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“A Long Series Of ‘Murder-Suicide’ Incidents”: If Rubio Falters In New Hampshire, Things Could Get Weird For Republicans

The big question for Republicans as the good citizens of New Hampshire prepare to vote tomorrow is whether Saturday night’s candidate debate fundamentally changed anything (not as fundamentally, of course, as Marco Rubio says Barack Obama wants to change America, but enough to mess up Rubio’s day). A John Kasich super-pac wisely did a one-day snap poll and quickly got the results out since they showed both Kasich and Jeb Bush moving past Marco Rubio into second and third place, respectively. Independent pollsters had generally shown Kasich with a bit of a buzz even before the debate; one of the two tracking polls that captured Sunday’s sentiment (from ARG) had Kasich even with Rubio at 16 percent. A Monmouth poll that ended pre-debate on Saturday basically had Rubio, Kasich, Bush, and Cruz in a four-way tie. All indicators show at least as much voter volatility as in Iowa.

What’s different from Iowa, of course, is that virtually no one is doubting Donald Trump will win in New Hampshire. And Ted Cruz’s exact order of finish probably doesn’t matter a great deal, either. Indeed, from the perspective of Team Cruz, keeping as many Establishment candidates alive as possible to mess with Marco Rubio might be worth a poor outcome for their own candidate in a state where his expectations have been low.

For any of the Governors (as they are generally being called at present) who top Rubio in New Hampshire, it means survival for another round. Chris Christie, Rubio’s tormenter Saturday night, has the most ground to make up in New Hampshire, and also has the weakest prospects going forward, with no particular state in sight where he has any kind of natural base until well down the road. It’s also pretty well-known from a long series of “murder-suicide” incidents in political contests that the candidate who damages a rival in a multi-candidate field is often not the beneficiary.

So Kasich is the most likely Marco-beater tomorrow night, with Jeb Bush a decent possibility as well. Either or both would presumably move on to South Carolina, where they’d make an already-long-shot Rubio win over Trump and Cruz significantly more difficult. The same dynamics might be in play in the Super Tuesday primaries of March 1. But it’s unclear whether either of these worthies can hang on until March 15, when their home states hold winner-take-all primaries. In theory this is when Jeb, if he is still around and can somehow top not only his fellow Floridian but Trump and Cruz as well, could knock Rubio right out of the race.

That’s a distant revenge fantasy for Jebbie’s long-suffering backers at present. But the more important point is that a Rubio fade in New Hampshire would provide massive incentives for the surviving governors to go after him with a clawhammer — even as Trump and Cruz pile up delegates in the relatively conservative, evangelical-heavy array of states on the near horizon. In other words, Rubio’s debate stumble could turn out to be the very moment the Establishment most feared. You’d best believe that at some of the choicest Beltway watering holes tomorrow night, there will be prayers that Rubio finishes ahead of the Governors after all and creates the three-man race that looked so likely just a few days ago.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 8, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio, New Hampshire Primaries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Doubt It Works?”: Donald Trump Wants To Reclassify Waterboarding So It’s No Longer A War Crime For Him To Order It

While there was some discussion among the Republican candidates at Saturday night’s debate in New Hampshire as to whether or not waterboarding was a form of torture (it is), Donald Trump went below and beyond everyone else on stage to insist that not only would he reinstitute waterboarding against America’s enemies, he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” as well. Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, Trump elaborated on his position and confirmed that he would “go through a process and get [waterboarding] declassified” as a war crime in order to use it, “at a minimum,” against ISIS if he’s elected president. So far, Trump has not explained what forms of torture he would bring back that are worse than waterboarding, which is essentially simulated drowning. “You can say what you want I have no doubt that it does work in terms of information and other things,” Trump insisted to Tapper, though it’s worth noting that torture doesn’t actually work when it comes to gathering useful intelligence from prisoners.

Regarding the rest of the GOP field’s responses to the torture question Saturday night, Ted Cruz stood by the Bush-administration’s discredited assurance that waterboarding was a form of enhanced interrogation, not torture, though either way he wouldn’t “bring it back in any sort of widespread use.” Jeb Bush changed his position, from saying he wouldn’t rule it out, to last night saying that he was happy with Congress’s ban on waterboarding as it was. Marco Rubio dodged the question by insisting it would be inappropriate to discuss his future plans for America’s interrogation techniques. Regardless, though Rubio missed the Senate vote on banning torture, he has said he would have voted against the ban, and on Saturday night championed the idea of filling up Guantánamo with new prisoners to interrogate.

Though he was not asked about it on Saturday night, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has previously said he did not consider waterboarding torture and would not rule it out as an interrogation method. Carly Fiorina supports the practice as well. Ben Carson has made a statement that seems to suggest he would consider waterboarding prisoners, too. It’s not clear what John Kasich’s position is.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 7, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Enhanced Interrogation, Torture, Waterboarding | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Amazing Pretense Of A Third-Place Finisher”: When A Candidate Takes A ‘Victory Lap’ Without A Victory

In 1992, then-Gov. Bill Clinton faced brutal headwinds ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Rocked by controversy and personal allegations, the Arkansas Democrat was written off, dismissed as a candidate who would have to drop out sooner rather than later.

And yet, on Primary Night, there was Clinton, making a memorable declaration: “New Hampshire has made Bill Clinton the Comeback Kid.” What’s less memorable is the fact that Clinton actually lost that primary. In fact, Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) beat Clinton in New Hampshire by more than eight points. But because so many assumed Clinton would get crushed, his second-place showing seemed like a triumph.

It serves as a reminder that, as odd as this sounds, candidates don’t necessarily have to win to seem like they won.

What we haven’t seen, however, is a third-place finisher pretend to have scored an amazing victory. That is, until this week.

