Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Can Congressional Democrats Run Away from Obama?

Speaking to the The New York Times , Rob Jesmer, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, makes a good point about efforts by congressional Democrats to distance themselves from President Obama: “Whether they get on stage with him is not going to matter,” said Rob Jesmer, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “ They are going to rise or fall with him in most cases . The reason he is unpopular is because of his policies and these are the policies they have voted for – health care, the stimulus, now a second stimulus. There isn’t any daylight in the minds of voters.” [Emphasis mine] It’s worth taking a look at this chart on split-ticket voting from political scientist Alan Abramowitz, plotted using data from the American National Election Studies: Increased polarization over the last three decades has produced a sharp decline in split-ticket voting, which means – in other words – that Jesmer is right; voters are more likely to evaluate each...

Multiple Choice Mitt Strikes Again! Kind of.

As recently as June, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was on record as accepting climate change, and acknowledging the extent to which humans were major contributors, “I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.” Over the weekend, in a characteristic move , Romney changed that position outright: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” he said, according to CBS. “And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” Romney has taken flak for this as another example of his complete political malleability, but I think that’s a little unfair. Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made a similar change when he was in the race – going as far as to apologize for his past belief in climate change – and if someone like Chris Christie had entered the race, he would have gone the same...

Iowans Love Herman Cain, for Now

The Des Moines Register released their latest caucus poll over the weekend, and Herman Cain is the official favorite to win Iowa two months before caucus day. Cain posted support from 23 percent of likely voters, narrowly edging out Mitt Romney at 22 percent. No one else could even come close to touching the top two. Ron Paul gathered 12 percent. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry—both of whom were crowned caucus frontrunners at one point in 2011—only had eight and seven percent respectively. That matches the rest of the numbers that have trickled out of the state over the course of the past month, but the Register's Iowa Poll is given extra heft by political watchers based on how accurately it predicted the final results during the last presidential cycle (though some caution is necessary, the equivalent poll this time four years ago had Romney in first trailed by Fred Thompson). The Los Angles Times ran an article over the weekend pronouncing the end of Cain's campaign surge, listing...

A Most Happy Fella

Here's Rick Perry's new ad in Iowa. Watch, and then we'll discuss: The first thing you notice is that he's wearing a dress shirt, but no jacket or tie. I think this is the first time I've seen him dressed this way. There's also something odd about the lighting and makeup—I can't quite put my finger on what it is that's producing the effect, but the best way to describe it is that he looks like a person who normally wears glasses but has taken them off. There is something kind of dark about Perry's looks —Joshua Green described him perfectly as having "the dark, slightly exaggerated good looks of the villain in a daytime soap opera"—and this washed-out look may be an effort to mitigate that. But he's also displaying a kind of happy-go-lucky affect that is at odds with most of what we've seen of him so far. Even when Rick Perry is smiling, there's usually something kind of sinister underneath. But everything in this ad is bright—the background, the music, and Perry himself. Finally, his...

Believing Cain

The talk of the town today is of course Politico's story detailing how two women who worked for Herman Cain at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990's accused him of sexual harassment, and were then given payouts to leave the organization (and made to sign non-disclosure agreements, of course). Although Politico relied extensively on anonymous sources for their story and obtained only some details about the alleged harassment, it does appear that they worked it pretty hard and didn't publish until they were confident about the facts they had. There are two possibilities here when it comes to the allegations. The first is that the women's allegations are true, which would mean Herman Cain is a pig who preys on women who work for him. The second is that the allegations are false, which would mean Herman Cain is an innocent man besmirched by allegations he can't escape. At the moment, we have no basis on which to determine which of those two is more likely to be true. When...

Foreclosed for Business

Before the Republican presidential primary debate in Nevada, 2012 GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review Journal that government shouldn’t be in the business of trying to help families about to lose their homes. “ Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process ,” he said. Former pizza magnate Herman Cain claimed following the debate that the best way to help homeowners facing foreclosure is to “ get government off the back of the banks .” Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s prescription for aiding homeowners, meanwhile, is to repeal the Wall Street reform law that Congress passed last year. Listening to the GOP presidential candidates, you’d never know that Nevada was the state hardest hit by the bursting of the housing bubble, that it has led the nation in foreclosures for 56 consecutive months , or that last year one in nine Nevada households received a foreclosure notice. The one time that foreclosures came up during the debate, none of the...

Will the Right Rally 'Round Cain After Harassment Allegations?

Last night, Politico broke the news that Herman Cain was involved in a sexual-harassment suit during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. "At least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group," writes Politico . According to the story, Cain used sexual innuendo when interacting with the women in question; one reported an "unwanted sexual advance" from Cain during an event. Politico reports that both women received financial compensation upon leaving the association, and one was warned that "she may be the subject of an embarrassing story involving a presidential candidate." So far, the Cain campaign has reacted with a series of "non-denial denials." In a phone interview with Fox News, campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon denied the allegations and dodged further questions from host Geraldo Rivera. "All I'm telling you right now is, this is something...

Racism's Over!

The new laws to restrict voter access to the polls are unlikely to change before the 2012 election. Republican-controlled legislatures elected in 2010 have systematically changed voting laws across the country—restricting early voting, photo ID, etc.—using their power to disenfranchise blocks of voters that typically support the other party. Voting rights advocates have fought back in a handful of states. In Maine, a repeal of same-day registration that passed earlier this summer will be subjected to a referendum vote next month. But Democrats have little recourse to stop these laws from hitting the books in most states. There is, however, still hope that the Obama administration will use the executive branch's powers to block a handful of the most egregious changes. Section Five of the Voting Rights Act forces states with a history of discrimination in their voting policies to receive preclearance from the Department of Justice or a federal court before changing their laws, and...

