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“Donald Trump, The Hater Is Now A Loser”: Can He Survive Becoming His Most Famous And Frequently Used Epithet?

In Iowa, the hater became a loser.

In the first contest of the Republican nomination, Donald Trump, the man who predicated his entire campaign on his ability to win everything and everywhere, suffered a devastating Iowa defeat to Sen. Ted Cruz. He now faces a second major problem: the surging Sen. Marco Rubio, who finished third, is now the clear establishment favorite, and poses a real threat to Trump in next week’s New Hampshire primary.

Absent policy expertise, his bluster about achieving foreign and domestic “wins” constituted the entire sustaining force of his campaign. As he once said on Twitter, quoting the golfer Walter Hagen, “No one remembers who came in second.” It was a triumphant attitude based on polling leads that continually defied expectations and a successful career in real estate that he elevated to mythological proportions.

Trump was unstoppable, he continually insisted, and faced only an endless string of victories that were all but assured.

That all changed Monday night as a visibly-deflated Trump gave brief remarks to supporters in Iowa. Absent was the swagger of Trump events past: “I think we’re going to be proclaiming victory, I hope,” Trump said of the New Hampshire primary.

It was perhaps his most magnanimous speech of the campaign. He congratulated Cruz on the win in Iowa and repeated over and over again that he loved the people of Iowa.

“I think I might come here and buy a farm,” Trump said, as he closed his speech. To put that in perspective, back in October he insisted to the people that if he lost the Hawkeye State he would “never speak to you people again.”

Polling conducted in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses showed Trump with the lead over Cruz—but the defining question was whether political amateur Trump had the organization in the Hawkeye State to turn out his supporters. Early entrance polling showed that 4 in 10 Republicans had never attended a caucus before, and veteran Republicans in the state expected a record turnout that would boost Trump.

The businessman has also gone after Cruz with a vengeance—while they had once held a joint campaign event, the bromance ended in recent months, as Trump raised questions about Cruz’s eligibility to be president and criticized him for taking an unreported loan from Goldman Sachs, his wife’s then-employer, to finance his 2012 Senate campaign.

Cruz’s victory defied the odds, proving that his much-vaunted ground game in the first presidential contest was the key to victory.

Over 12,000 volunteers worked for Cruz, both from within Iowa and from nearly three dozen other states. At the event Cruz held for his Iowa supporters Monday evening, women line danced as they celebrated a substantial margin of victory.

Volunteers from across the country braved accommodations in college dorms—with the moniker “Camp Cruz”—to go door-knocking and make phone calls. “Let’s put it this way: It was not a four-star hotel,” said JoAnn Fleming, the co-chair of the “Texas Strike Force” that brought volunteers from out of state to support the Texas senator.

“You can spend money on an air campaign but there’s nothing like dedicated volunteers that will spend their own money to go thousands of miles… That’s something money can’t buy,” Fleming said.

Cruz opened his victory speech with a nod to his Christian faith he’s continually referenced since the start of the campaign. “Let me first of all say, to God be the glory,” he said as the crowd roared.

And he wasn’t shy about invoking Psalm 30, which is about David’s soul being lifted up from Sheol, to describe the final months of President Obama’s time in office.

“While Americans will continue to suffer under a president who’s set an agenda that’s causing millions to hurt across this country, I want to remind you of the promise of scripture,” he said. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Cruz’s speech lasted for quite some time, but attendess seemed to stay in high spirits through the 30-minute-plus talk. As he talked about his 18-hour days on the trail, a fan in the crowd yelled “You’re not tired!”

Cruz smiled. “We’re not tired at all.”

His backers couldn’t help but gloat that Trump had, at long last, been vanquished. “He’s not gonna win everywhere. It’s already over. He may win in some places, but he’s not going to win everywhere,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a Cruz surrogate and the former attorney general of Virginia.

After tonight’s victory, Cruz is the first Republican to survive a head-to-head confrontation with Trump: Other GOP challengers—Ben Carson and Jeb Bush—wilted away after Trump mocked them. Cruz survived and triumphed.

In typical Trump fashion, the mogul had broken all the rules of campaigning—making fun of Carson’s story about a purported childhood stabbing attempt, and mocking Iowa voters as his grip on the polls slipped a little late last year.

“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” Trump asked. “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Just months ago, Trump was considered a political punchline—pundits predicted that Republican primary voters would soon get over their infatuation with the buffoonish businessman after the “Summer of Trump.”

But the seemingly invincible billionaire rode through controversy after controversy—instead of melting away, he has taken advantage of his celebrity status to dominate news cycles. He lost the lead in Iowa just to regain it again and again.

