Election 2012

Ohio's Brown Revolution

(Flickr/SEIU)
United States Senator Sherrod Brown is wearing Velcro strap sneakers. They are distinctly geriatric in flavor, black and sturdy-looking, the sort that might be found in the “Mall Walking” section of the shoe wall at FootLocker. Brown is wearing them with a suit. On stage. At a big Teamsters rally a couple of weeks before Election Day. Say what you will about Brown—and plenty has been said about the liberal bête noire of national conservatives during this election cycle—but the man certainly has his own distinct brand of business casual. And in his fierce race to maintain his Senate seat against Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, it just might be Brown’s brand of who-gives-a-hoot sartorial schlump and off-the-cuff crankiness that is winning Ohio voters over. His opponent is a trim, smooth-faced 35-year-old Iraq War veteran who favors pin-neat suits and a crisp haircut reminiscent of a Marine buzz. Mandel stands in stark physical contrast to the 59-year-old Brown, who sports an...

Equality's Amazing Vanishing Act

(Flickr/Major Bonnett)
This year in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, citizens will have a chance to vote on marriage equality. In the first three, the question posted to voters is phrased affirmatively—Should the state issue civil-marriage licenses to same-sex pairs?—while in Minnesota, voters will be asked whether marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman. When I reported on the pro-equality campaigns in Maine and Maryland , I outlined what LGBT advocates now take as givens in any ballot campaign: The undecideds will vote against us. In the pre-ballot polling, the point spread between those supporting and those opposing marriage equality is meaningless. The percentage against plus the percentage that is undecided is the real numbers to watch. We lose 2 to 5 percent of our support at the polls. Of those who tell pollsters they’re on our side, 2 to 5 percent change their mind when they face the ballot question, alone in the booth. We don’t gain any support during the campaign...

Mitt's Parallel Universe

Last week, when the campaign was still trying to project momentum, Mitt Romney promised to close his campaign with “big ideas”: plans for jump-starting the economy, reducing the debt, and giving every American a pony. Of course, little of this was credible: Analysts have debunked Romney’s jobs plan (which simply takes credit for jobs that would have been created anyway), challenged his tax plan (doesn't add up), and noted the extent to which his proposals for tax cuts and higher military spending would explode the deficit . (The pony proposal has gone unscored, however.) This week, the tone from Team Romney is a little more somber. According to the polling averages, Obama is either leading or tied in every swing state other than Florida and North Carolina, and there, he’s gaining ground. Part of the problem is that, in Ohio especially, Obama has successfully run on the automobile bailout. Romney tried to argue against the bailout as unwise, but that didn't work. So instead, he’s just...

Will Undecided Voters Break Overwhelmingly to Romney?

One piece of zombie conventional wisdom—it comes up every election—is the idea that undecided voters will always break for the challenger. It’s what gives hope to Republicans in this race, who assume that the last-minute decisions of undecided voters will push Mitt Romney to the top. Unfortunately for Republicans, there just isn’t much evidence for this assertion. Yes, there are elections where undecided voters broke decisively for the challenger—1980 for Ronald Reagan, 1992 for Bill Clinton. But by and large, undecided voters tend to break evenly, with a slight advantage for the challenger. This past summer, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver tried to quantify this trend . What he found was that the incumbent party candidate—George H.W. Bush in 1988, or Al Gore in 2000—gains an average of 3.5 points between the September polls and his actual performance on Election Day. The challenger gains slightly more—3.9 points. Among true incumbents, like Obama, the numbers are a little better for...

Power and Privilege in the Workplace

Flickr/daysofthundr46
Today, Adele Stan uncovers another example of a big employer trying to bully their employees into voting for Mitt Romney. We've seen a number of these stories in the last few weeks, as one company after another sends out notices to their workers saying, Hey, we're not telling you whom to vote for or anything, but if that socialist Barack Obama gets elected, we might have to fire you. The twist in this case is that the company, home improvement retailer Menards, is using an online "civics" course as its means of persuasion. Employees who take the "voluntary" (which means you don't have to take it, but your bosses are keeping account of who did and who didn't) course are fed a bucket of anti-Obama propaganda. As this kind of thing becomes more common, there are a couple of things to remember. First, though the CEOs inevitably say they're just giving their employees the straight dope on business realities, this has absolutely nothing to do with business realities and much more to do with...

