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“Facts Are Facts”: Bernie Sanders Will Not Be President

I respect Bernie Sanders. I admire his passion and his devotion to the common good as he conceives it. I find his style of leftist politics — with greater ties to the class-focused concerns of the Old Left than to the cultural and identity obsessions of the New — quite compelling. I admire the democratic socialist welfare states of Northern Europe on which he models his own policy proposals and would be happy to see the United States move further in that direction.

But it isn’t going to happen.

If you Feel the Bern, by all means keep fighting the good fight. Work to get Sanders and his issues placed front and center in the campaign. Act as if you think he has a good chance of burying Hillary Clinton, winning the Democratic nomination, and then triumphing over whichever candidate comes out on top at the end of the GOP primary scrum.

But facts are facts — and the fact is that Bernie Sanders is not going to be elected president of the United States.

The first obstacle Sanders faces is of course winning the Democratic Party’s nominating contest against Hillary Clinton. At the moment Sanders and his supporters feel like they have a good shot because he’s currently leading many polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. If he takes those first two states, showing that Clinton is beatable, then all bets are off.

Except that they’re not.

For one thing, lily-white Iowa isn’t especially representative, and neither is even more lily-white New Hampshire, which also just so happens to border Sanders’ home state of Vermont. Once the voting moves on to states in the South, West, and Midwest, and to bigger, more demographically diverse states where vastly more delegates are at stake, Clinton is quite likely to come out on top over and over again.

How likely? Very. We know this because of the national polling spread. Clinton has led Sanders in every poll taken since the start of the election cycle. The most recent ones place Clinton in the lead by anywhere from 4 to 25 percentage points, with the RealClearPolitics polling average showing Clinton nearly 13 points ahead. When a candidate consistently comes out on top, she is winning.

But what about the 2008 scenario? That’s when Barack Obama leapt ahead of Clinton in February after trailing her handily up to that point and ended up beating her to the nomination. That’s obviously the script that Sanders supporters hope to see repeated this time around.

The problem is that Bernie Sanders isn’t Barack Obama — and no, I’m not just talking about Obama’s presumably much greater ability to mobilize the African-American vote. I also mean his enviable capacity to inspire moderates as well as liberals to vote for him. Sanders, by contrast, is the strong favorite of those who identify as “very liberal” but understandably polls weakly among self-described “moderate” Democrats. With Sanders continuing to propose very liberal economic policies that even leading progressive commentators consider to be vague and unrealistic, that is unlikely to change.

But doesn’t Clinton face equal and opposite problems of her own by appealing primarily to moderates in the party? She would if there were equal numbers of economically liberal and moderate Democrats, but there aren’t. Though the number of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents willing to describe themselves as economically liberal has increased in recent years, the terms still apply to just 32 percent of the total. The proportion of those describing themselves as economically moderate or conservative, meanwhile, is 64 percent.

Which means that Clinton’s more economically moderate base of support is roughly double the size of Sanders’ liberal base.

To those, finally, who look to Donald Trump’s remarkable ascent in the Republican primary field as a sign that a populist insurgent can overturn the preferences of party establishments, a note of caution is in order. Leaving aside the fact that, unlike Sanders, Trump has been leading in national polls for six months straight, and often by wide margins, there remains the complication that Trump’s campaign scrambles established ideological assumptions on the right rather than simply reinforcing or radicalizing them. The mogul from Manhattan combines a far-right stance on immigration with economic positions that make him sound like a moderate Democrat. That’s why his candidacy is so dangerous to the GOP: It threatens to tear apart the electoral coalition and ideological agenda that has more or less held the party together since Ronald Reagan was elected 36 years ago.

Sanders’ candidacy threatens no such thing. It merely aims to pull his party further to the left — as Democrats have defined the left since 1972. Now if Sanders had responded to Clinton’s very liberal latter-day stance on gun control by championing the rights of gun owners, or if he’d made other strategic moves to the right on social issues (on abortion or religious freedom, perhaps), then he might well have sowed Trumpean chaos among Democrats and ended up leapfrogging Clinton to the nomination. But as it is, Sanders is merely doing what ideologically doctrinaire primary candidates always do: working to radicalize and purify his party’s already established ideological commitments.

That strategy will only win Sanders the nomination if the Democrats lurch quite a bit further leftward — or if some new (or old) scandal suddenly engulfs Hillary Clinton — in the coming weeks or months.

But in that unlikely (but not impossible) event, wouldn’t Democratic nominee Sanders stand a very good chance of winning the presidency? Haven’t a series of head-to-head polls shown that Sanders does well and in some cases even better than Clinton against the leading Republican candidates?

