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“Don’t Overdo The Iowa Analysis”: There Are Probably Plenty Of Surprises To Come In The 2016 Race

The press seems to be “feeling the Bern.” And certainly feelin’ the Cruz.

First, Hillary vs. Bernie.

Be careful not to overdo the results from last night. Young, first-time caucus goers came close to carrying the day over the traditional, older attendees. According to the Des Moines Register poll Hillary Clinton was getting 65 percent of the older demographic (65+) and Bernie Sanders was getting 63 percent of the under 35 voters. Younger voters turned out, but the Clinton organization produced a narrow victory.

The “enthusiasm factor” was certainly important but remember this: Of all voters, 81 percent were still favorable to Clinton, while 82 percent were favorable to Sanders. Thus, Democrats were extremely positive towards both candidates.

But let me address the elephant in the room when it comes to Iowa. And it isn’t just the lack of diversity in the voting population, which many have mentioned. It is the fact that in the last Des Moines Register poll before the caucuses, 68 percent agreed with the following statement: “It would be OK to have a President who describes himself as a democratic socialist.”

Now, somehow I question whether that number – two-thirds of Democratic voters – will hold in many of the other primary states, especially the South and West.

In an earlier Des Moines Register poll this year, 43 percent of Democratic caucus goers identified themselves as socialist and 38 percent as capitalist. Again, such a large number certainly did bode well for Sanders. But despite the high turnout of young people and despite the very liberal bent of the caucus, Clinton still managed to emerge with a win. No small feat.

Will this allow Sanders to raise more and more money? Of course. Will it guarantee that this race will go on for several months? Probably. Will there be a lot more debates between these two candidates? Surely. Does this mean the Democrats are going to resemble a warring faction? Doubt it.

The spring primaries will give the Democrats a real chance to show the difference between a forward looking, progressive agenda that embraces economic fairness, tolerance of all citizens, openness to solving the immigration problem, serious education reform, equal rights and women’s rights – all in contrast to a Republican party that will take America backward.

A Clinton-Sanders contest will be good for the party, good for the general election and good for the country.

And, at the end of the day, Clinton will be nominated because she represents the mainstream of the Democratic party and can win in November and govern in January. Also, as the Gallup poll last year indicated, 50 percent of Americans said that “if their party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a socialist” they would not vote for him. This is a much higher “no vote” than someone who is gay or lesbian (24 percent), Muslim (38 percent), even an atheist (40 percent).

Socialism, big government and new taxes is not a viable platform despite the appeal of Sanders’ message. Convincing Americans to buy that platform would be like getting them to abandon their cell phones. Bernie would have to talk a lot more about entrepreneurship, innovation, capitalism and investment if he were to stand any chance.

The Republican upset of Donald Trump, meanwhile, proved the value of a superb and sustained statewide organization, plus the importance of motivating very conservative, evangelical, outsider voters. Cruz turned anger into action; Trump didn’t.

The conventional wisdom was that a huge Republican turnout – which is what happened – would benefit Trump. More than 180,000 Republicans turned out; in 2012 the turnout was 121,503. That is a huge jump and, though it was close, Cruz was victorious with 28 percent.

Big rallies, as was the case with the Democrats too, don’t necessarily translate into big victories. And Trump’s temper tantrum with the last Fox News debate was probably a bad move – the spoiled child syndrome doesn’t work too well in politics.

But don’t count Trump out and don’t think that this is going to be a particularly civil affair between Trump and Cruz. One big potential story coming out of the Iowa aftermath is that Cruz precinct captains allegedly announced in a number of the caucuses that Ben Carson was about to drop out and that they should look for another candidate. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Cruz’s chairman, even tweeted that out on Monday night. Doesn’t sound like a very Christian thing to do to me.

