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“The High Life Has Ended For Team Jeb”: Are Donors Getting Annoyed At How Little They’re Getting In Tangible Political Results?

There’s a fascinating piece up at Politico this morning from Eli Stokols and Marc Caputo that documents the Jeb Bush presidential campaign’s new interest in frugality.

On the first day of a two-day Iowa swing back in August, Jeb Bush flew from Davenport to Ankeny in a private plane. The next day, after he spent more than four hours bounding around the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, a top adviser attributed Bush’s high energy level to having spent less time in transit.

I didn’t know Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb, had its own airstrip. But I digress.

Those days are over.

Last week, Bush spent three days in Iowa, traveling again from Des Moines to the state’s eastern edge, campaigning in the Mississippi River towns of Bettendorf and Muscatine — but this time, he went by car. The campaign also cancelled its reservation at the tony Hotel Blackhawk in nearby Davenport, staying instead at a cheaper hotel. More and more, Bush is flying commercial.

“The high life has ended,” said one Florida operative familiar with the campaign’s operation. “They’re running a more modest operation in the last two weeks, and the traveling party has definitely shrunk.”

If you read the whole piece, Bush campaign operatives are at pains to deny they’re having money troubles. (We’ll know more about that shortly when third-quarter fundraising and spending and cash-on-hand numbers are available.) No, we are told, they’re just smart little squirrels saving up those acorns for the long slog of the primary season. But it’s also clear they fear donors are getting a little annoyed at how little they are getting in the way of tangible political results for the ducats they’ve coughed up:

Conceived as a fundraising juggernaut that would “shock and awe” opponents into oblivion, Bush’s campaign is suddenly struggling to raise hard dollars and increasingly economizing — not because he’s out of money, but to convince nervous donors, who are about to get their first look at his campaign’s burn rate, that he’s not wasting it.

“At a certain point, we want to see a bang for the buck. We’re spending the bucks — and we’re seeing no bang,” a longtime Bush Republican said.

Bush is stuck at 7 percent in an average of national polls. He’s at close to 9 percent in New Hampshire, putting him in sixth place in the early state he most needs to win. Although his poll standing isn’t much better, Marco Rubio is starting to catch the eye of deep-pocketed establishment donors impressed by his leaner operation and unique appeal as a candidate.

Moreover, Bush’s Super-PAC has just spent a solid month running ads, especially in New Hampshire, without any notable payoff so far.

The Politico article doesn’t explicitly say it, but you figure one fear Team Bush has is that donors will decide the whole enterprise is now set up to subsidize itself, spending down the massive early war chest it built up whether or not Jeb’s going anywhere other than Palookaville. This is precisely the accusation Erick Erickson is making about Rand Paul’s campaign in a post that urges the Kentucky senator to “take your campaign out back and shoot it.”

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly , October 15, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Delivering The Promised Conservative Paradise?”: The Supreme Court Is Poised To Deliver Conservatives A String Of Big Victories

The Supreme Court’s new term begins today, and it brings with it a paradox. On one hand, the Court is poised to deliver conservatives a string of sweeping, consequential victories on issues covering a wide swath of American life. On the other, conservatives are up in arms about how they’ve been betrayed by the Court, and particularly by Chief Justice John Roberts, despite the fact that Roberts has in all but a couple of cases been as reliable a conservative vote as they could have hoped for.

Let’s look at what’s coming. Among the cases the Court will be hearing are an affirmative action case involving the University of Texas, a case asking whether congressional districts must adhere to a “one person, one vote” standard, a case testing state restrictions meant to shut down abortion clinics, a case asking whether public-sector unions can require non-members who benefit from their collective bargaining to contribute to those efforts, and yet another lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception provision.

While a couple of them may be in doubt, it’s entirely possible that by the time this term ends next June, the Court will have driven the final stake into affirmative action, struck a fatal blow against public-sector unions, enhanced Republican power in legislatures by reducing the representation of areas with large Hispanic populations, given a green light for Republican-run states to make abortions all but impossible to obtain, and undermined the ACA. Even if one or two of those don’t  go how Court observers expect, it’s almost certainly going to be a great term for Republicans.

And while they’ve had a couple of recent high-profile defeats at the Court, conservatives have enjoyed a conservative majority for a couple of decades now. Yes, Anthony Kennedy sometimes joins with liberals, as he did in the case legalizing same-sex marriage. But just in the last few years, they’ve seen the doors of campaign finance thrown open to unlimited spending by corporations and billionaires; the Voting Rights Act gutted; affirmative action all but outlawed; an individual right to own guns created for the first time in American history; corporations granted religious rights to exempt themselves from laws they don’t like and sectarian prayer allowed at government meetings; unions undermined and employment discrimination suits made more difficult; and a whole series of less well-known decisions that enhance the power of the powerful, whether it’s the government or corporations.

