Weekly Musing 4-26-15
‘Hotline’ Shows Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz Rising in Polls Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have markedly improved ratings in the National Journal’s “Hotline” rankings of GOP presidential candidates after officially announcing their campaigns this spring, but Sen. Rand Paul’s standings dropped slightly. Rubio, of Florida, is now tied for second place with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker behind his friend and one-time mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, while Cruz comes in just behind the two, according to the publication’s rankings, which were released Friday. Paul, though, dropped one place in the Hotline rankings after his campaign rollout, after questions arose about his temper. Paul clashed with popular “Today” show correspondent Savannah Guthrie on the second day of his campaign announcement tour. For its rankings, National Journal compared the announced and potential GOP candidates’ chances of winning the 2016 nomination, comparing their strengths and weaknesses, poll numbers, and determined that Bush remained the “fragile front-runner.”
Bush is followed by a virtual tie between Walker and Rubio in second and third place, respectively, followed by Cruz and Paul. Next, moving down the line, are: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Bush remains at the top of the Hotline list, but while his name is his key money-raising asset, it may be dragging him down as people like Rubio gain power. Bush will most likely have plenty of funds to compete, but there are some in the party who worry that putting him on the ballot against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton may not give the party the best chance to take the White House next year.
Impressive Republican Field Readies to Take on Hillary
One, the Republican field of candidates (and potential candidates) is far superior to the field of Republican candidates four years ago.
Two, the GOP candidates are fresher, livelier, and less touched by scandal than the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.
And three, the Republicans have more credible rationales for seeking the presidency than does Clinton.
Encouraging as these sound, they don’t guarantee Republicans success. My one political rule: The future in politics is never a straight line projection of the present. Events intervene. The first televised debate among Republicans is four months away. The first contest, the Iowa caucuses, is nine months away. The New Hampshire primary is a week later.
That Republicans are better off than they were in the last presidential cycle is indisputable. Remember businessman Herman Cain and Representative Michele Bachmann? They were prominent candidates in the 2012 race. Each led the Republican field in at least one national poll.
This time, 10 current or former governors and four U.S. senators are in the mix. When Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination last week, the Economist wrote, “The Republican presidential field grows more crowded and more impressive.”
In his new book 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America, GOP pollster Whit Ayres provides a “checklist” for candidates. Among the items: a candidate must be optimistic, have held a major office, have an agenda that deals with the economic anxieties of middle class voters, can unite the factions of the Republican coalition, and appeals to minorities, blue-collar white voters, and young people. A Republican who meets most of these criteria, “stands a very good chance of being competitive against the Democratic nominee,” Ayres writes. A dozen or so Republicans qualify.
Best of all for Republicans, they won’t have to run against President Obama again. Clinton lacks Obama’s appeal as a candidate. At the moment, she is bent on keeping a strong rival out of the Democratic race. This is why her advisers boast of raising $2.5 billion for her campaign, a figure designed to scare challengers from running.
Our Endless Presidential Campaigns
On March 23, Ted Cruz announced he is running for president in a packed auditorium at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. On April 7, Rand Paul announced he is running for president amid the riverboat décor of the Galt House hotel in Louisville, Ky. On April 12, Hillary Clinton announced she is running for president in a brief segment of a two-minute video. On April 13, Marco Rubio announced he is running before a cheering crowd at the Freedom Tower in Miami. And these are just the official announcements.
Jeb Bush made it known in December that he is interested in running. Scott Walker’s rousing speech at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 24 left no doubt that he will enter the race. Chris Christie’s appearance in New Hampshire last week strongly suggests the same. Previous presidential candidates Mike Huckabee,Rick Perry and Rick Santorum seem almost certain to run. Pediatric surgeon Ben Carson is reportedly ready to announce his run on May 4 at the Detroit Music Hall.
With some 570 days left until Election Day 2016, the race for president is very much under way—to the dismay of a great many Americans. They find the news coverage of the candidates tiresome (what did Hillary order at Chipotle?), are depressed by the negative campaigning that is inevitable in an adversarial process, and dread the onslaught of political TV ads. Too much too soon!
Super PACs are poised to take over for traditional campaigns—starting by stealing their top talent.
Mike Murphy was destined to be the chief strategist for Jeb Bush‘s 2016 White House campaign. The California-based Republican operative has been a close friend and confidant to Bush for decades; he knows the candidate inside and out. Indeed, when the former Florida governor began the exploratory phase of his presidential effort late last year, Murphy was manning the controls—playing a central role in deciding where Bush would go, what he would say and to whom. This is precisely the part he was expected to play in Bush’s presidential effort. And yet, it is increasingly likely, according to Republicans inside Bush’s orbit, that throughout the official campaign, the candidate and confidant will barely speak.
That’s because Murphy is expected to run Bush’s super PAC—an accompanying outside group that can raise unlimited contributions, but whose officials cannot communicate with the candidate or any campaign officials.