So fasten your seat belt for this donnybrook. We will see what happens in New Hampshire, but Sen. Marco Rubio may be the big winner of the night for the Republicans. If he can emerge soon as the alternative to Trump and Cruz, he may be able to raise the funds and carry on into Super Tuesday and beyond. Remember that there are a host of winner-take-all states starting in mid-March that Rubio could position himself to sweep (Florida, for example) if he is the lone so-called “establishment” candidate to take on Trump and Cruz. In many, he wouldn’t need a majority of the vote and assuming Bush, Christie and Kasich are out after Super Tuesday there is a big, wide opening to fill.

Rubio did much better than the polls predicted and his seizing the national news with his speech before anyone else was a tactical coup. And for some, like poor Jeb Bush, who spent $2,884 per vote in Iowa, this was a night he would love to forget.

On to New Hampshire and beyond, with more surprises I’m sure!

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, February 2, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Donald Trump Nightmare Is Far From Over”: Quick Rebound Less Farfetched Than Sudden, Terminal Collapse

Ted Cruz’s poll-defying victory in the Iowa caucuses Monday night spared the Republican Party the ultimate humiliation of a Donald Trump landslide—not in Iowa, per se, but in the presidential primary writ large. Until this week, nonplussed Republicans were contemplating with dread an increasingly likely scenario in which Trump won Iowa convincingly, reinforced his dominant leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and went on to essentially run the table to the nomination.

Things won’t be quite that straightforward for Trump after all. The early conventional wisdom out of Iowa is that Trump hurt himself by failing to put together a traditional campaign apparatus, that Cruz helped himself by putting together a great one, and that third-place Marco Rubio benefitted from a late burst of pragmatism within the Republican electorate. The results at the very least slow Trump’s juggernaut, and possibly reorient the primary into a real three-way race.

By relegating Trump to second, and even to the waters-edge of third, Cruz and Rubio both widened their paths to the nomination to unknown extent—and at an unknown expense to Trump, whose path narrowed.

Depending upon how the campaigns and Republican voters respond to Monday’s returns, the Trump campaign now faces either a bearish or a bullish outlook. And in many ways, despite the GOP elite’s celebratory mood, the prospect of a quick rebound is less farfetched than a sudden, terminal collapse.

The bullish case for Trump goes something like this. Despite his near-total disinterest in running a traditional Iowa ground game, Trump cobbled together a real and genuinely impressive constituency—at least for Iowa caucuses purposes. More Iowa Republicans voted for Trump last night than have voted for any Republican candidate in history—including Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and George W. Bush—except for Ted Cruz, who shattered the record.

This feat is even more impressive when you factor in the institutional heft behind his competitors’ campaigns. Cruz’s powerful operation was built upon the strength of his close ties to Iowa evangelicals, and to influential local conservatives like Representative Steve King. It’s not unusual for Iowans to support a religious-right tribune in the caucuses (Santorum, Huckabee)—and it’s also not unusual for the winner to ultimately lose the nomination.

Rubio ran a relatively spare campaign, but benefitted both from late but relentless conservative and mainstream media boosterism, and from an equally belated Republican paid-media campaign against Trump. Rubio became the establishment’s de facto candidate in the final week, and it propelled him from a distant third … to a less-distant third.

All of which is to say that caucuses place a premium on traditional campaign infrastructure in a way regular primaries don’t. Iowa is essentially rigged to depress turnout and present barriers to new participants. And yet Trump nearly won anyhow. If that is how Trump and his supporters internalize his Iowa showing, he will perform well in New Hampshire, possibly South Carolina as well, and become a singular force in Republican politics once again.

At the same time, the seeds of Trump’s potential demise are buried just below the surface of this analysis. Barriers or no barriers, Trump underperformed on Monday night. His supporters could prove to be disproportionately flaky in every state. It also may be the case, after all, that a sustained barrage of negative press can harm him. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but it’s worth considering the possibility that the anti-Trump ads, which flooded the market in the campaign’s final days, contributed to his underwhelming performance.