Nevertheless, when you hear conservatives talk about the Court, they don’t say, “We need to make sure we get more conservative justices to keep winning.” Instead, they say, “We’ve been betrayed!” So what’s going on?

There are a couple of answers. The first is that they’re demanding not just a record of wins, but absolute perfection. They want not justices who will bring a conservative philosophy to the Court, but justices who will never stray from whatever it is the Republican Party wants at a particular time. The recent decision in King v. Burwell is a perfect example: the lawsuit itself was a joke, based on a series of claims about the Affordable Care Act that ran from the clearly false to the laughably ridiculous. When John Roberts sided with the majority to dismiss it — despite a long record of being on the “right” side of all the cases I mentioned above, plus many more — they declared him to be an irredeemable traitor.

The second reason is that narratives of betrayal are central to how conservatives understand history. Whenever events don’t turn out as they would like, whether it’s a foreign war or a lost election or a societal evolution, the story is always the same: We were betrayed, either by our opponents or by the people we thought were our allies. Was the Iraq War a terrible idea? No, we had it won — until Barack Obama betrayed us by pulling out. Why was George W. Bush so unpopular? Because he betrayed conservative principles by not cutting spending more, just like his father betrayed us by raising taxes (while the younger Bush was still president, longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie wrote a book entitled “Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big-Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause).” As Digby memorably wrote, “Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed. (And a conservative can only fail because he is too liberal.)” And it goes back as far as you want. Why did the Soviet Union come to dominate Eastern Europe? Because FDR betrayed us at Yalta.

It isn’t that there’s never any truth in this story, particularly when it comes to the Court. David Souter, for instance, turned out to be a genuine liberal, not at all what Republicans expected when he was appointed by George H. W. Bush. But they’ve gotten so used to the betrayal narrative that they place even a single setback into it. Which may explain why conservative opinions of the Court have changed so dramatically in recent years. According to Pew polls, in 2008, 80 percent of Republicans approved of the Supreme Court, compared to 64 percent of Democrats. By 2015, the views of Democrats hadn’t changed — their approval was at 62 percent. But Republican approval had fallen to 33 percent, despite all they had won at the Court over that time. A full 68 percent of conservative Republicans call the Court “liberal,” an idea that is absurd by any objective measure, but one that is regularly fed by conservative media and Republican politicians.

To be clear, Republicans are right to focus on the Supreme Court during the campaign, and Democrats ought to as well. As I’ve argued before, there may be no single issue more consequential for America’s future in this election than what will happen to the Supreme Court in the next four or eight years. But Republicans aren’t just arguing that it’s important for them to elect a Republican so they can get friendly justices, they’re arguing that even Republican presidents and Republican-appointed justices can’t be trusted not to turn into judicial Benedict Arnolds.

If you’re someone like Ted Cruz, this idea fits in nicely with the rest of your message, at least during the primaries: the real enemy isn’t the Democrats, it’s the feckless and unreliable Republican establishment that has failed to deliver the conservative paradise we were promised. Which is why no one is louder in condemning Roberts than Cruz (who supported Roberts wholeheartedly when he was nominated). But I wonder, will they change their tune when the Court gives them one victory after another over the next nine months?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 6, 2015

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Conservatism, Conservatives, John Roberts, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jeb Accuses Trump Of Being A New Yorker”: That’s The Home Of Rich, Snotty Liberals, Ergo, Trump Must Be A Liberal

Jeb Bush complains that the political media have not treated Donald Trump as a serious candidate. They have not dissected Trump’s eclectic stances, which, a new Bush ad contends, show the populist as a fake conservative.

OK. Labor Day is over. Let’s get serious.

Start with that new Bush ad, titled “The Real Donald Trump.”

The ad opens with Trump on TV saying: “I lived in New York City, in Manhattan, all my life, OK? So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa.”

Trump is from New York. Who knew? That’s the home of rich, snotty liberals. Ergo, Trump must be a liberal, or so the serious Bush implies.

When it comes time to raise substantial piles of campaign cash, Jeb seems to like New Yorkers just fine. Indeed, he is a frequent flier to the Manhattan till. Last winter, private equity magnate Henry Kravis threw a fundraiser for Jeb at his Park Avenue spread. The price of admission — $100,000 a ticket — raised eyebrows even on Wall Street.

