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“All Politics Were Not, It Turned Out, Local”: Cruz And Rubio Played Smart Nevada Politics — And Got Waxed Anyway

When you look closely at how senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz approached Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses, you cannot help but be impressed. Despite all of the competing demands of last week’s pivotal South Carolina primary and the riot of events coming up in March, both candidates came up with smart strategies nicely customized for Nevada.

Rubio played up his personal connection to Las Vegas (where he lived as a child) and its Mormon community (to which his family once belonged), featuring high-profile LDS endorsers from Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison to Utah’s Jason Chaffetz and Orrin Hatch. He also quickly picked up local support from Jeb Bush’s once-formidable Nevada organization, featuring Senator Dean Heller, and “borrowed” much of Governor Brian Sandoval’s political network.

Meanwhile, Cruz parachuted into Nevada and immediately tied his campaign to two red-hot local ideological conflicts: the perennial battle over federal land policies (smartly identifying Trump with the highly unpopular cause of eminent-domain “seizures” of private property) and a tax increase being proposed by Sandoval that Nevada conservatives were fighting. After securing the support of Attorney General Mark Laxalt, the closest thing to a surviving “tea party” leader in the state, Cruz conducted his own, distinctly right-wing LDS strategy by featuring talk-show conspiracy theorist and (incidentally) Mormon Glenn Beck in his Nevada events.

So given the shrewdness of these senatorial strategies and various aspects of the Nevada caucuses that did not bode well for Trump (e.g., a closed caucus structure without Iowa’s EZ same-day party-switch option), it’s no surprise there was speculation in the air Tuesday that the Donald might stumble or at least underwhelm in Nevada.

Didn’t happen, though. On the heels of a monster rally in Las Vegas Monday night, Trump’s national road show trashed all of the local calculations of his rivals and overcame all of the obstacles the caucuses posed for him. Instead of stumbling, Trump set a new and higher “ceiling” for his support while exhibiting strength in nearly every demographic and ideological category. All politics were not, it turned out, local.

That could be a critical asset for Trump in the massive number of nomination contest events on the near horizon. In the 11 March 1 states with anything like recent polling, Trump leads in nine, and is a close second in the other two. One of the latter is Texas, where Ted Cruz really cannot afford to lose; that will constrain him significantly in how he spends his time and money during the next critical week. Just a bit down the road, on March 15, John Kasich and Marco Rubio will face similarly existential moments in their home states, with the added fear factor that both are winner-take-all contests. Trump leads in the most recent polling in both states; his Florida lead is particularly impressive. That can certainly change (the Florida polls were all taken before Jeb Bush’s withdrawal), but, again, Kasich and Rubio will have to defend their home states even as Trump is free to go where the delegates are.

It’s hard to measure the intangible value of Trump’s ability to just be himself and give his rambling, stream-of-consciousness speeches before big excited crowds in events that are all but interchangeable. But unless, say, he screws up egregiously in a nationally televised debate like Thursday’s in Houston that knocks him down multiple points everywhere, or one of his surviving opponents instantly implodes, Trump has the enormous advantage of a general able to outflank an opposing army chained to a fixed but vulnerable point of defense.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 24, 2016

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Nevada Caucus, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Corporate Sponsors Should Pay His Salary”: Why Should You And I Have To Keep Paying Mitch McConnell’s Salary?

Antonin Scalia is gone. The nastiest and noisiest of right-wingers on the Supreme Court is dead.

But he can’t be any more brain dead than Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate. In a blatantly partisan ploy to prevent President Obama from nominating a successor to Scalia, McConnell has cited a historical precedent dictating that presidents who are in the last year of their term do not name new justices to the high court. “Therefore,” he babbled, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

What a silly old squirrel McConnell is! Article II of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the Supreme Court.” Note that the Constitution says the president “shall” do this — as a duty to the nation. Nothing in the founding document suggests that this power and duty is voided in an election year. In fact, 13 Supreme Court nominations have been made in presidential election years, and the Senate took action on 11 of them. McConnell’s assertion is bogus (and silly), for history and the Constitution clearly back Obama.

