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“The Undercard”: What Will Be The Fate Of The GOP Candidates Who Didn’t Make The Cut?

So the hammer finally dropped on seven Republican presidential candidates who did not make Fox News’ top ten national polling threshold for the first official debate of the cycle: Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. They have been relegated to a 5:00 PM “forum” on Fox tomorrow that will last an hour; the top ten will rumble for two hours at 9:00 PM.

One of the story-lines for the next couple of weeks will be the fate of the candidates who didn’t make the cut. Will the media start treating them like the Walking Dead? Will donors and previously committed activists abandon them? Will any of them see the handwriting on the wall and just drop out? Or could this whole make-the-top-ten obsession of the last couple of months turn out to have been a chimera?

You’d have to figure that three of the leftover candidates have a survival advantage. Perry has gotten off to a good start substantively and in terms of early Iowa impressions. He also has a lifeline to Texas and Christian Right money. Fiorina remains a candidate other Republicans want to push in front of cameras to savage Hillary Clinton without the appearance of male pigginess. And Lindsey Graham is this cycle’s clown prince, beloved by media for his jokiness, his moderation on some domestic issues, and his mad bomber hawkiness on foreign policy, making him a nice matched set with Rand Paul.

As long as Rick Santorum has Foster Friess willing to finance his Super-PAC, however, he can probably stick around. And what else does Bobby Jindal have to do? Govern Louisiana? Hah!

In the wake of not making the Fox cut, Team Jindal has settled on an interesting reaction: predicting Bobby will overwhelm the field with his Big Brain (per Buzzfeed‘s Rosie Gray):

The Bobby Jindal campaign likewise responded with a certain level of disdain for its fellow undercard debaters.

“Unlike other candidates, Bobby has a tremendous bandwidth for information and policy,” said Jindal spokesperson Shannon Dirman. “He’s smart, has the backbone to do the right thing, and his experience has prepared him well for debates on any number of policy topics. If anyone thinks they can beat him in a debate I’d love to learn about it.”

Bobby used the term “bandwidth” himself a couple of times during Monday’s Voters First Forum in NH. It’s apparently the new term for “smartest guy in the room,” which will probably be etched on Jindal’s political tombstone. He’s got all the arrogance of Donald Trump, but without the poll numbers.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Fox News, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Evoking A Powerful Sense Of Deja Vu”: When Canada Looks At Donald Trump, All We Can See Is Rob Ford

Watching the bizarre Republican nomination race for the presidential nomination leads to a strange realization: it’s even more bizarre than the last one. So far, this one is completely dominated by New York billionaire Donald Trump, who has bombasted his way to the top of the polls. The presidential wannabe has dominated clickbait-driven media with a string of wacky statements, describing Mexicans as rapists, denying John McCain is a war hero and suggesting Sarah Palin would be an effectual cabinet member.

But for many Canadians – especially those who live in its largest city, Toronto – Trump’s loopy campaign is evoking a powerful sense of deja vu. Trump looks, sounds and smells an awful lot like former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Trump has the Ford bluster down perfectly.

Both candidates draw from the very basics of that master communicator, late President Ronald Reagan. No publicity is bad publicity, so keep the media firestorms coming. And the facts, they are stupid things (Reagan said this in an erroneous effort to quote John Adams, who said the facts are stubborn things). Ford said he would solve the city’s financial problems, repeating the phrase “gravy train” ad nauseam as a means of trashing wasteful government spending. Trump has stated – in one of the looniest proposed policies ever heard – that the Mexican government would foot the bill for a huge wall along the US-Mexico border.

Ford and Trump both touted their records as successful businessmen, failing to mention that they were born into considerable inherited wealth. Ford repeatedly spoke of the incredible savings he was responsible for while defending his position as mayor. Trump continually speaks of the vast fortune he has amassed (over $8bn, by his count), though the evidence of his financial worth is open to question.

Yet despite their wealth, both Ford and Trump managed to appeal to the protest vote. As Christopher Ingraham noted in the Washington Post, Trump’s remarkable bolt to the top of the polls has to do with one word: anger. Like Trump, Ford played this card remarkably well, consistently pointing to spending waste by a downtown elite as a means of tapping into suburban voter fury. The Ford-Trump axis rests on the notion that each candidate is a take-no-prisoners, Dirty Harry-style crusader, intent on destroying the established order.

And if you’re waiting for an Edward Murrow moment – when a journalist might confront Trump on the utter nonsense he’s spewing, helping an audience to see that the emperor is naked – don’t bother. When each candidate has been called on their buffoonery, they are only made more appealing as candidates who are out of step with the ruling media elite. Witness Trump’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which Trump bluntly stated: “The people don’t trust you and the media.” They don’t, and as Ford learned, attacks by media pundits and journalists – who cite stupid things, otherwise known as facts – only make the candidate that much more appealing.

As many have noted, the attack-now-think-later approach is borne out of the campaigning techniques of the modern American right. As GOP insiders look on nervously, they also realize they have no one to blame but themselves. As Ford’s time as mayor unraveled in scandal after scandalous video – antics that left even Jon Stewart speechless – Canadian Prime Minister Harper’s connections to Toronto’s leader became points of extreme embarrassment.