That Bush’s team would believe it’s in his best interest to send away a top strategist is an emphatic indication that the era of super PAC supremacy has arrived. Viewed at the outset of the 2012 presidential cycle as illegitimate if not downright unethical—so much so that President Obama initially forbade his lieutenants from forming one on his behalf—super PACs emerged by Election Day 2012 as the most devastating force in modern presidential politics. Their ability to raise bottomless money, and the deployment of those funds toward destroying rival candidates, instantly altered the political landscape, and in the 2016 campaign’s nascent stages, their reach has dwarfed that of official campaigns.
When presidential contenders Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio officially jumped into the presidential race in recent weeks, each was accompanied by at least one supportive super PAC. Allies of Cruz operating a constellation of super PACs have bragged about pulling in $31 million in a single week—nearly eight times the haul Cruz’s official campaign team had been boasting about. Others, like Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry, are officially still mulling whether to run, yet there are already supportive super PAC operations up and running.
“They have so radically changed the game that serious candidates for president cannot, will not be able to compete without a very substantial super PAC or set of super PACs,” says Gregg Phillips, who was a 2012 strategist for the pro–Newt Gingrich group Winning Our Future. “If you’re a candidate, you have to raise money in $2,700 increments. If you’re a super PAC, you can raise money in million-dollar chunks.”
Congrats…and Go Katie! These Women are Teaching Republican Candidates How to Talk to Women
On this, little boys and the women of Burning Glass Consulting agree: It’s hard to talk to girls. But, lately, it seems not even local elementary schoolers are as likely to strike out as Republican politicians.
In December 2014, Missouri State Representative Rick Brattin proposed a bill that would require a woman seeking an abortion to receive signed permission from “the father of the unborn child.” Except, he added, in the event of a “legitimate rape.” In God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, which Mike Huckabee published in January, the former Arkansas governor described Beyoncé lyrics as “obnoxious and toxic mental poison” and wondered whether Jay-Z had crossed the line from husband to pimp for “exploiting his wife as a sex object.” In February, Rand Paul reminded everyone of their worst ex-boyfriends when he “shushed” CNBC anchor Kelly Evans, telling her to “calm down” in the middle of a tense interview.
Your neighborhood bully could do better. Longtime political operatives Katie Packer Gage, Ashley O’Connor, and Christine Matthews know it. In 2013, the trio joined forces to establish Burning Glass Consulting. The firm is the first of its kind—a strategy outfit designed to help Republican candidates win over female voters. And its founders—two of whom worked for Mitt Romney during his run for president in 2012—want to correct the mistakes that have undone conservative campaigns in the past.
Interesting Analysis: The Democrats’ white-voter problem — in 2 maps
Red and blue America are no more constant than our use of “blue” and “red” to describe the major political parties. Different parts of the country shift slowly over time — particularly in the longer scale of presidential politics.
To illustrate that point, you need only look back to the 2000 election, the year the “red-blue” divide was born. There have been four presidential elections since then — 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 — and while many counties have voted for one party consistently, many have also flipped back-and-forth.
Obama/Clinton Disaster in the Making: Russia and America: Stumbling to War
In the United States and Europe, many believe that the best way to prevent Russia’s resumption of its historic imperial mission is to assure the independence of Ukraine. They insist that the West must do whatever is required to stop the Kremlin from establishing direct or indirect control over that country. Otherwise, they foresee Russia reassembling the former Soviet empire and threatening all of Europe.
Conversely, in Russia, many claim that while Russia is willing to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (with the exception of Crimea), Moscow will demand no less than any other great power would on its border. Security on its western frontier requires a special relationship with Ukraine and a degree of deference expected in major powers’ spheres of influence. More specifically, Russia’s establishment sentiment holds that the country can never be secure if Ukraine joins NATO or becomes a part of a hostile Euro-Atlantic community. From their perspective, this makes Ukraine’s nonadversarial status a nonnegotiable demand for any Russia powerful enough to defend its national-security interests.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia was on its knees, dependent on Western assistance and consumed by its own internal affairs. In that context, it was not surprising that Western leaders became accustomed to ignoring Russian perspectives. But since Vladimir Putin took over in 1999, he has led a recovery of Russia’s sense of itself as a great power. Fueled by rising oil production and prices that brought a doubling of Russia’s GDP during his fifteen-year reign, Russians increasingly bridled at such treatment.
Americans would do well to recall the sequence of events that led to Japan’s attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the Second World War. In 1941, the United States imposed a near-total embargo on oil shipments to Japan to punish its aggression on the Asian mainland. Unfortunately, Washington drastically underestimated how Japan would respond. As one of the post–World War II “wise men,” Secretary of State Dean Acheson, observed afterward, the American government’s
misreading was not of what the Japanese government proposed to do in Asia, not of the hostility our embargo would excite, but of the incredibly high risks General Tojo would assume to accomplish his ends. No one in Washington realized that he and his regime regarded the conquest of Asia not as the accomplishment of an ambition but as the survival of a regime. It was a life-and-death matter to them.
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