Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Which Side Are You On?

This last tidbit from the latest The New York Times and CBS News poll should count as a sign that Democrats are winning the messaging war over taxes and the middle-class: Few Americans believe that the Obama administration is solely on the side of the middle-class, but even fewer believe that that is true of Republicans. What’s more, the large majority of Americans (correctly) see Republicans as class warriors for the rich. Democrats should continue to hammer on higher taxes for the wealthy, and Republicans should continue their petulant whining – provided they’re not worried about public perceptions. Of course, while this is a good short-term sign, both congressional Democrats and the Obama administration should remember that these perceptions will have a minor role – at best – in the 2012 elections. Come next year, Americans could hate the GOP, but if the economy slides back into recession, you can safely assume that they’ll elect them to the White House.

DOJ Might Strike Down Photo ID Laws

When Republicans gained control of state legislatures across the country in 2010, they began a systematic effort to restrict voting access, disenfranchising likely Democratic voters in the process. Five states passed strict ID laws, which will require voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification to get their ballot on Election Day. Some of those laws are still on hold thanks to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law requires states with a history of discrimination against minority voters to receive preclearance from either the Department of Justice or a federal court for any change to voting procedures. The burden of proof lies on the states, which must show that the changes will not harm minority voters. Photo ID laws in South Carolina and Texas are currently under review at the DOJ. Now the Obama administration might be on the verge of striking down these Republican electioneering laws, according to a leading House Democrat. At a meeting with...

Rick Perry Promises Four Years of Abysmal Job Growth

Texas Governor Rick Perry has released his first television ad, and in it, he makes a big promise. “As president, I will create at least 2 and half million new jobs.” The problem, as Steve Benen points out , is that this is a lot less impressive than it sounds. Since the recession officially ended a year and a half ago, the economy has added 2.56 million private-sector jobs . Unfortunately, thanks largely to public sector layoffs, net job growth comes to 2.1 million jobs. Even still, President Obama’s record of 2.1 million jobs in eighteen months – lackluster as it is – is far preferable to Perry’s promise of 2.5 million jobs in four years.

Should Rick Perry Drop Out of the Debates?

By and large, debates aren’t a huge deal for candidates in a presidential primary. Because most Americans don’t watch them, their relevance is limited to primary voters and other party actors, and even then, an acceptable candidate doesn’t need to have good debate skills – middling skills are okay , provided candidates run an otherwise strong campaign. Texas Governor Rick Perry might be the exception that proves the rule. His campaign has not been bad, but his debate performances have been terrible. Even at his best, he is a disaster , flubbing basic facts, botching attacks on his competitors, and chastising the audience for disagreement . Perry’s debate skills are so bad that they’ve actually taken a toll on his campaign. Two months ago, Perry was the frontrunner in the Republican nomination contest. Today, he’s at the bottom of the pack, trailing with just 6 percent support from GOP voters. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise to learn that his campaign is rethinking its choice to...

Marco Rubio Won't Win Hispanics for the GOP

Everything about Senator Marco Rubio screams “vice presidential pick.” He’s young, charismatic, and ideologically acceptable to large swaths of the Republican Party. What’s more, he hails from an important swing state – Florida – and could help the GOP repair its fractured image with Hispanic voters. However, as The Washington Post notes , all is not well in the land of Rubio. Between his right-wing views on immigration, his opposition to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, and several small-scale scandals – including the recent controversy over his family history – Rubio isn’t as well placed as he initially seemed. In addition, the fact that Rubio is Hispanic doesn’t mean as much as it sounds, given the multiple Latino communities in the United States. As pollster Simon Rosenberg notes for The Post : “Despite being Hispanic, looking at his overall record . . . he seems remarkably ill-suited to be the one reaching out to the largely Mexican migrant community in the key battleground...

The Impermanent Majority

President Bush, left, puts his arm around White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove as they appear before reporters during a news conference announcing Rove's resignation, Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
After George W. Bush was elected in 2000, his advisers and allies set about solidifying their control of Congress. In short order, the phrase "permanent Republican majority" started to get bandied about ( here is a reference to it in a Time magazine article from April 2001). That idea partly concerned efforts by Bush and Karl Rove to expand the Republican base to include groups like Latinos, but mostly referred to the House of Representatives. With the right mix of money, targeted legislation, and clever redistricting (the cocktail that landed Tom DeLay in jail), Republicans could make their grip on the House all but impossible to break. For a while, it seemed to be working. Republicans gained seats in 2002, then Bush won re-election in 2004, and a spate of books arrived explaining how Republicans were redrawing the American political map for a generation to come (see here , here , and here ). But it turned out to be anything but permanent. Democrats won back both houses of Congress...

