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“Spin Wasn’t Invented Yesterday”: No, Clinton’s Late-Primary Struggles Don’t Portend November Defeat

With Bernie Sanders winning yet another primary (in West Virginia) well after most pundits have concluded Hillary Clinton has all but locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, it’s natural for there to be some speculation that her late-primary performance may portend a lack of momentum that could haunt or curse her in the general election. For one thing, the “Big Mo” argument is central to Bernie Sanders’s forlorn message to superdelegates. For another, Republicans are using Clinton’s primary fade along with some very dubious general-election polling to counter doom-and-gloom fears about their unlikely new nominee, Donald Trump. “Hillary Clinton is unraveling quickly,” chortles New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin.

Now, this is all obviously a bit absurd, since the general election is nearly six months away, with conventions, debates, and billions of dollars in paid media still ahead. It’s a bit like judging the postseason “momentum” of Major League Baseball teams based on their current early-season records. But for the record, there’s no particular correlation between late-primary performance in contested nomination contests and success in general elections.

Sure, most nominees win late primaries because their opponents have dropped out. But when they don’t, the ultimate winner doesn’t necessarily have a cake walk.

The obvious example is Barack Obama, who after May 1, 2008, lost primaries to Hillary Clinton in Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and South Dakota. His loss in West Virginia was by 39 points, compared to Clinton’s 15-point loss in the same state this year. And he lost Kentucky by 36 points. Somehow he managed to recover by November.

There’s earlier precedent for a late-primary fade leading to a general-election win. In 1976 after May 1, Jimmy Carter lost to Jerry Brown in Maryland, Nevada, and California, and to Frank Church in Nebraska, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. He somehow regained “momentum” and won the presidency.

Carter also, however, provided a counterexample in 1980, when Ted Kennedy beat him in five June primaries. He did indeed go on to lose in November, but a lack of late-primary “momentum” probably had less to do with the results than the fact that he was an incumbent president with terrible economic numbers dealing with a hostage crisis and the partisan realignment of his home region. And he was facing Ronald Reagan rather than Donald Trump.

Matter of fact, even Reagan wasn’t entirely immune to the late-primary swoon. In 1980, he lost a late-April Pennsylvania primary and a late-May Michigan primary to Poppy Bush. I don’t know if there were columns headlined “Reagan is unraveling quickly,” but spin wasn’t invented yesterday.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 11, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Long, Long Battle For Health Care Reform”: The Single Defining Goal Of American Progressivism For More Than A Century

So in this week of epochal Supreme Court opinions, even health policy wonks would not claim that King v. Burwell can match Obergefell v. Hodges in terms of its historical significance. There’s a reason the latter is stimulating spontaneous outbreaks of happiness among people who aren’t political and don’t follow constitutional law.

But at Vox today, Dylan Matthews reminds us that of the incredibly long hard path this country has followed to reach even the Affordable Care Act’s first timorous steps towards universal health coverage. Those conservatives who talk as though no one has ever seriously considered such a socialist abomination until now really are betraying their ignorance about history:

National health insurance has been the single defining goal of American progressivism for more than a century. There have been other struggles, of course: for equality for women, African-Americans, and LGBT people; for environmental protection; against militarism in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. But ever since its inclusion in Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912 Bull Moose platform, a federally guaranteed right to health coverage has been the one economic and social policy demand that loomed over all others. It was the big gap between our welfare state and those of our peers in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

And for more than a century, efforts to achieve national health insurance failed. Roosevelt’s third-party run came up short. His Progressive allies, despite support from the American Medical Association, failed to pass a bill in the 1910s. FDR declined to include health insurance in the Social Security Act, fearing it would sink the whole program, and the Wagner Act, his second attempt, ended in failure too. Harry Truman included a single-payer plan open to all Americans in his Fair Deal set of proposals, but it went nowhere. LBJ got Medicare and Medicaid done after JFK utterly failed, but both programs targeted limited groups.

Richard Nixon proposed a universal health-care plan remarkably similar to Obamacare that was killed when then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) walked away from a deal to pass it, in what Kennedy would later call his greatest regret as a senator. Jimmy Carter endorsed single-payer on the campaign trail, but despite having a Democratic supermajority in Congress did nothing to pass it. And the failure of Bill Clinton’s health-care plan is the stuff of legend.

Yes, Obamacare haters may dismiss the experience of virtually every other wealthy country by intoning “American exceptionalism”, as though we have some long-cherished right to die young that’s as essential to the national character as unlimited possession of guns. But this has been a constant issue in our own country, too, and it’s a token of how far our political system has drifted to the right that redeeming the vision of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Richard Nixon strikes so many people as a horrifying lurch into socialism.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, June 26, 2015

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No One Was Audited At Bridgegate”: The Classic Conservative Right Wing “So’s Your Old Man” Argument

You know the worst sign for Chris Christie about Bridgegate? The line most of his conservative defenders (and not all conservatives are defending him) are taking isn’t really about the scandal at all. Here’s John Podhoretz at the New York Post:

Most government scandals involve the manipulation of the system in obscure ways by people no one has ever heard of. That is why George Washington Bridgegate is nearly a perfect scandal — because it is comprehensible and (as they say in Hollywood) “relatable” to everyone who has ever been in a car. This is the reason this one is not going to go away so easily, even if one accepts the contention that Gov. Chris Christie had nothing whatsoever to do with it….

And yet, you know what is also something everybody would find “relatable”? Politicians who sic the tax man on others for political gain. Everybody has to deal with the IRS and fears it. Last year, we learned from the Internal Revenue Service itself that it had targeted ideological opponents of the president for special scrutiny and investigation — because they were ideological opponents.

That’s juicy, just as Bridgegate is juicy. It’s something we can all understand, it speaks to our greatest fears, and it’s the sort of thing TV newspeople could gab about for days on end without needing a fresh piece of news to keep it going.

