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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

“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 Fire In Mitt’s Belly”: New Book Reports That Romney Didn’t Want To Run For President In 2012

On an episode of The Office from a few years ago, the desperately insecure character of Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms) hits upon a strategy to ingratiate himself with people, called “personality mirroring.” He begins not only repeating what people say to him, but adopting the precise manner and mood of whoever he’s talking to. This is pretty much how Mitt Romney went about running for president. A man deeply unsuited to the gladhanding required of a politician made himself into one, through a titanic act of will. And just like when Andy Bernard did it, it was incredibly awkward and off-putting. As the old saying has it, sincerity is the most important thing—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Trouble was, Mitt just couldn’t, hard though he might have tried.

And it turns out, Mitt didn’t even want to run for president a second time. Veteran reporter Dan Balz is coming out with a book about the 2012 campaign, and he learned of the internal Romney family deliberations. They took a vote, and ten out of twelve Romneys, including Mitt himself, said he shouldn’t run. Here’s an excerpt:

Mitt Romney had other reasons to think that not running might be the wiser choice. Winning as a moderate from Massachusetts who happened to be Mormon was always going to be difficult. “A lot of the thinking on the part of my brothers and dad was, ‘I’m not sure I can win a primary given those dynamics.'” Tagg Romney said. The prospective candidate also knew the sheer physical and family toll another campaign would take. “He’s a private person and, push comes to shove, he wants to spend time with his family and enjoy his time with them,” his son said. “Even up until the day before he made the announcement, he was looking for excuses to get out of it. If there had been someone who he thought would have made a better president than he, he would gladly have stepped aside.”

I guess the gentle voice of America, whispering to him on the wind that it needed his square jaw and concern for the ruling class, was enough to change Mitt’s mind. But I wonder what he thinks now? We all tend to absolve ourselves of guilt in situations like this, and I’m guessing Mitt now believes there’s nothing he could have done to win. What with Obama showering government goodies on a population of greedy takers, some strategic tinkering wouldn’t have made a difference. But if thinks that now, that would mean that he was wrong when he decided that he couldn’t leave the Republican nomination to the collection of clowns he ended up beating. It’s something of a conundrum. Perhaps late at night, when everyone else is asleep, he rides his car elevator up and down, up and down, replaying the whole campaign in his head.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 2, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Election Data Dive”: Now Go Forth And Spout The Facts

Since this may be my last column about the 2012 elections, let’s have some fun. Allow me to arm you with a collection of facts and data about the election results that you can use at your next cocktail party, during your next coffee break or during your next P.T.A. meeting.

First, a comment about the exit polls from which most of these data are drawn: They were conducted only in 30 states. And, unfortunately, the balance of states polled tilted heavily toward those won by President Obama. Of the 25 states Obama won, exit polls were conducted in all but three. Obama also won the District of Columbia, which had no exit polls. Of the 24 states Mitt Romney won, exit polls were conducted only in eight.

(Obama is leading in Florida, which would be a 26th state won by Obama and a state for which there are exit polls. However, The New York Times had not yet called the state at the time of publication.)

With those caveats, let’s dive in:

• My analysis of the 2008 election found that even if every black person in America had stayed home on Election Day, Obama would still have won the presidency. That’s because the white vote and Hispanic vote were strong enough to push him over the needed 270 votes to win the Electoral College.

This year is a different story. This year, his path to victory required a broader coalition.

Without the Democratic black vote joining with that of liberal whites and Hispanics on Tuesday, Obama would likely have lost half the states that he won. This fact may embolden those who say that the president should more directly address issues facing the African-American community.

• There may have been a backlash against voter suppression laws, bringing more minorities to the polls, not fewer. The share of Hispanic voters rose in many states won by Obama. That can be attributed both to the surging Hispanic population in the country and to the Obama campaign’s incredible get-out-the-vote operation. It is less clear why the black vote held steady or grew in many of those states. In Ohio, for example, blacks jumped from being 11 percent of the voters in 2008 to 15 percent this year. Threaten to steal something, and its owner’s grip grows tighter.

• Romney won nine of the 11 states that were once in the Confederacy.

• Romney also won eight of the 10 states with the lowest population density: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. Obama won New Mexico and Nevada. (Hello. Hello. Hello. Is there an echo in here?)

• Romney’s biggest margin of victory came in Utah, home of the Mormon Church. Utah was one of three states in which Romney won every county. The other two were West Virginia and Oklahoma. Obama won every county in four states: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

• This year was the first presidential election in which there were more Asian-American voters (11 percent) in California than African-American ones (8 percent). In 2008, 6 percent were Asian-American and 10 percent were African-American. In fact, there were more Asian-American voters than African-American voters in Washington and Oregon, the other two Pacific Coast states, this year, too.

• Among the states in which exit polls were conducted, Obama won the lowest percentage of the white vote in the state with the highest percentage of black voters. That state was the ever-reliable Mississippi, where Romney made his famous “I like grits” comment. Thirty-six percent of the voters in Mississippi are black. Obama won a mere 10 percent of the white vote there.

Conversely, Obama won one of his highest percentages of white voters in the state with the fewest minority voters: Maine. Ninety-five percent of Maine’s voters were white, and 57 percent of them voted for Obama. That ties with one other state for the highest percent of whites voting for Obama: Massachusetts, where 86 percent of the voters are white.

In fact, Obama won the white vote only in states with small minority voting populations. The others Obama won were Iowa (93 percent white), New Hampshire (93 percent white), Oregon (88 percent white), Connecticut (79 percent white) and Washington State (76 percent white).

This is quite a curious phenomenon.

• Obama won all four states that begin with “New” (New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York), but he lost all five that begin with a direction (North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia). O.K., I threw that one in for fun.

