The Primary 2016 postmortem, part 2

April 29, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The Primary 2016 postmortem, part 2 

Now that I have had a couple of days to gather my thoughts and see other reaction on some of the races, here goes.

Beginning at the top: I think the choice of Carly Fiorina by Ted Cruz is relatively shrewd, as it accomplished several objectives – first of all, it blew the $2 billion man off the 24/7 news cycle the day after he won five primaries. (Worth noting: it’s fortunate we didn’t have “jungle” primaries in those states where the top two regardless of party advance because Trump would have been second in just two of the states. In all five he trailed Hillary Clinton, in three he was also behind Bernie Sanders.) Second, it positions him to do better in California, where Carly was the GOP nominee for Senate in 2010. With 172 delegates at stake, it’s the best chance for Trump to get over the top. Fiorina wasn’t near the top of my list for president, but step one of the #NeverTrump process is to get The Donald off the news, step two is throttling him in Indiana, and step three is defeating him in California – hopefully Trump will be eliminated from getting to the 1,237 delegate mark before we reach June.

Looking at the state level and the results, it seems to me that Kathy Szeliga won with the exact same kind of campaign Larry Hogan ran in his gubernatorial primary – very light on specifics. It worked out for Hogan in the 2014 gubernatorial election because he had the advantage of drawing a Democratic opponent he could tie to his predecessor’s record and he avoided being dragged into discussions on social issues and the Second Amendment, try as the Democrats did to bring these up during the campaign. In an executive election it’s easier to make it about economic philosophy, particularly when you’ve spent three years hammering the Democrats with a social media juggernaut called Change Maryland – that and $100,000 in his own money was where he gained his primary advantage.

But Szeliga will have a harder time prevailing on a message of change, especially because she has a voting record the Democrats will surely comb over (just as Republicans can – and should – do with Chris Van Hollen.) Certainly Chris is a Washington insider, but the secondary idea Republicans are hoping to exploit is that the party which screams constantly about a “Republican war on women” has exactly zero female nominees in its delegation. Wouldn’t the words of Donna Edwards be an interesting piece of a 30-second spot?

“The state of Maryland is on the verge of having an all-male delegation,” (Edwards) said. “When will our voices be effective, legitimate, equal leaders in a big-tent party?”

Well, if it’s that big of a deal to the women of Maryland they know what to do. There’s no doubt the Democrats will try to brush aside that little tidbit, and the job gets a lot easier if Donald Trump is the nominee because it negates that advantage.

It should be a lot easier for Andy Harris to succeed. He now has an opponent without a great deal of name recognition in the district, and all the advantages incumbency provides. As I said before, the election for the district was really held Tuesday and the margin of victory was tremendous. Going into the election, it seemed that Mike Smigiel would be a rather formidable opponent – a former Delegate who was very popular with the portion of the district’s electorate which values liberty and the Second Amendment, as he made his name defending both. But the fact Smigiel had three opponents from Cecil County when he ran for re-election in 2014 suggests that maybe he had developed a reputation as all talk and no action, and the campaign he ran didn’t seem to draw a great deal of interest. As I pointed out earlier this month, having a campaign event which draws no local voters doesn’t lend itself to success. In Somerset (as well as Wicomico and Worcester) Smigiel actually ran third behind Harris and Jonathan Goff, and Smigiel only got 21.8% in his home county. So much for his push polls.

It may have been a doomed cause to begin with, but the decision to attend an event outside the district on the weekend before the election may have been the campaign in a microcosm – many times the perfect was the enemy of the good. Sure, Andy Harris leaves something to be desired in terms of conservative/libertarian leadership and initiative, but in my opinion Smigiel tried the same campaign Harris did to Wayne Gilchrest in 2008 – problem was Andy is nowhere near the center and isn’t moving to the left at the rapid pace Wayne was. So the tactic wouldn’t work, and in the end the difference in voting patterns and campaign tactics cost Smigiel my support.

Now that I have some of these thoughts and observations out of the way, it’s time for me to move on to the next election. Tomorrow I’ll be looking at an interesting GOP race that will be decided at our upcoming state convention.

Some thoughts on tomorrow’s election

March 14, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Some thoughts on tomorrow’s election 

For Maryland’s election six weeks hence to have any national significance, it’s very likely that Donald Trump would have to lose Ohio and at least one other state. We’re now getting to the point where more delegates have been awarded than remain at stake, with the RCP count now showing we’ve just passed the halfway point. Tomorrow a total of 367 delegates are at stake in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and the Northern Mariana Islands, with all but North Carolina “winner-take-all” states. With four candidates in the running, it’s possible over 300 delegates can be attained by getting just 30% of the vote (if all five WTA states fell the same way with slim victories for the winner.) Donald Trump is doing a little better than 30% in four of the five states, with John Kasich leading in his home state of Ohio.

After this week the race will get something of a breather. Next week the remaining contenders will do battle for Arizona, Utah, and American Samoa, then we skip to Wisconsin on April 5. New York will have its week on April 19, and then its our turn on April 26 (along with Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.) At this point, even if Trump won everything he could not clinch the requisite number of delegates before Maryland votes. (Let’s hope he doesn’t ever get to that point.)

It’s been sort of lost in the maelstrom surrounding the cancellation of Trump’s Chicago rally, but there were two other endorsements in the race recently. I can’t say I was surprised by Ben Carson’s selection of Donald Trump since the bridge between him and Ted Cruz was burned back in Iowa, but I was surprised by Carly Fiorina backing Cruz. She never impressed me as that conservative when I was doing my dossiers.

