter-ID bill through the legislature, but Republican Governor Paul LePage signed a repeal of Maine's Election Day registration this summer. Maine has allowed voters to register at the polls on Election Day for nearly four decades (with only two prosecuted cases of voter fraud in that time) and consistently placed near the top of the country in turnout as a result. Around 60,000 Mainers took advantage of the regulation for the 2008 election. Think tank Demos (full disclosure: Demos is the Prospect...

Is There a "Bradley Effect" for Abortion?

Amendment 26 supporter Sandy Comer puts out a campaign sign at the polls at the Chamber of Commerce in Oxford, Mississippi, on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Mississippians go to the polls today for state and local elections, as well as referendums including the so-called personhood amendment, a referendum on whether to define life as beginning at conception. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)
Yesterday, Mississippi voters soundly defeated Amendment 26, an anti-abortion ballot initiative that would have altered the state's constitution to define personhood as beginning at fertilization. Going into the election, a survey from Public Policy Polling showed 45 percent of voters in favor, 44 percent opposed, and 11 percent undecided—much closer than the vote turned out to be. A personhood amendment like the one in Mississippi has never been enacted and would have had radical implications, even in a strongly pro-life state like Mississippi. Not only would it have banned all abortions without exception, but popular forms of contraception like the morning after pill, IUDs, and even the pill would have been outlawed as well. In addition, miscarriages could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter. But Mississippians won't have to deal with any of that, because Amendment 26 lost 58 percent to 42 percent. The discrepancy between what the polls said going in and the results means that...

Virginia Takeover

As of last night, Virginia Republicans are a handful of votes away from flipping control of the Virginia Senate from Democrats and gaining power over the entire legislature. The outcome depends on the final count of provisional ballots in the 17th District (home to Fredericksburg), where Republican challenger Bryce Reeves is narrowly leading Democratic incumbent Ed Houck by 86 votes. Democrats have held the state Senate majority since 2007, when they won a razor-thin majority of 21–19. That margin increased by one seat in 2010, when Democrat Dave Marsden won a special election to replace the position vacated by now-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. If Republicans win in the 17th District, they will have gained two seats in the senate, bringing the final composition to 20–20 –- with GOP Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling seving as the tiebreaker. Given the extent to which this would be a precarious majority, it’s unclear whether the Virginia GOP would use this as an opportunity to revisit...

Rick Perry's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Nostalgia

Rick Perry has tumbled from the top of the polls over the past two months with some polls this week putting him behind Newt Gingrich. Perry is the epitome of the Tea Party conservative on most issues, yet his slight divergences on immigration and an HPV vaccine mandate have convinced primary voters that the Texas governor is a RINO. How's he going to bounce back? By appealing to the vilest desires of the GOP base. During an interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, Rick Perry offered some homophobic musings: When asked whether he'd reverse the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Perry accused President Barack Obama of appeasing "his political base" and said he would "go back and sit down with your commanders in the field and have that conversation." It was a "political statement" from Perry's vantage. But that political base that Obama supposedly appeased was the vast majority of Americans. According to one poll taken right before Congress voted to repeal the law last...

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