Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

More Allegations Raised Against Cain

When Politico revealed the sexual-harassment charges against Herman Cain over the weekend, it would have been fairly easy for the Republican candidate to dismiss their relevance. They were the musings of the liberal media! Or a targeted hit from an opposing campaign! As Jamelle noticed Monday, conservative luminaries like Rush Limbaugh jumped to defend Cain. Politico followed up yesterday morning with a story about how unconcerned Iowa Republicans were with the scandal. That should change today. Further allegations have been leveled against Cain, this time by a prominent Iowa conservative. Radio host Steve Deace suggested to Politico that Cain made inappropriate remarks or advances to his show's staff members: Deace, who penned an opinion piece critical of Cain earlier this month, told POLITICO in an email that Cain said "awkward" and "inappropriate" things to the staff at his station. "Like awkward/inappropriate things he's said to two females on my staff, that the fact the guy's...

Why Try to Win When You Can Just Change the Rules?

Earlier last month, Pennsylvania Republicans floated a proposal to allocate the state’s 22 electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-take-all. The change would have rigged the game in favor of the Republican presidential candidate, given the partisan composition of the state’s congressional districts. Democrats cried out against the proposal, and voters voiced their disapproval as well. Human Events reports that Pennsylvania House Republicans have backed away from the proposal, citing the potential for voter backlash: Although joint House-Senate legislative hearings on the electoral vote proposal were held in October, backers were lukewarm in voicing their support and signs are now strong the measure will not make it out of committee for a vote by Thanksgiving. Several sources told HUMAN EVENTS that the Keystone State’s 12 Republican U.S. representatives suddenly became nervous about any possible danger to their re-elections that the change in electoral vote...

The Game Belongs to Mitt

Last month, I argued that Mitt Romney was on his way to winning the Republican presidential nomination, despite the large anti-establishment faction within the GOP base. Herman Cain might be surging among Republican voters, but recent polls affirm that view. At the The Plum Line , Jonathan Bernstein examines a recent poll of GOP insiders and finds that Romney is well positioned to win wide support among Republican elites. Of the party actors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, 36 percent report a “good chance” of endorsing the former Massachusetts governor. “Of the entire group,” notes Bernstein, “while 23% have already endorsed another candidate, only another 10% say they have 'no chance' of supporting him for the nomination.” Or, put another way, two-thirds of Republican elites in those states are willing to endorse Romney for the nomination. And given the extent to which endorsements are a key part of winning the party’s support, this is an excellent sign for Romney. With...

Worst-Case Scenarios

In David Frum’s most recent op-ed , he describes the “menu of possibilities” for non-Tea Party Republicans in 2012. His second possibility –- in which Mitt Romney wins the nomination but loses the general election -– is one I’ve been thinking about for some time. Here is Frum’s assessment of what might happen as a result of that outcome: If candidate Romney loses, tea party Republicans will claim that the GOP lost because it failed to nominate a “true conservative.” That claim may fly in the face of political math (how would a more extreme candidate win more votes?), but it will pack a lot of emotional punch…Back-to-back losses under John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 will open the way to an ultra-conservative nominee in 2016 – and a true party debacle. If you take the view that today’s Republican Party is dangerously extreme in its rejection of institutional norms and raw pursuit of power –- and that this stands to do huge damage to America in the long-term –- then the best...

What Are Obama's Chances in 2012?

For this week’s New York Times Magazine , FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver offers a forecast of the 2012 election. He considers three election fundamentals—economic growth, incumbent popularity, and the ideology of the opposing nominee—and gives four scenarios based on varying configurations. For President Obama, the picture isn’t great. In the first scenario, Obama enters 2012 with an approval rating in the low 40s, the nominee is Mitt Romney, and the economy has stalled out at 0 percent GDP growth. Under those conditions, Silver predicts, Romney has an 83 percent chance of winning the popular vote, to Obama’s 17 percent chance. Absent a major event that turns the tide for Obama—Silver says that he "might ask whether there was some sort of October surprise: 'Mitt in Torrid Affair With Filipina Housekeeper'”—you would assume a Romney win under thse conditions. In the second, everything is the same, but GDP growth for 2012 averages out at 4 percent (Silver is using ±4 margin of error in...