Ironically, one who would have nailed McConnell for such a slapstick political perversion of plain constitutional language is Scalia himself. He practiced what he called “originalism” in his official judgments, insisting that the Constitution must be interpreted only by the words in it and only by the original meaning those words had for the founders when they wrote them into the document.

McConnell’s squirrelly stall tactic is as ridiculous as it is shameful. It’s also totally hypocritical, since Mitch himself voted in February 1988 to confirm a Supreme Court nominee put forth by Ronald Reagan — in the last year of his presidency.

This leads me to ask, why should you and I have to keep paying McConnell’s salary? Not only is he a Senate majority leader who doesn’t lead; the lazy right-wing lawmaker really doesn’t do anything, refusing to pick up the legislative tools he’s been given and go to work on the many things that We The People — and America itself — need Congress to do. Imagine if you tried doing nothing on your job — just drawing your paycheck after ignoring your workload!

Repeatedly, this senatorial slug says no to every task at hand. Repair and replace the water pipes that leach lead and are poisoning families all across America? No, he yawns. Raise the minimum wage to help bridge the dangerous wealth gap separating the superrich from the rest of us? Don’t bother me with such stuff, Mitch snaps. Shut off that gusher of corrupt corporate money pouring into our elections and drowning the people’s democratic rights? Not my problem, shrugs the lumpish ne’er-do-well.

And now a straightforward constitutional duty has been handed to McConnell: Gear up the Senate’s “Advise and Consent” mechanism to approve or reject President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia. We’ll do it tomorrow, muttered the somnolent senator, content to put off his responsibility to our nation’s system of justice until next year, long after Obama is gone.

We’re paying this guy a salary of $174,000 a year, plus another $19,400 for his “service” as majority leader. It’s insulting that he won’t even go through the motions of doing his job. Of course, saying no to all the chores he ought to be doing for the people is exactly what the corporate sponsors of his Republican Party expect from him. They want an inert and unresponsive government, a poverty-wage economy, a plutocratic election system and a court of their own choosing.

So “Do Nothing” Mitch is their boy. But at the very least, shouldn’t they pay his salary, rather than sticking us with the cost?

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, February 24, 2016

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Corporations, Mitt Romney, U. S. Constitution, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Master Of The Expectations Game”: Marco Rubio Loses To Trump By 22 Points In Nevada, Says Trump ‘Underperformed’

Marco Rubio may not be good at winning primary elections, but he’s the all-time master of the expectations game. And since the “true winner” of the Republican nomination isn’t determined by delegate count but by “news cycles won,” the former Florida senator has this thing nearly locked up.

First, there was Rubio’s triumph in Iowa, where he spun a third-place finish into a landslide victory. Then, by carefully sabotaging himself in New Hampshire, the senator set himself up for a second-place “win” in South Carolina. But Tuesday night in Nevada Rubio took his game to whole different level.

At first things didn’t look so great for Marco — Donald Trump did beat him by 22 points in the state’s caucus. But on Fox News Wednesday morning, Rubio revealed that drawing roughly half of Trump’s support in Nevada was actually a come-from-behind win in the expectations game.

“Last time, Mitt Romney got over 50 percent, so Donald Trump actually underperformed [what] Mitt Romney did, not once but twice in this state,” Rubio explained to Fox & Friends, referring to the 2008 and 2012 primary races.

Rubio is to spinning defeat as Steph Curry is to the three-pointer, and this was Marco’s half-court shot.

Just think about the degree of difficulty here: Mitt Romney is the most famous Mormon politician of our era. He won Nevada in 2012 by collecting 95 percent of the Mormon vote. Trump, on the other hand, had his Muslim-ban proposal officially condemned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in December. And the Donald enjoys no other comparable demographic advantage in the Silver State — there is no large community of Queens-born heirs to real-estate fortunes in the region. What’s more, Rubio was once a member of the Mormon Church, and leveraging that connection was the heart of his own strategy in Nevada.

And yet, against all odds, Rubio was able to push the words “Donald Trump actually underperformed” through his lips.