He will face many more of them in the coming week. If Cruz and Rubio gain ground in New Hampshire, Trump will probably see his lead there narrow before next Tuesday’s primary. If we credit, for the sake of argument, his critics’ favorite but untested hypothesis that his bubble will burst now because it was inflated by the perception of his invincibility, then his own supporters will be discouraged by his second-place finish, and defect to other candidates, or drop out of the electorate altogether.

If these developments transpire, Trump will (finally! at last!) fade from dominance. His campaign will evaporate just as quickly as it materialized, and the race will be transformed into a gloves-off battle between Ted Cruz and the establishment. If he pulls through, though, Republican elites will quickly realize, like an ill-fated resident of Elm Street, that when they woke on Tuesday morning, they brought their nightmare with them.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Marco Rubio’s Big Problem — And His Party’s”: It’s Sort Of Like Being Cured Of Your Electoral Syphilis By Contracting Gonorrhea

Believe it or not, the Iowa caucuses are just over a month away. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — establishment darling and the cognoscenti’s assumed front-runner — is heading to Iowa for a bus tour, bringing along a shiny new endorsement from Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, head of the special committee on Benghazi. Can you feel the excitement?

Probably not, which is why this is an excellent demonstration of Rubio’s problem, and the problem the GOP is facing as the actual voting approaches. While everyone waits for the voters to finally figure out that they ought to be supporting Rubio, the only candidate who at the moment looks like he might be able to defeat Donald Trump is Ted Cruz. From the perspective of the party’s fortunes in the general election, that would be sort of like being cured of your electoral syphilis by contracting gonorrhea.

On one hand, it’s understandable that the Rubio campaign would try to make a big deal out of Gowdy’s support, since Republican politicians have been stingy with endorsements this year and Gowdy is well-liked among his colleagues on Capitol Hill. But when Trump dismissed the endorsement by saying that Gowdy’s Benghazi hearings were “a total disaster,” you could almost hear Republican voters nodding in agreement. The special committee was just one more iteration of the pattern that has Republican voters so disgusted with their Washington leadership: touted as the vehicle to bring down Hillary Clinton, it ended up backfiring and doing nothing but make Republicans look foolish. So once again, Capitol Hill Republicans overpromised and showed their constituents that they’re ineffectual. It’s hard to imagine that too many base voters, in Iowa or anywhere else, are going to say, “Well, if Trey Gowdy likes Marco Rubio, that’s good enough for me.”

For a contrast, look at the Iowa endorsements Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has gotten. There’s Rep. Steve King, who’s an embarrassment to the national party but is also perhaps the single most anti-immigrant member of Congress, a good thing to be right now (particularly given that immigration is Rubio’s area of greatest vulnerability among primary voters). There’s Bob Vander Plaats of the Family Leader, probably the state’s most influential evangelical activist. And there’s Steve Deace, the state’s most important conservative talk radio host. It’s an anti-establishment triumvirate, each with a genuine ability to bring voters along with them, all backing Cruz.

Of course, as much of a boost as a candidate can get from winning Iowa, it doesn’t guarantee anything, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, the winners of the last two caucuses, can attest. (Little-known fact: both Huckabee and Santorum are running for president this year.) But unlike them, Cruz has laid a foundation in money and organization to take advantage of all the attention a win in Iowa would produce.

If you’re a Rubio supporter, you’re probably frustrated with the fact that your party’s base seems stubbornly unwilling to recognize Rubio’s obvious advantages for the general election. By now, a vigorous debate about electability should have been in full swing, with Republican voters trying to determine which candidate would have the greatest appeal to independent voters and do best against Hillary Clinton. But that discussion has been pretty quiet, for the simple reason that the voters don’t seem to care very much. They’re angry about the state of the country and they’re fed up with their party’s leadership, so telling them that Rubio has more crossover potential than Cruz isn’t going to be all that persuasive.

