Alec MacGillis

Senior Editor

A few weeks ago, I raised a question here on The Stump that had been bothering me for some time—why were the big voter registration outfits like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote pulling out of the Electoral College gold mine of Florida in response to the harsh new restrictions there on registering voters, rather than plowing ahead with their work?

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My apologies for the lack of posts today – spent the day at a terrific policy seminar far from the madding crowd (did Obama say something about Romney and bin Laden?) Posting may also be light in the next few days as I dig into reporting a feature piece. But seeing that as I am now riding good old Amtrak, I figured that would be a good occasion to …announce a run for president!

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Four years ago, the McCain campaign decided that the only way to overcome Barack Obama’s star power was to try and turn it into a negative. The campaign made up its “Celebrity” ad, which, amid images of Obama being cheered by a huge throng in Berlin, compared him to Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton. The ad’s narrator asked: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world—but is he ready to lead?”  This tack wasn’t enough to bring Obama down in 2008, but the opposition had decided to try it again this year—with a bit of a twist.

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One bit of Barack Obama’s recent interview with Rolling Stone has caused a little stir: He talked about climate change! After not mentioning it once in the 2011 State of the Union, nor in his recent Earth Day proclamation, Obama had this to say when the magazine brought up the issue: “I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.

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I don’t usually wade into global economic policy here on the Stump, but as Mitt Romney reminded us in his speech last night, the 2012 presidential race is “still about the economy—and we’re not stupid.” So after coming across a particular pet peeve of mine just now, I’m going to wade on in. In its lead editorial today, the Wall Street Journal pushes back at the broadening ranks urging Germany to loosen up on its austerity mantra for Europe. I’m not going to get into that fight now—I figure this guy’s got it under control.

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With Mitt Romney sweeping the table against the sad remnants of the sorriest presidential field in years, the real action last night was in the Pennsylvania congressional primaries, where much of Washington's political press was caught completely off guard. Democratic primary voters knocked out two incumbent congressmen—Tim Holden, who’s represented his district between Harrisburg and Allentown for 20 years, and Jason Altmire, who won his district north of Pittsburgh in the 2006 Democratic wave. Both men found themselves in districts sharply redrawn by Pennsylvania Republicans.

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For all the talk these days about activists trying to rein in corporate spending on political campaigns and conservative outfits like ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), I’m a little surprised there hasn’t been more of an upwelling against the individual donors who are, arguably, having an even more outsized role in the post-Citizens United landscape. I wrote recently about fledgling efforts by some state treasurers to consider using their states’ pension funds as a way to encourage greater transparency in political spending by big Wall Street money managers.

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Left without a manufactured scandal or over-hyped gaffe to talk about these past few days, the media circus has turned its attention to matters of a higher order: campaign semiotics.

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This morning I wrote about Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell trying out the Etch-a-Sketch on his abortion stance. But as Mitt Romney showed just moments later, he remains the unquestioned master of this machine. Here, children, is how it’s really done: March 5:  At a town hall meeting in Ohio today, Romney was asked how he planned to help students better afford college.

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The Washington Post’s Metro section, which despite depleted resources continues to do a bang-up job covering the D.C. region, had a sharp story on Sunday raising the terrifying prospect that Etch-a-Sketchism is a highly contagious disease. Apparently, for Republican politicians, mere contact with Mitt Romney is enough to lead them to start erasing and revising central elements of their political profile to make themselves palatable to the electorate at hand.

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