Yes they have, but those polls deserve to be taken with several grains of salt.

For one thing, these same polls also show Clinton in a dead-heat against the fading and transparently absurd sideshow candidacy of evangelical neurosurgeon Ben Carson. That’s strong prima facie evidence that the poll results are driven to a significant extent by voter ignorance. Put Carson on a debate stage opposite Clinton, and his support would collapse rapidly and dramatically.

Perhaps even more far-fetched is the finding that Sanders would defeat Trump by a wider margin than Clinton. Clinton’s hypothetical victory over Trump by a narrow 2.5 percentage points can be explained by the fact that both candidates would be appealing to the same bloc of white working-class voters, many of whom are Democrats. That could indeed make Clinton vulnerable against Trump. But to believe that Sanders would outperform her to beat Trump by 5.3 percentage points one has to presume that Sanders could do a better job than Clinton of persuading this (or some other) bloc of pro-Trump voters to support him instead.

Let’s just say that I find that implausible. Americans as a whole are strongly disinclined to vote for a socialist — more disinclined than they are to vote for a Catholic, a woman, a black, a Hispanic, a Jew, a Mormon, a homosexual, a Muslim, or an atheist. Is it at all likely that white working-class would-be Trump supporters are among the country’s most open-minded voters in this respect?

Sorry, I don’t buy it — and neither should you.

Bernie Sanders is a good man and an effective advocate for the causes he champions. But he isn’t going to be president.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, January 19, 2016

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Marco Rubio Doesn’t Add Up”: Could He Burn Out Before He Ever Catches Fire?

Math was never my strongest subject, so maybe I’m just not crunching the numbers right.

But the more I stare at them, the less sense Marco Rubio makes.

Rubio as the front-runner, I mean. As the probable Republican nominee.

According to odds makers and prediction markets, he’s the best bet. According to many commentators, too.

But Iowa’s less than a month away, and in two recent polls of Republican voters there, he’s a distant third, far behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

So he’s killing it in New Hampshire, right?

Wrong. A survey from two weeks ago had him second to Trump there, but another, just days earlier, put him in third place — after Trump and Cruz, again. Chris Christie’s inching up on him, the reasons for which were abundantly clear in a comparison of Christie’s freewheeling campaign style and Rubio’s hyper-controlled one by The Times’s Michael Barbaro.

And as of Thursday, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls in South Carolina showed Rubio to be more than six points behind Cruz and 21 behind Trump among that state’s Republicans. There’s no inkling of a surge, and it’s not as if pro-Rubio forces have been holding off on advertising that will turn the tide. Plenty of ads have already run.

In fact the rap on Rubio is that he counts too much on them and spends too little time on the trail. The largest newspaper in New Hampshire took aim at the infrequency of his appearances there in an editorial with the headline: “Marco? Marco? Where’s Rubio?”

And when he missed a Senate vote last month, a spokesman for Cruz tweeted that it was because “he had 1 event in a row in Iowa — a record-setting breakneck pace for Marco.”

Rubio can’t claim a singularly formidable campaign organization, with a remarkably robust platoon of ground troops. His fund-raising hasn’t been exceptional.

His promise seems to lie instead in his biography as the son of hard-working Cuban immigrants, in his good looks, in the polish of his oratory, in the nimbleness with which he debates.

And in this: Reasonable people can’t stomach the thought of Trump or Cruz as the nominee. We can’t accept what that would say about America, or what that could mean for it. Rubio is the flawed, rickety lifeboat we cling to, the amulet we clutch. He’ll prevail because he must. The alternative is simply too perverse (Trump) or too cruel (Cruz).

But so much about him and the contention that he’s poised for victory is puzzling.

Because this is his first national campaign, reporters (and opponents) are digging into his past more vigorously than ever, and it’s unclear how much fodder it holds and how much defense he’ll have to play.

Just last week, The Washington Post reported that in 2002, when he was the majority whip in the Florida House of Representatives, he used statehouse stationery to write a letter in support of a real estate license for his sister’s husband, who had served 12 years in federal prison for distributing $15 million worth of cocaine.

Rubio, 44, is only now coming into focus.

He’s frequently been called the Republican Obama — because he’s young, a trailblazing minority and a serious presidential contender while still a first-term senator.

But a prominent G.O.P. strategist told me that Rubio reminds him more of another Democratic president.

“He’s the Republican Bill Clinton,” the strategist said, referring to the slickness with which Rubio shifts shapes and the confidence with which he straddles ideological divides.