Why Do Liberals Dislike Herman Cain?

Writing for Reason , Cathy Young tries to understand liberal hostility to Herman Cain: Whatever his merits or electability, Cain has inevitably drawn attention as the only African-American in the field. And, as a black Republican linked to the Tea Party—a movement often accused of racial animosity toward Barack Obama—he has become a magnet for a peculiar left-wing brand of race-baiting. To prove her point, Young plucks examples from “The Last Word” – where host Lawrence O’Donnell attacked Cain for his non-participation in the civil rights movement – and various internet forums. The problem, of course, is that neither of those are actually representative of liberals writ large. And I’m sure that if this were a discussion of the Tea Party, Young – who has written in defense of the movement on several occasions – would agree that it’s ridiculous to draw broad conclusions about a political movement from the conduct of a few actors. That’s not to say that there isn’t liberal hostility...

The Big Switcheroo of 2012

Americans really don’t like Congress, according to the latest The New York Times and CBS News survey : I’ve said this before , but extremely low congressional approval ratings tend to coincide with massive electoral shifts, as voters “throw the bums out.” It’s possible – and given President Obama’s current unpopularity, likely – that next year will see a complete switcheroo, as Democrats win the House of Representatives, but lose the Senate and the White House.

Getting the Details Right

The political corner of the Internet shared a nice laugh yesterday about Herman Cain's latest campaign ad. Cain's chief of smoking chief of staff Mark Block went on Fox News to explain the video. Megan Kelly asked if it was directed at farmers or workers in Detroit, rather than the West- and East-coast liberals in the media (contra the newsrooms staffed by chain smokers where I've worked). "I tell you, you walk into a veterans' bar in Iowa and they're sitting around smoking, and we are resonating with them," Block said. As National Journal notes , in 2008 Iowa banned indoor smoking for most venues, even bars frequented by veterans. I lived in Iowa at that time and my memories are full of disgruntled friends leaving their drinks to go shiver outside the bar doorway as they railed against the new law. It's a silly, immaterial flub for Block, though it is yet another sign that Cain is not running a real presidential campaign. Walk through most Iowa small towns and you'd spot the crowd of...

Rick Perry Revives Zombie Tax Lie

Aaaaarrrrrrgh! Family farms! Aaaaarrrrrrgh!
Let's be honest: the tax plan Rick Perry unveiled the other day is a bushel of bamboozlement inside a cartload of crap. That may not surprise anyone, but I have to point out Perry's embrace of an old zombie lie that should have been shot in the head with a crossbow (have I been watching too much Walking Dead ?) a long time ago. Says Perry's web site: In the case of family business owners and farmers, the [estate] tax often exceeds the ability of the family to pay. These heirs are consequently forced to sell off part, if not all, of their enterprise in order to pay the tax. Eliminating the death tax is necessary to protect family businesses, farms and jobs. No, no, no. I realize that it's a lot more appealing to say you want to eliminate the tax to help struggling family farmers than to say you want to eliminate it so Paris Hilton won't have to pay taxes, unlike people who work for a living. But the family farm myth has been debunked again and again. As a report from the Center on...

Do You Remember the Time?

Speaking of people who were supposed to be Republican stars, David Frum made a good point about former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford earlier today: This whole GOP race would have been radically different if Mark Sanford had been happier in his marriage. As far as ambitious conservative governors go, Sanford was the more intelligent alternative to Rick Perry. He married the Perry’s right-wing conservativism with competence and a more serious concern for policy. His career was centered on social conservatism and rock-ribbed opposition to government spending – to wit, he was one of the handful of GOP governors who loudly opposed the stimulus bill. Yes, he was untested on the national stage, but something tells me that he would have been a little more disciplined – and a lot more serious – than the Texas governor. And in a world where Sanford was the conservative choice, I’m not sure than Mitt Romney would be doing as well as he is now.

The Greatest Campaign Ad of 2011

In case you missed it, Georgia businessman Herman Cain has dropped a new campaign ad, and it’s terrible . In a good way. I’m not sure which is more hilarious: the terrible production values, the fantastic background soundtrack, or Cain’s knowing look at the end. Regardless, it’s safe to say that this is a classic on par with Carly Fiorina’s “ Demon Sheep ”. I should also say that this settles for good the question of whether or not Cain is a serious candidate for president. In short? No, he isn't.