A Scary Guide to the GOP Tax Plans

When did tax-reform plans become so sexy? It seems like every day now GOP candidates are flaunting a new, slimmer tax plan, complete with a catchy name and nonsensical (or nonexistent) ideas supporting them. After a while, they can all start to look the same, but they vary widely on the craziness spectrum. Homeland Security decided that colors are passé as a way to measure threat, so here is my patented Herman Cain “I am America” smile threat level system. The Baseline: There are some basic conservative calling cards that the GOP tax plans share. They would all eliminate the 15 percent capital gains tax (Mitt Romney would only eliminate the tax for families making less than $200,000 a year) and the estate tax, and all the candidates have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank. If your only source of news for the past couple of weeks has been the GOP debates, you would think that these were the two most dangerous pieces of legislation ever to be passed in the United...

The Trouble With Iowa

I long ago went on record as a critic of the early election contests in Iowa and particularly New Hampshire, which produce all kinds of distortions in our national politics (take, for instance, the persistence of ethanol subsidies). But there's one I forgot to mention: the inordinate influence given to politicians who would otherwise be regarded as nutballs, simply because they happen to come from an early state. Case in point: an article in today's Politico, "Steve King Not Ready to Crown a 2012er," about how King, an Iowa congressman, has yet to make his much sought-after endorsement. You may not know King, but he is without question one of Congress' most ridiculous characters. He's the kind of guy who goes into an auditorium of schoolchildren and asks them where they stand on abortion. The kind of guy who, after a deranged terrorist flew a plane into an IRS building, killing a US government employee, responded by saying the incident was "sad," but the guy basically was right to...

A Different Kind of Revenge Film

Writing over at Mother Jones , Adam Serwer makes a smart point about ethnic revenge flicks like Inglorious Basterds and the forthcoming Django Unchained . “The true “revenge” of Inglorious Basterds,” Adam writes, “is in the banishment of a particular stereotype, the idea of the weak, fearful Jew who goes helplessly into the ovens.” The problem with Django Unchained is that African Americans have never had a problem with being portrayed as aggressive and prone to violence. Indeed, that’s the stereotype we’ve worked to reject . As Adam notes, “[A] film in which a slave kills his masters may vicariously avenge a historical injustice, but it lacks the catharsis of defying the accepted narrative that narrowly limits what being black is supposed to mean.” In his eyes, a real black revenge story isn’t Django Unchained , it’s The Cosby Show . I don’t disagree! But I think Adam is a little too neat in dismissing the value of a film like Django Unchained could have in subverting other...

Meet Your New Republicans!

Republicans are fond of ascribing tremendous diversity to their party, but as this latest Gallup survey shows, the truth is that the GOP is just about as diverse as it was in 2008, which is to say, not very much. The GOP remains disproportionately white, and also, disproportionately male. 53 percent of Republicans are men, while just 47 percent are women. By contrast, the overall population is 49 percent male, 51 percent female. That said, these numbers are an improvement from three years ago, when men were a slightly larger percentage of self-identified Republicans. The most significant news from the survey is the overall growth of the Republican Party—40 percent of Americans describe themselves as Republicans, up from 37 percent in 2008. These new Republicans come by way of traditional Republican groups. It’s not that the GOP has made inroads into minority communities as much as it is that they’ve deepened their support among non-Hispanic whites. One last tidbit: Republicans are...

Will Rick Perry Execute Another Innocent Man?

Rick Perry's struggles with the GOP base can largely be traced back to the debate in late September in which he called opposition to tuition assistance for illegal immigrants "heartless." Given his subsequent drop in the polls, he is now contemplating skipping future debates. But for liberal audiences, the most chilling moment of Perry's brief debate history came when he defended Texas' status as the country's execution leader. Perry practically reveled with glee as he described dolling out the "ultimate justice" (at the time, I noted his sharp departure in tone from the last Texas governor who ran for president). It was a truly disturbing moment because evidence from one case in Texas indicates that at least one innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was put to death during Perry's tenure as governor. And Perry may be on his way to executing another innocent man. Hank Skinner was convicted of killing three people—his girlfriend and her two children—and sentenced to death in 1995. His...

Jon Huntsman Should Find a Better Gig

Jon Huntsman has staked his entire presidential bid on the New Hampshire Republican primary. He’s diverted his campaign’s resources to the state, and held dozens of events over the last several weeks. Unfortunately for the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, this has been an exercise in futility. Yahoo News reports that despite holding 80 events in the state, Huntsman has only raised $1,000, to go along with his abysmal performance in state polls . I’ve said this since the beginning of his campaign and it bears repeating: Jon Huntsman was never a serious nominee for president. The hundreds of thousands he’s invested in his campaign could have been better spent doing so many other things. As for the $1000 he raised in New Hampshire? He should divert that from the campaign and spend it on something useful, like a Macbook Air , or perhaps a truckload of Godfather’s Pizza .

The GOP's New Latino Friend, Or Maybe Not

For some time now, everyone has assumed that whoever the Republican nominee for president turns out to be, Florida senator Marco Rubio will be that person's choice for vice president. Rubio is young, handsome, charismatic, articulate, good at raising money (he pulled in $21 million for his Senate race last year), and as an added bonus, he's Latino in a party dominated by old, boring white guys. But is the bloom coming off Rubio's rose? In the last week there's been some controversy over the story of Rubio's parents; briefly, he's always referred to them as "exiles" from Cuba and stated before that they fled the Castro regime, but it now turns out that they left Cuba a few years before the revolution. In Florida's Cuban community, this matters, because being an exile or the child of exiles gives you extra status. But as the Washington Post reports today, "Democrats had already questioned whether a Cuban American who has voiced conservative views on immigration and opposed the historic...

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