Now I can update the tier map. I suspect after tomorrow it will be down to three and possibly two remaining.

  • Bottom tier: George Pataki (Marco Rubio), Donald Trump
  • Fourth tier: Chris Christie (Donald Trump), John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina (Ted Cruz)
  • Third tier: Rick Santorum (Rubio), Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson (Donald Trump)
  • Second tier: Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (Jeb Bush)
  • Top tier: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (Rubio)

The endorsement poll stands at Marco Rubio 3, Ted Cruz 2, and Donald Trump 2. John Kasich has none.

I should take a few moments to update you on where I stand with my Senatorial questions. So far I have heard back from five of the fourteen, with three responses (Richard Douglas, Mark McNicholas, and Dave Wallace.) Each of the three has put together thoughtful responses.

But I also have just a few weeks to decide, so I am going to look at other sources as well. These won’t get the dossier treatment, but it’s likely that someone who responds will get my vote and endorsement, just so you know.

Carson runs out of path

March 2, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Carson runs out of path 

After a disappointing Super Tuesday round of fourth- and fifth-place finishes, Ben Carson saw the writing on the wall and, while not officially suspending his campaign, promised a different way forward. In a statement released by the campaign, Carson said that new direction would be established later this week at CPAC:

I have decided not to attend the Fox News GOP Presidential Debate tomorrow night in Detroit.  Even though I will not be in my hometown of Detroit on Thursday, I remain deeply committed to my home nation, America.  I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday primary results. However, this grassroots movement on behalf of “We the People” will continue. Along with millions of patriots who have supported my campaign for President, I remain committed to Saving America for Future Generations. We must not depart from our goals to restore what God and our Founders intended for this exceptional nation.

I appreciate the support, financial and otherwise, from all corners of America.  Gratefully, my campaign decisions are not constrained by finances; rather by what is in the best interests of the American people.

I will discuss more about the future of this movement during my speech on Friday at CPAC in Washington, D.C.

So what began as a groundswell of support for over three years – an odyssey which began with his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013 that aroused the interest of God-fearing conservatives around the nation – comes to an apparent end today. But I don’t think Carson is done contributing to the campaign.

There is a segment of the electorate that needed a person like Carson in the race as the moral backstop. While his positions were not conservative in a classical sense and could be construed as being all over the map in some cases, we have a front-runner who exhibits even more that same tendency to pander to an audience. In Carson’s case, once the conversation got outside the realm of certain issues he hasn’t studied or thought a lot about he ran into trouble – of course, being anti-Christian the media was always there to make a big deal out of it.

I’m sure Dr. Carson is a very intelligent man, and given his line of work I also reckon he’s a quick study. Yet in this year of the outsider candidate, it seemed like Carson didn’t get the pass that Donald Trump did when it came to speaking about the issues given neither have a great deal of political experience. (However, Trump briefly ran for President when he sought the Reform Party nomination in 2000. So he has a little bit of practice, but not much. Since Carly Fiorina ran for the Senate from California in 2010, she doesn’t count in this category.)

So I will be interested to see when Carson’s new path leads, and how many of his supporters will follow.

Updating my tier map – the middle tier is now empty:

  • Bottom tier: George Pataki (Marco Rubio), Donald Trump
  • Fourth tier: Chris Christie (Donald Trump), John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina
  • Third tier: Rick Santorum (Rubio), Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson
  • Second tier: Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (Jeb Bush)
  • Top tier: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (Rubio)

Christie and Carly call it a campaign

February 10, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Christie and Carly call it a campaign 

After disappointing results in the New Hampshire primary coupled with humiliation in Iowa, today marked the end of the Presidential campaign road for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as well as onetime HP exec Carly Fiorina.

At one time a few years ago, Christie was considered one of the top contenders for an eventual GOP nomination. Elected in the wake of the Obama victory in 2009, his brash style and willingness to take on the Democratic union-based machine in New Jersey got him mentioned for a 2012 run, but he passed up the opportunity. Looking back, perhaps he should have struck when the iron was hot – his embrace of Barack Obama days before the 2012 election in the wake of Hurricane Sandy angered conservatives who saw that as a factor in Obama’s re-election. Then came the “Bridgegate” scandal, and after that Christie never got back the mojo he had in his early days as governor. Now Christie’s free to finish out his term, but Maryland Republicans should thank him for his support of our governor, Larry Hogan. (Hogan was one of those who endorsed and campaigned for Christie in his 2016 bid.)

In his exit remarks, Christie revealed how proud he was of his campaign:

I ran for president with the message that the government needs to once again work for the people, not the people work for the government. And while running for president I tried to reinforce what I have always believed – that speaking your mind matters, that experience matters, that competence matters and that it will always matter in leading our nation. That message was heard by and stood for by a lot of people, but just not enough and that’s ok. I have both won elections that I was supposed to lose and I’ve lost elections I was supposed to win and what that means is you never know what will happen. That is both the magic and the mystery of politics – you never quite know when which is going to happen, even when you think you do. And so today, I leave the race without an ounce of regret.

Fiorina put on a brave face last night, setting up events for the upcoming Nevada caucuses, but after her August peak where she did well enough in the opening “kiddle table” debate to get promoted to the main stage she fell out of favor far enough to miss last Saturday’s debate entirely – the only candidate of the main contenders to do so.

But on her Facebook page Fiorina announced she was taking on a new chapter:

This campaign was always about citizenship – taking back our country from a political class that only serves the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well connected. Election after election, the same empty promises are made and the same poll-tested stump speeches are given, but nothing changes. I’ve said throughout this campaign that I will not sit down and be quiet. I’m not going to start now. While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them.

