Elections

A Disaster Waiting to Happen

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Under President Obama, judicial vacancies—and “judicial emergencies”—have become a common feature of the federal bench. Vacant seats have gone unfilled for years, and as a result, district courts around the country have been unable to operate at full capacity. Liberals are quick to blame Republicans, and for good reason; from the moment Obama entered office, GOP senators were committed to an unprecedented campaign of obstruction. Legislation and nominees were held up for the most trivial of complaints, and sometimes, no reason at all. But the president bears responsibility as well; neither judicial nor executive branch nominations were ever a priority for his administration, and at this point— reports the Chicago Tribune —Obama is on track to have an incredibly ineffectual presidency when it comes to filling the federal bench: Barack Obama is close to becoming the first president in at least half a century to finish a full term without making an appointment to a U.S. appeals court,...

Republican Women Still Like Rick Santorum

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Yet another poll shows Rick Santorum with a lead among Republican women; according the latest survey from ABC News and The Washington Post , 57 percent of Republican women have a favorable view of the former Pennsylvania senator, compared to the 61 percent who have a favorable view of Mitt Romney. What’s more, as The Post notes, Romney has higher negative ratings among GOP women than Santorum does—28 percent to 18 percent. There is at least one reason to be suspicious of this result; the sample of Republican women in this poll—137 people, or 13 percent of all respondents—isn’t large, and the margin of error on the survey is ±9.5 percentage points. But even if we take the lower bound as the actual result, it still comes as a surprise to learn that, among Republicans at least, there isn’t much of a gender gap between the two candidates. Indeed, the same is also true as far as their unpopularity is concerned. Santorum is viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of Democratic women and 36 percent...

What Drove the Santorum Surge?

Rick Santorum’s three wins in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri played a large part in raising his profile, but the whole of his surge is hard to explain with those wins alone. At YouGov, Michael Tesler finds that the Santorum surge is both a product of winning and a result of the intense national conversation over contraception: To put this to words, respondents with the highest levels of “moral conservatism” began to respond to Santorum around the same time that the administration handed down the birth control mandate for religiously-affiliated institutions. Here is Tesler with more: [M]orally conservative voters seem to have flocked to Santorum as they acquired more information about his similarly strong opposition to gay rights and abortion—an activation process that was probably accelerated by the influx of recent attention to these and other “culture war” issues in the news media. Unfortunately for Santorum, this just increases the likelihood that he becomes pigeonholed as a “...

Why Arizona is "in Play" This November

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If John McCain weren’t on the ballot in 2008, you could make a strong case that his state, Arizona, would have been in play for Democrats, regardless of who they nominated. Hispanics were a huge share of the population, a significant share of the electorate—at 16 percent of all voters in the state—and a solid block of supporters for the Democratic Party—in 2008, they supported Barack Obama with 55 percent of the vote. The percentage of Hispanics in Arizona has remained steady since then, at around 30 percent , but the voting age population has increased to 845,000, and now constitutes 19 percent of Arizona residents of voting age, up from 17 percent in 2008. What’s more, intense Republican antagonism—through intrusive, draconian laws—have thoroughly alienated Hispanic voters. All of this is to say that conditions have moved Arizona to the column of states which are “in play,” and recent polls bear that out. For example, in its latest survey of the state, Public Policy Polling found...

Congressional Battle Ready

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who is making her second run for Congress, lost both her legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004. Duckworth first ran for Congress in 2006, but lost to Republican Peter Roskam. Now, the EMILY’s List candidate looks poised to win her primary in the Illinois 8th, and the seat in November. A 48-year-old Iraq War veteran, Duckworth has based much of her platform on veterans’ advocacy—a cause that was sparked by her first-hand experience recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I talked to Duckworth about a range of issues, but it was Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s comment about women in combat that sparked the greatest reaction. Duckworth, the daughter of a veteran, joined ROTC over 20 years ago, as a graduate student, and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the few combat positions open to women at the time. She went on to become one of the first women to fly combat missions in...

