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“No Experience Necessary”: A Cycle In Which ‘The Base’ Isn’t Buying Anti-Washington Rhetoric From Senators Or Governors

My editor at TPM asked me to take a look yesterday at the historical precedents for so many candidates with no experience in elected office managing to run non-trivial presidential campaigns at the same time. And indeed, I can’t immediately find any precedent for three such candidates in a single cycle. As noted in my column, Trump, Carson and Fiorina registered a total of 42% support in the post-debate Fox News national poll of the GOP presidential nomination contest. Add in Ted Cruz, whose brief service in the U.S. Senate has mostly been devoted to attacking his colleagues, and you’ve got a clear majority preferring as little experience as possible.

Past “non-politician” candidates for president mostly had an abundance of other forms of public service. The last president without a prior elected position was the epitome: Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was on the public payroll most of his life, and was noted among generals more for his political acumen than his military skills. 2008 candidate Wes Clark was from the same mold. 2000 candidate Liddy Dole had served in two Cabinet positions, and was married to the ultimate Congressional Insider.

Steve Forbes and Herman Cain were entirely innocent of public office, like today’s trio. But they didn’t appear in the same cycle.

In writing my column, I added up the elected experience of the other 14 candidates in the ’16 GOP field, and came up with 144 years. That’s a lot of experience. But the only candidate who seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on how much experience he has is Rick Santorum, who is going nowhere fast.

Of the three novices, Carly Fiorina is the most unique historically insofar as she really has no great successes to boast of in the private or public sectors. Yes, she was by some accounts the first woman to head up one of the world’s largest corporations, but by even more accounts she ran HP into the ground and then used her golden parachute to run a notably unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Other than that, she’s good at getting appointed to the advisory committees of Republican presidential nominees–both McCain and Romney–and has the kind of communications skills you’d expect from someone used to doing Power Point presentations at shareholder meetings.

As I’ve discussed here often, there’s a big reason Fiorina has been largely bullet-proof despite her dubious resume; her gender makes her a very valuable party asset in a cycle where it’s still largely assumed Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But you’d have to say she’s also benefiting from the same strange climate that has made Trump the GOP front-runner (in the polls at least) and Carson a grassroots favorite. Decades of attacks on the public sector combined with decades of broken promises by Republican pols have produced a cycle in which “the base” isn’t buying anti-Washington rhetoric from senators (other than perhaps the systematically irresponsible Cruz) or even governors. Maybe one of the experienced candidates with Establishment backing–you know, those who together are pulling a small minority of the vote in the polls–will eventually be the nominee. But said Establishment and the pundits and political scientists who view it as all-powerful need to take a long look at the dynamics of this nominating contest.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 19, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Washington, GOP Base, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Believe The Hype”: The Rubio Phenomenon Is An Advertisement For Republican Denial

Let’s just say it: Marco Rubio is the Wes Clark of 2013. Only with many fewer accomplishments.

It pains me to say this because I’m an admirer of Gen. Wesley Clark. I think he would have made a good president. He was an extremely accomplished career military officer. He was also a West Point valedictorian and Rhodes Scholar, so you might say a Democrat’s vision of what a warrior-scholar should be.

But there’s a difference between a person’s innate qualities and accomplishments and the reason they become the person of the moment or get seized upon for some special role by a political party. And there’s no question Democrats seized on Clark in 2003/2004 because his credentials as a retired 4 star general and a combat vet promised to serve as a heat shield to protect them from charges of weakness in an era in which an aggressive national security posture was the sine qua non of national elections.

Nor was Clark the only example. Finding the retired General or combat vet to carry the Democratic banner was a thing for a couple decades — and for obvious reasons: the public consistently rated Republicans better on national security issues.

But nominating a general doesn’t solve the political problem. Ask President Kerry. And neither will nominating Marco Rubio or putting him at the party’s helm.

We hear today that not only is he young and ‘on social media’, he also “knows who Tupac is.” And of course this week he will deliver the Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address.

Supporters can note that if Rubio ran for president in 2016 his time on the national stage would be precisely the same as Barack Obama’s was in 2008. And they’d be right. But Rubio isn’t a rising political star. The mechanics are different. It’s more like the party’s lack of traction with youth and minority voters is creating a vast zone of negative pressure, sucking him up to the heights of the party structure in Washington.

The Rubio phenomenon is more than anything an advertisement for Republican denial. Saying he’s happening because he can identify a rapper who’s been dead for going on 20 years just brings it to the level of self-parody.

So is Rubio the new face of the GOP? Doubtful. He’s for immigration reform. But the only Republicans currently holding power in Washington say they’re against it. So his big sell immediately puts him at odds with the heart of his party.

This doesn’t mean Rubio will crash and burn or fall short of his party’s high hopes for him. As I noted a few days ago, sometimes a politician can be hoisted to the heights for reasons that have little to do with who they really are but end up having a level of innate political skill that they can grab that opportunity and ride it to the top. So it’s possible. But very doubtful. The Wes Clark boomlet is a much better predictor.

 

By: Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, February 10, 2013

February 11, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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