News from the Votemaster
As strange as it may sound, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that 7 in 10 Republican voters think Donald Trump is their most electable candidate.
Republican professionals certainly don't think that. In fact they fear Hillary Clinton would crush Trump and take the entire Republican Party down. To make it worse, the poll showed that the Republican voters saw Ben Carson as the second most electable candidate. In the view of most serious observers, Carson would not only be crushed by Clinton, but probably lose to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as well. While it is nice to think of your favorite candidate being most electable, Democrats have a better grip on reality. Even those Democrats who support Sanders admit that Clinton would be a stronger candidate, but they are willing to take the risk of having a weaker general election candidate in order to get one they really like.
Mitt Romney's 2012 deputy campaign manager, Katie Packer, said of this poll: "They think we don't need to win more women or more Hispanics to win. They're wrong." Republican strategist John Feehery put it more bluntly: "Trump is considered electable now only because he hasn't yet been the subject of a multimillion dollar negative ad campaign." If he is the Republican nominee, he certainly will be. (V)
Another political insider who thinks Donald Trump is a weak general election candidate, and one who definitely has (is?) a horse in the race: Hillary Clinton. John Podesta, her campaign chair, was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on Sunday and said, "If he's the nominee of the Republican Party, I think that's a matchup that works very well for us."
Whatever opinion one has of the Clintons—positive, negative, agnostic—there can be no doubt they are among the shrewdest political observers and operators of their generation, on par with Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. If the Clintons and the GOP establishment (not to mention the commentariat) agree on something, that is instructive. Yes, it is possible that John Podesta is using reverse psychology, telling the public that Hillary would love to face Trump when in fact she hates her chances against him. This is unlikely, however—the Clintons have not generally included that particular maneuver in their bag of tricks. More likely is that the Clinton campaign is telling the truth, while at the same time recognizing that the appeal of Trump is that he's not a part of the establishment. If the entire political establishment is disdainful of him, as opposed to just the GOP establishment, it serves to strengthen his case. That keeps him around as a fly in the ointment for even longer, perhaps even long enough to be the Republican nominee. (Z)
While the multimillion dollar negative ad campaign is not yet on the horizon, the attacks on Trump are definitely here now. Yesterday on CNN, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Trump's plan to deport millions of illegal immigrants "makes no sense." Rubio went on to call the plan "absurd." When asked about the Select Committee on Benghazi, Rubio was far more positive, saying that it demonstrated that Hillary Clinton lied about the motivation of the 2012 terrorist attack. Finally, he said that he will support the Republican nominee, but that he thinks it will be himself. (V)
Earlier this year Jeb Bush said that sometimes you have to lose the primary in order to win the general election. What he meant was saying things that please the base in February may be fatal in November. Ben Carson didn't get the message. Yesterday on Meet the Press Carson said that abortion should be outlawed in all cases, even if a woman is a victim or rape or incest. He even compared the procedure to slavery. During the campaign, Carson has often used slavery and Nazi metaphors.
Unless Carson is really very stupid, he must know that while the Republican primary base just eats this up, a position like that is going to be deadly in a general election campaign—especially against a female candidate, as seems likely. Could it be that Carson is not planning to be in the general election? Could he be running just for the publicity and then a nice well-paying show on Fox News after the primaries? Suppose he actually won the nomination. Instead of accepting it at the Republican National Convention and then going down to a Goldwatery grave, could he say: "Thanks, folks, but I'd rather not run."? Things are so crazy this year that nothing can be excluded at this point. (V)
Exactly four years ago, New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat correctly predicted that the endless string of front-runner-of-the week candidates would all go bye-bye and the Republicans would nominate Mitt Romney. At the time it was a bold prediction. Now he is predicting it will be Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in 2016. How did he figure this out? By a process of elimination:
- Donald Trump. No party has ever nominated a weirdo like him
- Ben Carson. See Trump
- Carly Fiorina. She is running for a cabinet position
- Jeb Bush. He's flailing in all directions and only the super-rich like him
- John Kasich. He is too moderate and too ornery about it
- Chris Christie. Too many cones
- Ted Cruz. The party leaders despise him
- Bobby Jindal. Carson and Cruz suck up his oxygen
- Mike Huckabee See Jindal
- Rick Santorum. The voters are not the slightest bit interested
- Lindsey Graham. See Santorum
- George Pataki. See Graham
So Marco Rubio is the only man left standing. Douthat says that Rubio is close to the ideological center of the Republican Party, comes from a key swing state, is a good debater, has an impressive biography and personal style, and most important, nobody hates him. We won't go quite as far out on a limb as Douthat predicting that it is a done deal, but Rubio does seem to make a lot of sense for the Republicans in many ways. Of course, so did Rudy Giuiani and Rick Perry in years gone by, but in the words of Jeb Bush: "stuff happens." (V)
No more Sen. Nice Guy. After Hillary Clinton's good performances and good luck in October, she is gaining momentum, so Bernie Sanders has come out swinging at her, something he has avoided until now. These are the actions of someone who wants to win the nomination, not those of someone who wants to gently nudge her a few inches to the left.
