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“Is Ted Cruz The New Republican Establishment?”: Pick Your Poison, The GOP Is Truly In Crisis

Ted Cruz isn’t exactly what you’d call a member of the Republican establishment. He says outlandish things. He doesn’t play nicely with others. He wears no cloak of gentility over his criticisms of opponents. “Nobody likes him,” former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole said of Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas and presidential hopeful.

Yet the establishment’s arbiters are increasingly lining up behind Cruz. This morning’s news brought word of an endorsement by a pillar of the Republican establishment, former presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. “For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena,” Bush wrote in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

It is well known in Washington circles that Cruz is not well liked by his Capitol Hill colleagues. His willingness to use Senate rules, in defiance of his party’s leaders, to bring the U.S. to the brink of default, along with his more general penchant for grandstanding, have soured his relations with many of his fellow Republicans. Then there was that time he called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.

In January, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina described a choice between frontrunner Donald Trump and Cruz for the presidential nomination as a decision between “being shot or poisoned.” He added: “What does it really matter?”

Earlier this month, Graham apparently decided that it actually did matter, and endorsed Cruz, prompting the Newark Star-Ledger to headline an editorial, “Senator Prefers Poison to Gunshots.”

In Tuesday night’s Utah caucuses, which he won with 69 percent of the vote, Cruz enjoyed the support of former GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney who, while not offering an outright endorsement, declared that he would vote for Cruz. (Trump won Arizona the same night, leaving him well ahead of Cruz in the delegate count.)

If Ted Cruz, who has turned on his own party’s leaders and cast President Barack Obama as something just short of a traitor, who has accused the Black Lives Matter movement of celebrating the murder of police officers, who has called for the “carpet-bombing” of Mosul regardless of the devastating number of civilian casualties it would entail—if this Ted Cruz is the Republican Party’s best hope for ending divisiveness within its ranks and the American population, then the GOP, as many have written, is truly in crisis. It’s almost as if Ohio Governor John Kasich, a far more establishment figure, weren’t in the race. What the establishment figures lining up behind Cruz seem to have deduced is that while Kasich matches up favorably for the party against Democratic opponents in polls predicting a general election outcome, they don’t think he can win the nomination, which will be decided by a conservative party base.

For all the talk among Republican and conservative elites about the threat posed to the country by Trump, it’s more likely that the concern is for their own control of the party. Cruz may not play nicely with party leaders, but he is still part of the party structure, relying on its donors and leaders to fuel his presidential campaign and to support his political career overall. Cruz’s victory speech in Texas would seem to speak to that. He offered little of the red meat he throws to Joe Average primary voter, and instead emphasized environmental deregulation and tax reduction—favorite issues of the Koch brothers and other well-heeled Republican donors.

Trump, on the other hand, not only has little interest in appealing to the Republican establishment with his mostly self-funded campaign; it’s in his interest to see the party weakened. Trump has his own brand—one bigger, I suspect he has calculated, than that of the GOP. His strategy is that of a cult of personality.

It seems as if Trump is figuring that the most the party has to offer him is ballot access as a major party nominee, and the free television airtime that comes with the convention. He has little investment in the policy positions adopted by the party through the influence of donors and advocacy groups. He’s not running on policy, as his many changes of heart and lack of conservative orthodoxy on various issues, ranging from Middle East diplomacy to his assessment of Planned Parenthood, have shown.

Should Trump win the Republican Party nomination, scores of party leaders will become previously important people. But if Cruz wins, he will owe much to the establishment figures who ultimately, if reluctantly, backed him. The pooh-bahs will accordingly pick their poison.

 

By: Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, March 23, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Classier Of Two Evils”: Cruz Is The Leader Of A Faction; Trump Is A One-Man Band

With less than two weeks till the Iowa Caucus, the shape of the Republican race could hardly be more frightening for the Republican establishment. Both of the two leading candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, carry baggage that would make winning the general election a tough slog. But while some establishment types still hold out hope that one of their preferred candidates—Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or even Chris Christie—can pull off a surprise resurgence, there is a growing acceptance of the reality of having to chose between Cruz and Trump. And the surprise is that all signs are pointing to Trump being the establishment’s favored candidate—or, more accurately, the lesser of two evils.

