Stories by Andrew Romano

  • Perry Won in Texas. But What Does That Really Prove?

    In the world of political geekery, there are few activities as exhilarating as examining election returns and explaining why what happened happened—especially for journalists like me. But just because we're having fun doesn't mean we know what we're talking about.Consider, for example, last November's gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia. When Republicans won both races, hordes of pundits rushed to their cable-TV perches and declared that the American electorate had contracted a serious case of incumbent fever, which the Merck Manual defines as "an overwhelming desire to 'kick the bums out,' whoever said bums might be." This made some sense then: the economy was bad, the Democrats were in charge, so why not trying something else?Unfortunately, it makes a whole let less sense now. Last night Rick Perry clobbered Kay Bailey Hutchison, 51 percent to 30 percent, in Texas's Republican gubernatorial primary; Debra Medina finished...
  • What the Obama-McCain Rematch Really Means

     The one small firework at today's otherwise unilluminating health-care summit was set off when Barack Obama interrupted his former presidential rival, John McCain, and told him to ditch the talking points about "unsavory" Democratic shenanigans. "John, we're not campaigning anymore," he said. "The election is over."For those of us who enjoy political theater—and I'm assuming that includes everyone who's watching the live stream and reading the Gaggle at 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon—this was a nice little moment of drama. But Obama was wrong. The election is not over. In Washington, it never is.Which brings me to the question I've been asking myself ever since this summit started four long, dull hours ago: Who are they doing this for? Who's the intended audience? I can identify two. For most of the 25 politicians at the table—like, say, John McCain—it's clearly "the folks back home": i.e., the constituents...
  • Republicans and Reconciliation Go Way Back, Too

    Earlier this afternoon, my Gaggle colleague Katie Connolly noted, quite correctly, that ""has never been used for this kind of major systemic reform." But to get a sense of exactly how much McConnell is overreacting, it's important to consider two other facts as well. First, reconciliation has not only been used to pass major health-care initiatives; it's actually been used to pass major initiatives of all sorts, including the Republicans' favorite "major systemic reform" of the last 20 years: the 1996 welfare-reform bill. And, second, it hasn't even been Democrats using reconciliation most of the time. It's been Republicans. Over at Slate (which, like NEWSWEEK, is owned by The Washington Post Company), Timothy Noah has a useful rundown of some of the biggest bills to pass through reconciliation in recent years. Take it away, Tim: Reconciliation has been used to raise taxes. It's been used to cuttaxes. It was used (by a...
  • Will Republicans Ever Appeal to Millennials?

    Yesterday, I wrote in this space about the GOP's "Ron Paul Problem," by which I meant the risk for potential presidential candidates like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty of squandering whatever swing appeal they might have in 2012 by pandering to the fringe in 2010. What I didn't mention is that Republicans also have a Ron Paul Opportunity. It's still not much of an opportunity for Paul himself, who is unlikely to run for the Republican nomination in 2012, let alone win. But if the GOP wants to build a lasting majority in the future, they could definitely stand to take a few cues from the good doctor. This has a lot to do with the party's biggest long-term problem: young people do not like Republicans. In a new poll on the politics of the so-called Millennial Generation, Pew Research reports that the GOP's current resurgence—experts like Charlie Cook expect Republicans to win back the House in November—is fueled almost exclusively by members of the...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 10: The Ron Paul Problem

    Update: for my follow-up post on "The Ron Paul Opportunity," click here. The conservatives who flocked to CPAC last weekend might not have seen eye to eye on everything, but one thing they did seem to agree on was that the conference's famous "straw poll" didn't really mean all that much─especially after organizers revealed that the winner, with 31 percent of the vote, was none other than 2008 presidential candidate and long time libertarian congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Townhall.com's Meredith Jessup warned against"read[ing] too much into these results," given that "this is definitely not an indication where the GOP primary elections are headed and certainly not a reflection of mainstream conservatives." Mike Huckabee,who tied for sixth with 4 percent of the vote, dismissed the outcome as well."CPAC has has become increasingly libertarian and less Republican over the last years," he told a reporter, "[which is]...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 9: Will Obama Lose the 'New Blue' States in 2012?