And yet, according to Scott Whitlock of the Media Research Center, “In less than 24 hours, the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they’ve allowed in the last six months to Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy.”

Why? Oh, come on, you know why. Christie belongs to one political party. Obama belongs to the other. You know which ones they belong to. And you know which ones the people at the three networks belong to, too: In surveys going back decades, anywhere from 80% to 90% of Washington’s journalists say they vote Democratic.

In debates from schoolyards to the presidential campaign trail, this is what used to be called a “so’s your old man” argument. It’s not a defense at all, but rather a counter-complaint suggesting that we ought to be talking about something else, or that the perpetrators of one forgotten offense should be brought to justice along with those we’re talking about.

The classic right-wing “so’s your old man” argument was enapsulated in the bumper sticker that sprouted up when Ted Kennedy ran for president shortly after prominently criticizing the policies and practices that led to the Three Mile Island nuclear spill: “No one died at Three Mile Island,” an unsubtle reference Chappaquiddick.

So never mind that the IRS “scandal” has been largely discredited as a scandal at all, or that its “victims” were not New Jersey motorists commuting to work but political activists trying to get a tax subsidy and the power to cloak donors–it’s part of the permanent conservative grievance list and involved alleged abuse of government power, so out it comes again!

That should be cold comfort to Chris Christie, being involved in the lesser of scandals. But that’s the best he can expect from conservative gabbers who don’t really want to help him other than as the enemy of their enemy.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 13, 2014

January 14, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Conservatives | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Selective Memory Loss”: A Fleeting Illusory Democratic Congressional Supermajority

It’s in Republicans’ interest right now to characterize the Democrats’ congressional majority in 2009 and 2010 as enormous. As the argument goes, President Obama could get literally anything he wanted from Congress in his first two years, so Democrats don’t have any excuses.

The stimulus wasn’t big enough? Blame Dems; they had supermajorities in both chambers for two years. There’s no comprehensive immigration reform? Blame Dems; they had supermajorities in both chambers for two years. There was only one big jobs bill? Blame Dems; they had supermajorities in both chambers for two years. And so on.

The right continued to push the line over the weekend.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace falsely claimed Democrats had a 60-vote Senate majority for the first 2 years of his presidency.

“For the first 2 years he had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate,” Wallace told LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, making the case that Obama has only himself to blame for his poor economic record.

I realize memories can be short in the political world, and 2010 seems like a long time ago, but it’s unnerving when professionals who presumably keep up with current events are this wrong. Even if various pundits lost track of the specific details, I’d at least expect Fox News hosts to remember Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special-election win in Massachusetts.

Since memories are short, let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane, giving Wallace a hand with the recent history he’s forgotten.

In January 2009, there were 56 Senate Democrats and two independents who caucused with Democrats. This combined total of 58 included Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose health was failing and was unable to serve. As a practical matter, in the early months of Obama’s presidency, the Senate Democratic caucus had 57 members on the floor for day-to-day legislating.

In April 2009, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter switched parties. This meant there were 57 Democrats, and two independents who caucused with Democrats, for a caucus of 59. But with Kennedy ailing, there were still “only” 58 Democratic caucus members in the chamber.

In May 2009, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was hospitalized, bringing the number of Senate Dems in the chamber down to 57.

In July 2009, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was finally seated after a lengthy recount/legal fight. At that point, the Democratic caucus reached 60, but two of its members, Kennedy and Byrd, were unavailable for votes.

In August 2009, Kennedy died, and Democratic caucus again stood at 59.

In September 2009, Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) filled Kennedy’s vacancy, bringing the caucus back to 60, though Byrd’s health continued to deteriorate.

In January 2010, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) replaced Kirk, bringing the Democratic caucus back to 59 again.

In June 2010, Byrd died, and the Democratic caucus fell to 58, where it stood until the midterms. [Update: Jonathan Bernstein reminds me that Byrd’s replacement was a Dem. He’s right, though this doesn’t change the larger point.]

Wallace believes the Dems’ “filibuster proof majority in the Senate” lasted 24 months. In reality, he’s off by 20 months, undermining the entire thesis pushed so aggressively by Republicans.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 3, 2012

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romney Offers False Explanation Of Cross-Party Primary Vote In 1992

In 1992, Republican Mitt Romney voted in a Democratic primary, backing former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas for the Democratic presidential nomination. He said he did so because he wanted to “vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponentfor the Republican.”

Romney is now railing against the Santorum campaign for trying to get traditional Democratic voters to cross-over and vote in the Republican primary. Romney has called this a “terrible dirty trick” and an “attempt to kidnap the primary process.”

In a press conference in Livonia, Michigan, moments ago, Romney was asked how we squared this criticism with his earlier admission that his 1992 primary vote had been a “vote for the person who [he] thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican.

Romney responded with a new explanation:

In my case, I was certainly voting against the Democrat who I thought was the person I thought would be the worst leader of our nation. In this case, as I recall, it was Bill Clinton. I wanted someone other than Bill Clinton. I voted against Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, and Bill Clinton.  Seemed like a good group to be against.

Watch the video:

While to conservatives, that trio would indeed seem a “good group to be against,” there is no way Romney could have voted against all three that year.

While then-Governor Clinton was indeed on the primary ballot in 1992, Sen. Ted Kennedy was not up for re-election until 1994.  Romney should know that, given he ran against Kennedy that year and often brags about the fact that he forced the late Democrat to “take a mortgage out on his house.”

And House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr.?  His final campaign for the U.S. House had been eight years earlier, in 1984.

It’s odd that Romney claims to remember events that happened nine months before his birth, but cannot seem remember the 1990s.

 

By: Josh Israel, Think Progress, February 28, 2012

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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