Election 2012

Is the GOP Base Willing to Lose in 2012?

Imagine you had told Republicans in December 2008 that three years from then, when Barack Obama would be running for re-election, the country would still be mired in the economic doldrums, with unemployment at 8.6 percent and job creation barely keeping up with increases in population. "Great!" they'd say. "There's no way we could lose the 2012 election!" Yet here we are, with the party about to choose between one terribly flawed, unlikeable candidate and a second terribly flawed, unlikeable candidate. No matter which one gets the nomination, you'll be hard-pressed to find a Republican who thinks they've got this election in the bag. And today, Jeffrey Toobin wonders , given the GOP's intense dislike of Barack Obama, "Wouldn’t they seek out the broadest possible coalition for defeating him? Apparently not. Rather, the working Republican hypothesis seems to be that the damaged economy will trump any specific stand on the issues. Americans will embrace the Republican candidate simply to...

Putting the Brakes on Voter Supression

Voters in most states have little recourse to combat the onslaught of restrictive voter-ID laws Republican majorities have passed in 2011. For the most part, they'll have to wait until the 2012 election to replace their legislators and hope that these laws (such as photo-ID requirements and repeals to same-day registration) can be taken off the books. But a number of states will tackle voter suppression directly via ballot referendums. Last month, both Maine and Mississippi tested restrictive voting laws through popular votes; in Maine, voters overruled their legislators and reinstituted same-day voter registration, a major win for voter-rights advocates. But in Mississippi, things took a turn for the worse; voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo identification for access to the ballot. Ohio is up next after organizers gathered more than 300,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot next year. The state's Republican majority had passed severe restrictions to...

The Unanointed

One law of politics (and I use that term loosely; the laws of politics are a lot more mutable than those of, say, thermodynamics or North Dakota) is that when a presidential primary process looks essentially decided, the party establishment steps in to endorse the presumptive nominee and pressures the other candidate, or candidates, to drop out of the race. It’s never in the party’s interest to drag the contest on, particularly when it means that said presumptive nominee will continue to be subjected to more criticism from his intraparty rival or rivals. That’s the law. In the light of the gray dawn of current polling, the only candidate who could wrap up the GOP presidential nomination early is Newt Gingrich, whom the Republican establishment almost universally despises and fears. But say Gingrich wins Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida by big margins and comes very close—or even wins—in New Hampshire. Confronted with almost any other candidate with that kind of win-loss record,...

What Would Tebow Do?

Ding! Welcome to "Ringside Seat," The American Prospect ’s daily guide to Election 2012. Each afternoon we'll send an end-of-the-day compendium of the campaign news you might have missed—but shouldn’t. Please send tips to newsletters@prospect.org . I n a weekend dominated by the latest miracle victory engineered by Tim Tebow—the quarterback who puts a happy, winning face on evangelical Christianity—a smaller one occurred on Saturday night in Des Moines: Rick Perry had a pretty good debate. He didn’t misidentify any Supreme Court justices, or conflate Iran and Iraq—and he cannily refused to shake hands on Mitt Romney’s disastrous $10,000 bet. But if Perry’s not bettin’ on that, he is counting on Christian phobias to salvage his presidential hopes in Iowa. In the most-loathed campaign ad of the season , Perry donned a Brokeback Mountain jacket and in just 30 seconds managed to invoke just about every imaginary assault on Christianity that right-wing evangelicals (and Bill O’Reilly) have...

Upright and Alright

Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry. Where'd this new fire come from? In an interview with the Des Moines Register 's Kathie Obradovich Perry hinted at one possibility: My back is great. I’m back running again for the last six weeks. I think part of the reason you have seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is my health, and (I’m) both physically and mentally just back in the game. You have fusion on your back, and it takes you a while to get back on your game… I would suggest to you that I was pretty fatigued. No...

Trading Places

I missed this last week, but a recent Gallup survey shows the public’s disdain for the current Congress and its members: A whopping 76 percent of Americans do not believe that most members of Congress deserve to be reelected. This is in addition to Congress’ historically low approval ratings — 13 percent approval in the last Gallup survey — and the public’s intense dislike of Congress; 64 percent of Americans rate the ethics and honesty of congressmembers at low or very low. To repeat a point I’ve made several times over the last few months, there’s a fair chance that we’ll see an outright reversal in the partisan composition of government next year. In other words, Republicans would walk away with the Senate and the White House, while Democrats would retake the House. Even if Democrats keep the Senate or the White House, the public is clearly dissastisfied with Congress — something has to give.

Were the Debates a Mistake?

If you can get past the attacks on President Obama, the disregard for actual economic conditions, and the assertion of “philosophical decreptitude” in American liberalism, you’ll find a smart point about the GOP presidential debates in Fred Barnes’s latest op-ed for The Weekly Standard . For your sake, I’ll just post it here: Besides aiding Obama, Republicans have hurt themselves in numerous ways by letting the debates be the organizing events of the campaign. The stronger candidates have been diminished by appearing, debate after debate, on equal footing with also-rans whose chances of winning the party’s presidential nomination are nil. Given the extent to which Barnes is a solid member of the conservative establishment, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were echoing the thoughts of many other conservative elites. The debates have had an astonishing and unprecedented impact on how conservative voters view and evaluate the Republican presidential candidates, and it’s hard to say that...