      Absurdly premature presidential-election coverage comes in all shapes and sizes, but perhaps my favorite kind of story is the one that relies on current statistical rumblings to divine the contours of a race that hasn't even started yet. The latest classic of the genre is Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin's new piece on Politico, "Dems' Blues: States Reverting to Red." Citing polling data that shows Democrats at risk of losing ground in North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and Indiana, Smith and Martin claim that "the rapid reversal in Democratic fortunes in the very places where [Barack] Obama's success brought so much attention suggests that predictions of a lasting realignment were premature." In fact, they write, it's possible that "the president's 2008 win was the result of a unique set of circumstances that will be"—gasp!—"difficult for him to replicate again" in 2012.  This is at once a) extremely obvious and...
  • Can Hayworth Beat McCain?

    Can J. D. Hayworth─the former Arizona congressman turned talk-radio host who announced yesterday that he's running as the "consistent conservative" in the Grand Canyon State's 2010 Republican Senate primary─actually beat John McCain? You know, John McCain: the two-time presidential candidate and 27-year veteran of Congress who hasn't faced a serious primary challenge since 1982?Not really. But there's a chance that McCain could beat himself. Let's start with Hayworth. Although he may be the first halfway plausible Republican torun against McCain in decades, that's not really saying much. He's too weak to sink McCain on his own. Hayworth's strategy--slam the incumbent as a "moderate"on torture, immigration, and global warming, then ride the righteous indignation of the tea-partiers all the way to the Republican nomination--is fine, as gar as it goes. But the problem is that the tea-party movement is fueled as much by...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 7: Why Scott Brown Should Run for President

     Of all the ridiculous things that have been said about incoming Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the wake of his surprising win in true-blue Massachusetts last Tuesday—like that Brown somehow represents a nationwide repudiation of universal health care even though he voted for it and was elected by people who already enjoy it—perhaps the most ridiculous is the suggestion that he should immediately pass go, collect $200 million, and start running against Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Or is it?The"Brown 4 Prez" speculation started as soon as the results rolled in.The morning after the election, reporters were already asking the senator-elect if he saw himself as "presidential timber."Matt Drudge led his site for days with the headline "NOW . . . WILL HE RUN FOR PRESIDENT?"—in giant red type. Conservative talk-show host Jesse Lee Peterson predicted that Brown " Darrell Delamaide of The Wall Street Journal wrote that Brown "is to the...
  • How Coakley Blew It in Massachusetts

      Nine days ago, on Jan. 10, The Boston Globe carried a rather heartening headline for Democrats: “Senate Poll: Coakley Up 15 Points.” Now, on the morning of the Massachusetts special election pitting "If Brown wins, and he may, it will be the biggest political upset of my adult life.” So how did this happen? Despite all the Democratic hand-wringing, garment-rending, and finger-pointing already on display in the press, the answer, I think, is actually pretty simple: the Coakley campaign took the voters of Massachusetts for granted. Usually, this wouldn't have been much of a problem; the state is so overwhelmingly Democratic that any candidate with a "D" attached to his or her name is virtually guaranteed victory. Clearly, Coakley was counting on Massachusetts's liberal history to carry her effortlessly across the finish line. But this year, in this political environment, that wasn't enough—and the assumption that it was has turned out to be the very...
  • Why the Christmas Day Plot Was a Blessing in Disguise

    Let's try a little thought experiment. Imagine you're some sort of alien life form newly arrived on planet Earth. You are neither liberal nor conservative, Republican nor Democrat. In fact, you're not even sure what those words mean. At 4:30 this afternoon, you were positioned in front of a television and forced to watch President Obama's remarks on the attempted Christmas Day terror attack, during which you learned (a) that there was an attempted Christmas Day terror attack; (b) that it failed; (c) that the attacker, a 23-year-old Qaeda-trained Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was able to board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, despite numerous red flags, because of a systemic failure to "connect the dots" across several government agencies; and (d) that the Obama administration is now beefing up our watch-list standards, improving our data-analysis procedures and capacities, conducting extended accountability reviews throughout the national...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 5: Dean vs. Obama? Are You Serious?

    Photo by Nick Davis, from Wikipedia. The dream, as a rather famous Democrat once said, shall never die. In this case, I'm not referring to the dream of a progressive future full of high-paying jobs, plentiful health care, and extremely large polar ice caps, although in the minds of its adherents, I'm sure these developments would be part of the deal. I'm referring to the dream of Howard Dean─or, more precisely, President Howard Dean. As you've probably heard by now, the former Vermont governor, DNC chairman, and presidential candidate of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" reacted to the Lieberman-fueled implosion of the Senate's Medicare buy-in compromise last week with shock and chagrin, taking to the nation's newspapers and airwaves to say that lily-livered Washington Democrats would be better off hitting the reset button on this whole health-care reform thing than going forward with the monstrosity they hath wrought. "This...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 4: Is Sarah Palin Selfish?

