Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The Myth of the Rational Iowa Voter

Do the supposedly wise and deliberative citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire take their responsibilities seriously? And if they don't, what does that say about the way we're choosing the next leader of the free world?

Iowans at a caucus meeting in Slater, Iowa during the 2004 presidential election. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
In the past week or so, lots of wise and serious commentators have started to say that Hillary Clinton's victory in the Democratic presidential primaries is all but inevitable. She is repeatedly described as having "solidified her lead" (see here , or here , or here ), not only because of her strength in national polls, but due to the fact that she now leads in New Hampshire by a healthy margin and is in a virtual three-way tie in Iowa. And after all, we know Iowa and New Hampshire voters aren't fickle like those in some other states. They're serious and studious, applying their down-home common sense and refusing to vote for anyone unless they look them in the eye and get a sense of the person behind the politician. It seems like just yesterday that the reporters and pundits who live for the quadrennial marathon of pandering and debasement that is the campaign for the White House were complaining that things were starting way too early. The first primary contests were over a year...


For a long time, people on both sides of the aisle have noted what a brilliant political strategist Newt Gingrich is. So one might have expected that when George Stephanopoulos asked him yesterday on "This Week" how Republicans can win the '08 election, he'd have some striking insights. Well... not so much. Here's what he said: STEPHANOPOULOS: Well if - but then if she has the best chance of getting the nomination, you're not running now, but how do you recommend that the Republican nominee takes on Senator Clinton ? GINGRICH: I think it's very simple. The left is fundamentally wrong from the standpoint of most Americans on issue after issue. Let me give you an example. A substantial plurality of Americans would abolish the capital gains tax. The Democrats would raise it. The substantial majority of Americans, like 70%, would actually provide a tax break for corporations that kept their corporate headquarters in the US the Democrats couldn't think of something like this. You go down a...

Whither the Conservative Culture War?

Last week's Values Voter Debate may have looked like an easy appeal to the base, but the absence of the Republican front runners casts doubt on whether the religious right's power is on the wane.

If you haven't already bookmarked Sarah Posner's terrific new feature here at The American Prospect Online , The FundamentaList , you might have missed it last week when the Republican candidates went deep into the heart of their base, coming before a group of conservative Christians for the Values Voter Debate. They were quizzed about abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and a host of other culture war issues by such old-line radical right luminaries as Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Weyrich, and Don Wildmon, and for sheer entertainment value, it beat any of the debates held on either side this year. Not only did the stage include four empty podiums for the candidates who by coincidence had scheduling conflicts that prevented them from attending, but the program included people asking the empty podiums questions, followed by moments of heavily symbolic silence. The reason you probably didn’t hear about the Values Voter Debate was the fact that those four missing candidates just happen...


DEEP FRIED TWINKIES AND A COW MADE OF BUTTER? THAT REMINDS ME OF SEPTEMBER 11. For a brief moment, it seemed that Rudy Giuliani was laying off the September 11 references just a bit, perhaps out of an awareness that if he lays it on too thick, people might start asking whether walking down a street pointing dramatically while being filmed, and giving a couple of good press conferences, really qualifies one to be leader of the free world. But fear not: it’s always September 12 in Rudyville, particularly when confronted by a potentially hostile conservative audience. Speaking before the NRA, Rudy explained why his history of criticizing the group as extremists and his lawsuit against gun manufacturers are just bygones that should be bygones. Although he wasn't specific about whether he now favors providing every man, woman and child with an AR-15 to mow down the terrorists who could soon be crawling through our streets, he did say that September 11 put "a whole different emphasis...

Voting for Strategy Over Policy

Voters can't -- and shouldn't -- judge who has the best health-care plan without hearing a persuasive case for why each candidate can overcome the political obstacles that stand in the way of meaningful reform.

On more than a few occasions in recent years, astute commentators (mostly in the blogosphere) have chastised Democratic politicians for talking strategy in public. To take just one example, instead of demonstrating their strength and principles in national security, the politicians say things like, "We've got to demonstrate our strength and principles in national security." The 2004 campaign showed the danger of integrating political strategy too much from the voter's end: John Kerry became the Democratic nominee in no small part because of the perception that he was "electable," a judgment that turned out to be based on faulty premises both about what makes a winning campaign and what Republicans would or would not stoop to (i.e. having their dynamic duo of draft-dodgers attack the military service of a war hero). So the lesson many reasonably learned is that candidates should talk about substance, not strategy; what they want to do, not how people will perceive what they want to do...