As a “former presidential candidate,” this experience will likely add another zero to Fiorina’s speaking fees.

Since both candidates seemed to tend more to the center of the political spectrum, it would not surprise me to see them eventually back Marco Rubio. In fact, among those who have expressed a preference since withdrawing Rubio has secured three endorsements (Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum) while Ted Cruz snagged fellow Texan Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham is backing Jeb Bush. Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker haven’t endorsed anyone yet.

Update: I forgot my updated preference list, which includes endorsements:

  • Bottom tier: George Pataki (Marco Rubio), Donald Trump
  • Fourth tier: Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina
  • Third tier: Rick Santorum (Rubio), Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson
  • Second tier: Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (Jeb Bush)
  • Top tier (and these guys were miles ahead of the rest): Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (Marco Rubio)

Odds and ends number 80

For awhile I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to the 80th edition of this longtime monoblogue series but I have finally arrived with more tidbits that require only a few dozen words to deal with.

Since this category has the item I’ve been sitting on the longest, I’m going to talk energy first. Some of my readers in the northern part of the state may yet have a little bit of remaining snow from the recent blizzard, snow that may be supplemented by a new blast today. But the fine folks at Energy Tomorrow worry about a regulatory blizzard, and with good reason: Barack Obama has already killed the coal industry, states are suing for relief from the EPA,  and a proposed $10 a barrel oil tax may further hinder the domestic oil industry already straining under a price war with OPEC. So much for that $550 annual raise we received, as Rick Manning notes in the latter story I link – for the rest of us, that’s like a 25-cent per hour raise without the increased taxation that normally comes with a pay increase. Yet that quarter would be lost to taxation under the Obama scheme.

It’s interesting as well that the Iowa caucus results favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump despite their competing stances on ethanol, as Marita Noon wrote, but Cruz’s Iowa win also emboldened others to speak more freely about rescinding the ban.

Speaking of Cruz and Iowa, over the last week we’ve heard more about third-place Iowa finisher Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, as Erick Erickson predicted we would. It’s obvious to me that the media is trying to pick a Republican candidate for us, so they have been pushing either Donald Trump (who is far from conservative on many issues) or Marco Rubio (who has been squishy on immigration and perhaps can be rolled more easily on the subject again.) Or, as Dan Bongino writes, it could be the left’s divide-and-conquer strategy at work once again.

It seems to me that today’s New Hampshire primary should bring the race down to about five participants on the GOP side. The herd will almost certainly be culled of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Jim Gilmore based on results, polling, and financial situation, and that would cut it down to six. The loser between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich should whittle the field to five in time for South Carolina and we will begin to see if Donald Trump’s ceiling is really about 25 percent.

Trump’s popularity has been defined by a hardline approach to border security, but once again I turn to Rick Manning who asks what Trump would do about Obamacare, He also shrewdly invokes Bobby Jindal’s name, since the policy wonk had a conservative approach:

Jindal understood that the Obamacare system has put down some roots, and tearing it out was not going to be an easy task that could be glibly done with the wave of a wand or a pronouncement from a podium. He understood that whatever health care system replaced Obamacare would set the tone for whether or not the federal government continued its expansion in scope and power. He understood that what we do about Obamacare is likely to be one of the most important domestic policy decisions that any president will make. So, he laid out his vision for what health care should look like in America. (Link added.)

Yet on another domestic issue New Hampshire’s neighbor Maine is making some serious steps in cleaning up their food stamp rolls. It’s a little scary to think that the Millennials and Generation X decided keeping the “free” stuff wasn’t worth actually getting a job (or taking alternate steps to improve themselves or their community.) Perhaps it is fortunate that these are childless adults.

Turning to our own state, Maryland Right to Life was kind enough to inform me that a rebadged “death with dignity” assisted suicide bill was introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate (HB404 and SB418, respectively.) The 2015 rendition never received a committee vote, but it also had a late hearing – this year the setup is a little bit more advantageous to committee passage and the number of sponsors (all Democrats) has increased. They thought they had enough votes to get it out of committee last year, and chances are they are correct.

I have postulated on previous occasions that this General Assembly session is the opportunity to plant the seeds of distrust Democrats desperately need to get back that which they consider theirs in 2018 – the Maryland governor’s chair. It will likely be a close, party-line vote but I suspect this bill will pass in order to make Governor Hogan either veto it (which, of course, will allow the press to make him look less than compassionate to cancer sufferers such as he was) or sign it into law – a course for which he will accrue absolutely zero credit from Democrats for reaching across the aisle but will alienate the pro-life community that is a vital part of the GOP.

Try as they might, the Democrats could not bait Hogan into addressing social issues during his 2014 campaign but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying.

On a much more somber note insofar as good government is concerned, the advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland announced they were winding up their affairs at the end of this month. As EIM president Cathy Kelleher stated:

The difficulty of maintaining a small non profit was a full time job and the responsibility fell on the same few individuals for far too long.

We can proudly say that in our 4+ years of operations, we made a difference in the way citizens view the record maintenance of the State Board of Elections and had an impact in the legislative process.

The problem EIM had was twofold: first, a lack of citizens interested enough to address the issues our state has with keeping voter rolls not just up to date, but insuring they are limited to citizens who are eligible to vote; and secondly just an overwhelming task considering there are over 3 million voters registered in Maryland. And for some of the counties that are more populous, the powers that be didn’t much mind having inaccurate voter rolls that may have had a few ineligible voters among them just in case they needed a few extra on election night.

