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“They Just Want Somebody To Fall In Love With”: Republican Voters Do Not Give A Flying Comb-Over About Who Is Electable

The parlor game for 2016 campaign observers is based on a straightforward question: “If Donald Trump’s support is eventually going to fall, what will be the cause?”

The “if” poses its own challenge, but even if we accept the premise, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what will cause Trump’s lead in the polls to evaporate. Some Republicans assume this is a fleeting fad that cannot be sustained . Others believe the GOP’s primary contest won’t really begin in earnest until after the debates begin and TV ads start airing, making Trump’s early surge irrelevant. Still others assume the former reality-show host will eventually say something so outrageous that he’ll effectively commit political suicide.

But the point that brings comfort to many in the political establishment is the issue of electability – Trump would face extremely long odds as a general-election candidate, and Republican primary voters, desperate for a win, will start thinking strategically in 2016.

Or will they? As Rachel noted on the show last night, the latest NBC News/Marist poll asked Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire for their 2016 preferences, but they also asked a question that was arguably more interesting:

“Which is more important to you: a Republican nominee for president who shares your position on most issues, or a Republican nominee for president who has the best chance of winning the White House?”

The results weren’t even close. In New Hampshire, 67% of GOP voters want a candidate they agree with, while only 29% are principally concerned with electability. In Iowa, the results were practically identical.

This isn’t about Trump, per se. This is about what we’re learning about Republican voters themselves.

With the NBC poll in mind, Rachel’s take on the state of the race rings true:

“He’s the only top-tier Republican candidate who loses by double digits. not only to Hillary Clinton, but also to Bernie Sanders. But Republican voters want him anyway. And that ends up not being an interesting thing about Donald Trump. It’s an interesting thing about Republican voters. They keep picking him, and they know he would lose, but they like him anyway. They know he’s going to lose, and they don’t care. They love this guy.

“So, all this beltway analysis that says that Donald Trump’s star is going to fall, because all of the ways in which he is not electable, right, there’s the reason all that punditry, and all that beltway common wisdom keeps getting proven wrong with each new passing day and each new poll showing Donald Trump on top, because Republican voters do not give a flying comb-over about who is electable. They just want somebody to fall in love with, and they have fallen in love with him.”

Remember, we’ve seen this before in the recent past. Republicans could have won a Senate race in Delaware, but they wanted a candidate who made them happy (Christie O’Donnell), not a candidate who would win (Mike Castle). They could have won a Senate race in Indiana, but they wanted an ideologically satisfying candidate (Richard Mourdock), not a candidate with broad appeal (Richard Lugar).

Sure, this may change. Trump’s role in the race has been unpredictable thus far, so no one can say with confidence what the race will look like in early 2016.

But the GOP base has been told repeatedly – by party leaders, by conservative media, even by Republican candidates – that compromise is wrong. Concessions of any kind are offensive.

It’s a little late in the game for the same party to tell these same voters not to support the unelectable guy at the top of the polls.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republican Voters | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Clearly Freakazoid Behavior”: Where Does The Tea Party Find These People?

I was on Hardball last night talking about the escapades of this Milton Wolf character, the tea party guy who’s challenging GOP incumbent Senator Pat Roberts this year. Wolf became freshly newsworthy this past weekend when the Topeka Capital-Journal revealed that in 2010, Wolf, a radiologist, posted photos of disfigured corpses on Facebook (of people who’d been shot, etc.) and joined other commenters in poking fun at the them.

One image he posted showed a human skull all but blasted apart, about which Wolf wrote: “One of my all-time favorites,” Wolf posted to the Facebook picture. “From my residency days there was a pretty active ‘knife and gun club’ at Truman Medical Center. What kind of gun blows somebody’s head completely off? I’ve got to get one of those.”

The Kansas City Star headlines an AP story by asserting that Wolf has “apologized,” but I read the piece and I’ll be jiggered if I see any apology in there. What Wolf does is try to explain his actions, although not really, and then accuse Roberts of leaking the material (which, if he did, so what; any opposing campaign would). A release by Wolf’s campaign even called the alleged leak (and it’s only alleged) “the most desperate move of any campaign in recent history,” another clueless and self-pitying statement.

So, this is clearly freakazoid behavior, and is obviously a grotesquely inappropriate thing for a medical professional to do. And it raises the broader question: Where does the tea party find these people?