Now, political junkies, go forth and spout facts!

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 9, 2012

November 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Todd Akin To Jerusalem”: Mitt Romney And The End-Times

There’s a lot of chatter about a video, made in 2007, when Romney was running for president the first time, that has (naturally) surfaced again just a few days before the election. Apparently filmed by hidden camera, it shows Romney arguing with conservative Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson, in studio but off the air, about his Mormon beliefs. Mickelson appears to be goading Romney into admitting or explaining ways that Mormonism differs from evangelical Christianity, and Romney gets pretty angry and heated throughout.

Earlier this year, Joanna Brooks wrote about how journalists who focus on, for example, Romney’s citation to Mickelson of Cold War-era Mormon figure W. Cleon Skousen (long a religious right, tea party, and Glenn Beck favorite) miss the mark about the Mormon world in which Romney functions, “a powerful multinational network of financial and political influence brokers connected by a profound common bond: their multigenerational membership and service in the LDS Church.”

This week, one part of the Mickelson video in particular has generated some discussion: Mickelson asks Romney about the end-times, and about whether he believes the Second Coming of Christ will happen in Missouri. In the video, Romney tells Mickelson that, no, the LDS Church teaches (as do evangelical churches) that the Second Coming will happen in Jerusalem. He then goes on to explain, rather clumsily and without much detail, “what the church” teaches about this.

Mickelson seemed inspired to broach the topic by an interview Romney gave to George Stephanopoulos. Here’s part of that transcript:

George Stephanopoulos: In your faith, if I understand it correctly, it teaches that Jesus will return probably to the United States and reign on Earth for 1,000 years. And I wonder how that would be viewed in the Muslim world. Have you thought about how the Muslim world will react to that and whether it would make it more difficult, if you were present, to build alliances with the Muslim world?

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.: Well, I’m not a spokesman for my church. I’m not running for pastor in chief. I’m running for commander in chief. So the best place to go for my church’s doctrines would be my church.

Stephanopoulos: But I’m talking about how they will take it, how they will perceive it.

Romney: I understand, but that doesn’t happen to be a doctrine of my church. Our belief is just as it says in the Bible, that the messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives and that the Mount of Olives will be the place for the great gathering and so forth. It’s the same as the other Christian tradition. But that being said, how do Muslims feel about Christian doctrines? They don’t agree with them. There are differences between doctrines of churches. But the values at the core of the Christian faith, the Jewish faith and many other religions are very, very similar. And it’s that common basis that we have to support and find ability to draw people to rather than to point out the differences between our faiths. The differences are less pronounced than the common base that can lead to the peace and the acceptability and the brother and sisterhood of humankind.

Stephanopoulos: But your church does teach that Jesus will reign on Earth for the millennium, right?

Romney: Yes.

Mickelson asks Romney whether, contrary to what he told Stephanopoulos, he believes the Second Coming will take place in Missouri. After mentioning that a Skousen book explains LDS teaching on this, Romney seems either unwilling or at a loss to go into too much detail. Romney adds:

Christ appears, it’s throughout the Bible, Christ appears in Jerusalem, splits the Mount of Olives, to stop the war that’s coming in to kill all the Jews, it’s—our church believes that. That’s where the coming and glory of Christ occurs. We also believe that over the 1000 years that follows, the millenium, he will reign from two places, that the law will come forward from one place, from Missouri, the other will be in Jerusalem. Back to abortion.

A few things here. First, except for the part about Missouri, what Romney is saying about LDS belief about Christ’s return doesn’t deviate that much from what many evangelicals believe. I’m not in any way endorsing apocalyptic biblical literalism or proof-texting here, or saying that all Mormons or all evangelicals believe this. I’m just pointing out that Romney was relying on the same parts of the Bible many evangelicals do about Christ’s return. For example: “‘In the whole land,’ declares the Lord, ‘two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it.'” (Zechariah 13:8) and “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south” (Zechariah 14:4). I’ve seen preaching on this by evangelicals; I’ve talked to evangelicals who believe these verses to be true, accurate, and undeniable prophecy of what will happen in Jerusalem. (N.B.: Zechariah was not talking about Jesus, and what exactly he—or more than one he—was actually talking about is far from clear. But anyway.)

The question that’s being raised now, as this video resurfaces and generates discussion, is: does Romney himself really believe this? Does he somehow revel in a “war that’s coming in to kill all the Jews,” or see it as inevitable? I think that’s not evident from the video, or from his answer to Stephanopoulos. (Of course Romney’s a notorious liar, so we may never know.) Romney’s very defensive in the video, under questioning by Mickelson who clearly is trying to get him to admit that Mormon end-times theology is wildly different from evangelical end-times theology (which has many variants, incidentally, but none that include Missouri as a locus for anything except the second coming of Todd Akin). But Romney appears to be suggesting that “our church believes that” rather than saying, “I believe this is a literal prophecy of how world events will play out.” I’ve written before about how Romney’s public pronouncements on the Israel-Palestine conflict are out of touch with non-apocalyptic, contemporary Mormon thinking, but still, he’s never discussed his own beliefs on the end-times, or disagreements, if any, with LDS doctrine.

Apocalyptic beliefs are a Republican problem, though, not just a Romney problem; for example, George W. Bush, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee are all evangelicals who forged relationships with apocalyptic preacher John Hagee. I would very much like to know whether they co-sign Hagee’s apocalyptic visions.

I want to know the same answers about Romney, but not because he’s Mormon. Equally as pertinent to what Romney himself believes is what he thinks his base believes, and to what extent, as president, he’d be worrying about placating them. Remember, he was trying to show Mickelson he believes the same things evangelicals do. He’s running for president, for Pete’s sake!

 

By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, November 2, 2012

November 3, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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