And it’s that prospect of fraud which is among the reasons not to adopt National Popular Vote, as Natalie Johnson notes at the Daily Signal. It’s a good counter to an argument presented in the comments to one of Cathy Keim’s recent posts. After the angst of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, could you imagine the need for a national recount with states hanging in the balance?

I think the system can be improved, but there’s a time and place for that proposal and it’s not here yet. There’s also a time and a place to wrap up odds and ends, and we have arrived.

So long to MOM and Huck

February 2, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on So long to MOM and Huck 

The lack of results in the Iowa caucuses have seen two candidates for President exit the race.

On the Democratic side, the rest of America found out what Marylanders already knew: in a race of any significance without Bob Ehrlich to beat up on, Martin O’Malley is a terrible candidate. Now the audition for being a running mate begins for O’Malley, who never had traction in the polls – the question is just who does he audition to?

So the good people of Iowa did the job Marylanders wouldn’t do and eliminated O’Malley from contention, just in time for him to strap the guitar back on for “O’Malley’s March” or whatever he calls that band.

Oddly enough, maybe bass player Mike Huckabee can call MOM up for a jam session since he no longer has a race to run either. While Huckabee had a great campaign in 2008, his “sell by” date obviously passed and the religious Right decided Ted Cruz and Ben Carson were more their style.

I said a few days ago that the bottom five in Iowa as polled were Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Huckabee, and John Kasich. The polls pegged them as the also-rans correctly, but I didn’t count Jim Gilmore, who “won” bigtime by getting 12 votes in a state he didn’t campaign in. As of the time I’m writing this, Rick Santorum is staying in by placing his hopes on South Carolina while Fiorina will doggedly continue in New Hampshire – a state where Christie and Kasich are expected to do far better than they did in Iowa.

So we will re-convene in New Hampshire next Tuesday and see how the field reacts. The question is whether Cruz or Marco Rubio can dent Donald Trump’s lead there now that we know The Donald is no longer invincible.

The box we could be stuck in

After re-reading last night’s post, I think the time has come to explore a couple “what-if” scenarios. But first let’s consider the scene that is being set over the next couple weeks.

First, the prospect of severe winter weather may dampen turnout at the Iowa caucuses. The conventional wisdom is that this will hurt the Trump campaign the most and help Ted Cruz pad his margin of victory. Yet this assumption is based on the theories that Trump doesn’t have a significant “ground game” in Iowa; moreover, many of his supporters would be first-time caucus goers who could be intimidated by the lengthy process. The most recent samples of likely voters keep Trump in the 30-33% range (with Ted Cruz second at 23-27%) but if Trump turnout is soft Cruz can pull off the win.

However, if the polls stay valid in Iowa then Trump can win the first three contests as he holds 31% of the New Hampshire vote and 36% in South Carolina. It’s a demolition derby among the rest, but presumably half of the field will be gone by the time voters finish with South Carolina. The bottom five in Iowa are Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich, but in New Hampshire it’s Santorum, Huckabee, Rand Paul, Fiorina, and Ben Carson. Bottom-feeders in South Carolina are Santorum, Fiorina, Paul, Kasich, and Huckabee. Yet deducting just the three common names in the bottom five (Santorum, Huckabee, and Fiorina) only frees up 5.6% in Iowa, 4.9% in New Hampshire, and 4% in South Carolina, leading us into Super Tuesday (also known as the “SEC primary” since it’s mainly Southern states) on March 1. All these primaries are proportional, but come the middle of March we will begin to see the “winner-take-all” states come into play.

Bottom line: the longer some of these bottom-tier candidates hang on, the better chance we may see a candidate get the entire delegation with only 30 or 40 percent of the vote. It’s a scenario that favors a polarizing candidate like Donald Trump.

And if Trump gets the nomination, the Republicans will have quite the dilemma. Now I realize a number of people reading this are going to say the GOP deserves what they are getting, and to a great extent they are right. A little courage and leadership among more of our elected officials in Washington would have gone a long way in not upsetting the base voters who now support The Donald because they see him as a man of action, particularly on immigration and trade. These were both subjects the GOP chose to punt on, not wanting to risk alienating their most important constituency: the ruling class in Washington, D.C. So Donald Trump is a Frankenstein of the Republicans’ creation, they argue.

However, millions of Republicans may argue that Donald Trump would be the guy whose principles (or lack thereof) do not reflect the party’s brand to such an extent that they may decide to stay home from voting. And even if they begrudgingly hold their nose and select Trump, their dearth of enthusiasm will show up in a lack of willingness to take a yard sign, make phone calls, or otherwise do the little things that help a campaign win. While this situation is not good for the top of the ticket, it could spell the end of the GOP-controlled Senate we worked hard to gain in 2010 and 2014 – the former TEA Party wave is coming up for re-election in a Presidential year where turnout is higher. Despite their failings as a Senate, losing GOP control of it would be an unmitigated disaster for those who support liberty and limited government.

In 1992 I made the mistake of getting so mad at a Republican president for not sticking to his word that I voted for Ross Perot. Surely many of the millions who breathed life into the Reform Party for a time regretted it when Bill Clinton enacted his liberal agenda. (As proof: that coalition came back with a vengeance two years later in 1994 when Republicans took the House for the first time in four decades.)

But I may have a different reason for not voting for the GOP nominee in 2016. I have always deferred to the voters as far as their wisdom goes, and hopefully many thousands come to their senses before April 26 in Maryland. However, if they don’t, I have to admit that Trump is not the automatic selection that Dole, Bush 43, McCain, and Romney were despite the fact I supported none of them when I had a choice in the primary.