Herman Cain's Accusations of Racism Make No Sense

Ta-Nehisi Coates flags this exchange between Georgia businessman Herman Cain and Charles Krauthammer: KRAUTHAMMER: Do you think that race, and being a strong black conservative, has anything to do with the fact that you’ve been so charged? And if so do you have any evidence to support that? CAIN: I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it. But because I am unconventional candidate running an unconventional campaign and achieving some unexpected unconventional results in terms of my, the poll, we believe that, yes, there are some people who are Democrats, liberals, who do not want to see me win the nomination. And there could be some people on the right who don’t want to see me because I’m not the, quote/unquote, “establishment candidate.” No evidence. KRAUTHAMMER: But does race have any part of that? Establishment, maverick, yes. What about race? CAIN: Relative to the left I believe race is a bigger driving factor. I don’t think it’s a driving factor on...

You Say Tomato, I Say Potato

Yesterday, The New Republic ’s Alec MacGillis arrived at the conclusion that Mitt Romney's famous flip-flopping and President Obama's pragmatism were one in the same: A politician who considers himself driven more by case-by-case pragmatism than any overarching philosophy, who likes to get all the smartest people in the room to hash out an issue, probing each side with questions and counters to arrive at some kind of workable middle ground. Does that sound familiar? I understand the temptation to make this argument, but it's off base. Obama’s pragmatism defines him. Every decision he’s made during his first term, from passing the stimulus to the intervention in Libya, evinces his belief that realism, data, and debate—not ideology—make for effective long-term policy. This pragmatism was present during the 2008 election, but Obama’s hopey-changey persona made his pragmatism easy to overlook and easier to decry later when he didn’t give his supporters all the legislative victories they...

Why Mitt Romney Should Want Better Competition

Michael Cohen calls this one of the “harshest things” he’s seen this campaign season. I’m inclined to agree: Here’s the thing about Mitt Romney: He’s a much weaker candidate than he looks. His reputation for competence notwithstanding, he has made his fair share of gaffes and mistakes in his quest for the presidency. That he has escaped (mostly) unblemished has less to do with his skill as a politician and more to do with the sorry state of his competition. Whether Romney realizes it or not, this puts him on shaky terrain. The downside of fierce competition in a presidential primary is that you might not get the nomination. The upside, however, is that you’ve learned to deal with mistakes and emergencies and are better prepared for the rigors and contigencies of a general election. Put another way, not only did it pay to have Jeremiah Wright emerge in the middle of the primary than in the general election but surviving Wright made Barack Obama a better candidate than he otherwise...

Coulter's Race Relations

Even for someone who specializes in consistently saying the most offensive and irrelevant things, Ann Coulter's statements about black Republicans in an interview with Sean Hannity Monday crossed the line. In a segment discussing accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, Coulter and Hannity completely sidestepped the allegations and instead ranted about why liberals target African American Republicans. Of course the argument moved away from issues of sex and workplace harassment and moved on to how Barack Obama is only half-black and his father wasn't even an American.

Does Fact-Checking Work?

Politico 's Ben Smith wrote a long article about America's fact-checking industry ( PolitiFact , FactCheck , etc.), and he does a good job of describing the tug-of-war between these sites and political spin-meisters, as well as addressing some of the inherent weaknesses in the criteria they use to find the line between truth and falsehood. But there's one very important question missing from the article: Does fact-checking work? By "work," I mean a couple of things. The first is, does it change politicians' behavior? Is a candidate who gets called out for a lie in a fact check going to stop saying it? I posed that question to Bill Adair, who runs PolitiFact, when I interviewed him for a story about this topic that never actually found its way into print (long story). Adair's response was that changing politicians' behavior isn't his job; he and his organization put their best assessment of the facts on the record, and then whatever happens next is basically out of their hands. One...