I think this is an interesting question, because the answer describes one of the movement’s major impacts on our politics, which is the elevation of ideology above every other human consideration—of things like experience and temperament and character—in selecting people for high office; indeed, the creation of a posture in which those other considerations are scorned.

Here’s what I mean. Pre-tea party, if you wanted to be involved in Republican politics, you started the way nearly everybody starts in politics, in both parties. You run for city council, or county commissioner; then state legislature; then maybe, if you’ve demonstrated some skill or charisma or something, you’ll get to Congress or maybe become governor.

Each of these campaigns vets you, so that the crazy things you did and said when you were young are placed before the voters, who decide whether those things matter or not. And each of these experiences, as a county commissioner or state legislature, leavens you a bit, teaches you what the process of government is like, gives you a little sobriety. You might still be very conservative (or very liberal on the other side), but experience has, at least in theory and I think in most cases, made you a little more mature and better equipped to hold higher office.

But then comes the tea party in 2010, and boom, none of this matters anymore. So people who would normally have had to run for lower office first are suddenly running for United States Senate! Christine O’Donnell, no apparent relevant experience in anything except being on TV. Sharron Angle, who did admittedly serve in the Nevada state assembly for eight years but who was there to throw bombs; she voted no in the 42-member body so often that statehouse reporters joked about votes being “41 to Angle.” And lots of people with histories of out-there statements.

None of that earns any demerits in tea party “vetting.” For the tea party, all you need to do is pass ideological muster: hate Obama; hate government; embrace their idea of “freedom.” You sure don’t need to have shown a sober temperament. In fact, quite the opposite. Being known as 41 to Angle is a great calling card for tea party voters, because it shows them that you’re not a sell-out and the system hasn’t ruined you.

So it’ll be especially interesting to see if this harms Wolf. The reaction will tell us whether tea party people and Republicans generally in Kansas regard what he did as just another sort of manly joke that offends prissy liberal sensibilities (and thus requires that they rise to his defense)—that is, whether they have a knee-jerk ideological reaction—or as something that’s really just kind of beyond the pale for a human being, let alone a doctor, to do—that is, whether they have a more human reaction. Because I think 99 percent of normal human beings would react to what Wolf did with varying degrees of disgust. But once it becomes a political act, and he gets taken apart on MSNBC, a certain percentage will defend him. How high that percentage ends up being will be a fascinating thing to see.

As I was leaving the set, a producer said into Chris Matthews’s earpiece, and he announced, that a recent poll had it Roberts 49, Wolf 23. So Wolf is behind, but he’s not out of it. The primary isn’t until August. He has plenty of time to make a run. There’s also plenty of time to learn more weird stuff about him. That comes with the tea-party territory, and it’s creating a class of pols who should be back-bench state legislators but have the chance of becoming U.S. senators. It’s just a good thing most of them don’t win.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 25, 2014

February 26, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Sobering Message”: What’s Wrong With The GOP

Republicans have been spending the weeks after their miserable showing in the 2012 election trying to figure out why they did so miserably. Bobby Jindal said what a lot of people were thinking by suggesting the GOP needed to stop being “the stupid party.” Karl Rove, who didn’t back one winning candidate in the recent election, is blaming the Tea Party for promoting extreme, unelectable candidates.

Republican political operative Liz Mair, who has been a communications strategist for governors Scott Walker and Rick Perry, offers a sobering message to her party:

Everyone knows that Todd Akin, Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle were not good candidates. What a lot of people don’t seem to recognize is that their opponents, even though they looked like they would perform better based on on-paper attributes, were even worse candidates. How do I know this? They lost to Todd Akin, Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle. I’m serious. Think about that for a minute.

In her blog post “Forget what you’ve heard, here’s what’s really wrong with the GOP,” she lays out five reasons why the Republican Party is seeing stars, despite an ailing economy and the best demographic advantage they will ever have.

First, a lot of bad candidates have been fielded, and a lot of crappy campaigns have been run. And no, I don’t just mean that candidate whose name immediately popped into your head there.

Second, and tied in with this, we have too many less-than-cutting-edge and insufficiently creative and/or out-of-date consultants making a lot of money off of said crappy campaigns.

Third, our technology sucks in comparison to what Democrats have.

Fourth, growing portions of the electorate—Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans—either loathe us or just don’t like us.