This may sound a little like hyperbole but I think a conservative direction beginning with this election is the only shot we have for survival as a nation – otherwise, we just tumble into the abyss Europe seems to be tottering into, just a decade or so behind them. I don’t like being a pessimist, but in doing this read option I see opposing defenders closing in all around me if I can’t make it to the daylight and open field of conservative governance. (A clunky football metaphor, but appropriate.)

Those who can’t stomach the thought of President Trump now hope against hope the game may soon be up; this elaborate ruse to attract attention eventually turns out to be reality TV fodder. But these people have said for the better part of a year that the bloom would soon be off the rose, yet we sit here days away from the Iowa caucuses and this political chameleon Donald J. Trump is leading the field both in the initial primary states and nationwide.

Perhaps the scariest thought to me, though, is that I’m used to Presidential candidates running right in the primary and tacking toward the center for the general election. Since Donald Trump is already left-of-center on a number of issues, do you seriously think he will move rightward after the convention? We will be stuck with the same situation we faced with President Bush: for his more liberal “compassionate conservative” ideas, Republicans had to bite the bullet and support them anyway because who crosses the titular head of the party?

It may come down to where President Trump = President Hillary = President Sanders. The philosophies may be closer than you think.

The problem with The Donald

Most of the news cycle of the last three days or so has been about the Iowa Republican debate, but the conversation centered about who was not there. I don’t recall nearly as much ink about Rand Paul missing the previous debate because he finished just outside the cutoff for the prime-time affair and refused to be an opening act. Last night, those opening act players were Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum – the latter two then went to Donald Trump’s event set up to compete with the Fox news debate. (At least Gilmore was promoted to actually making a debate, so that’s progress for him.)

But this piece isn’t about the debate, but about something my friend Rick Manning wrote at NetRightDaily. In some respects it makes the same case I have been making about Trump all along.

A dealmaker by definition cuts deals, and Trump has by his own admission cut deals that used the government to serve his interests quite profitably. A dealmaker doesn’t stand on principle; instead, a dealmaker looks for common ground.

If the past seven years have taught me anything, it is that the Democrats are unrelenting in their pursuit of bigger, more expansive government, and the GOP consistently looks for common ground that is only partially disastrous, calling that a bipartisan win.

When Trump says he would repeal ObamaCare and replace it with a government-paid healthcare system, I believe him, and that makes me very uneasy.

Not because of the policy difference, but rather because what the policy difference reveals. It reveals a man who accepts big government and would expand it if the right deal were on the table. It reveals that a Trump presidency may be completely unmoored from the constitutional, limited government perspective that has traditionally driven Republican candidates.

In my study of the issues there are a number of areas, such as entitlements, ethanol, and even his tax plan, where Trump is far from a limited-government conservative. I will grant that my idea of limiting government in the case of entitlements and ethanol would be to sunset the programs and subsidies entirely over time, but part of that is not recalling just where in the Constitution it specified that the federal government had a role in retirement, supplying medical care, or propping up the fortunes of grain farmers. As far as the tax plan goes, whenever I see the idea of cutting rates at the low end and “paying” for it with reducing deductions for the top earners I know that the trust fund babies will find new loopholes in short order, leaving the government short and those business people who see accounting as a necessary evil (after all, they have a business to run and not beans to count) getting the shaft. You all know I would prefer a consumption-based system.

So when it comes to the “art of the deal” who do you think Trump will compromise with? Certainly the Republicans have nothing of interest to him since he is “representing” that party in the White House, so his dealing and compromise will be with the Democrats who we already know will bite the arm off anyone reaching across the aisle. The middle ground between the left-of-center (on most domestic issues except for immigration) Trump and the foaming-at-the-mouth statist Democrats promises to be right about where Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would govern anyway. In the case of Trump Republicanism, there truly is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

Debating the need

December 16, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Debating the need 

Apparently they had a debate last night.

I think I watched the first main event (since I didn’t get back home in time for the now-infamous “kiddie table” debate) but since then I have chosen to spend my time on other, more useful pursuits like doing my website. Unfortunately, until you get down to a manageable number of people (about five to six at the most) it’s not worth the effort. (Granted, the more recent warmup debates should have been quite good with only four people participating.)

But I wonder how the race would have gone had they used my original idea of randomly selecting six participants per debate and doing three in one evening. It’s probable that the general order may have stayed fairly close, but when you are depending on a poll to determine debate placement that has a margin of error larger than the amount of support some in the bottom tier were getting, there could have been people taken off the main stage who may have deserved a place. Who knows: if the Donald would have had the bad luck of the draw to be outside prime time in the first couple of debates he may be closer to the pack or even out of the race. Just food for thought.

It seems to me that the debates are now sort of like an NFL Sunday. In the 1:00 games you have the teams without a great fanbase or that are doing so-so…sort of like the early debate. It’s the 4:25 national game and the 8:15 primetime game that people care about – in fact, NBC gets to pick the game it wants in the last few weeks of the season, with some exceptions. So the prime-time game the other night would have been the Cruz Cowboys taking on the Trump Generals. (Yes, I had to borrow from the old USFL but Trump owned the New Jersey Generals so it fit. In fact, the ill-fated idea to move the USFL to a fall schedule was his.) Anyway, supporters of every candidate watch and keep score like a fantasy football game, and everyone is confident of victory. My social media was filled with commentary.