Oh, yes, we’re supposed to talk about Trump’s policy positions.

The Bush ad has Trump saying years ago that the 25 percent tax rate for high-income people should be “raised substantially.” Do note that Ronald Reagan’s tax reforms left the top marginal rate at 28 percent — and after closing numerous loopholes. Also, capital gains were then taxed as ordinary income, meaning the rate for the wealthiest taxpayers was 28 percent. (The top rate is now 23.8 percent.)

Speaking of the tax code, Trump vows to close the loophole on carried interest. It lets hedge fund managers pay taxes on obviously earned income at a lower rate than their chauffeurs pay. “They’re paying nothing, and it’s ridiculous,” Trump says.

A writer at the conservative Weekly Standard recently asked Bush whether he’d end the deal on carried interest. “Ask me on Sept. 9″ was Bush’s noncommittal answer. That’s when he plans to unfurl his tax reform plan.

The ad has a younger Trump coming out for single-payer health care. That sounds a lot like Medicare.

Trump is shown saying he’s pro-choice on abortion. A recent CBS poll had 61 percent of Republicans opposing a ban on abortion, although many want stricter limits.

About Trump’s being a lifelong New Yorker, well, that’s not entirely true. He spends a good deal of quality time in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Donald is a perfect fit for Palm Beach,” Shannon Donnelly, the society editor for the Palm Beach Daily News (aka “The Shiny Sheet”), told me. “He has an office in New York but is rarely there.”

“We’re overdue for Winter White House,” Donnelly added. “We haven’t had one since that guy from Massachusetts [John F. Kennedy] moved in with all his rambunctious siblings.”

Your author cannot sign off without opining that Trump’s crude remarks about Mexicans should disqualify him from becoming president. The Trump ad tying Bush’s rather liberal thoughts on immigration to faces of Mexican criminals who murdered people in this country is rather disgraceful.

But it is not unlike the Willie Horton ad that Bush’s father, George H.W., ran in his 1988 campaign. Horton had raped a woman after being released from a Massachusetts prison on a weekend furlough. The Democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis, was Massachusetts’ governor at the time. The elder Bush’s ads continually flashed Horton’s picture in what many considered a stereotype of a scary black man.

“By the time we’re finished,” Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater said, “they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”

Let’s get serious about Trump’s record? Yes, and the same goes for everyone else’s.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 8, 2015

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, New York City | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Universal Election Day Registration”: Jimmy Carter And The Conservative Abandonment Of Voting Rights

Being a Georgian and a kiddie volunteer for Jimmy Carter’s first gubernatorial contest in 1966, I thought I was an expert on Most Things Jimmy. But Rick Perlstein, who was seven years old when Carter became our 39th president, has unearthed a proud moment of that presidency which I and probably others watching at the time had all but forgotten: a 1977 election reform initiative which still seems bold in its clear purpose and scope.

Everyone loved to talk about voter apathy, but the real problem, Carter said, was that “millions of Americans are prevented or discouraged from voting in every election by antiquated and overly restricted voter registration laws”—a fact proven, he pointed out, by record rates of participation in 1976 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, where voters were allowed to register on election day. So he proposed that election-day registration be adopted universally, tempering concerns that such measures might increase opportunities for fraud by also proposing five years in prison and a $10,000 fine as penalties for electoral fraud.

He asked Congress to allot up to $25 million in aid to states to help them comply, and for the current system of federal matching funds for presidential candidates to be expanded to congressional elections. He suggested reforming a loophole in the matching-fund law that disadvantaged candidates competing with rich opponents who funded their campaigns themselves, and revising the Hatch Act to allow federal employees “not in sensitive positions,” and when not on the job, the same rights of political participation as everyone else.

Finally, and most radically, he recommended that Congress adopt a constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College—under which, three times in our history (four times if you count George W. Bush 33 years later), a candidate who received fewer votes than his opponent went on to become president—in favor of popular election of presidents. It was one of the broadest political reform packages ever proposed.

As Perlstein notes, Carter’s proposal initially drew support from national leaders of the GOP. But then the engines of the conservative movement became engaged in blocking it, led by Ronald Reagan, making arguments that sound extremely familiar today: real voters don’t need convenience; universal voting will empower looters in league with the Democratic Party; voter fraud will run rampant; and the Electoral College is part and parcel of our infallible system of federalism. The initiative was filibustered to death (in another fine usage of an anti-democratic device), Reagan beat Carter in 1980, and another rock of progress rolled down another long hill.

