Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Could Santorum Be the Next Boom?

Rick Santorum secured the most coveted Iowa endorsement earlier today when Bob Vander Plaats lent his support to the former senator's presidential bid. Howeve,r the Family Leader—the organization he created at the start of the year—will remain neutral after the group's board members could not come to a consensus. Chuck Hurley, president of the anti-same-sex marriage Iowa Family Policy Center, also endorsed Santorum this morning. Since his group folded into the Family Leader at the start of the year, the combo's announcement operates as a de facto group endorsement. Vander Plaats' word carries wide sway among Iowa's social conservative base as a result of his frequent (and unsuccessful) gubernatorial runs and the campaign he led against three state Supreme Court judges last fall. Mike Huckabee selected Vander Plaats as his 2008 Iowa campaign chairman, so the endorsement could be an indication that Huckabee's former supporters are shifting Santorum's way. All of the candidates competing...

Obama Inches Up to 50 Percent Approval

After months of low approval ratings, President Obama’s popularity has begun to trend upwards toward 50 percent. According to the latest survey from ABC News and The Washington Post , Obama has advanced to a 49 percent approval rating. What’s more, he maintains a substanial advantage over Republicans in Congress on who the public trusts to protect the middle-class, 50 to 35 percent. This is almost certainly a product of the recent fights over payroll tax cuts and the unemployment insurance extension, where the president is on the side of most Americans, compared to congressional Republicans, who are pushing forward on a deeply unpopular position. On the economy, his approval rating is 41 percent, but this is an improvement from earlier in the year, when it was near 30 percent. The Washington Post and ABC News aren’t the only ones to document Obama’s rising stock with the public. In their most recent survey of the public, CNN found that 49 percent of the public approves of the...

Getting Gingrich's Goat

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA —Newt Gingrich appears to have finally realized that debates might not be enough to win him the nomination. After leaving the state following last Thursday's debate, Gingrich returned to Iowa yesterday, hosting two events and announcing a 44-stop tour in the lead up to the January 3 caucus. That might all be too little, too late, as his most recent poll numbers have dropped after Gingrich skyrocketed to the top last month. The former House speaker’s opponents have worked together to take him down, with Ron Paul's campaign and a pro-Romney Super PAC overwhelming Iowans with commercials and mailers. "Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich's image as being a strong conservative," Tom Jenson of Public Policy Polling wrote after the latest survey showed Gingrich slipping badly. "Now only 36 percent of voters believe that he has 'strong principles,' while 43 percent think he does not." One would expect Gingrich to respond in kind,...

Gingrich's Campaign Finance Hypocrisy

Newt Gingrich returned to Iowa yesterday with a newfound distaste for Citizens United . Tapping into his inner Lawrence Lessig, Gingrich stumped against his opponents' Super PACs—primarily Romney's even if he doesn't recognize the name—for blitzing Iowa with a barrage of negative ads, such as this one: Gingrich is assaulting the prevalence of Super PACs now that his poll numbers have dropped as a result of recent attack ads, but he hasn't exactly turned that criticism on himself. Solutions 2012 was formed earlier this year by Becky Burkett, a former aide who had solicited funds for a Gingrich nonprofit. The LA Times reported that the group has penciled in an operating budget of $10 million to support the former speaker's presidential ambitions. A second pro-Gingrich Super PAC called Winning Our Future popped up last week and has already cut an ad touting Gingrich's conservative credentials (to be fair that ad does avoid the negative campaigning that has been Gingrich's main point of...

Obama is Not a Lifelong Politician

This morning, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made an appearance on MSNBC with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, where he made this odd claim about President Obama: "I think that the only way we’re gonna get President Obama out of the White House - because it’s HARD to replace an incumbent - is if we have someone run against him who is different than a lifelong politician. … There’s nothing wrong with being a lifelong politician: We got one in the White House right now. I’m not sure if this is a lie—it wouldn’t be Romney’s first—or a misunderstanding, but either way, it’s inaccurate. Barack Obama won his first campaign for the Illinois state senate in 1996, at the age of 35. If we mark that as the beginning of his political career, then Obama has been a “career politician” for the better part of 16 years. Mitt Romney also began his political career in the 1990s; in 1994, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for a Massachusetts Senate seat against Ted Kennedy. And given the...