Fifth, the party seems to have forgotten that it’s supposed to stand for something—by which I mean actual principles of some sort, and not just, say, the general bumper sticker concept that “OBAMA = BAD.”

After laying out her diagnosis, she has a few prescriptions on how to treat the problems. If you’re not a fan of the GOP, you should hope that no Republican with any power heeds her advice.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, February 5, 2013

February 6, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Substance Over Style”: New Term, New Truthers, Same President Obama

If I had to pick my favorite political ad of the last few years, a strong contender would be the one from 2010 Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, in which she looked into the camera and said sweetly, “I’m not a witch. I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you.” The combination of a hilarious lack of subtlety with a kind of sad earnestness made it unforgettable. And it’s the message that almost every politician tries to offer at one point or another (the “I’m you” part, not the part about not being a witch). They all want us to think they’re us, or at least enough like us for us to trust them.

So when the White House released a photo over the weekend of President Obama shooting skeet, the smoke of freedom issuing forth from the barrel of his gun, you could almost hear him saying, “I’m not an effete socialist gun-hater. I’m you.” If “you” happen to be one of the minority of Americans who own guns, that is. Even at this late date, Obama and his aides can’t resist the urge, when confronted with a controversial policy debate, to send the message of cultural affinity to the people who—let’s be honest—he is most unlike.

We should give the White House some credit, though. This came about because in an interview with The New Republic, Obama was asked whether he had ever fired a gun, and he responded that he shoots skeet “all the time” at Camp David, prompting conservatives to begin demanding photographic evidence. His aides knew that a photo of Obama shooting skeet wasn’t going to convince anybody of anything, and in fact would just spur the President’s most deranged opponents to make fools of themselves. Which is why White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted the photo “For all the ‘skeeters,'” and senior advisor David Plouffe did the same, writing, “Attn skeet birthers. Make our day – let the photoshop conspiracies begin!” Lo and behold, a bevy of conservatives obliged with fine-grained analyses of why the photo was faked or staged, making it clear that their opposition to President Obama is rational and policy-based, and they are absolutely not a bunch of crazy people.

And to Obama’s credit, in the interview that started the discussion about skeet shooting, he displayed what we actually ought to seek from politicians: an effort to understand people’s differing perspectives and the things that are important to them. “Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas,” he said. “And if you grew up and your dad gave you a hunting rifle when you were ten, and you went out and spent the day with him and your uncles, and that became part of your family’s traditions, you can see why you’d be pretty protective of that.”

That’s true, and the gun owners Obama is referring to are, according to opinion polls, supportive of the kinds of measures he’s proposing, like universal background checks and limits on certain military-style guns and large-capacity ammunition clips. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the controversy from the 2008 campaign, when Obama was recorded saying people in small towns “cling to guns or religion” (you may have forgotten it, but people on the right haven’t, I assure you). A supporter had asked him how to convince people in economically depressed small towns in places like Pennsylvania who are hostile toward Democrats to change their minds, and his answer was actually an attempt to explain to the questioner where those people might be coming from. What he was saying was that they felt let down by politicians who promised them again and again that they could improve their economic circumstances, and so they turned to cultural issues—and more particularly, resentments—to define their political identity and determine their votes. He ended by saying that even if you can’t convince very many of them, it’s important to try. It may have been phrased inartfully (to use Mitt Romney’s formulation), but it was an attempt to understand and bridge personal divides, even if it became exactly the opposite. He couldn’t say “I’m you” to those small-town white voters, but he was trying to say, “I get you.”

Let’s not forget too that part of what made Barack Obama so much more appealing than the average Democratic candidate to so many liberals in 2008 is that, in fact, he is them. Multi-racial, hailing from a big city, educated, sophisticated and urbane, Obama looked to many liberals like the kind of person they might encounter in their daily lives, maybe even the kind of person they imagine themselves to be. Much as liberals have derided the efforts of politicians from both parties to create cultural affinity—from George W. Bush, son of Kennebunkport, pretending to be a down-home reg’lar fella, to John Kerry, well, hunting—their cultural connection with Obama was thrilling to them. But liberals don’t get that same thrill from him anymore, for the simple reason that he’s been president for four years, and those feelings of affinity from 2008 have been overwhelmed by the feelings they have about everything that has happened since, both good and bad.