Trump resilience continued to confound political observers. He made countless comments that would have destroyed the candidacies of other politicians: He characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists” at his campaign launch event; promised to ban all Muslims from entering the United States; disparaged former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, saying he liked “people who weren’t captured”; doxxed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number; and said of newscaster Megyn Kelly’s debate questions that “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes… blood coming out of her wherever.” All of these statements were seen as campaign-ending gaffes.

But for months, despite the predictions of pollsters and pundits, it never hurt his numbers. He rode in to Iowa as the man to beat, the guy poised to run the table against all his Republican opponents and secure the biggest primary victory of any candidate in modern times.

Instead Trump barely cleared second place in a remarkable defeat. And while it may be too soon to officially declare that the Trump Train has finally gone off the rails, the man who has led the Republican field since early last summer suddenly finds himself in a profoundly difficult battle to regain momentum before New Hampshire.

Trump has withstood mocking from the media and dismissive insults from his opponents. The question now is whether he can survive becoming his most famous and frequently used epithet: loser.

 

By: Tim Mak and Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, February 1, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Living Exact Same Day Over And Over Again”: On Groundhog Day, Republicans Vote To Repeal Obamacare

President Obama hasn’t spent a lot of time with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but the two leaders, joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), met at the White House this morning. The point, according to everyone involved, was to look for ways the policymakers can find some common ground and try to get things done in 2016.

To help set the tone, the Wisconsin congressman told reporters yesterday he was excited about the Iowa caucuses because “what it tells me is the days of Barack Obama’s presidency are numbered.”

He’s a real charmer, this one. You can just feel his enthusiasm for bipartisan policymaking in an era of divided government.

After the meeting in which the president tries to find areas of possible agreement with GOP leaders, Ryan will hold another vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. The Washington Post reported:

The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on overturning President Obama’s veto of legislation to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. The vote, appropriately scheduled for Groundhog Day, is expected to fail, leaving conservatives to gear up for a final year of budget fights with the president.

Asked about today’s events, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “Republicans are poised to host another vote in the United States Congress today for the 60th time to repeal Obamacare. It’s almost like it’s Groundhog Day, except today it is actually Groundhog Day and they’re doing it again.”

Earnest added, “So I’m not really sure that qualifies as the contours of a proactive legislative agenda but it does put some pressure on Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, and other Republicans in Congress, to lay out what it is exactly they support and try to find some common ground with the administration.”

For the record, estimates vary on exactly how many times Republicans have tried to repeal all or part of the ACA, but the last time I checked, they were up to 62. In other words, Earnest might have been understating the case a bit.

Incidentally, shortly before the last repeal vote, Ryan was asked why he was moving forward with a bill to eliminate the Affordable Care Act before the Republican alternative is ready. The Republican leader told reporters with a smile, “Just wait.”

We later learned that this wait will continue past this year – because GOP lawmakers have already effectively given up on their plans to unveil a reform alternative in 2016.

As for today’s veto-override vote, there’s no chance of the bill succeeding. Paul Ryan and his team know that, of course, but they’re holding the vote anyway, just to go through the motions.

Postscript: In case anyone doesn’t get the reference, I should probably mention “Groundhog Day” was a classic movie from 1993 in which Bill Murray is stuck in a time loop, forced to live the exact same day over and over again. For those who haven’t seen the movie, I can assure you it’s far more entertaining than watching Republicans vote 63 times to take health care benefits away from millions of families for no particular reason.

Update: Reader F.B. emails, “In the movie, the character played by Bill Murray learns from each repetition how to live that day better. Unfortunately the Republicans show no similar improvement.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Mitch Mc Connell, Obamacare, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Another ‘Here Comes Marco Rubio!’ Boomlet”: Can The Media And The GOP Establishment Sell Marco Rubio To GOP Voters?

“This is the moment they said would never happen!” said a triumphant Marco Rubio in his victory speech last night in Iowa. It was an odd thing to say, coming from a guy who just came in third, after all the polls showed him running…third. And while he didn’t specify who “they” were, that kind of vague “they” usually refers to the powers that be, the hidebound thinkers of the political and media elite. Which is also odd, because those are the people who have always been most enthusiastic about Rubio.

If all the attention in the GOP presidential primary will now narrow down to three candidates — Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump — there’s no question who the choice of the Republican establishment (and yes, I know it’s a problematic term, but it does refer to something real) will be. After panicking for weeks about the race coming down to a choice between an erratic billionaire with no commitment to the party and an insurgent ideologue even other Republicans find loathsome, Rubio offers the only way out, the party’s best chance of avoiding disaster in the fall.

