Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Is Mitt Romney Really the Smart One?

Steve Benen offers a provocative suggestion : maybe we shouldn't be thinking about Mitt Romney as the smart, informed one: For all the jokes about the clowns that make up this year's Republican presidential field, the conventional wisdom is flawed. Romney, we're told, is the "serious" one, in large part because he speaks in complete sentences, and isn't bad at pretending to be credible. Ultimately, though, Romney's efforts don’t change the fact that he's faking it — and those who understand the issues beyond a surface-level understanding surely realize the GOP frontrunner just doesn't know what he's talking about. If the weekend's foreign policy debate showed anything, it was that nearly all the Republican candidates are faking it when it comes to foreign affairs, but Steve lists a bunch of occasions on which Romney has said things that are just inane. So why is it that those instances haven't dented this image? He certainly benefits from his opponents: it's almost impossible to look...

Do Regulations Cost Jobs?

One clear consensus emerged at the Republican presidential debate on the economy last week: government regulations are stifling our economic recovery. "I’ve said I’m going to repeal every single Obama-era regulation that costs business over a hundred million dollars. Repeal them all," Rick Santorum said, to no disagreements from the other candidates who all envisioned a robust recovery once regulations were wiped from the books. "The real issue facing America are regulations. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s the EPA or whether it’s the federal banking, the Dodd-Frank or Obamacare, that’s what’s killing America," Rick Perry said, recalling details for a rare moment. "And the next president of the United States has to have the courage to go forward, pull back every regulation since 2008, audit them for one thing: Is it creating jobs, or is it killing jobs? And if that regulation is killing jobs, do away with it." Are regulations killing jobs? Not really, at least according to...

Gingrich Isn't Going to Be the GOP Nominee

The arguments for why Herman Cain won’t be the Republican presidential nominee, even if he’s popular, are straightforward. He has little history with the Republican Party establishment and shallow relationships with GOP activists on the state and local level. He lacks an on-the-ground campaign in the early primary states, and he’s devoted his time to states like Alabama—irrelevant to the nomination contest but a fine venue for selling books. Indeed, Cain’s upcoming visit to Iowa—the state he has to win or do well in to have a shot at the nomination—is his first since mid-October. Serious candidates tend to spent a lot more time in “make or break” states. At the moment, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls. In the latest survey of Republican voters from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal , Gingrich earns 22 percent support, a 5 point increase from his previous performance. The reasons for his newfound popularity aren’t hard to grok; the once-ascendent Herman...

Why Tuesday? Because Republicans Said So

Earlier this week, The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein profiled the "Why Tuesday" organization. Here's how that group explains the history of our current election calendar: In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. Farmers needed a day to get to the county seat, a day to vote, and a day to get back, without interfering with the three days of worship. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875 Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for federal Senate elections. Of course the constraints that made people in the 1800s choose Tuesday no longer apply in the modern era. Without a bias for the status quo, there would be no reason to choose Tuesday over Wednesday or Thurday. Klein advocated for The Weekend Voting Act, a bill that would move and...

Guess Who Doesn't Like Herman Cain?

As if to remind us of his utter contempt for women, Georgia businessman Herman Cain capped off a campaign appearance yesterday with a joke about Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearing: A clip that first aired on “Special Report With Bret Baeir” shows Cain in the middle of a raucous crowd of supporters when someone makes a comment about Anita Hill. The substance of the comment was drowned out by applause in the room, but it had the candidate doubled over with laughter. “Is she going to endorse me?” Cain asked, smiling. […] With this in mind, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Cain has lost considerable support among Republican women -– according to the latest CBS News poll , he is down 13 points among GOP women, to 15 percent. This brings his overall numbers down to 18 percent support among all Republicans, placing him in the lead, but not by much. Flanking Cain are Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who...

Not All Flip-Flops Are Created Equal

Mitt Romney isn’t the first candidate to flip his positions in the service of national ambitions, but there’s something dramatic about the speed and velocity of his transformation. As The Wall Street Journal details in this excellent piece, Romney ran for governor as a liberal –- he promised to defend the state’s abortion laws and provide domestic partnership benefits and then offered himself as a voice for moderation within the Republican Party. Once elected, he continued on that path, signing a state ban on assault weapons and closing a coal power plant under the rationale that private industry shouldn’t have carte blanche to release dangerous fumes into the air. This all changed in 2005, when Romney began to position himself for a run in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. By the end of the year, he had reversed himself on everything from abortion to climate change, even going as far as to demonize same-sex residents of Massachusetts to out-of-state audiences, in order to...

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...

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