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“Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, And The Dreaded ‘M’ Word”: The Label Isn’t Related To Issue Positions, It’s More About Tone And Relationships

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has quietly run a very interesting presidential campaign. He hasn’t held the spotlight much, but he’s raised a lot of money, laid the groundwork for a credible ground game, positioned himself to benefit if/when the Amateur Duo falters, and held his fire, waiting to see who his real rivals are going to be.

Last night, however, Cruz offered a peek into his broader strategy.

“Historically, there have been two major lanes in the Republican primary,” the Texas senator told CNN’s Jake Tapper last night. “There’s been a moderate lane and a conservative lane. And, in past cycles, there’s been a consensus moderate choice early on… Look, I think Marco is certainly formidable in that lane. I think the Jeb campaign seems to view Marco as his biggest threat in the moderate lane. And so I think they’re going to slug it out for a while.

“But, when you look at the conservative lane, what I’m really encouraged by is that conservatives are consolidating behind our campaign… And once it gets down to a head-to-head contest between a conservative and a moderate … I think the conservative wins.”

Let’s strip away the spin for a minute: Marco Rubio is breathtakingly conservative. He’s a climate denier who desperately wants to give billionaires a massive tax break the country can’t afford. The Florida Republican believes Medicare and Social Security have weakened Americans; he thinks the war in Iraq, even in hindsight, was a fine idea; he still opposes marriage equality; he doesn’t think the federal minimum wage should exist; and Rubio’s so hostile towards reproductive rights that he believes the government has the authority to force impregnated rape victims to take that pregnancy to term, even against her wishes. The guy voted against a bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, even when he knew it would pass easily anyway.

If Marco Rubio prevails in the 2016 race, he would be the most right-wing major-party nominee in generations. If he wins a general election, he’d be the most extreme president in modern American history. There is nothing “moderate” about him.

But that’s not quite what Ted Cruz is talking about.

As the Texas senator sees it, in every race for the Republican presidential nomination, candidates invariably find themselves in “lanes.” And under this framework, there’s always an establishment favorite who’s friendly with party insiders, picks up a lot of endorsements, generates a lot of positive media buzz, etc. For Cruz, this is the “moderate” lane – the label isn’t necessarily related to issue positions, per se, but it’s more about tone and relationships.

In the current GOP fight, the assumption has long been this “lane” would be occupied by Rubio, Jeb Bush, or perhaps John Kasich. But with Kasich struggling, and Jeb faltering, it seems increasingly likely that Rubio will be this establishment “moderate.”

We know – because he’s said so repeatedly – exactly what Ted Cruz is going to tell Republican voters: “You could pick the establishment ‘moderate’ and media darling, or you could choose the unapologetic conservative. Remember, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were establishment ‘moderates,’ too, and look how the election turned out for us in those cycles.”

A Cruz ally told the conservative Washington Examiner this week, “The difference is, who went to Washington and stood up, not just to Democrats, but to his own party, on issue after issue? The other fatal problem for Marco is ‘gang of eight’ support. People don’t trust him.”

Want to know what the Republican race is going to look and sound like in January? This strikes me as a pretty explicit hint.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 6, 2015

November 9, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Too Little, Too Late”: Why The GOP’s Efforts To Reach Out To Women Are Doomed To Fail

Why should women vote for a party that’s actively working against their needs and interests?

On Monday, the GOP released a report detailing its “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a new initiative that explores reasons for the party’s November defeat and posits strategies for winning future elections. If it wasn’t evident before, it is now abundantly clear that the Republican establishment officially attributes its November loss to a failure in style, not substance. The 100-page report details the party’s inability to effectively communicate its policies and priorities to women, immigrants, young people, and people of color. It largely ignores the possibility that what motivated the majority of American voters, and in particular women, to give President Obama a second term was an aversion to the GOP’s outdated vision for the nation.

Acknowledging that Obama won the single women’s vote by a “whopping 36 percent,” the report’s authors suggest ways the party can be more inclusive of this critical voting bloc: Making a better effort to listen to female voters; fighting against the Democratic rhetoric against the “so-called War on Women”; doing a better job communicating the GOP’s policies and employing female spokespeople to do it; and using Women’s History Month to “remind voters of the Republican’s Party historical role in advancing the women’s rights movement.”

I’m glad they specified “historical” role in advancing the women’s rights movement, given that their current role seems squarely focused on rolling back women’s rights. It’s encouraging that GOP strategists in Washington want to spend more time listening to women voters, but there is no indication that Republican lawmakers will respond to that feedback. As Rachel Maddow said on her program this week, while Beltway leaders are “preaching about how to appear more reasonable to the womenfolk among us,” Republican governance has become a competition – a race – “to see who can get the most extreme the fastest.”