In an email sent to supporters, Sanders gave a timeline of who was for or against legislation and precisely when. He pointed out that he supported gay rights and Wall Street regulation and opposed trade agreements and the Keystone XL oil pipeline long before Clinton took positions on these issues. The clear implication is that he means what he says and has always meant it, whereas she is just adopting positions that her pollster tells her to adopt. His email went beyond current issues and showed photos of him protesting segregated housing in the 1960s and proclaiming gay and lesbian pride day in 1983, when he was mayor of Burlington, VT. One thing that Sanders promised to do—and is doing—is to make the campaign about the issues. He is going after her stands on specific policy questions but has never said anything negative about her as a person, something the Republicans have been doing since the 1980s. (V)
This weekend, for the 61st time, the House passed a bill aimed at repealing Obamacare. The legislation would also, for good measure, defund Planned Parenthood. Now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will attempt to ram the measure through that body using budget reconciliation (which can only be used for financial measures, but has the advantage that it can't be filibustered). As McConnell tries to line up the votes, however, he is realizing he may come up short.
This whole series of maneuvers is just political grandstanding. The GOP knows the bill will be vetoed by President Obama if and when it reaches his desk; they just want to remind voters that he's pro-Planned Parenthood and pro-Obamacare while they continue to fight valiantly against both programs. The problem that McConnell is encountering is that the kind of grandstanding that serves the needs of the national party may not be the kind of grandstanding that works well for individual members of Congress. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are trying to secure the Republican presidential nomination on the basis of their strongly conservative credentials. They, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), are unhappy with the bill because it does not gut Obamacare more fully. Meanwhile, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), among others, are up for reelection 2016 and may need some votes from Democrats and/or women to survive. As such, they don't want to hand their opponents a baseball bat—the Senator is opposed to women's health!—to be used to beat them over the heads.
The tension between national and local politics is always a feature of presidential elections. After all, as Tip O'Neill once said, "All politics is local." By all indications, however, that tension is going to be particularly strong, and particularly visible, in this election season. We have already seen a number of examples, not the least of which is the drama surrounding the Speakership of the House, and we will undoubtedly see many more by the time the horse race reaches the finish line on November 8, 2016. (Z)
The chief job of the Speaker of the House is, ostensibly, to manage the business of the House of Representatives. But 1A is to raise money for his colleagues. Since 2009, John Boehner (R-OH) has raised $300 million for congressional Republicans, meaning that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)—in the likely event he becomes Speaker—would have big shoes (or pockets) to fill. Despite his insistence on weekends off to spend with his family, it seems that he and his colleagues are not worried.
There are two secrets to Ryan's expected success. The first is that, due to his vice presidential run, his work on the federal budget, and his role in managing GOP finances, he has a network of well-heeled supporters that is second to none. The second is ultra-efficiency; Ryan is a master of squeezing every bit of value out of the time he spends fundraising. For example, he might have an event in Los Angeles at 6:00 p.m. and one in Newport Beach (45 miles away) at 9:00 p.m. To maximize his impact, he will have two or three donors travel in the limousine with him between stops. The donors get an hour of face-to-face time, and Ryan can squeeze a few checks out of the trip, as opposed to just staring at Southern California traffic.
This is all hypothetical at this point. Ryan is not yet speaker, and he has yet to deal with the challenges of replicating the well-oiled machine that Boehner built (one person can't do it all, or even most of it, and Boehner had assistance from dozens of staffers). Still, the GOP members of Congress appear willing to bet their money on him. (Z)
Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to use big data as a campaign tool, doing so very successfully in both of his presidential runs. Now the GOP is playing catch up, and according to Wired, it is not going well. The article identifies at least three issues that have the Republicans lagging behind the Democrats. Roughly in order, from least to most important:
- The tech sector is very left-leaning, and it is much easier to find tech
gurus—particularly in Silicon Valley—who want to lend their
expertise to Democrats.
- Republican candidates and campaigns have been slow to accept the importance
of data and data analysis, and to make the necessary investments.
- Thanks to Barack Obama, the Democrats already have a functioning tech team
that is used to working together. The team has simply moved from the Obama
campaign to the Clinton campaign. Meanwhile, the Republicans' computer talent is
dispersed across nine or ten different campaign staffs.
The author, Issie Lapowsky, wonders if these obstacles may prove difficult for the GOP to overcome, dooming the party to lag behind the Democrats in tech for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, but money will solve a lot of problems, and the Republicans certainly have that, if and when they decide to spend it. Further, while there may be a partisan dimension to this, the candidates' personalities surely also play a big role. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are well-known technophiles, both of them having been described as "tethered to their Blackberries," and probably every person in the U.S. knows that Hillary Clinton is fond enough of email to want her own server. Not true of John McCain or Mitt Romney. If the 2016 election were to pit, say, the semi-luddite Bernie Sanders against former Silicon Valley CEO Carly Fiorina, the tech balance might quickly tip in favor of the Republicans. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
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