In an interview with the New York Times yesterday, Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 and the very epitome of the party establishment, said that picking Cruz as the presidential nominee would be “cataclysmic,” and the party would have better success with Trump. And it’s not just on the electability issue that Dole prefers Trump. Dole denounced Cruz as an “extremist,” but said that Trump has the type of deal-making personality that would allow him to work with Congress if elected. Cruz, he said, would not. “I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” Dole told the Times. “Nobody likes him.”

Dole is far from alone in making a move toward Trump’s camp. According to a report in the Washington Post, the GOP donor class is increasingly seeing Trump as a better bet than Cruz. “A lot of donors are trying to figure their way into Trump’s orbit,” said Spencer Zwick, who ran the finances for Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid.

On the face of it, preferring Trump to Cruz seems bizarre. After all, Cruz is a more conventional politician. He sits in the Senate, and he has longstanding ties to the conservative movement and speaks their language. Why spurn him and hook up with a wild card like Trump, who has no political experience—and a record of making reckless racist and sexist comments that will damage the Republican brand?

But it’s possible that it is precisely because Trump is such an unusual figure that he might be more attractive to establishment Republicans. Cruz is the leader of a faction; Trump is a one-man band. This means Cruz has the potential to do much more damage to the Republican Party in the long run. “If Trump loses, we wash our hands of him,” a leading GOP strategist told CNN. “Cruz will think we need to be more crazy and be a long-term nightmare.”

If Cruz wins the nomination, that extreme-right faction will dominate the Republican Party not just in the presidential run but for the foreseeable future—even if Cruz loses. Just as the followers of Barry Goldwater held key positions in the party long after 1964, Cruz’s followers will be lodged tight and will be in a stronger position to combat the RINOs.

“If Cruz wins, the Loony Bird takeover of the GOP is complete,” Ian Millhiser, Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told me by email, sketching out the establishment’s nightmare scenario: “GOP candidates view Cruz’s election as vindication of Cruz’s tactics, and they rush to emulate him. Rank-and-file voters embrace Cruz’s message that the best candidates are belligerent conservatives. And interest groups decide that they no longer need to back the proverbial most conservative candidate who can win, because the very most conservative candidate has just won the presidency. So they use their money to back Cruz clones in primaries.

“Mitch McConnell and possibly even Paul Ryan’s relevance disappears overnight, as does quite possibly their career in politics. And because all of the sitting Republican lawmakers are Cruz clones who view them as traitorous RINOs, the deposed establishment cannot even cash in as lobbyists.”

Trump, on the other hand, is so anomalous a figure that the GOP establishment can console themselves with the knowledge that he leads no faction. Even if he wins the nomination, Trump can be safely relegated to the category of a one-off, a freak mutation, never to be repeated. Trump would be like the character The Mule, in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. In the schema of Asimov’s far future science-fiction series, The Mule is a galactic conquerer who throws history off the course that it was expected to take, but the changes he introduces are ultimately minor because he has no successor.

From the point of view of the Republican elite, it’s easy to see Trump as The Mule: He’s unexpected, he disrupted their plans to coronate Jeb Bush, but he’s also someone who can’t leave a lasting legacy because the traits that made him who he is are not replicable. There are not that many billionaire reality-show stars who are interested in taking over a political party.

Further, because Trump is much more pragmatic than Cruz, it’s easier to imagine him being tamed if he won the presidency. Already, on the issue of tax cuts for the rich, Trump has reverted to GOP orthodoxy. Unlike Cruz, Trump has no army of ideological loyalists working with him. President Trump would need advisers and policymakers, which the Republican Party could happily provide him.

If this is the gamble the GOP is taking, though, it is not necessarily the right one. Trump is an unstable and unpredictable figure, governed by personal piques that take him in strange directions—like his recent, bizarre twitter feud with the actor Samuel L. Jackson over cheating at golf. As a presidential nominee, Trump would likely continue to be flighty and capricious. If Hillary Clinton is his rival for the White House, it’s a near-certainty that Trump will make sexist tirades that will damage the GOP’s reputation, as he already has with comments on Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina. Moreover, unlike Cruz or the other, more polished candidates, Trump does not know how to disguise his racism with dog-whistles. This may not hurt Trump with GOP primary voters, but it would be toxic on the national stage.

The fact that the GOP elite is sidling up to Trump is remarkable—and perhaps the ultimate reflection on Ted Cruz as a man and politician. After all, how wretched must he be that there are people who prefer to stake their money and reputations on Donald Trump?