And a race it is.

This week Andrew Jenkins of RH Reality Check reported on some of the most recent Republican efforts to chip away at women’s access to care:

Arkansas just passed a bill banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, while South Dakota just passed a bill to expand its 72-hour waiting period, which was already one of the longest in the country, in a state with only one abortion clinic. The North Dakota Senate just approved a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the most restrictive in the country. And in Kansas, a state House committee just passed a 70-page bill that defines life at fertilization and requires that physicians lie to their patients.

That’s not all.

Republicans in Texas remain hard at work leading national efforts in steamrolling access to women’s health care. Previous budget cuts and funding restrictions have already closed more than 50 clinics and are making it more difficult, if not impossible, for nearly 200,000 women to access care. Last week the Texas Senate Education Committee moved a bill forward that would ban Planned Parenthood and other organizations from providing sexuality education in schools, and the governor recently promised to advance a 20-week abortion ban.

In Wisconsin, four Planned Parenthood clinics closed as a result of a GOP-led ban that prevents the organization and other clinics from receiving state funds. In Oklahoma, a major Planned Parenthood facility closed after the state’s department of health cut off funding through the WIC program, forcing low-income women to go elsewhere to obtain vouchers for themselves and their children. Last month, Republicans in Michigan introduced a bill that would require women to get a vaginal ultrasound at least two hours before obtaining an abortion.

Mississippi is about to close its only abortion clinic thanks to a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital (and local hospitals’ refusal to grant those privileges) – a move the Republican governor has applauded as being the first step in ending abortion in that state. Earlier this year, a Republican (female!) representative in New Mexico proposed legislation that would have allowed for women who terminated pregnancies resulting from rape to be charged with a felony for tampering with evidence. (She promptly rescinded and then proposed a new bill that would instead charge abortion providers with facilitating the destruction of evidence.)

The new GOP report also suggested that Republicans “talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics.” In releasing his 2014 budget proposal last week, Paul Ryan certainly provided an interesting perspective into how the GOP proposes taking care of women and families. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Ryan budget includes significant reductions for “childcare and Head Start, K-12 education and Pell grants, job training, civil rights enforcement, women’s preventive health care, domestic violence prevention and more.” It would dismantle Medicaid, Medicare, and the food stamp program. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), denying nearly 15 million women access to affordable health insurance and Medicaid and forcing women to pay more for prescription drugs, including family planning. As NWLC pointed out, repealing the ACA would “allow insurance companies to continue charging women higher premiums than men, deny coverage to women with so-called pre-existing conditions like domestic violence, and refuse to cover maternity care.”

The ACA is certainly providing fertile ground for GOP lawmakers to show how much they care about women. Twenty states now restrict abortion coverage in health insurance plans that will be offered through the insurance exchanges, and 18 states restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees. Nearly all of those states are Republican-led. Additionally, 14 Republican governors have reported they will not participate in the Medicaid expansion programs that are a critical part of the ACA, denying access to a broad range of health services to millions of women.

On top of all this, 22 Republican senators and 138 Republican members of the House voted last month against the Violence Against Women Act, a critical piece of legislation that provides assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

In their report, the GOP strategists recommended developing training programs in messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. “Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them,” they state. Given the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, the GOP will be hard-pressed to convince women the party is fighting for them. It’s patronizing to think that using different language, new messaging, and female spokespersons will convince women to support a party that is so clearly working against their best interests. Women are smart enough to know that a party that calls itself home to lawmakers relentlessly fighting to chip away at family planning and abortion access, food stamps, affordable health care, education, civil rights, and a social safety net providing tenuous stability to millions of marginalized individuals is not a party committed to truly understanding or addressing their priorities.

Maybe next year the GOP will make a more earnest attempt at celebrating Women’s History Month. Although, by that time, their state leaders might have alienated half the women in the country, and it will be too late.


By: Andrea Flynn, Fellow, The Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dwelling In Sequesterland”: Once The Sequester Is Solved, Rand Paul Will Go Back To Being An Oddball

This is a weird moment in American politics. The sequester has just chopped $43 billion out of this year’s defense budget and Republicans are pretending not to care. Now Senator Rand Paul is winning kudos for conducting an old-fashioned talking filibuster against drone warfare from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (“I think it was completely awesome”). (Click here in the unlikely event you want to watch all 13 hours of Paul’s filibuster, and here for a video abridgement from the Washington Post.) With Politico‘s Lois Romano gushing that the filibuster has abruptly “vaulted [Rand] into the top tier of Republican power players,” Paul now says he’s “seriously” pondering a 2016 run for president. “I think our party needs something new, fresh and different,” Paul told Romano.