Similarly, Trump represents an epic catch-22 for Republicans. If confronted by the facts, consider that the GOP has the loyalty of Fox News, which has created its own ideology-driven reality, also rooted in anger. How can you argue facts when there is no essential truth? The ‘Party of No’ has spawned the candidate of nonsense. Stand by Trumpenstein, as some are now doing, and you risk seeming to endorse his ideas, statements and ludicrous antics. Attack or criticize him and you risk alienating his crucial, populist base.

When Ford was running for mayor, his lengthy history of gaffes and bad behavior as city counselor led many to suggest his victory would never happen. The same is being said of Trump, but as he continues to lead by significant margins in all the polls, many are now acknowledging that if not president, becoming the GOP nominee is in the realm of the possible.

But as delicious as the Trump-brand Kool-Aid is, Republicans might want to think carefully before they guzzle back the empty calories. Consider the Ford factor: despite all his claims to the contrary, Ford’s time as mayor was largely ineffectual. Now that Ford is out of office, Toronto’s problems are far from solved, including deficit spending and a public transit system in dire need of an upgrade.

But boxer Mike Tyson insisted Ford was “the best mayor in Toronto history” (in what has to be one of the most surreal endorsements ever). Under a President Trump, similar fantasies will undoubtedly also be repeated, in the hopes that bluster will win out over truth.


By: Matthew Hays, The Guardian, August 4, 2015

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rob Ford | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obama Will Make Some News Thursday, Too”: Will Call For The Restoration Of The Voting Rights Act On Its 50th Anniversary

As I write this post, political junkies are awaiting the official word on the list of candidates who will appear in Thursday’s first official Republican presidential debate. But in an example of questionable timing by Fox News, Thursday is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And since said act was largely vitiated by a conservative majority of SCOTUS in 2013, and congressional Republicans have barely lifted any fingers to restore it, the president’s going to do everything possible to force voting rights into the national consciousness that day, and perhaps even into the GOP debate, as reported by The Hill‘s Jordan Fabian:

President Obama will call for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act on its 50th anniversary Thursday, the White House said.

Obama will hold a teleconference to commemorate the landmark legislation and call for its renewal, following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that voided one of its central provisions.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who rose to prominence in the 1960s as a civil rights leader, will participate.

The event will allow Obama to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans, many of whom argue some provisions of the 1965 law went too far. It will take place on the same day as the first GOP presidential primary debate.

You have to love this quote:

Asked about the timing of the event, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that “one person’s irony is another person’s serendipity.”

“Maybe there will be an opportunity for Republican candidates to discuss the right for every American to cast a vote,” he added.

It will tell you a lot about the GOP and about Fox News if the subject is not mentioned on Thursday night.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 4, 2015

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Fox News, GOP Primary Debates, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Is Bernie Sanders Actually Too Conservative For The Democratic Party?”: It’s How You Conceptualize The Government’s Obligations

It should be easy for Bernie Sanders to get to the left of Hillary Clinton. The Clintons have long dabbled in centrist Democratic Leadership Council politics, while Sanders is an avowed socialist, albeit a small-d democratic one.

As such, it’s no surprise that Friends of the Earth, a major environmental group, has endorsed Sanders for president in response to Clinton’s dithering over the Keystone XL pipeline. Leaders of large labor unions like the AFL-CIO admit that Sanders is generating more enthusiasm from the rank and file. Sanders is polling competitively in New Hampshire and drawing huge crowds elsewhere, all while raising $15 million from small donors.

Yet it was Sanders the socialist who was effectively heckled by Black Lives Matter activists at the Netroots Nation conference last month. Clinton didn’t attend the progressive confab, but she picked up on Sanders’ unease, and has since incorporated the racial-justice phrase into her speeches.

After Netroots, Sanders again faced a great deal of pushback from the left when he told Ezra Klein that he wasn’t a fan of open borders. “You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today?” Sanders asked incredulously. “If you’re a white high school graduate, it’s 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?”

There was a time when this wouldn’t have been such a heretical viewpoint on the left. But that time has come and gone. These days, it’s hard to find a liberal this side of Mickey Kaus who thinks restricting immigration for the benefit of American workers is something progressives should contemplate. Some went so far as to argue Sanders’ opposition to open borders was “ugly” and “wrongheaded,” since “no single policy the United States could adopt” would “do more good for more people.” It didn’t take long for Sanders to backtrack slightly, telling Univison’s Jorge Ramos he’d consider opening borders between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Kaus, our lonely liberal immigration skeptic, asked what happened to Sanders’ concern about American wages: “Do unskilled Mexicans have some magical properties that suspend supply and demand that unskilled immigrants from other countries lack?”

Sanders defended his immigration views when speaking to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He acknowledged that his history representing a 95 percent white state may make minorities worry he is out of touch with their concerns. But that’s only part of Sanders’ problem.