And that’s true of the rest of the country too. Americans may not follow politics very closely, and they may not know very much about policy, but in 2013, if there’s one thing they have a pretty good idea about, it’s their feelings on one Barack Hussein Obama. After a first term full of consequential policy changes and significant real-world developments, substance has inevitably become far more important than style. The ones who find him alien and threatening wouldn’t have their minds changed by a thousand photos, no matter what they seemed to communicate. Obama surely knows that. But maybe someday, a Republican candidate will stage a photo-op to convince voters that despite all appearances, he’s just like college professors or Brooklyn hipsters. Instead of the “heartland” voters being pandered to, it’ll be the coastal urban dwellers. “I’m you,” he’ll say. And just as they do now, voters will respond, “Yeah, right.”


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 4, 2013

February 4, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pandering To The Stupid”: Why The GOP Breeds Politicians Like Todd Akin

The embarrassing fall of Todd Akin should induce Republicans to confront their own responsibility for the low quality of politicians they are inflicting on us (and themselves). Having developed an extremist culture that encourages figures such as Akin to seek legislative office, GOP leaders should hardly be surprised when idiotic and reprehensible remarks spill from the mouths of their candidates. (Candidates who insist, by the way, that English should be our official language when their own diction is often incomprehensible.)

Yet those same leaders insist they were shocked – yes, shocked and appalled – by Akin’s “legitimate rape” utterance, as if other Republican figures don’t blurt bizarre, nonsensical, and dumb comments as regularly as cows pass gas. Memories dim from cycle to cycle, but how can they forget Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party queen whose defeat of an intelligent moderate Republican legislator sparked celebrations among “conservatives” across the country?

She had accused “American scientific companies” of cross-breeding animals with humans to produce “mice with fully functioning human brains,” and warned that co-educational colleges would lead to “orgy rooms.” Regarding evolution, she said the scientific theory is “a myth,” asking “Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?” But her shaky grip on reality didn’t matter because she eagerly adopted the party line on economic and social issues.

O’Donnell was colorful but hardly unique. Across the country in Nevada, Sharron Angle became the party’s standard-bearer against Senator Harry Reid, proceeding to disqualify herself with calls for armed insurrection and ugly, racially charged remarks to Hispanic students. In Kentucky, Rand Paul easily won a Senate seat, whereupon he let the nation know that the Supreme Court doesn’t decide the constitutionality of laws in this country. Evidently he thinks that he does.

Cretinism of the same caliber can be found in news archives under the names of candidates failed and elected, from Carl Paladino in New York and Ken Buck in Colorado to Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and — topping any such list – Michele Bachmann in Minnesota, who once suggested that Democratic presidencies coincided with swine flu outbreaks because they had occurred under Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. (Actually, the 1976 epidemic occurred under Gerald Ford, a Republican, but Bachmann is almost always confused about dates, places, and history.)

Dim politicians of all stripes have always been with us as an unfortunate byproduct of democracy. In that vein, it must be noted that there are plenty of bright conservatives and some not-so-bright liberals, too. But have there ever been so many nominated nimrods, so concentrated within a single major party, and so enthusiastically encouraged in their ambition by powerful people who should know better?

The most famous and damning example, of course, is Sarah Palin, the blindingly ignorant vice-presidential nominee in 2008, brought to the brink of executive power by neoconservative leader William Kristol and the seasoned campaign veterans advising John McCain, notably Steve Schmidt.

We are meant to assume that the Palin episode was a freakish accident, but the irresponsibility of Ivy-educated right-wing intellectuals like Kristol and sophisticated operatives like Schmidt in promoting her was symptomatic of a broader ailment. Major financial and media powers, including the Club for Growth, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, Rush Limbaugh, the National Review and a host of other forces within the GOP have aggressively supported candidates whose extremist views only emphasize their feeble intellect and lack of basic knowledge. For the party of the right, no standards need be imposed on those who are supposed to write laws, negotiate budgets, and oversee executive and judicial authorities. Like in the old Soviet Union, anybody who parrots the party line will do.

Don’t expect the Akin incident – or last year’s gong-show presidential primary — to provoke introspection among the top operatives and financiers of the right. Their style of politics is a daily insult to their country, but they will continue to believe that pandering to stupid is the shortest path to power.


By: The National Memo, August 23, 2012

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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