Why Tim Pawlenty Should Have Stayed in the Race

This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but the latest Gallup survey of Republican voters shows Georgia businessman Herman Cain leading the pack with a high positive intensity score. Cain scores 29 on the positive intensity score, a measure of how much voters like a particular candidate. He leads Mitt Romney by 17 points—a sign of Romney’s low favorability among GOP voters—and beats Rick Perry by 23 points. What’s more, Cain is the only candidate whose rating has gone up since entering the race. Here’s Gallup with more: It’s interesting to note that before he left the race in August, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had a fairly decent positive intensity score—about 13 points —that would have improved as Rick Perry’s star dimmed and conservative voters scrambled for a new alternative to the former Massachusetts governor. Indeed, as The New Republic ’s Isaac Choitner points out , “Were he still running, Tim Pawlenty would have a better chance than everyone else (minus Romney and...

Where Are the Rich Liberals?

Changes in electoral law often shift elections in ways that cannot be predicted. Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in '76 thanks to his understanding of the new primary rules that favored victories in early states rather than hobnobbing with party elites in smoke-filled rooms. The rise of the super PAC could play a similar role in 2012, completely revamping the operation of presidential campaigns. Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, this new type of group is allowed to raise unlimited campaign funds from both individuals and corporations. Super PACs started to test the waters of the new landscape in the 2010 election with American Crossroads, a group founded by Karl Rove, spending over $25 million last year, primarily on ads against Democrats in midterm congressional races. There is an independent super PAC raising funds for each of the presidential candidates, and Bill Burton left his post as deputy press secretary at the White House to start...

Rick Perry's Rich Friends

As I mentioned earlier today, we are just beginning to observe the role super PACs will play in the 2012 election. A handful of groups capitalized on the Citizens United ruling to begin spending money in 2010, but the extra preparation and heightened interest in presidential politics means the money spent by these groups will skyrocket over the next year. Super PACs are already beginning to play a part in the nomination process. Make Us Great Again, a super PAC former to support Rick Perry's presidential run, is hitting the airwaves in Iowa and South Carolina with new ads: Make Us Great Again typifies the murky separation between campaigns and these so-called independent groups. It was formed by Mike Toomey, one of Perry's former chiefs of staff at the Texas governor's office. An internal memo from the group leaked two months ago revealed that the super PAC had set $55 million as its target fundraising goal. For context, Perry's campaign raised $17 million in the last quarter. And the...

Republicans or Obama, Voters Can't Decide

One of the striking things about the current political moment is the extent to which anti-incumbent sentiment hasn’t abated since last year. The poor economy has left Americans in a continuous state of anger toward their elected officials, regardless of political affiliation. In particular, according to the latest poll from United Technologies and National Journal , voters are down on both the congressional GOP and President Obama. When asked what outcome they would prefer in next year’s elections, “44 percent of registered voters said they would like to see a Republican elected, while 42 percent want Obama to win a second term,” a statistical tie. Likewise, when asked if Republicans should retain control of the House, ”41 percent said yes and 43 percent said they would prefer Democrats to recapture the majority." Overall, the public is evenly split; 35 percent of Americans want Democrats to retain the White House and take the House, while 34 percent of Americans want the reverse –- a...

Iowa GOP: Not as Crazy as You Imagine

At New York , John Heilemann ponders Mitt Romney's standing in Iowa. Early in the campaign, team Romney made a deliberate decision to downplay his presence in the first-in-the-nation caucus. He would not repeat his 2008 mistake, where he invested heavily in Iowa only to lose handedly to Mike Huckabee , a candidate who had been buoyed by a wave support from Iowa's active evangelical Christian base. Romney has made just three Iowa trips to date this year, and his Hawkeye staff is limited to five people with no television or radio purchases to his name. Yet Romney arguably leads the Iowa pack two months out from caucus day. There has been no consistent front-runner in the polls. Michele Bachmann led for a time but now only garners single-digit support. The same fate befell Rick Perry, who has now been supplanted by Herman Cain (which may quickly evaporate after allegations of sexual harassment came to light this weekend). Romney, though, consistently places a close second in Iowa polls...

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