And now Jimmy Carter, at 90, is suffering from apparently incurable cancer, but is still speaking out:

This spring, when only those closest to him knew of his illness, Jimmy Carter made news on Thom Hartmann’s radio program when he returned to the question of democracy reform. In 1977, he had pledged “to work toward an electoral process which is open to the participation of all our citizens, which meets high ethical standards, and operates in an efficient and responsive manner.” In 2015, he was still at it.

He declared our electoral system a violation of “the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.”

The best possible tribute to Carter at death’s door is what Perlstein is doing: remembering his finest moments in causes then lost but now redeemable, if we take them up again.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 28, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Voter Registration, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Campaign Is Circling The Drain”: What Rick Perry’s Fall Tells Us About The GOP Primary Process

Rick Perry’s candidacy is not dead, it’s just pining for the fjords.

Perhaps I’m being unkind. After all, it’s only August, and there’s at least one example — John McCain in 2008 — of a candidate who hit rock bottom, was counted out by everyone, and came back to win his party’s nomination. But Perry is now struggling for his political life, when he should have been a strong contender for the nomination. How did this happen? We’re talking about a guy who was governor of the largest Republican-dominated state for 14 years, who created a businessman’s paradise of low taxes and almost no regulations, whose contempt for Washington is plain for all to see, who genuinely came from humble beginnings, who served in uniform, who’s a socially conservative, God-fearin’, gun-lovin’, tough-talkin’ Texan with a natural appeal to all of the party’s constituencies. And yet, his campaign is circling the drain. So can Perry’s floundering help us understand anything about the contemporary presidential campaign?

As I’ve mentioned before, candidates don’t depart presidential primaries when they decide their effort is doomed, they depart when they run out of money. Once the stench of defeat is upon you, it becomes harder to get media attention and harder to raise cash — after all, who wants to donate to a candidate who’s on his way out? There’s a moment on all of those campaigns when the staff is gathered together, and the campaign manager stands up in front of them with obvious pain in his eyes, and tells them that they aren’t going to be able to make the payroll. This is where the Perry campaign is now:

Former Texas governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign is no longer paying its staff because fundraising has dried up, while his cash-flush allied super PAC is preparing to expand its political operation to compensate for the campaign’s shortcomings, campaign and super PAC officials and other Republicans familiar with the operation said late Monday.

Perry, who has struggled to gain traction in his second presidential run, has stopped paying his staff at the national headquarters in Austin as well as in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to a Republican familiar with the Perry campaign who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller told staff last Friday, the day after the first Republican presidential debate, that they would no longer be paid and are free to look for other jobs — and, so far at least, most aides have stuck with Perry — according to this Republican.

Perry’s super PACs may still have plenty of money (as of a month ago they had raised nearly $17 million, a respectable if not spectacular total), since they haven’t had to spend what they raised on things like big ad buys. But that may be the first lesson of Perry’s desperate situation: super PACs can’t substitute for a real campaign. While it’s easier to raise money for them since they aren’t constrained by contribution limits, there’s only so much they can do to prop up their candidate when he’s in trouble. If what you need is some more advertising on your behalf to keep you competitive in a primary that’s days away, having a super PAC is great. If what you need is to maintain yourself over the long slog of the pre-primary period, they can do very little, because they can’t pay for your travel or your rent or your staff.

The second lesson could be that, just as everyone suggested, the first debate’s 10-candidate limit really could do damage to at least some of the candidates who didn’t make the cut. Perry was narrowly excluded, even though he trails others who made it, like Chris Christie and John Kasich, by a tiny amount. If he were running a lighter campaign — though I’m not sure, I suspect that the Santorum for President effort right now is two guys and a Geo Metro — he wouldn’t be too damaged by being excluded. But Perry is trying to run a serious effort, and that requires resources.

Perry’s struggles also show that while there may be second acts in GOP presidential primaries, your first act has to be a good one. Most of the people who have won the Republican nomination in recent years did so on their second try — Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush. But all of them performed pretty well in their first runs, essentially coming in second to the eventual winner. Perry, on the other hand, flamed out spectacularly in 2012. He may be a better candidate this time around, but it appears that few voters were waiting eagerly to hear more from him.

And finally, it’s a reminder that candidate quality matters. Perry may have been an effective politician in the Texas context, where the state is dominated by Republicans and his particular down-home style plays well, but it didn’t seem to translate to other places, four years ago or today. On paper, he may have looked like the perfect Republican presidential candidate. But that’s not where the campaign is decided.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The WashingtoAugust 11, 2015

August 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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