So Marco Rubio can have Trey Gowdy vouch for him, but at this moment, and for the purposes of the election’s first contest, it probably won’t do any good. That isn’t to say that things won’t change — it never hurts to remind ourselves that the voting hasn’t started yet, and there will almost certainly be a few twists and turns before the party picks its nominee. But the anger of the Republican base at the party’s leadership has all along been the driving force of this campaign, and that’s one thing that probably isn’t going to change. The question is who can best turn it to their advantage.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, December 28, 2015

December 29, 2015 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, Iowa Caucuses, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Strategy With A Shelf Life”: Rubio Calls Clinton A ‘Liar’, But He Can’t Back Up The Attack

Stylistically, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) soared in this week’s debate for Republican presidential candidates. Substantively, however, it was a very different story.

Responding to questions about his messy personal finances, for example, Rubio simply denied reality. Pressed on the effects of his far-right tax plan, Rubio ran into similar problems.

But one of the more jarring moments of the debate came when the Florida senator went after Hillary Clinton, complaining about her recent appearance at his party’s Benghazi Committee hearing. From the transcript:

“She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar.”

This is generally the kind of rhetoric one might expect from Louie Gohmert, Steve King, or some other House GOP extremist, not a senator seeking the nation’s highest office.

But more important is the fact when a national candidate goes after a rival with the word “liar,” he’d better be able to back it up – and in this case, Rubio can’t. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked the senator’s attack and found “he does not have enough evidence” to back up his attack.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent emphasized a key detail: “Early intelligence on what caused the attacks was conflicting and erroneous, with some intel concluding the attacks had occurred in the context of the protests, and other intel concluding they were terrorism. Clinton’s private statements about terrorism did not reflect certainty; they tracked with information that was coming in at the time; the administration’s public suggestions about the video also tracked with contradictory information. The Republican-led probes have also concluded this — including one signed by Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

But Rubio casually threw around the word “liar” anyway, probably because (a) he assumes far-right activists will enjoy the red meat; and (b) the senator figures he can get away with it.

The GOP candidate should realize, though, that throwing around false attacks, and counting on voters to ignore fact-checking pieces later, is a strategy with a shelf life. Mitt Romney tried the same thing, and it didn’t work out especially well for him.

For that matter, Rubio may think he can throw around falsehoods with impunity now, but I have a hunch Hillary Clinton might have some effective pushback should these two meet next fall.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 30, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Yesterday’s Ideological Hero Is Suspect”: Remembering Paul Ryan Before He Became A RINO Squish

A lot of the conservative carping we are hearing about Paul Ryan as he ascends to the House Speakership is interesting, to say the least. As conservative commentator Matt Lewis notes at the Daily Beast today, a lot of the same people were praising him to high heaven when he emerged as the great crafter of right-wing budgets back in 2010 and again in 2012. Since most of the heresies people are now talking about occurred earlier in his congressional career, you have to figure the context has changed more than Ryan has.

Here’s Lewis’ guess:

Much of this boils down to Paul Ryan’s past support for immigration reform—and the fact that this has become the one and only litmus test for populist conservatives.

That could certainly help explain why everybody’s favorite nativist, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been making negative noises about Ryan’s accession to the Speakership.

As it happens, the day after Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running-mate in 2012, I was in Waukee, Iowa, at the FAMiLY Leadership Summit, one of the nation’s biggest and most influential Christian Right clambakes. Steve King keynoted the event, and expressed satisfaction with Romney’s choice of Ryan–as did, it seems, the entire assemblage, which erupted in cheers at the first mention of Ryan’s name. But at that point in history, conservatives were most focused on the fact that Ryan was a down-the-line antichoicer who had shown his “guts” by crafting a budget document (actually two of them by then) that messed with Medicare and took a claw hammer to the federal programs benefitting those people.

Nowadays if you are guilty of having ever supported “amnesty” your other heresies will be uncovered, however old they are. The other way to look at it, of course, is that the GOP continues to drift to the Right, making yesterday’s ideological heroes suspect. The message to Paul Ryan is: keep up.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, Octoer 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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