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, January 21, 2016

 

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shall We Choose Poison?”: A Choice Between Being Shot Or Poisoned To Death

The National Review has just come out with an entire issue dedicated to convincing Republicans not to nominate Donald Trump to be their presidential candidate. It wasn’t a painless decision. It cost them the right to cohost (along with Salem Radio and Telemundo) a Republican debate with CNN.

The magazine is more conflicted about Ted Cruz. Writing for The Corner, for example, David French accuses the Republican establishment of being petulant in their refusal to contemplate serving under a Cruz presidency.

What’s remarkable about Mr. French’s position is that he places absolutely no weight on the idea that a person who belongs to a 100-person organization and manages to make about 98 of the members detest and despise them, probably is not the kind of person you want to make the leader of anything.

French was responding to a report at CNN in which Senator Dan Coats of Indiana said that the wounds Cruz has created with the Republican caucus are so deep that they’d find it nearly impossible to work with him. And Coats was hardly alone in expressing that opinion. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina likened a choice between Trump and Cruz to a choice between being shot and poisoned to death. Most strikingly, Texas’s other senator, John Cornyn, refused to defend his partner after Bob Dole said that a Cruz candidacy would be “cataclysmic” for the party.

But French dismisses this as letting petty personal differences get in the way of the good of the party.

…this is sheer crazy talk. Look, I get that senators are people — they have feelings and pride and don’t like to be called names. But talk through the hurt with your spouse or pastor, and then man up, get out there, and make it clear that you’re going to campaign your heart out for the GOP nominee. After years of tough election campaigns, food fights on cable television, and withering attacks on social media, Ted Cruz is the one who broke your spirits?

I don’t think Ted Cruz broke their spirits. They know him. They know him and they don’t like him. They don’t like him and they don’t trust him. They don’t trust him and they don’t want to serve under him. They don’t think he should be our president.

Maybe their collective wisdom should count for something.

The fact that it doesn’t seem to among a lot of fairly well-educated conservatives is another indicator of just how little credibility the GOP establishment has with anyone.

But another indicator of how much Cruz is hated is that folks outside of the Senate are beginning to make sounds about Trump being more acceptable.

“If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I’d vote for Trump,” said former New York mayor and 2008 presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has not endorsed a candidate. “As a party, we’d have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way.”

So, this is where we are. The conservatives at the National Review, Weekly Standard, Red State and other like publications are doing a full-court press to stop Trump because they think he’s a flim-flam artist and a confidence man, while the elected officials (current and former) are telling anyone who will listen that Cruz is completely unacceptable.

For once, I agree with a lot of conservatives. I think they’re all right.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Not The America Of The Future”: GOP A Bridge To 1960, When 90 Percent Of The Population Was White

It’s hardly news to observe that partisan polarization in this country is reinforced by sharp divisions in the demographic composition of the two major parties. But National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein offers one bit of data that dramatizes the issue as well as any I’ve seen:

In 2012, whites ac­coun­ted for about 90 per­cent of both the bal­lots cast in the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial primar­ies and the votes Mitt Rom­ney re­ceived in the gen­er­al elec­tion. The last time whites rep­res­en­ted 90 per­cent of the total Amer­ic­an pop­u­la­tion was 1960.

Think about that. If the Republican Party were a country, it would racially resemble the America of 1960, 55 years ago. Brownstein goes on to argue that Democrats are also out of alignment with today’s demographics — but it most resembles an America of the future, and the not-too-distant future at that.

Eth­nic groups now equal just over 37 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans. But voters of col­or ac­coun­ted for nearly 45 per­cent of Pres­id­ent Obama’s votes in 2012. Eth­nic minor­it­ies likely won’t equal that much of the total pop­u­la­tion for about an­oth­er 15 years.

If one party (whose average age of about 52 means that a sizable minority can actually remember the America of 1960) is composed of people who are both aware of their once-dominant position and of how quickly it is slipping away, is there any reason to be surprised that party is strongly influenced by feelings that the country has taken a wrong turn that must be resisted? And should anyone be shocked that reaction to cultural and demographic change might well begin to compete with free-market economics or universalistic values in shaping the party’s positions and leadership?