One thing that the debates were supposed to provide, though, was some winnowing of the field – so far it hasn’t changed a whole lot. With several governors in the race originally but the general political mood being that of seeking an outsider, 2016 wasn’t the year for Rick Perry in his second try or Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal in their first. Notably, Walker was the only main-stage debater to withdraw, although had he not he would likely have been relegated to the second-tier thanks to his polling support evaporating rapidly. Perry just missed the cut for the first debate to John Kasich and never really recovered, while Jindal never caught on (unfortunately.) On the other hand, people seem to hate how John Kasich and Jeb Bush perform in debates but they continue to qualify – meanwhile, the rules were bent a little bit to put Carly Fiorina in the second debate and Rand Paul in the most recent one.

But if you go back to the first of October (and I’m looking at the RCP universe of polls) you’ll find the following movement:

  • Trump +11 (27 to 38, with a range 22-41)
  • Cruz +8 (7 to 15, with a range 4-22)
  • Rubio -1 (13 to 12, with a range 8-17)
  • Carson -5 (17 to 12, with a range 9-29)
  • Bush -5 (10 to 5, with a range 3-10)
  • Christie +2 (2 to 4, with a range 1-4)
  • Kasich -2 (4 to 2, with a range 1-4)
  • Fiorina -5 (6 to 1, with a range 1-7)
  • Paul 0 (2 to 2, with a range 1-5)
  • Huckabee -3 (4 to 1, with a range 1-5)
  • Graham 0 (1 to 1, with a range 0-2)
  • Pataki -1 (1 to 0, with that being his range)
  • Santorum -2 (2 to 0, with that being his range)
  • They don’t poll for Jim Gilmore. I think he’s still in it.

We actually have 3% more undecided than we did before. But you can see that after the top four, picking the next tier can be tricky because several are polling under the margin or error. Even with these debates, the sheer amount of headlines Donald Trump creates have done more to pad his lead than the formal gatherings.

I imagine the bottom-feeders are putting their eggs into one basket at this point. Jeb Bush still has quite a bit of money, while Chris Christie, John Kasich, and George Pataki are playing to do well in New Hampshire. On the other hand, candidates with evangelical or populist appeal like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are counting on Iowa. I guess Carly Fiorina is basing her appeal on her gender, Rand Paul is trying to light a fire under his dad’s supporters in the libertarian part of the GOP, and Lindsay Graham is likely hoping to use his home state as a springboard.

But even with Bobby Jindal withdrawing – granted, he was only getting 1 to 2 percent – the only gainers since October are Trump and Cruz. Ben Carson’s meteoric rise is now a free fall; however, he’s still in the top four that command nearly 3 out of 4 GOP voters. The other 10 are fighting over that last quarter.

We will know by year’s end who will go on, as the fundraising totals have to be in. I suspect there may be fewer chairs needed for that debate.

Pulling the plug

October 30, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Mainstream media, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Pulling the plug 

Apparently the GOP has had enough.

I didn’t watch the CNBC debacle the other night, but the political tongues are still wagging about it and RNC Chair Reince Priebus took the drastic action of pulling the remaining GOP debate slated for an NBC network off the air. To many the question is: what took you so long?

It’s long been thought that the news networks (with the exception of Fox News) are less than honest brokers when it comes to the GOP, yet our side dutifully went to them hat in hand to televise a share of the debates. As the story goes, the RNC was already suspicious of NBC. (since they own and operate the notoriously left-wing MSNBC) so they insisted the NBC debate be put on CNBC and stick to economic topics. As we now know, that did not happen.

Certainly Priebus was feeling the heat from the campaigns, some of which were slated to meet this weekend to discuss changes they’d like to see. (One of them was Bobby Jindal’s campaign, whose spokesperson Gail Gitcho called the top-ten debate criteria “delusional.” And she’s right, since polling at the early stage of a campaign is all name recognition.)

The suggestion they’re making sounds vaguely familiar to me: two prime-time debates each night, with the field for each randomly selected. That would have given everyone a shot to improve themselves, particularly in the first debate or two. It worked for Carly Fiorina, but as the debates go on, being outside the top ten becomes a self-perpetuating state, while being in the top ten doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate is doing well. Jeb Bush has better, really cool things to do, you know.

One thing which needs to be done in these debates is get some better questions. We don’t need “gotcha” questions, but substantive ones. Why not a robust debate on entitlements or birthright citizenship? There are several subjects where Republicans have legitimate differences, so let them go at it and even question each other – no time limit, and the moderator just keeps a little order.

Think about this, too: why don’t the Democrats ever do a debate on Fox News? I looked it up and over the last three contested cycles (2016, 2008, 2004) Fox News has shared a feed on ONE Democratic debate, out of about 40 or so. Ask yourself why they don’t try and expand their base and present their ideas to cable’s largest news audience, and maybe the idea of the mainstream media being characterized as a Democratic SuperPAC makes more sense.

It’s too bad I can’t moderate the debate, or at least ask the questions. If you want to discuss middle-class concerns – as these journalists, some of whom make millions of dollars a year, purport to do – get some questions from average folks about real issues they face. (No, fantasy football is not a real issue.)

I decided to do my own research before I made my decision, and I’m glad I did. When debates became more about entertainment than enlightenment, that’s where they lost this voter.

The truth, the spin, and the battlefield

By Cathy Keim

John Boehner hit the Sunday morning TV circuit to explain why he is resigning and to spin his past performances. In addition, the various media are adding their spin and giving advice as to how to proceed. After reading through a variety of reports, it seems pretty well decided that:

  • John Boehner did the best he could under the circumstances.
  • Congress never really had the ability to stop the Obama agenda.
  • The conservatives/Tea Party types that caused this ruckus should go away.
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be the next speaker.