So we’re upon another “Here comes Marco Rubio!” boomlet, even though it’s based on almost nothing other than the fact that he somehow “exceeded expectations” by coming in exactly where everyone expected him to in Iowa, albeit with a few more points of support than polls had shown. As I argued yesterday, when someone does better than expectations, it doesn’t tell us much about them; it just tells us that those doing the expecting were wrong. But no matter — today’s headlines tell us of “Marco Rubio’s very big night in Iowa,” to “Forget Ted Cruz: Marco Rubio is the big winner of the Iowa caucuses,” that “After Iowa, keep your eye on Marco Rubio, not Trump or Cruz,” and “Why the Iowa caucus was a win for Marco Rubio, even though he lost to Ted Cruz.”

Cruz told NBC: “I’m amused at listening to media talk about ‘what an impressive third place finish!’” But since Cruz portrays himself as the scourge of both the media and political elite, it’s probably fine by him. He’ll now get to say that he’s the insurgent and Rubio represents the establishment, which in addition to tapping into the Republican electorate’s mood of disillusionment will have the virtue of being true.

The Republican establishment knows that Rubio looks like the most electable candidate — he’s not a loose cannon like Trump and not a bitter ideologue like Cruz. And as Michael Brendan Dougherty argues, “Rubio’s candidacy is essentially based on the premise that nothing from the George W. Bush era has to change for the Republican Party,” that even though he may look different, he’s offering the same policy prescription as ever: tax cuts for the wealthy, an interventionist foreign policy, and a hard right line on social issues. Also, unlike Cruz, Rubio doesn’t spend all his time lambasting Washington Republicans for being a bunch of traitorous weaklings.

But why would the supposedly liberal media think so highly of Rubio? To begin with, let’s not kid ourselves: they do. He’s not personally repellent or drawn to kamikaze tactics, like Cruz, and he’s not crazy, like Trump. Rubio is a good speaker, is pretty informed about policy, and has a heartwarming personal story about his immigrant parents. When those journalists and commentators say so, and write stories describing how Rubio’s campaign is about to blossom, they’re expressing their faith in the process. Regardless of their personal ideology, they’d like to believe that this whole chaotic mess eventually winds up in a somewhat rational place. If the GOP nominates Rubio, it’s proof that the process works and one of our two great parties has not completely lost its mind.

How does that square with all the attention given to Donald Trump? Trump pulls the media in two different directions. On one hand, he’s an irresistible story, a compelling personality who constantly says appallingly newsworthy things and drives his opponents crazy. We’ve loved reporting on him and writing about him. It’s been a hoot. But on the other hand, were Trump to actually win, it would show that the system can be hacked, that a kind of lunacy had taken over, that the worst kind of demagoguery and the shallowest kind of celebrity can combine to hijack what is supposed to be a relatively orderly and predictable process. And to people who care about politics, whatever their personal beliefs about issues, that would be a disturbing result.

So whether they’re consciously aware of it or not, most people in the media would probably prefer Trump to fall eventually, after we’ve all been thoroughly entertained by his candidacy. Rubio as the GOP nominee might not be as much fun, but it makes sense.

We’ve been through this before. Four months ago, we witnessed the sudden emergence of articles predicting that Rubio was about to rise. Unfortunately for him, the voters didn’t get the memo; in the average of national polls he stands at 10 percent, not too far from where he’s been all along. Maybe now that the voting has started and other candidates have begun falling away, Rubio will gain support and even win a primary somewhere. But at the moment, outside of Iowa, he’s still the candidate of the elites, not the voters.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters, Mainstream Media, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The GOP’s Donald Trump Nightmare Is Far From Over”: Quick Rebound Less Farfetched Than Sudden, Terminal Collapse

Ted Cruz’s poll-defying victory in the Iowa caucuses Monday night spared the Republican Party the ultimate humiliation of a Donald Trump landslide—not in Iowa, per se, but in the presidential primary writ large. Until this week, nonplussed Republicans were contemplating with dread an increasingly likely scenario in which Trump won Iowa convincingly, reinforced his dominant leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and went on to essentially run the table to the nomination.

Things won’t be quite that straightforward for Trump after all. The early conventional wisdom out of Iowa is that Trump hurt himself by failing to put together a traditional campaign apparatus, that Cruz helped himself by putting together a great one, and that third-place Marco Rubio benefitted from a late burst of pragmatism within the Republican electorate. The results at the very least slow Trump’s juggernaut, and possibly reorient the primary into a real three-way race.

By relegating Trump to second, and even to the waters-edge of third, Cruz and Rubio both widened their paths to the nomination to unknown extent—and at an unknown expense to Trump, whose path narrowed.

Depending upon how the campaigns and Republican voters respond to Monday’s returns, the Trump campaign now faces either a bearish or a bullish outlook. And in many ways, despite the GOP elite’s celebratory mood, the prospect of a quick rebound is less farfetched than a sudden, terminal collapse.