And the Winner Is: Barack Obama

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Without question, the winner of Wednesday’s Republican debate was Barack Obama. This wasn’t apparent at the beginning; during the first forty minutes, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul argued about earmarks, and made the usual promise to cut taxes, cut spending, and magically balance the budget. But by the end of the event, the candidates had revealed their hostility toward women and Latinos, and further ensured that they would stay on Obama’s side into the fall. It wasn’t actually until after the first commercial break that moderator John King asked the candidates about the elephant in the room—birth control. After Gingrich went through the usual motion of insulting King for posing the question, the candidates embarked on a fantastic voyage of obfuscation, dishonesty, and outright attacks on women’s health. Mitt Romney, whose ancestors were driven from the country by the government for their religious beliefs, began the exchange with an attack on the...

Women for Santorum?

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
If this new poll from the Associated Press is any indication, Republicans have mixed feelings about the presidential race. On one hand, 60 percent of Republican say that they are satisfied with the people running for the nomination, which is down from the 66 percent in October. This isn’t a great number, but it isn’t a sign of widespread disappointment, and it dovetails with polls from Gallup that show a broad preference for sticking with candidates that are in the race, rather than reaching for someone new. That said, only 40 percent of Republicans say they have any interest in the race, which is down from 48 percent in December. Some of this comes from election fatigue—constant coverage can result in people losing interest. What’s more, the race has stabilized considerably since January, and has probably lost some of its excitement. The general election should energize Republicans, since they’ll have a nominee and a direct competitor, in the form of President Obama. Even still, the...

Even if He Wins, He Loses

(Pyrrhus of Epirus/Wikipedia)
For as much as the campaign has tried to deny it, Michigan is a must-win for Mitt Romney. His father served as governor, and Romney is something of a native son among Republicans in the state. Winning wouldn’t seal the nomination, but it would block an avenue of growth for Rick Santorum, who—at this point—is his chief rival. By contrast, losing Michigan could send his campaign into a tailspin, as Republicans panic over the electoral viability of their strongest candidate. With all of that in mind, today brings a little good news for the Romney campaign, by way of an endorsement from The Detroit News , the second-largest newspaper in the state. In its endorsement, The News praises Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital—which has previously been a liability for the former Massachusetts governor—and presents Romney as the most electable conservative. Not everything is praise, however; they dissent from his attack on the bailout of the automobile industry, which is credited with reviving the...

Virginia Backs Down on Mandatory Transvaginal Ultrasound

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
*Update: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell retracted his support of transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions Wednesday afternoon. In a statement released to the press, McDonell said : Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure. The new bill makes the transvaginal ultrasound voluntary but requires an external, non-invasive, ultrasound. Since it passed the House of Delegates last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has maintained that he would sign a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, should it reach his desk. Not only does this place him on the wrong side of reproductive health advocates—who (...

Santorum's Problem: the American People

The National Review ’s Rich Lowrey argues that the media is out to get Rick Santorum for his unapologetic social conservatism: Santorum is a standing affront to the sensibilities and assumptions of the media and political elite. That elite is constantly writing the obituary for social conservatism, which is supposed to wither away and leave a polite, undisturbed consensus in favor of social liberalism. Santorum not only defends beliefs that are looked down upon as dated and unrealistic; he does it with a passionate sincerity that opens him to mockery and attack. It’s absolutely true that Santorum—or rather, his beliefs—are a “standing affront” to the sensibilities of the elites. But this is also true of the country at large. Like it or not, most Americans support abortion rights, the wide availability of contraception, and an equal role for women in the public sphere. They like public schools—even if they could use improvement—and they aren’t on board with Santorum’s hostility to gay...