One can go farther and depending on the source conclude that:

  • Our nation has grown too large to govern as a republic.
  • Christians should withdraw to enclaves because it is all going to the dogs.
  • There is no turning back from the path of destruction that we are on.

Before you give up hope and head for the hills with your guns, ammo, Bibles, and food, let us take a quick review of the comment sections of the same articles.

I do not read the comments on some sites because they are merely vile epithets interspersed with poor spelling, but other sites actually have rousing comment sections. There are many Americans that are still interested in the American Experiment and in their Christian faith. They are not giving up. Nor should we.

We need to think about the battlefield before we proceed. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says:

If we launch headfirst into leadership elections like this is a typical succession, without ever taking the time to diagnose our current ailments, we won’t heal the fractures in a Conference that has thus far proved unleadable. Simply reshuffling the deck won’t serve our members, and it especially won’t help our next slate of leaders who will be tasked with producing better results than our leaders have so far been able to achieve.

Kudos to Rep. Roskam for identifying the need to come up with a coherent strategy to unite the GOP. The current fracture between the leadership and the base is not going to disappear, especially if Boehner uses his last 30 days as Speaker to push through a clean CR as is rumored. (He did.) If the House replaces Boehner with McCarthy it will be viewed as the leadership ignoring the base once again. It is possible that McCarthy would acknowledge the desires of the base more than Boehner did, but it would be a long road to prove this and to gain the trust of the base.

We have entered into a dangerous time for the country with an expanded imperial presidency unfettered by the legislative branch and supported by the judicial branch. This president rules by executive order, regulations, and selective enforcing of the laws.

Congress has allowed this because under Pelosi and Reid they agreed with Obama’s agenda. The citizens expressed their strong disapproval by dismissing first Pelosi and then Reid by decisive victories in the House and the Senate. Those victories at the elections have never translated into victories in rolling back the president’s fundamental changes. This has led to extreme disappointment and anger amongst the base. The passage of the CRomnibus bill is a recent example of this outrage. Rep. Harris said we needed to just pass the CRomnibus so that we could focus on this year’s budget. We didn’t have time to fight over the previous budget, because we needed to look ahead. Fast forward. Now we are looking at another CR. Hmmm, we didn’t fight last time so that we could work on doing it right this time, so now let’s just pass another clean CR so we can focus on the next one?

We have been handed that line just a few too many times. They say we will hold the line on that debt ceiling; no, at the budget; no, back to the debt ceiling. The bait and switch doesn’t work once people realize that it is happening.

Congress under its present failed leadership has tried one too many times to blame everything on anything except themselves. Like a drug addict in rehab, they need to get clean, and face their inner demons. They were elected to serve their country, not to become rich, powerful men and women addicted to their status and in need of the next cash transfusion from their donors/masters.

The GOP leadership really cannot afford to kick this can down the road now. In the progressive movement, they are facing a ruthless, effective opposition that will stop at nothing to achieve total control of every aspect of our lives.

  • Housing and transportation zoning codes: Agenda 21 takes care of that.
  • Education: Common Core destroys that.
  • Family: Changes to marriage and social mores finishes that off.
  • Freedom of Religion: Reduced to a personal faith only to be expressed inside the church building, and only as long as they don’t get political.
  • Government medical care: We have you covered, but that doesn’t ensure access to care.

We are well on our way to a totalitarian state and the progressives will not stop until they get there or are decisively defeated, not just pushed back for an election cycle or two.

Now, GOP leadership, do I have your attention? Your base understands and is extremely motivated to stop the fundamental transformation that is taking place in this country. We are no longer deceived by your show votes.

I suggest that instead of sneering at your base, the leadership of the GOP should take a brief time to reflect on the course of the nation and come to a plan of action that will encourage its base and present the proper explanations which can be ably defended by many of the presidential candidates as to why we need to defund Planned Parenthood, stop the flood of immigrants that we are not assimilating, and change our foreign policies, particularly our policy towards Iran.

Carly Fiorina is not backing down on the evil that is Planned Parenthood as revealed by the Center for Medical Progress’s videos. Congress should join her by forcing a vote on defunding PP and making the President veto it. Show the videos so that the President and his followers are exposed for supporting selling butchered baby organs.

Ted Cruz is standing alone on the floor of the Senate calling out the failed leadership on their collusion in funding Planned Parenthood and the Iran deal.

Ben Carson is not retreating from his statements about a Muslim president.

Many of our candidates are showing themselves to be fearless in presenting their ideas. This should be a lesson to our present failed leadership.

Do not go onto the battlefield without a strategy to win. Once you start, stand by your principles, and go for victory.

The only flaw in this advice is that it assumes that our current leadership is operating on principles when it sadly seems that they are doing the bidding of the highest donors. This is the most plausible theory to explain why the GOP keeps siding with the progressive agenda when it coalesces around the goals of crony capitalism rather than their base. If so, they need to reform or find themselves cast aside like Boehner. Revolutions can pick up momentum. The outsiders may just lead the base to true victory.

2016 dossier: Intangibles and the endorsement

When I started this process back in June, the field of Republican presidential hopefuls was still expanding. Now that October is almost here, the roster is shrinking as Rick Perry and Scott Walker have already left and, aside from Carly Fiorina who was promoted to the main event, the half-dozen or so who didn’t make the initial Fox News debate almost two months ago now are on the endangered list. (Perry was one of the also-rans then; based on the most recent polling data Scott Walker was bound to slide out of the top ten or eleven before the next debate.)

