Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Is Gay Marriage on the Line in Iowa?

It's Election Day, though most of the country won't notice. Beside a handful of referendums with wide-reaching consequences, there are few contested elections, and the two big-ticket contests—gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi—aren't in question. But one small state Senate election in Iowa could have a significant impact on the LGBT community. Republican Cindy Golding is facing off against Democrat Liz Mathis in the state's 18th District. The special election was triggered when Republican Governor Terry Branstad appointed the incumbent (a Democrat) to a state board earlier this fall. What's so important about a single Iowa Senate seat? Democrats currently hold a 26-24 majority in the chamber, so the election will decide which party controls the legislative body. And if Golding wins, the Republicans will likely use their new majority to begin the process of repealing Iowa's same-sex marriage law. Since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage rights in 2009,...

There Is No "Real" Mitt Romney

Peter Beinart has some encouraging words for conservatives worried about a Romney presidency, but this has relevance for liberals too: ...within weeks of Romney's election, his chief of staff would be culling through lists of potential deputy secretaries of the interior. The list would be generated by places like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and Chamber of Commerce. It would consist largely of people who served in the Bush administration, with perhaps a few entrants who stood out at the state level—which is to say, were particularly zealous in serving corporate interests—thrown in. This list would have been approved, if not actually assembled, by the very industries that the Interior Department regulates. It would be similar to the list that would have been assembled for President Perry or President Cain, and it would include no pro-regulation Republicans, because the people who produce such lists are in the anti-regulation business...

Bill Daley, Obama's Chief of Staff, Leaves the Stage

Last year, the White House brought on William Daley as chief of staff to manage the second phase of Barack Obama’s presidency. Republicans had just won a huge majority in the House of Representatives, and Daley was seen as someone with the skills necessary to cut deals and build relationships. But that didn’t work out. Republicans were committed to right-wing dogma and a strategy of complete intransigence that, when combined with a concilliatory White House, led to feckless compromise, legislative hostage taking, and a general sense that President Obama was ill-suited for the Oval Office. Between his push for the American Jobs Act and his newfound aggressive posture, Obama has regained some of that lost confidence. But Daley, as something of an emissary to both Republicans and Wall Street, just isn't right for this new confrontational approach. As a result, The Wall Street Journal reports , he’s been moved away from the day-to-day responsibilities of the White House chief of staff...

Why Iowa Conservatives Haven't Warmed to Perry

I'm going to contradict myself and briefly discuss Rick Santorum again. The former U.S. senator secured a key Iowa Republican's endorsement over the weekend, a move that won't significantly improve his chances at gaining the presidential nomination (still only a fan-fiction dream among personhood supporters). But the endorsement highlights the prevalence of discontent among the conservative base this year. Chuck Laudner has a nonexistent public profile—not just nationally, but within Iowa as well. However, he's just the sort of hire that successful presidential campaigns have been built upon in the past. Laudner worked for Steve Forbes in 2000, but his standing didn't truly rise until 2004, when he organized Steve King's first congressional run. Laudner followed King to Washington, where he served as the archconservative representative's chief of staff. He returned to Iowa after a few years and worked as executive director for the Republican Party there during the 2008 caucuses. Last...

Cain's High Crimes, Not Misdemeanors

Minutes ago, Sharon Bialek, one of the four women who alleged Herman Cain sexually harassed her, came forward in a press conference to recount what happened. In short, after losing her job at the National Restaurant Association in 1997, Bialek traveled to D.C. to meet with Cain for a discussion about her finding a new job. Before meeting with Bialek, Cain had her hotel room upgraded to an expensive suite and let her know he was responsible for the nice room. After drinks, he took her to a fancy Italian restaurant, then offered to show her the NRA offices. At that point, Cain allegedly parked the car, reached his hand under her skirt, pulled her head toward his crotch and said, "You want a job, right?" When she resisted, he drove her back to her hotel. This account is shocking on several levels. First, what the media have described up to this point as sexual harassment has in fact turned out to be sexual assault (though Bialek's lawyer, Gloria Allred, refused to define the crime as...

Sabotage?

In its most recent poll of Florida voters, Suffolk University asked respondents about the Republican Party’s relationship to President Obama. Did Floridians see the Republican Party as deliberately harming efforts to improve the economy in order to boost their election chances? According to the survey, a whopping 49 percent said yes, “they believe that the Republicans were intentionally hindering efforts to boost the economy so that Barack Obama would not be reelected.” The partisan gap was large –- 70 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents agreed with the statement, while 24 percent of Republicans disagreed. The Washington Post and ABC News asked a similar question in its most recent poll of voters and got similar results. Here’s the question: Which of the following statements comes closest to your point of view? Statement A: (President Obama is making a good faith effort to deal with the country’s economic problems, but the Republicans in Congress are playing politics...

We Are Living in the Conservative Recovery

In talking about the economy, the Republican presidential candidates are quick to blame government spending for our current woes. “On my first day in office, I will send five bills to Congress and issue five executive orders that will get government out of the way and restore America to the path of robust economic growth that we need to create jobs,” said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney when he unveiled his jobs plan in September. Likewise, in his plan, Texas Governor Rick Perry touts spending cuts as part of the road toward renewed economic growth: “The cut, balance, and grow plan paves the way for the job creation, balanced budgets, and fiscal responsibility that we need to get America working again.” The problem, as Neil Irwin reports for The Washington Post , is that sharp cuts to government have been terrible for the recovery. Thanks to lower revenue, limited federal aid, and budget-cutting state legislators, the public sector has cut 455,000 jobs since the beginning of...

Romney Robocalls, Perry Takes on Iowa

Last week, I speculated that Mitt Romney could still win the Iowa caucuses if he poured enough resources into the state over the next two months. Evangelical Christians might have the loudest voice in the Iowa GOP, but they don't constitute the whole party. They're matched by a set of business-minded Republicans who favor low taxes and defanging regulation and who are less concerned with the social issues that could derail Romney's campaign; thanks to the 2010 midterms, the ranks of registered voters from this wing has increased significantly since the last time Romney ran for president in Iowa. It looks like Romney may have come to the same conclusion. He has two stops scheduled along the state's eastern border today after he barely visited Iowa for the first ten months of the year. And on Friday, the AP reported that Romney has rolled out robocalls against his main opponent in Iowa: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid for automated telephone messages in Iowa accusing...

Mitt Romney's Public Option

If you want to be a serious presidential candidate, you have to offer just enough detail in your policy proposals that it appears that you're genuinely grappling with the issues, but not so much that you give people too much material with which to find fault. To that end, Mitt Romney has offered a plan that includes the following about Medicare: Medicare should not change for anyone in the program or soon to be in it. Nor should tax hikes be part of the solution. Reforms must honor commitments to our current seniors while giving the next generation an improved program that offers the freedom to choose what their coverage under Medicare should look like: • Give future seniors a choice between traditional Medicare and many other health-care plans offering at least the same benefits • Help seniors pay for the option they choose, with a level of support that ensures all can obtain the coverage they need; provide those with lower incomes with more generous assistance • Allow beneficiaries...

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