Richard Carmona, Centrist Avenger

United States Department of Health and Human Services
This is the first in a Prospect series on key U.S. Senate races. Richard Carmona might be new to campaigning, but he’s not exactly new to politics. In 2005, he was a recruiting target for Republican Senator Jon Kyl and his ally in the statehouse, then-secretary of state Jan Brewer. Phone calls were made, meetings were held, and Kyl even sent Carmona a handwritten note on his personal letterhead: “For someone who’s ‘not so political’ you sure leave an audience in awe,” Kyl wrote. “Thanks for all you did for me in Phoenix last week. I look forward to continuing our discussion at your convenience.” It’s not hard to see why Kyl—and by extension, the Republican Party—had an interest in Carmona. Just look at his biography: A Puerto Rican raised in Harlem, he dropped out of high school at 16, and shortly after enlisted in the Army. He earned his G.E.D, joined the special forces, fought in the Vietnam War, and received training as a combat medic. He’s received degrees in nursing, biology,...

Bubba Turns on the Charm in Colorado

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
By the time President Bill Clinton walked into the gym at Adams City High School in Commerce City, Colorado, the crowd was ready. Just before 6 p.m., the former president entered the stage; the students and faculty soaked him with wild applause, bringing out the familiar Clinton smile that feeds on such adoration. He thanked the school’s principal and superintendent, cracked a few jokes about being on the campaign trail, then turned serious. “I am more enthusiastic about President Obama this time than I was when I campaigned for him four years ago,” he said. “I’d like to tell you why.” That launched one of Clinton’s famous lists. There are three big questions about the future of this country. But the number of issues he enumerated in a speech that lasted almost an hour was more than three. The former president touted Obama’s accomplishments better than Obama has himself done thus far: halting the Great Recession, bringing back Detroit, expanding health-care coverage, and improving...

Chris Christie's Sly, Futile Move

(Flickr/New Jersey National Guard)
Once again, Barack Obama has proven to be the luckiest politician alive. Just when the race was tightening to a dead heat in the election’s closing days, one spectacular betrayal and one rank miscalculation on the Republican side have turned the contest back in Obama’s favor. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who will tour his storm-ravaged state today with President Obama, was all over the networks Tuesday telling what a wonderful leader his president was. “I spoke to the president three times yesterday,” Christie boasted, calling Obama “outstanding.” When Fox co-host Steve Doocy meekly asked Christie if he planned any events with Romney, Christie snarkily replied, “I have no idea nor am I the least bit concerned or interested.” Christie’s caper, of course, is so opportunist that it almost makes Mitt Romney look principled—almost. What a swell party of back-stabbers is our GOP. For Christie, who is up for re-election next year in a blue state, this caper accomplishes three things:...

Romney's Continent-Crossing Coattails

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP PHOTO/Nati Harnik) Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu, left, glances at Prime Minister Shimon Peres during a ceremony at the Knesset in Jerusalem Monday, June 17 1996. Netanyahu is expected to present his new government to the Knesset Monday, and reportedly is shaping a cabinet which will exclude or sideline his rivals in the right-wing Likud party. S himon Peres, just 89 years young, is under pressure "from politicians and ex-generals" to run again for prime minister of Israel against Benjamin Netanyahu, or so say unsourced news reports. Peres, in politics since the time of King David or at least of FDR, denies he'll give up his ceremonial post as Israel's president for another run. Ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert, according to other unreliable reports, awaits the outcome of the U.S. election before deciding whether he'll return to politics in a bid to unite Israel's fragmented center and left and save the country from Netanyahu. As the American campaign heads toward a...