After losing to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses Monday night, Marco Rubio told supporters, “This is the moment they said would never happen!” It was, of course, the moment literally everyone said would inevitably happen – Rubio was supposed to finish third in Iowa and he did.

But pesky details like election results notwithstanding, the Florida senator launched a strategy in which he’d simply act as if he’d won, and expect the political media, which often seems overly fond of Rubio, to simply play along with the charade.

Which is exactly what’s happening. Paul Waldman highlighted some gems yesterday

[T]oday’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.”

No wonder Rubio took a “victory lap” yesterday without an actual victory – which ordinarily would seem like a prerequisite to a victory lap.

Perhaps my favorite headline of all was published by the Wall Street Journal: “Rubio’s Rise Amid Trump’s Slump.” Remember, Rubio and Trump faced off in the same contest, in the same state, at the same time. Trump won more votes. Pundits don’t care.

It’s true, of course, that expectations shape perceptions, but Ted Cruz was expected to lose Iowa before actually winning the whole contest – a fact Rubio’s cheerleaders have deemed unimportant.

Why in the world is this happening? Waldman tried to explain this bizarre dynamic:

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. […]

[W]hether 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.

I’d argue with Waldman about Rubio being “pretty informed about policy,” but otherwise, his take sounds about right.

It’s unnerving to see so much of the political world simply pretend on behalf of its preferred candidate, expecting the hype to become self-fulfilling, but there’s a decent chance it’ll work.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , | 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 Sorry State Of Huckabee And Santorum”: The Only Feeling Voters Have For These Two Is Apathy

Rick Santorum was unhappy.

While other candidates have managed to draw crowds of hundreds and even tens of thousands this cycle, Santorum arrived at Second Street Emporium, a dimly lit restaurant and bar in Webster City, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon, to find that fewer than 50 people had come to see his town hall.

Making matters worse, the majority of them weren’t Iowa voters, but high school students who’d been bussed in from Cincinnati. They couldn’t even vote in the caucus on Monday.

“This is actually more than I expected,” Bob Algard, his field director in the Northwest part of the state, told me. He nodded at the crowd. “So this is pretty good.”

But Santorum, dressed in his signature sweater vest, was finding it hard to stay positive. His speech began optimistically enough—“things are gonna go surprisingly well for us on Monday!”—but he soon dropped the act.

“People always criticize Iowa because you put forth someone—myself and Mike Huckabee—who didn’t win the nomination,” he said, “but they don’t ask the second question: did the person who won the nomination win the election?”

He paused for a second and then answered his own question with a dramatic, “No!”

“So maybe,” he added, “they should’ve listened to Iowa instead of listening to New Hampshire! I think Iowa better reflects the values of this country, frankly, than New Hampshire does.”

In 2008, Huckabee won the Iowa caucus. In 2012, Santorum did. This time around, both men are nonentities. Huckabee polls at 2.5 percent on average. Santorum commands just 1 percent.

It’s hard to say what’s changed since the last cycle, except everything. Santorum, in his remarks, seemed bewildered by this frightening new world.

He is unable to comprehend how people could go from supporting someone like himself—a passive aggressive Catholic with enough kids to form a basketball team and some hours clocked in the U.S. Senate—to supporting a reality TV star the color of a clementine, or someone who boasts that their biggest accomplishment in Washington is the fact that everyone in Washington has learned to hate him in just a handful of years.

“Standing up for principles you believe in and have for 25 years, well, that doesn’t make you newsworthy!” he shouted. “But! If you call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, you can get on O’Reilly!”

For all his supposed disgust with Trump, Santorum did appear with him—and Huckabee—at his Drake University rally on Thursday, but he seemed to have forgotten that Saturday morning. He called the campaign “the Celebrity Apprentice” and “Presidential Apprentice.” He asked the crowd to help him “set things straight.”

Then his tone changed from angry to pleading.

“Here’s what I would suggest: that past is prologue,” he said. There is, according to him, “one person” running who has a history of going to Washington and passing conservative laws (his name rhymes with Shmick Shmamshmorum) and “look, the people of Iowa, four years ago, made that conclusion. So my feeling is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

A few hours later, about 60 miles South in Johnston, a bullet casing pegged my ribs. Then another hit my foot.

They came from Huckabee.

He was standing two feet away and pummeling the heart of a target—mostly its left side—with firepower from a handgun.

Rather than complain about his predicament, Huckabee channeled his anger in a different way: using weapons to get as much attention as possible before Monday.

I asked Huckabee if he was picturing anyone in particular as he looked at this target. Deflected. pic.twitter.com/2oYmvugH5l

— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) January 30, 2016

A modest scrum of a little over a dozen reporters and photographers looked on as he shot, all of us wearing pink protective headsets and plastic eyewear. For perspective, there was just one other member of the media covering Santorum’s town hall.

Huckabee assessed his grouping. “I’m a left eye-dominant shooter,” he said, adding that the last time he shot was “about a a week ago.”

I asked him if he was picturing anyone’s face in particular as he fired at the target. He answered, “I aim for the heart.”

Though it certainly felt happier than Santorum’s event, it was difficult to find any actual Huckabee supporters at the gun range. After asking around a bit, a staffer introduced me to David Haake, Huckabee’s friend of 30 years. He drove in from his native Arkansas to support him.

“There’s new faces in the crowd,” he said when I asked about Huckabee’s performance this time around. People may feel, he said, “like ok, you’ve done this once, let’s look at somebody else.”

“But I really believe that come caucus night, when its all said and done, he will do much better than what the polls say. I really believe so.”

In the distance, Huckabee could be heard firing away.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, January 31, 2016

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Iowa Caucuses, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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