    Is Sarah Palin selfish? At this point, I'm sure there already are scores of passionate Palin fans poised to swarm the comments section and call me a commie for merely mentioning such a treasonous proposition. But hear me out. First of all, I don't mean to suggest that Palin is personally selfish; anyone who has ably raised five children while running an entire state clearly cares about people other than herself. I mean politically selfish. Secondly, it's not really me—a member of the dreaded mainstream media—who's asking. It's powerful players in Washington. And these powerful players just so happen to be Republicans themselves. Unlike the chaotic Democratic Party, the GOP is a top-down, wait-your-turn, establishmentarian organization. Three of the last four Republican presidents—Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I—ran for president and lost before they ran for president and won; all three of them spent the intervening years building the party from either inside (B...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 2: The Governor of Puerto Rico ... for President?

      There are four kinds of candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Politicians like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Tim Pawlenty belong in the sure-thing category; we know they'll be running because, well, they already are. Next come the wild cards: the headliners who haven't decided on anything yet ... except to keep their options open. Think Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Finally there are the long shots. Until now, I would've stocked the long-shot pool with gents like Bobby Jindal, John Thune, and Haley Barbour—prominent Republicans who occasionally inspire 2012 speculation but stand little chance of actually getting (or, for that matter, trying to get) the nod next time around. But late last week, Republican antitax activist Grover Norquist—a guy who, love him or hate him, is still pretty plugged into GOP power sources in Washington—stopped by the NEWSWEEK offices and dropped a name I'd never even heard before, let alone heard in the con...
  • Why Corzine Will Probably Win in New Jersey

     Because it's Friday--and because I'm feeling a little mischievous, this being Halloween Eve and all--I'm going to make a wildly reckless prediction about the outcome of next Tuesday's gubernatorial election in my ancestral homeland of New Jersey: incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine will beat GOP challenger Chris Christie by a hair. ...
  • Bonus Material from Our Exclusive 'Where the Wild Things Are' Roundtable

    Last week, Ramin Setoodeh and I had the honor of interviewing Maurice Sendak, Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers at Mr. Sendak’s house in Connecticut. It was the only time the creative team behind Where the Wild Things Are would be getting together to speak to the press. This morning, Newsweek posted the magazine version of our exclusive conversation, which you can read here. We think it’s the definitive WtWTA interview. Instead of reblogging portions of the official transcript, however, we thought we'd do something different here on Pop Vox: share some of the stuff that we couldn’t squeeze into print. To find out what death, danger and Discovery Channel documentaries have to do with kiddie lit, read on… NEWSWEEK: Why write about death in a children’s story?Sendak: Well, it’s a great subject. There’s a lot of charm to it. I remember when we did Hansel and Gretel, the opera. All of the kids are out in the open, unprotected from the weather, and so we had one of the little girls die....
  • Health Care: Pawlenty's Secret Weapon in 2012?

    Today in "Breaking News That's Been, Like, Totally Obvious for Months Already": Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the former veep hopeful and recovering mullet victim, wants to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Now, maybe it was the steady stream of television appearances that tipped us off. Or the increased presence at out-of-state GOP fundraisers. Or even the sleek new haircut. But for some reason, when we read over at Politico that T-Paw "has been quietly assembling the blueprint of a presidential campaign and will announce Thursday the support of a group of high-level political strategists and donors, complemented by a handful of top new media consultants," we weren't exactly surprised. ...
  • Filling Kennedy's Seat: Why Not Ask the GOP to Play Nice?

    OK, Katie. I hear what you're saying. And in theory, I agree. The current law in Massachusetts─the one that prevents a sitting governor ───So what to do? Ask the GOP to play nice. As all good U.S. History 101 students know, it requires only a simple majority of votes to pass a bill in the Senate; the Democrats currently have 59. What Dems are afraid of, then, is a Republican filibuster, which takes 60 yeas to defeat. But there's no reason why the GOP has to automatically filibuster. What if Senate Democrats─or, even better, President Obama─went on TV and used the full power of the bully pulpit to pressure some of Kennedy's former Republican chums, the ones who used to work with him regularly on bipartisan legislation, to agree not to support a GOP filibuster if (and only if) exactly 59 Democrats voted to move forward. Oppose us on this, the Dems could say, and we'll make sure everyone knows that you gleefully seized on the death of an old friend as an...