Supreme Court Could Tilt US House Majority

The US Supreme Court issued a surprise stay late Friday evening that in effect could decide which party controls the US House majority after the 2012 election. A little over two weeks ago, a three-judge panel in San Antonio threw out new congressional maps drawn by the Texas legislature earlier this year. One of the fastest growing states in the country, Texas gained four additional US House seats after the 2010 census. Most of that growth can be attributed to the state's booming Hispanic population, which now represents almost 40 percent of the state. Yet when the Republican legislature went to redraw the maps, they gerrymandered the new seats to favor their party and shut the minority population out. Civil rights groups appealed and convinced the federal court to create a more representative map, increasing the number of majority-minority districts from 10 to 13, giving Democrats a strong possibility of gaining three of the four new House seats next year. Texas Attorney General Greg...

The Gingrich Fantasy

Our conservative readers (and yes, there are some) might be interested to know how liberals view the rise of Newt Gingrich to a clear lead in the race for president, and the answer is, we're gobsmacked. We just can't believe the Republican Party would be foolish enough to nominate a man who has so many weaknesses and is so plainly (from our perspective, anyway) repellent. We're not at all surprised to see the GOP establishment freaking out over the prospect of a Gingrich nomination (witness George Will employing every florid turn of phrase he can come up with to condemn Gingrich: "There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx ... His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic ..."). The fact that the average Republican voter now seems to think that nominating Newt will work out well for them just makes no sense. Someone recently said that Republican voters are acting like they're auditioning not presidents but Fox News personalities...

The Shook One

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
By and large, this year, the Republican presidential debates have been great for Mitt Romney. For the most part, they’ve played to his strengths—his command of policy, his “presidential” appearance, and his skill as a debater—and haven’t brought much attention to his weaknesses. What’s more, thanks to their outsized influence on the nomination contest, they’ve been the place where Romney’s rivals have collapsed on themselves, from former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s “Obamaneycare” miss, to nearly everything said by Texas Governor Rick Perry. As of late, however, that dynamic has begun to change. On the strength of his debate performances and his the “anti-Romney” du jour , Newt Gingrich has emerged as the new front-runner in the Republican presidential contest. Romney remains in his second-place spot, but this is almost in spite of the fact that he’s been buffeted by a wave of criticism over the last two weeks. Republicans are unhappy with his opportunistic embrace of...

Calm, Cool, and Collected

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
There are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical of Newt Gingrich's surge over the past few weeks. Sure, he's ahead in recent polls out of Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. But Republican voters have proved fickle this election, bouncing from one candidate to the next gaffe after gaffe. After his campaign almost ran out of money and his staff fled over the summer, Gingrich had one of the thinnest field operations of any candidate—it was so disorganized that he won't even be on the primary ballot in Missouri after missing the filing deadline. But Gingrich hasn't been subject to much scrutiny, thanks to the Thanksgiving news slowdown and a break from the debates. When the candidates gathered in Des Moines on Saturday night, it was just the second debate—and the first one unrelated to foreign policy—since Gingrich entered the spotlight, and the candidates were bound to attack the front-runner. For a candidate who had spent most of his time at debates arguing with the moderators'...

Which Mitt Is Your Mitt?

Herman Cain isn't the only candidate who dropped out this fall. Dozens of Mitt Romney doppelgangers who've outlived their usefulness have, too. Some of the Romneys haven't even dared to show their faces again—pro-choice, pro-health-care Romney, for instance, hasn't dared go out in public this primary season. We've compiled a list of many of the different Romneys that have popped up over the years below in the hope that it will help voters, not in a quest to find the real Romney—we doubt his existence—but to help you discover which one you could vote for. E-mail me at jfuller@prospect.org if you think of any other Romneys, and I'll update the list as the election goes on. Click on the arrows to go to the next Romney. *** East Coast Moderate Republican Romney This presidential candidate is running on nostalgia (not to be confused with Reagan Romney or Son of my dad, George Romney). This Romney harkens back to a time when Republicans could be moderate and still get elected. Polling shows...

Introducing: Vox and Friends

In this week’s episode of Vox and Friends , The American Prospect podcast, Patrick Caldwell , Jaime Fuller , and myself discuss President Obama’s speech on the economy — and his attempt to channel Theodore Roosevelt — as well as Occupy Wall Street’s success in influencing the political conversation and Newt Gingrich’s odd place in the Republican presidential field...

Occupy Our Ovaries

Here's a prediction: The Plan B backlash is going to reverberate for quite a while. The ladies are furious that, once again, the administration has backed the bus right over their ovaries, overruling scientific research in the name of patronizing paternalism. If boys and men can pick up condoms as easily as a bag of Skittles, why can't girls and women also bypass a potentially conscience-ridden pharmacist and buy an easy-to-use pill to prevent pregnancy after—after — having sex? Come on, people, it's already happened; if she's too young to have sex, surely she's also too young to have a baby and raise a child. As for wanting parental oversight, well, if the 11-year-old is potentially pregnant by her father or stepfather or uncle, wouldn't it be terrific for her to be able to skip that little nicety? There have been some brilliantly scathing pieces written about the decision. Katha Pollitt announces that the Department of Health and Human Services has decided to treat all women like...

Jon Huntsman Is in It to Win It

When it comes to the presidential campaign of former Utah governor (and ambassador to China) Jon Huntsman, the general assumption among pundits is that he’s actually running for the 2016 Republican nomination. After all, if President Obama wins re-election, Huntsman would be a natural fit for a (presumably) chastened Republican Party—a conservative governor with a moderate temperament and solid bipartisan credentials. The problem with this view, as Ross Douthat points out , is that it ignores the likely landscape of a 2016 Republican presidential field: If Barack Obama is re-elected and the Republican nomination is up for grabs in 2016, there will be a long list of heavyweights ready and rested and ready to compete for the prize— Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Bob McDonnell, and probably other up-and-comers as well. […] All of them will be able out-raise, out-organize and out-buzz a guy who couldn’t rise to the top of the weakest presidential primary field in my...

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