Anti-Obamacare Ballot Measures: Purely Symbolic, Sometimes Ironic

(Flickr/Fibonacci Blue)
This is the seventh in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year. Ever since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed, Republicans have been desperate for ways to gut it. They hoped the Supreme Court might do the dirty work, but the Court ruled this summer that the law was constitutional. They hoped to pass new legislation, but as long as Democrats have the White House and the Senate, that's a non-starter. So instead, for the time being, they are turning to purely symbolic acts of defiance. Four states have ballot measures on November 6 that, if passed, would directly conflict with the ACA. In Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Wyoming, voters can ostensibly decide to ban any and all mandates that residents get health insurance. But these "bans" would exist in name only. That's because the measures would violate Obamacare, which requires that the state's residents get health insurance or pay a fine (which the Supreme Court calls a tax). These measures will have no...

Obama to the Rescue

When Chris Christie delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in August, he had some choice words for President Obama. “It’s time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House,” Christie thundered . If he ever genuinely believed that Obama was an “absentee leader,” the New Jersey governor has certainly had a dramatic change of mind. With his state confronting a historic level of destruction courtesy of Superstorm Sandy, Christie has been full of praise for his "pro-active leadership." This morning, he said , “The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president; personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area. The President has been outstanding in this and so have the folks at FEMA.” Obama has indeed appeared to be at his calm, commanding best during this crisis. He has made the case not only for himself but...

Fix the Debt, Destroy the Recovery

(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
David Walker announced his endorsement of Mitt Romney this week. The name might not ring a bell, but Walker was head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the number one funder of deficit-hawkery in the United States. Walker, a former Comptroller General, has described himself and his crusade as bipartisan, and it is actually helpful that he has come out of the closet as a Republican. Lately, Walker has been deeply involved with the efforts to levitate the late Bowles-Simpson Commission as a template for deficit-reduction, and has been working closely with the corporate-funded “Fix the Debt” campaign of more than 100 CEOs lobbying for an austerity grand bargain. It’s worth unpacking the economics and the politics of the austerity lobby. The Fix the Debt campaign, much like the Bowles-Simpson Commission and the propaganda of the Peterson Foundation generally, contends that the projected national debt is depressing business willingness to invest now. Presumably, businesses are worried...

One View of the Brown-Warren Race

Last spring, I wrote for The Nation on the Elizabeth Warren campaign for U.S. Senate. At the time, I would've bet against her winning. This month, I checked in to see how the campaign is doing—and came away, to my surprise, believing she may very well eke out a victory over Brown. She's got three things going for her: a well-organized ground campaign that is deploying a flood of volunteers effectively and in coordination with the local, state, and national Democrats; her calm and personable performance in the debates; and the fact that many Massachusetts voters who might otherwise have ignored the Senate race are enthusiastic about reelecting President Obama. For more, I hope you'll take a look at my reporting for The Nation— before you come back here, of course!

Romney Versus Our Better Angels

As "Frankenstorm" churns up the East Coast, it brings into relief the central argument of the 2012 campaign. Beneath all the minor squabbles and distractions, Obama vs. Romney is a contest between two starkly different views about the proper role of government. It’s Lincoln’s concept that informs the president’s approach: "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves,” the 16 th president famously said. Romney, meanwhile, has run as the faithful representative of the anti-government strain that, as Frank Rich recently wrote , has infected American politics from the git-go. One of Romney's most pointed articulations of the government-hating strain came in a primary debate last June, when he was asked about a more localized version of what millions are facing today—the devastation in Joplin, Missouri. Should the states deal with such things rather than the federal...

Higher Taxes Hurt Job Creators? That's Malarkey.

As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded—and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down—the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes. President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring those with high incomes to pay in taxes at least 30 percent of any income over $1 million (the so-called “Buffett Rule”). Mitt Romney says emphatically no. He proposes cutting tax rates by 20 percent, which would reduce taxes on the rich far more than anyone else. He also wants to extend the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, and reduce or eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains. Romney says he’ll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their share of total taxes remains the same as it is now, although he refuses to specify what...

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