He’s a conservative crusader, happy to carry the banner of the Tea Party. He’s a coolheaded pragmatist, ready to do the bidding of Wall Street donors.

“Rubio is triangulating,” Eleanor Clift wrote recently, choosing a Clintonian verb to describe his fuzzy, evolving positions.

He pushed for a comprehensive immigration-reform bill, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, until he suddenly stepped away from it. He has said that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, but he has also said that he’d back less extreme regulations if they were the only attainable ones.

“Rubio’s inclusiveness can invite caricature,” Evan Osnos observed in The New Yorker in late November. “He considers himself a Catholic, but he attends two churches — an evangelical Protestant service on Saturdays and a Roman Catholic Mass on Sundays.”

By dint of his heritage, he’s supposed to represent a much-needed Republican bridge to Latinos. But many of his positions impede that, and several recent polls raise doubts about the strength of his appeal to Latino voters.

There’s no theme in his campaign more incessantly trumpeted than a generational one. Declaiming that Hillary Clinton, 68, is yesterday, he presents himself as tomorrow, an ambassador for young voters who’ll presumably bring more of them, too, to the Republican camp.

But in a Washington Post/ABC News poll in late November, his support was more than twice as strong among Republican voters 65 and older as among those under 50.

And he’s at sharp odds with millennials on a range of issues. Most of them favor same-sex marriage; he doesn’t. Most are wary of government surveillance; he’s one of its fiercest proponents. Unlike him, they want marijuana legalized. Unlike him, they want decisive government action against climate change.

And they’re not swayed by unwrinkled skin and a relatively full head of dark hair. Just ask wizened, white-tufted Bernie Sanders, 74, whose campaign is the one most clearly buoyed by young voters.

So what does Rubio offer them?

He communicates a message — a gleam — of hope. He’s a smoother salesman and more talented politician than most of his Republican rivals. That’s why I still buy the argument that he’s the one to watch, especially given his party’s long history of selecting less provocative candidates over firebrands.

I still nod at the notion that if he merely finishes ahead of Christie, Jeb Bush and other candidates who are vying for mainstream Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, they’ll fade, their supporters will flock to him and he’ll be lifted above Cruz and even above Trump, who could implode at any moment anyway.

But over the last three decades, no Republican or Democrat — with the exception of Bill Clinton — lost both Iowa and New Hampshire and survived that crisis in momentum to win the nomination. If that’s Rubio’s path, it’s an unusual one.

In an unusual year, yes. But as the wait for his candidacy to heat up lengthens, I wonder: Could he burn out before he ever catches fire?

 

By: Mark Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January2, 2015

January 4, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Iowa Caucuses, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rand Paul, Falling Flat”: The Candidate Everyone Thought Could Change The Republican Party Is Completely Collapsing

The moment one veteran Republican strategist realized Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) was flailing as a presidential candidate came when he suddenly decided to take on Donald Trump last week at the first presidential debate.

Challenging Trump’s refusal to pledge support for the eventual nominee should have been a moment that earned Paul some credibility among Republicans frustrated with Trump’s rise.

But it ended up falling flat.

“It just missed the mark,” the strategist said. “He didn’t give off a good vibe doing it.”

Last fall, Time magazine declared Paul the “most interesting man in politics” and stamped him on its cover. Paul launched his campaign earlier this year pledging that he was a “different kind of Republican.”

Four months later, though it’s still early in a crowded, fluid race, it’s clear that many Republicans want different — but not him.

His campaign is struggling to keep up with his rivals in fundraising. Two of his political allies running an outside super PAC supporting his candidacy were recently indicted on campaign-finance fraud charges. Significant plunges in polling are starting to correspond.

And Trump has an aggressive counterpunch. In a raging statement responding to Paul, the real-estate tycoon took him to task for running for reelection to the Senate at the same time he’s campaigning for president.

“I feel sorry for the great people of Kentucky who are being used as a back up to Senator Paul’s hopeless attempt to become President of the United States — weak on the military, Israel, the Vets and many other issues. Senator Paul has no chance of wining the nomination and the people of Kentucky should not allow him the privilege of remaining their Senator,” Trump said.

Trump further called Paul’s operation a “total mess” and said the senator should leave the race.

“Rand should save his lobbyist’s and special interest money and just go quietly home,” he declared. “Rand’s campaign is a total mess, and as a matter of fact, I didn’t know he had anybody left in his campaign to make commercials who are not currently under indictment!”

Polls trickling out after the debate have underscored the challenge ahead for Paul and have led to speculation that he could be one of a handful of GOP candidates who drops out before the Iowa caucuses next year.