Rubio’s triumph in Nevada should give him plenty of momentum going into the big expectations games on Super Tuesday. After all, the Florida senator has now established that he is so bad at winning elections that when another candidate beats him by a mere 22 points, that’s an underperformance. Using this metric, Donald Trump is likely to underperform in several states next week.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 24, 2016

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Enemy Of Strategic Success”: Obama’s 2005 Blog Post On SCOTUS Good Advice For Today’s Republicans

Regular readers of that fine online watering hole for all things Supreme, the SCOTUSblog, were probably startled Wednesday morning by a guest post from a former constitutional scholar named Barack Obama. On reflection, it makes sense he chose this wonky but accessible venue to lay out his talking points on the criteria he will use in selecting a Supreme Court nominee whom Senate Republicans have already announced they will block.

This is not, however, Obama’s first blog post, or even his first blog post about Supreme Court nominations. Back in 2005, during his first year in the Senate, he took to the virtual pages of Daily Kos to address progressive activists who were angry at Democratic senators who did not go to the mattresses to stop the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice. Obama himself voted against Roberts, but did not choose to support a filibuster. So he was partially defending himself against the then-common netroots charge (still popular among many Bernie Sanders supporters) that Democrats in Washington were surrendering to the evil right-wing foe without a real fight.

What makes Obama’s 2005 essay interesting now, however, is a certain through-the-looking-glass quality. Substitute Republican for Democrat and conservative for progressive in his post, and he’s offering the very Republicans pre-rejecting his own SCOTUS nominee some pretty good advice:

There is one way, over the long haul, to guarantee the appointment of judges that are sensitive to issues of social justice, and that is to win the right to appoint them by recapturing the presidency and the Senate.  And I don’t believe we get there by vilifying good allies, with a lifetime record of battling for progressive causes, over one vote or position.    I am convinced that, our mutual frustrations and strongly-held beliefs notwithstanding, the strategy driving much of Democratic advocacy, and the tone of much of our rhetoric, is an impediment to creating a workable progressive majority in this country….

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists – a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog – we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party.  They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda.  In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in “appeasing” the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda.  The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

In case you don’t recognize it, Obama is accurately portraying — again, in a mirror — the “theory of change” that Ted Cruz articulates every day.

A plausible argument can be made that too much is at stake here and now, in terms of privacy issues, civil rights, and civil liberties, to give John Roberts the benefit of the doubt.  That certainly was the operating assumption of the advocacy groups involved in the nomination battle.

I shared enough of these concerns that I voted against Roberts on the floor this morning.  But short of mounting an all-out filibuster — a quixotic fight I would not have supported; a fight I believe Democrats would have lost both in the Senate and in the court of public opinion; a fight that would have been difficult for Democratic senators defending seats in states like North Dakota and Nebraska that are essential for Democrats to hold if we hope to recapture the majority; and a fight that would have effectively signaled an unwillingness on the part of Democrats to confirm any Bush nominee, an unwillingness which I believe would have set a dangerous precedent for future administrations — blocking Roberts was not a realistic option.

As you may know, Obama went on to support a filibuster against the confirmation of Bush’s second justice, Samuel Alito — a step he now says he regrets. But that doesn’t necessarily undercut his 2005 argument that tactical rigidity is the enemy of strategic success.

[T]o the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, “true” progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward.  When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive “checklist,” then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems.  We are tying them up in a straightjacket and forcing them into a conversation only with the converted.

And that’s the sort of reasoning that movement conservatives denounce as RINOism when it is articulated — a rare thing these days — among Republicans.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 24, 2016

 

February 25, 2016 Posted by | President Obama, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bernie Sanders Has A Turnout Problem”: So Far, The Uprising Looks Pretty Limited

In order to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency, you have to amass 2,382 of the 4,763 delegates who will attend the party’s convention in July. The three contests that have taken place in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada have allotted only 118 of those delegates, or 2 percent. And yet to listen to journalists, pundits, and analysts, the end of the Democratic race is in sight. If Hillary Clinton succeeds in beating Bernie Sanders in South Carolina this coming Saturday, they will declare that she has delivered a crushing blow, leaving him face-down on the canvas, his vision doubled and ears ringing as his weakened arms struggle to raise him up for Super Tuesday, when the final, gruesome pummeling will be administered.