Bernie Sanders is an old-school progressive who believes most of the country’s problems can be traced to class and economics. Meanwhile, contemporary progressivism is more committed to multiculturalism and the idea that America’s biggest injustices remain inextricably tied to race.

On a lot of substantive policy issues, this is a distinction without a difference. Most liberals recognize there is a strong relationship between economics and structural racism. Sanders favors most of the same policies his multicultural critics do and is even, on balance, pretty supportive of high levels of immigration.

But there are important differences rhetorically and in terms of how you conceptualize the government’s obligations. You don’t have to believe Sanders has anything in common with Joseph Stalin’s politics to recognize that he is also talking about “socialism in one country.”

Sanders favors a robust welfare state and wants the government to mandate generous wages and working conditions. But he wants those things for Americans, not necessarily all the people living all across the globe whose standard of living could theoretically be improved by residing in America instead. (Rand Paul gets similar grief when he occasionally advocates libertarianism in one country.)

This puts Sanders out of step with much of his party. It also gives Clinton an opening to Sanders’ left, at least rhetorically, on some racial issues, which could limit his following to college-educated liberal whites. This is crucial, because the ability to reach beyond these voters and win over minorities was the difference between Barack Obama and Howard Dean.

Unless Sanders can, at 73, update his socialism to fit in with the priorities and demands of today’s left, Clinton can keep him contained — and Joe Biden can keep his faint presidential hopes alive.


By: W. James Antle, III, The Week, August 4, 2015

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Promises To Be Fun”: Christmas Comes Early This Year — The Gift Of A Trump-Fueled GOP Debate

I feel like a kid the week before Christmas. There’s just one present under the tree, but it’s all a columnist could ever hope for: the first Republican debate!

How could Thursday night in Cleveland fail to be one of the most entertaining political spectacles we’ve seen in a long time? There are, far as I can tell, 17 candidates for the GOP nomination. Nobody’s quite sure which 10 will qualify for the prime-time clash, with the rest relegated to an earlier also-rans debate. Fox News, which is organizing the festivities, says it will use an average of national polls to make the cut, but won’t say which polls.

One hopes the poor candidates at least hear the good or bad news before they arrive in Cleveland. Imagine the phone call Rick Perry’s campaign might get: “Um, has the governor’s plane landed yet? Because it turns out we need him on stage quite a bit earlier than we thought.”

That would be a shame because Perry gave arguably the most memorable debate performance of the 2012 campaign, though not in a good way. But if Fox News were to go by the RealClearPolitics polling averages, as of one week before the debate Perry would be bounced out of the main event. A late entrant, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, would take his place.

Mind you, Perry is at 2.2 percent in the polls, on average, while Kasich is at 3.2 percent. In a recent Post poll, Perry actually led Kasich by 4 percent to 2 percent; in other surveys, the difference is within the margin of error. On such small or perhaps nonexistent distinctions may hang political careers.

So for the candidates on the bubble, life must be fraught. But we already know who’s going to be the star of the evening. Are you ready for your close-up, Mr. Trump?

Every recent poll of Republicans has put Donald Trump in first place. The RealClearPolitics average has him at 19.8 percent, trailed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 13.6 percent, establishment favorite Jeb Bush at 12.6 percent and everyone else in single digits.

When I look at the Trump phenomenon, I can’t help but recall something Gen. David Petraeus said to my Post colleague Rick Atkinson as they surveyed the battlefield during the early days of the Iraq invasion: “Tell me how this ends.”

A gaffe that might have ended a normal campaign — derisively questioning the war record of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was shot down over Vietnam, held as a POW and tortured — seems only to have made Trump stronger (as, ahem, I had predicted). The lack of any relationship between his wildly slanderous allegations about Mexican immigrants and the factual record seems not to bother his fans one bit. The fact that he supports universal health care, when opposing any such thing is a Republican article of faith, seems a minor detail far outweighed by the loud and irrepressible Trumpness of his being.

Maybe Trump will somehow self-destruct in the debate. But who among his rivals is more skilled at projecting a persona on television? Trump knows how to filibuster and won’t hesitate to turn an inconvenient question back on the questioner. Even if he brings nothing to the lectern but bombast, he might emerge unscathed.

The question becomes whether the others go after him. Perry, if he makes it to the big dance, surely will. But what about the rest? Will they throw proper punches, legal under Marquess of Queensberry rules, against an opponent who kicks, bites and gouges?

And how will the non-Trump candidates seek to present themselves in the most positive light? Will Walker refute Trump’s allegation that Wisconsin is “doing terribly,” or will he just brag about his victories over organized labor? Will Bush break into Spanish? Will Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), drowned out of late, try to crank up the volume? Will retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson again compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery?

Can Mike Huckabee come up with an even more offensive Holocaust analogy for the Iran nuclear deal? Can Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) remind voters that, you know, he’s still in the race? Will Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) help Mr. Trump with his jacket and ask if he’d like a glass of water? Will Kasich make himself the flavor of the month? Will New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie punch somebody?

Going out on a limb here: This promises to be fun.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 30, 2015

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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