Gingrich's Judicial Attack Wins Over Religious Right

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA —Newt Gingrich's redefinition of separation of powers from the understanding of the past few centuries continues to come under fire from his fellow conservatives. "His comments about the justices and the Congress, sending the Capitol police to bring in judges—that’s not exactly a practical idea or a constitutional idea,” Mitt Romney said on Fox News last night. Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey shared that sentiment, telling The New York Times that "it would lead us to become a banana republic, in which administrations would become regimes, and each regime would feel it perfectly appropriate to disregard decisions of courts staffed by previous regimes." The impractical proposal is doing Gingrich no favors with national conservatives, but I speculated yesterday that they weren't his true audience; he's instead signaling to evangelicals—particularly in Iowa—that he is on their side. Gingrich hosted a town hall in Davenport, Iowa Monday where a small crowd...

The One Percent Strikes Back

It's not a joke. In response to the Occupy Wall Street movement, a band of one-percenters—including JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who made $23 million in 2012; and John A. Allison IV, a director of BB&T Corp.—has started a campaign to rescue rich CEOs' tattered image. Calling themselves the Job Creators Alliance, the group plans media appearances, pens op-eds, and comes up with talking points to defend executives from the 99 percent who, at least in terms of wages, has seen little trickle down from Wall Street for the last two decades. Bernard Marcus, a founding member of the alliance, isn't worried about Occupiers being offended by his organization's mission. “Who gives a crap about some imbecile? Are you kidding me?” he told Businessweek. “If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit," chimed in billionaire Tom Golisano. They've come parroting the standard defense: That they deserve the money they get and that they create jobs...

Primary Campaigns: Very Predictable, But Still Fun

When Newt Gingrich began his presidential run, he said that he was such a transformative and revolutionary figure that a regular kind of campaign just wasn't capable of containing and advancing his unique brand of awesomeness. He proved this by going away on a two-week cruise to Greece, whereupon most of his staff quit in frustration. But just a few weeks ago, it began to look like Newt may have been right, and that his unusual way of running for president -- starting with being a uniquely unpopular figure, then eschewing the normal things candidates do, like raising money and organizing supporters -- might not stop him from becoming the Republican nominee. But alas, now Newt seems to be coming back down to earth. A number of polls in the last week have shown him falling both nationally and in Iowa, where the caucuses are two weeks away. So what does this, and everything that has come before, tell us? I think what it tells us is that even the craziest campaign often has the most...

The Arpaio Effect

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report saying that under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s leadership, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has violated the Fourth Amendment and Title VI through a consistent “pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.” “MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos,” the report found. One expert quoted in the report said it was “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he has ever personally seen in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature.” No one familiar with Sheriff Arpaio will be surprised at the findings of the DOJ investigation—the self-described publicity hound’s exploits, which include making prisoners wear pink underwear and housing prisoners in tent cities, are well documented. But the fact that the DOJ called the sheriff out in a tangible way is a switch in direction for the...

Dear Politifact, I'm Not Sure that "Lie" Means What You Think It Does

You might remember that earlier this year, House Republicans passed a version of Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” as their budget for 2011. In addition to its draconian cuts to a constellation of different social services, the GOP buget added a series of “reforms” to Medicare, which were presented as a means to “save” the program. In reality, Republicans had crafted a voucher program whose value was so low that, eventually , seniors would have to pay the bulk of their medical costs out of pocket. And while Republicans could credibly claim to have reduced Medicare spending with their reforms, it wasn’t through any mechanism that reduced the overall rate of health care spending in the economy. Rather, Republicans would “save” universal health insurance for seniors by dismantling it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Democrats attacked Republicans for this, and portrayed the GOP as on a crusade to destroy Medicare and end universal health insurance for seniors. The response from...