Paul now sits just ninth in the first-caucus state of Iowa, according to an average of three polls of the state that have been released this week. One of those polls, from Suffolk University, showed his support plunging to just 2% of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa. That put him behind such candidates as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who has been diverting most of his early-state resources to New Hampshire.

Iowa will be especially important for Paul, whose father, Ron, scored with its voters during his previous presidential runs. Matt Kibbe, the director of one super PAC supporting Rand Paul, told Politico in July that the group only had paid staff in Iowa because “it matters so much.”

But Paul hasn’t shown many signs that he will successfully hold onto his father’s voters, let alone significantly expand upon that base. And the indictment of the two allies, which stems from their work on Ron Paul’s campaign in 2012, revolves around an alleged money-for-endorsement scheme involving former Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson (R), who already pleaded guilty to concealing campaign expenditures.

A Public Policy Polling survey released this week showed Rand Paul with the worst net-favorability rating among all GOP candidates. His standing in Iowa has plunged from 10% in April to just 3% now.

“The biggest loser in the poll is Rand Paul,” PPP director Tom Jensen wrote. “Paul’s been foundering anyway, and his campaign’s ties to the Kent Sorenson mess are probably making things particularly bad for him in Iowa.”

Things aren’t looking much better in New Hampshire, where Paul was thought to potentially capitalize on its independent-leaning primary electorate, and where his father had two strong showings.

According to a Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll released this week, Paul has seen his favorability rating dip from a positive 57-24 margin in March to a negative 44-45 margin in August. His support in the state also plunged from 13% in March to just 6% now. It put him behind better-funded candidates investing significant resources into the Granite State, like Kasich (12%) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (13%).

During the Republican presidential debate last week, Paul used polls as a major selling point for why Republicans should support his candidacy.

“I’m the only one that leads Hillary Clinton in five states that were won by President Obama. I’m a different kind of Republican,” he said in his closing statement.

But the polls he’s referring to are from March and April. Perhaps in a sign of his diminished standing, the same polling outlet that found him leading Clinton narrowly in those states — Quinnipiac University — instead measured Clinton’s strength against Republican candidates Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) in a poll conducted earlier this month.

“His campaign has been in free-fall,” said Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist at the Potomac Research Group, of Paul’s debate performance.

“Paul didn’t help himself much last night.”

 

By: Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, August 15, 2015

August 17, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“His Path To The Nomination”: The Graham Strategy; Chicken Little Winging It

Before the next presidential candidate announcement makes us forget about him for a while–maybe a good while–it’s worth a brief consideration of Lindsey Graham’s supposed “path to the nomination” beyond the obvious fact that he’d need to win in his home state of South Carolina, one of the four privileged “early states.” Jonathan Bernstein may have nailed it yesterday: Graham’s spent so much time hanging out with his amigo John McCain that he figures he can emulate the lightning the Arizonan caught in a bottle:

McCain in 2000 accidentally wound up finishing second. He was too moderate for the Republican Party, but his biggest hurdle was his push for campaign finance reform, which turned Republican-aligned groups, who felt targeted by it, against him.

Instead of waging a conventional campaign — spending a year glad-handing Iowans and big-shot national Republicans — McCain instead hung out in New Hampshire with political reporters. Normally, that would have produced a few nice feature stories and nothing more. But in 2000, George W. Bush quickly dispatched his serious Republican rivals before or in the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire voters (who famously love upsetting the Iowa winner, from Walter Mondale in 1984 through Barack Obama in 2008) punished Bush for wrapping up the nomination early by voting for McCain, thereby making him the last man standing against W.

McCain’s 2008 adventure was, if anything, even more unlikely. McCain spent the beginning of Bush’s first term in open revolt against his former rival before returning to the ranks of loyal Republicans just in time for the 2004 election — and the beginning of the 2008 nomination fight. McCain then put together a typical Republican front-runner campaign, heavy on corporate-style bureaucracy, only to have the whole thing collapse halfway through the cycle.

But once again, McCain was lucky. No candidate emerged who combined normal qualifications for the presidency, positions well within the mainstream of the party and the ability to build a competent presidential campaign. McCain came close enough on each of those scores to wind up as the nominee.

That’s almost exactly my analysis of McCain’s presidential nominating campaigns, especially the successful one in 2008 which was something of a demolition derby with a flawed and weak field.

The odds of it happening again, especially with the vast size of the 2016 field, are vanishingly small. And as Bernstein points out, Graham doesn’t have the war hero thing going for him, which always put a relatively high floor on GOP attitudes towards him.