If that’s what they say, will it be unfair? You bet. There’s still a long way to go, most Democrats haven’t voted, and South Carolina won’t change that no matter what happens. But Sanders doesn’t have a lot of time to prove that his already remarkable campaign more resembles Barack Obama’s in 2008 than Howard Dean’s in 2004.

No analogy is perfect, but those are roughly the two paths facing Sanders: an extraordinary run that challenges conventional wisdom and the political establishment, confounding expectations by bringing in huge numbers of small donors, and exciting young people to get involved in politics for the first time, and then wins; or a campaign that does all those things, and then loses.

On Sunday, the day after Clinton won the Nevada caucuses, Sanders was candid about why he fell short. Here’s what he told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press:

Well, what happened is over the last five weeks, Chuck, we came from 25 points down to five points down. As I understand it, we actually won the Latino vote yesterday, which is a big breakthrough for us. But the voter turnout was not as high as I had wanted. And what I’ve said over and over again, we will do well when young people, when working-class people come out. We do not do well when the voter turnout is not large. We did not do as good a job as I had wanted to bring out a large turnout. …

Again, I wish we had had a larger voter turnout. But by the way, we did phenomenally well with young people. I think we did well with working-class people. But remember, we were taking on a candidate who ran in 2008. She knew Nevada a lot better than we did, she had the names of a lot of her supporters. So I am proud of the campaign that we ran. Obviously, I wish we could have done a little bit better. But at the end of the day, I think she gets 19 delegates, we get 15 delegates, we move onto the next state.

Sanders is right: The Democratic Party in Nevada is estimating the turnout for the caucuses at around 80,000. In 2008, the last contested caucuses, just under 120,000 Nevadans turned out. In other words, turnout was down by about a third.

Caucuses are, of course, ridiculous and anti-democratic. They make voting even harder than it is in primaries, so rather than expressing the will of the voters, they express the will of a relatively small group of highly motivated voters who happen to be willing and able to attend a long meeting in order to state their preference. While 80,000 Democrats attended the caucuses, 530,000 Nevadans voted for Barack Obama in 2012. If the number voting for the Democratic candidate this November turns out to be in the same neighborhood, it would mean that only one in six or seven Democratic voters actually participated in the event to choose that candidate.

And it’s true that for many people inclined to vote for Sanders, like young people, caucusing may be particularly difficult. That’s a big part of the reason that Hillary Clinton was able to win the Iowa caucuses by a hair: The older people and frequent voters who were more likely to support her were more likely to caucus.

But in Iowa, turnout was down, too. Around 171,000 Iowa Democrats caucused this year, but in 2008, that number was 236,000, meaning it dropped by 27 percent. And in New Hampshire, which Sanders won easily, turnout this year was just over 250,000; in 2008 it exceeded 288,000. That’s a smaller decline (13 percent), but still a decline.

You might say that it’s a high standard—after all, 2008 was an unusual campaign, one that got Democratic voters energized in ways they had never been before. And that’s true. The problem for Sanders is that he needs to duplicate that excitement in order to win. His campaign is predicated not just on doing well with young voters or new voters or any other kind of voters. It’s predicated on expanding the electorate, both in the primaries and in the general election, so much that he overcomes the advantages more traditional politicians have.

More so than Obama or even Dean, Sanders is counting on a revolution, not only to help him defeat a primary opponent who has more of the traditional advantages of an establishment favorite, but also to govern once he wins the White House. When Sanders is challenged on how he’ll be able to push his ambitious policy plans through a recalcitrant Congress, he responds that he will lead a powerful uprising of the citizenry that will force politicians to accept change. So far though, the uprising looks pretty limited.

Sanders has already accomplished something remarkable. The fact that a frumpy 74-year-old democratic socialist from Vermont has turned what was supposed to be a walk in the park for Hillary Clinton into a genuinely competitive race is positively historic. But unless he really can expand the electorate, it may not be enough.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 24, 2016

 

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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