Ringside Seat

“The Republican Party has gone insane,” influential conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote this morning. He was referring to GOP’ers support for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, despite those candidates’ one-time backing of individual mandates to buy health insurance—a cardinal sin for conservatives. But he might just as well have been talking about the Republican nomination race writ large, which has turned into a political version of Pick Six. Fifteen days before the Iowa caucuses, the Gingrich bubble has burst , his support dropping by half. Ron Paul is leading in Iowa now—unless, of course, he’s actually already lost. Romney is the inevitable nominee again —though a few days ago he was a dead man walking. Perry and Bachmann and Santorum are all sneaking up on the frontrunners in Iowa, while Jon Huntsman is climbing in New Hampshire. Everyone’s a winner! So They Say “We posed for a picture, just celebrating the fact that we had raised a lot of money and then we hoped to be...

The Latest Proposition

Opponents of California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, have started collecting the 807,615 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. It’ll be a slog—they have to have them all by May 14. Earlier this year, Equality California, the largest organization in the state fighting for same-sex marriage rights, declined to participate in the effort to gather signatures, citing the uncertainty of a win at the ballot box and the pending lawsuit against Prop. 8, which the Ninth Circuit is set to decide on soon. This leaves Love, Honor, Cherish (LHC)—another gay-rights organization—leading the way. It’s difficult to guess whether LHC will succeed in its effort to put Prop. 8 to a vote. But it is woefully underprepared to launch an advocacy campaign that can outgun the opposition. LHC is pretty short on cash; whereas Equality California received $3.2 million in contributions in 2010, LHC says it has only $500,000. The results of a recent poll—in which 48 percent...

Now is the Time to Buy Perry

As per my earlier post on Newt Gingrich’s collapse in Iowa, here is how Intrade rates the current odds for victory in the Iowa caucuses: In essence, conventional wisdom has moved away from the view that Gingrich will emerge from Iowa as the winner, and toward the (more accurate) view that the race is a toss-up between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. With his ground game and appeals to evangelical voters—he’s moved to 10 percent support in the latest Public Policy Polling survey—Rick Perry still has a shot at a strong finish in Iowa, but that isn’t reflected in the Intrade numbers; so far, he’s valued at about 9-to–1 odds. Given the extent to which Perry is still a viable contender for the nomination—or at least, he’s still plausible as a nominee—then it would be silly to pass up these odds, especially if you’re the kind of person who bets on political outcome. Right now, Perry is a steal.

Latinos Flock to Swing States

One of President Obama’s big advantages in 2012 is the extent to which his demographic coalition is growing at a faster rate than the Republican one. Yes, like almost all Democratic presidential candidates since the 1960s, Barack Obama will lose the white vote by considerable margins, but a larger Latino vote—plus similar margins for turnout and vote share—could offset that. At the moment, according to the latest poll from Univision, two-thirds of Latinos approve of Obama’s job performance. More importantly, the Latino population has grown fastest in the swing states that will prove crucial to the president’s reelection effort. This chart from the Wall Street Journal offers a nice illustration of the fact: Of course, with all of this, it’s important to remember that high Latino turnout is not a given. Indeed, Univision found that 53 percent of Latinos are less enthusiastic about Obama than they were in 2008. A larger electorate might offset this somewhat, but how much is an open...

Full Court Press

DAVENPORT, IOWA —Newt Gingrich's preposterous claim that, as president, he would ignore court decisions he didn’t like and subject the judiciary to congressional and presidential review has received the proper amount of ridicule from the press today. Scott Lemieux and Paul Waldman have already delved into the topic here at the Prospect , but these attacks aren’t solely coming from the left. This morning the Wall Street Journal ran the headline "Gingrich vs. Courts Echoes South's Criticism of 1950s Segregation Decisions," which even among the most conservative crowds won't be a favorable comparison. It's a proposal so unhinged that it might be the final straw that forces establishment Republicans to distance themselves from Gingrich. But it's a popular sentiment on the judiciary among the caucus voters Newt needs to win Iowa. Judicial politics have become the cause célèbre among the state's social conservative grassroots ever since Varnum v. Brien, the landmark 2009 decision in which...

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