But I’m ignoring the polling data in order to wrap up my personal process. My polling data will have 100% support for whoever comes out on top, and the five remaining points I award for intangibles finishes the 100-point scale, which began with education, the Second Amendment, and energy, then continued with social issues, trade and job creation, and taxation before concluding with immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government.

I have decided that those candidates who have served as governors will get one point for that, so the first point accrues to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki. After eight years where we lacked executive political experience in the White House, I think we need it back.

Up to two more points will be awarded (or deducted) for the candidate’s website. Admittedly this is a little picayune; however, the presentation and willingness to be concise and persuasive on issues reflects to me on how they will act accordingly as President.

So there are two candidates who get both points: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Both are well-organized and have an abundance of information about where they stand.

Just behind them with very good, one-point websites are Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina (whose Answers segment is rather unique), Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and John Kasich.

On the other hand, I was disappointed with other websites for lack of clarity, poor layout, or a general lack of attention to detail. Ted Cruz falls into that category of one-point deductions, as does George Pataki and Donald Trump.

Rick Santorum loses two points, simply because he has promised an economic plan “in a few short weeks” since June. It’s almost like he’s going through the motions of having a website.

Finally, there are other issues people bring up which may not fit into one of my categories.

Jeb Bush has an interesting take on cyber security, which will add a point to his score.

Total score for Bush – 3.0 of 5 points.

Ben Carson gets kudos for this piece as only he can, being the one black Republican in the race.

Total score for Carson – 1.0 of 5 points.

Chris Christie fills up his tree by discussing criminal justice reform and having the belief that veterans should be able to use any available medical facility, not just VA hospitals and clinics.

Total score for Christie – 4.0 of 5 points.

Although I could have added this to the role of government, Ted Cruz‘s actions in defending the Constutution are worth mentioning..

Total score for Cruz – 1.0 of 5 points.

Carly Fiorina answers at least 80 valid questions on her site, and I agree with her on many not brought up previously.

Total score for Fiorina – 3.0 of 5 points.

I checked to see if I alluded to Jim Gimore‘s stance on climate change when I discussed energy and I had not. He’s a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, which is a point in my book. Otherwise, I’ve covered his issues.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 5 points.

I didn’t gain anything from Lindsey Graham insofar as issues went, so he just gets the one point for the site.

Total score for Graham – 1.0 of 5 points.

One thing I like about Mike Huckabee‘s site is the record as governor. Certainly it glosses over some items but it’s a helpful reminder he wasn’t just a face on TV.

Total score for Huckabee – 3.0 of 5 points.

Something Bobby Jindal addresses on his site, which I haven’t seen much of otherwise, is radical Islam. It’s worth a point.

Total score for Jindal – 3.0 of 5 points.

I think John Kasich has beefed up his website over the course of this process, turning a negative into a positive.

Total score for Kasich – 2.0 of 5 points.

George Pataki has a poor website that lacks an issue page.

Total score for Pataki – 0.0 of 5 points.

I love the diversity of Rand Paul and his issues, which includes civil liberties and auditing the Fed.

Total score for Paul – 4.0 of 5 points.

Splashed on the front of the Marco Rubio website was a proposal for paid leave, which is a problem. But he is taking the fight to Hillary, which is a plus. It’s one of a plethora of items he’s placed on his site.

Total score for Rubio – 4.0 of 5 points.

Rick Santorum doesn’t tread any new ground with his issues, so he stands where he was.

Total score for Santorum – (-2.0) of 5 points.

Donald Trump has a slightly better website, but still not up to snuff.

Total score for Trump – (-1.0) of 5 points.

It’s time to determine who should be our next President – the one who will have a raging mess to clean up.

From the bottom up we go:

  • George Pataki – 20.3 points
  • Donald Trump – 29 points
  • Chris Christie – 39.1 points
  • John Kasich – 40.5 points
  • Jeb Bush – 41.1 points
  • Carly Fiorina – 42.6 points
  • Rick Santorum – 44.5 points
  • Jim Gilmore – 45.5 points
  • Ben Carson – 46.2 points
  • Marco Rubio – 49.6 points
  • Mike Huckabee – 52.5 points
  • Lindsey Graham – 52.8 points

I’m going to stop right there because my top three were head and shoulders above the rest of the field – a nearly 20-point spread. So I’m going to recommend two and endorse the winner.

Ted Cruz finished with 71.1 points. There was a point where he was leading but he slipped in a couple categories.

But where I could see him as an excellent President is his willingness to fight for principle. He hasn’t had a lot of success up to now because he’s saddled with a body of 99 others who mainly seem unable or unwilling to follow his lead as he tries to restore the pre-eminence of the Constitution.

Rand Paul was second-best with 74.4 points. The overall breadth of his platform is excellent, and while I may not be on board with his foreign policy I think he has learned from the extreme positions of his father. Both Cruz and Paul are champions of limited government, and a nation with a President Paul would rally back to its proper place in the world.

Unfortunately, neither of those two have significant executive experience while the man who has won the monoblogue endorsement does. Governor Bobby Jindal combines that leadership quality with some of those most well-thought out policy positions in the field. He scored 79.3 points, which meant he pretty much won this before the intangibles.

Now I’m aware of the report which was based on “experts” predicting Jindal would be next out. That would be a complete shame because out of all the candidates I can see Jindal being a modern-day Calvin Coolidge – reducing the budget in real terms (as he did in Louisiana), getting government out of the way, and bringing true prosperity back to the nation by allowing us to be an energy superpower.

It’s my job to begin reversing those polls and putting a thumb in the eye of those “experts.” Bobby Jindal wins my endorsement for President of the United States.

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