Elections

Romney's Wealth Problem

(Flickr/401K)
Americans have come to expect a certain patrician baseline from their political class. Congress is stocked full of millionaires, and in the 2008 campaign Joe Biden was considered working class for riding Amtrak, despite having a net worth in the hundreds of thousands. No one bats an eye now when Rick Santorum whines about his meager means on the debate stage then releases tax returns revealing that he rakes in over $900K a year. Yet, Mitt Romney's wealth has served as an albatross to his campaign. We might be used to millionaires running for president, but Romney would rank among the richest handful of presidents if elected. His vast fortune is more than double the total worth of the past eight presidents combined. Newt Gingrich played on resentments of Romney's wealth to great success in South Carolina before dialing back his attacks once the Republican establishment turned on him, accusing the former speaker of employing leftist critiques of capitalism. Romney's campaign has danced...

Where Does Obama Stand?

(AP Photo)
If you are a committed Democrat or partisan Republican, then it seems that, for today at least, you have two polls to choose from. Republicans can look with glee at a USA Today and Gallup poll of registered voters in swing states , where former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum holds a 50–45 lead over President Obama, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney takes first place at 48 to 46. By contrast, the new Battleground Poll from Politico and George Washington University—which focuses on the same swing states—is exceptionally favorable to Democrats and supporters of the president. In this survey, President Obama’s approval rating increased to 53 percent—up from 44 percent in November—and he leads Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum by 10 and 11 points, respectively. Indeed, against a generic Republican, this lead shrinks to a still-impressive 5 points. His greatest gain comes from voters who say they “approve strongly” of the president. In November, they represented 27 percent of...

Meanie Mitt Pulls Ahead

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's improbable moment atop the GOP field seems likely to fade away just as quickly as his anti-Romney predecessors. A pair of new numbers from Public Policy Polling point toward tomorrow being a triumphant day for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor leads by an insurmountably wide margin in Arizona. He's up 43-26 percent over Santorum, and carried early voters—which will constitute nearly half of Arizona's total vote count—by 48-25. And after trailing Santorum by as much as 15 percent three weeks ago, Romney has reopened a slight Michigan lead of 2 percent. Again, PPP found that Romney dominated early voters (62-29 over Santorum), though they represent a far smaller share of the Michigan bloc. It looks as though Romney's negative assault on his opponents' record and character has worked yet again. Santorum's favorability numbers plummeted over the past several weeks. One week ago PPP had Santorum with a +44 net favorability in Michigan; today, that number is...

Obama's Michigan Pitch

As Republicans blanket the Michigan airwaves with negative ads haranguing each other before Tuesday's primary, Barack Obama's reelection campaign has released a Michigan-centric spot touting the success of the auto bailout. Titled, "Made in America," the ad takes a similar tone to the Chrysler/Clint Eastwood "Halftime in America" Super Bowl commercial, both filled with nostalgic tinged images of past American manufacturing greatness before highlighting car production as a means to restore the country's economy. "Made in America. For generations of Michigan autoworkers it's more than a slogan, it's a way of life," the ad's gruff narrator intones. The ad starts off with the positive take on those hardworking Michiganders and the success of the bailouts, but also mixes in attacks for Republican opposition to the president's plan. After flashing an image of all the candidates on the debate stage, the commercial highlights Mitt Romney's "let Detroit go bankrupt" quote, a clear indication...

How To Make Romney Look Popular

(Ford Field/Kevin Yezbick)
Mitt Romney is set to speak before the Detroit Economic Club later this morning to expound upon his recently unveiled tax policy. Befitting the importance his campaign has placed on the event and his self-perceived status as the frontrunner, Romney will address the group at Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions, a stadium which seats 65,000. The only problem for the Romney campaign is that there isn't a throng of thousands interested in turning out during lunch for a lesson on fiscal policy. As the Detroit Free Press reported , the stage and audience will be situated to make the 1,200 attendees look as if it's as packed as any NFL game: The Romney campaign and the Economic Club think they've solved the problem. The guests will be seated at one end of the playing surface, roughly between the end zone and the 30-yard line, while Romney will speak from a stage in front of them. About 100 news media representatives and 50 or so TV cameras will set up behind the guests, so that it will be...

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

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
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...

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