I don’t think so. When in response to Bill Clinton’s promise to “build a bridge to the 21st century,” 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole — first elected to Congress in 1960 — described his Republican presidential campaign as “a bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth,” he ironically hit on his party’s future message.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Demographics, Ethnic Groups, Minorities | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Trust Issues”: Don’t Believe Those Who Say Hillary Clinton Can’t Win Because Voters Find Her Untrustworthy

Is it true, as some pundits claim, that Hillary Clinton is a fundamentally flawed candidate, one whose presidential aspirations are potentially doomed by her lack of likeability and, especially, high levels of voter mistrust?

Consider the following results from this nationwide survey of voters. When asked, only 41 percent of those polled find Clinton “honest and trustworthy,” while fully 54 percent do not. Among those who do not find Clinton trustworthy, fully 67 percent say they are voting for Clinton’s opponent. The results seem to support the contention of political pundits that a candidate who is so widely mistrusted is unlikely to win the presidency. As one analyst puts it, “If you don’t fundamentally trust someone or believe they are, at root, honest then how would you justify putting the controls of the country in their hands for at least four years?”

How indeed? Except that this data comes from 1996 presidential election exit poll – the one taken on the day of the election. That was the election, you will recall, in which the deeply mistrusted candidate Bill Clinton handily defeated his opponent and man of sterling character, World War II veteran Bob Dole, 49.2 percent to 40.7 percent. Nor are the 1996 results a fluke.

As I have discussed previously, studies by political scientists have revealed weak correlation between candidate traits and presidential election outcomes. For example, Morris Fiorina, Sam Abrams and Jeremy Pope compared the public’s evaluation of presidential candidates’ personal qualities (separate from policy stances or experience) based on American National Election Studies surveys with election results in the period 1952-2000. Their conclusion? As Fiorina summarized in this op ed piece: “Over all, in the 13 elections between 1952 and 2000, Republican candidates won four of the six in which they had higher personal ratings than the Democrats, while Democratic candidates lost four of the seven elections in which they had higher ratings than the Republicans. Not much evidence of a big likability effect here.”

This is not to say that a candidate’s personal qualities have no bearing on the vote. All things being equal, it is probably better to be trusted than mistrusted. And candidate character traits may matter more to some voters, such as independents, than to strong partisans. But when it comes to presidential elections, all things are decidedly not equal.

Bill Clinton won re-election in 1996 because, according to the exit polls, 58 percent of poll respondents cited issues as more important than a candidates’ character when it came to deciding their vote, and among this group Clinton beat Dole overwhelmingly, 69 percent  to 20 percent. More generally, when presidential scholars put together their forecasts of the presidential popular vote, they focus exclusively on fundamental factors such as the state of the economy, whether the country is at war, and how long the incumbent party has controlled the White House. Question of candidate character, whether trustworthiness or likeability or any other personal attribute, do not figure into their models. The reason is that we find little evidence that they are determinative. Voters may have viewed Bill Clinton as untrustworthy, but in a time of peace and economic prosperity, most chose in the end to reward the incumbent with a second term in office, his personal peccadillos notwithstanding.

Despite these findings, this won’t stop pundits from incorrectly insisting that, “Candidates matter in close campaigns. That goes double for a presidential race which tends to be more dependent on personality and likability than on any sort of policy prescriptions [italics added].” Yes, I understand that it is August – a very slow news month. The president is on vacation. Congress is out of session. The next Republican debate isn’t until Sept. 15. Pundits – already naturally predisposed to create the perception of a race where none may exist – are deeply fearful that Clinton, who is trouncing the Democratic field by most metrics, will win this nomination without a real fight. And so why not during a slow news period pounce on the latest polls (never mind that they are not very predictive this early in the contest) to find evidence that Clinton’s “lead” is less than we might think and that she is in fact a deeply flawed candidate. So flawed, in fact, that she might as well bow out now! Cue the horse race!

Alas, simply trotting out one more stale variation about the significance of the “beer test” to make the case that Clinton is potentially doomed does not make the reference any more true this election cycle. To a certain extent the same goes for the constant emphasis on Clinton’s relatively high unfavorable ratings. While there’s some evidence that the favorable/unfavorable ratio is correlated with election outcomes, it’s unclear whether these ratings help determine voters’ support for or against a candidate, or are a reflection of that support. In any case, it is far too early in the campaign to put much stock in these numbers.

The bottom line? It may be that “Hillary just isn’t a very good candidate.” But it’s more likely that some pundits just aren’t very good political analysts.

 

By: Matthew Dickinson, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, August

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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