It’s possible, of course, that Graham has no strategy at all, other than the indulging in the twisted pleasure professional politicians get from the abattoir of a presidential campaign. When he drops out, he’ll have his Senate gig, his access to the Sunday shows, and four more years before he has to face voters again back home. And in the back of his mind (I will not make Rand Paul’s mistake and suggest it’s in the front of his mind) Graham may figure that if something bad happens on the homeland security front during the nomination campaign, having a well-established identity as Chicken Little could change things considerably.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, John McCain, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hillary Clinton And The Burden Of Authenticity”: She Came, She Saw, She Talked, And She Listened

One of the funniest conversations I’ve heard took place among a small group of Arkansas women who’d done their best to clue the newlywed Hillary Rodham in on a basic fact of Southern life she’d been reluctant to accept in the 1970s: Cute counts. It’s not necessary to be a beauty queen, but a woman who doesn’t look as attractive as she can is often suspected of being too “authentic” for her own good.

The lady lumberjack look then fashionable on Ivy League campuses confused Arkansas voters, as did Hillary’s decision to keep her maiden name after marriage. (As the husband of a Southern girl often patronized to her face in a New England college town back then, I can testify that cultural incomprehension can run both ways. But that’s another topic.)

The point is that Hillary Rodham Clinton listened. As she later explained, she hadn’t really understood how strongly people in Arkansas felt about the name thing. So she took the name “Clinton” to stop sending a message she’d never intended. About the same time, it became fairly obvious that she’d started taking clothing, makeup, and hair-styling tips from female friends and quit looking like an outsider too.

So does that make her more or less “authentic” by current journalistic standards? Does it make her a big faker, the “manipulative, clawing robot” of a Maureen Dowd column? Or a relatively normal human being adjusting to the expectations of the people around her?

Not long afterward, Hillary also started doing something very much like what she’s recently been doing in Iowa and New Hampshire: holding small-scale town meetings with local school boards, parents, and teachers in support of the newly re-elected Bill Clinton’s Arkansas education reforms.

Clinton’s 1983 education package — its slogan was “No More Excuses” — brought math, science, and arts classes to many rural school districts for the first time. It raised teacher salaries and increased taxes to fund them. Over time, it’s helped close the historic gap between the state’s country and city schools.

And before the campaign was over, Arkansas’s First Lady was on a first-name basis with thousands of, yes, “everyday people” in all 75 Arkansas counties. She came, she saw, she talked, and she listened. As a secondary matter, Hillary’s image problems among Arkansan voters faded away.

How it works is pretty simple: You accept Arkansas, Arkansas accepts you. I’m pretty sure this is broadly true of Iowa and New Hampshire voters too. So is there an element of calculation in Hillary’s latest listening tour? Sure there is.

Is it merely cheap political theater?

Look, she’s a professional politician running for president. Of course her campaign events are stage-managed. How could they not be? Just as she ran for the U.S. Senate from New York back in 1999, a state where she’d never actually lived.

Although New Yorkers tend to be more flattered than offended when famous carpetbaggers descend upon them, she held small forums all across the state — impressing most observers with her industriousness and knowledge of local issues. America’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, backed out of the race.

She’s a very smart cookie, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And she always does her homework. No, she’s not a mesmerizing speaker like Bill, and not the most outwardly charismatic politician in the race (whoever that may be). GOP focus groups say her biggest weakness is their perception of her “entitlement” and seeming remoteness from ordinary people’s lives.

So off she goes on another listening tour. “A sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van,” Dowd sneers. However, contrary to reporters who marvel at Hillary’s “willingness to put on the hair shirt of humility to regain power,” she actually appears to enjoy the fool things.

Partly, it’s a woman thing. See, Hillary and my wife worked together back when the governor’s wife served on the board of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Diane always mentioned two things: how hard she worked on children’s health issues, and how she never pulled rank.

But what really endeared her to my wife was Hillary’s empathy during a prolonged medical crisis involving our son. At times, Diane was under terrible emotional strain. Hillary never failed to show concern. Was the new treatment helping? Had we thought about seeking another opinion? She acted like a friend when my wife needed all the friends she could get.

And no, there was nothing in it for her. I wasn’t a political journalist then. It wasn’t about me. It was about two mothers.

In an article unfortunately headlined “Manufacturing Authenticity,” Slate’s John Dickerson gets it right. For all her privilege and celebrity, Hillary “has something going for her that other politicians do not when it comes to these kinds of events… she has thought about family issues her entire life.”

Dickerson marveled that in Iowa, “Clinton actually appeared to be listening.”

And that could turn out to be her secret weapon.

 

By: Gene Lyons, Featured Post, The National Memo, April 22, 2015

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Arkansas, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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