We have to figure out how to appeal to the West Coast, New England [and] around the Great Lakes area. We need to figure out how to appeal to the blue-collar voters that voted—that were Democrats that voted for Reagan and I think are drifting back because they see us as the party of the wealthy. … I do want to be part of making the Republican Party again more of a national party, less than a regional party, which I think we’re in danger of becoming.

Paul’s specific objection to drones is that they might be used to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. His apparent preference for civil liberties over civil rights is one problem he’ll likely have running for president. (Paul recently voted against the Violence Against Women Act largely on states-rights grounds, and as recently as last year he argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a cruel imposition on property rights.) Paul inhabits approximately the same niche as Haley Barbour, another seemingly strong candidate with a civil rights problem who ultimately decided not to run in 2012. But that isn’t the biggest obstacle to a plausible Paul candidacy. The larger problem is Paul’s opposition to the U.S. national-security establishment.

In ordinary times, it would be unwise for a Republican seeking the presidential nomination to deny this establishment the right to kill an enemy combatant on U.S. soil—even if that combatant were a U.S. citizen. But these aren’t ordinary times. We dwell in Sequesterland, a Brigadoon-like place where the GOP feels free not to define itself though toughness on defense. Even here in Sequesterland, Paul didn’t escape condemnation from the Wall Street Journal editorial page (“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms”) and from Sens. John McCain (“totally unfounded”) and Lindsay Graham (“To my party, I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war”). But since this is Sequesterland, most other Republicans gave Paul a pass lest they give the public occasion to wonder why, if they’re so darned desperate to defend national security, they’re bleeding the Pentagon.

They are bleeding the Pentagon, incidentally. As Fred Kaplan has argued forcefully in Slate, the mere likelihood that $43 billion could be sliced out of the Pentagon budget without compromising national defense does not mean that this $43 billion cut is a breeze. As with the civilian cuts, the sequester cuts are across the board and don’t really give managers any leeway to prioritize this at the expense of that. Here’s Kaplan:

What about the $179 million allotted for modifications to the AH-64 Apache helicopter? How do the Army’s managers parse that? And how does anyone, whether in Congress or the Pentagon’s comptroller office, perform oversight of that feat, this year and in the near future? Not only is the exercise disruptive and in some cases absurd, it also creates excuses for contractors to bilk the Pentagon after the budget crisis is over, claiming that they suffered cost overruns as a result of inefficiencies brought on by sequestration.

Because this can’t possibly last, it won’t. One way or another, the GOP will be transported out of Sequesterland, and when that happens Paul will lose his get-out-of-jail-free card.

Remember Chuck Hagel? Former Republican senator from Nebraska? Just before the sequester hit Hagel was confirmed as defense secretary, but his margin was historically narrow because nearly every Senate Republican opposed him. (Paul was one of only four GOP yeas.) The president named a Republican to be secretary of defense, and Senate Republicans (including, for very foggy reasons, Paul) actually gave serious thought to filibustering the nomination. Much of the Republican resistance to Hagel was based, childishly, on the mere fact that Obama wanted him. But much of it was based on Hagel’s having taken positions on national security issues that his fellow Republicans judged unacceptably dovish—and Hagel isn’t nearly as dovish as Paul is. If Hagel proved unacceptable to the GOP, it’s inconceivable that Paul—who less than one month before the 2012 election published an op-ed condemning Mitt Romney for being too hawkish in the Middle East and too willing to increase Pentagon spending—will ever pass muster. And by “the GOP” I don’t just mean GOP politicians. I mean voters, too. Those Reagan Democrats whom Paul thinks he can woo in California, New England, and the Great Lakes? They’re pretty hawkish. They won’t vote for a candidate who’s weaker on defense than Barack Obama is.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes that Paul’s libertarianism on national security issues “will remain cool with his party only as long as the GOP remains out of the White House.” I disagree. I think it will remain cool with his party only as long as the GOP dwells in Sequesterland. Once that little matter gets resolved, Paul will go back to being an oddball. I’m not saying he won’t try to get elected president—after all, it runs in the family—but he will never inhabit the “top tier of Republican players.” That it looks like he might right now is just a quirk of circumstance.


By: Timothy Noah, The New Republic, March 10, 2013

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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