The bullish case for Trump goes something like this. Despite his near-total disinterest in running a traditional Iowa ground game, Trump cobbled together a real and genuinely impressive constituency—at least for Iowa caucuses purposes. More Iowa Republicans voted for Trump last night than have voted for any Republican candidate in history—including Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and George W. Bush—except for Ted Cruz, who shattered the record.

This feat is even more impressive when you factor in the institutional heft behind his competitors’ campaigns. Cruz’s powerful operation was built upon the strength of his close ties to Iowa evangelicals, and to influential local conservatives like Representative Steve King. It’s not unusual for Iowans to support a religious-right tribune in the caucuses (Santorum, Huckabee)—and it’s also not unusual for the winner to ultimately lose the nomination.

Rubio ran a relatively spare campaign, but benefitted both from late but relentless conservative and mainstream media boosterism, and from an equally belated Republican paid-media campaign against Trump. Rubio became the establishment’s de facto candidate in the final week, and it propelled him from a distant third … to a less-distant third.

All of which is to say that caucuses place a premium on traditional campaign infrastructure in a way regular primaries don’t. Iowa is essentially rigged to depress turnout and present barriers to new participants. And yet Trump nearly won anyhow. If that is how Trump and his supporters internalize his Iowa showing, he will perform well in New Hampshire, possibly South Carolina as well, and become a singular force in Republican politics once again.

At the same time, the seeds of Trump’s potential demise are buried just below the surface of this analysis. Barriers or no barriers, Trump underperformed on Monday night. His supporters could prove to be disproportionately flaky in every state. It also may be the case, after all, that a sustained barrage of negative press can harm him. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but it’s worth considering the possibility that the anti-Trump ads, which flooded the market in the campaign’s final days, contributed to his underwhelming performance.

He will face many more of them in the coming week. If Cruz and Rubio gain ground in New Hampshire, Trump will probably see his lead there narrow before next Tuesday’s primary. If we credit, for the sake of argument, his critics’ favorite but untested hypothesis that his bubble will burst now because it was inflated by the perception of his invincibility, then his own supporters will be discouraged by his second-place finish, and defect to other candidates, or drop out of the electorate altogether.

If these developments transpire, Trump will (finally! at last!) fade from dominance. His campaign will evaporate just as quickly as it materialized, and the race will be transformed into a gloves-off battle between Ted Cruz and the establishment. If he pulls through, though, Republican elites will quickly realize, like an ill-fated resident of Elm Street, that when they woke on Tuesday morning, they brought their nightmare with them.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Choice Is Between Two Theories Of Change”: The Questions At Stake In The Democratic Presidential Primary

Democrats are in the midst of a tough presidential primary and there are times when that battle puts out more heat than light. But Bryce Covert provides some much-needed perspective.

But the largest difference between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders is not over policy…There is scant daylight between them on most issues and certainly almost all of the causes near and dear to Democrats’ and progressives’ hearts.

If your reaction is to dismiss that as untrue, take a look at this:

Here is a partial list of the policies that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders largely agree on: The country should have paid family leave; the minimum wage should be substantially increased; college students shouldn’t have to take on so much debt; parents need more affordable, quality child care and preschool options; Wall Street needs further reforms; health care should be universal; the wealthy should pay substantially more in taxes. Many of these are new policies even for Democratic presidential candidates. Despite using the socialist label, Mr. Sanders sounds a lot like many prominent Democrats. Mrs. Clinton is a tried and true liberal.

Covert’s point is that what separates Clinton and Sanders is not those goals, but the issue that is taking up a lot of ink from liberal pundits lately: their different theories of change.

The largest difference, and therefore what the Democratic Party is truly grappling with, is not about two different visions of the party. The choice is between two theories of change. It’s the difference between working the system and smashing it.

Much of the discussion about these different theories has focused on which one is more likely to be successful against Republican extremism and intransigence. The truth is that no one has seriously cracked that nut yet. But underneath it are other questions. For Clinton pragmatists, the idea of “smashing the system” is reckless and the outcomes are too unpredictable. For Sanders idealists, “working the system” is insufficient for the level of change that is needed. So the issue is at least as much about how to get there as it is about efficacy.

Those are the issues Democrats should be debating in this presidential primary. Accusations of complicity with corporate interests, dishonesty and lack of integrity are distractions that are divisive and could hurt liberals in the general election against Republicans. As then-Senator Barack Obama said back in 2005, here is what is at stake:

I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate.

Republicans are doing all they can to “dumb down the political debate” in search of a cynical, selfish electorate. Democrats can (and should) do better than that.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal BLog, The Washington Monthly, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , | 1 Comment

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