More Reasons Not to Look for a Brokered Convention

Library of Congress The 1920 Republican National Convention. With Mitt Romney unable to build support with a solid majority of Republicans, and the only alternative—Rick Santorum—an unelectable disaster, some Republicans have floated the possibility of a brokered convention, where party leaders decide the nominee for themselves. There are a few practical problems with this scenario; first, a new candidate would have had to enter the race two months ago, in order to have a chance at amassing a substantial portion of delegates. Moreover, it’s been forty years since individual party leaders controlled large portions of delegates. In other words, there are no delegates for GOP elites to actually broker. Then there’s the issue of Republican voters themselves. If this new survey from Gallup and USA Today is any indication, Republicans aren’t too keen on the idea of a brokered convention: By 66%–29%, the Republicans and Republican-leaning independents surveyed say it would be better if one...

Chart of the Day

By way of Mother Jones is this great chart comparing the costs of presidential elections from 1860 to the present: What’s remarkable is the extent to which election costs are very stable, at least until the last eight years, when they begin to explode. 2012 promises to be an even more expensive election, but I’d be careful before attributing that to Super PACs. Any number of things could be responsible for the change, from the growth of independent groups—which predates Citizens United —to the revolution in small donors we saw during the 2008 campaign. Even without anonymous donors and eccentric billionaires pumping millions into campaigns, it’s possible that we’d still face an extraordinarly expensive campaign season.

There is No Catholic Vote

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Writing at The New Republic , Ed Kilgore contests the oft-mentioned idea that there is a distinguishable “Catholic vote” that is mobilized by issues like birth control: The more you look at the numbers, the idea that there is some identifiable Catholic vote in America, ready to be mobilized, begins to fade towards irrelevance. In the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections, Catholics voted within a couple of percentage points of the electorate as a whole. […] The idea that Catholics no longer behave self-consciously as “Catholics” on hot-button issues reflects the broader reality that they have become hard to distinguish from other Americans in their political behavior. The fight over birth control coverage in the Affordable Care Act has led to a lot of prognostication about the fate of the so-called “Catholic vote.” Republican strategists believe that Catholics are now ripe for the picking, and liberals like Time ’s Amy Sullivan see the administration’s actions as a recipe for...

Charles Portis's Guide to the GOP

An obscure book that just might explain the GOP race better than any pundit could

(Flickr/Austin Kleon)
Does today's Republican Party baffle you? Then I can help. A too-little-known book called Masters of Atlantis explains absolutely everything: They're Gnomons. Gnomons, every last one. While this is an inflammatory charge, I don't think I'm being reckless. If Masters of Atlantis can be trusted—and for reasons that will soon be apparent, I see no reason why it shouldn't be—Gnomonism, or Gnomonry, was introduced to the United States soon after World War I by Lamar Jimmerson, an ex-doughboy reared under Indiana's placid blue sky. While serving in France, he came into possession of a rare copy of the Codex Pappus: the only surviving repository of Atlantean wisdom, "committed to the waves on that terrible day when the rumbling began." Swiftly converted from his dabblings in Freemasonry, Jimmerson—whose utter sincerity is in no doubt, by the way—founded the American branch of the Gnomon Society. His proselytizing for Atlantis's teachings won few adherents at first, but Gnomonry's vogue among...

Romney's Trouble On The Ground

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I've been arguing over the last few days for journalists to be wary of the Santorum bubble, which I think will pop before it amounts to much, despite the current bounce in the polls. But Nate Silver raised an important point I missed earlier this week: It is not clear, however, how much emphasis Mr. Romney has placed on this part of his campaign. When I visited the various campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney’s office was the busiest and the best run (although Ron Paul’s was reasonably close). Still, Mr. Romney’s office in Manchester was the only one he had in the state. In contrast, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards each had 16 field offices in New Hampshire in advance of the 2008 primaries there. I noticed a similar dynamic when I was on the trail in Iowa and Florida. Romney certainly outpaced his rivals when it came to campaign organization, even on the basics. It was at times bewildering covering Gingrich events without knowing where to park,...

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